Last week the attempt was made to acquaint the reader with the national dangers of anti-Semitism. Beginning with the earliest examples of history, we continue to march forward. Evidently, we have members of Congress who are ignorant of the great dust heaps of the past, or they are so arrogant as to believe they are exempt from divine decrees. As previously explained, the total disappearance of the ancient Amalekites and Assyrians remain a great mystery to all except true Bible believers.
Because of Israel’s own sin, they endured a time of Babylonian captivity, but in due season God allowed a remnant to return to their land grant. The first order of the day was the reconstruction of the Temple in Jerusalem. The Jews encountered vicious opposition during their first attempt to rebuild this sacred place. Discouragement, constant intimidation and misrepresentation of the facts to the Persian monarch, Artaxerxes, had put a halt to the program for fourteen years (Ezra 4:11-24). Then God raised up the prophet Zechariah who prophesied the crushing weight of judgment against three other anti-Semitic nations. In the wake of these forecasts, the Temple was completed and the Jews enjoyed a time of good prosperity (518 B.C. down to 323 B.C.).
Their blessings, however, would arouse envy among the Syrians, Phoenicians, and Philistines, all of whom were fertile ground for the nurture of anti-Semitism. During this time of success, Zechariah foretold how approximately 186 years later these hostile nations in the Middle East would be wiped out in a short period of time (Zechariah 9:1-8).
In its turbulent history, Syria engaged in frequent but mostly unsuccessful warfare with Israel and Judah in the days of the monarchy. It vied with Egypt over possession and control of the land that God had promised the Jews. Then, as now, Syria “took evil counsel” against Israel (Isaiah 7:5,6) for which punitive action from God is the inevitable result. In the year 332 B.C., shortly after Alexander the Great soundly routed the army of the Persian king Darius III at Issus, the crushing weight of judgment Zechariah had predicted smashed Syria. Hadrach fell, and Damascus, then the provincial capital of the Persian Empire, capitulated without a struggle. Hamath, too, fell prey to the conquering army; Alexander was in full command of Syria! In Alexander the Jews found a staunch friend and admirer and for a time their troubles ceased.
Tyre was one of the most prominent cities of the ancient Phoenicians and perhaps the wealthiest city in the old world. Strongly fortified, the city-island was located on the eastern shore of the Mediterranean Sea. Its walls, 150 feet high and 100 feet wide, made Tyre a veritable citadel. On top of those walls, the Tyrians loved to race their chariots. For trade purposes, Israel established friendly relations with Tyre during David’s reign. Apparently, these were maintained even in the divided kingdom until 853-845 B.C. when God disciplined Judah. Thus it was that the Philistines and the Arabs were chosen to become God’s whip; they jointly attacked Judah with disastrous results to the Jews (II Chronicles 21). But the Philistines overstepped their bounds. In their ingrained hatred for the Jews, they assigned their Jewish captives to a fate worse than death ---slavery. This is where the Phoenicians came in to the picture. Motivated by greed and the possibility of further enrichment for themselves, they capitalized on the misfortunes of the Jews. After joining the Philistines in the plunder of Jerusalem and Judah in the wake of the invasion, they brought Jewish captives to Tyre and sold them to the Greeks as slaves. (Ezekiel 27) The prophet Joel harshly denounced them for this and declared God’s judgment on the Phoenicians for their anti-Semitism (Joel 3:4). Ezekiel predicted the fall of Tyre 300 years before it actually happened with inspired accuracy and detail.
Tyre withstood Nebuchadnezzar’s siege for nearly 13 years before Babylon demolished its walls and towers, leaving Tyre in ruins. The prophecy had been fulfilled in part, but the city was eventually rebuilt on an island one half mile offshore. In 332 B.C. Tyre refused to open its gates to Alexander, so he utilized the stones and rubble of the former city to build a causeway from the mainland to the heavily fortified city. In seven months the labor was completed, and Alexander’s troops marched across it. They defeated the Tyrian fleet, took the city and burned it to the ground. Every detail of God’s verdict had been carried out (Zechariah 9:4).
Originally, the governmental powers of Philistia were vested in the lords of the Pentapolis (five city states): Gaza, Ashkelon, Ashdod, Ekron, and Gath. One of the national objectives of the Philistines was the domination of Israel. Millions know the story of David and the Philistine giant Goliath. In foretelling the fall of Tyre, Zechariah made reference to the subsequent judgment of Ashkelon, Gaza, Ekron and Ashdod (Zechariah 9:56). Gath was not included since it had long since been captured by the Syrians who reaped their own demise (II Kings 12:17).
The eradication of the Philistines is well evidenced in a simple question…do you know any? Do any Philistines live on your block? Where could we go to find some? There may be the odd one in Congress, but beyond that, they remain an enigma; the Jews remain. Next week, more evidence from the Middle Ages.