God’s Word for You
by Pastor Timothy Smith on Saturday, January 10, 2015
5 Baldness is coming to Gaza,
Ashkelon will be destroyed—
a remnant of their valley.
How long will you cut yourselves?
Jeremiah is finishing his prophecy about the fall of Philistia. This was something that Israel had failed to accomplish all throughout their history, but now, just before Judah fell, God was going to use Nebuchadnezzar’s Babylonians to finally destroy these pagans to Judah’s west. Gaza and Ashkelon were the last strongholds of Philistia.
The word translated “will be destroyed” in the second line is damah, which can have two different meanings. One is to be silent or cease, as in Lamentations 3:49 (this is the only indisputable case of “silent” I know of in the Bible for damah). But a more common meaning is to “be destroyed,” as in Hosea 4:5; Isaiah 6:5 and other places. If “Ashkelon will be silenced” is our meaning here, it would fit in well with “baldness” and the people cutting themselves—all are signs of mourning and grief. However, “Ashkelon will be destroyed” would be a meaning that would equally fit the context and would cause the other signs of mourning mentioned here. I have translated “will be destroyed” only because it is a more common meaning for this word.
6 O, sword of the LORD!
How long until you rest?
Return to your scabbard.
Rest and be still.
7 How can you rest
since the LORD has commanded this?
Against Ashkelon and against the coast—
he has placed it there.
Even Jeremiah felt that the Philistines had had enough. His cry that the sword of the Lord (held by the Babylonians) should rest is a sign that the Philistines were completely wiped out.
This short chapter (which ends here) sets the background for some other events recorded earlier in Jeremiah. The attack on Ashkelon took place in December of 604 B.C. This was the very same month when King Jehoiakim ordered a special fast day in Jerusalem (Jeremiah 36:9). We don’t know why this fast was commanded, but many people came on a pilgrimage to Jerusalem to pray, and it seems likely that Jehoiakim ordered the fast because Judah was in a time of political crisis. Judah had been in a subordinate position to Egypt for some time as a vassal state, but following the defeat of Egypt and Assyria at Carchemish the previous summer, Jehoiakim wasn’t sure what to do. He no longer had a protecting nation to help him, and now in December the Babylonians were rampaging through Philistia. Would Judah be next?
In chapter 36, Jeremiah took this moment to deliver a very important message to the people of Judah. Many of them were gathering in Jerusalem to pray, and Jeremiah was commanded by God to write “all” that God had told him on a scroll and have it read in public by Baruch his scribe (Jeremiah 36:2). This was the event that led to the burning of Jeremiah’s scroll (Jeremiah 36:20-26).
The king and the people didn’t know which way to turn, because they had forgotten God’s promises and God’s word. The Philistines were being destroyed by the hand of God—something God had commanded Israel to do, but Israel had failed. Jehoiakim should have rejoiced and repented. Instead he burned Jeremiah’s scroll and rejected God’s word completely.
How long would it be before God had enough of this foolish king and this stubborn people? Before we think about that answer, we need to ask ourselves: How foolish and stubborn are we? Not as a nation—our nation is fast becoming one of the most foolish and stubborn nations on earth—but as individual Christians? It’s time right now that we say, “I have sinned. Have mercy on me, a sinner.” It’s time that we turned to God in repentance. It’s time that we turned to God for forgiveness. By the grace of God, that forgiveness has been offered to us through Jesus. Trust in him and in him alone. God is merciful to everyone who trusts in him, and his mercy endures forever.
Pastor Timothy Smith
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