Lange Commentary on the Holy Scriptures
4. PROPHECY AGAINST THE PHILISTINES
1 The word of Jehovah, which came to Jeremiah, the prophet, against the Philistines, before Pharaoh had smitten Gaza.
2 Thus saith Jehovah:
Behold, waters rise out of the North,
And become an overflowing torrent,
And overflow the land and whatever is therein,
The city and those that dwell therein;
And the men shall cry aloud,1
And all the inhabitants of the country shall howl,
3 Before the thundering hoof-beat2 of his horses,3
Before the rattling of his chariots,4 the rumbling of his wheels.
Fathers, for feebleness5 of hands, turn not for their children,
4 Because of the day that cometh to extirpate6 all the Philistines,
To exterminate from Tyre and Sidon every escaped one that might help;
For Jehovah extirpates the Philistines,
The remnant of the coasts of Caphtor.
5 Baldness is come upon Gaza,
Ashkelon is struck dumb,7 the remnant of their valley.
How long wilt thou still wound thyself by cutting?
6 Alas! sword of Jehovah, how long ere thou wilt rest?
Back8 into thy sheath, rest and be still!
7 How canst thou rest? Jehovah has given it a charge
Against Ashkelon and against the sea-shore—
Thither9 has he appointed it.
EXEGETICAL AND CRITICAL
From the North the prophet sees the hostile hosts approaching like great water-floods against the Philistines. Terror will seize these to such a degree, that fathers will not once look round after their children. Then will the Philistines be extirpated even to the last remnant, and the last helper be taken from the Phœnicians (Jer 47:2–4). Gaza and Ashkelon will fall, for the consideration that the sword of the Lord has already had enough bloody work, and will now stand still before the last of these cities, does not hold good (Jer 47:5–7).
Jer 47:1. The word … smitten Gaza. According to history Jeremiah lived to see one, and possibly two conquests of Gaza by Pharaoh, for Herodotus relates (II., 159): Σύροισι πεζῇ ὁ Νεκὼς συμβαλὼν ἐν Μαγδόῳ ἐνίκσε· μετὰ δὲ τὴν μάχην καδυτην πόλιν τῆς Συρίης ἐον͂σαν μεγάλην εῖλε. Thus after the battle of Megiddo (for this is admitted to be Μάγδολος) Pharaoh-necho conquered Gaza. That Κάδυτις is Gaza (according to the Egyptian Katatu; comp. DUNCKER. I., S. 342, 818) is now generally acknowledged. Comp. M. NIEBUHR, Ass. u. Bab., S. 369; ARNOLD in HERZOG, R.-Enc. IV., S. 672; GRAFad h. loc., S. 523; DUNCKER, etc.—Possibly Gaza had also been conquered by Psammetichus. He took Ashdod, according to Herodotus (II., 157), after a twenty years’ siege. DUNCKER is correctly of opinion “that the siege of Ashdod could not well be undertaken, before Gaza and Ashkelon had been captured” (S. 816, Anm.). Jeremiah must have survived the capture of Ashdod, for he speaks in 25:20 of the remnant of Ashdod. This must also have occurred in the second decennium of his prophetic labors, since Psammetichus cannot have commenced his expeditions against the Philistines before B. C., 640 (comp. DUNCKER, S. 816). If then Jeremiah did witness a conquest of Gaza in consequence of the undertaking against Ashdod, it was yet an event of relatively small importance. Gaza appears by no means to have been destroyed, for in the same passage, where Jeremiah speaks of the remnant of Ashdod (25:20), he speaks of Ashkelon, Gaza and Ekron, as cities still intact. It is inconceivable that this capture of Gaza, which if it took place, was of secondary importance, could be the occasion of this prophecy, since the words “before Pharaoh smote Gaza,” can be understood only of a celebrated, well-known conquest of Gaza. Any other must have required a more particular designation. Add to this, that when Jeremiah prophesies the visitation of Philistia, and mentions the cities to be destroyed by name, he could not have left Ashdod unmentioned, if the great and celebrated siege of this city was then in progress. From his not mentioning it, we may with safety conclude that the capture of this city was already a fact in the past. From all which it follows that the superscription must refer to the capture of Gaza by Pharaoh-necho, which, Herodotus says, took place after the battle of Magdolos or Megiddo. Two points are now to be observed:—
1. This capture took place before the fourth year of Jehoiakim, the battle of Megiddo occurring in B. C., 608 (comp. DUNCKER, S. 817). It is perfectly intelligible that Necho, who, as we have seen above, landed with his army in the bay of Acco, sought to keep his retreat open by subjugating the large fortified cities of Philistia, especially Gaza, the key of the road to Egypt. He would have been lost after the battle of Carchemish, if he had not taken these precautionary measures. Accordingly the present prophecy belongs not to those which Jeremiah published in the year 604, after the battle of Carchemish, but is older. It agrees with this, that in this chapter the Chaldeans and Nebuchadnezzar are not mentioned, but an enemy from the north is spoken of generally.
2. If now the waters rising from the north (Jer 47:2) are the Chaldeans, as according to Jeremiah’s constant usage they must be, this superscription has not the sense that it asserts the fulfilment of the prophecy by the conquest of Gaza which soon followed on the part of Necho, but on the contrary it is to declare, that Jeremiah prophesied destruction to the Philistines by an enemy from the north, at a time when conquest by an enemy from the south was impending. It might indeed be alleged that Jeremiah understood by the “waters from the north” the Egyptians, because they were then making their attack on Philistia from the north. This, however, was only an accidental circumstance which Jeremiah would certainly have designated as such. It was natural that at a time when the Egyptian forces, after the battle of Megiddo, were turned against Philistia, Jeremiah should find occasion for a prophecy against this country, but that at this time he should designate its destruction as the work of a northern enemy, corresponds perfectly to the character of that prophet who buys land which is in possession of the enemy (Jer 32), and proclaims to the Jews in Tahpanhes, that the throne of the Chaldean king will stand before the gates of the royal palace (Jer 43) I do not think that the capture of Gaza was made by the army of the Egyptians returning defeated from Carchemish. I lay no great weight on Herodotus’ placing it immediately after the battle of Magdolos, yet it is in itself improbable that Necho could have deferred the capture of “the key to Egypt” so long, or have accomplished it with his defeated army.
Jer 47:2-4. Thus saith … coasts of Caphtor. The figure of an overflowing stream is frequently used of armies. Comp. ex. gr., Isa. 8:7; Jer. 46:7.—From the north. Comp. 1:13–17.—And overflow. Comp. 8:16.—The city, etc. Comp. 46:8.—On turn not. Comp. 46:5. The exhaustion caused by the terror of that day will hinder even parents from going to the help of their children. A similar expression, but in a different sense, is found in Mal. 3:24; Luke 1:17.—The prediction of Jer 47:4 was soon afterwards fulfilled. The Phœnicians in the distress caused by the Chaldeans which followed the destruction of Jerusalem, must have grievously missed the aid of their Philistine neighbors.—The remnant, etc. Comp. Am. 9:7; Gen. 10:14; Deut. 2:23; Ezek. 25:16; Zeph. 2:5. It is certain that a part of the Philistines originated from Caphtor, but not whether by Caphtor we are to understand Creta or the coast of the Egyptian delta (so STARKE, Gaza, S. 76). Comp. HERZ.R.-Enc., the articles “Philistia,” “Creta,” and “Caphtor.”
Jer 47:5-7. Baldness … appointed it. While in the previous context the catastrophe is designated as still future, it appears here in great part to have occurred. The prophet in spirit sees the country already in the hands of the enemy. Gaza, the strong southern fortification, the key of the country is, as it were, a head shaven bare (comp. 2:16); Ashkelon, the seaport, the mouth of the stream of traffic, is a mouth struck dumb. It is not yet, indeed, destroyed like Gaza, but its gates are closed. No one any more goes in or out, for the enemy is before them:—Remnant of their valley. In the topography of Philistia a hilly country (in the east), and a low country may be distinguished. Comp. VAIHINGER’S art., Philistia in HERZ. R.-Enc. XI., S. 553. Although the proper name of this low land is שְׁפֵּלָה, it is yet possible that עֵמֶק also may be put for it (comp. 1 Sam. 31:7). It must further be admitted that Ashkelon and Gaza are not inappropriately termed the remnant of the valley, for they were the strongest cities: the enemy coming from the north through Judea, has beset the hill region (אֲשׁדוֹת, Josh. 10:40; 12:8. Comp. VAIHINGER, ut sup.): in the low country Gaza and Ashkelon resist the longest; when these are fallen, the last remnant of the low lands, consequently the whole land, is in the power of the enemy.—Their and the following sentence how long, etc., refer to the whole Philistia. These self-woundings were a heathen custom in conjunction with earnest supplication of their deities (comp. 1 Ki. 18:28; HERZ.R.-Enc., Art. Baal). The prophet then represents the Philistines here as humbling themselves. They perceive that it is the God of Israel, who is bringing this judgment upon them (comp. 1 Sam. 5), they therefore appeal to Him after their manner for grace. The prophet tells them, however, that this can no longer help them, the judgment having already begun with the facts intimated in Jer 47:5, a. This explanation appears satisfactory. I cannot, therefore, conclude to read with GESENIUS (Thes. s. v., עֵמֶק), HITZIG and GRAF after the LXX., עֲנָקִם (Anakim), much as this reading has in its favor, affording, as it does, a suitable supplementation to “remnant of the coasts of Caphtor,” Jer 47:4, and an appropriate allusion to Gath, the chief residence of the last of these giants (1 Sam. 17:4; 1 Chron. 20:5–8). Alterations of the reading are to be permitted only in cases of extreme necessity. The words of Jer 47:6 contain the import of the supplications accompanying the self-woundings. There seems to me to be an intimation that these were the words of the Philistines in the expression of Jehovah (לַיהוָֹה), 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. In 6:25; 12:12, the construction is different.—In Jer 47:7 the prophet, answers the petition of Jer 47:6. In the first clause attaching himself closely to the question, a change of person is thus occasioned, as so often in Jeremiah. Comp. 5:14; 12:13; 17:13; 21:12 (Chethibh), 36:29, 30; 46:3, 9.—The seashore is used in Ezek. 25:16 also of Philistia, but it is not impossible that, as GRAF supposes, it may refer also to the Phenicians of Jer 47:4. It also intimates that the enemy will advance from the East. Comp. 23:19, 20; 48:10; Isa. 55:10.
DOCTRINAL AND ETHICAL
Among all the neighboring nations the Philistines were those who showed enmity to the Israelites longest and with most success. For from the times of Shamgar (Jud. 3:31) down to Hezekiah (2 Ki. 18:8), they were both hostile (comp. אֵיבַת עוֹלָם, Ezek. 25:15), and dangerous neighbors. Even Israel’s great heroic and victorious period, the time of Samuel, Saul and David, did not result in rendering these opponents perfectly innoxious (comp. 1 Ki. 15:27; 16:15; 2 Chron. 21:16, 17; 28:18). Ezekiel even mentions them among those who delighted with malicious joy in the fall of Jerusalem. Since now it is perfectly natural that the theocratic prophecy should include the Philistines and reckon the destruction of these old enemies among the bright points in Israel’s future (comp. Isa. 11:14; 14:28, 29: Obad. 19; Am. 1:6; Zeph. 2:4; Ezek. 25:15), our prophecy is probably the earliest of Jeremiah’s predictions against foreign nations. As, however, Jeremiah in Jer 47:6 predicts a humbling of the Philistines, so Zechariah their complete conversion to the Lord and their reception into Israel (9:7).
HOMILETICAL AND PRACTICAL
1. On 47:1. The inviolable majesty of the divine word has nothing to fear from an apparent momentary violation. Jeremiah predicts too the Philistines’ destruction by an enemy from the north, at the moment when an enemy from the south was about successfully to assail them.
2. On 47:3. A noble picture of extreme despair! Comp. Isa. 49:15. Yet it has occurred that women have killed and eaten their children: 2 Kings 6:28, 29. Comp. Deut. 28:53–57; Lam. 2:20; 4:10.
3. On 47:6. “The terribly pathetic discourse which the prophet here holds with God’s sword, should remind us; 1, that no calamity comes, but by the Lord’s will; 2, that it goes no further than God will; 3, that it will not cease before God will.” CRAMER.
Jer 47:2.—In regard to the construction, there are only two principal verbs from 2 b to 4 a:—וְזָעֲקוּ and הִפּנוּ. Evidently whatever comes before the latter depends on the former, and what follows on the latter.
Jer 47:3.—שְׁעָטָה ἅπ. λεγ. From analogies like לוּץ and בוּם ,לָעַז and קוּם ,בָּעָט and קָעַם (Samar.), בּוּל and בָּעַל (comp. FUERST, H.- W.- B., s. v. בּוּל) there can be no doubt that the radix is identical with שׁוּט, which appears to me, according to שׁוָט, flagellum, שָׁטִים (Ezek. 27:8, remiges, remigare—remis percutere), שָׁטִים (strike out, discurrere), to have the radical signification of “beating.”
Jer 47:3.—אביריז. Comp. rems. on 46:15.
Jer 47:3.—רעשׁ לרכבו The construction with לִ seems to proceed here from a striving after change. Otherwise in Jer 47:6. Comp. NAEGELSB. Gr., § 67, 2.
Jer 47:3.—רִפיון is ἅπ. λεγ.
Jer 47:4.—להכרית. Comp. 44:7. We should expect כּל עזֵֹר שָׂריד. But the radical meaning of שריד is not reliquus, but elapsus. Hence the meaning of the expression is not “every helper remaining,” but “every escaped one that might help,” i.e. even the weakest, separated, ineffective helper.
Jer 47:5.—If we should take נדְמְתָה in the sense of “being destroyed,” the prophet must have suddenly dropped his figure. I therefore take דָּמָה, with GRAF, in its original meaning=דָּמַם (comp. Ps. 49:13), and regard this being made dumb as a lower grade, or preliminary, of destruction, for Philistia still supplicates and according to Jer 47:7 b the enemy has still to take Ashkelon and the sea-coast.
Jer 47:6.—האספּי, put up thyself. Comp. Ezek. 21:35.
Jer 47:7.—The emphatic repetition of the object by שָׁם is the reverse of the anticipatory construction, which occurs more frequently in Jeremiah. Comp. 9:14; 11:15; 41:3; 51:56, etc.
The word of the LORD that came to Jeremiah the prophet against the Philistines, before that Pharaoh smote Gaza.