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Bible Commentaries

Kingcomments on the Whole Bible

Jeremiah 47

Verses 1-7

Prophecy Concerning the Philistines

Israel never drove the Philistines out of the land of Canaan. There has always remained strife with the Philistines. David did subdue them (2 Samuel 8:1) and also Hezekiah still successfully fought against them (2 Kings 18:8). Now Jeremiah prophesies against them that Babylon will come and destroy their cities.

First, the prophecy is said to have come concerning the Philistines before Pharaoh defeated one of the Philistine cities, Gaza (Jeremiah 47:1). Egypt is south and not north of Israel. Egypt defeated Judah (2 Kings 23:29), heading for Carchemish on the border of Babylon (Jeremiah 46:2), and in the process also defeated Gaza. Later, during the reigns of kings Jehoram and Ahaz, the Philistines became more powerful again (2 Chronicles 21:16-Esther :; 2 Chronicles 28:16-Psalms :).

The great army will come from the north and do a devastating work in all the land of the Philistines (Jeremiah 47:2). Pharaoh thinks that his army will conquer all the lands like a raging mass of water, but Babylon is like “waters … from the north” that becomes “an overflowing torrent”. The armies of Babylon will overflow everything and cause great terror and misery, causing the Philistines to cry out and wail.

This reaction is caused by the galloping hoofs of mighty horses and the thumping of the chariots of the Babylonians (Jeremiah 47:3). It is foolishness to try to fight them. The supremacy is enormous and inspires great fear. Fathers, who normally fight like lions for their children, are paralyzed with terror. Their hands are slack. They have no strength to even look after their children, let alone pick them up and run away.

They see that the day of God’s judgment is coming (Jeremiah 47:4). In that judgment all Philistines will be destroyed. Of their helpers from the north, from Tyre and Sidon, a few remain, but they too will be destroyed. The remnant of the Philistines will also know how to find the LORD. That remnant has fled to Caphtor or Crete, the land where they lived after leaving Egypt (Amos 9:7; Genesis 10:14; Deuteronomy 2:23). The LORD destroys them because of all the evil they have done to His people.

All prestige is taken away from Gaza, which is expressed by the baldness that has come upon this city (Jeremiah 47:5). In another city of the Philistines, Ashkelon, no one is left; all the inhabitants are exterminated. The folly of carving their bodies and thereby enforcing the help of their idols has proved utterly futile (cf. 1 Kings 18:28). How long will they continue with that before they see the futility of it?

Surely they do not think that the terrible sword of the LORD will be quiet by this (Jeremiah 47:6)? As if they can ward off and appease the anger of the LORD with their idolatrous practices. It is as if they are addressing the LORD’s sword that after all it has seen enough blood by notching up their bodies and that it can now return to its sheath, rest and be quiet, satisfied by the blood.

But how could the sword have rest if idolatrous practices continue as usual (Jeremiah 47:7)? God must punish sin and will judge all the evil done to His people. That’s why He instructs the sword, the Babylonians, to turn against Ashkelon and the seacoast, where the Philistines live. That is the target of the sword. That is what He has destined it against. The sword does not rest until the evil is judged.

The sword of God was awakened against the Lord Jesus when He was made sin (2 Corinthians 5:21). Every person who repents may know that the sword of God’s righteousness has come down on His Shepherd. For such a person, God’s sword has found rest in the judgment that has struck His Companion (Zechariah 13:7). The LORD’s sword comes to rest when there is repentance and contrition (1 Chronicles 21:15-Esther :).

When the Philistines are defeated, the entire land will belong to Israel (Zephaniah 2:7). The Philistines will no longer exist as a people and will no longer pose any threat to attack God’s people. God will fulfill all His promises that He has made to His people.

The Philistines are a picture of professing Christianity. They are originally from Egypt, a picture of the world, but they claim the land of God. They came into that land by their own way, “the way of the land of the Philistines” (Exodus 13:17-Job :), and not like God’s people through the Red Sea, which is a picture of the death and resurrection of Christ.

We recognize the Philistines in the religious, but natural man, the man without new life, who wants to put his stamp on the things of God. We see this in the ritualism in the church, as for example in the humanly organized priesthood and outward symbols such as toga, altar and crucifix. Whether conversion and being born again also took place is not an issue. Diplomacy and rhetoric determine the service.

Some past actions of the Philistines include taking away Sarah, the wife of Abraham (Genesis 20:1-Job :), stopping with sand the wells that Abraham dug (Genesis 26:12-Song of Solomon :), and taking away the ark (1 Samuel 4:1-1 Kings :). The spiritual meaning is that they take away grace – Sarah represents grace – they prevent the blessings and refreshment of the Word by being preoccupied with the things of the earth, represented in the sand, and they take away attention to the Lord Jesus, of Whom the ark is a picture.

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Bibliographical Information
de Koning, Ger. Commentaar op Jeremiah 47". "Kingcomments on the Whole Bible". https://studylight.org/commentaries/eng/kng/jeremiah-47.html. 'Stichting Titus' / 'Stichting Uitgeverij Daniël', Zwolle, Nederland. 2021.