on Zephaniah 2 :4
Gaza shall be forsaken - This prophecy is against the Philistines. They had been greatly harassed by the kings of Egypt; but were completely ruined by Nebuchadnezzar, who took all Phoenicia from the Egyptians; and about the time of his taking Tyre, devastated all the seignories of the Philistines. This ruin we have seen foretold by the other prophets, and have already remarked its exact fulfillment.
on Zephaniah 2 :4
For - As a ground for repentance and perseverance, he goes through Pagan nations, upon whom God's wrath should come. Jerome: "As Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, after visions concerning Judah, turn to other nations round about, and according to the character of each, announce what shall come upon them, and dwell at length upon it, so doth this prophet, though more briefly" And thus under five nations, who lay west, east, south and north, he includes all mankind on all sides, and, again, according to their respective characters toward Israel, as they are alien from, or hostile to the Church; the Philistines Zephaniah 2:4-7, as a near, malicious, infesting enemy; Moab and Ammon Isaiah 2:8-10, people akin to her (as heretics) yet ever rejoicing at her troubles and sufferings; Etheopians Isaiah 5:12, distant nations at peace with her, and which are, for the most part, spoken of as to be brought unto her; Assyria Isaiah 13-15, as the great oppressive power of the world, and so upon it the full desolation rests.
In the first fulfillment, because Moab and Ammon aiding Nebuchadnezzar, (and all, in various ways wronging God's people Isaiah 16:4; Amos 1:13-15; Amos 2:1-3; Jeremiah 48:27-30, Jeremiah 48:42; Jeremiah 49:1; Ezekiel 20:3, Ezekiel 20:6, Ezekiel 20:8), trampled on His sanctuary, overthrew His temple and blasphemed the Lord, the prophecy is turned against them. So then, before the captivity came, while Josiah was yet king, and Jerusalem and the temple were, as yet, not overthrown, the prophecy is directed against those who mocked at them. "Gaza shall be forsaken." Out of the five cities of the Philistines, the prophet pronounces woe upon the same four as Amos Amo 1:6-8 before, Jeremiah Jer 25:20 soon after, and Zechariah Zechariah 9:5-6 later. Gath, then, the fifth had probably remained with Judah since Uzziah 2 Chronicles 26:6 and Hezekiah 2 Kings 18:8. In the sentence of the rest, regard is had (as is so frequent in the Old Testament) to the names of the places themselves, that, henceforth, the name of the place might suggest the thought of the doom pronounced upon it.
The names expressed boastfulness, and so, in the divine judgment, carried their own sentence with them, and this sentence is pronounced by a slight change in the word. Thus 'Azzah' (Gaza,) 'strong' shall be 'Azoobah, desolated;' "Ekron, deep-rooting" , shall "Teaker, be uprooted;" the "Cherethites" (cutters off) shall become (Cheroth) "diggings;" "Chebel, the band" of the sea coast, shall be in another sense "Chebel," an "inheritance" Zephaniah 2:5, Zephaniah 2:7, divided by line to the remnant of Judah; and "Ashdod" (the waster shall be taken in their might, not by craft, nor in the way of robbers, but "driven forth" violently and openly in the "noon-day."
For Gaza shall be forsaken - Some vicissitudes of these towns have been noted already . The fulfillment of the prophecy is not tied down to time; the one marked contrast is, that the old pagan enemies of Judah should be destroyed, the house of Judah should be restored, and should re-enter upon the possession of the land, promised to them of old. The Philistine towns had, it seems, nothing to fear from Babylon or Persia, to whom they remained faithful subjects. The Ashdodites (who probably, as the most important, stand for the whole ) combined with Sanballat, "the Ammonites and the Arabians" Nehemiah 4:7, to hinder the rebuilding of the walls of Jerusalem. Even an army was gathered, headed by Samaria Nehemiah 2.
They gave themselves out as loyal, Jerusalem as rebellious Nehemiah 2:19; Nehemiah 6:6. The old sin remaining, Zechariah renewed the sentence by Zephaniah against the four cities Zechariah 9; a prophecy, which an unbeliever also has recognized as picturing the march of Alexander . : "All the other cities of Palestine having submitted," Gaza alone resisted the conqueror for two or five months. It had come into the hands of the Persians in the expedition of Cambyses against Egypt . The Gazaeans having all perished fighting at their posts, Alexander sold the women and children, and re-populated the city from the neighborhood . Palestine lay between the two rival successors of Alexander, the Ptolemies and Seleucidae, and felt their wars .
Gaza fell through mischance into the hands of Ptolemy , 11 years after the death of Alexander , and soon after, was destroyed by Antiochus (198 b.c.), "preserving its faith to Ptolemy" as before to the Persians, in a way admired by a pagan historian. In the Maccabee wars, Judas Maccabaeus chiefly destroyed the idols of Ashdod, but also "spoiled their cities" (1 Macc. 5:68); Jonathan set it on fire, with its idol-temple, which was a sort of citadel to it (1 Macc. 10:84); Ascalon submitted to him (1 Macc. 10:86); Ekron with its borders were given to him by Alexander Balas (1 Macc. 10:89); he burned the suburbs of Gaza (1 Macc. 11:61); Simon took it, expelled its inhabitants, filled it with believing Jews and fortified it more strongly than before (1 Macc. 13:43-48); but, after a year's siege, it was betrayed to Alexander Jannaeus, who killed its senate of 500 and razed the city to the ground .
Gabinius restored it and Ashdod . After Herod's death, Ashdod was given to Salome ; Gaza, as being a Greek city , was detached from the realm of Archelaus and annexed to Syria. It was destroyed by the Jews in their revolt when Florus was "procurator," 55 A.D . Ascalon and Gaza must still have been strong, and were probably a distinct population in the early times of Antipater, father of Herod, when Alexander and Alexandra set him over all Idumaea, since "he is said" then "to have made friendship with the Arabs, Gazites and Ascalonites, likeminded with himself, and to have attached them by many and large presents."
Yet though the inhabitants were changed, the hereditary hatred remained. Philo in his Embassy to Caius, 40 a.d., used the strong language , "The Ascalonites have an implacable and irreconcilable enmity to the Jews, their neighbors, who inhabit the holy land." This continued toward Christians. Some horrible atrocities, of almost inconceivable savagery, by these of Gaza and Ascalon 361 a.d., are related by Theodoret and Sozomen . : "Who is ignorant of the madness of the Gazaeans?" asks Gregory of Nazianzus, of the times of Julian. This was previous to the conversion of the great Gazite temple of Marna into a Christian Church by Eudoxia . On occasion of Constantine's exemption of the Maiumas Gazae from their control, it is alleged, that they were "extreme heathen." In the time of the Crusades the Ascalonites are described by Christians as their "most savage enemies."
It may be, that a likeness of sin may have continued on a likeness of punishment. But the primary prediction was against the people, not against the walls. The sentence, "Gaza shall be forsaken," would have been fulfilled by the removal or captivity of its inhabitants, even if they had not been replaced by others. A prediction against any ancient British town would have been fulfilled, if the Britons in it had been replaced or exterminated by Danes, and these by Saxons, and these subdued by the Normans, though their displacers became wealthy and powerful in their place. Even on the same site it would not be the same Gaza, when the Philistine Gaza became Edomite, and the Edomite Greek, and the Greek Arabian . Ashdod (as well as Gaza) is spoken of as a city of the Greeks ; New Gaza is spoken of as a mixture of Turks, Arabians, Fellahs, Bedouins out of Egypt, Syria, Petraea . Felix Faber says, "there is a wonderful com-mixture of divers nations in it, Ethiopians, Arabs, Egyptians, Syrians, Indians and eastern Christians; no Latins ." Its Jewish inhabitants fled from it in the time of Napoleon: now, with few exceptions it is inhabited by Arabs .
But these, Ghuzzeh, Eskalon, Akir, Sedud, are at most successors of the Philistine cities, of which there is no trace above the surface of the earth. It is common to speak of "remnants of antiquity," as being or not being to be found in any of them; but this means, that, where these exist, there are remains of a Greek or Roman, not of a Philistine city.
Of the four cities, "Akkaron," Ekron, ("the firm-rooting") has not left a vestage. It is mentioned by name only, after the times of the Bible, by some who passed by it . There was "a large village of Jews" so called in the time of Eusebius and Jerome , "between Azotus and Jamnia." Now a village of "about 50 mud houses without a single remnant of antiquity except 2 large finely built wells" bears the name of Akir. Jerome adds, "Some think that Accaron is the tower of Strato, afterward called Caesarea." This was perhaps derived from misunderstanding his Jewish instructor . But it shows how entirely all knowledge of Ekron was then lost.
Ashdod - Or Azotus which, at the time when Zephaniah prophesied, held out a twenty-nine years' siege against Psammetichus, is replaced by "a moderate sized village of mud houses, situated on the eastern declivity of a little flattish hill," "entirely modern, not containing a vestige of antiquity." "A beautiful sculptured sarcophagus with some fragments of small marble shafts," "near the Khan on the southwest." belong of course to later times. "The whole south side of the hill appears also, as if it had been once covered with buildings, the stones of which are now thrown together in the rude fences." Its Bishops are mentioned from the Council of Nice to 536 a.d. , and so probably continued until the Muslim devastation. It is not mentioned in the Talmud . Benjamin of Tudela calls it Palmis, and says, "it is desolate, and there are no Jews in it ." : "Neither Ibn Haukal (Yacut), Edrisi, Abulfeda, nor William of Tyre mention it."
Ascalon and Gaza had each a port, Maiuma Gazae, Maiuma Ascalon; literally, "a place on the sea" (an Egyptian name ) belonging to Ascalon or Gaza. The name involves that Ascalon and Gaza themselves, the old Philistine towns, were not on the sea. They were, like Athens, built inland, perhaps (as has been conjectured) from fear of the raids of pirates, or of inroads from those who (like the Philistines themselves probably, or some tribe of them) might come from the sea. The port probably of both was built in much later times; the Egyptian name implies that they were built by Egyptians, after the time when its kings Necos and Apries, (Pharaoh-Necho and Pharaoh-Hophra, who took Gaza Jeremiah 47:1) made Egypt a naval power . This became a characteristic of these Philistine cities. They themselves lay more or less inland, and had a city connected with them of the same name, on the shore. Thus there was an , "Azotus by the sea," and an "Azotus Ispinus." There were "two Iamniae, one inland." But Ashdod lay further from the sea than Gaza; Yamnia, (the Yabneel of Joshua Jos 15:11, in Uzziah's time, Yabneh 2 Chronicles 26:6) further than Ashdod. The port of Yamnia was burned by Judas (2 Macc. 12:9).
The "name," Maiumas, does not appear until Christian times, though "the port of Gaza" is mentioned by Strabo : to it, Alexander brought from Tyre the machines, with which he took Gaza itself . That port then must have been at some distance from Gaza. Each port became a town, large enough to have, in Christian times, a Bishop of its own. The Epistle of John of Jerusalem, inserted in the Acts of the Council of Constantinople, 536 a.d., written in the name of Palestine i., ii., and iii., is signed by a Bishop of Maiumen of Ascalon, as well as by a Bishop of Ascalon, as it is by a Bishop of Maiumas of Gaza as well as by a Bishop of Gaza. . Yabne, or Yamnia, was on a small eminence , 6 12 hours from the sea .
on Zephaniah 2 :4
2:4 For - It is time to seek God; for your neighbours, as well as you, shall be destroyed. Gaza - A chief city of the Philistines. They - The Babylonians. Shall drive - Into captivity. At the noon day - It shall be taken by force at noon.