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Jeremiah 46:2-12 foretells Necho's defeat at Carchemish, which indisputably happened. The fulfillment of verses 13-26, on the other hand, is a tad bit unclear.

This second Egypt-concerned message prophesies a "coming of Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon to attack Egypt." It would be decisive. The Egyptians are warned to "pack your belongings for exile... for Memphis will be laid waste and lie in ruins without inhabitant."

History, however, knows of no such invasion. The closest event, to my knowledge, that we have was the aide Nebuchadnezzar's troops provided to dethroned Pharaoh Apries(Biblically Hophra) to support his attempt to reclaim his throne from usurper Amasis II and this occurrence didn't even come close to fulfilling the prophecy. Amasis crushed his opponent and the Babylonian help.

Is this a failed prophecy? What's going on?

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  • There is not enough hard historical data to either confirm or deny the second prophecy in Jer 46.
    – Dottard
    Mar 3, 2023 at 5:30

3 Answers 3

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Jeremiah prophesied in 46:

2 Concerning Egypt:This is the message against the army of Pharaoh Necho king of Egypt, which was defeated at Carchemish on the Euphrates River by Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon in the fourth year of Jehoiakim son of Josiah king of Judah.

Nebuchadnezzar defeated Necho at Carchemish. But there was a part two:

13This is the message the Lord spoke to Jeremiah the prophet about the coming of Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon to attack Egypt:

i.e., the land of Egypt itself.

When was this fulfilled?

Benson offered this possibility:

from Ezekiel 29:17, where Nebuchadnezzar’s army is spoken of as having at that time suffered a great deal at the siege of Tyre; on which account the spoils of Egypt are promised them for their wages and indemnification: and the promise was accordingly made good that same year. — Jos. Ant., lib. 10. cap. 9.

Matthew Poole gave more details:

This foretells the king of Babylon’s overrunning all the land of Egypt, and was not fulfilled till some years after Zedekiah was carried away captive, but prophesied of Jeremiah 43:10 44:30, to come to pass in the time of Pharaoh-hophra, as we heard before, and more largely foretold by the prophet Ezekiel, Ezekiel 29 Eze 30 Eze 32, to happen after the overthrow of Tyrus, Ezekiel 29:18,19.

However, there seems to be a part three:

18“As surely as I live,” declares the King, whose name is the Lord Almighty, “one will come who is like Tabor among the mountains, like Carmel by the sea. 19Pack your belongings for exile, you who live in Egypt, for Memphis will be laid waste and lie in ruins without inhabitant.

Pulpit:

A literal interpretation of that passage would give the conquest of Egypt to Cyrus; as a matter of fact, we know that it was Cambyses, and not Cyrus, who fulfilled the prophecy. It would not be surprising if we should have to admit that it was Cambyses, and not any earlier monarch, who fulfilled the prophecy of Jeremiah.

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Here are key excepts from the passage:

13 The word that the Lord spoke to the prophet Jeremiah about the coming of King Nebuchadrezzar of Babylon to attack the land of Egypt:

14 Declare in Egypt, and proclaim in Migdol; proclaim in Memphis and Tahpanhes; 18 As I live, says the King, whose name is the Lord of hosts, one is coming like Tabor among the mountains, and like Carmel by the sea. 19 Pack your bags for exile, sheltered daughter Egypt! For Memphis shall become a waste, a ruin, without inhabitant... 24 Daughter Egypt shall be put to shame; she shall be handed over to a people from the north.

25 The Lord of hosts, the God of Israel, said: See, I am bringing punishment upon Amon of Thebes, and Pharaoh, and Egypt and her gods and her kings, upon Pharaoh and those who trust in him. 26 I will hand them over to those who seek their life, to King Nebuchadrezzar of Babylon and his officers. Afterwards Egypt shall be inhabited as in the days of old, says the Lord.

Although Nebuchadnezzar indeed attacked Egypt his forces were turned back and he certainly did not lay waste to Memphis in particular:

The Babylonian ruler Nebuchadnezzar II (604-562 BC) stopped Egypt from gaining control over the Levant and Egypt was restricted to its own borders. The Babylonian forces secured dominion over Hamath, the Aramean States/Damascus, Philistia and all the kings of western Asia became Babylonian vassals. In his fourth year (601/600) Nebuchadnezzar invaded Egypt, but his army was crushed near Migdol by Nekau II.

This article by Prof. Dan’el Kahn explains that the prophecy may have been fulfilled in part Nebuchadnezzar’s brief raid of Egypt during the civil war between Pharaoh Amasis and Pharaoh Apries in 567 B.C.E. However, the author concludes that the final two verses in the passage above are an update by a later scribe intended to provide a summary, in which the prophecy could be understood in a general sense.

Conclusion: Jeremiah's prophecy may have been fulfilled in a general sense, because Babylon did attack Egypt and thereby "punish" its two kings, but it did not destroy Memphis or conquer Egypt. In that sense the prophecy did not come to pass.

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The 2nd prophesy of Jeremiah 46:13-26 did happen in 568BC.

Following the destruction of Jerusalem in 587BC , many Jews fled to Egypt and settled in various cities such as Migdol, Tahpanhes, Memphis and Upper Egypt. Jeremiah 44:1-2 read;

1 This word came to Jeremiah concerning all the Jews living in Lower Egypt—in Migdol, Tahpanhes and Memphis—and in Upper Egypt:

2 “This is what the Lord Almighty, the God of Israel, says: You saw the great disaster I brought on Jerusalem and on all the towns of Judah. Today they lie deserted and in ruins (NIV)

Later in Jeremiah 46:13-14, another prophesy was directed to these same exiles, foretelling the coming of Nebuchadnezzar.

13 This is the message the Lord spoke to Jeremiah the prophet about the coming of Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon to attack Egypt:

14 “Announce this in Egypt, and proclaim it in Migdol; proclaim it also in Memphis and Tahpanhes: ‘Take your positions and get ready, for the sword devours those around you.’ (NIV)

Since the event described in Jeremiah 46:13-26 took place after 587BC, it was likely the same event described in Ezekiel 29:17-21.

A Babylonian fragment may prove the event existed. It was acquired by the British Museum in 1878, code BM33041, translated in 1882 by T G Pinches (reference https://www.jhalsey.com/jerusalem-book/standard/egypt/bm33041.html )

... [in] the 37th year, Nebuchadnezzar, king of Bab[ylon] mar[ched against] Egypt (Mi-ṣir) to deliver a battle. [Ama]sis (text: [...]-a(?)-su), of Egypt, [called up his a]rm[y] ... [...]ku from the town Puṭu-I̯aman ... distant regions which (are situated on islands) amidst the sea ... many ... which/who (are) in Egypt ... [car]rying weapons, horses and [chariot]s ... he called up to assist him and ... did [...] in front of him ... he put his trust ... (only the first signs at the beginning and the end of the following 7 or 8 lines are legible).

Key points of it according to D J Wiseman [4, p.94]

the text B.M. 33041 which refers to a Babylonian march in the thirty-seventh year of his reign to do battle against [Ama]sis, king of Egypt, who had raised his army.

Studying the Egypt 26th Dynasty, Pharaoh Apries (589-570BC) was overthrown and forced into exile by Amasis II (570-526BC). He returned to Egypt with the assist of a Babylonian army, but was defeated and likely killed (Apries was defeated but not Nebuchadnezzar).

Though the prophesy mentioned Memphis will be laid waste and lie in ruins without inhabitant (Jeremiah 46:19 NIV), but Jeremiah 46:26 also said;

26 I will give them into the hands of those who want to kill them—Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon and his officers. Later, however, Egypt will be inhabited as in times past,” declares the Lord.

As a result, it appears that the period of desolation did not last for a long time. It is likely that Nebuchadnezzar briefly conquered the land and then returned to Babylon.

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