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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The Doom of Babylon

As we have seen so far, the book of Isaiah contains a mixture of prophecies.  Some prophecies concern various people groups as well as prophecies of the Messiah’s first and second coming.  They are often mixed together in such a way as to hide information so that the people could not see, hear, or understand the present or the future.  It is not unusual for the prophecies to apply to both Isaiah’s time and the future because according to Ecclesiastes 1:9, what has been done will be done again.

Isaiah 13 is no different.  It is the burden against Babylon which Isaiah, the son of Amoz saw.  The Hebrew word for burden is massa’.  It’s an oracle that was uttered concerning the doom of Babylon.  The Hebrew word for Babylon is Bavel.  It means confusion and comes from the Hebrew word balal which among other things means to mingle or mix.  Babylon has existed since the days of Nimrod prior to the Tower of Babel.  Let’s keep that in mind as we think of Babylon.

At the beginning of Isaiah 13, the Lord ordered His holy ones to hoist a banner, enter the gate of nobles, and execute His anger.  The Lord wanted His heroes to fight the army of kingdoms of the nations which came from distant lands.  Many assume this is a reference to the Medes who silently slipped into Babylon at night and took over the kingdom of Babylon.  This is not the case because there was no battle or resistance from Babylon at that time.[i]  This is a vision of the Day of the Lord which will take place in the future.  The Lord will come in fury at this appointed time to desolate the earth and destroy sinners.

Isaiah 13:10 says that on the day of the Lord, the sun, moon, and stars will no longer shine.  This is confirmed in many places in the Bible such as Ezekiel 32:7, Joel 2:10, 3:4, 4:15, and Matthew 24:29 to name a few.  This time did not take place in the past and is set for a future day because Acts 2:20 says, “The sun shall be turned into darkness, And the moon into blood, Before the coming of the great and awesome day of the Lord.” 

Shall we fear this day?  How will people escape it?  Acts 2:21 continues by saying, “And it shall come to pass That whoever calls on the name of the Lord Shall be saved.”

When will this happen?  Revelation 6:12 indicates it will be when the sixth seal is opened.  At that time, the Lord will punish the world for its evil and the wicked for their iniquity.  The heavens will tremble and the earth will be shaken from its place.  Revelation 6:12 confirms this by telling us that there will be a great earthquake when the sixth seal is opened.

In Isaiah 13:16, the Lord said anyone found will be killed with the sword, their babies will be dashed to pieces, their houses will be looted, and their wives will be raped.  After saying this, the Lord said He was sending the Medes who couldn’t be tempted by silver or bought off with gold to attack Babylon.  He also said the Medes will tear the young men to pieces and not even spare the children.  What’s going on here?  Is the Lord and His army of saints going to do this to the Lord’s people?  Absolutely not!  Isaiah 13:15-18 is a short chiastic structure, the center of which identifies who will be causing the destruction to the earth; the Lord will do this through the Medes.  Who is Babylon?  Isaiah 13:11 seems to imply it’s the world.  There’s obviously more to this prophecy than the Medes conquering ancient Babylon.

Note the similarity this passage has with Zechariah 14:1-7: “Behold, the day of the Lord is coming, And your spoil will be divided in your midst. 2 For I will gather all the nations to battle against Jerusalem; The city shall be taken, The houses rifled, And the women ravished. Half of the city shall go into captivity, But the remnant of the people shall not be cut off from the city. 3 Then the Lord will go forth and fight against those nations, As He fights in the day of battle. 4 And in that day His feet will stand on the Mount of Olives, Which faces Jerusalem on the east. And the Mount of Olives shall be split in two, From east to west, Making a very large valley; Half of the mountain shall move toward the north And half of it toward the south. 5 Then you shall flee through My mountain valley, For the mountain valley shall reach to Azal. Yes, you shall flee As you fled from the earthquake In the days of Uzziah king of Judah. Thus the Lord my God will come, And all the saints with You. 6 It shall come to pass in that day That there will be no light; The lights will diminish. 7 It shall be one day Which is known to the Lord — Neither day nor night. But at evening time it shall happen That it will be light.”

Zechariah sheds light on Isaiah’s burden by giving us the basic order of events:

  1. The nations will be gathered for battle.
  2. Jerusalem will be taken by its enemies.
  3. The houses will be looted.
  4. The women will be raped.
  5. Half of the city will go into captivity except for the remnant.
  6. The Lord will come with His saints and fight against those nations.
  7. During this time, there will be no light until the evening comes.

The Lord says the destruction of Babylon will be like Sodom and Gomorrah when it’s overthrown by God.  It continues by saying Babylon will never be inhabited again.  Since it’s still inhabited, this is a reference to the future.

After the worst part is over, the Lord will have compassion on Jacob.  He will once again choose Israel to be His bride.  He will resettle His people in their own land.  Foreigners will join them and attach themselves to the house of Jacob.  Israel’s oppressors will become slaves. 

Isaiah 14 says, the Lord’s people will sing a taunt against the arrogant king of Babylon (Bavel) who is referred to as the Oppressor.  Before this takes place, the vision Isaiah saw in Isaiah 14:12 must be fulfilled.  It says, “How you are fallen from heaven, O Lucifer, son of the morning! How you are cut down to the ground, You who weakened the nations!”  Many assume this has already taken place but Satan still comes and goes before the Lord to accuse man like we see in Job and Zechariah 3:1. 

John also saw Satan fall from heaven.  Revelation 12:7-9 says, “And war broke out in heaven: Michael and his angels fought with the dragon; and the dragon and his angels fought, 8 but they did not prevail, nor was a place found for them in heaven any longer. 9 So the great dragon was cast out, that serpent of old, called the Devil and Satan, who deceives the whole world; he was cast to the earth, and his angels were cast out with him.”  After John saw the dragon was cast down to earth, he saw the dragon persecuting the woman who gave birth to the child, Jesus.  This woman represents the Jews.  In John’s vision, the woman escaped the dragon and fled into the wilderness, where she was nourished during the 3 1/2 years of tribulation.  Since the context of this passage is to occur in the future and because visions usually reveal future events, we should assume that Satan will be cast out of heaven in the future. 

According to Isaiah, the King of Babylon will be brought down to the depths of Sheol.  The king of Babylon is also known as Lucifer, the morning star, the son of the dawn, the dragon of Revelation, Leviathan (sea serpent), and Satan.  He intends to make himself like the Most High on God’s throne by giving his power to the beast before Revelation 20:1-3 is fulfilled:  “Then I saw an angel coming down from heaven, having the key to the bottomless pit and a great chain in his hand. 2 He laid hold of the dragon, that serpent of old, who is the Devil and Satan, and bound him for a thousand years; 3 and he cast him into the bottomless pit, and shut him up, and set a seal on him, so that he should deceive the nations no more till the thousand years were finished. But after these things he must be released for a little while.”

In Isaiah 14:25, Isaiah equates the Assyrian with the king of Babylon.  This was possible because the men of the tenth dynasty of Babylonian kings were Assyrians.[ii]  The Lord promised to break the Assyrian in His land and tread the Assyrian underfoot on His mountains. 

The Assyrian’s yoke will be removed from the shoulders of the Lord’s people.  Originally, the Lord used the Medes to do this. Certainly the Lord intends to do the same in the future. 

There are many ways we can look at yokes.  They can be physical or figurative.  They could represent the tributes that were paid to Assyria.  It could be the constant intense emotional state brought on by the aggravation, persecution, pain, and terror caused by the Assyrian.  It could also be something else. 

No matter what, Satan’s intention is to steal, kill, and destroy.  This is done in a variety of ways; we’ve already mentioned some of them.  As far as Christians go, it could also be related to the meaning of the word bavel. Remember, bavel comes from the word balal which means mix or mingle.  Jesus wanted the people to take on His yoke because it was easy and light; this yoke was the law of liberty.[iii]  Satan desired to enslave God’s people.  What better way than to corrupt the law of the Lord with numerous traditions and interpretations that were not based on the original intent of the law? 

The Jews did not do what Deuteronomy 4:2 said.  It says, “You shall not add to the word which I command you, nor take from it, that you may keep the commandments of the Lord your God which I command you.”  Doing this can cause confusion.  It results in a form of an unholy mixture of “wool and linen.”  A mixture of tradition and written law was a yoke that was too great for the people to bear.  This false religious system only leads to death.  Beware of any syncretism of paganism and Christianity OR the teachings of the Pharisees and the law of liberty! 

Remember, self-righteousness is the goal of a legalistic adherence to tradition and it is only a counterfeit of true righteousness.  True righteousness results from obedience to the written law because Deuteronomy 6:24-25 says, “And the Lord commanded us to observe all these statutes, to fear the Lord our God, for our good always, that He might preserve us alive, as it is this day. 25 Then it will be righteousness for us, if we are careful to observe all these commandments before the Lord our God, as He has commanded us.”  This is independent of our salvation which is a result of grace by faith in Christ.

Recall Jesus’ yoke was easy and His burden was light.  By Jesus’ day, people were in bondage to the oral traditions.  Jesus came to do something about this.  In Luke 4:18-19, Jesus read from the prophet Isaiah, saying, “The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me, Because He has anointed Me To preach the gospel to the poor; He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted, To proclaim liberty to the captives And recovery of sight to the blind, To set at liberty those who are oppressed; 19 To proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord.” 

By reading Isaiah 61:1-2a, Jesus explained the purpose of His ministry.  At this time, He began to break off the oppressive yoke of Satan and set people free by teaching His interpretation of the law.  This did not end after Jesus’ death and resurrection.  Paul told the Romans that the written law was not abolished because of faith; he upheld the law (Romans 3:31).  Jesus’ brother James said, “But he who looks into the perfect law of liberty and continues in it, and is not a forgetful hearer but a doer of the work, this one will be blessed in what he does (James 1:25).”  This is in harmony with Deuteronomy 30:14-17:  “But the word is very near you, in your mouth and in your heart, that you may do it.  15 “See, I have set before you today life and good, death and evil, 16 in that I command you today to love the Lord your God, to walk in His ways, and to keep His commandments, His statutes, and His judgments, that you may live and multiply; and the Lord your God will bless you in the land which you go to possess.”  This shows us the continuity of Scripture.

Jesus’ ministry described in Isaiah 61:1-2a was only the beginning.  Unfortunately, people have gone back to their wicked ways. Since the Lord’s people refuse to accept His yoke, He will eventually bring an intense yoke upon them from the nations around them in order to bring them back to Himself.  It’s time to repent!  Return to the commands of the Lord!

Fortunately, Jesus will eventually returns; He will cast off the yoke of His people’s enemies by carrying out “the vengeance of our God” which is mentioned in Isaiah 61:2b. This brings us back Isaiah’s prophecy of the destruction of Babylon and the death of the King of Babylon as described in Isaiah 13 and 14.  While God’s people are waiting for this to happen, believers must demonstrate their faith in Christ by obeying the commands of God.[iv]

 

The Harbinger

Today, we’ll look at Isaiah 8-12.  In Isaiah 8, the Lord told Isaiah to write “Maher-Shalal-Hash-Baz” on a large scroll; it was to be witnessed by Uriah the priest and Zechariah son of Jeberekiah.  Later, Isaiah’s wife, the prophetess conceived and gave birth to a son.  The Lord told Isaiah to name him “Maher-Shalal-Hash-Baz” which means “make haste to plunder! Hurry to the spoil!”  The Lord also said that before the boy knows how to say ‘My father’ or ‘My mother,’ the wealth of Damascus and the plunder of Samaria would be carried off by the king of Assyria.  This prophecy was fulfilled in 732 by Tiglath-pileser III. 

Because the people rejoiced in Rezin, the king of Aram (Syria) and Pekah, the king of Israel and rejected the waters of Shiloah, the Lord used the imagery of the rising Euphrates River to describe how the army of Assyria would sweep into the southern kingdom and cover the whole land of Judah.  According to 2 Kings 18:13, this was accomplished by Sennacherib in the fourteenth year of King Hezekiah. 

What could be so special about the waters of Shiloah?  Shiloah was a fountain or pool in Jerusalem that shares similarities in spelling to Shiloh which is an epithet of the Messiah.  How interesting that Revelation 21:6 refers to Jesus as the Fountain of Life!  Jeremiah 2:13 agrees with Isaiah by saying, “For My people have committed two evils: They have forsaken Me, the fountain of living waters, And hewn themselves cisterns — broken cisterns that can hold no water.”

Why would people in Judah rejoice in their enemies, Rezin, the king of Aram (Syria) and Pekah, the king of Israel in addition to rejecting the Lord?  Obviously, they practiced idolatry.  Were these people foreigners or terrorists in the land and/or ordinary citizens’ whose thoughts and behavior were at war with their own people or government?  Could there be a parallel here to address what’s happening in America today?    

The Lord promised to bring the army of Assyria on these people.  As Isaiah speaks of Assyria filling the land of Judah, he says, “Be shattered, O you peoples, and be broken in pieces! Give ear, all you from far countries. Gird yourselves, but be broken in pieces; Gird yourselves, but be broken in pieces. 10 Take counsel together, but it will come to nothing; Speak the word, but it will not stand, For God is with us.”

The Lord said to all those from distant lands to arm themselves and devise a plan.  No matter what they said, it would not come to pass because “Immanu El (God is with us).”  This must be a message not only for the past but the near future—perhaps it’s a message not only for Israel but America as well.

Just like Isaiah, we should not be afraid of those around us.  We are to fear the Lord of armies and consecrate Him!  He will be our sanctuary!  Lord, please be selective in judgment!

Both Israel and Judah have stumbled against the Rock of their salvation.  In other words, they rejected the Lord during the Old Testament period and rejected Jesus when He came to visit them as Immanu El.  They were greatly offended by Him.  By the time Jesus came, the religious leaders had added numerous and complicated teachings and traditions to the law that often nullified the law of God.  Their teachings and traditions were preventing the common people from entering the kingdom of heaven.  It was obvious to Jesus that the light of the Lord was not within them.  Jesus did not abide by their traditions but taught the Torah by His own authority. He drove out demons by the finger of God, healed the sick, and raised the dead to show He was the Living Water but they couldn’t see what He was showing them or hear what He was saying.  Apparently, the religious leaders of Jesus’ day were more interested in their power and position, and their traditions and interpretations of the law than in living out the written law given to them by the Lord through Moses.  Aren’t we the same today?

The meaning of the precepts of the written law was to be bound and hidden but revealed only to those the Lord intended.  Jesus made it clear to His disciples that this was His reason for telling parables—so that only those God intended to see, ear, and understand could do so.  When Jesus came the first time from Galilee, He broke the burden of the oral law which had become so overwhelming and laid the easier yoke of the original written law on the people.

In Isaiah, prophecy is bound up by the way it was written.  It’s clearly a mixture of the past and the future.  It’s often hard to separate and some of it likely applies to both the past and the future.  It’s written in such a way that it can only be seen dimly.  In a similar way, Isaiah’s children were for signs and wonders in Israel because their names foretold the future.

God’s people were not to participate in the occult to know what would happen in the future.  The Lord has revealed the future from the beginning through His word.  He said there would be those who walk in the way of the Lord and others who won’t, and some who would bless Him while others cursed Him.

The first time Jesus came as Immanu El, He came from Galilee but the next time He comes as Immanu El, the government will be upon His shoulders and there will be peace forever.  Obviously, much prophecy must be fulfilled before that happens.

Isaiah 9:8-10 says, “The Lord sent a word against Jacob, And it has fallen on Israel. 9 All the people will know — Ephraim and the inhabitant of Samaria — Who say in pride and arrogance of heart: 10 ‘The bricks have fallen down, But we will rebuild with hewn stones; The sycamores are cut down, But we will replace them with cedars.”

Since Israel said this, the Lord raised up Retzin’s enemies against him; Rezin, the king of Aram (Syria) could no longer help Israel because he was killed by Tiglath-Pileser, the king of Assyria (2 Kings 16:9).  Assyria carried the northern kingdom of Israel into captivity but the Lord said Syria and the Philistines would devour Israel with an open mouth.  Since Syria was an ally of the northern kingdom of Israel, this has to happen in the future.  Even now they are salivating at the chance while nipping here and there.

America is much like the house of Israel.  In Jonathan Cahn’s book, The Harbinger, he gives a detailed description of America as seen in Isaiah 9:8-10.  Even though it is in a fictional format, it is true down to the last detail.  If you haven’t read it, I highly recommend it.  It shows how America is under judgment, how leaders in America declared the words of Isaiah 9:9-10 in response to 9/11, and how the harbinger was fulfilled in amazing detail.  Woe to America, my homeland!  Oh, how you have fallen!  I can only grieve for my country because I know based on Isaiah that a horrible tragedy is coming.  Please repent, America!  Have mercy, Lord!  Please protect Your faithful!  Please be selective in judgment!  Praise the Lord, Immanu El!

Let us stand with fear and trembling because the Lord’s hand is still raised against us.  It should be clear that God is using the Syrians and Philistines to get our attention.  The northern kingdom didn’t get it in the past, we’re not getting it now, and I doubt Israel will get it in the future.  God wants people to repent and turn to Him.  He has His hand stretched out waiting for people to take it.

Look at this warning: Isaiah 9:15-16 says, “The elder and honorable, he is the head; The prophet who teaches lies, he is the tail. 16 For the leaders of this people cause them to err, And those who are led by them are destroyed.”  Surely this is true of America as much as it was/is of Israel.

Who will we follow after?  Who will we listen to?  Our political and spiritual leaders are causing us to error!  We must individually repent of our pride and arrogance and turn to the Lord evening if our churches and nation won’t join us corporately.  Pray for the Lord to have mercy on us and on Israel (Judah).  Don’t join those who stand against Israel.   Reject the teachings of men and embrace the commands of God before it’s too late!

Isaiah said woe to those who make unrighteous decrees.  This is a warning to leaders who take what belongs to the people and deny people of justice.  They will not escape punishment for what they are doing.

The Lord used Assyria as a rod in His hand against His people.  Assyria moved their boundaries, plundered their treasuries, and moved captives far away from home.  Isn’t this the goal of Israel’s enemies today?  Even though the Lord used Israel’s enemies to judge and turn His people back to Himself, His people ignored Him.  Wake up! Repent!

Eventually, the Lord judged and punished Assyria too.  In the future, Israel’s enemies won’t get away either.  Jesus, the Lord of heaven’s armies, will cut down those who are haughty and this rod (Israel’s enemies) will be burned with a consuming fire.  The people of the east will be plundered.  The remnant of Israel will return.  Jesus, the rod from the stem of Jesse will rise up and rule in righteousness.  That which was once wild will dwell in peace with that which is domesticated.  The Gentiles will seek the Lord.  The Lord will be praised in all the earth.

Isaiah 9:6-7 makes it clear:  “And the government will be upon His shoulder. And His name will be called Wonderful, Counselor [Pele-Yo’etz], Mighty God [El Gibbor], Everlasting Father [Avi –‘Ad], Prince of Peace [Sar- Shalom].  7 Of the increase of His government and peace There will be no end, Upon the throne of David and over His kingdom, To order it and establish it with judgment and justice From that time forward, even forever. The zeal of the Lord of hosts will perform this.”