Jeremiah 46 – The Prophecy About Egypt & Memphis

Hands OutThe name “Memphis” (Greek origin) means “something beautiful” and possibly “established” as well.

9 Memphis Tennessee
Memphis, Tennessee

About 10 years ago I was in Memphis, Tennessee (not the one mentioned above), and it certainly did live up to its name sake, it was a filthy city.

But I find this somewhat interesting: The city of Memphis, Tennessee, has always had a special connection to its ancient namesake, Memphis, Egypt. The American city was founded in 1819 by General (later President) Andrew Jackson, General James Winchester and Judge John Overton.

Based on its strategic position at the head of the Delta of the Mississippi River (sometimes called the “American Nile”), the city was named after the ancient capital of Egypt which was located at the head of the Nile River Delta.

The citizens of Memphis have maintained their connection with ancient Egypt through the years. In 1917 Robert Galloway, chairman of the Memphis Park Commission, presented two large quartzite blocks to the city of Memphis.

10 Memphis Tennessee Pyramid
Memphis, Tennessee, Pyramid

These blocks, originally part of a palace in ancient Memphis, are decorated with figures and inscriptions of the 26th Dynasty (c. 550 B.C.) Pharaoh Amasis.  More recently, the city of Memphis built its own pyramid,a huge structure of steel and glass that dominates the downtown skyline.

I don’t plan on going to Memphis anytime soon, if ever again, but now I’m curious about… 

Jeremiah 46
The Prophecy About Egypt

1 The word of the LORD which came to Jeremiah the prophet against the Gentiles;

1 Menkheperre Tuthmosis III
Menkheperre Tuthmosis III ascended to the Egyptian throne as Pharaoh in 1504 B.C. Tuthmosis III was short, standing only just over 168 cm (five feet) tall, as his mummy tells us (mummy).

Legend presents Tuthmosis as born of peasant race, the son of a slave-woman in the Pharaoh’s harem. Thutmosis is also called the Napoleon of ancient Egypt because of his military conquests.

46:1-51:64 – chapters 46-51 consist of a series of prophecies against the nations.  They begin with Egypt (chapter 46) and end with Babylon (chapters 50-51), the two powers that vied for control of Judah during Jeremiah’s ministry.

2 Against Egypt, against the army of Pharaoh-necho king of Egypt, which was by the river Euphrates in Carchemish, which Nebuchadrezzar king of Babylon smote in the fourth year of Jehoiakim the son of Josiah king of Judah.

“Cachemish” – the name means “fortress of Chemosh” (chief god of Moab), as clarified by the Ebla tablets.

“Which Nebuchadnezzar” – Egypt’s defeat by Babylon at Carchemish was one of the most decisive battles in the ancient world, ending Egypt’s age-long claims and pretensions to power in Syro-Palestine.

“Fourth year of Jehoiakim” – 605 B.C., the first year of Nebuchadnezzar’s reign.

3 Order ye the buckler and shield, and draw near to battle.

4 Harness the horses; and get up, ye horsemen, and stand forth with your helmets; furbish the spears, and put on the brigandines.

5 Wherefore have I seen them dismayed and turned away back? and their mighty ones are beaten down, and are fled apace, and look not back: for fear was round about, saith the LORD.

6 Let not the swift flee away, nor the mighty man escape; they shall stumble, and fall toward the north by the river Euphrates.

2 Piankhy King of Ethiopia and Conquerer of Egypt 720 B.C.
Piankhy – King of Ethiopia and Conquerer of Egypt 720 B.C.

7 Who is this that cometh up as a flood, whose waters are moved as the rivers?

8 Egypt riseth up like a flood, and his waters are moved like the rivers; and he saith, I will go up, and will cover the earth; I will destroy the city and the inhabitants thereof.

9 Come up, ye horses; and rage, ye chariots; and let the mighty men come forth; the Ethiopians and the Libyans, that handle the shield; and the Lydians, that handle and bend the bow.

10 For this is the day of the Lord GOD of hosts, a day of vengeance, that he may avenge him of his adversaries: and the sword shall devour, and it shall be satiate and made drunk with their blood: for the Lord GOD of hosts hath a sacrifice in the north country by the river Euphrates.

11 Go up into Gilead, and take balm, O virgin, the daughter of Egypt: in vain shalt thou use many medicines; for thou shalt not be cured.

12 The nations have heard of thy shame, and thy cry hath filled the land: for the mighty man hath stumbled against the mighty, and they are fallen both together.

 13  The word that the LORD spake to Jeremiah the prophet, how Nebuchadrezzar king of Babylon should come and smite the land of Egypt.

14 Declare ye in Egypt, and publish in Migdol, and publish in Noph and in Tahpanhes: say ye, Stand fast, and prepare thee; for the sword shall devour round about thee.

15 Why are thy valiant men swept away? they stood not, because the LORD did drive them.

“Valiant men” – the Hebrew for this phrase is not the same as that for “mighty men” or “warrior.”  It often refers to powerful animals.  In Ps 22:12, 50:13, 68:30; Isa 34:7 the Hebrew word is translated “bulls.”

“Swept away” – the Hebrew for this phrases is translated “Apis has fled” in the Septuagint (the Greek translation of the Old Testament).  Apis was a bull-god worshiped in Egypt, especially at Noph.

3 Ptolemy
Ptolemy, one of the six somatophylakes (bodyguards) who served as Alexander the Great’s generals and deputies, was appointed satrap of Egypt after Alexander’s death in 323 BC.

In 305 BC, he declared himself King Ptolemy I, later known as “Soter” (saviour). The Egyptians soon accepted the Ptolemies as the successors to the pharaohs of independent Egypt. Ptolemy’s family ruled Egypt until the Roman conquest of 30 B.C.

16 He made many to fall, yea, one fell upon another: and they said, Arise, and let us go again to our own people, and to the land of our nativity, from the oppressing sword.

17 They did cry there, Pharaoh king of Egypt is but a noise; he hath passed the time appointed.

“He hath passed the time appointed” – after the battle of Carchemish, Nebuchadnezzar returned to Babylon on learning of his father’s death.  Egypt failed to press its advantage at that time.

18 As I live, saith the King, whose name is the LORD of hosts, Surely as Tabor is among the mountains, and as Carmel by the sea, so shall he come.

19 O thou daughter dwelling in Egypt, furnish thyself to go into captivity: for Noph shall be waste and desolate without an inhabitant.

20 Egypt is like a very fair heifer, but destruction cometh; it cometh out of the north.

21 Also her hired men are in the midst of her like fatted bullocks; for they also are turned back, and are fled away together: they did not stand, because the day of their calamity was come upon them, and the time of their visitation.

22 The voice thereof shall go like a serpent; for they shall march with an army, and come against her with axes, as hewers of wood.

“Serpent” – often used by Egyptian pharaohs as a symbol of their sovereignty.

23 They shall cut down her forest, saith the LORD, though it cannot be searched; because they are more than the grasshoppers, and are innumerable.

24 The daughter of Egypt shall be confounded; she shall be delivered into the hand of the people of the north.

25 The LORD of hosts, the God of Israel, saith; Behold, I will punish the multitude of No, and Pharaoh, and Egypt, with their gods, and their kings; even Pharaoh, and all them that trust in him:

4 Mummified head of Seqenenre Tao
Mummified head of Seqenenre Tao, bearing axe-blade wounds. The common theory is that he died in a battle against the Hyksos.

“Multitude” – Hebrew Amon.  Amon was the chief god of Egypt during much of its history.  Wicked King Manasseh may have named his son after the Egyptian deity.

“No” – Hebrew for Thebes, the capital of Upper (southern) Egypt.

26 And I will deliver them into the hand of those that seek their lives, and into the hand of Nebuchadrezzar king of Babylon, and into the hand of his servants: and afterward it shall be inhabited, as in the days of old, saith the LORD.

27 But fear not thou, O my servant Jacob, and be not dismayed, O Israel: for, behold, I will save thee from afar off, and thy seed from the land of their captivity; and Jacob shall return, and be in rest and at ease, and none shall make him afraid.

28 Fear thou not, O Jacob my servant, saith the LORD: for I am with thee; for I will make a full end of all the nations whither I have driven thee: but I will not make a full end of thee, but correct thee in measure; yet will I not leave thee wholly unpunished.


5 Emperor Theodosius
Emperor Theodosius is the most zealous Christian emperor thus far.

He does more to suppress paganism in favor of Christianity than any other Roman emperor until now — and more than most other emperors after him, as well.The new law says:”Any Christians who have become pagans will not have the right to make testaments. Every testament of such deceased pagans, if one exists, will be annulled.”

In proclaiming God’s condemnation of Egypt, Jeremiah called for heralds to announce a message of Judgment in Memphis.  This city (from Men-neferu, meaning “the goodness endures”) was situated on the Nile at the border between Upper and Lower Egypt.

6 Menes founded the city of Memphis
Menes founded the city of Memphis, and chose as its location an island in the Nile, so that it would be easy to defend.He was also the founder of Crocodilopolis.His death is a mystery, for, according to legend he was attacked by Nile crocodiles in Fayum.

It was founded by Menes, the first king of the united “Two Lands,” and was sacred to the god Ptah.  Its fortunes changed through the centuries, but it remained throughout an important city and religious center.

Memphis, the capital of the Old Kingdom, was the location of the great temple of Ptah.

It served as a Hyuksos royal city during the time that Lower Egypt ws under the control of these foreign rules (18th century B.C.).

It was a favorite residence of New Kingdom pharaohs (16th-11th centuries B.C.), many of whom built temples, palaces or other buildings there.  Memphis served as a military base for campaigns against Syria-Palestine for the great warrior-pharaoh of this time, Thutmose III (1479-1425 B.C.)

Syrian and Phoenician merchants and mercenaries arriving during the New Kingdom periods built temples there to Baal, Astarte and other Canaanite deities.

The city was the center for the cult of the “Apis bulls,” which were believed to be living representatives of the God Ptah.  Whenever one of these bulls died it was embalmed and buried in a tomb called the Serapaeum. 

The shrine benefited from attention of Pharaoh Shisak, who took an enormous amount of plunder from Israel.  He contstructed a mortuary and embalming house (C. 910 B.C.) for the Apis bull at Memphis.

7 Ptah
Ptah is credited with the establishment of ethics and morals. He also is credited for the creation of food, drink, towns, and buildings.

Later, a combination god, Ptah-Seker-Osiris, was developed. This god combined creation, death, and afterlife into one deity and was pictured like Osiris.

As Egypt weakened, Memphis fell into the hands of a variety of forein rulers.  The city was captured by the Ethiopian Pi-Ankhy (c. 717 B.C.); by the Assyrians Esarhaddon (671 B.C.) and Ashurbanipal (666 B.C.); and by the Persian Cambyses (525 B.C.).

Memphis sometimes served as the headquarters for foreign rules.  For example, Ptolemy (founder of the Greek dynasty that ruled Egypt after the conquests of Alexander the Great, made it his capital city.

Jewish refugees entered the city after the Babylonian destruction of Jerusalem (587 B.C.)

8 Hyksos
Hyksos were group of mixed Semitic-Asiatics who settled in northern Egypt during the 18th century B.C. In about 1630 they seized power, and Hyksos kings ruled Egypt as the 15th dynasty (c. 1630– 1521 BC).

The name Hyksos was used by the Egyptian historian Manetho (fl. 300 BC), who, according to the Jewish historian Josephus (fl. 1st century AD), translated the word as “kingshepherds” or “captive shepherds.”

The Christian emperor Theodosius ordered the temples of Memphis destroyed in 395 A.D. and the city was dismantled during the Arab period (after 642 A.D.), after which al-Fustat and Cairo were constructed on the same or a nearby site.

Archeological remains include many temples, two colossal statues of Rameses II, a larger necropolis (elaborate ancient cemetery), palaces and nearby clusters of pyramids.

… Pharaoh Amasis.

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