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Book of Isaiah
Chapter 18

This chapter is one of the most obscure in all of Scripture. It is a prophecy of the misery of a land or country, described by the wings with which it was shaded, and by the rivers by which it was situated. Messengers with a message is sent to another nation, which is also very vaguely described. The prophecy tells us that all the nations of the world shall be called upon to observe the judgment about to be inflicted on it, and a Promise is made, that at the same time God will take His rest and dwelling among His own people, and shall refresh and protect them. The time, the manner and the nature of the destruction of the people before threatened, are symbolically stated. The subject of all this, will be the glory of God, since these people will be brought in, in the last days, as a present to Him in Mount Zion.

The Burden of the Land beyond the Rivers of Ethiopia

Chapter 18 deals with the fifth burden, that of the land beyond the rivers of Ethiopia. The exact nation that Isaiah had in mind has not been clearly established, so there have been many interpretations. Some have thought that he is talking about Egypt, but the description does not fit that country. Also, Egypt is the subject of the next chapter, where we see that God is not through with that kingdom. Prophecy literally has been fulfilled concerning her. Those who say that chapter 18 refers to England and the United States do not make sense. It seems that Ethiopia best suits the text and theme of Scripture. But which Ethiopia is intended? There are two mentioned in Scripture. The word for Ethiopia is Cush. There is one in Asia (Gen.2:13), and there is one in Africa. I think maybe this speaks about the Ethiopia that is in Africa.

Isaiah 18:1 Woe to the land shadowing with wings, which is beyond the rivers of Ethiopia: (KJV)

Woe to the land shadowing with wings . . . it is very difficult to determine what land is here meant. Some think it is the land of Assyria; and if so, this chapter would be a continuation of the prophecy concerning the destruction of the Assyrians, in the three last verses of the preceding Isaiah Chapter 17. The stretching out of whose wings is mentioned (Isa.8:8; Eze.17:3), and thought to be referred to here. Others think that the land of Judea is meant, which trusted under the shadow of the wings of Egypt and Ethiopia, to whom the characters in the verse 2 are supposed to belong. Most think that either Egypt or Ethiopia is meant, described as shadowing with wings; NOT with the wings of birds, as some interpret it, which flocked there in great numbers, but instead mean mountains, with which part of Ethiopia was encompassed and shaded, or else with ships whose sails are like wings, and where many fleets of ships were, hovering about their coasts and ports, and seemed to shadow them.
Which is beyond the rivers of Ethiopia . . . the main rivers were Astaboras, Astapus and also the Nile itself, which came out of Ethiopia into Egypt. So the land of which Isaiah speaks is supposed to be situated on both sides of this river or rivers; which is true both of Egypt and of Ethiopia. it seems more reasonable to understand this of the great river Nile, which comes from Ethiopia, and runs through the length of that land, and through Egypt, into the Midland Sea; and which is here called rivers, in the plural number, as it is also called in (Ex.7:19; Isa.7:18; Eze.29:3-4). And so it might well be called this, either for its greatness, or for the many streams that run into it, or for the many streams or channels into which it is divided.

*****Woe is a bad translation. It really is the same word that is translated ah (Isa.1:4), or ho (Isa.55:1), where it is a form of address that wants our attention. What God is saying, Ho, hear Me, listen to what I say.
Some say that shadowing with wings would be better translated rustling with wings, because Ethiopia is noted for its many birds. It is called the land of wings. This may help to confirm that the land in question here is Ethiopia.

 Isaiah 18:2 That sendeth ambassadors by the sea, even in vessels of bulrushes upon the waters, saying, Go, ye swift messengers, to a nation scattered and peeled, to a people terrible from their beginning hitherto; a nation meted out and trodden down, whose land the rivers have spoiled! (KJV)

That sendeth ambassadors by the sea . . . the Red Sea bordered the coasts of Egypt and Ethiopia. Sending ambassadors was done to strengthen themselves with leagues and alliances, whereby they hope to prevent the judgments and calamities which, apart from all their deeds, would be brought upon them. The first part of this verse seems to contain a further description of the people of the land, mentioned in the foregoing verse. By the sea could also refer to either the Midland Sea, the Red Sea, or the great lakes which were both in and near the land of Egypt. It was normal among the Jews to give the title of sea to a lake, or any large body of water.
Even in vessels of bulrushes upon the waters . . . both the Egyptians and Ethiopians commonly used boats of bulrushes or reeds, which were more suitable for them than those of wood, because they were cheaper, faster and lighter to carry from place to place, for which there were many times in those areas that they would have to carry the boats, because of the many rocks, rapids and waterfalls.
Saying, Go, ye swift messengers . . . the word saying is not in the text, nor should it be supplied; for these are not the words of the nation before described, either the Jews or the Assyrians; but they are the words of God to His messengers (angels or men), who were swift to do His will, whom He sends to condemn or inflict judgment upon the same nation that is before mentioned, with which agrees the following: Ezekiel 30:9 In that day shall messengers go forth from me in ships to make the careless Ethiopians afraid, and great pain shall come upon them, as in the day of Egypt: for, lo, it cometh. (KJV)
To a nation scattered and peeled . . . that dwelt in towns, villages and houses that were scattered everywhere, or who would be scattered and dissipated by their enemies, and spread over a large tract of ground, as Ethiopia was . . . and peeled of their hair, as the word means. The Ethiopians, who lived in a hot country, had very little hair on their bodies.
To a people terrible from their beginning hitherto . . . because of their black color, and for the vast armies they brought into the field (2 Chron.12:3), they were never as any other people, and they might well be said to be so from the beginning, since Nimrod, the mighty hunter, was the son of Cush (Gen.10:8; 1 Chron.1:10; Mic.5:6), from where the Ethiopians get the name of Cushites. Ethiopians: The Cushites were probably the inhabitants of Ethiopia, south of Egypt. (2 Chron.14:12; 16:8; Isa.43:3; Dan.11:43; Nah.3:9; Cushim, Heb. (Gen.10:6-8).
A nation meted out and trodden down . . . measured out for judgment, to be trodden down by their enemies, by the Divine sentence of Almighty God. 
Whose land the rivers have spoiled . . . this can be taken two ways: #1. literally, because Egypt and Ethiopia were frequently overflowed by those two great rivers Niger and Nilus; even though that overflow was rather an advantage to the land, by making it fruitful, rather than causing trouble. Or #2. this can be symbolic and prophetically, of the Assyrians or Babylonians breaking in upon them like a river, and destroying their land and people (Eze.30), for powerful enemies invading a country are often compared to a river (Isa.8:7; 59:19; Jer.46:7-8).

*****Some think that this sea power to be England or the United States, but vessels of bulrushes do NOT characterize the boats of any modern nation! A nation scattered and peeled is Israel. This is clearly evident, and most sound students of God’s Word agree with this.

Isaiah 18:3 All ye inhabitants of the world, and dwellers on the earth, see ye, when he lifteth up an ensign on the mountains; and when he bloweth a trumpet, hear ye. (KJV)

All ye inhabitants of the world, and dwellers on the earth . . . all the men of the world are here called upon, either by the prophet, or by the Lord, to be eye and ear witnesses of the judgment that would be inflicted on this nation, and of the salvation of His own people.
See ye, when be lifteth up an ensign on the mountains . . . you shall be eye-witnesses of this terrible judgment which God shall bring on these people. The prophet, in this way summons all nations to bear witness of his prophecy, and of the fulfillment of it; of which they would see so clearly, as though it was a banner set up on a mountain.
And when he bloweth a trumpet, hear ye . . . or ye shall hear the trumpet sounding as an alarm of war, by which the people will be summoned, and come to execute the judgment threatened.

*****Some consider the ensign mentioned here to be the ark of the tabernacle (Ex.30:26; 31:7; 40:5, 21), which was later transferred to the Temple. It disappeared at the time of the Babylonian captivity, and many believe that it was carried to Ethiopia.
Isaiah 18:4 For so the LORD said unto me, I will take my rest, and I will consider in my dwelling place like a clear heat upon herbs, and like a cloud of dew in the heat of harvest. (KJV)

For so the Lord said unto me . . . the Lord said to the prophet Isaiah, both what goes before, and follows after.
I will take my rest . . . these are not the words of the prophet, as some think, like those of Habakkuk (Hab.2:1), but the words of the Lord Himself, indicating that He would, as He always did, rest Himself, amidst all the commotions that were in the world . . . or that He would take His rest among His people in Zion, of which He had said, this is my rest for ever (Ps.132:14). He will sit still, and not rouse Himself, either to help His people, or to hinder their enemies. God is often said in Scripture to rest or sit still, when He does not work on the behalf of a person or people; or the opposite, He is said to bestir Himself when He acts on their behalf (2 Sam.5:24; Judg.4:14; 7:15; 1 Sam.14:9-12; 1 Chron.14:15).
And I will consider in my dwelling place like a clear heat upon herbs . . . for although the Lord may seem sometimes to take no notice of what is done on Earth, yet He always sees and knows all things. He considers in His own mind what is fit and proper what He should do. He works all things after the counsel of His own will. In ancient times, the Lord considered His dwelling place on Earth to be Jerusalem, Mount Zion, the Temple, the sanctuary, where His Shekinah,
(Theophany, Glory of God) dwelt. Here He promises to look in a way of grace and favor, with delight and pleasure, to comfort and refresh His own people. After a rain (2 Sam.23:4), when then the sun shines brightly, it revives the plants and herbs, and makes them grow. http://www.godcannotlie.org/is_jesus_god_ch10.htm
And like a cloud of dew in the heat of harvest . . . which is greatly desired and welcomed, which cools the air, refreshes the Earth, plumps the corn, and is very welcomed to the harvestman. This may show how grateful the Presence of God is to and for His people, His Presence with them, the light of His Presence on them, and His protection of them (Isa.4:5).
The Dwelling Place of the Glory of the Lord was the Tabernacle in the wilderness and later in the Temple: (Ex.16:7, 10; 24:16-17; 40:34-35; Lev.9:6, 23; Num.14:10, 21; 16:19, 42; 20:6).  
Glory of God, Shekinah, Theophany, was in the Temple until God took it away: (Eze.9:3; 10:4, 18; 11:22-23).
The Glory of the Lord would be gone from Earth until Christ Jesus was born (Lk.1:32-35; 2:1-20).

Isaiah 18:5 For afore the harvest, when the bud is perfect, and the sour grape is ripening in the flower, he shall both cut off the sprigs with pruning hooks, and take away and cut down the branches. (KJV)

For afore the harvest . . . or before the vintage . . . the above symbol is continued on here. Before the plans of the people described above are ripe for execution of the judgment, who have promised themselves a large harvest of their neighbors. Afore the harvest, before they receive the end of their hopes, and finish the work which they have planned and begun.
When the bud is perfect . . . when the bud of the vine becomes a perfect grape, although unripe; when the scheme was fully laid with utmost wisdom, as they imagined, although not yet fulfilled.
And the sour grape is ripening in the flower . . . things go well, as if the end would be according to what was expected, and that there would be a good vintage. The sour grape may mean the temper and disposition of the above people against their enemies, their ill nature, and hatred to them; or their sins and transgressions, for which the judgment condemned came upon them. These people are compared to a vine.
He shall both cut off the sprigs with pruning hooks, and take away and cut down the branches . . . the vinedresser cuts off only branches that are dead or withered, whereas the enemy has no good will to the vine, cutting off the twigs that have buds and flowers, or unripe grapes, and even whole branches that have big clusters on them, and takes them and casts them away, to be trodden under foot, or cast into the fire. So the king of Assyria, as the instrument in the Hand of God, would cut off the Ethiopians with the sword, both small and great, when their boldness would fail. Instead of gathering of the grapes, he shall cut down the body and branches of the vine, and throw it into the fire.

Isaiah 18:6 They shall be left together unto the fowls of the mountains, and to the beasts of the earth: and the fowls shall summer upon them, and all the beasts of the earth shall winter upon them. (KJV)

They shall be left, together unto the fowls of the mountains, and to the beasts of the earth . . . both sprigs and branches (the small and the great Ethiopians); with the fruit of them, which being unripe, are ignored by men, but fed upon by birds and beasts . . . the fruits, the tender sprigs and green branches indicate the destruction of the Ethiopians, and that the princes (rulers) and the common people would fall together and lie unburied, and become a prey to birds and beasts. Some say this was the destruction of the Assyrian army slain by the angel (2 Ki.19:35), while others think this was the army of Gog and Magog (Eze. Ch.38 & 39), and look forward to fulfillment in the last days (Rev. 20:8).
And the fowls shall summer upon them, and all the beasts of the earth shall winter upon them . . . we are not to understand that the summer is set apart for the birds when they fly in large flocks, and the winter to the beasts when they gather together in great numbers . . . I think the idea here is that the massacre would be so great, there would be sufficient food for them both, all year long.
Ezekiel 39:12 And seven months shall the house of Israel be burying of them, that they may cleanse the land. (KJV)
Revelation 19:17-18 And I saw an angel standing in the sun; and he cried with a loud voice, saying to all the fowls that fly in the midst of heaven, Come and gather yourselves together unto the supper of the great God; 18  That ye may eat the flesh of kings, and the flesh of captains, and the flesh of mighty men, and the flesh of horses, and of them that sit on them, and the flesh of all men, both free and bond, both small and great. (KJV)

Isaiah 18:7 In that time shall the present be brought unto the LORD of hosts of a people scattered and peeled, and from a people terrible from their beginning hitherto; a nation meted out and trodden under foot, whose land the rivers have spoiled, to the place of the name of the LORD of hosts, the mount Zion. (KJV)

In that time shall the present be brought unto the Lord of hosts . . . in that day, is a phrase which is to be taken as some time in the future, as it is often used by the prophets . . . not exactly at the time when this destruction would be, but sometime after, in the last days.
Of a people scattered and peeled . . . this explains what the present is, that shall be brought to the Lord; it is when these people will be awakened to repentance. This does not seem to be the spoils of Sennacherib's army, as some interpret it; nor of the Jews, that shall be brought by the Gentiles out of all nations in the last days (Isa.Ch.60), but the Ethiopians described in verse 2, as here, who, being converted, and shall stretch out their hands to God, submit unto Him (Jam.4:7), and present themselves body and soul, as an acceptable sacrifice unto Him (Rom.12:1; Phil.4:18; Heb.13:15); when these prophecies in the following shall be fulfilled: Psalm 68:31  Princes shall come out of Egypt; Ethiopia shall soon stretch out her hands unto God. (KJV)
This began with the conversion of the Ethiopian eunuch (Acts 8:27).
A nation meted out, and trodden under foot, whose land the rivers have spoiled . . .  these descriptive characteristics, along with those in the preceding clauses are continued, to show that this means the same people here, as those in verse 2. They are to magnify the riches of God's grace, in the conversion of a people to whom such characteristics belonged. This reveals that back then, as it is now, that it was NOT anything of themselves, nor any goodness of theirs, but ALL is of the free favor and good will of a loving and caring God (Eph.2:8-9; Rom.6:23).
To the place of the name of the Lord of hosts, the mount Zion . . . where the present judgment was to be brought, and where the persons are to present themselves to the Lord, in Mount Zion.

*****This is evidently a reference to the time when the Kingdom of Christ will be established on this Earth (Rev.20:1-4), and the Ethiopians will come again to Jerusalem to worship (Zec.14:16). One day ALL people will finally admit the Truth that Jesus is Lord! One day ALL people will fall before Jesus and worship Him as He should be worshipped.
Philippians 2:9-11 Wherefore God also hath highly exalted him, and given him a name which is above every name: 10  That at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth; 11  And that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. (KJV)

Special Comments

This chapter is one of the most obscure (unclear) in Scripture, although more of it was probably understood by those for whom it was first intended. Swift messengers are sent by water to a nation marked by God, measured out, trodden under foot. God's people are trampled on; but whoever thinks they can swallow them up, finds out quickly that they can be cast down, yet not deserted, not destroyed.
All who dwell on this Earth must consider the clues that the Lord gives us, in His Word and in His control of nature. So many simply do not take God seriously! Any Promises that God has made in His Holy Word shall indeed come to pass! The Promises to the righteous AND His Promises to the wicked. The vast majority of people in the world just do NOT consider themselves to be wicked. BUT. . . if you do not take God at His Word and accept His Only begotten Son to save you (Jn.3:15-18; 14:6) . . . GOD considers you to be wicked. http://www.judgmentcoming.org/j_c_books_wicked_people_described.html

God gives assurance to the prophet, and by him to be given to His people. Zion (Jerusalem) is His rest for ever, and you can rest assured that He will look after it. He will take care of His people’s comforts and refresh them as needed, as He continually provides for them, day after day. And on the other hand, He will reckon with His and His people’s enemies. Just as God's people are protected in all seasons of the year, so too, their enemies are exposed in all seasons. A praise of thanksgiving should be brought to God always. Hebrews 13:15 By him therefore let us offer the sacrifice of praise to God continually, that is, the fruit of our lips giving thanks to his name. (KJV)  

The Dwelling Place of the Glory of the Lord was the Tabernacle in the wilderness and later in the Temple: (Ex.16:7, 10; 24:16-17; 40:34-35; Lev.9:6, 23; Num.14:10, 21; 16:19, 42; 20:6).  
Glory of God, Shekinah, Theophany, was in the Temple until God took it away: (Eze.9:3; 10:4,18; 11:22-23).
The Glory of the Lord would be gone from Earth until Christ Jesus was born (Lk.1:32-35; 2:1-20).

Commentaries on Old Testament Books

Book of Isaiah . . Isaiah's Mini-Bible

Isaiah Ch.1 . . Isaiah Ch.2 . . Isaiah Ch.3 . . Isaiah Ch.4 . . Isaiah Ch.5 . . Isaiah Ch.6 . . Isaiah Ch.7 . . Isaiah Ch.8 . . Isaiah Ch.9 . . Isa.Ch.10 . . Isa.Ch.11 . . Isa.Ch12 . . Home Page

JUDGMENT ON THE NATIONS . . . . . Isaiah Ch.13 . . Isaiah Ch.14 . . Isaiah Ch.15 . . Isaiah Ch.16 . . Isaiah Ch.17 . . Isaiah Ch.18 . . Isaiah Ch.19 . . Isaiah Ch.20 . . Isaiah Ch.21 . . Isaiah Ch.22 . . Isaiah Ch.23 . . Home Page

ISAIAH’S APOCALYPSE . . . . . Isaiah Ch.24 . . Isaiah Ch.25 . . Isaiah Ch.26 . . Isaiah Ch.27 . . Home Page

ISAIAH'S SIX WOES . . . Isaiah Ch.28 . . Isaiah Ch.29 . . Isaiah Ch.30 . . Isaiah Ch.31 . . Isaiah Ch.32 . . Isaiah Ch.33 . . Isaiah Ch.34 . . Isaiah Ch.35 . . Home Page

Isaiah's Historic Part . . Isaiah Ch.36 . . Isaiah Ch.37 . . Isaiah Ch.38 . . Isaiah Ch.39 . . Home Page

Isaiah Speaks of Messiah's Incarnation. . Isaiah Ch.40 . . Isaiah Ch.41 . . Isaiah Ch.42 . . Isaiah Ch.43 . . Isaiah Ch.44 . . Isaiah Ch.45 . . Isaiah Ch.46 . . Isaiah Ch.47 . . Isaiah Ch.48 . . Home Page

Isaiah's Introduction to the Suffering Servant

Isaiah's Suffering Servant Prophecy. . . Isaiah 52:13-53:12

Isaiah's Redemption Through the Suffering Servant . . . Isaiah Ch.49 . . Isaiah Ch.50 . . Isaiah Ch.51 . . Isaiah Ch.52 . . Isaiah Ch.53 . . Isaiah Ch.54 . . Isaiah Ch.55 . . Isaiah Ch.56 . . Isaiah Ch.57 . . Home Page

Isaiah's Vision of the Dispersion . . . Isaiah Ch.58 . . Isaiah Ch59 . . Isaiah Ch.60 . . Isaiah Ch.61 . . Isaiah Ch.62 . . Isaiah Ch.63 . . Isaiah Ch.64 . . Isaiah Ch.65 . . Isaiah Ch.66 . . Home Page



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