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Often God’s people can be really down in the dumps as they look at the deplorable condition of God’s kingdom in its present condition here on earth. As you look around each week and see lawlessness increase and depravity rampant, it certainly doesn’t give the Christian good vibes. Just look at the TV shows that are most popular today. It’s not Leave it to Beaver and Father Knows Best. In one generation the cultural climate has dramatically shifted so that sexual promiscuity and perversions are the heart and soul of our entertainment diet.

Look at the character reflected in the conduct of our political leaders. Can you imagine 200 years ago how the nation would have responded to a president committing oral sex with a young intern in the Oval Office; or candidates for the highest offices distributing pictures of their private parts? Not that former leaders were always paragons of virtue but at least there was some regard for modesty and a sense of decorum. Today, there is little left that can shock us anymore.

In such a climate, God’s enemies become increasingly vocal in their opposition and mocking of God’s kingdom. Think how it must have been for the godly [however few there were that maintained their faith along with Isaiah] back in the days when King Ahaz died. God provides a prophecy of judgment against the Philistines to encourage His people to:



“In the year that King Ahaz died this oracle came:”

Dates oracle around 715 BC – although that date, as with most aspects of this passage, is somewhat debated.

Parallel to 6:1 where you have the death of a righteous king – Uzziah – as pinning a watershed event; here you have the death of a wicked king – his grandson Ahaz

Understand the depths of the apostasy of King Ahaz – his reign marked the end of the Davidic Kingdom experiencing any real glory days until the times of the Messiah – despite temporary and partial reforms under King Hezekiah; Ahaz was a committed apostate; he had led the nation deeper into idolatry – 2 Kings 16:2-4; but most importantly, when offered grace and mercy as the Lord came to him in Is. 7 willing to provide a miraculous sign, he stubbornly persisted in his reliance upon pagan nations rather than faith in the covenant God.

Gracious for God to provide His revelation during such dark days. The nation was surely at one of its lowest points.




Again, the main purpose for God providing such a warning is to encourage His own people, so vs. 32 will be the Application to the faithful


A. Gloating Would Be Premature – Based on Faulty Evaluation

“Do not rejoice, O Philistia, all of you, Because the rod that struck you is broken;”

Philistines called the uncircumcised in Judges 15:18 by Samson – a term of derision;

“all of you” — 5 major gated cities (Zeph. 2:4) comprising the Philistines to the west and south of Jerusalem in that very fertile area along the coast of the Mediterranean – Ashkelon (only one located directly on the coast), Gaza, Ashdod, Gath and Ekron

Taunting was nothing new to them – remember Goliath

Identification of this “rod” is critical: [Brian Borgman very helpful here]

1) older commentators for the most part point to Davidic kingdom

– natural link to the significance of death of King Ahaz in vs. 28

2) newer commentators for the most part point to Assyria (cf. E. J. Young)

– earlier reference in chap. 10 to rod that God used to punish His people as being Assyria

– because of the previous verses dealing with judgment against Assyria

– because Ahaz had not been exerting any power over the Philistines

– because the army coming from the north is assumed to be that of Assyria

– because of difficulties seeing the imagery of a serpent connected with Messiah

Arguments in favor of Davidic Kingdom:

– Philistines looking back at their history and seeing the culmination of all of the defeats they had experienced at the hands of King David and his followers

Must have the historical background of the constant antagonism and warfare between the Philistines and the nation Israel:

Judges 13-16 (remember our studies earlier) – days of Samson – vs. 5 “he shall begin to deliver Israel from the hands of the Philistines.” Ended up in captivity – being mocked by the enemies of God – but they rejoiced prematurely – the story ended with Samson grabbing the two pillars and bringing down the house upon the Philistine big shots

1 Sam. 5:3 – Another example of premature taunting of God and His kingdom; thinking that the rod was broken utterly

Fast forward to the days of Saul – 1 Samuel 13 – Jonathan made a successful raid on the garrison that was in Geba so that the Philistines became incensed and mobilized their forces against Saul; caused panic on the part of Saul – did not respond in faith; vv. 19ff – Philistines controlled all the iron and steel – program of arms control – did not allow for any blacksmiths in Israel – a true monopoly

Things come to a head in the confrontation between David and Goliath; 17:26 “What will be done for the man who kills this Philistine and takes away the reproach from Israel? Who is this uncircumcised Philistine that he should taunt the armies of the living God.”

1 Sam. 18:25 – David wants to marry Michal, Saul’s daughter; accepts the challenge of providing the dowry price of 100 foreskins of the Philistines – doubles the challenge and comes back with 200 foreskins – a bloody mess – Philistines were constantly being abused by David

2 Chr. 28: 18-22 – Things have flip flopped at the time of Ahaz – so that now the Philistines have made some inroads and actually settled in some of the outlying cities of Judah; vs. 19 – the Lord was humbling Ahaz – what a low point – cause for rejoicing on the part of the Philistines; they felt with the death of Ahaz they would continue to put Judah under their dominion;

Borgman: Ahaz gave some tribute but was not helped but bullied; Ahaz gives up territory to a little tiny territory to the west that has never had the prominence; When Ahaz dies; they start to make a move on Hezekiah who follows; guise of alliance against Assyria to help Judah regain national sovereignty; Lesson: you don’t make deals with Philistines;

That’s the historical background

– language used is consistent with Exodus imagery of Moses’ rod turning into a serpent

(Exod 4:1-2; 7:10-12)

Douglas Van Dorn: Function and purpose of the rod and the snake: Moses had a shepherd staff with hook on the end; to keep the sheep safe; fend off attacking enemies; uphold Moses when he got tired on his journeys; his most important instrument for his life’s work; as Moses has a shepherd’s staff that he can control, God has Moses as his staff to use for His work; mediator for doing all sorts of miracles; ushering in plagues; parting the Red Sea with staff; bringing water from rock; etc. Isaiah talks about a different sort of staff – this rod was primarily for a weapon; Ps. 23 – “Thy rod and Thy staff they comfort me”; Is. 10:5; people are God’s instruments and they will do God’s bidding; rod can be used for discipline or punishment; Ps. 89:32; God struck David with rod of discipline to get him back on the right path

– linking serpent to the Messiah consistent with Numbers 21:9 and John 3:14

– no way that the Assyrian power and threat has been diminished at this time; in fact the Philistines are trying to persuade Judah to enter into an alliance to defend against Assyria

God’s kingdom and His promises may look “broken” – but don’t be fooled —

Your life may seem broken in some area – but don’t give up or lose hope; the Lord can raise you up to victory

B. Growing Strength of Davidic Kingdom Leadership

1. Serpent’s Root = Ahaz – the immediate Davidic dynasty

“For from the serpent’s root”

Scriptures full of mixed metaphors – especially in poetic sections like this

Snake is very subtle – you don’t see it right away; lying in wait and sneaking about on the ground where it cannot be easily seen until it quickly strikes and bites you with its fatal poison

2. Serpent’s Shoot = “viper” = Hezekiah

“a viper will come out,”

Serpent might have seemed dead … but watch out; don’t stick your hand down that hole

3. Serpent’s Fruit = “flying serpent” = Messiah – the ultimate Davidic dynasty

“And its fruit will be a flying serpent.”

Is. 30:6 – directed against Egypt – but look at how similar the context is – relying on other nations instead of on the Lord

What is more impossible or more terrifying than a flying serpent??

We don’t know what type of end times fulfillment there will be in the Day of the Lord in preparation for the millennial kingdom – that may be why we have so much difficulty with some of these prophecies in Isaiah 13-23

C. Gracious Provision for God’s Dependent People – Imagery of the Good Shepherd invoked

1. Food

“And those who are most helpless will eat,”

The poorest of the poor – the firstborn of the poor —

This food was not acquired on the basis of personal strength and sufficiency

2. Safety

“And the needy will lie down in security;”

Conditions that only will apply in the millennial kingdom

God undertakes for the poor and needy who trust in Him

Ps. 72:13 “He will have compassion on the poor and needy, and the lives of the needy he will save.”

Ezek. 34:11-16

Who tends to gloat prematurely in our day and culture?

– the scientists and evolutionists who have consigned God’s Word to the scrap heap of intellectual suicide – What would Darwin say today since no transitional forms have been discovered

– those who mock the prophecies of the second coming of Christ –

– the rich who think that their future is now secure

– the sophisticated media who thinks they have the answers to the world’s problems – until they realize they can’t even nurture their own children

– the professors of our elite educational institutions who live in ivory towers of their own pride and self importance

– the rulers of the kingdoms of this earth who imagine that their power is intrinsic to them and will grant them lasting significance


A. No Food or Safety for God’s Enemies

1. No Food or Remaining Root

“I will destroy your root with famine,”

When root has been destroyed, there is no more hope for revival.

2. No Safety or Remnant

“And it will kill off your survivors.”

B. No Hope of Deliverance – Just Anguish and Terror

1. Cry of Anguish

“Wail, O gate; cry, O city;”

Is. 13:6-7

Gate is the location where the respected elders of the city should be able to gather and enjoy the respect of the people; the city should be impregnable

2. Broken Spirit – no more heart to put up a fight; resigned to defeat

“Melt away, O Philistia, all of you;”

C. No Weakness in the Coming Invasion

1. Concentration of Invading Forces – a huge mass creating a dustbowl

“For smoke comes from the north,”

Could be from Assyria in the near term; but could be from Judah in the end times

Possibly smoke from other cities that have been leveled – but they would probably be too far away to see;

More likely the dust stirred up from such a massive force on the move and rapidly approaching

Bad enough to suffer a dust storm of invading locusts – but a barbaric, savage enemy that will show no mercy is a force to be dreaded

2. Coordination of Invading Forces

“And there is no straggler in his ranks.”

Well connected forces; no gap; no isolation; all working together and advancing rapidly


A. Pressure to Compromise Must Be Repelled

“How then will one answer the messengers of the nation?”

Shows that this oracle had primary application to God’s own people; intended for their encouragement and benefit

What should be the response of God’s people?

B. Roots of Salvation Must be Relied Upon

“That the LORD has founded Zion,”

Dangerous for nations to fight against Zion

How did you get started in the Christian life? You must experience victory in the same vein …

Salvation is totally of the Lord

Col. 2:6 “Therefore as you have received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in Him”

Gal 3 – “Did you receive the Spirit by the works of the Law, or by hearing with faith?”

C. Rest in the Savior is the Secure Solution

“And the afflicted of His people will seek refuge in it.”

The Lord always sees the afflictions of His people

Where do we turn for refuge?

Sometimes we say: “All we can do is pray” – as if that is our last and weakest option – when really it should be our constant priority and only hope for victory

Is. 28:16 “Behold, I am laying in Zion a stone, a tested stone, a costly cornerstone for the foundation, firmly placed. He who believes in it will not be disturbed.”

Psalm 46 – Lord is the refuge for His people

Beall: The Assyrians would indeed come and overtake the Philistines (under Sargon II–722-705 B.C.–see Isa 20:1, which indicates that in 711 Sargon’s general, Tartan, defeated Ashdod), as the smoke “from the north” (v 31), a well organized army from Assyria, overwhelmed the city. . . V 32 expresses the main message for Judah: when the Philistine envoys come and desire you to make a league with them, do not do so–for they will soon be nothing. It is the Lord who has founded Zion, and Judah’s afflicted should find refuge only in her (see also Isa 28:16).

Constable: This oracle came to Isaiah in the year that King Ahaz died, namely, 715 B.C. The dating of prophecies is rare in Isaiah, so probably this date has some bearing on the interpretation of the oracle. . . The “rod” and the “serpent” could refer to Shalmaneser V, who laid siege to Samaria and dominated Israel for so long; and the “viper” and “flying serpent” could be Sargon II, who followed Shalmaneser. This setback led the Philistines to think that this enemy would not oppress them any longer. But Isaiah warned that the oppressor was not gone forever. A worse enemy would come from that nation in the future, probably Assyria or Babylon (v. 29). Only the poorest of the people would survive the coming enemy. Most of the Philistines would starve or be slaughtered (v. 30). . . .Sargon II the Assyrian invaded Philistia in 712 B.C., and in 701 B.C. another Assyrian, Sennacherib, punished anti-Assyrian elements in Philistia.


God’s enemies certainly rejoiced to see the seemingly broken rod of Christ dying on the cross …

But they should have taken note of God’s promise from Gen. 3:15 “He shall bruise you on the head” while all you can do is “bruise him on the heel”

They should have taken note of God’s promise from Genesis 49:10 “The scepter shall not depart from Judah, Nor the ruler’s staff from between his feet, until Shiloh comes, and to him shall be the obedience of the peoples.”

Talk about celebrating prematurely! Remember the victorious words of the famous Easter hymn:

Up from the grave he arose;

with a mighty triumph o’er his foes;

he arose a victor from the dark domain,

and he lives forever, with his saints to reign.

He arose! He arose! Hallelujah! Christ arose!