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Jeremiah 46:3-5

3. Order ye the buckler and shield, and draw near to battle.

3. Preparate scutum et clypeum et accedite ad praelium.

4. Harness the horses; and get up, ye horsemen, and stand forth with your helmets; furbish the spears, and put on the brigandines.

4. Ligate equos et ascendite equi-tes, et state (statute vos) in galeis vestris, abstergite lanceas, induite loricas.

5. Wherefore have I seen them dismayed and turned away back? and their mighty ones are beaten down, and are fled apace, and look not back: for fear was round about, saith the LORD.

5. Quare vidi ipsos fractos, aver-sos retrorsum? et fortes eorum per-cutientur (percussi sunt) et fuga fugerunt, et non respexerunt; terror undique, dicit Jehova.


Jeremiah uses now a form of speaking very common in the Prophets though remote from common use. For the Prophets, when they denounce God’s judgments and punishments on the ungodly, do not speak in a simple language, as though they were giving a narrative, but they employed figurative expressions, as though they wished to introduce men into the very scene itself. And that their doctrine might more effectually penetrate into the hearts of men, they bring forward various persons; they at one time introduce God as speaking, and at another they pronounce this or that according to the sentiments of others; and again, they declare the commands of God.

Jeremiah begins here by summoning the Egyptians, as though he were the herald of Pharaoh, and thus borrows the name of another person. He says, Prepare The verb ערך, orec, properly means to set in order, but here it signifies to prepare; Prepare, then, the buckler and the shield The word צנה, tsane, was a shield of a larger form, and מגן, megen, seems to have been a buckler carried by horsemen of light armor. And come near to battle: He then adds, Bind or he the horses The manner of fighting is not the same now as it was formerly; they fought in chariots, as heathen authors abundantly shew. He therefore says, he the horses, that is, join them together that they may draw the chariots. Go up, ye horsemen, stand in your helmets, clean your lances, and put on your coats of mail. The meaning is, that Egyptians would come well prepared with all kinds of arms that they might be formidable to their enemies. And hence the vengeance appeared more clearly, because they had been well furnished, so that they might seem to have gained the victory before they engaged with their enemies. This is the reason why the Prophet enumerates their complete armor, having omitted no material part; he mentions the lances, the helmets, the coats of mail, the chariots, the horses, and the shield, so that victory, according to the judgment of men, was already theirs. This is the first thing.

But we must observe the design of the Holy Spirit; it was his purpose to remove the veil from the eyes of the faithful, which for the most part prevents us to see as clearly as we ought the power of God; for when we fix our attention on warlike preparations, we do not think that anything is left for God to do; for they who are well prepared seem to be beyond the hazard of losing the day. That the Jews then might know that it would be nothing for God to punish the Egyptians, he records this preparation. And there is a kind of concession when he says, They shall indeed be furnished with a helmet, a coat of mail, a shield, a sword, and a lance; but all this would avail nothing as to the issue. Then from this prophetic word let us learn, that God makes no account of all those things which men prepare when they wish to effect anything. For smoke is everything that dazzles our eyes; so forces and arms have no importance before God; for by a single blast he can dissipate all such clouds. And this truth is very useful; for we look on external things, and when anything specious presents itself to us, we are immediately taken up with it, and rob God of all power; for we transfer his glory to these masks which appear before us. We now then understand why the Prophet speaks here of bucklers, and shields, and lances, and chariots, and helmets, and coats of mail.

For it immediately follows, Why, or how, have I seen them broken? Here the Prophet, on the other hand, disregards all the things which he before enumerated in such high terms, for he spoke, as it were, according to the common judgment of men. And, as I have said, he undertook the person of a herald, as though Pharaoh himself had commanded the Egyptians immediately to take up arms. This then was apparently very formidable. But the Prophet now speaks as though standing on an eminence, and says, How or what is this? for מדוע, meduo, is a particle of wonder, How! He then passes over from the common opinion of the flesh to the prophetic Spirit, as though he had said, “Were any one to judge of the Egyptians by their external splen-dour, he would say that they would be victorious over their enemies; but were any one to ascend higher and to form a judgment, not according to the flesh, but according to the spirit, he would see that all this is frail and evanescent.”

But the question, How? is to be taken as emphatical; for it could have been hardly believed that an army so well equipped could have become a prey to the Babylonians, and that it was hastening to its own ruin. As then this seemed incredible to any one attending to the subject, the Prophet asks, How have I seen them? He however says that he saw them, even because God had set him, as we have said, as it were on a watch-tower. This, however, may be applied to the body as well as to the mind. I saw them turned backward:, when yet they were rushing forward, as he says afterwards, like a flood. Their valiant men, he says, have been smitten, and by flight they have fled. He means, in short, that there would not be so much courage in the Egyptians as to withstand the onset of their enemies, because they would be broken down by the hidden power of God. He also adds, that their flight would be accompanied with so much dread, that they would not dare to look behind, so that their danger would increase their haste.

He at length adds in God’s name, Terror on every side, says Jehovah Here he changes the person the third time, for he declares as from God’s mouth that there would be terror on every side; and thus it is an answer to the question, How, or why? even because God, he says, executes his judgment on them. Whenever, therefore, we see that nothing is wanting to our enemies for victory even over the Church of God, let what the Prophet says here be remembered by us, that there is no reason why we should despond, though we may be filled with wonder and amazement; for God will so work as to break down, without the hand of man, those who shake the whole world with terror. It afterwards follows, —

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