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Jeremiah 46:20-22 New English Translation (NET Bible)

20 Egypt is like a beautiful young cow.
But northern armies will attack her like swarms of stinging flies.[a]
21 Even her mercenaries[b]
will prove to be like pampered,[c] well-fed calves.
For they too will turn and run away.
They will not stand their ground
when[d] the time for them to be destroyed comes,
the time for them to be punished.
22 Egypt will run away, hissing like a snake,[e]
as the enemy comes marching up in force.
They will come against her with axes
as if they were woodsmen chopping down trees.

Footnotes:

  1. Jeremiah 46:20 tn Heb “Egypt is a beautiful heifer. A gadfly from the north will come against her.” The metaphors have been turned into similes for the sake of clarity. The exact meaning of the word translated “stinging fly” is uncertain due to the fact that it occurs nowhere else in Hebrew literature. For a discussion of the meaning of the word, which probably refers to the “gadfly,” which bites and annoys livestock, see W. L. Holladay, Jeremiah (Hermeneia), 2:331. He also suggests, probably correctly, that the word is a collective referring to swarms of such insects (cf. the singular אַרְבֶּה [ʾarbeh] in v. 23, which always refers to swarms of locusts). The translation presupposes the emendation of the second בָּא (baʾ) to בָּהּ (bah) with a number of Hebrew mss and a number of the versions (cf. BHS, fn b).
  2. Jeremiah 46:21 tn Heb “her hirelings in her midst.”
  3. Jeremiah 46:21 tn The word “pampered” is not in the text. It is supplied in the translation to explain the probable meaning of the simile. The mercenaries were well cared for like stall-fed calves, but in the face of the danger they will prove no help because they will not stand their ground but will turn and run away. Some see the point of the simile to be that they too are fattened for slaughter. However, the next two lines do not fit that interpretation too well.
  4. Jeremiah 46:21 tn The temporal use of the particle כִּי (ki; BDB 472 s.v. כִּי 2.a) seems more appropriate to the context than the causal use.
  5. Jeremiah 46:22 tn Or “Egypt will rustle away like a snake”; Heb “her sound goes like the snake,” or “her sound [is] like the snake [when] it goes.” The meaning of the simile is debated. Some see a reference to the impotent hiss of a fleeing serpent (F. B. Huey, Jeremiah, Lamentations [NAC], 382), others the sound of a serpent stealthily crawling away when it is disturbed (H. Freedman, Jeremiah [SoBB], 297-98). The translation follows the former interpretation because of the irony involved.sn Several commentators point out the irony of the snake slithering away (or hissing away) in retreat. The coiled serpent was a part of the royal insignia, signifying Egypt’s readiness to strike. Pharaoh had boasted of great things (v. 8) but was just a big noise (v. 17); now all he could do was hiss as he beat his retreat (v. 22).
New English Translation (NET)

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