Monday, May 25, 2015

Beware the Flying Fiery Serpents

Isaiah 14:29 is an oracle given by Yahweh to Isaiah, concerning the impending judgment upon Philistia. In the first half of the oracle, an ominous image appears:

Rejoice not, O Philistia, all of you,
that the rod that struck you is broken,
for from the serpent's root will come for an adder,
and its fruit will be a flying fiery serpent.

There are three different Hebrew words here: serpent (nā-ḥāš), adder, or cockatrice (ṣe-p̄a‘), and flying serpent (śā-rāp̄ mə-‘ō-w-p̄êp̄). The last word is the same word from which Seraphim is derived, the angelic figures whom Isaiah meets in his vision in Isaiah 6. While the image in Isaiah 14:29 is referring to particular kings who will attack Philistia, it is not inconceivable that a spiritual reality lies behind them, as in Daniel 10:13. Understanding the spiritual reality behind such ancient powers, moved by the Sovereign hand of God, is a awful reminder to us that the physical enemies we face in our own day are both empowered by ministers of evil and the Providence of God--to either punish or discipline (depending upon the recipient).

For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.

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