A Word for EgyptBy Rabbi Jack Abramowitz
Starting with this chapter, Jeremiah delivers prophecies regarding the fates of a variety of other nations. In this chapter, he speaks of Egypt.
The army of Egypt prepares for war with Babylonia, but they end up breaking rank and running away in fear. No matter how swift or strong, they will not escape; they will be overcome by the Babylonian forces. Egypt’s army used to be like the Nile itself, rising up and flooding the land. Now the army of Nebuchadnezzar has come and the Egyptians are at a loss for what to do. On that day, G-d will take vengeance against those guilty of the murder of King Yoshiyahu (Josiah – see II Chronicles 35). There will be a massacre in the north, where Egypt confronts Nebuchadnezzar.
There is no cure for Egypt’s ills. When their army flees, their mighty warriors will crash into one another and both will fall.
G-d spoke to Jeremiah about Babylonia’s impending invasion of Egypt. He was to proclaim publicly that they should prepare themselves for the sword. Why are their warriors being swept away? None of them can stand before G-d. Those who originally fled to Egypt for safety would try to return to their homelands (but presumably not be successful in the attempt). They will say that Pharaoh talked big but didn’t act when it was time and now it’s too late. G-d says that Egypt will be exiled and desolate. Egypt was formerly like a beautiful cow, but now her princes are like fattened calves – useless in the battle. The cry of Egypt will go forth like a snake and Babylonia will come against them like lumberjacks in the woods. They will chop the Egyptians down because the Babylonians are so numerous.
G-d says that He will take care of business with the idol of Alexandria, as well as Pharaoh and the other idols and princes. They will fall into the hands of Nebuchadnezzar, but one day the land of Egypt will be populated. (They will never again be a world power, though.)
The few righteous Jews who were dragged to Egypt against their will are told not to fear. They will be redeemed in safety. They are faithful servants and G-d is with them, but He will make an end of the nations where they have been exiled. The Jewish nation will be chastised, but never completely destroyed.
The Pharoah of this chapter is called “Pharaoh Neco,” which the Targum Yonason translates as “Pharaoh the lame.” Why was this Pharaoh lame? A well-known Midrash says that King Solomon’s throne was adorned with a variety of mechanical animals. When this Pharaoh had King Yoshiyahu killed, he confiscated Solomon’s throne from the palace. Not knowing how to operate it, he was wounded by a mechanical lion (Leviticus Rabbah 20:1, et al).