GOD CONTROLS THE ULTIMATE FATE OF THE PHILISTINES
When the sword of the Lord has been unleashed in judgment against sin, it cannot be restrained or mitigated by human intention or intervention. The God of all the nations will establish His sovereignty and use whatever human instrumentation He chooses to accomplish His judgment purposes. Destruction will be overwhelming, paralyzing and devastating. Terror, despair and mourning will replace all previous attitudes of arrogance and independence. God’s enemies will not have the last word.
Ryken: Sometimes people wonder what in the world God is doing. What the God of all nations is doing is ruling and judging the nations in order to save them.
GOD CONTROLS THE ULTIMATE FATE OF THE PHILISTINES
“That which came as the word of the LORD to Jeremiah the prophet concerning the Philistines, before Pharaoh conquered Gaza. Thus says the LORD:”
Byron Chesney: The name “Philistine” comes from the Hebrew word Philistia, and the Greek rendering of the name is, palaistinei. This is where the term “Palestine” comes from. The Philistines were some of the most feared enemies of God’s people. They were brutal warriors when they fought and they were more advanced than the Israelites. They knew how to forge steel and make weapons from it. . . The Philistine’s land ranged from Joppa, which is now called Tel-Aviv, all the way southward to Gaza (we’ve are all familiar with the Gaza Strip). This area contained the five cities of the Philistines: Gaza, Ashkelon, Ashdod, Gath, and Ekron, and was known as Philistia, or the Land of the Philistines.
Feinberg: the somewhat indefinite historical reference in v. 1 makes it difficult to date this prophecy. One view identifies the Pharaoh as Neco, who conquered Gaza about the time he defeated Josiah at Megiddo (cf. 2 Kings 23:29-30); another view sees the Pharaoh as Neco capturing Gaza on his return from his defeat at Carchemish; still another view identifies the Pharaoh as Hophra, who took Gaza in his campaign against Tyre and Sidon. The historical data are lacking, so it is difficult to make an identification as to the time or the occasion of the attack.
I. (:2B-5) ULTIMATE FATE OF THE PHILISTINES
A. (:2B-4) Severe Judgment
1. (:2B) Overwhelming Conquest
“Behold, waters are going to rise from the north
And become an overflowing torrent,
And overflow the land and all its fullness,
The city and those who live in it;
And the men will cry out,
And every inhabitant of the land will wail.”
Parunak: These verses appear to describe two conquests of Gaza: one by Pharaoh, from Egypt, and thus from the south, and another from the north, probably by the Babylonians. The people would have naturally feared their traditional ally Egypt; when their ultimate disaster would come from the north.
Byron Chesney: The Bible often uses water and flooding as symbols of multitudes of people. This is a description of the vast number of soldiers that will rise up out of Babylon and they will emerge upon the Philistines like an overflowing river. The Philistines will not know what happened they will be so overwhelmed. They will run and cry and howl in fear and pain.
2. (:3) Paralyzing Terror
“Because of the noise of the galloping hoofs of his stallions,
The tumult of his chariots, and the rumbling of his wheels,
The fathers have not turned back for their children,
Because of the limpness of their hands,”
David Guzik: Jeremiah described the tragedy of the coming Babylonian invasion. It would bring such crisis and fear that natural affection and courage would be forgotten.
Mackay: The war horses of the cavalry presented a dire threat to the lightly armed infantry of the day and the impact of their thundering advance was reinforced by the clatter of the chariots. Their wheels were massive, often as high as a man, and any not able to get out of their way fast enough would be crushed under them. Even without any fighting, the impact of the invasion would be devastating.
3. (:4) Devastating Destruction
“On account of the day that is coming
To destroy all the Philistines,
To cut off from Tyre and Sidon
Every ally that is left;
For the LORD is going to destroy the Philistines,
The remnant of the coastland of Caphtor.”
Parunak: Three sections in these verses.
1. 2a, The approaching destruction.
The northern army is pictured as an overflowing flood. Cf. the image of the Assyrian in Isa. 8:5-8; the Egyptians attacking Babylon in 46:7-8. Ever since God destroyed the world with a flood, floods have been terrifying images of destruction.
2. 2b, 3a, The first reason for fear. The inhabitants howl because of the sounds of war around them. When the true judgment does fall, they are properly afraid, and realize that it is far worse than an Egyptian raid. But their fear is focused on the symptoms of the invasion, not the cause.
3. 3b, 4, The second reason for fear. Ultimately, the reason that people are so terrified is that “the Lord will spoil the Philistines.” As with Egypt, so here, the real enemy is not Babylon. Nebuchadnezzar is just the rod of the Lord’s anger. Unless sinners see that it is their Creator with whom they have to do, they will never see the true significance of the judgments that fall upon them.
Longman: In the context of the destruction of Philistia the two Phoenician seaport powers of Tyre and Sidon are mentioned. These cities were further north up the coast in what is today Lebanon. Now that the Philistines are overtaken, they cannot provide further aid to their trading partners in the north.
B. (:5) Intense Mourning
“Baldness has come upon Gaza;
Ashkelon has been ruined.
O remnant of their valley,
How long will you gash yourself?”
Adam Clarke: “valley” – Or plain; for the whole land of the Philistines was a vast plain, which extended along the coast of the Mediterranean Sea from Phoenicia to the frontiers of Egypt. The whole of this plain, the territory of the Philistines, shall be desolated.
II. (:6-7) UNRELENTING SWORD OF THE LORD
A. (:6) Question – Begging for an End to God’s Destructive Power
“Ah, sword of the LORD,
How long will you not be quiet?
Withdraw into your sheath;
Be at rest and stay still.”
Adam Clarke: The whole of this chapter is remarkably elegant. The address to the sword of Jehovah, at the close of it, is particularly a very beautiful and bold personification,
Longman: The oracle against Philistia ends with an address to the sword of the Lord, which is here personified and represents God’s destructive power. In the Hebrew it is unclear who is speaking to the sword. . . The best approach is to imagine the Philistines begging the sword of the Lord to desist. But v. 7 answers their question by stating that it cannot stop as long as God has ordered it to attack.
B. (:7) Answer – God’s Destructive Power Must Finish its Assigned Task
“How can it be quiet,
When the LORD has given it an order?
Against Ashkelon and against the seacoast—
There He has assigned it.”
Adam Clarke: The Philistines were ever the implacable enemies of the Jews, and the basest and worst of all idolaters. On these accounts the sword of the Lord had its commission against them; and it did its office most fearfully and effectually by the hand of the Chaldeans.