Just as the Bible predicted the modern reestablishment of Israel, it also indicates the revival of other ancient countries in the Middle East, one of these being Philistia. Perhaps as many as seven prophetic scriptures in the Hebrew Bible indicate a rebirth of Israel’s ancient arch rival—Philistia.
Two passages which clearly signify the reestablishment of Philistia are:
Isaiah 11:12-16: It will happen in that day that the Lord will set his hand again the second time to recover the remnant that is left of his people from Assyria, from Egypt, from Pathros, from Cush, from Elam, from Shinar, from Hamath and from the islands of the sea.
He will set up a banner for the nations and will assemble the outcasts of Israel, and gather together the dispersed of Judah from the four corners of the earth.
The envy also of Ephraim will depart, and those who persecute Judah will be cut off. Ephraim won’t envy Judah, and Judah won’t persecute Ephraim. They will fly down on the shoulders of the Philistines on the west. Together they will plunder the children of the east. They will extend their power over Edom and Moab, and the children of Ammon will obey them. Yahweh will utterly destroy the tongue of the Egyptian sea, and with his scorching wind he will waive his hand over the River, and will split it into seven streams and cause men to march over in sandals. There will be a highway for the remnant that is left of his people from Assyria, like there was for Israel in the day that he came up out of the land of Egypt.
Zechariah 9: 5-8: Ashkelon will see it, and fear; Gaza also, and will writhe in agony; as will Ekron, for her expectation will be disappointed; and the king will perish from Gaza, and Ashkelon will not be inhabited. Foreigners will dwell in Ashdod, and I will cut off the pride of the Philistines. I will take away his blood out of his mouth, and his abominations from between his teeth; and he also will be a remnant for our God; and he will be as a chieftain in Judah, and Ekron as a Jebusite. I will encamp around my house against the army that none pass through or return; and no oppressor will pass through them anymore, for now I have seen with my eyes.
Others that can be put forward with varying degrees of certainty are:
Joel 3.4-8: Yes, and what are you to me, Tyre and Sidon, and all the regions of Philistia? Will you repay me? And if you repay me, I will swiftly and speedily return your repayment on your own head. Because you have taken my silver and my gold, and have carried my finest treasures into your temples, and have sold the children of Judah and the children of Jerusalem to the sons of the Greeks, that you may remove them far from their border. Behold, I will stir them up out of the place where you have sold them, and will return your repayment on your own head; and I will sell your sons and your daughters into the hands of the children of Judah, and they will sell them to the men of Sheba, to a faraway nation, for Yahweh has spoken it.”
Obadiah 19: Those of the Negev will possess the mountain of Esau, and those of the lowland, the Philistines. They will possess the field of Ephraim and the field of Samaria. Benjamin will possess Gilead.
Zephaniah 2.4-7: For Gaza will be abandoned, and Ashkelon will become a desolation. They will drive out Ashdod at noonday, and Ekron will be uprooted. Woe to the inhabitants of the seacoast, the nation of the Cherethites! The word of Yahweh is against you, O Canaan, land of the Philistines. I will destroy you, so that there will be no inhabitant left. The seacoast will become pastures, with meadows for shepherds and folds for flocks. And the coast will be for the remnant of the house of Judah. They will find pasture on it. In the houses of Ashkelon, they will lie down in the evening, because Yahweh their God will visit them and restore their fortunes.
God, you have rejected us. You have broken us down. You have been angry. Restore us again. You have made the land tremble. You have torn it. Mend its fractures, for it quakes. You have shown your people hard things. You have made us drink the wine that makes us stagger. You have given a banner to those who fear you, that it may be displayed because of the truth. Selah. So that your beloved may be delivered, save with your right hand and answer us. God has spoken from his sanctuary: “I will triumph. I will divide Shechem, and measure out the valley of Succoth. Gilead is mine, and Manasseh is mine. Ephraim also is the defense of my head. Judah is my scepter. Moab is my wash basin. I will throw my sandal on Edom. I shout in triumph over Philistia.” Who will bring me into the strong city? Who has led me to Edom? Haven’t you, God, rejected us? You don’t go out with our armies, God, give us help against the adversary, for the help of man is vain. Through God we will do valiantly, for it is he who will tread down our adversaries.
My heart is steadfast, God. I will sing and I will make music with my soul. Wake up, harp and lyre! I will wake up the dawn. I will give thanks to you, Yahweh, among the nations. I will sing praises to you among the peoples. For your loving kindness is great above the heavens. Your faithfulness reaches to the skies. Be exalted, God, above the heavens! Let your glory be over all the earth. That your beloved may be delivered, save with your right hand and answer us. God has spoken from his sanctuary:
“In triumph I will divide Shechem and measure out the valley of Succoth. Gilead is mine. Manasseh is mine. Ephraim also is my helmet. Judah is my scepter. Moab is my wash pot. I will toss my sandal on Edom. I will shout over Philistia.” Who will bring me into the fortified city? Who has led me to Edom? Haven’t you rejected us, God? You don’t go out, God, with our armies. Give us help against the enemy, for the help of man is vain. Through God we will do valiantly, for it is He who will tread down our enemies.
Interpretation of Biblical Prophecy
There are two kinds of Bible prophecies. There is prophecy which communicates God’s message to people, called preaching or forth-telling. And there is prophecy which predicts the future, called foretelling. Old Testament prophets did both.
There are two kinds of predictive prophecy in Scripture: fulfilled prophecy, which has already happened, and unfulfilled prophecy, which has not yet occurred.
The following writing will concern mostly unfulfilled predictive prophecy, to which the words “prophecy” and “prophecies” will henceforth refer. There are at least four crucial principles to which a prophetic student must adhere in order to understand biblical prophecies:
1. Consider the context in order to establish the time of the event being prophesied.
2. Interpret prophecies literally unless there is clear evidence indicating otherwise.
3. Compare Scripture with Scripture.
4. Accept the possibility of multiple fulfillments, usually dual fulfillments, i.e., a partial fulfillment in a time near the prophet and a more complete fulfillment in the far, distant future.
The context often reveals if a fulfilled prophecy has a more complete fulfillment yet to be accomplished. Careful analysis and interpretation are required.
With regard to Messianic prophecies, the apostle Peter claims that the scriptural prophets themselves “made careful search and inquiry, seeking to know what person or time the Spirit of God’s anointed one within them was indicating as He predicted the sufferings of God’s anointed one and the glories to follow” (1 Peter 1.10-11). Unfulfilled prophecies are the most difficult portions of the Bible to interpret.
Even if the above principles are followed, there will be differences of interpretation among the best of teachers on the prophetic scriptures. In addition, the student will be well guided in attempting to distinguish between those biblical prophecies whose interpretations are more clearly discernible and those which remain obscure. Students ought to seek to be tentative with their opinions regarding the latter
History of Prophetic Interpretations
We know the church was predominantly pre-millennial in belief during the first three centuries. Later, Roman Catholic and most Protestant scholars dismissed the literal interpretation of OT prophecies indicating Israel’s future triumph. Instead, they interpreted these allegorically as signifying the church’s general victory over evil.
Literal Method of Interpreting Prophecy
In contrast to Roman Catholic and Protestant scholars, pre-millennialists have always agreed with past eminent Jewish commentators on many points of prophecy, especially the re-emergence of a literal nation of Israel in its former homeland before Messiah’s coming in glory. The mid-20th century establishment of the State of Israel proved this “theory” correct.
Here is solid evidence that pre-millennialists, and often Orthodox Jews, are more reliable interpreters of OT prophecies regarding Israel. Thus, it is best to interpret prophecy literally, according to the historical-grammatical method of interpretation. Unless clear evidence indicates otherwise, names of historical persons, tribes, nations, cities and other geographical locations, along with numbers, do not constitute symbols but are to be understood literally.
The interpreter of biblical prophecy is wise to consider how prophecy has been quite literally fulfilled in the past. The following are some examples:
1. It was foretold that the kingdom of Israel would be divided in two. One division would consist of two tribes (1 Kings 11.11-13) and the other division of ten tribes (vv. 29-31).
2. Judah was prophesied to go into captivity in Babylon for 70 years (Jeremiah 25.11; Daniel 9.2; 2 Chronicles 36.21; Ezra 1.1).
3. Moses predicted the Diaspora, in which, because of their sins, God would remove the Jews from their land and scatter them throughout the nations of the world (Deuteronomy 4.26-27; 28.64; 30.1).
4. Hosea foresaw the Diaspora, predicting that “the sons of Israel will remain for many days without king or prince, without sacrifice or sacred pillar, and without ephod or household idols” (Hosea 3.4).
5. Ezekiel envisioned modern Israel when he predicted that “in the latter years” many Jews would return from the Diaspora to the land of Israel, “which had been a continual waste” (Ezekiel 38.8).
6. The NT interprets many OT Messianic prophecies as being literally fulfilled in Jesus: He was born in Bethlehem (Micah 5.2), rode into Jerusalem on a donkey (Zechariah 9.9), was rejected by the Jews (Isaiah 53.3), was sold for 30 pieces of silver, with which they bought the potter’s field (Zechariah 11.12-13), died by crucifixion with casting of lots for His clothing (Psalm 22.14-18; Zechariah 12.10) and rose from the grave (Psalm 16.10).
7. In A.D. 30 Jesus predicted that Jerusalem and its temple would be destroyed within a generation. It happened in A.D. 70, exactly one generation later.
The list could go on. The evidence is overwhelming that most prophecy is to be understood literally.
Introduction to Isaiah 11
The prophet Isaiah predicted more about the promised Messiah and His kingdom than any of the other writing Hebrew prophets. Most of his writings concern the time when Messiah will come to deliver Israel, destroy its enemies and establish His worldwide kingdom on earth, with its center at Jerusalem.
The eleventh chapter of Isaiah is one of the primary Messianic passages in the Hebrew Bible (OT). The majority of Jewish commentators regard its entire contents as Messianic. The chapter concerns Messiah’s deliverance of Israel and the establishment of His kingdom. In Isaiah 11.14 the prophet Isaiah provides the clearest indication in Scripture that at the time of the coming of the conquering Messiah, an adversary of Israel will exist in the southwestern coastal plain of Palestine. This adversary is called “the Philistines.” Most commentators, however, interpret the passage figuratively and/or regard it as already completely fulfilled in history. Thus, they neglect the prospect that a people whom the prophet called the Philistines (Palestinians) might yet be re-established in “the land of the Philistines.”
It must first be established, however, that the context of Isaiah 11:14 concerns the yet future Messianic destruction of Israel’s neighbors, the Philistines (Palestinians) and the Jordanians.
1 Then a shoot will spring from the stem of Jesse, and a branch from his roots will bear fruit.
2 And the Spirit of Yahweh will rest on Him, the spirit of wisdom and understanding, the spirit of counsel and strength, the spirit of knowledge and the fear of Yahweh.
3 And He will delight in the fear of Yahweh, and He will not judge by what His eyes see, nor make a decision by what His ears hear;
4 But with righteousness He will judge the poor, and decide with fairness for the afflicted of the earth; and He will strike the earth with the rod of His mouth, and with the breath of His lips He will slay the wicked.
5 Also, righteousness will be the belt about His loins, and faithfulness the belt about His waist.
6 And the wolf will dwell with the lamb, and the leopard will lie down with the kid, and the calf and the young lion and the fatling together; and a little boy will lead them.
7 Also the cow and the bear will graze; their young will lie down together; and the lion will eat straw like the ox.
8 And the nursing child will play by the hole of the cobra, and the weaned child will put his hand on the viper’s den.
9 They will not hurt or destroy in all my holy mountain, for the earth will be full of the knowledge of Yahweh as the waters cover the sea.
10 Then it will come about in that day that the nations will resort to the root of Jesse, who will stand as a signal for the peoples; and His resting place will be glorious.
11 Then it will happen on that day that Yahweh will again recover the second time with His hand the remnant of His people, who will remain from Assyria, Egypt, Pathros, Cush, Elam, Shinar, Hamath, and from the islands of the sea.
12 And He will lift up a standard for the nations, and will assemble the banished ones of Israel, and will gather the dispersed of Judah from the four corners of the earth.
13 Then the jealousy of Ephraim will depart, and those who harass Judah will be cut off; Ephraim will not be jealous of Judah, and Judah will not harass Ephraim.
14 And they will swoop down on the slopes of the Philistines on the west; together they will plunder the sons of the east; they will possess Edom and Moab; and the sons of Ammon will be subject to them.
15 And Yahweh will utterly destroy the tongue of the Sea of Egypt; and He will waive His hand over the River with His scorching wind; and He will strike it into seven streams, and make men walk over dry-shod.
16 And there will be a highway from Assyria for the remnant of His people who will be left, just as there was for Israel in the day that they came up out of the land of Egypt (emphasis added).
Israel’s Promised Messiah
Isaiah begins his chapter eleven by announcing that “a shoot will spring from the stem of Jesse.” Jesse was King David’s father. Jewish and Christian commentators unanimously concur that this phrase identifies the Messiah’s physical line of descent. The Hebrew prophets frequently predicted that Messiah would descend from the tribe of Judah, the tribe to which Jesse and David belonged, and that he would sit on David’s throne as King of Israel. That is why he was called “the son of David.”
Next, Isaiah describes how “the Spirit of Yahweh will rest on him” (v. 2). This suggests that either there would be a greater measure of the Spirit on Messiah than on anyone before (cf. Colossians 1.19: “fullness”) or that the Spirit would rest on Him permanently, or both. Jesus identified himself as the one whom Isaiah here presents (Luke 4.17-21; cf. Isaiah 61.1-2). (See also Isaiah 42.1; cf. Matthew 12.18.)
It could only be the Messiah that is in view here. In the remainder of our consideration of Isaiah 11, our purpose will be to discover the time to which the prophet refers. Upon establishing this context, we will then be able to see clearly the time of fulfillment of the reference to the Philistines in v. 14, the ultimate focus of this presentation.
Messiah and His Glorious Kingdom
In vv. 3-4 Isaiah reveals that Messiah will judge the poor with fairness and will destroy the wicked. Following the Messianic destruction depicted in v. 4 (“He will strike the earth . . . and . . . slay the wicked”), the prophet pens one of the most beautiful and beloved passages in all of Scripture. It describes peace on earth among the animals and implies the same among men (cf. vv. 6-9 with 9.6-7). Such universal peace and knowledge of Yahweh can only identify the future Messianic (millennial) kingdom (cf. 2.2-4). For Christian believers, this means the second coming of Jesus God’s anointed one.
Isaiah writes in v. 10 a pivotal phrase which identifies the time period prophesied. The words, “Then it will come about in that day,” refer both to the time when Messiah initially comes to judge (v. 4) and when Edenic conditions are restored to earth (vv. 6-9). Consequently, “that day” cannot be reckoned as a twenty-four-hour period of time. “That day,” like the phrase “the day of the Lord,” translates technical words frequently used by the Hebrew prophets. It can refer to any period of judgment by Yahweh. But it usually identifies that final “day of Yahweh” when Messiah comes in his kingdom and apparently includes the time period of his subsequent reign. Herein, that final day of Yahweh is distinguished by capitalizing it, e.g., “the Day,” “the Day of the Lord,” or “the Day of Yahweh.”
Final Return of Jews to Eretz Israel
Isaiah reveals that the nations will come to worship Messiah, who will sit on His glorious throne (v. 10). At the same time, Yahweh will gather the surviving Jews “the second time” to the land of Israel (vv. 11-12). This second ingathering points to God’s re-gathering of the Jews at the coming of Messiah to deliver Israel. So far, God has taken the Jews to Palestine twice: at the initial conquest following the exodus and at their return from the Babylonian exile. But God has only ’’recovered” (v. 7) the Jews to their land once: the return from Babylon in 537 B.C. God’s second promised re-gathering awaits the coming of Messiah in power and great glory.
Some more liberal commentators interpret that Isaiah’s re-gathering in v. 11 does not refer to the Messianic age but only the post-exilic return. This passage shows three evidences against this view:
1. This re-gathering will occur “on that day,” i.e., the final Day. Only then will all the conditions in vv. 3-10 transpire, including universal justice and peace.
2. This re-gathering is not from one particular region, as was the return from Babylonia. Instead, Isaiah names many other lands from which Jews will return (v. 11), as well as “the four corners of the earth” (v. 12). This expression, which denotes the earth’s four continental land masses with Israel as the center, indicates a worldwide re-gathering.
3. This re-gathering is not partial. The return from Babylonia consisted of only a minority of Jews from the tribe of Judah. In contrast, this final re-gathering includes both divisions of the kingdom: Israel (Ephraim) and Judah (vv. 12-13).
In addition, Isaiah repeats these two themes; the complete recovery of the Diaspora and the conversion of the Gentile nations within a Messianic kingdom context (e.g., 2.2-3; 27.13). He even relates these events to each other, showing that the Gentile nations will come to Jerusalem to worship Yahweh, bringing the dispersed Jews with them (42.2; 43.5-6; 49.22-23; 60.4, 9; 66.20). Such a dramatic event can occur only in the Messianic kingdom. Isaiah next reveals in v. 13 that following this re-gathering of the Jews, “Ephraim will not be jealous of Judah, and Judah will not harass Ephraim.” Ephraim was one of the two sons of Joseph. His tribe later became the most powerful of the ten tribes of the northern kingdom. Following the monarchy, either “Ephraim” or “Israel” was frequently used to identify the northern kingdom. “Judah” stood for the southern kingdom, which consisted of the tribes of Judah and Benjamin. Will the distinction and perhaps some of the strife that existed between the two divisions of ancient Israel someday recur in Israel (cf. Ezekiel 37.15-28)?
Isaiah adds that at this time “those who harass Judah will be cut off.” This apparently refers to the defeat of the nations at the end of the age, when they gather to destroy Judah and Jerusalem (Isaiah 29.7-8; Joel 3.2, 12; Zechariah 12.2-9; 14.2).
Thus, throughout vv. 3-13 Isaiah prophesies of a time that can only be understood as the coming of Messiah at the end of this age to destroy the wicked, to gather dispersed Jews worldwide and to unite them in a glorious kingdom of peace on earth.
For a moment, let us skip the focus of our study, v. 14, and consider the time depicted in the remaining verses of Isaiah 11.
In v. 15 the prophet reveals that Yahweh will destroy the “tongue of the Sea of Egypt,” probably the Gulf of Suez but maybe the Suez Canal. About the same time, God will strike the Euphrates River with a scorching wind. Seven shallow streams will remain, enabling men to cross over dry shod. These acts are reminiscent of Yahweh’s parting of the waters of the Red Sea. The purpose of these wonders is either to provide Israel with a route of attack on its southern and northern neighbors (cf. 27.12) or to make a passage for the Jews of the Diaspora to return to Israel, or perhaps both. There is no evidence in Israel’s history that anything like this has ever happened to these waters. Surely this prophecy refers to no other time than the coming of Messiah in victory.
In v. 16 Isaiah indicates that some Jews of the Diaspora will return via an elevated highway extending from Assyria to Israel. This, too, can only be fulfilled during the millennial kingdom (cf. 19.23; 35.8; 40.3; 62.10).
Many contemporary writers rightly regard Isaiah 12 as a hymn of thanksgiving which anticipates the Messianic age, the ultimate time of thanksgiving, comfort and joy.
To sum up, except for v. 14, it has been established that Isaiah 11.3 - 12.6 pertains exclusively to the coming of Messiah to deliver Israel from its enemies and establish the promised kingdom.
Because of this context, Isaiah 11.14 can refer to no other time than the Messianic age.
Messianic Destruction of Philistia and Jordan
Now we turn to Isaiah 11.14, which reads, “And they will swoop down on the slopes of the Philistines on the west; together they will plunder the sons of the east; they will possess Edom and Moab; and the sons of Ammon will be subject to them.” The Hebrew word translated “swoop” is usually used to depict a bird of prey swooping down upon its victim. (See Habakkuk 1.8.)
The Hebrew word rendered “slopes” is literally “shoulder.” It signifies the sloping Shephelah (“lowland”), which connects the elevated Judean hill country with the relatively flat, Philistine coastal plain.
In v. 14 Isaiah continues with his previous theme, that of Ephraim and Judah being united. Together, these Israelites will make a surprise attack on a people dwelling on their west. Like a bird of prey, they will swoop down upon the shoulder (Shephelah) of their victim. They presumably continue their assault upon the inhabitants of the coastal plain. This is implied in the remainder of the verse, in which the Israelis are seen plundering and subjugating their eastern adversary. These eastern ancient place names of Edom, Moab and Ammon comprise modern western Jordan. It must be concluded that the Israelis would not attack those dwelling to the west if they themselves possessed that territory.
Notice! The language of Isaiah 11.14 therefore requires that Israel will not possess the ancient land of the Philistines in the last days preceding the Messianic kingdom.
Isaiah does not specifically identify Israel’s western enemy in Isaiah 11.14. Yet the language, “slopes of the Philistines,” implies that the Philistines (Palestinians) will then possess the coastal plain and perhaps part of the Shephelah. (See, however, remarks on Obadiah 19 in Chapter 13.)
Thus, according to Isaiah 11.14, the Philistines will become re-established on the southwestern coastal plain of Palestine.
This requires that Israel will someday release the Gaza Strip, either voluntarily or involuntarily, as well as adjacent land eastward and northward.
Synthesis of the Last Days
A synthesis of the Hebrew prophecies concerning the last days provides the following scenario:
1. At the end of this age the nations’ armies will converge on Israel to annihilate it (Isaiah 29.7; Ezekiel 38-39; Joel 3.2, 12; Micah 4.11—5.1; Zechariah 12.3, 9; 14.2).
2. A Jewish remnant will gather at the temple in Jerusalem to repent of their sins and pray to God for deliverance (2 Chronicles 6.24-25; Joel 2.12-17).
3. Messiah will come in glory to deliver the surviving remnant in Jerusalem and throughout all of Israel (Isaiah 59.19- 20; Zechariah 9.14-16; 14.3-5).
4. Physically strengthened and united, these Israelites will join Messiah in destroying the nations’ armies in their land (Isaiah 11.13; 41.11-16; Micah 5.7-9; Zechariah 9.13-15; 10.3-7; 12.6-8; 14.14).
5. The Israelites will expand their conquest by destroying neighboring nations (Isaiah 11.14; 19.16; 34.5-6; 63.1; Zephaniah 2.4- 5).
6. Gentiles who survive a worldwide earthquake, fire and other calamities attending the Day of Yahweh will bring all remaining Jews of the Diaspora to Israel. There they will bow down and worship Yahweh and His Messiah (Isaiah 14.2; 49.22- 23; 60.3-4).
7. The earth’s curse will be removed and the earth will be restored to pre-Fall, Edenic conditions (Isaiah 35; 65.17-25). 8. Israel will be glorified as head of the nations and a blessing to all Gentiles (Deuteronomy 28.13; Zechariah 8.13).
Note: In Isaiah 11:14 Isaiah returns to the theme he first presented in v. 4, showing that the Israelites will accompany Messiah in defeating the nations’ armies gathered against Jerusalem and Judea (Zechariah 10.3-7; 12.3-9; 14.3-4; Joel 3.2, 12) and afterwards in destroying their surrounding neighbors. Throughout vv. 3-16, however, Isaiah remains within the timeframe of “that day,” i.e., the Day of Yahweh.
Reestablishment of Philistia
Like the Jews, many pre-millennial commentators have not only interpreted from the Bible that Israel will be re-established before the triumphant coming of Messiah, but that Israel’s ancient neighbors will re-emerge as well.
Premillennialist William Kelley was the close associate of J.N. Darby, the “father of dispensationalist.” In 1871 Kelley expounded on Isaiah 11.14, maintaining that Israel’s neighbors in antiquity would in the future become re-established in their respective lands:
As for [Israel’s] plotting neighbors, they may reappear. . . . It is a favourite infidel argument against the literal accomplishment . . . that the people mentioned in verse 14 have disappeared from the stage of history, and therefore that neither the restoration of Israel nor the events growing out of it can be so understood. But this is sheer unbelief of the power of God and of the reliability of scripture. The God Who will bring His hidden ones of Ephraim out of the darkness that still veils them will disclose the descendants of their old adversaries in due time, and among these of their neighbours (emphasis added).
Thus, Kelley foresaw the re-establishment of Israel, Jordan and Philistia. This successor to the father of dispensationalist cannot therefore be regarded as a Christian Zionist, as are some dispensationalists today.
After affirming that Isaiah 11.4 refers to God’s anointed one’s coming in judgment, premillennialist W.E. Vine (author of Vine’s Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words) claims that “the rest of this chapter depicts millennial conditions.” Concerning vv. 14-15, he explains that the Jews “will subdue surrounding foes.”
E.H. Plumptre provides a summary of the entire chapter as it relates to v. 14:
The seer has had revealed to him the glory of the Messianic kingdom as a restored Eden, full of the knowledge of Yahweh, the Gentiles seeking light and salvation from it. Suddenly, he blends this with anticipations that belong to the feelings and complications of his own time. He sees Philistines, Moabites, Ammonites, in that far future. They will be then as they were in his own times, the persistent foes of Israel (compare Zephaniah 2:7-9), but will be, at last, subdued.
In more recent times, J. Barton Payne has authored the most useful English resource for prophetic students. In his Encyclopedia of Biblical Prophecy (1973), Payne interprets Isaiah 11.14 literally, that at the second coming of God’s anointed one, “Israel will despoil the territories of Philistia, Edom, Moab . . . and Ammon.”
Thus, these men had not only foreseen from Scripture that Israel would become a nation again, but that Philistia would as well. It must be concluded from Isaiah 11:14 that the ancient land of Philistia will in the future become re-established. What else can it be but the Palestinian state?
“All the regions of Philistia. . . . I will return your recompense on your head” (Joel 3.4).
The Hebrew prophet Joel wrote about that grand theme of Holy Scripture; “the day of the Lord,” or “the day of Yahweh.” In that final Day, Yahweh will manifest His awesome power by destroying the nations that come against Israel and consummating His plan not only for Israel, but for all mankind.
In Joel 3 the prophet implies that Philistia will exist as a separate entity from Israel at the end of this age. As in Isaiah 11, this can only be determined by analyzing the context.
Joel begins his little book by depicting an unprecedented invasion of locusts (grasshoppers) over the land of Israel (1.4). To this pestilence are added drought, fire and famine. The prophet exhorts Israel to follow King Solomon’s instruction to assemble at the temple during such times of distress and pray to Yahweh for deliverance (1.13-14; cf. 1 Kings 8.23-61). Joel himself interprets this invasion of insects as a harbinger of a future military invasion of the land of Israel. “A great and mighty people” will attack Israel from the north (2.2, 20) as divine punishment for Israel’s sins.
To what army and time does the prophet refer? If the book of Joel was written before King Hezekiah’s time, as conservative scholars generally believe, part of Joel 2 was no doubt fulfilled by Assyrian King Sennacherib’s assault on Judah in 701 B.C. (2 Kings 18-19). Because good King Hezekiah prayed at the temple, Jerusalem was delivered when “the angel of Yahweh” destroyed 185,000 Assyrian troops. Yet some parts of Joel 2 can refer only to that future invasion of the land of Israel by all the nations’ armies at the end of the Tribulation, as depicted in Joel 3. For instance, after the invasion from the north (2.1-9), the gathering of the Israelites at the temple to repent (vv. 12-17) and the removal of the enemy (v. 20), God says:
19 . . . I will never again make you a reproach among the nations.
26 . . . Then My people will never be put to shame.
27 . . . And My people will never be put to shame.
When will God remove forever the reproach of the Jews? It will not be until the coming of the Messianic kingdom (Isaiah 25.8).
Thereafter, Jews will never be put to shame (Isaiah 45.17; Ezekiel 39.26).
Joel 2.1-27 must therefore be presenting a dual prophecy which, in addition to predicting the Assyrian invasion, anticipates the future Messianic deliverance.
Note: Tribulation often refers in Scripture to Satan-inflicted persecution of God’s people. The term, “the Tribulation,” appears herein to distinguish it from all previous periods of tribulation, which have been less severe and/or less widespread. That is why it is called in the NT, “the great tribulation” (Matthew 24.15; Revelation 7.14). In the OT the same period is called “the time of Jacob’s distress” (Jeremiah 30.7; cf. Daniel 12.1). The Tribulation lasts three and a half years. It begins with an act in the rebuilt temple in Jerusalem, when the regular sacrifice is removed and replaced by “the abomination of desolation.” The Tribulation ends at the coming of Messiah in glory (Daniel 9.27; 11.31-33; 12.11; Matthew 24.15).
Outpouring of the Spirit and Heavenly Signs
Joel 2.28-32 is further evidence that all of Joel 2 refers to the latter days, as the following verses attest:
28 And it will come about after this that I will pour out My Spirit on all mankind.
31 The sun will be turned into darkness and the moon into blood.
The Spirit of God has never been poured out on all mankind. This will not happen until the Messianic kingdom comes. The words “after this,” in Joel 2.28, indicate that the outpouring will occur just after the time previously described, when the invading army will have been removed (v. 20).
The prophet Joel is increasingly concerned with the subject of the last days, especially the Day of Yahweh. The same events recorded in Joel 2.10-11 and 30-32 are further delineated in Joel 3 in a context which indisputably concerns that final Day (3.14). While Joel 2.1-27 seems to continue the theme presented in the previous chapter; the invasion of locusts; the language appears figurative, pointing to an invasion of the nations in the last days. Indeed, an invasion of Israel by its enemies is definitely the theme of Joel 3.4
Cataclysmic disturbances in the sun and moon in Joel 2.10 and 30-31 are mentioned again in Joel 3.15 (cf. Isaiah 13.9-10; Matthew 24.29; Revelation 6.12). These astronomical signs have never yet occurred. In that Day, Yahweh will utter His voice before His army (2.11; cf. Isaiah 42.13; 1 Thessalonians 4.16) from Mount Zion in Jerusalem (3.16). Those who call upon Yahweh will be delivered and escape the final onslaught (2.32). They are the same ones who find refuge in Him in Joel 3.16.
1 “For behold, in those days and at that time, when I restore the fortunes of Judah and Jerusalem,
2 I will gather all the nations and bring them down to the valley of Jehoshaphat. Then I will enter into judgment with them there on behalf of my people and my inheritance, Israel, whom they have scattered among the nations; and they have divided up my land.
3 They have also cast lots for my people, traded a boy for a harlot, and sold a girl for wine that they may drink.
4 Moreover, what are you to Me, O Tyre, Sidon, and all the regions of Philistia? Are you rendering me a recompense? But if you do recompense me, swiftly and speedily I will return your recompense on your head.
5 Since you have taken my silver and my gold, brought My precious treasures to your temples,
6 and sold the sons of Judah and Jerusalem to the Greeks in order to remove them far from their territory,
7 behold, I am going to arouse them from the place where you have sold them, and return your recompense on your head.
8 Also I will sell your sons and your daughters into the hand of the sons of Judah, and they will sell them to the Sabeans, to a distant nation,” for Yahweh has spoken (Joel 3.1-8; emphasis added).
Valley of Jehoshaphat
The words in Joel 3.1, “in those days and at that time,” refer to the time period last referred to in Joel 2. It is the time immediately preceding and including the “day of the Lord.” Joel maintains that God will draw all the nations’ armies to the land of Israel. Their purpose will be to exterminate all the Jews (Joel 3.2; cf. Isaiah 29.7; 34.2; Zechariah 12.3; 14.2). Instead, God will gather them into the “valley of Jehoshaphat” (meaning “Yahweh judges;” 3.2, 12). There, Yahweh will destroy the nations for assaulting Israel, dividing its land and selling Jews into slavery (3.2-3, 12).
Since the 4th century A.D., the Valley of Jehoshaphat has been identified as the Kidron Valley, located just outside Jerusalem on the east, between the temple grounds and the Mount of Olives. It is called a “winepress” or “wine trough” in the Bible because this is where Messiah will trample the nations’ armies as men trample grapes in a winepress (Joel 3.13; Isa 63.1-6; Rev 14.18-20; 19.15).
Gentile nations have a long history of possessing and dividing Yahweh’s land. Although God has used the nations in disciplining Israel, He will nevertheless hold them responsible for what they have done to His people. On account of the crimes mentioned by Joel, Yahweh says to Tyre, Sidon and Philistia, “I will return your recompense on your head” (3.4, 7).
With this mention of Philistia we have arrived at the critical passage relating to our theme.
Future of Tyre, Sidon and Philistia
Most biblical commentators regard Joel 3.4-8 as having been fulfilled in Israel’s past, with no future fulfillment remaining, yet they admit that the surrounding context clearly concerns the last days. There has probably been some fulfillment of Joel 3.4-8 in Israel’s history, though most evidence offered for it is weak. The following reasons
suggest that Joel 3.4-8 also awaits a future fulfillment:
1. Tyre, Sidon and Philistia seem to be included among the nations which attack Israel in the last days. Tyre and Sidon were the foremost cities of the Phoenicians. The Phoenicians and Philistines were infamous slave traders in antiquity. The word “They,” which begins v. 3, suggests that many of the nations to be gathered into the valley, not just Phoenicia and Philistia, sold and scattered the Jews and divided their land. History affirms this. The word “They” also seems to disallow severing vv. 4-8 from the context of the last days and restricting these verses to a past fulfillment.7 A.C. Gaebelein, while admitting a possible past fulfillment of vv. 4-8, remarks on vv. 7-8, “But the words must also have their final fulfillment when the nations are in the valley of Jehoshaphat.”8
2. It is doubtful that the prophet would interrupt the flow of this important prophetic chapter, which otherwise describes exclusively the last days, with vv. 4-8 if they refer only to events long past.
For those who would argue that the Philistines will not exist in the last days, v. 4 only specifies “all the regions of Philistia,” i.e., the geographic area, and does not identify the Philistines themselves.
Note that the future Philistia will encompass all of its former territory, not just the Gaza Strip. Here is evidence that Egypt will relinquish its northeastern corner of the Sinai, between the Gaza Strip and the Wadi el Arish.
Following the depiction of the Messianic destruction, God’s retribution on Tyre, Sidon and Philistia is described. The Philistines and others took God’s silver and gold from Jerusalem (Joel 3.5; cf. 2 Chronicles 21.16-17; 36.10). Now they will honor the Jews with gifts of silver, gold and other wealth (Isaiah 60.6, 9, 11, 17). With these, the fourth (millennial) temple will be built (Zechariah 6.12-15; cf. Isaiah 60.10), just as the tabernacle in the wilderness was constructed with gold from Egypt (Exodus 12.35-36; 30.12-16).
Joel 3.4-8 is no doubt the most difficult Philistia passage to fit into a yet future scenario. Yet it is certain that it cannot refer to the Babylonian exile because of v. 6, which portrays Jews being sold as slaves to the Greeks.
Because of their selling Jews as slaves, God says to Tyre, Sidon and Philistia, “I will sell your sons and your daughters into the hand of the sons of Judah, and they will sell them to the Sabeans” (v. 8). Selling slaves at the beginning of the Messianic kingdom may seem preposterous, but a characteristic of Messiah’s government is justice. As the nations did to Israel, so at this time will Israel do to the nations (Obadiah 15).
Isaiah provides further insight into how this justice will be meted out during the Messianic kingdom. Like Joel, he foresees the Jews enslaving some Gentiles. Gentiles will gather the remaining Jews of the Diaspora, “take them along and bring them to their place, and the house of Israel will possess them [those Gentiles] as an inheritance in the land of Yahweh as male servants and female servants; and they [the Jews] will take their captors captive, and will rule over their oppressors” (Isaiah 14.1-2; cf. 49.22-23).
This prophecy by Isaiah can be fulfilled only in the Messianic kingdom. It was not fulfilled by the returning exiles from Babylonia. The Persian forces that escorted the Jewish exiles from Babylon to their former homeland did not include women. Neither did the Persians remain to become the Jews’ servants (Ezra 8.22; Nehemiah 2.9). The returning exiles never took their captors; the Babylonians; captive nor ruled over them.
Moreover, this prophecy by Isaiah refers to a time when Yahweh’s hand will be stretched out against all the nations and a king of Assyria will be trampled on the mountains of Israel (Isaiah 14.25-26). This cannot refer to any other time than the Day of Yahweh. That is when He will destroy the Antichrist, an Assyrian (Isaiah 10.12, 24; 14.25; Micah 5.5-6), by the hand of God’s anointed one.
It is conceivable that God will bring this retribution of Joel 3 on the inhabitants of Tyre, Sidon and Philistia on day of Lord - Yahweh, which immediately follows the Messiah’s return. Perhaps it is then when the Israelis will sell some of their former enemies to the Sabeans, who were ancient traders. The Sabeans were inhabitants of Sheba, located on the southwestern coast of the Arabian Peninsula in present South Yemen. Maybe the Sabeans will be spared enslavement because they will not participate with the nations in the final attack on Israel (Ezekiel 38.13).
The prophet Zephaniah writes of a time when all the nations will bow down to Yahweh (Zephaniah 2.11). This can only refer to the time of the Messianic kingdom. Just before this, the prophet relates concerning Israel’s neighboring foes, Moab and Ammon, “The remnant of my people will plunder them, and the remainder of my nation will inherit them” (2.9). Thus, the Messianic victory will result in Israel’s acquiring some citizens of both Philistia and present western Jordan as their servants.
Yet God is not only just, but merciful. Assuming that the Mosaic civil law prevails throughout the Messianic kingdom, perhaps these Philistine servants and others will be loosed in the 50th year, the Year of Jubilee (Leviticus 25.10). That is when all slaves were freed under the Levitical law.
In Israel’s early history no people “divided up” Israel’s territory by possessing it more than did the Philistines. The implication of Joel 3.2-8 is that, in turn, God will give the land of the Philistines to Israel as a portion of the Promised Land. Indeed He will which is a subject which the prophet Zephaniah addresses.
ANNEXATION OF PHILISTIA TO JUDEA
“And the coast will be for the remnant of the house of Judah” (Zephaniah 2.7).
Like Joel, Zephaniah is a prophet of the “day of the Lord.” The two books are similar and should be compared. Because of its indefiniteness, however, the small book of Zephaniah has been regarded as one of the most difficult prophetic books in the Bible to interpret.1 Zephaniah provides a sweeping general summary of the future.
Notice some material in the first two chapters of Zephaniah directly corresponds to Zephaniah 3.8-20, as well as end time material in other prophetic books. This suggests that much of Zephaniah’s book concerns the last days as well.
Our interest in Zephaniah centers on the prophet’s mention of the Philistines in Zephaniah 2.4-7. What time is the prophet writing about? An analysis of the preceding verses is necessary in order to grasp the context of Zephaniah 2.4-7.
In the first chapter of Zephaniah, the prophet describes in vv. 2-3 and 14-18 a worldwide destruction. If understood literally, these events can only describe the end of the world, on the eschatological Day of the Lord. Note the following examples from Zephaniah, with direct parallels to other end time passages added in brackets:
2 I will completely remove all things from the face of the earth. [Cf. Isaiah 24.3.]
3 I will remove man and beast; I will remove the birds of the sky and the fish of the sea, . . . and I will cut off man from the face of the earth. [Cf. Isaiah 24.6b.]
14 Near is the great day of the Lord, near and coming very quickly. . . .
18 And all the earth will be devoured in the fire of His jealousy, for He will make a complete end, indeed a terrifying one, of all
the inhabitants of the earth. [Cf. Zephaniah 3.8; Micah 7.13.]
Zephaniah 1.4-13 portrays God judging sinful Judah and Jerusalem. These verses have no doubt had some remarkable literal fulfillment in the assaults on Jerusalem by Babylon’s King Nebuchadnezzar and Rome’s General Titus. Nevertheless, because vv. 2-3 and 14-18, were not fulfilled during those times, Zephaniah 1 must await a final and complete fulfillment in the end time.
The Great Day of the Lord
In Zephaniah 1.14 the prophet adds a qualifying word to the expression, “the day of the Lord.” He specifies “the great day of the Lord.” Like “the great tribulation,” “the great day of Yahweh” distinguishes it from any previous “day of the Lord.” On all of those days Yahweh exercised His power in judgment, yet always with restraint. In contrast, on “the great day,” the Almighty will pour out all, of His wrath without holding back. It must be concluded that that great day will be “near,” as Zephaniah says in v. 14, when Judah and Jerusalem will be assaulted by the nations at the end of the age.
Israel’s Call to Repent
When the nations attack Jerusalem, Zephaniah exhorts sinful Israel to gather at the temple, humble itself and repent (cf. Joel 2.12-17). If the Israelites do this, they may escape the onslaught and be hidden in the day of the Lord’s anger (cf. Joel 2.32; Zechariah 14.5).
1 Gather yourselves, together, yes, gather, O nation without shame,
2 Before the decree takes effect; the day passes like the chaff; before the burning anger of Yahweh comes upon you, before the day of Yahweh’s anger comes upon you.
3 Seek Yahweh, all you humble of the earth who have carried out His ordinances; seek righteousness, seek humility. Perhaps you will be hidden in the day of Yahweh’s anger.
Zephaniah 2.1-3 cannot apply to the Babylonian conquest in the 6th century B.C. Despite the greatest reforms in Israel’s history under King Josiah, which occurred immediately beforehand, God said he would still remove the Southern Kingdom as He had the Northern Kingdom (2 Kings 23.25-27). Long before the Babylonian advance, God’s decree of judgment on those Judeans was irrevocable. Zephaniah’s call to repentance here clearly refers to the time of Israel’s destruction at the end of the yet future Tribulation.
Neither was Zephaniah 2.1-3 fulfilled by the Romans’ destruction of Jerusalem in A.D. 70. All of those Jews closed up inside became victims of the siege and final onslaught. Many erroneously thought they could “be hidden in the day of Yahweh’s anger” (v. 3). Josephus witnessed it all. He reports that Jerusalem’s citizens hid themselves “in the caves and caverns underground; whither, . . . they did not expect to be searched for; but endeavoured that, after the whole city should be destroyed, and the Romans gone away, they might come out again, and escape from them. This was no better than a dream of theirs; for they were not able to lie hid either from God or from the Romans.”
How appropriate that God would choose Zephaniah to write about His hiding place on the Day of the Lord! Zephaniah means “Yahweh hides.” Sometimes God has a hiding place for the humble who seek Him. The final Day of the Lord is one of those times. This theme in Zephaniah 2.3 is repeated in 3.12, “I will leave among you a humble and lowly people, and they will take refuge in the name of Yahweh.” The context of this verse exclusively concerns the end-time. The repentant Jews will be hidden from the awesome wrath that Yahweh will pour out on the earth at the end of the Tribulation (cf. Zechariah 14.4-5).
With this context established, we now turn to the focus of our study.
4 For Gaza will be abandoned, and Ashkelon a desolation; Ashdod will be driven out at noon, and Ekron will be uprooted.
5 Woe to the inhabitants of the seacoast, the nation of the Cherethites! The word of Yahweh is against you, O Canaan, land of the Philistines; and I will destroy you, so that there will be no inhabitant.
6 So the seacoast will be pastures, with caves for shepherds and folds for flocks.
7 And the coast will be for the remnant of the house of Judah, they will pasture on it. In the houses of Ashkelon they will lie down at evening; for Yahweh their God will care for them and restore their fortune.
Messianic Destruction of Philistia
Following the predicted invasion of Judah and Jerusalem and the exhortation to repent, in Zephaniah 2.4-5 the prophet describes an invasion and destruction of Philistia on the Day of the Lord (cf. v. 2). Only four cities of the Philistine pent polis are mentioned. By Zephaniah’s time, Gath had declined (cf. 2 Chronicles 26.6). The Cherethites of v. 5 lived just south of the Philistines, on the coastal plain toward Egypt. As mentioned in Chapter 2, they are probably to be regarded as a branch of the Philistines.
As in Zephaniah 1, the destroying power is not specifically identified. Could it be the aforementioned Jews at Jerusalem, who will have escaped destruction on account of their repentance? Indeed, this becomes evident in the verses which follow, and it corresponds with other prophets.
In Zephaniah 2.4-15 it is not only the nation of Philistia that Yahweh will destroy, but also Moab and Ammon (present Jordan), Ethiopia and Assyria. These are Israel’s enemies according to the four directions of the compass.
Concerning the inhabitants of the land presently known as Jordan, Zephaniah proclaims: “The remnant of my people will plunder them, and the remainder of my nation will inherit them” (v. 9). It is therefore the Jews who will destroy Jordan. They are likely, then, the same power who will overtake Philistia. But could these predicted destructions of Philistia and Jordan have already been completely fulfilled in the Hasmonean era, under Alexander Jannaeus, and therefore require no further fulfillment? Not at all!
Following Jordan’s destruction, Zephaniah claims “all the coastlands of the nations will bow down to Him [Yahweh], everyone from his own place” (v. 11; cf. Isaiah 45.23; Romans 14.11; Philippians 2.10-11). This is unmistakably the universal worship of Yahweh during the Messianic kingdom. Therefore, all these judgments will most likely occur at the same end-time. H.A. Ironside regards all of Zephaniah 2 as a picture of the time of the end. Judah then will be much in the position she occupied in Zephaniah’s day; in the land, surrounded by enemies, a feeble remnant, crying “How long, O Lord?” the mass, apostate and swayed by Antichrist. . . . And their enemies who have glorified over their helplessness shall become the objects of [the Lord’s] avenging wrath, preparatory to the ushering in of the world-kingdom of our God and His anointed one Jesus.
Coastland for Judah
The Hebrew word chebel, which appears three times in vv. 5-7, is translated “seacoast” and “coast.” It means “a measuring cord,” and here it denotes a “country” or “region.”7 The district of the Philistines is intended, with its four cities bound together as one whole.8 Thus, prior to the Messianic destruction, the entire Philistine coastal plain will designate a region separate from Judea, a nation of the Philistines.
Verse 7, “the coast will be for the remnant of the house of Judah” implies that this region is not possessed by the Judeans immediately prior to the Day of Yahweh. Only after Philistia is conquered on that Day will it belong to the remnant of Judah forever.
This passage cannot be regarded as completely fulfilled during Israel’s past. Even during the Hasmonean occupation of most of the Plain of Philistia, the Jews never retained the enlarged district of Ashkelon.
Furthermore, Zechariah relates concerning the Jews, that “in the houses of Ashkelon they will lie down at evening” (v. 7). Israel’s physical security and financial blessing, indicated in v. 7, is so complete that it cannot pertain to either the post-exilic return or modern Israel, but only to the Messianic kingdom. The “lying down” is also mentioned in Zephaniah 3.13 in an exclusively Messianic context. Only at that time “Israel will do no wrong and tell no lies,” and there will be “no one to make them tremble.” Verse 7 is echoed at the end of Zephaniah: “I will give you renown and praise among all the peoples of the earth, when I restore your fortunes before your eyes” (3.20). The contexts of these verses, as well as their similarities to Zephaniah 2.7, suggest that Zephaniah 2.7, indeed, all of Zephaniah 2.1-7, awaits an end-time fulfillment.
Annexation of All the Promised Land
The prophet Isaiah prophesied concerning the annexation of the remaining Promised Land in the early days of the glorious Messianic kingdom:
26.1 In that day this song will be sung in the land of Judah:..
26.15 “Thou hast increased the nation, O Lord, Thou hast increased the nation, Thou art glorified;
Thou hast extended all the borders of the land.”
54.3 For you will spread abroad to the right and to the left. And your descendants will possess nations, and they will resettle the desolate cities (emphasis added).
The Messianic destruction will encompass the entire Promised Land; “The Lord will start His threshing from the flowing stream of the Euphrates to the brook of Egypt” (Isaiah 27.12; cf. 9.4-5).
The Messianic destruction will be immediately followed by the promised ingathering. He will “multiply the nation” (Isaiah 9.3), gathering all Jews remaining from the Diaspora (Isaiah 27.13). Upon their arrival they will say, “The place is too cramped for me; make room for me that I may live here” (Isaiah 49.20).
Then Yahweh will extend the borders of Israel to include all of the Promised Land (Micah 7.11). He will settle Jews east and north, in “the land of Gilead and Lebanon, until no room can be found for them” (Zechariah 10.10). They will “feed in Bashan and Gilead [present northwestern Jordan] as in days of old” (Micah 7.14), when the two and a half tribes lived east of the Jordan River. But Israel will not only annex territory to the east.
Isaiah says the Israelites will spread both right and left, meaning east and west (Isaiah 54.3). Although the entire western border of land which modern Israel now controls is the Mediterranean Sea, this cannot mean that the present return fulfills Isaiah 54.3. Isaiah 54 clearly portrays the Messianic kingdom. Only then will Israel no more feel humiliated or disgraced (v. 4), or will Israel’s sons be taught the Lord and be far from oppression and fear (vv. 13-14).
Israel cannot spread to the left if its western border is the Mediterranean Sea, as it is presently. Therefore, between now and the coming of the Messianic kingdom, a portion of the Mediterranean coast will be severed from the State of Israel, presumably to form the Palestinian state (Philistia).
Thus, when Messiah comes to establish His glorious kingdom, Israel will be extended in every direction. The following lands will be annexed: the Sinai in the south, western Jordan to the east, Lebanon and much of Syria in the north and Philistia on the west.
Zephaniah 2.4-7, combined with Isaiah 54.3 and 26.15, makes it certain that the State of Israel will not possess the Philistine Plain in the end-times preceding the Messianic kingdom. Yet Israel will thereafter be enlarged by Yahweh to include all of Philistia.
Psalms 60 and 108: Defeat of the Philistines
The book of Psalms was the Hebrews’ hymnal. It consisted of 150 poems set to music. King David composed many of them out of his own experiences. God sometimes spoke through David as He did through the prophets. Accordingly, some of these psalms go beyond David’s life to predict the sufferings and triumphs of Messiah.
A subtitle appended to Psalm 60 reveals that it was occasioned by the most notable victory in David’s military career. This battle against the Mesopotamians in Syria may prefigure Messiah’s “battle on the great day of God Almighty” (Revelation 16.14 NIV; cf. 19.11-21), known popularly as Armageddon.
Psalms 60.6-12 and 108.7-13 are almost identical. They celebrate military victories by the Jews over their neighbors. Verses from Psalm 60, also in Psalm 108.7-9, read as follows in the RSV:
2 Thou hast made the land to quake, thou hast rent it open; repair its breaches, for it totters.
6 God has spoken in his sanctuary: “With exultation I will divide up Shechem and portion out the Vale of Succoth.
7 Gilead is mine; Manasseh is mine; Ephraim is my helmet; Judah is my scepter.
8 Moab is my washbasin; upon Edom I cast my shoe; over Philistia I shout in triumph” (emphasis added).
Such victories by Israel over its neighbors have never occurred. In v. 8, “casting the shoe” is an idiom signifying possession. Israel will indeed conquer and possess Edom (southwestern Jordan) when the Messianic age begins (cf. Isaiah 34.5-17; 63.1; Joel 3.19; Obadiah 18-19). Likewise, shouting over Philistia indicates God’s victory, accomplished through a united Ephraim and Judah (vv. 7,9-12), over the inhabitants of the Plain of Philistia. And we have already seen that during the Messianic age, Israel will possess Gilead, Bashan, Ammon and Moab (northwestern and central western Jordan).
Psalm 60.2 identifies the time of this psalm. It pictures a great earthquake that causes huge cracks in the earth’s surface. This bears striking similarity to cataclysmic disturbances depicted in other apocalyptic scriptures (e.g., Isaiah 24.18-20; Revelation 6.12; 16.18). These suggest that Psalm 60 pertains to the end-time as well. In that case, Yahweh will accomplish these victories in vv. 6-8 by Messiah’s leading Israel in battle on the final Day of the Lord - Yahweh.
If Psalm 60 and 108 refer to Messianic victories, they indicate that Philistia will exist in the latter days as a country separate from Israel. As with the other conquered neighbors, it too will be annexed to Israel.
Obadiah 15-21: Israel Will Possess Philistia
Obadiah 15-21 depicts Yahweh’s judgment at the end of this age. Portions of this passage appear below.
15 For the day of the Lord draws near on all the nations.
16 Because just as you drank on My holy mountain, all the nations will drink and swallow, and become as if they had never existed.
17 But on Mount Zion there will be those who escape, and it will be holy. And the house of Jacob will possess their possessions.
19 Then those of the Negev will possess the mountain of Esau, and those of the Shephelah the Philistine plain; . . .
21 . . . And the kingdom will be Yahweh’s (emphasis added).
Near the end of the Tribulation, all the nations’ armies will gather at Armageddon to attack Israel (Revelation 16.16). What they won’t know is that God will be gathering them there and into the Kidron Valley to destroy them (Joel 3.14). Upon taking Jerusalem, the nations’ leaders will celebrate with a toast on Mount Zion (Obadiah 16). But the tide will turn. At the coming of Messiah in glory, Mount Zion will become the rallying place for Israelis who survive the nations’ slaughter. Following the Messianic destruction of the nations’ armies, Israelis will possess the spoil (Zechariah 14.1, 14; Ezekiel 39.10). Only then can it be said that Zion “will be holy” (Obadiah 17).
Obadiah 19-21 means that Israelis living in southern Israel (“those of the Negev”) will take possession of their neighbors’ lands to the east and west. Was this scripture fulfilled by the Hasmonean Kingdom in the early 1st century B.C.? That was certainly not a time in which it could be said, “Mount Zion . . . will be holy” or “the kingdom will be the Lord’s” (vv. 17, 21). Note that the Hasmonean King Alexander Jannaeus, who accomplished much land expansion, was a cruel and godless tyrant. Instead, this passage more aptly describes the Messianic era, as is generally maintained by Jewish commentators. It is only then will the kingdom of Israel truly belong to Yahweh. Even non-premillennialist C.F. Keil concludes concerning Obadiah, “the fulfillment of vv. 17-21 can only belong to the Messianic times . . . in a complete fulfillment at the second coming of our Lord.”
Obadiah 19: indicates that the Israelis will already possess both the Negev and the Shephelah near the end of the Tribulation, but not southwestern Jordan or the Philistine Plain. Messianic victories, however, will result in Israel’s annexing both of these territories as part of the Promised Land.
Turning to the present Israeli-Palestinian conflict, Obadiah 19 is the only biblical passage which expressly identifies the future border between Israel and the Palestinian state as the western edge of the Shephelah, their common border in ancient times.
Here is additional evidence that the land dispute between the Israelis and the Palestinians will be resolved according to historical precedent.
On the final Day of Yahweh, Messiah will come to lead the Israelis in conquering their enemies. Neighboring lands, including Philistia, will afterwards be annexed to Israel. Then all Jews will realize that neither they nor their forefathers could obtain the Promised Land by their own shrewdness and strength. Instead, the Jews will know that Yahweh, their Sovereign God, gives them all the land He promised, including the Plain of Philistia. But it will only happen according to His timing and plan, when they repent and turn to Him.
Note: The Philistine Plain will thus be annexed to Judea in the Messianic kingdom, and the Philistine (Palestinian) remnant will be incorporated into the Jewish population.
Being “like a clan in Judah,” they will enjoy a greater status than the alien or sojourner did in ancient Israel (e.g., Exodus 12.45; 20.11; Leviticus 25.35). Philistine (Palestinian) sons will be like native-born Jews in Israel.
The prophet Ezekiel claims that during the Messianic kingdom, aliens will receive an inheritance of land in Israel, just as the Jews will:
So you shall divide this land among yourselves according to the tribes of Israel. And it will come about that you shall divide it by lot for an inheritance among yourselves and among the aliens who stay in your midst, who bring forth sons in your midst. And they shall be to you as the native-born among the sons of Israel; they shall be allotted an inheritance with you among the tribes of Israel. And it will come about that in the tribe with which the alien stays, there you shall give him his inheritance (Ezekiel 47.21-23).
Thus, each surviving Palestinian family will be allotted its inheritance of land in expanded Eretz Israel. Palestinians will probably be allotted land in their homeland of Philistia. Thereafter, Yahweh will no longer permit Israelis to buy and keep Palestinian land, as they have done in the 20th century. Instead, every 50th year, during the Year of Jubilee, everything, including real estate, will revert to its original owner (Leviticus 25.10).
“I Will Camp Around My House”
Zechariah 9.8 offers overwhelming evidence that this prophecy regarding the Philistines has never been completely fulfilled in history. Nonetheless, Alexander’s activities remarkably fit this verse.
Josephus provides a fascinating account of Alexander the Great. When he was about to destroy Tyre, the Macedonian king sent messengers to Jerusalem requesting provisions for his army and promising reward. Yaddua, the honorable high priest, refused on account of his previous oath to Persian King Darius.
Alexander became enraged. He swore he would do to Jerusalem what he was about to do to Tyre and in this way teach all men to whom they ought to perform their oaths. After destroying Tyre, however, he passed by Jerusalem on his way south along the Philistine coast to Gaza.
Except for Gaza, all of the Philistine cities surrendered to Alexander. Gaza, which means “strong,” had a history like that of Tyre, of surviving long sieges. Yet after a two-month siege, Alexander’s troops stormed Gaza. In v. 5 Zechariah had predicted that “the king will perish from Gaza.” In a brutal display of triumph, Alexander dragged the king of Gaza behind his chariot throughout the city.
After destroying Gaza, Alexander headed hastily northeast to fulfill his threat against Jerusalem. Josephus explains that when Alexander approached Jerusalem, he saw the high priest in his priestly attire coming out to meet him. Alexander’s troops thought him mad when he dismounted and bowed down to the high priest.
Josephus relates that when Alexander had earlier been contemplating how he might overtake Asia, he had had a dream. In it someone in priestly garments and headdress, exactly like this priest, assured the warrior that God had given him Asia. Thus, the priest appeared to Alexander as a divine portent, and the warrior changed his mind about destroying Jerusalem.
Alexander’s movements in relation to Jerusalem appear to fulfill remarkably the first half of Zech 9.8, “but I will camp around my house because of an army, because of him who passes by and returns.”
Most commentators think “My house” refers to the temple at Jerusalem or to the city itself. God did indeed “camp around [His] house” when Alexander passed by and returned.
The Jewish Targum, however, maintains that Zechariah 9.8a is an amplification of the security of Jerusalem during the Messianic kingdom, described earlier in Zechariah 2.4-5, 10.5 In these verses an angel assures Zechariah: “Jerusalem will be inhabited without walls, because of the multitude of men and cattle within it. ‘For I,’ declares Yahweh, ‘will be a wall of fire around her, and I will be the glory in her midst’” (cf. Ezekiel 39.26). Zechariah 2.11 also depicts the same conversion of the nations during the Messianic kingdom as described in Isaiah 2.3 and Micah 4.1-2. Kimchi, eminent medieval Jewish commentator, comments on the entirety of Zechariah 2, “It is certain that this vision is of the future, referring to the days of Messiah.” Accordingly, the similarity of Zechariah 2.4-5 to 9.8a suggests that the latter describes the Messianic kingdom as well. Unger and Tatford regard all of Zechariah 9.8 as being fulfilled exclusively in the end time.
The Antichrist: Israel’s Last Oppressor
The one who “passes by and returns” in v. 8 not only refers to Alexander the Great but also to Israel’s last and worst oppressor—the final Antichrist. The Antichrist will one day make a seven-year covenant with Israel but break it with three and a half years left (Daniel 9.26-27). Near the end of this period, the Antichrist will pass through “the Beautiful Land” of Israel on his way to subdue Egypt then return (Daniel 11.40-45). Then he will lead all the nations in an effort to destroy helpless Israel.
Suddenly, Messiah will appear and destroy the great oppressor; the Antichrist. Henceforth, Yahweh will “camp around His house” forever.
No More Oppressors
The second half of Zechariah 9.8 certainly never came to pass following Alexander’s visit to Jerusalem. It reads “and no oppressor will pass over them anymore.” The Jews continued to suffer under various Gentile oppressors, even some of their own, like Alexander Jannaeus.
Furthermore, if Zechariah meant for his prophecy in v. 8b to refer to any period other than the end-time, he would be contradicting himself in Zechariah 12.3 and 14.2. There, the prophet relates that all the Gentile nations will besiege Jerusalem and Judah in the end-time, destroying two-thirds of the population (13.9). Then Messiah will come to deliver the surviving Jewish remnant (14.4-5). Until then it cannot be said that “no oppressor will pass over them anymore.”
For a long time God “hid His face” from Israel (Deuteronomy 32.20; Isaiah 8.17; Hosea 5.15), turning the sinful nation over to domination by the Gentiles. God no longer “shined His face” upon Israel, a Hebrew idiom indicating divine blessing and protection. Thus, the Messianic deliverance of Israel is immediately preceded by Yahweh turning His face back upon Israel to view with compassion the suffering, penitent nation (Ezekiel 39.23, 29). This is the meaning of Yahweh’s words, “For now I have seen with my eyes” (Zechariah 9.8b).
Reestablishment of the Philistines
The least that can be said of Zechariah 9.1 -8 is that, despite some fulfillment in Alexander’s career, vv. 7-8 still awaits a future, complete consummation. In sum, three things prophesied in Zechariah 9.7-8 have not yet happened:
1. The conversion of the Philistines to the God of Israel.
2. The assimilation of the Philistines into the Jewish population.
3. God’s establishment of perfect and everlasting security for
the nation of Israel.
These points suggest that not only vv. 7-8, but the entire section of vv. 1-8 awaits a complete fulfillment at the end of this age.
Accordingly, a people called the Philistines must again become a recognizable people dwelling in their ancient homeland.
Indeed, this is the interpretation provided by perhaps the preeminent American premillennial expositor of the early 20th century. A.C. Gaebelein claimed not only that Israel would someday be re-established in its ancient homeland, but that Israel’s ancient neighbors would re-emerge in their lands as well. Gaebelein wrote about Zechariah 9.1-8:
This puts before us again the final deliverance of Jerusalem and Israel’s land . . . A final destructive visitation will be upon the enemies of Israel and Jerusalem; in fact, many of the ancient foes of Israel are seen revived in prophecy in the latter days, then to be swept away, while Jerusalem will again be miraculously saved (emphasis added).
Premillennialist H.A. Ironside agreed substantially with Gaebelein’s comment on Zechariah 9.1-8. He remarked that these verses “evidently have a double application, setting forth, as they do, the past overthrow of the kingdoms ere the first coming of the Lord . . . as well as the future doom of the powers which will be in those lands when comes the final triumph of the King of kings.”
Premillennialist Charles Feinberg concurs concerning all of Zechariah 9.1-8: “The section before us has a double application: it sets forth the past judgment upon the kingdoms surrounding Israel as well as the future punishment that awaits the enemies of God’s people which will be living in lands contiguous to Palestine.”
Israel’s Destruction of Philistia
Much of Zech 9.9-17 relates to the same period of time as that of vv. 1-8.11 consequently, these two sections of Zech 9 should not be separated from one another, as is frequently done by commentators. The Hebrew prophets often wrote thematically rather than chronologically. They would fade in and out between a near and a far-distant future event. Such is the case with Zechariah 9.7-17.
The Messianic destruction is depicted in vv. 7-8. In v. 9 the prophet presents Messiah riding in humility into Jerusalem on a donkey, a prediction which Christians believe was fulfilled by Jesus. In vv. 10-17 Zechariah returns to the time-frame of vv. 7-8, when the Jews will take possession of all of the Promised Land and Messiah’s “dominion will be from sea to sea” (v. 10).
Most interpreters, even some premillennialists, exclusively restrict fulfillment of Zech 9.11-17 to the Maccabeus era in the 2nd century B.C. However, the Scofield Bible, both the old and new editions, correctly notes that “after the King is introduced in v. 9, the following verses look forward to the end time and the kingdom.”13 Zechariah 9.11-15 no doubt finds some fulfillment in the wars of the Maccabeus. Yet vv. 13-17 bears such striking resemblance to chapters 12 and 14 that they must also depict the Messianic victory in which the Jews will participate.
It therefore seems that nearly all of Zechariah 9-14 applies to the last days. A chronological scenario of the events of these chapters appears to be as follows:
1. The nations will attack Israel in the last days (12.2-3,9; 14.2,16).
2. Yahweh will deliver the remnant of Israel through His Messiah (9.9-10; 10.11; 14.4).
3. Messiah will lead the invigorated Israelis in a crushing defeat of their neighbors (9.10-15; 10.3-7; 12.5-9; 14.14).
4. Israel will take possession of the entire Promised Land (9.5-7; 10.10).
The Hebrew prophets predict that in the end of this age the land of Philistia will belong to non-Jews, sometimes called “Philistines.”
It appears that today’s Palestinians will fulfill the prophecy of those people designated Philistines, and that they will have their independent state in the Philistine Plain. When the State of Palestine becomes established in its land it will be, one more sure evidence that Almighty God has spoken through His prophets.
Only Yahweh knows and controls the future
A Day is coming when God will remember the Jews. In the midst of their greatest suffering ever, He will turn to them with compassion, sending His Messiah to deliver them from their enemies and to bring the glorious kingdom to earth. God will finally give Israel all of the Promised Land, including the Philistine Plain. Eretz Israel will stretch from the Euphrates River to the Wadi el Arish and from the Mediterranean Sea to the Arabian Desert.
But Yahweh is not only the God of the Jews; He is the God over all the earth. When His kingdom comes, He will remember not only Israel but all who have ever bowed before His authority and put their trust in Him. They will all be rewarded in that Day.
In those days of universal peace and glory, Palestinians and Jews will live together as brothers and sisters in the Promised Land. Palestinians will be full citizens of Israel. They will be like a cherished clan in Jerusalem. And the chosen people; the Jews; will fulfill their destiny to be a blessing to the Palestinians and to all the peoples of the earth forevermore.
The present return of Jews to the land of Israel is not described in Scripture as God’s promised re-gathering. The present and future returns can be distinguished in the following ways:
1. The present return is partial. In contrast, God’s promised re-gathering will include every Jew throughout the world (Isaiah 43.5-7; 49.18; 66.20; Ezekiel 36.10; 39.28).
2. The present return has been a gradual process. God’s promised re-gathering will be accomplished in days, not decades, as the Gentiles bring the Jews back to the land (Isaiah 11.11-12; 60.9).
3. The present return is a return in unbelief. In contrast, the Jews of the future return will be called “the holy people” (Isaiah 62.11-12; cf. Zephaniah 3.9-10). Zionism is a secular movement.
Furthermore, along with the rest of the world, Israel is predicted to apostatize (fall away from truth and righteousness) toward the end of the age (Deuteronomy 31.29).
4. The future return will be preceded by the Jews’ humility and repentance. Unconverted Israeli Jews will begin to repent and seek God at the end of the age (Isaiah 59.20; Joel 2.12-17); Jews of the Diaspora will do likewise throughout the world (Deuteronomy 4.27-30; 30.1-5; Hosea 3.4-5). Then God will gather the dispersed Jews back to the land of Israel (Isaiah 60.4, 9). Upon their arrival, their humility will become even more pronounced, after which they will realize total forgiveness (Zechariah 12.10; Ezekiel 36.24, 32).
5. The future return will be accompanied by an instantaneous conversion of the entire nation of Israel. At the future return, Israel will be spiritually reborn in a day (Isaiah 66.8, 20). God will put both His Spirit and a new heart in every Jew, after which they will keep His commandments forever (Jeremiah 31.31-34; Ezekiel 36.26-27; 39.29).
6. The present return is restricted chiefly to the historical land of Israel, whereas the future return will pertain to all of the Promised Land (Isaiah 49.20; 54.3; Obadiah 19; Micah 7.11, 14; Zephaniah 2.7; Zechariah 10.10).
7. The future return will begin during, or soon after, the Messianic conquest of the nations (Isaiah 10.16-23; Jeremiah 30.3-7; Daniel 12.1; Zechariah 10.5-12).
8. The future return will be accomplished by Gentiles escorting Jews back to their land. Many of these Gentiles will become their servants (Isaiah 14.2; 35.10; 49.18-23; 66.20).
9. God’s promised re-gathering will commence the promised Messianic kingdom. This is indicated by the context of many of the above passages.
Perhaps the most prominent passage which is mistakenly applied to the present return is Ezekiel 36-37.5 These two chapters provide some of the most vivid and cherished prophecies in the Hebrew Bible: “O mountains of Israel, you will put forth your branches and bear your fruit for my people Israel; for they will soon come. . . . O house of Israel, . . . I will take you from the nations, gather you from all the lands, and bring you into your own land. . . . Everyone who passed by . . . will say, ‘This desolate land has become like the garden of Eden’” (Ezekiel 36.8, 10, 22, 24, 34-35).
1. It will be a complete re-gathering of “all of the house of Israel, all of it” (36.10).
2. There will be no more bloodshed in Israel and Jews will never again be bereaved of their children (36.14).
3. Israel will no longer hear insults from the nations nor bear any disgrace (36.15).
4. God will cleanse all Jews from their sins upon their arrival in the land of Israel, and He will enable them to keep His commandments (36.25-28; 39.29; Joel 2.28-32).
5. All Jews will thereafter worship God (36.11, 28, 38).
6. The nations will know that Yahweh is God (36.36; 37.28; 39.23).
Also to be considered is the scriptural principle that God hides His face from Israel until the nation repents (Deuteronomy 31.17- 18; 32.20-21; Isaiah 6.9-10; 30.20; 45.15; 54.8; 64.7; Ezekiel 39.29; Hosea 5.15; Romans 11.25). God hiding from Israel further precludes the present return being His promised ingathering.
Even though God has turned away from Israel, He still desires that individual Jews repent and turn to Him. “‘Return to me,’ declares Yahweh of hosts, ‘that I may return to you’” (Zechariah 1.3; cf. Malachi 3.7). When the nation of Israel does begin to repent at the end of this age, God will turn to shine His face on His covenant people. Then He will finally gather all Jews to the land of Israel and bless them abundantly, just as He promised to their father Abraham.
From Palestine is Coming by Kermit Zarley and edited by Bruce Lyon