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.

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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 cities of Ammon (Jer 49:2-49:3)

“Says Yahweh.

‘Therefore,

The time is surely coming,

When I will sound

The battle alarm

Against Rabbah

Of the Ammonites.

It shall become

A desolate mound.

Its villages

Shall be burned

With fire.

Then Israel shall dispossess

Those who dispossessed him.’

Says Yahweh.

‘Wail!

O Heshbon!

Ai is laid waste!

Cry out!

O daughters of Rabbah!

Put on sackcloth!

Lament!

Slash yourselves

With whips!

Milcom shall go

Into exile,

With his priests,

With his attendants.’”

Yahweh spoke about the destruction of the major cities in Ammon. Rabbah was the capital city of Ammon that would become a desolate mound with its various villages around it. They would be burned to the ground. Thus the dispossessed Israelites would be able to re-possess it. However, it is not the Israelites who are invading, but the Babylonians. Heshbon was the ancient city of King Sihon that had been captured by the Israelites. It was part of the Reuben territory and then Gad territory, since it was almost on the border between Moab and Ammon. The city of Ai was near Bethel in the Benjamin territory on the west side of the Jordan River. However, here this is another otherwise unknown city named Ai near Heshbon. All of these cities were going to lament their situation with mourning and sack cloth. Their god Milcom with his priests and attendants would also go into exile.