Isaiah 18


‘Woe to the land of whirring wings along the rivers of Cush, which sends envoys by sea in papyrus boats over the water. Go, swift messengers, to a people tall and smooth-skinned, to a people feared far and wide, an aggressive nation of strange speech, whose land is divided by rivers. All you people of the world, you who live on the earth, when a banner is raised on the mountains, you will see it, and when a trumpet sounds, you will hear it. This is what the LORD says to me: “I will remain quiet and will look on from my dwelling place, like shimmering heat in the sunshine, like a cloud of dew in the heat of harvest.” For, before the harvest, when the blossom is gone and the flower becomes a ripening grape, he will cut off the shoots with pruning knives, and cut down and take away the spreading branches. They will all be left to the mountain birds of prey and to the wild animals; the birds will feed on them all summer, the wild animals all winter. At that time gifts will be brought to the LORD Almighty from a people tall and smooth-skinned, from a people feared far and wide, an aggressive nation of strange speech, whose land is divided by rivers—the gifts will be brought to Mount Zion, the place of the Name of the LORD Almighty.’ Isaiah 18:1-7

A Prophecy Against Cush

In this chapter we read of the prophecy against Cush, that is, Ethiopia.

This prophecy seems to have been a response to the arrival in Jerusalem of messengers from Cush and Egypt to confer with Judah on the Assyrian threat. It appears that the nation and all the world are informed of the impending catastrophe on Assyria.

The whirring of wings and the rivers of Cush describe Cush with special reference to the swarms of flies and the rivers, which are the Blue and White Nile.

Barnes, in his commentary, says the following.

‘The word ‘wings’ is applied in the Scriptures to the following things.

1. The wing of a fowl. This is the literal, and common signification.

2. The skirts, borders, or lower parts of a garment, from the resemblance to wings, Numbers 15:38 / 1 Samuel 24:5 / 1 Samuel 24:11 / Zechariah 8:13. Also a bed-covering, Deuteronomy 33:1.

3. The extremities or borders of a country, or of the world, Job 37:3 / Isaiah 24:16 / Ezekiel 17:3 / Ezekiel 17:7.

4. The ‘wing’ or extremity of an army, as we use the word ‘wing’, Isaiah 8:8 / Jeremiah 48:40 / Daniel 9:27.

5. The expanding rays of the morning, because the light ‘expands or spreads out’ like wings, Psalms 139:9 / Malachi 4:2.

6. The ‘wind’, resembling wings in rapid motion, Psalms 18:10 / Psalms 18:21 / Psalms 104:3 / Hosea 4:19.

7. The battlement or pinnacle of the temple or perhaps the porches extended on each side of the temple like wings, Daniel 9:27 / Matthew 4:5.

8. ‘Protection’, as wings are a protection to young birds in their nest, Psalms 18:8 / Psalms 36:7 / Psalms 61:4 / Psalms 91:4 / Matthew 23:37. It has been proposed by some to apply this description to ‘ships’, or the sails of vessels as if a land was designated which was covered with ‘sails’, or the ‘wings’ of vessels.’

The mention of the messengers coming by sea primarily refers to the Nile, which is called sea in Nahum 3:8, and Isaiah 19:5. The Ethiopians were a people of appealing physical features. They were a people who were smooth-skinned, Jeremiah 13:23, tall in stature, aggressive and strange in their speech.

The catastrophe itself is then described under the figure of a vine, ripe with fruit, and suddenly destroyed. In other words, Assyria, the great world power, is about to be broken.

Egypt and Cush were in great fear of invasion and Isaiah tells the messengers to return home and quietly watch the Lord thwart Assyria’s self-confident attempt to subdue Judah.

When Sennacherib’s army was destroyed and God’s people delivered, ‘many brought offerings to Jerusalem for the LORD and valuable gifts for Hezekiah king of Judah. From then on he was highly regarded by all the nations.’ 2 Chronicles 32:23. Even the Ethiopians and the Egyptians sent gifts to the victorious Hezekiah.

The deliverance of the Lord by the sudden death of the 185,000 Assyrians outside the walls of Jerusalem, 2 Kings 19:35-27 / Isaiah 37:36, wasn’t only a deliverance of Judah, but also of Egypt and Cush. The rest of the nations clearly saw that the God of Israel was working for His people in order to deliver them.

Coffman, in his commentary, says the following, concerning verse 7.

‘In all probability, what is prophesied here is the conversion of many Ethiopians in the Messianic era, as frequently prophesied, not only here, but throughout the Bible, Isaiah 2:3 / Isaiah 11:10 / Isaiah 60-62 / Psalm 68:31 / Psalm 87:4 / Romans 15:16.’

Go To Isaiah 19


"I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me."