Judgment on the Philistine Cities1 The Lord spoke to the prophet Jeremiah ▼ about the Philistines before Pharaoh attacked Gaza. ▼
▼ The precise dating of this prophecy is uncertain. Several proposals have been suggested, the most likely of which is that the prophecy was delivered in 609 b.c. in conjunction with Pharaoh Necho’s advance into Palestine to aid the Assyrians. That was the same year that Josiah was killed by Necho at the battle of Megiddo and four years before Necho was defeated by Nebuchadnezzar, the foe from the north. The prophecy presupposes that Ashkelon is still in existence (v. 5) hence it must be before 604 b.c. For a fairly complete discussion of the options see G. L. Keown, P. J. Scalise, T. G. Smothers, Jeremiah 26–52 (WBC), 299–300.
2 “Look! Enemies are gathering in the north like water rising in a river. ▼
▼ Heb “Behold! Waters are rising from the north.” The metaphor of enemy armies compared to overflowing water is seen also in Isa 8:8–9 (Assyria) and 46:7–8 (Egypt). Here it refers to the foe from the north (Jer 1:14; 4:6; etc) which is specifically identified with Babylon in Jer 25. The metaphor has been turned into a simile in the translation to help the average reader identify that a figure is involved and to hint at the referent.
They will be like an overflowing stream.
They will overwhelm the whole country and everything in it like a flood.
They will overwhelm the cities and their inhabitants.
People will cry out in alarm.
Everyone living in the country will cry out in pain.
3 Fathers will hear the hoofbeats of the enemies’ horses,
the clatter of their chariots and the rumbling of their wheels.
They will not turn back to save their children
because they will be paralyzed with fear. ▼
▼ Heb “From the noise of the stamping of the hoofs of his stallions, from the rattling of his chariots at the rumbling of their wheels, fathers will not turn to their children from sinking of hands.” According to BDB 952 s.v. רִפָּיוֹן the “sinking of the hands” is figurative of helplessness caused by terror. A very similar figure is seen with a related expression in Isa 35:3–4. The sentence has been restructured to put the subject up front and to suggest through shorter sentences more in keeping with contemporary English style the same causal connections. The figures have been interpreted for the sake of clarity for the average reader.
4 For the time has come
to destroy all the Philistines.
The time has come to destroy all the help
that remains for Tyre ▼ and Sidon. ▼
For I, the Lord, will ▼ destroy the Philistines,
that remnant that came from the island of Crete. ▼
▼ All the help that remains for Tyre and Sidon and that remnant that came from the island of Crete appear to be two qualifying phrases that refer to the Philistines, the last with regard to their origin and the first with regard to the fact that they were allies that Tyre and Sidon depended on. “Crete” is literally “Caphtor” which is generally identified with the island of Crete. The Philistines had come from there (Amos 9:7) in the wave of migration from the Aegean Islands during the twelfth and eleventh century and had settled on the Philistine plain after having been repulsed from trying to enter Egypt.
5 The people of Gaza will shave their heads in mourning.
The people of Ashkelon will be struck dumb.
How long will you gash yourselves to show your sorrow, ▼
you who remain of Philistia’s power? ▼
▼ Or “you who are left alive on the Philistine plain.” Or “you who remain of the Anakim.” The translation follows the suggestion of several of the modern commentaries that the word עֵמֶק (’emeq) means “strength” or “power” here (see J. A. Thompson, Jeremiah [NICOT], 698; J. Bright, Jeremiah [AB], 310; and see also HALOT 803 s.v. II עֵמֶק). It is a rare homonym of the word that normally means “valley” that seems to be an inappropriate designation of the Philistine plain. Many of the modern English versions and commentaries follow the Greek version which reads here “remnant of the Anakim” (עֲנָקִים [’anaqim] instead of עִמְקָם [’imqam], a confusion of basically one letter). This emendation is followed by both BDB 771 s.v. עֵמֶק and KBL 716 s.v. עֵמֶק. The Anakim were generally associated with the southern region around Hebron but an enclave of them was known to have settled in Gaza, Gath, and Ekron, three of the Philistine cities (cf. Josh 11:22). However, the fact that this judgment is directed against the Philistines not the Anakim and that this homonym apparently appears also in Jer 49:4 makes the reading of “power” more likely here.
6 How long will you cry out, ▼
▼ The words “How long will you cry out” are not in the text but some such introduction seems necessary because the rest of the speech assumes a personal subject.‘Oh, sword of the Lord,
how long will it be before you stop killing? ▼
▼ Heb “before you are quiet/at rest.”
Go back into your sheath!
Stay there and rest!’ ▼
▼ The passage is highly figurative. The sword of the Lord, which is itself a figure of the destructive agency of the enemy armies, is here addressed as a person and is encouraged in rhetorical questions (the questions are designed to dissuade) to “be quiet,” “be at rest,” “be silent,” all of which is designed to get the Lord to call off the destruction against the Philistines.
7 But how can it rest ▼
when I, the Lord, have ▼
▼ Heb “When the Lord has.” The first person is again adopted because the Lord has been speaking.given it orders?
I have ordered it to attack
the people of Ashkelon and the seacoast. ▼
▼ Heb “Against Ashkelon and the sea coast, there he has appointed it.” For the switch to the first person see the preceding translator’s note. “There” is poetical and redundant and the idea of “attacking” is implicit in “against.”
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