On to Isaiah 18
G-d’s judgment, in the last days, will bring about vindication and victory – deliverance for Israel. G-d’s judgment, His wrath, manifests His glory and His righteousness (Ps 19:9, Rev 16:7).
v1: Woe: Generally, this word speaks of something negative that is going to happen. It is a word that introduces judgment into a text.
- Buzzing: Whirring. In Modern Hebrew this is the word used for a telephone ring. It is a noise that captures attention.
- Wings: Many commentators point out that this area in Africa (Cush – which includes Ethiopia, and probably Sudan, Eritrea and surrounds in Northeastern Africa) has many rivers. Many insects, birds, grasshoppers, flies, locust plagues etc frequent these places due to the abundance of water. As a result, this sound of insect or bird wings is not uncommon in this area.
- Beyond the rivers of Ethiopia: (literally: Cush).This judgment includes Ethiopia, but it goes even beyond the borders of Ethiopia. Ethiopia is gifted with nine major rivers and twelve huge lakes.
Verse 2: (literally) “Which sends ambassadors by sea, even in vessels of papyrus on the waters saying, ‘Go, swift messengers, to a nation lengthened and detailed, to a people awesome from their beginning onward, a nation powerful and treading down, who plunders rivers in its land.”
Ambassadors: Historically this area of Cush represented a powerful people. At times the different tribes living in this land were brought under the leadership of one ruler and king. This made them a formidable threat in those days. Ambassadors are individuals that are sent forth from their nation to other nations for political purposes. They made announcements, relayed decrees and important information from the king or from the leadership of their country.
- Vessels of papyrus (reed): These vessels were wooden boats that easily floated on the water.
- Swift messengers: These ambassadors had a message to proclaim. They were light on their feet (ie They got their message out quickly).
- Go, swift messengers, to a nation: Many commentators believe the nation being spoken of here is the nation of Israel.
- Lengthened: This is not the word for ‘tall’ but is a word that has to do with being lengthened or dragged. This nation (Ie Israel) was called (drawn) for a specific purpose.
- Detailed: This is also not the word for ‘smooth’ but is a word that means ‘detailed’. This nation had a call from G-d to be different, to be set apart, to be unique to G-d.
- Awesome: This unique nation caused fear in the hearts of others. They were fearful to behold.
- From their beginning onward: They are a nation who has a history.
- Powerful: This is a word that has to do with a measuring line. Most scholars tell us that when this term is used it is a word that speaks about something that is measured, organised, detailed.
- Treading down: This nation is detailed and organised. As a result, it is able to weigh up and defeat its opponents.
- Plunders rivers: Rivers can often speak about a strong people (Rivers often give power to a nation. Even to this day some of the greatest cities are along rivers. Rivers allow for transportation. Rivers serve as a resource from many different perspectives). Israel was able to defeat stronger people than themselves in their land.
v3: He lifts up a banner: This banner or proclamation (which is a sign of victory – defeating the enemies) is frequently related to Messiah. Messiah is the banner that is proclaimed. He is the One who gives us victory.
- Mountains: Mountains speak of governments. When this banner is lifted up the governments will see it. It is going to be something that captures the attention of all nations.
- Trumpet: (literally: Shofar. Ram’s horn. This horn is uniquely related to Israel. When this ram’s horn sounds, Israel is once again going to hear (Matt 13:15, Roms 11:8, Roms 11:25-27).
- Hear: The word ‘hear’ is a word that demands a specific response. This foreshadows a change that is coming into the world.
v4: Said to me: Isaiah the prophet received specific, personal revelation concerning this event. This revelation is what he is sharing with us.
- I will take my rest (literally: ‘be quiet’): G-d was not going to immediately respond to this prophecy. This was not a prophecy for Isaiah’s day, but it was for the future. G-d was going to look/notice, but He was not yet going to act.
- Clear heat: Brightness. Clarity. It is a word that speaks of something being pure. When a day is very hot the heat burns up the clouds and the day is very bright and very clear. This is the image being portrayed here.
- Clear heat in sunshine: G-d’s perspective is perfect. He sees things clearly.
- Like a cloud of dew in the heat of harvest: People began to harvest their crops in the morning when it is cooler (there is a ‘cloud of dew’ over an awakening land). This coolness was seen as a good thing. G-d is patient. He is not responding, but He is watching and waiting. At the right time, at the time of the harvest, something positive and desirable is going to happen. This is what this verse is communicating.
v5: Before the harvest: Something (a change) needs to take place in a plant before it is harvested. This change alludes to an image of repentance. If this change (repentance) does not occur, then that which did not change is going to be judged and removed.
- When the bud is perfect: (literally: The end of the blossoming): There is a process to harvesting produce. A tree first puts out its flowers (it blossoms). These flowers are meant to change into fruit. At the end of the blossoming/flowering (once the flowering stage is completed) the expectation is fruitfulness. This fruit goes through a maturing process while still on the tree/vine etc. It takes time to ripen and to be ready for the harvest/fit for consumption. At harvest time, the fruit is sorted out according to whether it is good or bad. The good fruit is utilised, but the bad fruit is removed and tossed aside.
- The sour grape: This fruit has matured poorly.
- Cut off the sprigs…cut down the branches: The implication is that these ones did not produce good fruit. They are going to be cut down and thrown away. This speaks of a termination. After a thorough inspection of the fruit in the field those fruits that were not pleasing become recipients of judgment.
v6: They: Referring to those who did not produce good or pleasing fruit.
- Summer, and …winter: This informs us that this particular harvest yielded a lot of very bad fruit – enough bad fruit to nourish the birds and the beasts through summer and winter. What the birds and beasts feast on is an idiom for judgment (1 Sam 17:46).
v7: In that time: Read within the context, this is a reference to the last days (the ‘days of Messiah’).
- A present: A gift. This is a unique word for ‘gift’ in the Scripture. Many people in Israel today are called by this name (Shai). It is also a word that has Messianic connotations (Gen 49:10 – Shai-loh – “He whose it is”). This word (together with the word ‘Zion’) gives this passage a Messianic context and is referring to Messiah’s second coming.
- At that time a present will be brought to the L-rd of hosts: G-d’s judgment is going to bring about a change. His judgment is going to bring about obedience for the remnant of the nations [those within the nations who survive the wrath of G-d (trumpet and bowl judgments spoken of in Rev 8,9, 11:15-19, 16)]. The response of the nations at that time (in the millennial kingdom – the Messianic Age) will be to bring gifts to G-d (bringing a gift is an act of worship) in Jerusalem (see also Zech 14:16).
- People: Many believe that this people is referring to Israel – that final remnant at the end (Matt 24:30-31).
- (Lengthened and detailed, to a people awesome from their beginning onward, a nation powerful and treading down, who plunders rivers in its land: See explanation in Isaiah 18:2. This is what Messiah is going to do at the end – He is going to bring the world into subjection under Himself. He is going to be victorious).
- Mount Zion: Those who are hostile toward Zion and the children of G-d stand in opposition to the plans, purposes and the establishment of the Kingdom of G-d.