Avraham ben Yaakov
KNOW YOUR BIBLE
JEREMIAH CHAPTER 45
The prophecy of the defeat of Pharaoh Hofra by the Babylonians with which the previous chapter ended was directed to the remnant of Judah who had fled to Egypt in order to show them that their trust that they would find security and prosperity in that land was entirely misguided. The above prophecy marked the conclusion of Jeremiah's prophecies about the destruction of Jerusalem and the fate that was to overtake the remnant of Judah in Egypt .
The present short chapter (Jer. ch 45) consists of a prophecy directed specifically to Jeremiah's leading disciple, Baruch ben Neiriyah. This predates by many years the prophecies in chapters 37-44, which were delivered in the reign of Tzedekiah, the last king of Judah , at the height of the Babylonian siege of Jerusalem , and after the destruction of the Temple , when the remaining inhabitants of Judea fled to Egypt .
Jeremiah had already foreseen the destruction of the Temple and the exile years before they came about. As we learned in Jer. ch 36, in the fourth year of the reign of King Yeho-yakim, eighteen years before the destruction of the Temple , Jeremiah had already composed the book of Eichah, "Lamentations", in which he depicted the coming calamity in graphic detail. He sent Baruch ben Neiriyah to read it in the Temple , and it came to the attention of the king, who tore the scroll to shreds and burned it.
Witnessing the stubborn rejection of his master's prophecies by the king and his ministers must have been a harsh lesson for Baruch, who had sought in Jeremiah a teacher in prophecy as Moses had been to Joshua and Elijah to Elisha, yet who now heard only that disaster was inevitable and that the wellsprings of prophecy would dry up.
V 3: "You said, Woe is me now! For HaShem has added grief to my pain. I am weary in my sighing and I find no rest." The "sighing" from which Baruch felt weary alludes to the breathing discipline that was the foundation of the elaborate meditations practiced by the students of the prophets in order to attain holy spirit. These meditations consisted of holy names and letters intoned in lengthy sequences (as brought down in the writings of the medieval kabbalist, Rabbi Avraham Abulafia and as discussed by R. Aryeh Kaplan in "Meditation and the Bible"). Yet despite his "sighing", Baruch could find no "rest", MENUCHAH. MENUCHAH alludes to the indwelling of the Divine Presence (Shechinah), causing prophecy (cf. Numbers 11:26, "the spirit RESTED" upon them"; see Rashi on Jer. 45:3).
Vv 4-5: God's message to Baruch was that a vast upheaval was in progress bringing destruction and suffering throughout the world, and that at such a time he could not expect to attain the tranquility of holy spirit. "And you seek out great things (=prophecy) for yourself???" Baruch should be grateful that he would at least escape this upheaval with his life. In the words of the Midrash, "The Holy One blessed be He said to Baruch, If there is no vineyard, there is no need for a fence; if there is no flock, there is no need for a shepherd. I only reveal Myself to the prophets for the sake of Israel " (Mechilta).
Baruch ben Neiriyah went to Babylon , where he taught Ezra and the other outstanding prophets and sages who led the Men of the Great Assembly. Ezra remained in Babylon as long as Baruch was alive, and only after his death did he go up to Jerusalem .
"I HAVE GIVEN YOU AS A PROPHET TO THE NATIONS" (Jeremiah 1:5)
Chapters 46-51 consist of Jeremiah's prophecies about the punishment and destruction that would befall the nations neighboring on the Land of Israel - Egypt , the Philistines, Moab , Ammon , Edom and Syria - culminating with his prophecy of the fall of Babylon (chs 50-51).
Our present chapter contains the first of Jeremiah's prophecies about the nations. He begins with Egypt , which was the first oppressor of Israel . The prophecy falls into two main parts:
(1) Chapter 46 vv 1-12 prophesying the defeat of Pharaoh Necho at the hand of the Babylonians at Kharkhemish in the fourth year of the reign of King Yeho-yakim.
(2) vv 13-26 prophesying Nebuchadnezzar's invasion and destruction of Egypt as prophesied earlier in Jeremiah 44:30.
(1) Vv 1-12: The fall of Pharaoh Necho: Egypt aspired to the position of prime influence in the entire region and was therefore perturbed by the ascent of Babylon , which eclipsed Assyria and upset the regional balance of power. Pharaoh Necho wanted to strike down the Babylonians at Kharkhemish, a strategic stronghold in the upper valley of the Euphrates near the present-day Syrian-Turkish border about 100 km north east of Aleppo . It was on his way there that he struck down King Josiah of Judah , who sought to intercept him and prevent him from marching through the Holy Land . Soon after the death of Josiah, Pharaoh Necho installed Yeho-yakim as king of Judah, but when he marched back to Kharkhemish in the fourth year of Yeho-yakim's reign, he was defeated decisively by the Babylonians, after which "the king of Egypt did not any more go out from his land because the king of Babylon took everything that had belonged to the king of Egypt from the brook of Egypt until the River Euphrates" (II Kings 24:7).
Vv 3-4: The prophet scornfully tells the Egyptians to prepare for battle, prophesying that they will flee and be defeated (vv 5-6).
Vv 7-8: Egypt is compared to a swelling river because the entire prosperity of the country depended on the Nile, but whereas Egypt wanted to sweep over and influence the entire region, in fact enemies would come up against her and defeat her.
V 11: The prophet taunts Egypt , telling her to seek medicine from Gil'ad when in fact there is no medicine for her wound.
(2) The second part of Jeremiah's prophecy against Egypt in vv 13-28 is read annually in the synagogue as the Haftara of Parshas BO, which tells the story of the Exodus from Egypt . The destruction of Egypt as narrated in that Parshah is echoed in Jeremiah's prophecy of the disaster that was to befall Egypt at the hands of the Babylonians in the time of Pharaoh Hofra. This took place in the twenty-seventh year of the reign of Nebuchadnezzar (Seder Olam, Rashi on v 13).
V 17: "Pharaoh king of Egypt is but a noise; he has passed the appointed time" - he boasted that he would go out and defeat the Babylonians and fixed a date for his campaign, but in the end he did not go out and the appointed time passed.
V 19: "Prepare for yourself the baggage of exile." Jeremiah advises the Egyptians to prepare for exile, since the Babylonian policy was to transfer the nations they conquered elsewhere in order to break their national identity. The Egyptians were exiled for a period of forty years, as prophesied in Ezekiel 29:13. Jeremiah hints in v 26 at the restoration of Egypt after their exile.
V 27: "And as for you, do not fear, O My servant Jacob." Here Jeremiah comes to comfort the Jews who were exiled to Babylon in order to encourage them not to despair of being redeemed when they saw that the Egyptians were exiled to a place nearby and returned after only forty years while their own exile was much further afield and they had still not been redeemed (Metzudas David). Even if God destroys the other nations, He will never destroy Israel , even though He chastises them.
"As for you, do not fear, O My servant Jacob, says HaShem, for I am with you!"
BACK TO KNOW YOUR BIBLE HOMEPAGE
By Rabbi Avraham Yehoshua Greenbaum
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