Isaiah 14:28-32, Philistia Who?

medinet-habu-luxor-egypt-showing-captivated-philistinesSamson married one. David killed one, Goliath.  Biblical references are made to constant war between the Hebrews and the Philistines.  Then one day, we read in II Kings, Hezekiah ups and smote them off the face of the earth.  And we hear of them no more.

Archeologist and Historians are not sure who the Philistines were or where they came from. Yet, they find evidence of them in Assyria and Egypt in the carved reliefs showing them as vassals paying tribute. Some have maintained that they must have been Sea Peoples either walking in from or sailing in from Greece and therefore are Minoan Greeks. This theory is based on the amount of Minoan pottery found at archeological sites surrounding the five cities of the Philistines along the coast of the Gaza strip. This, however, could simply be explained away by the fact that a coastal city would have abundant contact with the Sea Peoples. Pottery was even found, dated later, of Minoan pottery that was made with the native clays. All that says, however, is that the coastal people of the Gaza strip liked the Minoan pottery designs and copied them; much the same way that the making of China has made its way into Holland and England.

Sea Peoples

Sea Peoples

Another fact to consider is that there is no record of Israelites needing a translator to communicate with the Philistines. Translators are often mentions in Scripture, but never with the Philistines. Samson didn’t seem to need an interpreter to negotiate for a wife. Granted not everything is note worthy in scripture but it may mean that the Philistines were some distant relative or at least tribally connected to Hebrew speaking people.

Special note: Many present day Palestinians claim that they are the Biblical Philistines but this is just propaganda, their language and culture is Arab.

So now that we know a little about the Philistines and a bit about who they are not, lets get on with our text; Isaiah 14.

In the year that King Ahaz died came this oracle: “Rejoice not, O Philistia, all of you, that the rod which smote you is broken, for from the serpent’s root will come forth an adder, and its fruit will be a flying serpent. And the first-born of the poor will feed, and the needy lie down in safety; but I will kill your root with famine, and your remnant I will slay. Wail, O gate; cry, O city; melt in fear, O Philistia, all of you! For smoke comes out of the north, and there is no straggler in his ranks.” What will one answer the messengers of the nation? “The LORD has founded Zion, and in her the afflicted of his people find refuge.” Is. 14:28:32

Philistia is warned not to rejoice that David [the rod] is dead [broken]. Because from his descendants will come a flying fiery serpent. Here Hezekiah is metaphorically represented as a fiery [poisonous] flying serpent. He is referred to as the fiery flying serpent first because he destroyed the bronze or fiery serpent on the staff that Moses had raised in the Wilderness. By Hezekiah’s time the people no longer just revered this national treasure but had begun to worship this pole with its graven image on top which had saved so many from death by poisonous bite in the wilderness.

Moses and the Bronze Serpent

Moses and the Bronze Serpent

When the Canaanite, the king of Arad, who dwelt in the Negeb, heard that Israel was coming by the way of Atharim, he fought against Israel, and took some of them captive. And Israel vowed a vow to the LORD, and said, “If thou wilt indeed give this people into my hand, then I will utterly destroy their cities.” And the LORD hearkened to the voice of Israel, and gave over the Canaanites; and they utterly destroyed them and their cities; so the name of the place was called Hormah. From Mount Hor they set out by the way to the Red Sea, to go around the land of Edom; and the people became impatient on the way. And the people spoke against God and against Moses, “Why have you brought us up out of Egypt to die in the wilderness? For there is no food and no water, and we loathe this worthless food.” Then the LORD sent fiery serpents among the people, and they bit the people, so that many people of Israel died. And the people came to Moses, and said, “We have sinned, for we have spoken against the LORD and against you; pray to the LORD, that he take away the serpents from us.” So Moses prayed for the people. And the LORD said to Moses, “Make a fiery serpent, and set it on a pole; and every one who is bitten, when he sees it, shall live.” So Moses made a bronze serpent, and set it on a pole; and if a serpent bit any man, he would look at the bronze serpent and live.” Num. 21:1-9

The living fiery serpents were God’s punishment on a rebellious people and the Bronze serpent on the pole held God’s healing power to save those who looked upon it. So Hezekiah took on the characteristics of the deadly serpents when he descended onto the Philistines and utterly destroyed them.

The Bible clearly states that Hezekiah smote the Philistines,[2 Kings 18:8] and after this event neither the Bible nor any other historical source mentions them again. Not the Egyptians, nor the Assyrian. Hezekiah must have done a pretty good job of smiting because they literally vanish from the pages of history.

“ In the third year of Hoshea son of Elah, king of Israel, Hezekiah the son of Ahaz, king of Judah, began to reign. He was twenty-five years old when he began to reign, and he reigned twenty-nine years in Jerusalem. His mother’s name was Abi the daughter of Zechariah. And he did what was right in the eyes of the LORD, according to all that David his father had done. He removed the high places, and broke the pillars, and cut down the Asherah. And he broke in pieces the bronze serpent that Moses had made, for until those days the people of Israel had burned incense to it; it was called Nehushtan. He trusted in the LORD the God of Israel; so that there was none like him among all the kings of Judah after him, nor among those who were before him. For he held fast to the LORD; he did not depart from following him, but kept the commandments which the LORD commanded Moses. And the LORD was with him; wherever he went forth, he prospered. He rebelled against the king of Assyria, and would not serve him. He smote the Philistines as far as Gaza and its territory, from watchtower to fortified city.” 2Kings 18:1-8

Take a moment now to reread the original verses containing the prophecy; Is. 14:28:32. Smoke is used in prophecy to refer to invading armies and total destruction:

And when Joshua and all Israel saw that the ambush had taken the city, and that the smoke of the city went up, then they turned back and smote the men of Ai.” Josh. 8:21

What is that coming up from the wilderness, like a column of smoke, perfumed with myrrh and frankincense, with all the fragrant powders of the merchant?” [Here it is not so much an army but the approach of the lover.] Song 3:6

he opened the shaft of the bottomless pit, and from the shaft rose smoke like the smoke of a great furnace, and the sun and the air were darkened with the smoke from the shaft. Once more they cried, “Hallelujah! The smoke from her goes up for ever and ever.” Rev. 9:2-3

There are few things as ominous as a dust cloud created by an advancing army so huge it can be seen from miles away; especially if there is no place to run. The Philistines were allied with the Assyrians; Assyria is to the north and we’re in a continuous struggle with the Egyptians for control of the coastal plane. By coming down from the north Hezekiah’s forces would have blocked them off from any chance of sending for Assyrian help. They couldn’t run to Egypt after aligning themselves with the Assyrians against Egypt. There was no help for them! Their only choices were total surrender or annihilation. One could speculate that they may have sailed away to escape, but if they did why is there no trace of them?

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