A Study of Isaiah 18
- Chapter 18, of the book of Isaiah, is a curious indictment of a nation that has caused much speculation as to whom this chapter is indeed addressing. Matthew Henry (b.1662, d.1714), in his commentary, is at a loss as to the identity of the nation being addressed. He suggests that this nation was not yet in existence. Other modern bible expositors have either identified this nation as Ethiopia or have also been at a loss. A few authors have concluded that Isaiah is speaking of the USA! Perhaps an in-depth study may glean some truths as to the identity of this esoteric nation. All verses are quoted from the NASV bible.
- "Alas, oh land of whirring wings which lies beyond the rivers of Cush,..."
- According to Webster's, "alas" is an interjection "used to express sadness, regret or anxiety." The Hebrew word for "land" is "country" and implies a region of the world that is a remote distance (Note: prophetic references to distant areas are usually from Israel as the source of reference, e.g. Ez. 38:6, 15.) "Whirring wings" gives us a picture from the Hebrew translation of a active, vibrating movement that is shadowing or covering another, perhaps as a protector (e.g. Exo. 19:4, Deut 32:11, Ruth 2:12, Ps 17:8, etc.). The land "beyond" suggests the outermost and "beyond" is again translated from the same Hebrew word as "far" (min: H4480) is in verse two. "Cush" is modern day Ethiopia, therefore the nation addressed is a far distance and outermost from the rivers of Ethiopia.
- "...Which sends envoys by the 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."
- There are two nations here - the first is sending and the second one is receiving their ambassadors. The first nation is responsible for sending forth many ambassadors and delegates as representatives to other far nations overseas in an efficient and purposeful manner, particularly to the nation whose peoples are "tall and smooth." From this nation that is "tall and smooth" (again from the origin of the Hebrew word for "tall;" mashak: H4900) we get a picture of a sower scattering his seed in a broad swath. The KJV uses the better word, "scattered." "Smooth" (marat: H4803), is translated as a clean surface removed of it's hair. So we have a people of a nation that are widely scattered, as from sea to shining sea, and that they are smoothly shaven as distinguishing features. We can also surmise from the rest of verse two that this superior (second) nation is awesome in it's influence and military power and is therefore greatly respected or feared by all the other nations of the world. Finally, this nation has major rivers that divide it, as east from west.
- "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.'"
- In verse three, above, a standard is raised and a trumpet is blown as a signal warning all the nations of the world that an awesome event(s) is about to take place, relevant to this nation. The Hebrew Bible reads, "...dwellers in the earth..." Connected with the reference to the trumpet, this passage may be descriptive of the resurrection, which could occur on the Feast of Trumpets. [Compare with Isaiah 26:19 where the reference is to those that "...dwell (shakan: H7931) in the dust;" a reference to the resurrection.] From God's vantage point, He is cool and collected "in the heat of the harvest," which is about to take place, respecting this nation.
- "For before the harvest, as soon as the bud blossoms And the flower becomes a ripening grape, Then He will cut off the sprigs with pruning knives and remove and cut away the spreading branches. They will be left together for mountain birds of prey, and for 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."
- But before the harvest, in verse five, God severely prunes and removes the "branches" of this nation, leaving only it's uncorrupted roots and stalk. The great multitude of dead, from this severe judgment, are left as a feast for the "birds of prey and for the beasts."
- "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."
- Ultimately, in verse seven, the remaining people of this nation give the deserved "homage" to the Lord in Jerusalem, in His millennial kingdom.
- In Habakkuk it is clear that God uses one nation to judge another. Could this nation be the "sword" God calls against Magog (Russia; Ez. 38:21) and at the same time "pruning" it? In this "Jehoshaphat" (YHWH judges; Joel 2:20, 3:12) end-time war God sends "fire upon Magog and those who inhabit the coastlands (i.e. continents) in safety (Ez. 39:6)." And is this nation, whose peoples are "tall and smooth," the USA, Israel's ally?
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