What does Isaiah 14:31 mean?
ESV: Wail, O gate; cry out, 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.
NIV: Wail, you gate! Howl, you city! Melt away, all you Philistines! A cloud of smoke comes from the north, and there is not a straggler in its ranks.
NASB: Wail, you gate; cry, you city; Melt away, Philistia, all of you! For smoke comes from the north, And there is no straggler in his ranks.
CSB: Wail, you gates! Cry out, city! Tremble with fear, all Philistia! For a cloud of dust is coming from the north, and there is no one missing from the invader's ranks.
NLT: Wail at the gates! Weep in the cities! Melt with fear, you Philistines! A powerful army comes like smoke from the north. Each soldier rushes forward eager to fight.
KJV: Howl, O gate; cry, O city; thou, whole Palestina, art dissolved: for there shall come from the north a smoke, and none shall be alone in his appointed times.
Verse Commentary:
The prophet Isaiah is spelling out the coming of the Lord's judgment on Israel's ancient enemies, the Philistines (Isaiah 14:28–30). He has warned them not to rejoice over a temporary victory over the Assyrians. He has assured them that the broken root, Assyria, will grow strong again and return as an even more venomous snake. In the end, the Lord will slay the remnant of a Philistine city with famine (Isaiah 14:29–30). This may have been fulfilled just four years later by Sargon II's siege of the Philistine city of Ashdod.

Now he calls for mourning. An ancient city's gates were its primary means of controlling access. They were where city leaders gathered for judgment. As such, "gates" were symbolic of a city's very life and power. Isaiah calls for all of Philistia to wither in fear. He pictures the approaching Assyrians as smoke coming out of the north, and they are stronger than ever. The army is healthy and strong. They will not falter again.

This prophecy was not written to the Philistines as much as to the people of Judah. The Lord wanted Judah to understand that He had authority and power over all the nations. He did not want them to trust in alliances with other nations to protect them. He wanted them simply to trust Him to take care of them.
Verse Context:
Chapter 14:28–32 contains Isaiah's short oracle from the Lord against Philistia. It is thick with symbolism. But the time of its writing is specific: the year Judah's King Ahaz died, probably 715 BC. Despite the temporary victory over Assyria, Isaiah warns the Philistines not to rejoice. He seems to describe the return of the Assyrians as an "adder branch" that bears fruit in the form of a flying fire serpent. The Lord declares He will kill the root of the Philistines with famine. This prediction would be fulfilled through the Assyrians and Sargon II four years later.
Chapter Summary:
After the oracle against Babylon in the previous chapter, Isaiah briefly describes what will follow for Judah. In compassion, the Lord will choose His people once more. He will return them to their homeland. They will sing a mocking taunt-song against the fallen king of Babylon. Isaiah pronounces oracles from the Lord against Assyria and Philistia. The Lord will break the Assyrians in His land. With heavy symbolism, Isaiah seems to prophecy that the Assyrians will defeat the Philistines with a siege four years before it happens. God's people will find refuge in Zion.
Chapter Context:
Chapter 14 follows the oracle about the destruction of Babylon with a brief encouragement to the people of Judah. The Lord will restore them to the land. They will taunt the fallen Babylonian king, using phrases many also associate with the fall of Satan. Isaiah pronounces oracles from the Lord against Assyria and Philistia. He declares that He will break the Assyrians in His land, freeing His people from their oppression. Philistia will fall at the Lord's hand to a famine inflicted on them by a power from the north. Next, Isaiah's prophecy will turn to Moab.
Book Summary:
Isaiah is among the most important prophetic books in the entire Bible. The first segment details God's impending judgment against ancient peoples for sin and idolatry (Isaiah 1—35). The second part of Isaiah briefly explains a failed assault on Jerusalem during the rule of Hezekiah (Isaiah 36—39). The final chapters predict Israel's rescue from Babylonian captivity (Isaiah 40—48), the promised Messiah (Isaiah 49—57), and the final glory of Jerusalem and God's people (Isaiah 58—66).
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