1 2 3 4 5 6 7

Isaiah chapter 18

What does Isaiah chapter 18 mean?

Unlike prior chapters, this passage is not a prophecy against a nation. Instead, Isaiah pauses to reassure the entire world that the Lord is paying attention. He will take action to end the threat of the Assyrian Empire. This intervention will occur when the time is exactly right.

He begins by calling out to the people of a distant land. Isaiah calls it a land of "whirring wings beyond the rivers of Cush." This may be a reference to the ancient land of Ethiopia along the Nile River south of Egypt. This is not the same "Ethiopia" as the present-day nation. During this era, the kings of Ethiopia were attempting to unite all of Egypt. They hoped to stand united against the threat of the Assyrian war machine (Isaiah 18:1).

Isaiah calls someone to send ambassadors and messengers to a nation of "tall and smooth" people. He describes this people as one feared by those nearby and even those far away. This is also a land divided by rivers. Because of ethnic differences, the men of Israel, Assyria, and other nearby nations tended to be shorter and hairier than would have been the natives of Egypt or Ethiopia. Isaiah appears to be calling for messengers to be sent to those people (Isaiah 18:2).

Then the prophet himself calls out to all the people of the world. He tells them to look for the signal from the Lord and to listen for the trumpet blast. He assures them that God is paying attention to the Assyrian threat. When the time is right, He will intervene. For now, the Lord is waiting. Isaiah compares the Lord's pause to the heat gathering on a sunny day. Or to clouds spreading dew during harvest (Isaiah 18:3–4).

That God waits does not mean He is ignorant. In fact, Isaiah further describes the Lord as a grape farmer paying especially close attention to the branches. He is waiting for the blossoms to become grapes on some branches and not on others. When it becomes clear which is which, He will prune away the unproductive branches. In Isaiah's word picture, those pruned branches become dead Assyrian bodies. They are piled so deep that the wild birds and beasts will feast through summer and winter. It's a grisly scene, but the point is that God is fully able to end Assyria at precisely the moment He chooses to do so (Isaiah 18:5–6).

Finally, Isaiah points forward to the time of the Messiah's kingdom on earth. When that day arrives, He will reign over the entire world from His throne in Jerusalem on Mount Zion. The people of every nation will flow to Jerusalem to see Him and to bring Him tribute. They will come to learn His ways because Mount Zion is the place of the name of the Lord of hosts (Isaiah 18:7).
What is the Gospel?
Download the app: