Jeremiah 47 – A Word of Judgment Against the Philistines
A. The prophecy against the Philistines.
1. (1) Introduction.
The word of the LORD that came to Jeremiah the prophet against the Philistines, before Pharaoh attacked Gaza.
a. Against the Philistines: Jeremiah 46 began the section of Jeremiah’s prophecies against the nations surrounding Judah. Jeremiah 47 is the record of his prophecy against the Philistines, the ancient enemies and rivals of Israel.
b. Before Pharaoh attacked Gaza: The prophecy was given before the calamity came upon Gaza, a significant Philistine city.
i. Before Pharaoh attacked Gaza: “The attack may have occurred when Necho was marching to Harran in 609 BC.” (Harrison)
ii. “In verse 1 the reference is to Pharaoh Neco’s campaign of 609 BC, which had a twofold purpose: to prop up a tottering Assyria against a powerful Babylonia, thus maintaining the balance of power; to extend his own empire in a time of international chaos.” (Cundall)
iii. “The Greek historian Herodotus records a tradition that after the battle at Megiddo, Neco overthrew Kadytis, which is usually identified with the Philistine city of Gaza. ” (Cundall)
2. (2-3) Judgment comes from the north.
Thus says the LORD:
“Behold, waters rise out of the north,
And shall be an overflowing flood;
They shall overflow the land and all that is in it,
The city and those who dwell within;
Then the men shall cry,
And all the inhabitants of the land shall wail.
At the noise of the stamping hooves of his strong horses,
At the rushing of his chariots,
At the rumbling of his wheels,
The fathers will not look back for their children,
a. Waters rise out of the north: The Babylonians did not only come to conquer the Kingdom of Judah and the Egyptians, but to rule the entire region as their empire. They would also come from the north to overwhelm the Philistines as flood waters overwhelm a land.
b. All the inhabitants of the land shall wail: Jeremiah described the vivid sounds of conquest. The people are wailing, the horses with stamping hooves, the sound of rushing chariots with rumbling wheels. These were the sounds of judgment upon the Philistines.
c. The fathers will not look back for their children, lacking courage: Jeremiah described the tragedy of the coming Babylonian invasion. It would bring such crisis and fear that natural affection and courage would be forgotten.
B. The sword of the LORD against the cities of the Philistines.
1. (4-5) The afflicted cities.
“Because of the day that comes to plunder all the Philistines,
To cut off from Tyre and Sidon every helper who remains;
For the LORD shall plunder the Philistines,
The remnant of the country of Caphtor.
Baldness has come upon Gaza,
Ashkelon is cut off
With the remnant of their valley.
How long will you cut yourself?”
a. Because of the day that comes to plunder all the Philistines: The Babylonians would not spare even some of the territory of these coastal people. Acting as agents of the LORD, they shall plunder them all.
b. To cut off from Tyre and Sidon every helper: Nebuchadnezzar would conquer these great cities, as well as Caphtor, Gaza, and Ashkelon.
i. “The obscure clause to cut off from Tyre and Sidon seems to mean that any available Phoenician help would be prevented from reaching Philistia. ” (Harrison) “Tyre and Sidon were Phoenician, not Philistine, cities, but they were probably in a desperate alliance with the Philistines against the overwhelming might of Babylonia. ” (Cundall)
ii. Here the Philistines are called, the remnant of the country of Caphtor. “Caphtor is the Old Testament designation of Crete, the land from which the Philistines came originally.” (Harrison)
iii. Baldness has come upon Gaza: “They have cut off their hair in token of deep sorrow and distress.” (Clarke)
iv. With the remnant of their valley: “The fate of the ‘remnant of the Anakim’ (Jeremiah 47:5, RSV) is of peculiar interest, since this aboriginal race of giant-like people was exterminated in Israel and survived only in a few Philistine cities, as noted in Joshua 11:21 f. (cf. Numbers 13:22, 28, 32 f.).” (Cundall)
v. The remnant of their valley: “The LXX reading ‘Anakim’ seeks to link the people of Gaza and Ashkelon with the race of giants that inhabited Canaan before the arrival of the Israelites (Numbers 13:22-23; Deuteronomy 1:28).” (Thompson)
2. (6-7) Speaking to and hearing from the sword of God’s judgment.
“O you sword of the LORD,
How long until you are quiet?
Put yourself up into your scabbard,
Rest and be still!
How can it be quiet,
Seeing the LORD has given it a charge
Against Ashkelon and against the seashore?
There He has appointed it.”
a. O you sword of the LORD: Jeremiah spoke, as it were, to the very sword of God’s judgment that came so heavily upon the Philistines. He wondered how long it would continue and asked the sword of judgment to rest and be still.
i. “This is a most grand prosopopoeia [a figure of speech in which an abstract thing is personified] – a dialogue between the sword of the Lord and the prophet. Nothing can be imagined more sublime.” (Clarke)
b. Seeing the LORD has given it a charge: Nevertheless, God’s sword of judgment would remain active until the work was complete. Nebuchadnezzar’s armies acted as instruments of God.
i. “This is the answer of the Sword. I am the officer of God’s judgments, and he has given me a commission against Ashkelon, and against the sea shore; all the coast where the Philistines have their territories.” (Clarke)
ii. The sword of the LORD did its work in history. “A Babylonian prism, now in Istanbul, mentions the presence – presumably with little choice in the matter – of the kings of Tyre and Sidon, of Gaza, and of Ashdod, at the court of Nebuchadnezzar, while a prison list now in Berlin records the rations for the king of Ashkelon, among other noted prisoners (including Jehoiachin of Judah).” (Kidner)
iii. There is another sense in which the sword of the LORD – in the sense of God’s word – has a work to do among God’s people today, and will not be stopped until it finishes that work. “O sword of the Lord; thou hast wounded us sore! Like a two-edged sword, the Word of God has pierced to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, of the joints and marrow. How deeply it has penetrated; how sharply it has cut! And even now it cannot rest.” (Meyer)
iv. “How can it be quiet, seeing that this is the only world where pain can reach his saints? And He must do his work quickly, ere we reach the land where the sword is placed in its scabbard, and stilled for ever.” (Meyer)