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Harness the horses to the chariots;
mount your horses!
Take your positions with helmets on;
ready[a] your spears!
Put on the armor![b]
“What do I see?[c]

The soldiers[d] are frightened.
They are retreating.
They are being scattered.[e]
They have fled for refuge
without looking back.[f]
Terror is all around them,”[g] says the Lord.
But even the swiftest cannot get away.
Even the strongest cannot escape.[h]
There in the north by the Euphrates River
they have stumbled and fallen in defeat.[i]

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  1. Jeremiah 46:4 tc The LXX reads προβάλετε (probalete), meaning “to hold before oneself, to present arms” (see LSJ s.v. προβάλλω B. III.). Instead of the MT’s מִרְקוּ (mirequ), this may reflect an original הָרִקוּ (hariqu), from רִיק (riq), or הָרִמוּ (harimu), from רוּם (rum). Both readings assume a Hiphil form where the ה (he) was replaced by duplicating the מ (mem) ending the previous word. In Ps 35:3 the Hiphil of ריק (riq) means to draw a spear, while the Hiphil of רוּם (rum) would mean to raise [a spear]. tn Or “polish” or “clean.” The other three uses of the verb מָרַק (maraq) refer to scouring or polishing. The context refers to the final stages of battle preparations, so whether it was “polishing,” “drawing,” or “raising” spears (see tc note above), the main point seems to be to have them ready to use. Some translations say “sharpen” (NLT, NRSV), but this meaning does not fit the proposed readings and would be an earlier activity in battle preparations.
  2. Jeremiah 46:4 sn A Hurrian loanword into Semitic. The Akkadian use refers to mail armor for either persons or horses.
  3. Jeremiah 46:5 tn Heb “Why do I see?” or “Why have I seen?” The rendering is that of J. A. Thompson (Jeremiah [NICOT], 685, 88) and J. Bright (Jeremiah [AB], 301; TEV; NIV). The question is not asking for information but expressing surprise or wonder (see E. W. Bullinger, Figures of Speech, 951).sn The passage jumps forward in time here, moving from the Egyptian army being summoned to battle to a description of their being routed in defeat.
  4. Jeremiah 46:5 tn Heb “Their soldiers.” These words are actually at the midpoint of the stanza as the subject of the third of the five verbs. However, as G. L. Keown, P. J. Scalise, and T. G. Smothers (Jeremiah 26-52 [WBC], 291) note, this is the subject of all five verbs: “are terrified,” “are retreating,” “have been defeated,” “have run away,” and “have not looked back.” The subject is put at the front to avoid an unidentified “they.”
  5. Jeremiah 46:5 tn The verb יֻכַּתּוּ (yukkattu) is a Hophal imperfect from כָּתַת (katat). The imperfect can depict an action in progress, which fits the present timeframe of the verse. Many different constructions are employed to fit the present timeframe in this verse: predicate adj., participle, imperfect, perfect (for past action with continuing results), and a nominal clause.
  6. Jeremiah 46:5 tn Heb “have not looked back.”
  7. Jeremiah 46:5 tn Heb “Terror is all around.” This phrase also appears at Jer 6:25; 20:3 (cf. v. 4); 20:10; and, in a nearly identical form, Lam 2:22.
  8. Jeremiah 46:6 tn The translation understands the articular adjectives to function as superlatives (cf. GKC 431 §133.g). The negator אַל (ʾal) usually occurs with the jussive, but the form here is imperfect (יָנוּס [yanus] rather than יָנָס [yanos]). It should be understood modally, as an abilitive modal (“unable to”) or deontic modal (ought not [try to]), or as expressing the speaker’s “conviction that something cannot happen” (GKC 317 §107.p).
  9. Jeremiah 46:6 tn Heb “they stumbled and fell.” The words “in defeat” are added for clarity. The picture is not simply of having fallen down physically; it implies not getting up and therefore being defeated in battle. The account either moves ahead from the process of defeating Egypt to its defeat, or it follows a couple of soldiers amid the skirmish of v. 4 to their demise.