Proclamation Against Ethiopia

For Isaiah 18, most Bibles have a descriptive header that says something like “Proclamation Against Ethiopia.”  Personally, I don’t think this passage is necessarily a proclamation against Ethiopia although according to Ezekiel, Ethiopia is expected to come against Israel in the last days during the Battle of Gog. 

Isaiah 18:1-2 begins: “Woe to the land shadowed with buzzing wings, Which is beyond the rivers of Ethiopia, 2 Which sends ambassadors [tsiyriym] by sea, Even in vessels of reed on the waters, saying, “Go, swift messengers  [malakiym], to a nation tall [mashak] and smooth of skin [morat], To a people terrible from their beginning onward, A nation powerful and treading down, Whose land the rivers divide [bazu].”

Isaiah 18:7 concludes, “In that time a present will be brought to the Lord of hosts From a people tall [mashak] and smooth of skin [morat], And from a people terrible from their beginning onward, A nation powerful and treading down, Whose land the rivers divide [bazu]— To the place of the name of the Lord of hosts, To Mount Zion.

First, note that the land of woe is somewhere beyond the rivers of Ethiopia.  We don’t know how far away the land of woe is beyond the rivers of Ethiopia.  Sudan was once part of Ethiopia and the land referred to in verse two could be Egypt since the Blue Nile River from present day Ethiopia and the White Nile River from present day Sudan combine in Sudan and flow north into Egypt.  The land “shadowing with buzzing wings” or “whirring with wings” could be a reference to Egypt’s insects but we can’t say for sure.  

Tsiyriym can be translated as either ambassadors or messengers.  Normally, malakiym can be translated as ambassadors, angels, kings, or messengers.  Bazu, a grammatical form of baza, can mean to spoil or divide.  Some people may be tempted to say that tsiyriym and malakiym are simply synonyms but I believe the verse should be: “that sends messengers by the sea…saying, kings [of the nations], ‘Go to Israel, whose land has been polluted by its rivers.’”  This is a call for the nations to send armies that will destroy God’s people and seize the land.

The Jordan River divides Israel while the rest of Israel’s rivers provide water in various areas of the country.  It’s quite possible that in the last days, the rivers of Israel could become polluted by the third trumpet.  At that time, a great star will fall from heaven.  It will fall on a third of the rivers and on the springs of water.  Many will die from the water because it will be made bitter.  Fortunately, Ezekiel 47:8 says the waters be healed.

Mashak is translated as “tall” in various English versions but it can also be translated as extended, stretched out, or scattered.  Morat is often translated as “peeled” or “smooth of skin” in various English versions but it can also be translated as obstinate.  Since verse seven indicates the land the people were being sent to was Mount Zion, it becomes obvious that mashak should be translated as scattered since the Jews are scattered throughout the earth and morat should be translated as obstinate because of the rebellion demonstrated by the idolatry of God’s people.  Both words well describe God’s people in the Old Testament Scriptures.

In verse 2, the prophet was basically saying, “Woe to the land who sends messengers to the kings of the nations to tell them to go to the people of Israel.”  The Bible speaks primarily of the countries of North Africa and the Middle East so it’s highly probable that the land of woe is from this area; however, some people have suggested this is a reference to America.  Again, although the prophet said the land is beyond the rivers of Ethiopia, we don’t know in which direction or how far away this land is.  Usually, things are written from the perspective of the writer.

Anyway, suddenly Isaiah 18 shifts.  Isaiah 18:3 says, “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.”  Who is “he”?  Isaiah 5:26 refers to the Lord as the one who will lift up a banner to the nations from afar.  In Isaiah 11:10, Jesus is the banner that will be lifted up.  The trumpet will announce His coming.  Before that time comes, Jesus is waiting and watching until the time is right to come with His armies to destroy Israel’s enemies.

Isaiah 18:5 says, “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.” The timing of this is in the fall, most likely just as a year of Jubilee is about to begin.  This is a reference to Revelation 14:18-20 which describes it like this:  “And another angel came out from the altar, who had power over fire, and he cried with a loud cry to him who had the sharp sickle, saying, “Thrust in your sharp sickle and gather the clusters of the vine of the earth, for her grapes are fully ripe.” 19 So the angel thrust his sickle into the earth and gathered the vine of the earth, and threw it into the great winepress of the wrath of God. 20 And the winepress was trampled outside the city, and blood came out of the winepress, up to the horses’ bridles, for one thousand six hundred furlongs.”

Isaiah 18:6 then says, “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.”   This is a description of the feast for birds which follows the Battle of Armageddon.  Revelation 19:21 tells us, “And the rest were killed with the sword which proceeded from the mouth of Him who sat on the horse. And all the birds were filled with their flesh.”

After that, a present will be brought unto the Lord of hosts of Israel…

Zephaniah 3:10-12 explains, “From beyond the rivers of Ethiopia My worshipers, The daughter of My dispersed ones, Shall bring My offering. 11 In that day you shall not be shamed for any of your deeds In which you transgress against Me; For then I will take away from your midst Those who rejoice in your pride, And you shall no longer be haughty In My holy mountain. 12 I will leave in your midst A meek and humble people, And they shall trust in the name of the Lord.”


The Burden Against Damascus

Isaiah 17 begins with a prophecy against Damascus.  It says that Damascus will cease from being a city and will become a ruinous heap.

According to 2 Kings 16:7, Tiglath-Pileser, the king of Assyria responded to King Ahaz of Judah when the king of Syria and the king of Israel were a threat to him.  Tiglath-Pileser received silver and gold from King Ahaz and came against Damascus.  Tiglath-Pileser:

  • took the city of Damascus,
  • carried the people from there to Kir,
  • killed Rezin, the king of Syria. 
  • replaced the people of Damascus with Assyrians.[i]

The Bible does not say that Damascus ceased to be a city at that time.  It is still inhabited today.  It seems as if the prophecy of Isaiah 17 may be for the future unless this prophecy was a hyperbole.

As I’ve mentioned in a previous post, King Ahaz, the king of Judah went to Damascus after the Assyrian king, Tiglath-Pileser made war against the Syrians.  While King Ahaz was in Damascus, he saw an altar there.  He sent the design and pattern of this altar to Urijah the priest who built a copy of it for King Ahaz.  Once King Ahaz returned home, he made offerings on this altar instead of the one in the temple.  Josephus says that King Ahaz eventually shut up the temple entirely and caused the sacrifices to cease prior to his death.[ii]

Hoshea became the king of Israel in Samaria in the 12th year of King Ahaz’ reign.  He became a vassal of Shalmaneser, king of Assyria and paid tribute money but Hoshea eventually rebelled against Shalmaneser and stopped paying tribute.  Hoshea was put in prison and the king of Assyria made war with Samaria for three years.  In Hoshea’s 9th year (Hezekiah’s 6th year), the people of Samaria were carried away to Assyria and Assyrians were brought from Babylon, Cuthah, Ava, Hamath, and Sepharvaim to live in Samaria.[iii]  These foreigners learned about the ways of the Lord and how to worship Him; however, even though they feared the Lord, they continued to worship their own gods.

The foreigners tried to serve two masters.  This is simply not possible to do.  Their loyalty to their idols showed who they really loved.

Prior to this, in Hoshea’s 3rd year as king of Israel, Hezekiah began to reign in Judah.  He trusted and loved the Lord more than any other before or after him.  He destroyed the high places, the sacred pillars, and the wooden image.  He also destroyed the bronze serpent that Moses had made.  By doing these things, Hezekiah was a picture of what the Messiah will do when He returns to begin His millennial reign. 

Hezekiah did not serve the king of Assyria.  Although the king of Assyria eventually threatened Hezekiah, the Assyrians never destroyed Jerusalem. 

Could all of this be a pattern for the last days?  There is already trouble in Damascus.  When will it finally cease from being a city and become a ruined heap?  Will its people be destroyed or displaced?  Will the people who are loyal to the coming Antichrist take over the areas nearby that remain?

Eventually, a temple is expected will be built in Jerusalem, sacrifices will commence, an abomination of desolation will be brought into the temple, the sacrifices will cease.  Israel will be invaded, its people will be killed or displaced, and invaders will take the dwellings of the Jews.  These invaders will worship their own god and not fear the Lord.  The King of kings and Lord of lords will come but certainly not to serve the Antichrist.

As Isaiah 17 continues, it describes the glory of Jacob; his flesh will be lean; perhaps as lean as those who survived the Holocaust.  Verse 7 says a man will look to his Creator and he will have respect for the Holy One of Israel and not look to idols.  This day is coming in the future.  The nations will rush to war against Israel but God will rebuke and chase them away.  Certainly, this is a veiled reference to the Battle of Armageddon and not just about the Assyrians of Isaiah’s day.

Today, Israel must not forget the God of their salvation!  The Jews must be mindful of the Rock of their stronghold.  They must not fear the threats of the nations that surround them.  God’s people must put their hope and trust in the Lord and never falter!

Lord, open the eyes and ears of Your people so they can see, hear, and know You!  Turn their hearts to You!  Let them cry out for You, O Lord!  May they feast on The Manna and drink from The Water of Life!


[i]  Complete Works of Flavius Josephus, Antiquites of the Jews, Book 9, Chapter 12, Verse 3, page 542.

[ii] Ibid.

[iii] 2 Kings 17:24.

The Doom of Moab

In Isaiah 15, Isaiah explained the burden or prophecy of Moab which was located in Jordan.  In the night, Ar and Kir, two Moabite cities were laid waste and destroyed.  This caused the Moabites to mourn by:

  • Weeping in the temple and high places of their god,
  • Cutting off their beards,
  • Shaving their heads
  • Being dressed in sackcloth. 

Even the armed soldiers cried out and were afraid.  People in Jahaz could hear the cries of people in Heshbon and Elealeh.  All of these cities are located east of the Jordan.  As the people cried and fled to other towns, they told people they encountered of the disasters that had taken place.  

Isaiah’s heart broke because of the vision of Moab he saw.

The waters of Nimrim which is also located east of the Jordan were desolate and the grass was withered. The people carried their abundance with them over the Brook of the Willows.  The waters of Dimon were full of blood; this was most likely from the Moabites who have been slain.  By the way, Dimon was the capital of Moab.

Isaiah said this was only the beginning because lions would come upon those who escaped from the land of Moab and pour out more blood into Dimon.  In the Apostolic Bible Polyglot, the Greek says the Arabians would be causing this destruction.

In Isaiah 16, Isaiah told the Moabites to send the lamb to the ruler of Mount Zion.  According to 2 Kings 3:4, Mesha, the king of Moab was a sheepbreeder and he regularly paid 100,000 lambs and the wool of 100,000 rams to the northern kingdom of Israel until King Ahab died.  They probably shouldn’t have rebelled and stopped sending these to Israel. 

Lambs were to be sent to Mount Zion for the protection of the Moabite women who were described as a flock of birds scattered from their nests as they crossed the Arnon River which was located south of Dimon (Dibon).

Isaiah 16:3-4 make an odd combination.  I’ve seen several versions that that differ concerning the outcasts.  Verse 3…verse 4 is translated:

  • The outcasts…My outcasts…O Moab (NKJV).
  • The fugitives…Moabite fugitives (MKJV and NIV).
  • [Our] outcasts…[our] outcasts…protect Moab (CJB).
  • The outcasts…the outcasts of Moab (NASB and NASU).
  • The refugees…My refugees (Stone TaNaCh).

Based on the Hebrew, verse 3 should be “the outcasts” and verse 4 should be “My outcasts; Moab be a covert to them.”  Therefore, in verse 3, the Lord is telling Judah to hide the Moabite refugees but in verse 4, the Lord wants Moab to be a place of hiding for His people.  This appears to be instructions for the future.

It’s interesting to note that Mesha, the Moabite king’s name means safety.  At some point in the past or in the future, the Lord wanted Moab to be a place of protection for His people.  The Lord told them to allow His outcasts to dwell with them and to shelter them from the Oppressor (shoded is also translated “spoiler”).  I think these verses are primarily for the future because the next thing Isaiah said was that a kingdom of love will be set up; the Messiah will rule in fairness, do rightly, and bring quick justice.  Since this is the case, the Oppressor must be a reference to the coming Antichrist.

Isaiah 16 ends by saying this prophecy will take place within three years and that there will be a small remainder; therefore, this prophecy was for the past as well as the future.  Over the years that have passed since then, the feeble remnant has certainly grown and as Ecclesiastes 1:9 says, “That which has been is what will be, That which is done is what will be done, And there is nothing new under the sun.” 

Long ago, Balaam prophesied concerning Moab in Numbers 24:17:  “I see Him, but not now; I behold Him, but not near; A Star shall come out of Jacob; A Scepter shall rise out of Israel, And batter the brow of Moab, And destroy all the sons of tumult.” Certainly, the Lord will do this in the future.