Jeremiah 49:34-35

34. The word of the Lord that came to Jeremiah the prophet against Elam, in the beginning of the reign of Zedekiah king of Judah, saying,

34. Qui fuit sermo Jehovae ad Jeremiam, prophetam, contra Elam, principio regni Zedechiae, regis Jehudah, dicendo,

35. Thus saith the Lord of hosts, Behold, I will break the bow of Elam, the chief of their might.

35. Sic dicit Jehova exercituum, Ecce ego frango arcum Elam, principium fortitudinis ipsorum.


By Elam some interpreters understand Persia, and it is the most common opinion. I however think that the Elamites were not the same with the Persians; I should rather say that they were the Parthians, were it not that Luke, in Acts 2:9, makes them a distinct people from the Parthians. At the same time it is not right, as it seems to me, to regard the Persians as generally designated by Elam; for the Persians were remote from the Jews, and the Jews never received any injury from that people. There was therefore no reason why the Prophet should denounce punishment on them. The country of Elymais was known as bordering on the Medes, and contiguous to the Persians. But that people must have joined the Assyrians and Chaldeans against the Jews. As then the Babylonians had them as auxiliaries, it was God's purpose to avenge the injury done to his people. Besides, Pliny also speaks of Elamites as being contiguous to the Nabatheans; but they were occupying, as it were, the middle place between Persia and Judea. They were indeed, as he shews elsewhere, a maritime people; for he speaks often of Elymais, but names the Elamites only once. However this may have been, they were orientals as the Persians were, but not so far from Judea; and as they were, at it has been said, near the Medes, the probability is that they joined themselves with the enemies of the Church, when Nebuchadnezzar drew with him the vast forces which he had everywhere gathered, that he might extend his dominion far and wide; for we shall see in what follows that God was grievously displeased with the Elamites.1 We hence conclude that they were very hostile to the chosen people, whose cause God here undertakes.

This much as to the name: when, therefore, Jeremiah speaks here of the Elamites, let us know that a particular nation is referred to, and one distinct from the Persians, and then that this nation assisted the Chaldeans in oppressing the Jews. Let us now see what the Prophet declares respecting them.

He says, first, that this word came to him in the beginning of the reign of Zedekiah. Nebuchadnezzar, then, greatly harassed the Jews, while yet they remained in their obstinacy; and it is probable that the Elamites formed a part of the Chaldean army. When, therefore, the Jews considered how various were their enemies, and when they did not expect that they would ever be punished, it was a trial that must have greatly distressed the minds of the godly. What Jeremiah then declared, no one could have thought of, that is, that the Elamites would not escape unpunished, because they so furiously attacked the chosen people under the banner of King Nebuchadnezzar. This, then, was the reason why the Prophet specified the time: this word, then, came in the beginning of the reign of Zedekiah.

Then God, in the first place, declares that he would break the bow of Elam. The Parthians and other Orientals, we know, were very skillful archers; for every nation possesses its own peculiar excellency in connection with war. Some excel in the use of one kind of weapons, and others in the use of another kind. Formerly light infantry were in high repute among the Italians; the Gauls excelled in mailed horsemen. Though, now, all things are changed, yet still every nation differs as to its peculiar art in war. Now historians testify that the Orientals were very skillful in the use of the bow and arrow. It is, then, no wonder that the Prophet speaks of the bow of this people, and calls it the chief part of their strength, as they excelled in this sort of fighting. The Parthians were indeed much dreaded by the Romans; they pretended to flee, and then they turned back and made an impetuous attack on their enemies. They had also arrows dipped in poison. By these means they conquered large armies. For the Romans laid by their darts and fought hand in hand, and carried on a standing fight, so to speak; but when the Parthians kept discharging their arrows, they almost always fought unsuccessfully with them. I refer to this, that we may know that the bow was not without reason called the chief of their might, for it was by it that they were superior to other nations, though they could not fight hand in hand nor with drawn swords. It afterwards follows --

1 They were the descendants of Elam the son of Shem, Genesis 10:22. They were a powerful kingdom in the days of Abram, Genesis 14:1. Isaiah speaks of them as hostile to the people of Israel, Isaiah 22:6. Shushan is said to have been in the province of Elam, Daniel 8:2. -- Ed.


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