Against the Philistine cities (Zeph 2:4-2:4)

“Gaza shall be deserted.

Ashkelon shall become

A desolation.

Ashdod’s people

Shall be driven out

At noon.

Ekron shall be uprooted.”

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.

Against the small towns in Judah (Mic 1:10-1:12)

“Tell it not in Gath!

Weep not at all

In Beth-leaphrah!

Roll yourselves in the dust!

Inhabitants of Shaphir!

Pass on your way

In nakedness and shame!

The inhabitants of Zaanan

Do not come forth

From their town.

Beth-ezel is wailing.

They shall remove its support

From you.

The inhabitants of Maroth

Wait anxiously

For good.

Yet disaster has come down

From Yahweh

To the gates of Jerusalem.”

In a play on words, Micah wailed against 10 small Judean towns near where he lived.  One of the largest towns mentioned was the old Philistine town of Gath that King Uzziah (781-740 BCE) had conquered.  Micah used the same terminology as in 2 Samuel, chapter 1, about Gath, since there should be no weeping for that town.  Then Micah turned to 5 small towns that are difficult to determine where they were.  Beth-leaphrah literally means rolling around in dust.  Shaphir literally means the fair one.  Thus, the good-looking people of this town of Shaphir should keep going in their naked shame.  On the other hand, the people of Zaanan did not come out to fight from their town.  Beth-ezel was mourning and not supporting Yahweh.  The people of Maroth were waiting anxiously for something good to happen.  Yet Yahweh sent a disaster that went as far as the gates of Jerusalem.

Do not be too confident (Am 6:1-6:3)

“Woe to those

Who are at ease

In Zion!

Woe to those

Who feel secure

On Mount Samaria!

Woe to

The notable men

Of the first

Of the nations,

To whom the house of Israel

Resorts!

Pass over to Calneh!

See!

Go to Hamath the great!

Go down to Gath

Of the Philistines!

Are they better

Than these kingdoms?

Or is your territory

Greater than their territory?

O you!

You put far away

The evil day!

Do you not bring near

A reign of violence?”

Yahweh, via Amos, warned the Israelites in Zion and Samaria not to be at ease, feeling secure, and over confident. They should be aware of the important people that they have had contact with in other countries. They should look at the great commercial centers in Calneh and Hamath in Syria. They should see the Philistine city of Gath. All these kingdoms have more territory and were better off than they were. The Israelites thought that they could put off the evil day, but the reign of violence was getting closer.

Against the Philistines (Am 1:6-1:8)

“Thus says Yahweh.

‘For three transgressions

Of Gaza,

And for four,

I will not revoke

The punishment.

Because they carried

Into exile

Entire communities,

To hand them over

To Edom.

So,

I will send a fire

On the wall of Gaza.

It shall devour

Its strongholds.

I will cut off

The inhabitants

From Ashdod.

I will cut off

The one who holds

The scepter

From Ashkelon.

I will turn my hand

Against Ekron.

The remnant

Of the Philistines

Shall perish.’

Says Yahweh

God.”

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.

Against the Philistines (Ezek 25:15-25:15)

“Thus says Yahweh God!

‘With unending hostilities,

The Philistines

Acted in vengeance

With malice of heart.

They took revenge

In destruction.’”

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 defeat of the various Philistine cities (Jer 47:5-47:7)

“Baldness has come

Upon Gaza.

Ashkelon is silenced.

O remnant of their power!

How long

Will you gash yourselves?

O!

Sword of Yahweh!

How long

Until you are quiet?

Put yourself

Into your scabbard!

Rest!

Be still!

How can it be quiet?

Yahweh has given it

A charge

Against Ashkelon,

Against the seashore.

There he has appointed it.”

This short chapter on the Philistines ends with the mention of a couple of the five main Philistine cities, mentioned from the time of Joshua, chapter 13. Ashkelon and Gaza were still standing, but as defeated cities, as Jeremiah mentioned here. Gaza was bald and Ashkelon was silent, since they were only a remnant of their former power. How long would they be in mourning? Would Yahweh put his sword away? These seaside cities were in ruin. Gath and Ashdod were not mentioned here, because they were completely destroyed by the Egyptians in the 7th century BCE.

The Philistines (Jer 47:1-47:1)

“The word of Yahweh

Came

To the prophet Jeremiah

Concerning the Philistines,

Before Pharaoh attacked Gaza.”

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.