Jeremiah 47


A message about the Philistines

This little chapter is a prophecy against Philistia. This would include the coastal towns of Tyre and Sidon. I would imagine it includes the whole western coastline of Palestine. The Philistines had migrated from Crete to the eastern shore of the Mediterranean. They gave the name Palestine to the whole area. They were a mighty force to reckon with, they were never completely driven out of the land by Israel.

At one time they submitted to King David, but, during the days of the divided kingdom, they quickly came back to power again. They were always a strong military power, but they were finally defeated by the Maccabees in the period between the Old and New Testament, in the 2nd century B.C.

God’s judgements were surely terrible, but mankind generally and God’s people in particular, in particular, have never mastered the important lesson, that God will not tolerate the wickedness of men.

‘This is the word of the LORD that came to Jeremiah the prophet concerning the Philistines before Pharaoh attacked Gaza: This is what the LORD says: ‘See how the waters are rising in the north; they will become an overflowing torrent. They will overflow the land and everything in it, the towns and those who live in them. The people will cry out; all who dwell in the land will wail at the sound of the hooves of galloping steeds, at the noise of enemy chariots and the rumble of their wheels. Parents will not turn to help their children; their hands will hang limp. For the day has come to destroy all the Philistines and to remove all survivors who could help Tyre and Sidon. The LORD is about to destroy the Philistines, the remnant from the coasts of Caphtor. Gaza will shave her head in mourning; Ashkelon will be silenced. You remnant on the plain, how long will you cut yourselves? ‘Alas, sword of the LORD, how long till you rest? Return to your sheath; cease and be still.’ But how can it rest when the LORD has commanded it, when he has ordered it to attack Ashkelon and the coast?’ Jeremiah 47:1-7

This prophecy went out to the Philistines before they were attacked by the Egyptians. We are not told when this attack transpired, or by which Pharaoh. We would only assume that it would have been Pharaoh-Neco on his way to engage the Babylonians at Carchemish.

Taking the literal setting of the rising of the floodwaters of the Nile River, which meant a blessing of crops to the Egyptians, would mean destruction to both the Egyptians and Philistines. The Babylonian forces would come from the north and consume the Philistine cities.

The Babylonian Chronicle, wherein Nebuchadnezzar reported concerning his campaign into Palestine, reports that on his way to Egypt after Carchemish, he ravaged the Philistine cities. This took place around 605/604 B.C.

They had been exhausted from swinging their swords in the battle against the Babylonians. In desperation, they could do nothing but flee for their lives. Since these two Phoenician cities, Tyre and Sidon were probably in alliance with the Philistines at this time in history, they too would succumb to the flow of the Babylonian army from the north.

Shaving your head and cutting yourself were individual signs of mourning. One would cut off his hair and cut himself. There was a cry for relief from the attack. It was a cry by the Philistines for mercy from the Lord. The sword of the Lord through the Babylonians could not be put into its scabbard until the punishment of the Philistines had been meted out in full.

Caphtor, though possibly a reference to Philistia, Amos 9:7, is used also as a reference to the island of Crete, Ezekiel 25:15-16.

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