Isaiah announces the overthrow of Sennacherib's hosts
and desires the Ethiopian ambassadors, now in Jerusalem, to bring word
of it to their own nation; and he calls on the whole world to witness
the event (Isa 18:3). As
17:12-14 announced the
presence of the foe, so Isa 18:1-7
foretells his overthrow.
1. Woe—The heading in English
Version, "God will destroy the Ethiopians," is a mistake arising
from the wrong rendering "Woe," whereas the Hebrew does not
express a threat, but is an appeal calling attention (Isa 55:1;
Zec 2:6): "Ho." He is not
speaking against but to the Ethiopians, calling on them
to hear his prophetical announcement as to the destruction of their
shadowing with wings—rather, "land
of the winged bark"; that is, "barks with wing-like sails,
answering to vessels of bulrushes" in Isa 18:2; the word "rivers," in the parallelism,
also favors it; so the Septuagint and Chaldee [Ewald]. "Land of the clanging sound of
wings," that is, armies, as in Isa 8:8; the rendering "bark," or "ship," is
rather dubious [Maurer]. The armies
referred to are those of Tirhakah, advancing to meet the Assyrians
37:9). In English
Version, "shadowing" means protecting—stretching out
its wings to defend a feeble people, namely, the Hebrews [Vitringa]. The Hebrew for "wings" is
the same as for the idol Cneph, which was represented in temple
sculptures with wings (Ps 91:4).
beyond—Meroe, the island between the
"rivers" Nile and Astaboras is meant, famed for its commerce, and
perhaps the seat of the Ethiopian government, hence addressed here as
representing the whole empire: remains of temples are still found, and
the name of "Tirhakah" in the inscriptions. This island region was
probably the chief part of Queen Candace's kingdom (Ac 8:27). For "beyond" others translate less
literally "which borderest on."
Ethiopia—literally, "Cush." Horsley is probably right that the
ultimate and fullest reference of the prophecy is to the
restoration of the Jews in the Holy Land through the instrumentality of
some distant people skilled in navigation (Isa 18:2; Isa 60:9, 10; Ps 45:15; 68:31; Zep 3:10). Phœnician voyagers coasting
along would speak of all Western remote lands as "beyond" the
Nile's mouths. "Cush," too, has a wide sense, being applied not only to
Ethiopia, but Arabia-Deserta and Felix, and along the Persian Gulf, as
far as the Tigris (Ge 2:13).
2. ambassadors—messengers sent to
Jerusalem at the time that negotiations passed between Tirhakah and
Hezekiah against the expected attack of Sennacherib (Isa 37:9).
by … sea—on the Nile
19:5): as what follows
vessels of bulrushes—light canoes,
formed of papyrus, daubed over with pitch: so the "ark" in which Moses
was exposed (Ex 2:3).
Go—Isaiah tells them to take back the
tidings of what God is about to do (Isa 18:4) against the common enemy of both Judah
scattered and peeled—rather, "strong
and energetic" [Maurer]. The
Hebrew for "strong" is literally, "drawn out" (Margin;
36:10; Ec 2:3). "Energetic,"
literally, "sharp" (Hab 1:8,
Margin; the verb means to "sharpen" a sword, Eze 21:15, 16); also "polished." As Herodotus (3:20, 114) characterizes the Ethiopians
as "the tallest and fairest of men," G. V. Smith translates, "tall and comely"; literally,
"extended" (Isa 45:14,
"men of stature") and polished (the Ethiopians had "smooth,
glossy skins"). In English Version the reference is to the Jews,
scattered outcasts, and loaded with indignity (literally,
"having their hair torn off," Horsley).
terrible—the Ethiopians famed
for warlike prowess [Rosenmuller]. The
Jews who, because of God's plague, made others to fear the like
28:37). Rather, "awfully
remarkable" [Horsley]. God puts the
"terror" of His people into the surrounding nations at the first (Ex 23:27;
Jos 2:9); so it shall be
again in the latter days (Zec 12:2, 3).
from … beginning hitherto—so
English Version rightly. But Gesenius, "to the terrible nation (of upper Egypt)
and further beyond" (to the Ethiopians, properly so called).
meted out—Hebrew, "of line."
The measuring-line was used in destroying buildings (Isa 34:11; 2Ki 21:13; La 2:8). Hence, actively, it means here "a
people meting out,—an all-destroying people"; which suits
the context better than "meted," passively [Maurer]. Horsley,
understanding it of the Jews, translates it, "Expecting,
expecting (in a continual attitude of expectation of Messiah) and
trampled under foot"; a graphic picture of them. Most translate, of
strength, strength (from a root, to brace the sinews), that
is, a most powerful people.
trodden down—true of the Jews. But
Maurer translates it actively, a people
"treading under foot" all its enemies, that is, victorious
14:25), namely, the
spoiled—"cut up." The Nile is formed
by the junction of many streams in Abyssinia, the Atbara, the Astapus
or Blue river (between which two rivers Meroe, the "Ethiopia" here
meant, lies), and the Astaboras or White river; these streams wash
down the soil along their banks in the "land" of Upper Egypt and
deposit it on that of Lower Egypt. G. V.
Smith translates it, "Divide." Horsley takes it figuratively of the conquering
armies which have often "spoiled" Judea.
3. see ye … hear ye—rather, "ye
shall see … shall hear." Call to the whole earth to be
witnesses of what Jehovah ("He") is about to do. He will
"lift up an ensign," calling the Assyrian motley hosts together (Isa 5:26) on "the mountains" round
Jerusalem, to their own destruction. This (the eighteenth
chapter) declares the coming
overthrow of those armies whose presence is announced in Isa 17:12, 13. The same motive, which led
Hezekiah to seek aid from Egypt, led him to accept gladly the Ethiopian
Tirhakah's aid (Isa 36:6; 37:9). Ethiopia, Egypt, and Judea were
probably leagued together against the common enemy, 713 B.C. See notes on the twenty-second chapter, where a difference of tone (as
referring to a different period) as to Ethiopia is observable. Horsley takes the "ensign" to be the cross,
and the "trumpet" the Gospel trumpet, which shall be sounded
more loudly in the last days.
4. take … rest … consider—I
will calmly look on and not interpose, while all seems to
promise success to the enemy; when figuratively, "the sun's heat" and
"the night dews" ripen their "harvest"; but "before" it reaches its
maturity I will destroy it (Isa 18:5; Ec 8:11, 12).
like a clear heat—rather, "at the time
of the clear (serene) heat" [Maurer].
upon herbs—answering to "harvest" in
the parallel clause. Maurer translates,
"in the sunlight" (Job 31:26; 37:21; Hab 3:4).
like … dew—rather, "at the time
of the dew cloud." God's "silence" is mistaken by the ungodly for
consent; His delay in taking vengeance for forgetfulness (Ps 50:21); so it shall be before the vengeance
which in the last day shall usher in the restoration of the Jews (Isa
34:1-8; 57:11, end of the
verse, 2Pe 3:3-10).
5. For—rather, "But."
perfect—perfected. When the enemy's
plans are on the verge of completion.
sour grape … flower—rather,
"when the flower shall become the ripening grape" [Maurer].
sprigs—the shoots with the
grapes on them. God will not only disconcert their present plans, but
prevent them forming any future ones. Horsley takes the "harvest" and vintage here as
referring to purifying judgments which cause the excision of the
ungodly from the earth, and the placing of the faithful in a state of
peace on the earth: not the last judgment (Joh 15:2;
6. birds … beasts—transition from
the image "sprigs," "branches," to the thing meant: the Assyrian
soldiers and leaders shall be the prey of birds and beasts, the whole
year through, "winter" and "summer," so numerous shall be their
carcasses. Horsley translates the
Hebrew which is singular: "upon it," not "upon
them"; the "it" refers to God's "dwelling-place" (Isa 18:4) in the Holy Land, which Antichrist
("the bird of prey" with the "beasts," his rebel hosts) is to possess
himself of, and where he is to perish.
7. present … people scattered and
peeled—For the right rendering, see on Isa
18:2. The repetition of epithets enhances the honor paid to Jehovah
by so mighty a nation. The Ethiopians, wonder-struck at such an
interposition of Jehovah in behalf of His people, shall send gifts to
Jerusalem in His honor (Isa 16:1; Ps 68:31; 72:10). Thus translate: "a present …
from a people." Or translate, as English Version; "the
present" will mean "the people" of Ethiopia converted to God (Ro 15:16). Horsley takes the people converted to Jehovah, as
the Jews in the latter days.
place of the name—where Jehovah
peculiarly manifests His glory; Ac 2:10 and 8:27 show how worshippers came up to
Jerusalem from Egypt" and "Ethiopia." Frumentius, an Egyptian, in the
fourth century, converted Abyssinia to Christianity; and a Christian
church, under an abuna or bishop, still flourishes there. The
full accomplishment is probably still future.