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Isaiah 18

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A Prophecy Against Cush (ch. 18:1 - 7)         


Verse 1 begins with the word "woe".  This "woe" really means a sigh, not exactly the "woes" you see in the book of Revelation.


Note "whirling wings" in verse 1.  The land that the "woe" is directed to is the land along the river of "whirling wings", and as the NIV says, it's Cush, and for good reason because the Hebrew word is "Kuwsh".  The KJV and other translations translate "Kuwsh" as Ethiopia for some particular reasons.  One reason is that the Septuagint translates "Kuwsh" as Ethiopia.  Moses' wife Miriam came from  "Kuwsh" as seen in Numbers 12:1. Cush is south of Egypt and was often at odds with Egypt.


There has been much debate just what land the prophet is talking about here.  Some have said Egypt. Others think of this a bit more symbolically and have said England and even America.  More people than not say Ethiopia. Ethiopia does make the best geographical and contextual sense in my opinion.     


The whirling or rustling of wings suggests birds.  It has been said by many that the land of Ethiopia is a land of many birds.


Note the word "along" in verse 1.  Some translations use the word "beyond" instead, which may be similar in some people's mind.  Other translations use the word "shadowing".  It thus seems then that at least on one side of the river is the land of "Kuwsh".   


Verse 2 speaks of Ethiopia sending messengers by sea "to a people tall and smoothed-skinned, to a people feared tall and wide "  The KJV translates this much differently".  It speaks of a "nation scattered and pealed, to a people terrible from their beginning".  At the moment I do not know why the difference between the two translations.  The translators might well have been translating with their particular interpretation of what people are being talked about in mind.  The KJV's translation suggests to me that the translator understand this people to be Israelis. 


Those adhering to the KJV say that this people being talked about here is Israel .  They have been scattered and they've been pretty terrible most of their existence.  Even as I say this, the word "terrible" has been understood as bad in some people's mind and as strong in the mind of others.


Some understand this particular people to be Ethiopians.  One thing we do know for sure according to verse 2 is that the messengers are Ethiopians who are sent to other peoples.  I would think that the Ethiopian messengers wouldn't be sent to themselves.  Still, some believe the tall smoothed-skinned people are Ethiopians.  One reason for this is because their men routinely shaved their heads. 


One problem that some have concerning this particular tall smoothed-skinned people being Israelis is that verse 2 says their land is divided by rivers, and that really doesn't fit the land of Israel.        


Note that in verse 3 that the whole world will see a banner raised from the mountains.  Some suggest that this banner might be the Ark of the Covenant that some say is located in an ancient church building in Ethiopia.  They say this passage suggests that the messenger returns the ark back to Jerusalem.  Of course, this is speculative.  We have never seen the so-called ark.  We've only seen the building some claim it is in.  Whatever the case, the whole world has its eyes on what is going on here.


When thinking of a banner being raised on a mountain, this type of thing is often in association with a nation preparing to go to war.  I believe this is what is being talked about here.  The words "trumpet sounding" confirms this thinking. 


In verses 4 and 5 we see the Lord sitting back until harvest time.  Whether this is a symbolic harvest time or the literal harvest time of the year, I just don't know.  Whatever the case, these verses speak of some kind of judgment that seems to be upon Israel, that is, assuming you think the aggressive nation with strange speech is actually Israel.


Verse 6 speaks of the destruction.  Verse 7 suggests to me the remnant of Israel surviving the judgment who brings gifts to their God.  Again, if you think the aggressive tall smoothed-skinned nation is Israel in verse 2, you have to believe verse 7 concerns Israel because it uses the same language. 


The last phrase of this chapter clearly refers to Israel when it speaks of gifts being brought to Mount Zion.  Mount Zion is in Israel. 


Isaiah 18 is a very small chapter in the Bible but it has many interpretations, and for me, it is very difficult to comment on the exact meaning of the chapter.  Maybe we will just have to wait and see how things turn out as we get to the end of this age.  Many of these difficult passages will become clearer to us then.   


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