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Isaiah 14:28-30 New American Standard Bible 1995

28 In the year that King Ahaz died this [a]oracle came:

29 “Do not rejoice, O Philistia, all of you, Because the rod that struck you is broken; For from the serpent’s root a viper will come out, And its fruit will be a flying serpent. 30 “[b]Those who are most helpless will eat, And the needy will lie down in security; I will [c]destroy your root with famine, And it will kill off your survivors.

Isaiah 14:28-30 New King James Version

28 This is the [a]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.

I might just be asking questions about the obvious, and also just being overly nitpicky but here goes.

By keeping context in mind, we can infer that the Isaiah 14:29a's broken rod very likely refers to Isaiah 14:28's statement about kingdom of Judah's King Ahaz's death.

I would like to get a deeper contextual understanding of Isaiah 14:29b's reference to the following 3 phrases:

  • serpent's root

  • viper

  • flying serpent

I am a little Uncomfortable with associating the aforementioned 3 phrases to the Davidic-Kingly lineage culminating in Jesus Christ, The Messiah. The reason why I'm uncomfortable is that all 3 of the aforementioned phrases are associated with the serpent which is the enemy of Jesus Christ as per Genesis 3:14-15

Genesis 3:14-15 New American Standard Bible 1995 14 The Lord God said to the serpent,

“Because you have done this, Cursed are you more than all cattle, And more than every beast of the field; On your belly you will go, And dust you will eat All the days of your life; 15 And I will put enmity Between you and the woman, And between your seed and her seed; He shall [a]bruise you on the head, And you shall bruise him on the heel.”

14:28-30 The Westminster Leningrad Codex 28 בִּשְׁנַת־מ֖וֹת הַמֶּ֣לֶךְ אָחָ֑ז הָיָ֖ה הַמַּשָּׂ֥א הַזֶּֽה׃

29 אַֽל־תִּשְׂמְחִ֤י פְלֶ֙שֶׁת֙ כֻּלֵּ֔ךְ כִּ֥י נִשְׁבַּ֖ר שֵׁ֣בֶט מַכֵּ֑ךְ כִּֽי־מִשֹּׁ֤רֶשׁ נָחָשׁ֙ יֵ֣צֵא צֶ֔פַע וּפִרְי֖וֹ שָׂרָ֥ף מְעוֹפֵֽף׃

30 וְרָעוּ֙ בְּכוֹרֵ֣י דַלִּ֔ים וְאֶבְיוֹנִ֖ים לָבֶ֣טַח יִרְבָּ֑צוּ וְהֵמַתִּ֤י בָֽרָעָב֙ שָׁרְשֵׁ֔ךְ וּשְׁאֵרִיתֵ֖ךְ יַהֲרֹֽג׃

However, in light of the fact that Isaiah 14:29-32 is explicitly a specific Judgement against the Philistian nation, could some please provide a deeper contextual understanding in regards to Isaiah 14:29b's reference to the following 3 phrases?

  • serpent's root

  • viper

  • flying serpent

1 Answer 1

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The historical background to Isa 14:28ff is provided by 2 Chron 18 involving the defeat of Tiglath-Pileser and the death of Ahab at the battle of Ramoth-Gilead.

Ellicott provides a useful reference here:

(29) Rejoice not thou, whole Palestina.—Better, Rejoice not thou, Philistia, all of thee; i.e., give not thyself wholly to rejoicing. Here, as in Exodus 15:14, “Palestina” is used, not in the wider meaning with which we are familiar, but specifically as the country of the Philistines. The historical circumstances connected with the “oracle” before us are found in 2Chronicles 18:18. The Philistines had invaded the low country (Shetphēlah), and the district known as the Negeb, or “south” of Judah, in the reign of Ahaz. He had called in the help of Tiglath-pileser, the Assyrian king, to assist him as against Rezin and Pekah (Isaiah 7), so probably against these new invaders. Sargon (who succeeded Tiglath-pileser, B.C. 723) invaded Ashdod in B.C. 710 (Isaiah 20:1; Records of the Past, vii. 40). Sennacherib records a like attack on Ashkelon and (according to Rawlinson’s interpretation) Ekron (Records of the Past, vii. 61). With these data we are able to enter on the interpretation of Isaiah’s prediction.

Because the rod of him that smote thee is broken.—The “rod,” as in Isaiah 10:24, is the power of Tiglath-pileser. The Philistines were exulting in his death, or in that of Ahaz as his ally, as though their peril was past. They are told that their exultation was premature.

Out of the serpent’s root.—The three forms of serpent life (we need not be careful about their identification from the zoologist’s point of view) may represent the three Assyrian kings named above, from whose invasions the Philistines were to suffer. Each form was more terrible than the preceding. The fiery flying serpent (Isaiah 30:6; Numbers 21:6), which represented Sennacherib, was the most formidable of the three. So in Isaiah 27:1, the “piercing serpent,” the “crooked serpent,” and the “dragon” are symbols of the Assyrian power. Some critics, however, led chiefly by the first words of the next verse, find in the three serpents—(1) Ahaz, (2) Hezekiah, (3) the ideal king of Isaiah 11:1-9.

In this case, I agree with Ellicott.

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