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Bible Commentaries

Expositor's Bible Commentary
Jeremiah 47

 

 

Verses 1-7

CHAPTER XVIII

THE PHILISTINES

Jeremiah 47:1-7

"O sword of Jehovah, how long will it be ere thou be quiet? put up thyself into thy scabbard; rest, and be still."- Jeremiah 47:6

ACCORDING to the title placed at the head of this prophecy, it was uttered "before Pharaoh smote Gaza." The Pharaoh is evidently Pharaoh Necho, and this capture of Gaza was one of the incidents of the campaign which opened with the victory at Megiddo and concluded so disastrously at Carchemish. Our first impulse is to look for some connection between this incident and the contents of the prophecy: possibly the editor who prefixed the heading may have understood by the northern enemy Pharaoh Necho on his return from Carchemish; but would Jeremiah have described a defeated army thus?

"Behold, waters rise out of the north, and become an overflowing torrent;

They overflow the land, and all that is therein, the city and its inhabitants.

Men cry out, and all the inhabitants of the land howl,

At the sound of the stamping of the hoofs of his stallions,

At the rattling of his chariots and the rumbling of his wheels."

Here as elsewhere the enemy from the north is Nebuchadnezzar. Pharaohs might come and go, winning victories and taking cities, but these broken reeds count for little; not they, but the king of Babylon is the instrument of Jehovah’s supreme purpose. The utter terror caused by the Chaldean advance is expressed by a striking figure:-

"The fathers look not back to their children for slackness of hands."

Their very bodies are possessed and crippled with fear, their palsied muscles cannot respond to the impulses of natural affection; they can do nothing but hurry on in headlong flight, unable to look round or stretch out a helping hand to their children:-

"Because of the day that cometh for the spoiling of all the Philistines,

For cutting off every ally that remaineth unto Tyre and Zidon:

For Jehovah spoileth the Philistines the remnant of the coast of Caphtor.

Baldness cometh upon Gaza; Ashkelon is destroyed:

O remnant of the Anakim, how long wilt thou cut thyself?"

This list is remarkable both for what it includes and what it omits. In order to understand the reference to Tyre and Zidon, we must remember that Nebuchadnezzar’s expedition was partly directed against these cities, with which the Philistines had evidently been allied. The Chaldean king would hasten the submission of the Phoenicians, by cutting off all hope of succour from without. There are various possible reasons why out of the five Philistine cities only two-Ashkelon and Gaza-are mentioned; Ekron, Gath, and Ashdod may have been reduced to comparative insignificance. Ashdod had recently been taken by Psammetichus after a twenty-nine years’ siege. Or the names of two of these cities may be given by way of paronomasia in the text: Ashdod may be suggested by the double reference to the spoiling and the spoiler, Shdod and Shoded; Gath may be hinted at by the word used for the mutilation practised by mourners, Tithgoddadi, and by the mention of the Anakim, who are connected with Gath, Ashdod, and Gaza in Joshua 11:22.

As Jeremiah contemplates this fresh array of victims of Chaldean cruelty, he is moved to protest against the weary monotony of ruin:-

"O sword of Jehovah, how long will it be ere thou be quiet?

Put up thyself into thy scabbard; rest, and be still."

The prophet ceases to be the mouthpiece of God, and breaks out into the cry of human anguish. How often since, amid the barbarian inroads that overwhelmed the Roman Empire, amid the prolonged horrors of the Thirty Years’ War, amid the carnage of the French Revolution, men have uttered a like appeal to an unanswering and relentless Providence! Indeed, not in war only, but even in peace, the tide of human misery and sin often seems to flow, century after century, with undiminished volume, and ever and again a vain "How long" is wrung from pallid and despairing lips. For the Divine purpose may not be hindered, and the sword of Jehovah must still strike home.

"How can it be quiet, seeing that Jehovah hath given it a charge?

Against Ashkelon and against the seashore, there hath He appointed it."

Yet Ashkelon survived to be a stronghold of the Crusaders, and Gaza to be captured by Alexander and even by Napoleon. Jehovah has other instruments besides His devastating sword; the victorious endurance and recuperative vitality of men and nations also come from Him.

"Come and let us return unto Jehovah:

For He hath torn, and He will heal us;

He hath smitten, and He will bind us up." [Hosea 6:1]

 


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Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.

Bibliography Information
Nicoll, William R. "Commentary on Jeremiah 47:4". "Expositor's Bible Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/teb/jeremiah-47.html.

Lectionary Calendar
Monday, October 14th, 2019
the Week of Proper 23 / Ordinary 28
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