A Fiery Flying Serpent

In Isaiah 14:28-31, the prophet Isaiah gave a prophecy concerning the Philistines. “This is the burden which came in the year that King Ahaz died. 29 “Do not rejoice, all you of Philistia, Because the rod that struck you is broken; For out of the serpent’s roots will come forth a viper, And its offspring will be a fiery flying serpent. 30 The firstborn of the poor will feed, And the needy will lie down in safety; I will kill your roots with famine, And it will slay your remnant. 31 Wail, O gate! Cry, O city! All you of Philistia are dissolved; For smoke will come from the north, And no one will be alone in his appointed times.”

Isaiah told the Philistines not to rejoice because the rod that struck them is broken.  Who was this rod? 

The Bible does not say anything about King Ahaz being a rod against the Philistines; however, 2 Chronicles 28:18-19 says that during King Ahaz’ time, the Philistines had “invaded the cities of the lowland and of the South of Judah, and had taken Beth Shemesh, Aijalon, Gederoth, Sochoh with its villages, Timnah with its villages, and Gimzo with its villages; and they dwelt there.”  Additionally, the Bible doesn’t say how Ahaz responded to these invasions.  He could have gone to war against them but if the Philistines dwelt there, whatever his response was, it wasn’t effective enough to keep the Philistines out of the land.  The Bible does say Ahaz did not do what was right in the sight of the Lord.  Because of this, the Lord could have made it impossible for Ahaz to keep the Philistines out of the land. 

As we look closely at Isaiah 14:29, the rod used against the Philistines seems to be related to the viper that will come out of the serpent’s roots.  At first glance, this viper appears to represent King Hezekiah.  According to 2 Kings 18:8, King Hezekiah “subdued the Philistines, as far as Gaza and its territory, from watchtower to fortified city.” This may have been because King Hezekiah was one who did right in the sight of the Lord.  Despite the Philistines being subdued during Hezekiah’s reign, the Bible does not mention the Philistines suffering from famine or their remnant being slain.  It’s also possible that King Sargon, the king of Assyria was the one being referred to here since Isaiah 20:1 says he gave orders for his army commander to capture the city of Ashdod which was a Philistine city. 

As we ponder this, we should also consider the possibility that Isaiah 14:29 also has the potential to refer to something else in the future because the imagery of a serpent [nachash] and a viper [tsepa’] is used.  Remember, a serpent is usually associated with Satan.  I think what we have here is another instance where truth concerning the future is being hidden within the history of the past just like we’ve seen with many of the Messianic prophecies.  This idea is a good possibility because famine is expected to take place during the plagues of Revelation.[i]

The Hebrew word tsepha’ has been translated as viper, asp, cockatrice, or basilisk.  The latter two are believed to be legendary creatures that may resemble a horned serpent.  Doesn’t that evoke images of the beasts of Daniel and Revelation?  Whether it is a poisonous snake or another reptile, it is certainly evil. As we’ve mentioned in earlier posts, the serpent is also known as Leviathan, the fleeing serpent, Satan, or the devil.  This is the same serpent that was in the Garden of Eden in the beginning and is also the dragon of Revelation which tells of the end.

The imagery of the viper that will come out of the serpent’s roots forms an opposing parallel with the Branch that came out of the root of Jesse.  This description underscores the importance and significance of this person.  Since King Hezekiah was a godly king, we should expect someone else to fulfill this prophecy in the future.  Previously, the Assyrian was the rod in the Lord’s hands.[ii]  Isaiah 10:6 says, “I will send him [Assyrian] against an ungodly nation, And against the people of My wrath I will give him charge, To seize the spoil, to take the prey, And to tread them down like the mire of the streets.”  Be sure of this, the Assyrian [Antichrist] intends to destroy and cut off many nations in the future.  Just as Jesus was from the line of David (Jesse), the beast will come from the line of the viper; he will be a descendant of “the son of Satan.”  The Assyrian best fits the description of this fiery serpent.

Isaiah said the Lord will care for the poor and needy but that the roots of the Philistines would be destroyed.  This agrees with Revelation 12:6 which states that during the 42 months of tribulation, the woman (Jews) will be fed and sheltered in the wilderness.  Isaiah 14:31 warns Philistia that smoke will come from the north.  Normally, Israel’s enemies attacked from the north; when they approached, they came in a cloud of dust.  On the other hand, smoke was usually an indication of the coming of the Lord.  For example, Mount Sinai was covered in smoke because the Lord descended upon it in fire.[iii]  Solomon, who was a type of Jesus, was described as coming up from the desert like a column of smoke, perfumed with myrrh and frankincense while being accompanied by 60 valiant swordsmen in Song of Solomon 3:6.  Rest assured, the Lord will kill the roots of the Philistines with famine and slay their remnant.

As we close, it’s important to remember, Jesus originally left His throne in heaven and came to earth with the power and authority of the Father to proclaim and establish His kingdom.  In the future, the beast of Revelation will receive the throne, power, and authority of the dragon, who is Satan.  Despite this, Jesus will return; He will crush His enemies under His feet and rule with a rod of iron.  As Isaiah prophesied, the poor will take refuge in Zion.  Only then will there finally be peace and justice in the land.  This will happen at the appointed time.

[i] Revelation 18:8.

[ii] Isaiah 10:5.

[iii] Exodus 19:18.

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