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THE PROPHECY AGAINST PHILISTIA
This little chapter deals with the prophecy against the Philistines, and also the coastal cities of Tyre and Sidon, in other words, the western coastline of Palestine.
The big problem to which commentators usually address most of their comments on this chapter regards Jeremiah 47:1.
"The word of Jehovah that came to Jeremiah the prophet concerning the Philistines, before that Pharaoh smote Gaza."
"Before that Pharaoh smote Gaza ..." (Jeremiah 47:10). What makes this difficult is that there is no hint here of "which Pharaoh" is meant. Three different dates are suggested for the capture of Gaza mentioned here. (1) Pharaoh-Necho marched against Babylon in 609 B.C., that being when Josiah opposed him and was killed at Megiddo. It is not certainly known, but it is supposed that Pharaoh-Necho might have taken and fortified Gaza at the beginning of that campaign in order to secure his eventual retreat. (2) It has also been suggested that this same Pharaoh-Necho, severely defeated at Carchemish, took Gaza and fortified it, as a bastion against Nebuchadnezzar's following him into Egypt. (3) Another king, Pharaoh-Hophra (588-570 B.C.) is alleged to have taken Gaza in an expedition against Tyre and Sidon. J. R. Dummelow mentions all three of these possibilities.
The trouble with finding any certainty in the answer is due to, "Our ignorance of contemporary history."
Other dates for Pharaoh's capture of Gaza, as mentioned here, have been proposed as 608 B.C., and 605-604 B.C.
Our own preference for the date is grounded in our conviction that the Jeremiahic prophecy of the Babylonian campaign against Jerusalem, Egypt, Philistia, and the whole region was written well in advance of the actual advance of the Babylonians, and in fact, at a time when Egypt, not Babylon, was the power most people feared. The weight of this first verse, as we understand it is, therefore: "At a time when Pharaoh of Egypt was the dominating power, even at that early time, Jeremiah prophesied the great flood of the Babylonian invasion `from the north.'"
Another excellent reason for dating this prophecy prior to 609 B.C., is seen in the fact that, according to the Babylonian Chronicle for the year 604 B.C., "Nebuchadnezzar marched against Ashkelon, took its king captive, carried off booty, and prisoners, turning the city into ruins and a heap of rubble." This of course, is a complete fulfillment of Jeremiah's prophecy.
We cannot believe that Jeremiah's prophecy of that destroying flood from the north was a "prophecy after the event," but that it came long before the actual destruction; and that conviction limits this writer to the conclusion that the date of the prophecy was before the death of Josiah in 609 B.C. Certainly, our guess on this is as good as anyone's! We are glad to note that R. K. Harrison, writing in the Tyndale Commentaries also favored this date.
Jeremiah is not the only one who prophesied against the Philistines. Amos 1:6-8; Ezekiel 25:15-17; Isaiah 14:28-31; and Zephaniah 2:4-7, are others.
HISTORY OF THE PHILISTINES
The Philistines were a vigorous people who migrated to the eastern shore of the Mediterranean Sea from the Island of Crete in very early times, in fact, giving their name (Palestine) to the whole area. Israel never was able to drive them out of the land; but, under king David, they did submit to the government of Israel.
However, in the days of the divided kingdom, they quickly regained their independence, which they maintained through many military operations against them through the ages, which gradually weakened them, leading to their final conquest by the Maccabees in the second century B.C. From this time, they seem to have been totally merged with Israel.
Their principal cities were Ekron, Ashkelon, Ashdod, Gath and Gaza.
"Thus saith Jehovah: Behold, waters rise up out of the north, and shall become an overflowing stream, and shall overflow the land and all that is therein, the city and them that dwell therein; and the men shall cry, and all the inhabitants of the land shall wail. At the noise of the stamping of the hoofs of his strong ones, at the rushing of his chariots, at the rumbling of his wheels, the fathers look not back to their children for feebleness of hands."
"Waters rise up out of the north ..." (Jeremiah 47:2). Isaiah also compared the ravages of the great Assyrian army as the Euphrates River at flood (Isaiah 8:7,8); and here Jeremiah uses the same metaphor to describe the ravages of the Babylonians.
"Fathers look not back to their children for feebleness of hands ..." (Jeremiah 47:3). This depicts the terror stricken fathers as so overcome with fear that they could not even try to protect their children. It is an exceedingly powerful comment on the kind of terror inspired by the terrible armies of the Babylonians.
"Because of the day that cometh to destroy all the Philistines, to cut off from Tyre and Sidon every helper that remaineth: for Jehovah will destroy the Philistines, the remnant of the isle of Caphtor. Baldness is upon Gaza; Ashkelon is brought to naught, the remnant of their valley: how long wilt thou cut thyself."
"Remnant of the isle of Caphtor ..." (Jeremiah 47:4). "Caphtor is usually identified with Crete."
The mention of Tyre and Sidon here puzzles some writers, but, apparently, all that is meant is that the way was then open for Babylon to destroy those cities also, but no prophecy that their destruction would follow.
"Baldness is upon Gaza ... how long wilt thou cut thyself" (Jeremiah 47:5). These were signs of grief and sorrow and are a prophecy of the terrible doom in store for Philistia.
"The remnant of their valley ..." (Jeremiah 47:5). John Bright stated that, "This makes no sense!" But such a comment only means that the commentator does not understand it. Neither can this writer tell what it means; but we heartily agree with Bright that the rendition given in the LXX, which reads, "The remnant of the Anakim (the giants)," while tempting, "May be nothing but a guess on the part of the LXX."
"O thou sword of Jehovah, how long will it be ere thou be quiet? put up thyself into thy scabbard: rest, and be still. How canst thou be quiet, seeing Jehovah hath given thee a charge? Against Ashkelon, and against the seashore, there hath he appointed it."
"Jeremiah's reference to the sword of Jehovah is one of his most awesome figures. The sword of the Lord symbolizes righteous judgment. That judgment which is now falling upon Judah is also coming upon other countries. The Philistines also must drink of the cup of the wrath of God."
There are two addresses in these verses to the personified Sword of Jehovah: (1) The Philistines cry out for the sword to rest, and be still. (2) The prophet answers, "How canst thou, seeing Jehovah hath given thee a charge?"
"There hath he appointed it ..." (Jeremiah 47:7). Jehovah hath appointed his sword to bring terrible vengeance upon wicked peoples. And what is God's sword?
(1) It is his supernatural power, like that "flaming sword" turning in all directions that prevented Adam's race from re-entering the Garden of Paradise.
(2) It is also the literal sword, and all kinds of armament that belonged to many wicked nations, whom God used to punish others, they themselves, in turn, receiving their own punishment. The king of Assyria is called "God's razor" (Isaiah 7:20); and the armies of pagan Rome were referred to as God's armies in the prophecy of the destruction of Jerusalem (Matthew 22:7)
Terrible indeed as God's judgments surely were, Adam's race has not yet mastered the lesson that the infinitely Holy God can not and will not tolerate wickedness. It should be remembered that in the instance of the Great Deluge, all mankind perished at one time! and that once more, at the conclusion of this dispensation of God's grace, there will be a second and final destruction of all flesh from the face of the earth, only the redeemed being spared.
Coffman Commentaries reproduced by permission of Abilene Christian University Press, Abilene, Texas, USA. All other rights reserved.
Coffman, James Burton. "Commentary on Jeremiah 47". "Coffman Commentaries on the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 24 / Ordinary 29