Verses 4–7

The prophet here comes to foretel what share the neighbouring nations should have in the destruction made upon those parts of the world by Nebuchadnezzar and his victorious Chaldees, as others of the prophets did at that time, which is designed, 1. To awaken the people of the Jews, by making them sensible how strong, how deep, how large, the inundation of calamities should be, that the day of the Lord, which was near, might appear the more dreadful, and they might thereby be quickened to prepare for it as for a general deluge. 2. To comfort them with this thought, that their case, though sad, should not be singular (Solamen miseris socios habuisse dolorisThe wretched find it consolatory to have companions of their woe), and much more with this, that though God had seemed to be their enemy, and to fight against them, yet he was still so far their friend, and an enemy to their enemies, that he resented, and would revenge, the indignities done them.

In these verses we have the doom of the Philistines, who were near neighbours, and old enemies, to the people of Israel. Five lordships there were in that country; only four are here named—Gaza and Ashkelon, Ashdod and Ekron; Gath, the fifth, is not named, some think because it was now subject to Judah. They were the inhabitants of the sea-coasts (Zeph. 2:5), for their country lay upon the Great Sea. The nation of the Cherethites is here joined with them, which bordered upon them (1 Sam. 30:14) and fell with them, as is foretold also, Ezek. 25:16. The Philistines’ land is here called Canaan, for it belonged to that country which God gave to his people Israel, and was inserted in the grant made to them, Josh. 13:3. This land is yet to be possessed (five lords of the Philistines), so that they wrongfully kept Israel out of the possession of it (Jdg. 3:3), which is now remembered against them. For, though the rights of others may be long detained unjustly, the righteous God will at length avenge the wrong.

I. It is here foretold that the Philistines, the usurpers, shall be dispossessed and quite extirpated. In general, here is a woe to them (Zeph. 2:5), which, coming from God, denotes all misery: The word of the Lord is against them—the word of the former prophets, which, though not yet accomplished, will be in its season, Isa. 14:31. This word, now by this prophet, is against them. Note, Those are really in a woeful condition that have the word of the Lord against them, for no word of his shall fall to the ground. Those that rebel against the precepts of God’s word shall have the threatenings of the word against them. The effect will be no less than their destruction, 1. God himself will be the author of it: “I will even destroy thee, who can make good what I say and will.” 2. It shall be a universal destruction; it shall extend itself to all parts of the land, both city and country: Gaza shall be forsaken, though now a populous city. It was foretold (Jer. 47:6) that baldness should come upon Gaza; Alexander the Great razed that city, and we find (Acts 8:26) that Gaza was a desert. Ashkelon shall be a desolation, a pattern of desolation. Ashdod shall be driven out at noon-day; in the extremity of the scorching heat they shall have no shade, no shelter to protect them; but then, when most incommoded by the weather, they shall be forced away into captivity, which will be an aggravating circumstance of it. Ekron likewise shall be rooted up, that had been long taking root. The land of the Philistines shall be dispeopled; there shall be no inhabitant, Zeph. 2:5. God made the earth to be inhabited (Isa. 45:18), otherwise he would have made it in vain; but, if men do not answer the end of their creation in serving God, it is just with God that the earth should not answer the end of its creation in serving them for a habitation; man’s sin has sometimes subjected it to this vanity. 3. It shall be an utter destruction. The sea-coast, which used to be a harbour for ships and a habitation for merchants, shall now be deserted, and be only cottages for shepherds and folds for flocks (Zeph. 2:6), and then perhaps put to better use than when it was possessed by the lords of the Philistines.

II. It is here foretold that the house of Judah, the rightful owners, shall recover the possession of it, Zeph. 2:7. The remnant of those that shall return out of captivity, when God visits them, shall be made to lie down in safety in the houses of Ashkelon, to lie down in the evening, when they are weary and sleepy. There they shall feed themselves and their flocks. Note, God will at length restore his people to their rights, though they may be long kept out from them.