Jeremiah 47:1-7 (29:1-7, LXX)

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“Jeremiah the prophet” received a message from YHWH “about the Philistines before Pharaoh struck down Gaza.” This attack on the Philistine city of Gaza is introduced as a marker of the time when the word of YHWH came to Jeremiah, but it is not related to the developments mentioned in the text that follows. The Septuagint rendering is, “About the allophyles [people of other tribes] (47:1 [29:1, LXX])

The military force that would sweep over Philistia is likened to rising “waters from the north,” the direction from which the invaders would be coming. These waters are described as becoming an overflowing torrent that would flood the land and everything that “filled it” or everything on the land. The designation “city” apparently is a collective singular that refers to the cities of Philistia. These would be the cities and their inhabitants that the Babylonian invaders would overrun like a raging flood. Men or people would cry out in fear, and all the people residing in the land would howl or wail in anticipation of the calamity they would be facing. (47:2 [29:2, LXX])

There would be a frightening sound from the stamping of the stallions in the invading force under the command of King Nebuchadnezzar. The sound of his horses stamping would be accompanied by the clattering of “his chariots” and the “rumbling of [their] wheels.” Fathers would not “turn back” to their sons or children to come to their aid, for they would be helpless to do anything. Faced with the noise from the overwhelming invading force, the hands of fathers would sink down, rendered useless for providing protection from the military threat. (47:3 [29:3, LXX])

Fathers would be helpless “because the day” or the time would be coming for bringing ruin to “all the Philistines.” From Tyre and Sidon, Phoenician cities to the north of Philistia, “every survivor that was helping” would be cut off. This could mean that there would be no survivors of military conquest from Tyre and Sidon who would be in a position to come to the aid of the Philistines. Another possible meaning would be that there would be no survivors among the Philistines who could provide military aid to the people of Tyre and Sidon. A number of modern translations are more specific than is the Hebrew text in identifying the ones who could not help. “The time has come for the Philistines to be destroyed, along with their allies from Tyre and Sidon.” (NLT) “Their hands hang helpless, because of the day that is coming to destroy all the Philistines and cut off from Tyre and Sidon the last of their allies.” (NAB, revised edition) “For the day has come to destroy all the Philistines and to cut off all survivors who could help Tyre and Sidon.” (NIV) “None of you will be left to help the cities of Tyre and Sidon.” (CEV) “Their hands hang powerless, because the day has come for all Philistia to be despoiled, and Tyre and Sidon destroyed to the last defender.” (REB) YHWH is the one who would let this calamity befall the Philistines. Therefore, he is identified as the One who despoils them, the “remnant from the island of Caphtor” (which is commonly understood to have been Crete, the island from which, according to Amos 9:7, the Philistines came to Canaan). The Septuagint says that the “Lord will destroy the remaining ones of the islands” (or the remnant dwelling on the islands). (47:4 [29:4, LXX])

The “baldness” to come to Gaza (the southernmost major Philistine city that has commonly been linked to modern Gaza) was the mourning and humiliation that the people would experience on account of the Babylonian conquest. In a literal sense, the survivors may have shaved off their hair in expression of their grief. For Ashkelon (a Philistine city generally identified with a site about twelve miles [c. 19 kilometers] north of Gaza) to be “silenced” would mean that it would become a desolated city without inhabitant. The Septuagint refers to Ashkelon (Askalon) as being “thrown away.” Making cuts upon oneself was one practice by which people expressed great sorrow. The Septuagint makes no mention of this but indicates that the remaining Enakim (Anakim) had been “thrown away.” Translations vary in their interpretive renderings of the Hebrew text because of the way in which the Hebrew expression ‘imqám is understood. Suggested meanings include “their valley” or “plain,” “Anakim,” and “their strength.” “O remnant of their valley, How long will you gash yourself?” (Tanakh [JPS, 1985 edition]) “You remnant from the Mediterranean coast, how long will you cut yourselves in mourning?” (NLT) “The Anakim who survive in Gaza and Ashkelon will mourn for you by shaving their heads and sitting in silence.” (CEV) “Gaza is shorn bare, Ashkelon ruined, the remnant of the Philistine power. How long will you gash yourselves and cry …?” (REB) “O remnant of their power! How long will you gash yourselves?” (NRSV) (47:5 [29:5, LXX])

It appears that Jeremiah raised the rhetorical question, “Ah, sword of YHWH, how long [literally, until when] will you not be quiet [or how much longer will it before you refrain from slaughtering]?” Perhaps when contemplating the greatness of the slaughter, Jeremiah was moved to express a measure of compassion, telling the sword to “gather” itself or to place itself into its “scabbard,” to “rest and be still [rest and be raised up or exalted (LXX)].” (47:6 [29:6, LXX]) He recognized, however, that the sword could not be quiet, for YHWH had commanded it to be wielded against Ashkelon and the seacoast (the other Philistine cities in the eastern coastland of the Mediterranean Sea). There is where YHWH had appointed or assigned the sword to carry out slaughter. According to the Septuagint, the Lord commanded the sword to be aroused against Ashkelon (Askalon), against the peoples or places by the sea, and against the remaining ones. (47:7 [29:7, LXX])