Isaiah 18: Ethiopian Eunuch, is that you?

Until Isaiah 24, this book of prophecy continues to list Judgments against certain nations and populations in the ancient world. Tonight’s seven verses from Isaiah 18 are known as the most difficult and obscure in the entire book and their primary focus is Ethiopia. Although there are only seven verses, there is much allegory, metaphor and symbolism.

Let us take a look at verses 1-2 first:

“Woe to the land shadowed with buzzing wings, Which is beyond the rivers of Ethiopia, Which sends ambassadors by sea, Even in vessels of reed on the waters, saying, “Go, swift messengers, to a nation tall and smooth of skin, To a people terrible from their beginning onward, A nation powerful and treading down, Whose land the rivers divide.””

Descriptions in these two verses allude to a nation with many insects that is known for using boats as transportation in the land they live in that is divided by waters. The people there are tall, smooth and frightening to outsiders.

Verses 3-6 are not addressed to Ethiopia but rather to all inhabitants of the world:

“All inhabitants of the world and dwellers on the earth: When he lifts up a banner on the mountains, you see it; And when he blows a trumpet, you hear it. 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.” For before the harvest, when the bud is perfect And the sour grape is ripening in the flower, He will both cut off the sprigs with pruning hooks And take away and cut down the branches. They will be left together for the mountain birds of prey And for the beasts of the earth; The birds of prey will summer on them, And all the beasts of the earth will winter on them.”

These verses are an outright display of God’s power. The banner in verse three represents salvation. When God decides to make an impact, everyone knows, we all hear of it. The idea of God taking rest in verse four and personifying nature as His rest is a way to relate to us meager humans the otherworldly existence of God. We do not know and cannot imagine His dwelling place; His vision and His view can be compared to heat and dew. Such is His status in the universe.

Verses 5-6 address God’s control over the elements. As He can decide what to do with the fruit of the land, He also decides what to do with the nations and peoples of the earth.

The 7th and final verse revisits Ethiopia: “In that time a present will be brought to the LORD of hosts From a people tall and smooth of skin, And from a people terrible from their beginning onward, A nation powerful and treading down, Whose land the rivers divide— To the place of the name of the LORD of hosts, To Mount Zion.”

This verse means, simply, that one day Ethiopia will bring the gift of worship to God. One day, they will turn to Him and trust in Him. In fact, this very thing did happen with a certain representative from Ethiopia in Acts 8:26-40.

God’s offer of salvation extends to all. Woe be unto the people that deny His call!

“For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men, teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly in the present age, looking for the blessed hope and glorious appearing of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, who gave Himself for us, that He might redeem us from every lawless deed and purify for Himself His own special people, zealous for good works.” Titus 2:11-14

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