Isaiah 18

Expansive Egypt sends ambassadors 1
The Lord rests then punishes 4
The Lord presented with a scattered people 7


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Text
Comments
This chapter is not simple to understand. Its first verse does not announce it as a new oracle or "burden" as do the chapters before and after. Isaiah 18 may be seen as an extension of the previous chapter which relates to the defeat of the Assyrians (coming from Damascus). In the last verse v7 we may see the spiritual victory of a people presented to the Lord of hosts. Thus we have parameters for interpretation. The story is for us, too, because we, with the people of Isaiah's time, will be tested and, if faithful, be presented to Christ as trophies of His sacrifice.
.1 Woe to the land shadowing with wings, which is beyond the rivers of Ethiopia:
 1 Ah, land of whirring wings which is beyond the rivers of Ethiopia; (RSV)
  Woe The RSV translation is correct. Translators may have supplied the word "woe" thinking that this was a new oracle.
  Shadowing Better translated "whirring" as in the RSV. From Hebrew tsiltsal. The word is elsewhere translated "locust" or "cymbals." de2842, 2sa0605, ps15005.
  Beyond the rivers of Ethiopia The whole kingdom including Ethiopia and Egypt may be intended.
Historical note: Egypt had an emblem with a gold disk representing the sun (which was the main god) with an extended wing on each side. The word "shadowing" in v1 is probably not a good translation, but we may see the wings on the emblem as in motion.
  The 25th dynasty of Egypt was headed by Nubian kings. The kingdom expanded from what is now Sudan and included Ethiopia and Egypt. This threatened the global aspirations of the Assyrian king Sennacherib (from Damascus) who was in the process of taking over Judah. Sennacherib probably expected the Nubian king Taharka who ruled from 690 to 664 BC to come to the defense of Judah. The Nubian king is seen as "Tirhakah" in 2ki1909. Judea had placed trust in Egyptian military equipment (horses) is3101. Thus they trusted the wings of Egypt instead of those of the Lord ps01708, ps05701, ps09104. In our text here, ambassadors are apparently sent to Ethiopia where we expect the central government was. Image courtesy of Jim Coates, Africa Within. Used by permission.
.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 [allotted] and trodden down, whose land the rivers have spoiled!

  Ambassadors Apparently sent to Judah seeking an alliance against Assyria (Damascus).
  Sea Large rivers were sometimes called seas is1905, na0308 and the idea is retained in modern Arabic. Of course the Red Sea or even the Mediterranean could have been used for the journey. Papyrus was used for boats. The plants are called bulrushes as here and in ex0203. Compare is5805.
  Scattered and peeled Would describe people taken into captivity if we equate "peeled" with "polled" meaning having their hair shaved a disgrace for Hebrews and forbidden for priests le2105, ez4420 or ordered as a sign of mourning je0729. The two Hebrew words are different. "Peeled" is from mowrat which basically means polished as in ez2115, 1ki0745 but the term may well have been a metaphor for shaved heads. See je1606. On "scattered," the Assyrians redistributed people in other lands to avoid rebellion. This is how Samaria came to be in the middle of Palestine is0807. The rest of the verse has been a challenge to translators. I share my understanding.
  Terrible from their beginning The Israelites were feared as they approached Canaan ex1516, ex2327, jos0209.
  Meeted out and trodden down Redistributed and oppressed by Sennacherib.
  Rivers have spoiled The rivers of invading troops had been like a destructive flood as pictured in is0807. The word "spoiled" literally means "divided." This is also true. Samaria divided Palestine as noted above.
.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.   Notice that the whole world is addressed from this point onward.
  The Lord is in charge of the affairs of the world is0526, da0221, da0437. We may pray claiming the promise of this verse in our troubled times! Is the trumpet of warning blowing now?
.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.
 4 For so the LORD said to me, "I will take My rest, And I will look from My dwelling place Like clear heat in sunshine, Like a cloud of dew in the heat of harvest." (NKJV)
  Take my rest The Lord sees the good deeds of all people as from the bright sky and the bad deeds as from the clouds when considering the harvest. Under the symbol of a record book, he knows and remembers ex3232, re0305, mal0316.
  The Lord waits for a specific time for the judgment when the books are to be opened da0710, re1407d, da0814.
.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.
 5 For before the harvest is when the bud and the sour grape are ripening (in) the flower. Then he will cut off the sprigs with the pruning knives; and take away the branches [that were] cut down. (Following the interlinear translation by Green) 
  Afore [before] the harvest Jesus told a story of weed seed being scattered in a field after good seed had been sown in it. At harvest time the wicked plants (people) who grew in His field would be gathered by angels and burned before the good grain was stored away mt1324. An explanation is given in the same chapter.
  Sour grape Looking down and waiting in v4 plus cutting away here, indicates judgment. Under slightly different symbols, we see this at the end of Revelation 14. The Son of Man appears, the grain (righteous) is harvested, then the grapes (wicked) are trampled  re1413.
  Verse 5 describes a shaking and judgment time he1225. Notice that the twigs and branches are cut off but that the tree remains. We see what happens to it in v7. Compare jn1501.
 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.   They shall be left The branches are those who have been judged and found guilty. The feast of the birds is also seen at the time of Christ's return riding a white horse. See re1917. Following this, beast and false prophet are cast into the fire and Satan is bound. Then comes another judgment re2004 that ends in fire devouring the wicked re2009. This second judgment we may see pictured in the the beasts eating in winter after the decisions or the people represented by the branches and twigs are final. During the first judgment time, people have opportunity to decide.
.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.   In that time The time of the end of the harvest v5 while the birds eat those who have been cut off, the people who were not cut off are presented to the Lord. The judgment of da0710 results in the kingdom of righteous people being presented to the Son of Man da0713. Also reflected in ep0526.
  A people The middle of this verse identifies the people of v2.
  To the place The atmosphere is holiness ps02902. It is the Lord's name His character. Mt. Zion represents heaven re1401.
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