Once again, there is a diatribe against the Philistine cities on the Mediterranean coast. Only 3 of the 5 cities are mentioned here. Ashkelon and Gaza would be afraid. Ekron would have its hope crushed. There would no longer be a king in Gaza. No one would live in Ashkelon. Only a mongrel or mixed race would live in Ashdod. The pride of the Philistines would be crushed. Yahweh was going to end their unclean practices of eating their meat with blood in their mouths, since they would follow the Israelite dietary laws. These Philistines would become a small remnant just like Judah had become. Ekron would become like the decimated Canaanite Jebusites, who had formerly inhabited Jerusalem, before the time of David.
Like the other prophets, Zephaniah rallied against the neighboring countries of Israel. He started with the Philistine cities along the Mediterranean coast. Although there were 5 major cities, Zephaniah did not mention Gath that was probably destroyed in the 8th century BCE. Here there is a mention of 4 Philistine cities from south to north, the coastal towns of Gaza, Ashkelon, Ashdod, and Ekron, the farthest north and a little inland. Gaza would be deserted, while Ashkelon would become desolate. Ashdod had its people driven out at noon. Nevertheless, all 3 cities still exist today. Ekron was simply uprooted, something that actually took place around 604 BCE under the Babylonian King Nebuchadnezzar II.
The Philistines had 5 major cities along the Mediterranean coast, west of Judah. The only city not mentioned here was Gath that had been wiped out by the Syrian King Hazael. Otherwise, Yahweh was going to punish the other 4 cities. Gaza was cited as the worst, since the numbering iniquities were about 3 and 4 things, just like the numerical Proverbs, chapter 30. Yahweh was not going to revoke his punishment against them. They were involved in the slave trade with Edom that sent whole communities into exile. Although fire would come to Gaza, Yahweh reminded them that Ashdod, Ashkelon, and Ekron would also suffer. All the remaining Philistines would perish or die. This was clearly an oracle of Yahweh.
The Philistines were often mentioned in the biblical literature, especially as the enemies of King David. They were perhaps originally from the island of Crete. They were the five main Philistine coastal cities mentioned from the time of Joshua, chapter 13, Ashkelon, Gaza, Ekron, Gath, and Ashdod, all on the Mediterranean coast line of present day Israel. Thus the mention of unending hostilities with the Philistines did not seem out of place. Jeremiah, chapter 47, had also spoken against them. These Philistines acted with vengeance and malice, as they brought revenge on the Israelites with their destruction.
The Philistines, perhaps from Crete, had been the enemies of King David with many mentions in the biblical literature. They were, of course, the five main Philistine cities mentioned from the time of Joshua, chapter 13. Ashkelon, Gaza, Ekron, Gath, and Ashdod, all on the Mediterranean coast line of present day Israel. Gath and Ashdod were almost completely destroyed by the Egyptians in the 7th century. Here there is a mention of Pharaoh Neco invading Gaza. In the Septuagint Greek translation, this is chapter 29, not chapter 47 as here.
Next up, Jeremiah went to the west coast where the enemies of King David had been, the Philistines. There were, of course, the 5 main Philistine cities mentioned from the time of Joshua, chapter 13. Ashkelon, Gaza, and Ekron seemed to be still standing at this time of Jeremiah. Gath, not mentioned here, was completely destroyed by the Egyptians in the 7th century. Ashdod was almost completely destroyed at the same time. These old Philistine cities are all part of modern day Israel.
“Then Jonathan left there. He encamped against Askalon, where the people of the city came out to meet him with a great pomp. Jonathan and those with him returned to Jerusalem with a large amount of booty. When King Alexander heard of these things, he honored Jonathan still more. He sent to him a golden buckle, such as it is the custom to give to the king’s kinsmen. He also gave him Ekron and all its environs as his possession.”
Askalon had been one of the 5 major Philistine cities on the coast. There the people came out to praise Jonathan. Obviously, when he got back to Jerusalem they had a big celebration because he had brought back a large amount of booty. When King Alexander I heard about his activities in defeating the governor of King Demetrius I, he honored him by giving him a gold buckle as a token of his friendship. Now Jonathan was one of the great friends of the king, almost a relative. King Alexander I gave Jonathan the land of Ekron which was the most northern Philistine city. It almost seems like this is the completion of the wars of David against the Philistines.
“The hand of Yahweh was heavy upon the people of Ashdod. He terrified and struck them with tumors, both Ashdod and its territory. When the inhabitants of Ashdod saw how things were, they said. ‘The ark of the God of Israel must not remain with us. His hand is heavy upon us and on Dagon, our god.’ So they sent and gathered together all the lords of the Philistines, and said. ‘What shall we do with the ark of the God of Israel?’ The inhabitants of Gath replied. ‘Let the ark of the God of Israel be moved on to us.’ So they moved the ark of the God of Israel to Gath. But after they had brought it to Gath, the hand of Yahweh was against the city, causing a very great panic. He struck the inhabitants of the city, both young and old, so that tumors broke out on them. So they sent the ark of God to Ekron. But when the ark of God came to Ekron, the people of Ekron cried out. ‘They have brought the ark of the God of Israel to kill us and our people.’ They sent therefore and gathered together all lords of the Philistines, and said. ‘Send away the ark of the God of Israel. Let it return to its own place, so that it may not kill us and our people.’ There was a deathly panic throughout the whole city. The hand of God was very heavy there. Those who did not die were stricken with tumors. The cry of the city went up to heaven.”
Ashdod was one of the 5 major cities of the Philistines. There or one of the other towns was where Samson destroyed a whole bunch of Philistines in a temple of Dagon. The people of Ashdod began to panic when they saw that many of them were beset with tumors all over their body. They knew what had happened to their god idol Dagon. So they sent the ark to Gath, another major Philistine city, where the people there also had tumors break out all over them. Then they sent it to another major city Ekron, where the tumors broke out again. Finally, they decided just to send the ark back to the Israelites.