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PROPHECY ON THE PHILISTINES.
It is clear from the contents of the prophecy (and the inference is thoroughly confirmed by its position) that it was written after the battle of Carchemish, with reference to the dreaded northern foe—Nebuchadnezzar, King of Babylon. The prophecy against Egypt precedes, because Egypt was by far the most important of the nations threatened by the advance of Nebuchadnezzar. But chronologically and geographically, it ought rather to have been placed at the end of the series, for Palestine had to be conquered before a design upon Egypt could have a reasonable chance of success. The commentators have given themselves much unnecessary trouble with the heading in Jeremiah 47:1, which assigns the date of the prophecy to a period prior (as it would seem) to the battle of Carchemish. They forget that the headings are not to be received without criticism as historical evidence for the date of the prophecies. Knowing, as we do, that the prophecies were edited, not only by the disciples of the prophets, but by students of the Scriptures long after their time, it is gratuitously embarrassing one's self to give as much historical weight to the statement of a heading as to a clear inference from the contents of a prophecy. No doubt Providence watched over the movements of the editors; they must even be credited with a degree of inspiration, so far as moral and religious truths are concerned; but they were not exempt from being dependent on the ordinary sources of information in matters of history. It would seem, then, that, out of the various sieges of Gaza in the last century of the Jewish state, one in particular had fixed itself in the memory of the Jews; and it was not a siege by the Babylonians, but by the Egyptians. Seeing a reference to Gaza in Jeremiah 47:5, a late editor of Jeremiah appended to the heading already in existence the words, "before that Pharaoh smote Gaza." He was wrong in so doing, but he only carried out, like many favourite modern preachers, what has been called the atomistic method of exegesis, by which a single verse is isolated from its context, and interpreted with total disregard of the rest of the passage.
But which Pharaoh did this editor mean? and when did he lay siege to Gaza? The general view is that he means Pharaoh-necho, who, according to Herodotus (2:159), first defeated "the Syrians at Magdolus," and then "made himself master of Cadytis, a large city of Syria." It is assumed that Magdolus is a mistake for Megiddo, and that Cadytis means Gaza; and the former supposition is probable enough (a similar confusion has been made by certain manuscripts at Matthew 15:39; comp. the Authorized and Revised Versions); but the latter is rather doubtful. It is true that in Jeremiah 3:5 Herodotus speaks of "the country from Phoenicia to the borders of the city Cadyfis" as belonging to "the Palestine Syrians;" but is it not more probable that Herodotus mistook the position of Jerusalem (Cadushta, "the holy (city)," in Aramaic) than that he called Gaza "a city almost as large as Sardis"? Gaza was never called" the holy city;" Jerusalem was. Sir Gardner Wilkinson (ap. Rawlinson's 'Herodotus') takes a different view. According to him (and to Rashi long before) it was Pharaoh-hophra or Apries who captured Gaza. We know from Herodotus (2:161) that this king waged war with Phoenicia, which is, perhaps, to be taken in connection with the notice in Jeremiah 37:5, Jeremiah 37:11, of the diversion created by an Egyptian army during the siege of Jerusalem. This hypothesis is to a certain extent confirmed by the mention of "Tyrus and Zidon" in Jeremiah 37:4, but stands in much need of some direct historical confirmation.
Against the Philistines; rather, concerning (as usual in similar cases). Before that Pharaoh, etc. (see introduction to chapter).
Hostile bands advance from the north; horror seizes the Philistines.
Waters rise up. The prophets think in figures, and no figure is so familiar to them (alas for the unstable condition of those times!) as that of an overflowing torrent for an invading army (see on Jeremiah 46:8, and add to the parallel passages Isaiah 28:18; Ezekiel 26:19; Daniel 11:10). Out of the north. To suppose that this refers to Pharaoh-necho returning from Carchemish seems forced and unnatural. If Necho conquered Gaza at the period supposed, it would be on his way to Carchemish, and not on his return. Besides," the north" is the standing symbol for the home of the dreaded Assyrian and Babylonian foes (see on Jeremiah 1:14). Isaiah had uttered a very similar prediction when the Assyrian hosts were sweeping through Palestine (Isaiah 14:31). An overflowing flood; rather, torrent. The same phrase occurs in Isaiah 30:28, where the "breath" of the angry God is described with this figurative expression. It is in autumn time that the torrents of Palestine become dangerous, and water courses, dry or almost dry in summer (comp. Jeremiah 15:18), become filled with a furiously rushing stream.
A fine specimen of Hebrew word painting. The rushing of his chariots. "Rushing" has the sense of the German rauschen, to make a rustling, murmuring sound. It is used (but as the equivalent of a different Hebrew word) in the Authorized Version of Isa 18:1-7 :12, 13 of the confused sound made by an army in motion. In the present passage, the Hebrew word means something more definite than that in Isaiah, l.c.; it is the "crashing" of an earthquake, or (as here) the "rattling" of chariots. The rumbling of his wheels. "Rumbling" is a happy equivalent. The Hebrew (hamon) is the word referred to in the preceding note as meaning an indefinite confused sound. The fathers shall not look back to their children, etc. An awful picture, and still more effective in the concise language of the original. The Hebrew Scriptures excel (as still more strikingly, but with too great a want of moderation, does the Koran) in the sublime of terror. So overpowering shall the panic be that fathers will not even turn an eye to their helpless children. Observe, it is said "the fathers," not "the mothers." The picture is poetically finer than that in Deuteronomy 28:56, Deuteronomy 28:57, because the shade of colouring is a degree softer. Feebleness of hands. A common expression for the enervation produced by extreme terror (see Jeremiah 6:24; Isaiah 13:7; Ezekiel 7:17; Nahum 2:11).
The day that cometh; rather, the day that hath come (i.e. shall have come). It is "the day of the Lord" that is meant, that revolutionary "shaking of all things" (to use Haggai's expression, Haggai 2:21), as to which see further in note on Jeremiah 46:10. To cut off … every helper that remaineth; i.e. every ally on whom they could still reckon. This passage favours the view that the judgment upon the Philistines took place at the same time as that upon Tyre. Nebuchadnezzar's object was to isolate Tyre and Sidon as completely as possible. The remnant. The Philistines had suffered so much from repeated invasions as to be only a "remnant" of the once powerful nation which oppressed Israel (see on Jeremiah 25:20). The country of Caphtor. Some would render "the coastland of Caphtor," but the idea of "coast" seems to be a secondary one, derived in certain passages from the context. Properly speaking, it is a poetic synonym for "land," and is generally applied to distant and (accidentally) maritime countries. "Caphtor" was understood by the old versions to be Cappadocia. But as the remains of the Cappadocian language point to a Persian origin of the population which spoke it, and as the Caphtorim originally came from Egypt, it is more plausible to suppose, with Ebers, that Caphtor was a coast district of North Egypt. Crete has also been thought of (comp. Amos 9:7; Genesis 10:14; Deuteronomy 2:23).
The prophet changes his style. In ecstasy or imagination, he sees the calamity which he has foretold already come to pass. Philistia is not, indeed, altogether annihilated; it was not the will of God to make a full end as yet with any of the nations round about. But it is reduced to extremities, and fears the worst.
Baldness. A sign of the deepest sorrow (comp. on Jeremiah 16:6). Ashkelon is cut off. Ruins of Ashkelon are still visible. "It is evident that the walls of the old city were built on a semicircular range of rocky hills, which ended in perpendicular cliffs of various heights on the seashore. Wherever nature failed, the weak places were strengthened by the help of earthworks or masonry. On the southern and southeastern sides, the sand has penetrated the city by means of breaches in the walls, and every day it covers the old fortifications more and more, both within and without. The ancient towns alone rise distinctly, like rocky islands, out of the sea of sand. The ruins on the north are bordered by plantations of trees. They lie in such wild confusion that one might suppose that they were thrown down by an earthquake. There is no secure landing place; the strip of sand at the foot of the western wall is covered at high tide, when the waves beat against the cliffs. Still J.G. Kinnear, in 1841, found some remains of a mole, and this discovery is confirmed by Schick [the able German architect now at Jerusalem]." Thus writes Dr. Guthe, in the Journal of the German Palestine Exploration Society, remarking further that, in a few generations, the ruins of Ashkelon will be buried under the drifting sand. It is partly the sand hills, partly the singular fragmentariness of the ruins of Ashkelon, which gives such an air of desolation to the scene, though, where the deluge of sand has not invaded, the gardens and orchards are luxuriant. Dr. W.M. Thomson, in the enlarged edition of 'The Land and the Book', observes that "the walls and towers must have been blown to pieces by powder, for not even earthquakes could throw these gigantic masses of masonry into such extraordinary attitudes. No site in this country has so deeply impressed my mind with sadness." With the remnant of their valley. "With" should rather be "even." "Their valley" means primarily the valley of Ashkelon; but this was not different from the valley or low-lying plain (more commonly called the Shefelah) of the other Philistian towns; and the whole phrase is an enigmatical, poetic way of saying "the still surviving population of Philistia." But this addition certainly weakens the passage, and leaves the second half of the verse abnormally short. It is far better to violate the Massoretic tradition, and attach "the remnant," etc; to the second verse half. But "their valley" is still a rather feeble expression; a proper name is what we look for to make this clause correspond to those which have gone before. The Septuagint reads differently, for it renders καὶ τὰ κατὰλοιπα Ἐνακείμ. We know from Joshua 11:22 that some of the Anakim were left "in Gaza, in Gath, and in Ashdod;" and in David's time the Philistines could still point to giants in their midst (1 Samuel 17:4; 2 Samuel 21:16-10.21.22), who, like the Anakim (Deuteronomy 2:20), are called in the Hebrew, Rephaim. It may be objected, indeed (as it is by Keil), that the Anakim would not be traceable so late as Jeremiah's time; but Jeremiah was presumably a learned man, and was as likely to call the Philistines Anakim, as an English poet to call his countrymen Britons. No one who has given special attention to the phenomena of the Hebrew text elsewhere can doubt that "their valley" is a corruption; the choice lies between the "Anakim" of the Septuagint and the plausible correction of a Jewish scholar (A. Krochmal), "Ekron." How long wilt thou cut thyself? Shall thy lamentation never cease? (comp. on Jeremiah 16:6). The question is in appearance addressed to "the remnant" (personified as a woman), but in reality the judicial Providence who sends the calamity.
O thou sword, etc.; rather, alas! thou sword of the Lord.. It is the mystic sword of which we have heard already (see on Jeremiah 12:10; Jeremiah 46:10).
The seashore. So Ezekiel speaks of "the remnant of the seashore" (Ezekiel 25:16), referring to Philistia.
The judgment of the Philistines.
I. A JUDGMENT ON THE ANCIENT ENEMIES OF THE PEOPLE OF GOD. They have long ceased to be a power; now they shall cease to have any national existence. They are but a remnant; even this is to be cut off. Gradually the spiritual foes of the Christian are reduced in power and number. Old sins and old temptations are slowly subdued. Some linger on till the end of life. But all shall be overthrown, even the last enemy, death.
II. AN OVERWHELMING JUDGMENT. It comes up like a flood; i.e. it is swift, and it spreads far and wide. Such is a characteristic of Divine judgments.
1. They may be long delayed, but when they appear they rush down as a flood.
2. They penetrate to secret hiding places and flow to the most remote quarters, reaching those who would fain separate themselves from their companions in sin when they are forced to be also companions in suffering.
III. A DISTRESSING JUDGMENT. The Philistines suffer grief—they cry and howl; these people are also smitten with the paralysis of fear—"the fathers shall not look back to their children for feebleness of hands" (Jeremiah 47:3). Some troubles can be endured and lived down by fortitude, by patient submission, or by the comforting resources of the inner life. But this is not possible with the judgments of Heaven. They are too terrific to be calmly endured. The inner sources of consolation are withheld. The soul is punished as well as the body. There is the bitterest drop in the cup of anguish. The soul will be tortured with shame, with remorse, with horror. That is hell.
IV. A DESTRUCTIVE JUDGMENT. "Baldness is come upon Gaza; Ashkelon is cut off." Great cities are overthrown, the ruins of them testifying to this day to the violence they have undergone. The end of the broad way is destruction. "The wages of sin is death." Whatever be the exact character of the destruction and death, the analogy of national judgment and the known deadening effects of sin upon the spiritual, the intellectual, and even the physical powers lead us to expect that the fearful fate of sin continued, unchecked, and unrepented of through all stages of chastisement will be some destroying process.
V. AN ENDURING JUDGMENT. "Alas! thou sword of the Lord, how long will it be ere thou be quiet?" (Jeremiah 47:6). Philistia has never been restored. Some judgments appear to be irretrievable. All punishment must be sufficiently enduring to effect its end. The punishment of the next world is always referred to as terribly enduring, as partaking of the awful duration of aeons. How long such vague, vast ages will last none can say. May it not be the fate of any of us to make the experiment!
Jeremiah 47:6, Jeremiah 47:7
The sword of the Lord.
I. THE TERROR OF MAN BEFORE THE SWORD OF THE LORD. (Jeremiah 47:6.)
1. God wields a sword. There are terrors in some of the doings of the God of love. "Our God is a consuming fire." It is foolish and wrong to. blind ourselves to the stern side of God's government, and to represent him as almost soft and weak in his indulgence of his children.
2. God's sword may be seen in earthly calamities. It does not flash before us as when it was held by cherubim at the gates of Eden. It works in the form of natural calamities. It also makes use of human actions, wars, etc. Above the sword of man there glitters this terrible, irresistible sword. Thus calamities in this world are sent by God or overruled by God.
3. God's sword may be restlessly active. It is not displayed for one fearful moment and then sheathed. Often there comes blow upon blow. Thus Job cries out beneath the wearying strokes, "How long wilt thou not depart from me, nor let me alone till I swallow down my spittle?" (Job 7:19).
4. We cannot see the reason for the terrible work of the sword of the Lord. We cry out in dismay before it. From a human point of view it may appear cruel and relentless.
5. We may naturally fed pity for those who suffer from this terrible sword. It is right, too, that we should intercede for them if it be possible for the judgment of Heaven to be stayed.
II. THE DIVINE MISSION OF THE SWORD OF THE LORD. (Verse 7.)
1. The wielding of the sword is necessary. "How can it be quiet?" There are moral necessities which even the Almighty God freely accepts. Justice must be done. Right must be established. Evil must be suppressed. The process may be painful, and such as God would not choose on its own account and can take no delight in. Yet for these high requirements, though his children suffer and his own heart is wrung with commiseration, he cannot sheathe the sword till its work is done.
2. The wielding of the sword is for a good purpose. The necessity is not blind and objectless. The sword has its mission. To us who are in the thick of the battle this may not be discernible. The dust and heat, the rush and noise and confusion, the mingled cries of triumph and pain, are all we can observe; the plan of the commander cannot be read through all the turmoil of the field. But he has a plan, and the whole battle is converging to it.
3. The sword cannot be sheathed till its mission is accomplished. The mission is more important than the temporary comfort arising out of the immediate quieting of the sword. If this were to be done before the end were obtained, where would be the use of all that was already suffered? If the sword is stayed before victory is won, every drop of blood spilt is wasted, every pang suffered is suffered in vain. If the discipline of life were to cease before its great purpose were accomplished, its earlier stages would be stultified.
4. When the mission of the sword is accomplished the sword will be sheathed. It is drawn for a definite object. "The Lord is a man of war" for a season and for a purpose, not by delight nor perpetually. He is essentially the God of peace. No one is more anxious to see the sword laid aside than he who wields it. His joy is in peace and in benediction. Judgment is temporary. The victory and rest that follow will be eternal.
HOMILIES BY A.F. MUIR
The sorrow of the ungodly.
The allusion is to a fashion common to the Philistines and other idolatrous nations in appealing to their gods. We perceive a similar tendency in the natural mind in its first moral concerns and spiritual troubles. It is the sorrow of the world to which, as to the Philippian jailor, the injunction has to be addressed, "Do thyself no harm." Notice—
I. THE PRINCIPLE IN HUMAN NATURE. It is that self-inflicted suffering or deprivation will be of spiritual advantage and secure Divine favour. This is the secret of penance, pilgrimages, monastic life, and asceticism in general. The saying, often uttered of losses or pains over which one has no control, "Ah, well! it will be set down to our credit!" witnesses to the same idea. Remorse is largely explained on the same principle.
II. THAT IT IS FOUNDED ON A MISCONCEPTION OF THE DIVINE NATURE. Baal was a cruel god—a huge abortion and monstrosity. Not less cruel are the ideas of God's character entertained by many reputedly religious persons.
1. The gospel declares that "God is love." Such self-inflictions are but folly, and have no religious value in view of this great truth. "Sacrifice and offering thou wouldest not … Lo, I come … I delight to do thy will, O my God" (Psalms 40:6-19.40.8; Hebrews 10:5-58.10.7); "I will have mercy, and not sacrifice" (Matthew 9:13; cf. Hosea 6:6); and "Wherewithal shall I come before the Lord, … he hath showed thee, O man, what is good; and what doth the Lord require of thee, but to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God? (Micah 6:6-33.6.8),—are the expressions of the spirit of true religion, which alone harmonizes with the doctrine of a loving God.
2. God himself in the person of his Son has "borne our griefs and carried our sorrows." The worship which is alone acceptable to the Father must begin with the recognition of this. There is a "godly sorrow," but its advantage consists in its moral influence on ourselves, making us hate sin and follow after righteousness, etc.
3. Everything which ignores the merit of Christ's sufferings and God's revelation of himself must needs be hateful to him, and bring upon its authors his wrath and curse.—M.
Jeremiah 47:6, Jeremiah 47:7
The sword of Jehovah.
I. A PERSONIFICATION OF DIVINE WRATH. "Sword of Jehovah" is an expression that seems to suggest the Philistines as the sneakers: "for though not bad Hebrew, it has a foreign sound, and makes the impression that the speakers attribute the sword raging against them only unwillingly and hesitatingly to Jehovah" (Naegelsbach). God in his true character is still unknown, but conscience witnesses to him as a dimly realized agent of moral recompense. Such language tells:
1. How ceaseless and terrible is the judgment of the heathen world. Ezekiel uses the same figure in relation to the Amorites (Ezekiel 21:30). "There is no peace, saith my God, to the wicked;" "Surely thou wilt slay the wicked, O God" (Psalms 139:19); "When they shall say, Peace and safety; then sudden destruction cometh upon them," etc. (1 Thessalonians 5:3).
2. Of ignorance and moral distance from God. He is only conceived of as a God of vengeance—an all but impersonal fate.
3. Of the helplessness and superstitious dread of sinners. An imperfect knowledge is eked out and distorted by a diseased imagination. All moral strength seems to have gone out of them.
II. EXPLAINED AND JUSTIFIED AS A DIVINE APPOINTMENT. At first the answer of the prophet appears little other than a repetition of the Philistines' thought; but it is far more.
1. This is not blind fate, but judgment strictly meted out and determined.
2. It declares, in effect, that the wicked cannot be suffered to remain on the earth. They must be subjects of continual and exterminating judgment. There is no escape. Is this so? Yes, so long as they remain impenitent and at a distance from him. Is it contradictory, then, for Zechariah to prophecy the conversion of the Philistines? The rightful end of judgment is mercy. The sinner is driven into the arms of the Divine love. Our helplessness prepares for the reception of his salvation.—M.
HOMILIES BY S. CONWAY
The sword that cannot be quiet.
This chapter tells of another of the Gentile nations on whom the judgment of God was to come. These nations all lay in the march of the Babylonian armies, and were one after another overthrown. Philistia is represented as asking of the sword of the Lord, when it will be quiet, and the answer is, "How can it be quiet, when," etc.? (Jeremiah 47:7). It reminds—
I. OF THE SWORD OF CONSCIENCE. The Lord hath given it a charge, and, though we may blunt it, we cannot perfectly quiet it (cf. Macbeth, Judas, and other conscience-haunted men).
II. OF THE SWORD OF SCRIPTURE. "The Word of the Lord is not bound. How men have sought to sheathe it in the scabbard, to hide and hold it there, so that they may go on unchecked in their own ways! But it has leapt forth in spite of them; and, in spite of pagan, Roman, and other persecutions, has asserted its supreme might."
III. OF THE SWORD OF THE DIVINE JUDGMENT AGAINST SIN. Sin and sorrow are eternally married, and can never be put asunder. Where one is the other is never far off, and never will be in this world or the next. But forevery believer Christ has offered his own heart as a sheath for it. For such that sword is sheathed therein, and will be quiet there forever.
"When Christ gave up the ghost
The Law was satisfied;
And now to its most rigorous claims
I answer, 'Jesus died.'"
HOMILIES BY D. YOUNG
Jeremiah 47:6, Jeremiah 47:7
Apostrophe to the sword.
I. WHAT IS MEANT BY THE SWORD OF JEHOVAH. Any man, or army of men, or any inanimate thing even, may be as a sword in the hand of God. Men are restricted in their agents to injure and destroy, and well it is so, though in old and superstitious times some of them were believed to control the powers of nature so that they could raise winds and tempests. But God, with his real and complete control over all natural forces, can turn them against rebellious man whenever and to whatever extent it may be necessary. It is not a case of a strong arm and a weak weapon, or a weak arm and a strong weapon beyond what the arm can wield. God smites, and not imperfectly; nor does he need to smite twice.
II. WHAT IS SUGGESTED BY THE APOSTROPHE.
1. The thought of God's enemies. Here the Philistines are mentioned, so long the troublesome and jealous neighbours of Israel. But they are only types. There are still enemies numerous enough and active enough to keep the sword of God from lying quiet in its scabbard. Why were these Philistines reckoned enemies? Simply because of their wickedness. God is hostile to nothing but wickedness in man, and to that he is always hostile. There are Philistines still against whom a charge has to be given to the sword of God. And such must ever be destroyed, that is, not the men themselves must be destroyed, but that in them which selfishly upholds evil and profits by it. And even they themselves, if they continue the foolish war against God, must perish in the end.
2. The thought of God's opposing activity to his enemies. Wherever there is emnity to God, Divine opposition to it becomes manifest. Hard as it may be to fight for God, it is harder still to fight against him. In being on God's side against evil all the difficulties are at the beginning; in being on the evil side against God the difficulties, though they may look as nothing to start with, soon multiply and increase to the end. A charge is given to all God's servants to be resolute and uncompromising in their opposition to all wickedness.
3. The thought of ultimate cessation of the sword's activity. Surely the time is to come when the sword will lie quietly in the scabbard. He who came not to bring peace but a sword has peace for his ultimate aim. He will not say, "Peace, peace," when there is no peace; and when at last he will say, "Peace," we may be sure of the reality corresponding with the word.—Y.
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Exell, Joseph S; Spence-Jones, Henry Donald Maurice. "Commentary on Jeremiah 47". The Pulpit Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/
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