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Biblical Commentary on the Old Testament, by Carl Friedrich Keil and Franz Delitzsh, [1857-78], at

Jeremiah Chapter 47

Jeremiah 47:1

jer 47:1

The word of the Lord against the Philistines came to Jeremiah "before Pharaoh smote Gaza." If we understand this time-definition in such a way that "the prophecy would refer to the conquest of Gaza by Pharaoh," as Graf thinks, and as Hitzig also is inclined to suppose, then this portion of the title does not accord with the contents of the following prophecy; for, according to Jer 47:2, the devastator of Philistia approaches from the north, and the desolation comes not merely on Gaza, but on all Philistia, and even Tyre and Sidon (Jer 47:4, Jer 47:5). Hence Graf thinks that, if any one is inclined to consider the title as utterly incorrect, only two hypotheses are possible: either the author of the title overlooked the statement in Jer 47:2, that the hostile army was to come from the north; in which case this conquest might have taken place at any time during the wearisome struggles, fraught with such changes of fortune, between the Chaldeans and the Egyptians for the possession of the border fortresses, during the reign of Jehoiakim (which is Ewald's opinion): or he may possibly have noticed the statement, but found no difficulty in it; in which case, in spite of all opposing considerations (see M. von Niebuhr, Gesch. Assyr. und Bab. p. 369), it must be assumed that the conquest was effected by the defeated army as it was returning from the Euphrates, when Necho, on his march home, reduced Gaza (Hitzig), and by taking this fortress from the enemy, barred the way to Egypt. Of these two alternatives, we can accept neither as probable. The neglect, on the part of the author of the title, to observe the statement that the enemy is to come from the north, would show too great carelessness for us to trust him. But if he did notice the remark, then it merely follows that Pharaoh must have reduced Gaza on his return, after being defeated at Carchemish. Nor is it legitimate to conclude, as Ewald does, from the statement in Kg2 24:7 ("The king of Egypt went no more out of his land; for the king of Babylon had taken all that had belonged to the king of Egypt, from the river of Egypt unto the river Euphrates"), that the wars between the Chaldeans and the Egyptians for the possession of the border fortresses, such as Gaza, were tedious, and attended with frequent changes of fortune. In the connection in which it stands, this statement merely shows that, after Nebuchadnezzar had made Jehoiakim his vassal, the latter could not receive any help from Egypt in his rebellion, after he had ruled three years, because Pharaoh did not venture to march out of his own territory any more. But it plainly follows from this, that Pharaoh cannot have taken the fortress of Gaza while retreating before Nebuchadnezzar. For, in this case, Nebuchadnezzar would have been obliged to drive him thence before ever he could have reduced King Jehoiakim again to subjection. The assumption is difficult to reconcile with what Berosus says regarding the campaign of Nebuchadnezzar, viz., that the continued in the field till he heard of the death of his father. Add to this, that, as M. von Niebuhr very rightly says, "there is every military probability against it" (i.e., against the assumption that Gaza was reduced by Necho on his retreat). "If this fortress had stood out till the battle of Carchemish, then it is inconceivable that a routed eastern army should have taken the city during its retreat, even though there were, on the line of march, the strongest positions on the Orontes, in Lebanon, etc., where it might have taken its stand." Hence Niebuhr thinks it "infinitely more improbable either that Gaza was conquered before the battle of Carchemish, about the same time as Ashdod, and that Jeremiah, in Jer 47:1-7, predicts the approach of the army which was still engaged in the neighbourhood of Nineveh; or that the capture of the fortress did not take place till later, when Nebuchadnezzar was again engaged in Babylon, and that the prophet announces his return, not his first approach."

Rosenmller and Ngelsbach have declared in favour of the first of these suppositions. Both of them place the capture of Gaza in the time of Necho's march against the Assyrians under Josiah; Rosenmller before the battle of Megiddo; Ngelsbach after that engagement, because he assumes, with all modern expositors, that Necho had landed with his army at the Bay of Acre. He endeavours to support this view by the observation that Necho, before marching farther north, sought to keep the way clear for a retreat to Egypt, since he would otherwise have been lost after the battle of Carchemish, if he did not previously reduce Gaza, the key of the high road to Egypt. In this, Ngelsbach rightly assumes that the heading, "before Pharaoh smote Gaza," was not intended to show the fulfilment of the prophecy in the conquest of Gaza by Necho soon afterwards, but merely states that Jeremiah predicts to the Philistines that they will be destroyed by a foe from the north, at a time when conquest by a foe from the north was impending over them. Rightly, too, does Niebuhr remark that, in support of the view that Gaza was taken after the battle at Carchemish, there is nothing more than the announcement of the attack from the north, and the arrangement of the prophecies in Jeremiah, in which that against the Philistines is placed after that about the battle of Carchemish. Hitzig and Graf lay great weight upon this order and arrangement, and thence conclude that all the prophecies against the nations in Jer 46-49, with the exception of that regarding Elam, were uttered in the fourth year of Jehoiakim. There are no sufficient grounds for this conclusion. The agreement between this prophecy now before us and that in Jer 46, as regards particular figures and expressions (Graf), is too insignificant to afford a proof that the two belong to the same time; nor is much to be made out of the point so strongly insisted on by Hitzig, that after the Egyptians, as the chief nation, had been treated of, the author properly brings forward those who, from the situation of their country, must be visited by war immediately before it is sent on the Egyptians. The main foundation for this view is taken from the notice by Herodotus (ii. 159), that Necho, after the battle at Magdolos, took the large Syrian city Κάδυτις. Magdolos is here taken as a variation of Megiddo, and Kadytis of Gaza. But neither Hitzig nor Stark have proved the identity of Kadytis with Gaza, as we have already remarked on Kg2 23:33; so that we cannot safely draw any conclusion, regarding the time when Gaza was taken, from that statement of Herodotus. In consequence of the want of evidence from other sources, the date of this event cannot be more exactly determined.

From the contents of this prophecy and its position among the oracles against the nations, we can draw no more than a very probable inference that it was not published before the fourth year of Jehoiakim, inasmuch as it is evidently but a further amplification of the sentence pronounced in that year against all the nations, and recorded in Jer 25. Thus all conjectures as to the capture of Gaza by Necho on his march to the Euphrates, before the battle at Carchemish, become very precarious. But the assumption is utterly improbable also, that Necho at a later period, whether in his flight before the Chaldeans, or afterwards, while Nebuchadnezzar was occupied in Babylon, undertook an expedition against Philistia: such a hypothesis is irreconcilable with the statement given in 2 Kings 24; 7. There is thus no course left open for us, but to understand, by the Pharaoh of the title here, not Necho, but his successor Hophra: this has been suggested by Rashi, who refers to Jer 37:5, Jer 37:11, and by Perizonius, in his Origg. Aegypt. p. 459, who founds on the notices of Herodotus (ii. 261) and of Diodorus Siculus, i. 68, regarding the naval battle between Apries on the one hand and the Cyprians and Phoenicians on the other. From these notices, it appears pretty certain that Pharaoh-Hophra sought to avenge the defeat of Necho on the Chaldeans, and to extend the power of Egypt in Asia. Hence it is also very probable that he took Gaza, with the view of getting into his hands this key of the highway to Egypt. This assumption we regard as the most probable, since nothing has been made out against it; there are no sufficient grounds for the opinion that this prophecy belongs to the same time as that in Jer 46.

Contents of the Prophecy. - From the north there pours forth a river, inundating fields and cities, whereupon lamentation begins. Every one flees in haste before the sound of the hostile army, for the day of desolation is come on all Philistia and Phoenicia (Jer 47:2-4). The cities of Philistia mourn, for the sword of the Lord is incessantly active among them (Jer 47:5-7). This brief prophecy thus falls into two strophes: in the first (Jer 47:2-4), the ruin that is breaking over Philistia is described; in the second (Jer 47:5-7), its operation on the country and on the people.

Jeremiah 47:2

jer 47:2

"Thus saith Jahveh: Behold, waters shall rise up out of the north, and shall become an inundating stream, and they shall inundate the land and its fulness, cities and those who dwell in them; and men shall cry, and all the inhabitants of the land shall howl. Jer 47:3. Because of the sound of the trampling of the hoofs of his strong horses, because of the din of his chariots, the noise of his wheels, fathers to not look back to their children from weakness of hands; Jer 47:4. Because of the day that cometh to destroy all the Philistines, to cut off from Tyre and Zidon every one remaining as a helper; for Jahveh destroyeth the Philistines, the remnant of the coast of Caphtor. Jer 47:5. Baldness is come upon Gaza; Ashkelon is destroyed, the rest of their plain. How long wilt thou cut thyself? Jer 47:6. O sword of Jahveh, how long wilt thou not rest? Draw thyself back into thy sheath; rest, and be still. Jer 47:7. How canst thou be quiet, when Jahveh hath commanded thee? Against Ashkelon and against the sea-coast, there hath He appointed it."

The address opens with a figure. The hostile army that is to devastate Philistia is represented as a stream of water, breaking forth from the north, and swelling to an overflowing winter-torrent, that inundates the country ad cities with their inhabitants. The figure is often used: cf. Jer 46:7-8, where the Egyptian host is compared to the waves of the Nile; and Isa 8:7, where the Assyrian army is likened to the floods of the Euphrates. The simile is applied here in another way. The figure is taken from a strong spring of water, coming forth in streams out of the ground, in the north, and swelling to an overflowing winter-torrent, that pours out its floods over Philistia, laying it waste. "From the north" is used here as in Jer 46:20, and points back to Jer 1:13-14. "An inundating stream" is here employed as in Isa 30:20; "earth and its fulness, a city and those who dwell in it," as in Isa 8:16. In Jer 47:3 follows the application of the figure. It is a martial host that overflows the land, and with its mighty noise puts the inhabitants in such terror that they think only of a hasty flight; even fathers do not turn back to save their children. שׁעטהἅπ. λεγ., Syriac se‛aṭ, incedere, gradi, hence probably the stamping of hoofs. אבּירים, strong horses, as in Jer 8:16. לרכבּו, instead of the construct state, has perhaps been chosen only for the sake of introducing a variation; cf. Ewald, 290, a. הפנה, to turn the back, as in Jer 46:5. "Slackness of hands," i.e., utter loss of courage through terror; cf. Jer 6:24 (the form רפיון only occurs here). In Jer 47:4 the deeper source of fear is mentioned; "because of the day," i.e., because the day has come to destroy all the Philistines, namely, the day of the judgment determined by the Lord; cf. Jer 46:10. "In order to destroy every remnant helping Tyre and Zidon." שׂריד עזר are the Philistines, who could afford help to the Phoenicians in the struggle against the Chaldean power. This implies that the Phoenicians also shall perish without any one to help them. This indirect mention of the Phoenicians appears striking, but it is to be explained partly on the ground that Jeremiah has uttered special prophecies only against the chief enemies of Judah, and partly also perhaps from the historical relations, i.e., from the fact that the Philistines might have afforded help to the Phoenicians in the struggles against the great powers of the world. Hitzig unnecessarily seeks to take לצר וּלצידון as the object, and to expunge כּל־שׂריד עזר as a gloss. The objections which he raises against the construction are groundless, as is shown by such passages as Jer 44:7; Isa 14:22; Kg1 14:10, etc. "The remaining helper" is the expression used, because the other nations that could help the Egyptians, viz., the Syrians and Phoenicians, had already succumbed to the Chaldean power. The destruction will be so great as this, because it is Jahveh who destroys the Philistines, the remnant of the coast of Caphtor. According to Amo 9:7; Deu 2:23, the Philistines came from Caphtor; hence שׁארית אי can only mean "what still remains of the people of Philistia who come from the coat of Caphtor," like "the remnant of the Philistines" in Amo 1:8. Opinions are divided as to Caphtor. The prevailing view is that of Lakemacher, that Caphtor is the name of the island of Crete; but for this there are no tenable grounds: see on Zep 2:5; and Delitzsch on Genesis, S. 248, Aufl. 4. Dietrich (in Merx' Archiv. i. S. 313ff.) and Ebers (Aegypten u. die Bcher Moses, i. S. 130ff.) agree in thinking that Caphtor is the shore of the Delta, but they explain the name differently. Dietrich derives it from the Egyptian Kah-pet-Hôr (district of Hor), which he takes to be the environs of the city of Buto, and the lake called after it (the modern Burlos), not far from the Sebennytic mouth of the Nile; Ebers, following the tablet of Canopus, in which the Egyptian name Kfa (Kaf) is given as that of Phoenicia, derives the name from Kaf-t-ur, i.e., the great Kefa, as the ancient seat of the Phoenicians on the shore of the Delta must have been called. But both explanations are still very doubtful, though there is no question about the migration of the Philistines from Egypt into Canaan.

Jeremiah 47:5

jer 47:5

The prophet sees, in the spirit, the threatened desolation as already come upon Philistia, and portrays it in its effects upon the people and the country. "Baldness (a sign of the deepest and most painful sorrow) has come upon Gaza;" cf. Mic 1:16. נדמתה is rendered by the Vulgate conticuit. After this Graf and Ngelsbach take the meaning of being "speechless through pain and sorrow;" cf. Lam 2:10. Others translate "to be destroyed." Both renderings are lexically permissible, for דּמה and דּמם have both meanings. In support of the first, the parallelism of the members has been adduced; but this is not decisive, for figurative and literal representations are often interchanged. On the whole, it is impossible to reach any definite conclusion; for both renderings give suitable ideas, and these not fundamentally different in reality the one from the other. שׁארית עמקם, "the rest of their valley" (the suffix referring to Gaza and Ashkelon), is the low country round about Gaza and Ashkelon, which are specially mentioned from their being the two chief fortresses of Philistia. עמק is suitably applied to the low-lying belt of the country, elsewhere called שׁפלה, "the low country," as distinguished from the hill-country; for עמק does not always denote a deep valley, but is also sometimes used, as in Jos 17:16, etc., of the plain of Jezreel, and of other plains which are far from being deeply-sunk valleys. Thus there is no valid reason for following the arbitrary translation of the lxx, καὶ τὰ κατάλοιπα ̓Ενακείμ, and changing עמקם into ענקים, as Hitzig and Graf do; more especially is it utterly improbable that in the Chaldean period Anakim were still to be found in Philistia. The mention of them, moreover, is out of place here; and still less can we follow Graf in his belief that the inhabitants of Gath are the "rest of the Anakim." In the last clause of Jer 47:5, Philistia is set forth as a woman, who tears her body (with her nails) in despair, makes incisions on her body; cf. Jer 16:6; Jer 41:5. The question, "How long dost thou tear thyself?" forms a transition to the plaintive request, "Gather thyself," i.e., draw thyself back into thy scabbard. But the seer replies, "How can it rest? for Jahveh hath given it a commission against Ashkelon and the Philistine sea-coast." For תּשׁקטי, in Jer 47:7, we must read the 3rd pers. fem. תּשׁקט, as the following להּ shows. The form probably got into the text from an oversight, through looking at תּשׁקטי in Jer 47:6. חוף, "the sea-coast," a designation of Philistia, as in Eze 25:16.

The prophecy concludes without a glance at the Messianic future. The threatened destruction of the Philistines has actually begun with the conquest of Philistia by Nebuchadnezzar, but has not yet culminated in the extermination of the people. The extermination and complete extirpation are thus not merely repeated by Ezek; Eze 25:15., but after the exile the threats are once more repeated against the Philistines by Zechariah (Zac 9:5): they only reached their complete fulfilment when, as Zechariah announces, in the addition made to Isa 14:30., their idolatry also was removed from them, and their incorporation into the Church of God was accomplished through judgment. Cf. the remarks on Zep 2:10.

Next: Jeremiah Chapter 48