C). Prophecy Concerning Philistia And Its Great Cities Including Within It A Word Against Tyre and Sidon (Jeremiah 47:1-7).
To the west of Judah was Philistia, with its great semi-independent cities such as Gaza (the Azzah of Jeremiah 25:20) and Ashkelon (along with Ekron and the remnant of Ashdod - Jeremiah 25:20, and earlier, Gath), and to the north-west the Phoenician cities of Tyre and Sidon. The Philistines had been a constant thorn in the side of Israel ever since they had arrived from the Aegean in the Coastal Plain around 1200 BC where, having been repulsed by Egypt, they had established themselves as a military elite over the Canaanites on the Coastal Plain. Indeed during the Judges period they had almost swallowed up central Israel and Judah, a situation which was partly alleviated by Samuel and was finally solved by David. After David any Philistine encroachment was limited. But ruled over by five semi-independent ‘tyrants’, and relatively strong in themselves, they had still caused trouble for Israel/Judah, either by their belligerence at times of weakness (compare Ezekiel 25:15-17), or by persuading them to enter into alliances against a common enemy. Their own problem was that they were in the direct path of any northern incursion against Egypt, for invaders from the north would march down the Coastal Plain through Philistia.
‘The word (dbr) of YHWH which came to Jeremiah the prophet concerning the Philistines, before Pharaoh smote Gaza.’
The timing of the prophecy is indicated by the fact that it was ‘before Pharaoh smote Gaza’. This may suggest a date between 609-600 BC. During that period the Egyptians were active in the region a number of times, including their march to the aid of the Assyrians in 609 BC, as a result of which Josiah was slain, their control over the area until their defeat at Carchemish in 605 BC, and their subsequent repulsion of the Babylonians in that area in 601 BC. Herodotus, 2:159, says that Pharaoh Necho took Kadytis, which may well be Greek for Gaza, in 609 BC, presumably on his march north, and the Babylonian Chronicles indicate that Necho may have attacked and defeated Gaza in 601 BC. If this be the case the prophecy occurs either in the latter part of the reign of Josiah or in that of Jehoiakim. The reference to the sacking of Ashkelon (Jeremiah 47:7) may point to a date prior to 604 BC when the Babylonian Chronicles tell us that Nebuchadrezzar sacked Ashkelon.
Some view it as unlikely that Pharaoh Necoh ‘smote Gaza’, and argue that this refers to a later Pharaoh, namely Pharaoh Hophra, who is known to have been widely belligerent..
‘Thus says YHWH:
“Behold, waters rise up out of the north,
And will become an overflowing stream,
And will overflow the land and all that is in it,
The city and those who dwell in it,
And the men will cry,
And all the inhabitants of the land will wail.”
That this refers to an enemy ‘out of the north’ and not to Pharaoh Necho points to a coming Babylonian invasion. For the picture used compare Jeremiah 46:8; Isaiah 8:7. The invasion is likened to a great flood which inundates the land and overwhelms the cities, something illustrated in the following verses. The consequence is that the people wail and mourn because of what has come on them.
“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 do not look back to their children,
Because of feebleness of hands;
Because of the day which comes to destroy all the Philistines,
To cut off from Tyre and Sidon every helper who remains,
For YHWH will destroy the Philistines,
The remnant of the isle of Caphtor.”
The vivid picture portrays the awfulness of seeing the invaders arrive in irresistible force. The hoofbeats of the horses and the noise of the chariots brings terror to the neighbourhood such that children are abandoned in the haste to get away. It is a day of destruction and it is a day which will destroy ‘all the Philistines’, and will include their allies in Tyre and Sidon (compare Psalms 83:7). And all this was because YHWH has determined to destroy the Philistines who had previously arrived (among the Sea People) from Crete and the Aegean, taking over parts of YHWH’s land and harassing His people. Once again we see that YHWH’s purposes are being brought about by the activities of men, and that although His action is sometimes delayed He never forgets how His people have been treated.
‘To cut off from Tyre and Sidon every helper who remains.’ This may suggest that Philistia’s great fault in Nebuchadrezzar’s eyes (their being seen as ‘the helper who remains’) was that they had assisted Tyre and Sidon in their struggle against Babylon, possibly by rebelling at the same time. Tyre, which had gained its independence at the demise of the Assyrian Empire, resisted Nebuchadrezzar’s siege for thirteen years, and proved a constant thorn in the flesh to him.
‘The remnant of the isle of Caphtor.’ According to Deuteronomy 2:23; Amos 9:7; the Philistines came from Caphtor, which many see as referring to Crete and its connections. In the second millennium BC the Minoan empire was extensive. But the original origins of the Philistines lay in North Africa (Genesis 10:13-14).
“Baldness is come on Gaza,
Ashkelon is brought to nought (or ‘is silenced’),
The remnant of their valley,
How long will you cut yourself?”
It is clear from this that the great Philistine cities of Gaza and Ashkelon were the prominent ones in the area at this time, although Ekron and Ashdod are also mentioned in Jeremiah 25:20. But in spite of their importance both of them will be brought down. Baldness is a sign of extreme mourning (compare Jeremiah 16:6; Jeremiah 41:5; Jeremiah 48:37; Isaiah 15:2-3; Micah 1:16), and of total desolation (Isaiah 7:20). It indicates the removal of their strength and manliness (the hair was seen as a source of strength). Ashkelon will be ‘silenced’ or ‘bought to nothing’, its great pride totally humbled. The relatively few who remain alive outside the cities in the surrounding countryside will cut themselves in order to indicate their anguish. This cutting of themselves was a regular Canaanite religious practise to indicate mourning and grief (Jeremiah 41:5 : 1 Kings 18:28). And the question as to how long it will be necessary indicates the dire situation. The Babylonian Chronicle refers to the destruction of Ashkelon in 604 BC.
“O you sword of YHWH,
How long will it be before you are quiet?
Put up yourself into your scabbard,
Rest, and be still.
How can you be quiet,
Seeing that YHWH has given you a charge?
Against Ashkelon, and against the seashore,
There has he appointed it.
But Nebuchadrezzar is in the end nothing but the sword of YHWH. And the prophet, disturbed at what is coming, asks him how long he intends to go on with his destructive work. He calls on him to sheathe his sword and cease his destructive activity. But then he recognises that he cannot do so because he is acting on a charge from YHWH. It is YHWH Who has determined on the destruction of Ashkelon and the coastland. It is by His appointment that it is happening. All nations are in His hands. What He has purposed, the wages of sin, must come about.
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Pett, Peter. "Commentary on Jeremiah 47". "Peter Pett's Commentary on the Bible ". https://www.studylight.org/
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