A church member asked me, “Pastor, is the Gaza in Jeremiah 47 the same as the Gaza that’s in the news today?” My answer was “yes.” Then I explained:
In chapter 47, Jeremiah is pronouncing judgment from God on the ancient Philistines. This is part of a stretch of chapters in which he pronounces judgment on several nations surrounding ancient Israel, and on the Israelites themselves. Philistines, Egyptians, Ammonites, Moabites, Canaanites in the cities of Tyre and Sidon, all will soon be destroyed by the Babylonians. However, the Babylonians themselves are destined for destruction. Jeremiah is pronouncing and predicting God’s fierce judgment on all these people. Of course, those judgments happened hundreds of years before Jesus ever came. As we see throughout the prophecies of the Old Testament, the God of Israel was working out his plans in history by using even the pagan kings to accomplish his purposes, including his judgments against the nations (see Isaiah 10:5-15, for example).
The ancient Philistines lived primarily in five cities along the coast of the Mediterranean Sea: Gath (where Goliath was from), Ekron, Ashdod, Ashkelon, and Gaza. They are all mentioned repeatedly in the Old Testament. Today the first three are ancient ruins. Ashkelon is a sizable city in modern Israel. Gaza is the Palestinian city currently being bombed into rubble by modern Israel.
I am firmly convinced that God’s mention of Gaza and Ashkelon and Tyre and Sidon in Jeremiah 47 has nothing to do with what’s happening in the Gaza Strip right now. This is not “prophecy being fulfilled right before our eyes,” at least not at all in the way people are usually thinking when they say such things. Jeremiah was doing what prophets do: he was pronouncing God’s judgment. It was an original jeremiad. We apply that to our modern day, not by looking for “Gaza” and “Ashkelon” in the newspapers, but by being aware that God judges mankind now just as he did then. Usually, all he has to do is step back and let our sins fall back on our own heads, or let our enemies have their way with us. So the only nation we really need to be concerned about when we’re thinking about the judgment of God in the modern world is our own. America is ripe for the judgment of God, and we see it happening all the time.