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Isaiah 18 (Ethiopia)

Isaiah foreseeing judgment against the nations continues with Ethiopia in Chapter 18.

Wow. This chapter really struck me.

It's beautiful and poetic in a way I haven't experienced Isaiah yet.

Alas, oh land of whirring wings which lies beyond the river of Cush, which sends envoys by sea, even in papyrus vessels on the surface of the waters. Go, swift messengers, to a nation tall and smooth, to a people feared far and wide, a powerful and oppressive nation whose land the rivers divide.

Isaiah 18:1-2

Ryrie suggests that the whirring wings refers to the insects of the region. Also, states that the Ethiopian Dynasty would be established in Egypt in 714 and would want to pursue an anti-Assyrian alliance. Isaiah warns them not to well in advance.

The MacArthur Commentary Bible suggests that the whirring birds are Ethiopia's strong armada of ships. The various types of water refer to the Nile.

Wiersbe attribute whirring wings both to the insects and to the frantic diplomatic fury with people stirring up alliances against Assyria.

I was caught up in the descriptions and it took me a couple of reads to see the "Go, swift messengers" part. Going out to the larger world with God's message. Not just the immediate tribes and nations.

All you inhabitants of the world and dwellers on earth, as soon as a standard is raised on the mountains, you will see it, and as soon as the trumpet is blown, you will hear it. For thus the Lord has told me, "I will look from My dwelling place quietly like dazzling heat in the sunshine, like a cloud of dew in the heat of harvest."

Isaiah 18: 3-4

I think the phrase "inhabitants of the world and dwellers of the earth" is a good indication this has relevance for the age of Isaiah, but also for us. What's happening in this region will be seen and heard around the world.

Next begins the prophesy of what's coming...

For before the harvest, as soon as the bud blossoms and the flower becomes a ripening grape, the He will cut off the springs with pruning knives and remove and cut away the spreading branches. They will be left together for the mountain birds of prey, and the beasts of the earth; and the birds of prey will spend the summer feeding on them, and all the beasts of the earth will spend harvest time on them.

Isaiah 18:5-6

So the standard will be raised and the trumpet sound, these nations that looked like big, fruitful, and feared will be cut off and cast aside as animal feed.

At that time a gift of homage will be brought to the Lord of hosts from a people tall and smooth, even from a people feared far and wide, a powerful and oppressive nation, whose land the rivers divide--to the place of the name of the Lord of hosts, even Mount Zion.

Wiersbe interprets this section to say that those frantically running to Egypt for help should go home and wait for God's perfect time when He will take care of Assyria- cut them down and have them eaten by the animals.

Isaiah 18:7

So, the powerful, feared, tall and smooth nation, who had it's buds trimmed and fed to the animals, will understand who God is and will bring homage to Zion. To the Lord of hosts. The military aspect of God, not economic or even religious, but military homage. The Lord of hosts.

My NASB Ryrie Study Bible has titled this section "Against Ethiopia". I trust that they have researched and determined that's who was being referred to here, even though there is no name given**. Also, I've heard that scholars cannot find the US in Revelations or end times prophesy; but this feels like it could be the US.

  • I'm sure Americas would look tall (modern healthy heights) and smooth (clean cut).
  • Whirring wings- helicopters
  • Feared far and wide
  • powerful and oppressive- we might not like it, but we've done some pretty oppressive stuff
  • land rivers divide...rivers divide land everywhere, but the mighty Mississip, the Colorado, Rio Grande and others carve up our map.

** The MacArthur Commentary Bible states that Cush is the Hebrew word for Ethiopia (south of Egypt).

MacArthur and Wiersbe agree that, in the end times Millennial Kingdom of Jesus, gentile nations will come to Jerusalem to bring gifts to God.

NIV Chronological Study Bible

Prior to this chapter, there is an introduction to the next few chapters titled the Ashdod Rebellion. Apparently, while Assyria and Babylon were at way, an Ethiopian ruler named Piankhy swept through Egypt and united power. Now Moab and Edom decided it would good to make an alliance with the Ethiopian against Assyria.

Judah has been invited to join this alliance and many want to, but Isaiah warns against it. Faith in the Lord has to be the way forward- not going back to trust Egypt.

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