Bible Commentary: Jeremiah 46:13-47:7 and Related

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Jeremiah 46:13-47:7 and Related

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Jehoiakim’s Rebellion

A historical context for this section is helpful. Biblical historian Eugene Merrill writes: “As the author of Kings indicates, Jehoiakim remained a loyal subject to the Babylonians for…three years (605-602 [B.C.]). He then rebelled for some unexpressed reason…. Nebuchadnezzar had undertaken several western campaigns against Judah’s neighbors. It may have been his preoccupation with these states…that gave Jehoiakim the courage to break his alliance with Nebuchadnezzar” (Kingdom of Priests: A History of Old Testament Israel, 1987, p. 451).

One source “associates Jehoiakim’s rebellion with the Babylonian conflict with Egypt in the winter of 60⅙00 B.C., which is attested to by a letter written in Aramaic from the town of Saqqarah” (p. 451, footnote). Another source “points out that the campaign against Jehoiakim is not mentioned in the Babylonian records…because Nebuchadnezzar’s main objective was Egypt and not Judah” (p. 451, footnote). The reference here is to Nebuchadnezzar’s fourth year, when “he engaged Neco II in a great battle near the border of Egypt, a contest which evidently ended in a draw. Perhaps the Babylonian was not altogether unsuccessful, however, for he may have brought Judah back under his control in the course of this campaign” (p. 451).

This seems likely, especially given what Scripture says right after describing the Babylonian response to Jehoiakim’s rebellion: “And the king of Egypt did not come out of his land anymore…” (2 Kings 24:7 2 Kings 24:7And the king of Egypt came not again any more out of his land: for the king of Babylon had taken from the river of Egypt to the river Euphrates all that pertained to the king of Egypt.
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). This makes it appear that the king of Egypt coming out of his land had something to do with Jehoiakim’s rebellion. Jeremiah 47, in the current reading, mentions an Egyptian pharaoh of Jeremiah’s time attacking Gaza, the southernmost of the major Philistine cities, right near the border with Egypt. We have no parallel record of this event in secular history, which makes the dating of it difficult. But it would seem to tie into these events, and certainly occurred before 2 Kings 24:7 2 Kings 24:7And the king of Egypt came not again any more out of his land: for the king of Babylon had taken from the river of Egypt to the river Euphrates all that pertained to the king of Egypt.
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.

Perhaps Necho attacked Gaza sometime in 602 B.C., which would have been an incursion into Babylonian territory—Nebuchadnezzar having subdued the Philistines in 604. This may well have prompted Jehoiakim to rebel against Babylon, declaring Judah’s reaffiliation with Egypt. “Retribution was swift and sure (2 Kings 24:1-2 2 Kings 24:1-2 [1] In his days Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon came up, and Jehoiakim became his servant three years: then he turned and rebelled against him. [2] And the LORD sent against him bands of the Chaldees, and bands of the Syrians, and bands of the Moabites, and bands of the children of Ammon, and sent them against Judah to destroy it, according to the word of the LORD, which he spoke by his servants the prophets.
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). Nebuchadnezzar sent troops from Babylonia and from some of his western vassal states such as Aram, Moab, and Ammon, and forced Jehoiakim to submit. The chronicler says that Nebuchadnezzar went as far as to bind Jehoiakim with shackles in order to take him as a prisoner of war to Babylon (2 Chronicles 36:6 2 Chronicles 36:6Against him came up Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon, and bound him in fetters, to carry him to Babylon.
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). Apparently he relented [as Jehoiakim remained as king for a few more years] but as punishment stripped the temple of many of its sacred articles [as he had before] and took them to his own pagan temples in Babylon. Thereafter until his death in 598 Jehoiakim remained in subservience to the Babylonian overlord” (p. 451). After dealing with Jehoiakim, Nebuchadnezzar apparently continued on to his engagement with Necho, in which the pharaoh was pushed back into Egypt.

While Jehoiakim’s death is recorded, none of the details regarding it are given. We do know from Jeremiah’s prophecies that this wicked ruler was to die without lamentation from the people, being cast out and buried as a donkey (see Jeremiah 22:18-19 Jeremiah 22:18-19 [18] Therefore thus said the LORD concerning Jehoiakim the son of Josiah king of Judah; They shall not lament for him, saying, Ah my brother! or, Ah sister! they shall not lament for him, saying, Ah lord! or, Ah his glory! [19] He shall be buried with the burial of an ass, drawn and cast forth beyond the gates of Jerusalem.
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; Jeremiah 36:30 Jeremiah 36:30Therefore thus said the LORD of Jehoiakim king of Judah; He shall have none to sit on the throne of David: and his dead body shall be cast out in the day to the heat, and in the night to the frost.
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). His lineage would not continue to rule, as his son’s reign would last but a few months.

Prophecies Against Egypt and Philistia

Before the Egyptian attack on Gaza, Jeremiah prophesied against Egypt (Jeremiah 46:13-26 Jeremiah 46:13-26 [13] The word that the LORD spoke to Jeremiah the prophet, how Nebuchadrezzar king of Babylon should come and smite the land of Egypt. [14] Declare you in Egypt, and publish in Migdol, and publish in Noph and in Tahpanhes: say you, Stand fast, and prepare you; for the sword shall devour round about you. [15] Why are your valiant men swept away? they stood not, because the LORD did drive them. [16] He made many to fall, yes, one fell on another: and they said, Arise, and let us go again to our own people, and to the land of our nativity, from the oppressing sword. [17] They did cry there, Pharaoh king of Egypt is but a noise; he has passed the time appointed. [18] As I live, said the King, whose name is the LORD of hosts, Surely as Tabor is among the mountains, and as Carmel by the sea, so shall he come. [19] O you daughter dwelling in Egypt, furnish yourself to go into captivity: for Noph shall be waste and desolate without an inhabitant. [20] Egypt is like a very fair heifer, but destruction comes; it comes out of the north. [21] Also her hired men are in the middle of her like fatted bullocks; for they also are turned back, and are fled away together: they did not stand, because the day of their calamity was come on them, and the time of their visitation. [22] The voice thereof shall go like a serpent; for they shall march with an army, and come against her with axes, as hewers of wood. [23] They shall cut down her forest, said the LORD, though it cannot be searched; because they are more than the grasshoppers, and are innumerable. [24] The daughter of Egypt shall be confounded; she shall be delivered into the hand of the people of the north. [25] The LORD of hosts, the God of Israel, said; Behold, I will punish the multitude of No, and Pharaoh, and Egypt, with their gods, and their kings; even Pharaoh, and all them that trust in him: [26] And I will deliver them into the hand of those that seek their lives, and into the hand of Nebuchadrezzar king of Babylon, and into the hand of his servants: and afterward it shall be inhabited, as in the days of old, said the LORD.
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). While Babylon is the one coming against Egypt (verse 26), God is the one bringing the punishment (see verses 15, 18, 25). The prophecy concludes with “an effective contrast, a sound of an incredible weakness where the roar as of a lion is necessary: the snake, Egyptian symbol of royalty, creeping back into its hole. The hiss of enmity is ineffective, as the Babylonians come on as an army of woodcutters levelling Egypt as a forest appointed for timber felling” (New Bible Commentary, note on Jeremiah 46:22-24 Jeremiah 46:22-24 [22] The voice thereof shall go like a serpent; for they shall march with an army, and come against her with axes, as hewers of wood. [23] They shall cut down her forest, said the LORD, though it cannot be searched; because they are more than the grasshoppers, and are innumerable. [24] The daughter of Egypt shall be confounded; she shall be delivered into the hand of the people of the north.
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). This prophecy speaks of far more than what Nebuchadnezzar did in his campaign against Egypt of 601. Rather, it looks a number of years forward, beyond even the fall of Judah in 586 B.C., to the time when Nebuchadnezzar invaded Egypt “in 568 and laid waste a great part of the Nile valley” (Merrill, p. 475). In fact, Egypt was made part of the Babylonian Empire. And Jeremiah foresaw it all, at least 34 years in advance. For more prophecies against Egypt, see Ezekiel 29-32.

Egypt’s desolation, we are told, would not last forever (Jeremiah 46:26 Jeremiah 46:26And I will deliver them into the hand of those that seek their lives, and into the hand of Nebuchadrezzar king of Babylon, and into the hand of his servants: and afterward it shall be inhabited, as in the days of old, said the LORD.
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). Furthermore, hope is then given to Israel (verses 27-28). Even though Israel was being rightly punished, it too would not suffer forever. Speaking to Jacob and Israel rather than Judah, this is a prophecy to all 12 tribes, which will be brought back to the Promised Land after Christ’s return. Perhaps this prophecy is placed here because both Israel and Judah had pinned their hopes on Egypt, which provided them no help. Indeed, trusting in such allies rather than God is part of the reason they are being punished. The end-time context of this prophecy’s fulfillment may indicate some duality in the prophecy against Egypt—that part of it may be for the end time as well, when Egypt will again fall to a northern invader (see Daniel 11:40-43 Daniel 11:40-43 [40] And at the time of the end shall the king of the south push at him: and the king of the north shall come against him like a whirlwind, with chariots, and with horsemen, and with many ships; and he shall enter into the countries, and shall overflow and pass over. [41] He shall enter also into the glorious land, and many countries shall be overthrown: but these shall escape out of his hand, even Edom, and Moab, and the chief of the children of Ammon. [42] He shall stretch forth his hand also on the countries: and the land of Egypt shall not escape. [43] But he shall have power over the treasures of gold and of silver, and over all the precious things of Egypt: and the Libyans and the Ethiopians shall be at his steps.
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).

Egypt may seem an insignificant nation to the casual observer of world affairs, but it is a leading nation among the Muslim nations of North Africa and the Middle East. Additionally, radical Muslim terrorist cells thrive there (one of which assassinated Anwar Sadat in 1981). The Bible indicates that Egypt will figure prominently in the international politics of the end time.

In Jeremiah 47, we see God’s judgment on Philistia. The Philistines were quite often an enemy of Israel. Their close proximity made them a dangerous thorn in Israel’s side, somewhat like the Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza Strip are to the nation of Israel today.

The Philistines (Jeremiah 47:1 Jeremiah 47:1The word of the LORD that came to Jeremiah the prophet against the Philistines, before that Pharaoh smote Gaza.
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) and Caphtorim (verse 4) were closely related (Genesis 10:4 Genesis 10:4And the sons of Javan; Elishah, and Tarshish, Kittim, and Dodanim.
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) and probably intermingled. Of the original Philistine pentapolis—Gaza, Ashdod, Ashkelon, Gath and Ekron (see Joshua 13:3 Joshua 13:3From Sihor, which is before Egypt, even to the borders of Ekron northward, which is counted to the Canaanite: five lords of the Philistines; the Gazathites, and the Ashdothites, the Eshkalonites, the Gittites, and the Ekronites; also the Avites:
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, NIV)—only Gaza and Ashkelon are mentioned in Jeremiah 47. Among all the biblical prophecies of the Philistines, mention is made of four of these cities. “It is noteworthy that Gath is not mentioned in these prophecies, from which it may be inferred that Gath ceased to be of any major significance after the time of Uzziah” (“Philistines,” The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, 1986, p. 843).

In verse 2 we read of a flood of waters from the north. Generally, as we have repeatedly seen, invasions from Mesopotamia followed a route that brought them into Canaan and Philistia from the north. “Waters sometimes signify multitudes of people and nations (Revelation 17:15 Revelation 17:15And he said to me, The waters which you saw, where the whore sits, are peoples, and multitudes, and nations, and tongues.
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), sometimes great and threatening calamities (Psalms 69:1 Psalms 69:1Save me, O God; for the waters are come in to my soul.
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); here they signify both” (Matthew Henry’s Commentary, note on verse 2).

Nebuchadnezzar attacked Ashkelon in 604 B.C., as earlier mentioned. But the prophecy in Jeremiah 47 appears to have been delivered after that time. Indeed, there is a hint of that in the fact that a “remnant” of Ashkelon is here mentioned (verse 5). The Philistines, which have already been attacked, are going to be hit again. Notice the specific reason here: “To cut off from Tyre and Sidon every helper who remains” (verse 4). This provides us with the time of the destruction mentioned. “Within a year of the conquest of Jerusalem [in 586 B.C.] Nebuchadnezzar laid siege to the island portion of Tyre, having already brought Sidon, Arvad, and the mainland portion of Tyre under his control [shortly before]. The siege lasted for thirteen years” (Merrill, p. 475). So this prophecy refers to the overrunning of Philistia by Nebuchadnezzar’s armies around the time of the fall of Judah. As with Egypt, though Babylon is the agent of destruction, God is the one who brings it (verses 6-7).

But the prophecy may have another fulfillment that is yet future. Almost certainly a small percentage of today’s Palestinians, especially those in the Gaza Strip, are descendants of the Philistines. Interestingly, “the Greek name [for the land of Israel], Palestine, was derived from the name Philistia” (“Philistines,” Unger’s Bible Dictionary, 1970, p. 859). The next three nations mentioned in the book of Jeremiah—Moab, Ammon and Edom in chapters 48-49—are also represented in today’s Palestinian population in both Israel and Jordan. So it may be that Jeremiah 47-49 refers, at least in part, to end-time calamity to come upon the Palestinians—again from out of the north.

Other prophecies of the Philistines may be found in Isaiah 14:29-31 Isaiah 14:29-31 [29] Rejoice not you, whole Palestina, because the rod of him that smote you is broken: for out of the serpent’s root shall come forth a cockatrice, and his fruit shall be a fiery flying serpent. [30] And the firstborn of the poor shall feed, and the needy shall lie down in safety: and I will kill your root with famine, and he shall slay your remnant. [31] Howl, O gate; cry, O city; you, whole Palestina, are dissolved: for there shall come from the north a smoke, and none shall be alone in his appointed times.
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, Ezekiel 25:15-17 Ezekiel 25:15-17 [15] Thus said the Lord GOD; Because the Philistines have dealt by revenge, and have taken vengeance with a despiteful heart, to destroy it for the old hatred; [16] Therefore thus said the Lord GOD; Behold, I will stretch out my hand on the Philistines, and I will cut off the Cherethims, and destroy the remnant of the sea coast. [17] And I will execute great vengeance on them with furious rebukes; and they shall know that I am the LORD, when I shall lay my vengeance on them.
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, Amos 1:6-8 Amos 1:6-8 [6] Thus said the LORD; For three transgressions of Gaza, and for four, I will not turn away the punishment thereof; because they carried away captive the whole captivity, to deliver them up to Edom: [7] But I will send a fire on the wall of Gaza, which shall devour the palaces thereof: [8] And I will cut off the inhabitant from Ashdod, and him that holds the scepter from Ashkelon, and I will turn my hand against Ekron: and the remnant of the Philistines shall perish, said the Lord GOD.
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, Zephaniah 2:4-7 Zephaniah 2:4-7 [4] For Gaza shall be forsaken, and Ashkelon a desolation: they shall drive out Ashdod at the noon day, and Ekron shall be rooted up. [5] Woe to the inhabitants of the sea coast, the nation of the Cherethites! the word of the LORD is against you; O Canaan, the land of the Philistines, I will even destroy you, that there shall be no inhabitant. [6] And the sea coast shall be dwellings and cottages for shepherds, and folds for flocks. [7] And the coast shall be for the remnant of the house of Judah; they shall feed thereupon: in the houses of Ashkelon shall they lie down in the evening: for the LORD their God shall visit them, and turn away their captivity.
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and Zechariah 9:5-7 Zechariah 9:5-7 [5] Ashkelon shall see it, and fear; Gaza also shall see it, and be very sorrowful, and Ekron; for her expectation shall be ashamed; and the king shall perish from Gaza, and Ashkelon shall not be inhabited. [6] And a bastard shall dwell in Ashdod, and I will cut off the pride of the Philistines. [7] And I will take away his blood out of his mouth, and his abominations from between his teeth: but he that remains, even he, shall be for our God, and he shall be as a governor in Judah, and Ekron as a Jebusite.
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.

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