Isaiah 18

Sunday Morning Bible Study

May 16, 1999


The last chapter had been about the destruction of the Syrians and the Northern Kingdom of Israel by the Assyrians. It ended by turning to the nation of Assyria and the destruction it would face when it came up against the little Kingdom of Judah (Is. 17:12-14)

It seems that this chapter takes place around the time of the various Assyrian invasions on Israel. At that time, a delegation from the land of Cush, or, Ethiopia, arrives in Jerusalem. They try to make a treaty, joining forces against the Assyrians.

:1 Woe to the land shadowing with wings,

Woehowy – ah!, alas!, ha!, ho!, O!, woe!

This is an exclamation. It can be used as a warning ("woe"), but it can also be a kind of exclamation to get your attention ("Ho!" – see Is. 55:1). I don’t think the idea here is that the Ethiopians are going to be destroyed, God just wants to get their attention as they see something amazing happening.

shadowing[email protected] – whirring, buzzing; spear; whirring locust. We think this is a a reference to the insects of the land, possibly locusts.

:1 which is beyond the rivers of Ethiopia:

Ancient Ethiopia, also known as "Cush", is covered now by southern Egypt, Sudan, and northern Ethiopia.

:2 That sendeth ambassadors by the sea, even in vessels of bulrushes

vessels of bulrushes – boats made out of papyrus reeds coated in tar, like the little boat that Moses was floated in as a baby (Ex.2:3).

Historical Background:

Around 714 BC, the king of Ethiopia, Tirhakah, ascended to the throne in Egypt, combining the Ethiopian and Egyptian kingdoms. Apparently now, a delegation from Egypt/Ethiopia has arrived in Jerusalem to try and join forces with the nation of Judah against Assyria.

God doesn’t think Judah needs any help from the Ethiopians.

When the Assyrian ambassadors would finally show up in Jerusalem to threaten that they surrender, one of the things they would warn Judah against was in trusting in Egypt (and Ethiopia):

Isa 36:6 Lo, thou trustest in the staff of this broken reed, on Egypt; whereon if a man lean, it will go into his hand, and pierce it: so is Pharaoh king of Egypt to all that trust in him.

Later, when the Assyrians returned for a second threat, word had gotten around that Tirhakah was marching on the Assyrian army:

Isa 37:8-20 So Rabshakeh returned, and found the king of Assyria warring against Libnah: for he had heard that he was departed from Lachish. {9} And he heard say concerning Tirhakah king of Ethiopia, He is come forth to make war with thee. And when he heard it, he sent messengers to Hezekiah, saying, {10} Thus shall ye speak to Hezekiah king of Judah, saying, Let not thy God, in whom thou trustest, deceive thee, saying, Jerusalem shall not be given into the hand of the king of Assyria. {11} Behold, thou hast heard what the kings of Assyria have done to all lands by destroying them utterly; and shalt thou be delivered? {12} Have the gods of the nations delivered them which my fathers have destroyed, as Gozan, and Haran, and Rezeph, and the children of Eden which were in Telassar? {13} Where is the king of Hamath, and the king of Arphad, and the king of the city of Sepharvaim, Hena, and Ivah?

The Assyrians didn’t want Judah making any alliances with those rebel Ethiopians. They threatened Judah by reminding them that no one had ever been able to resist the mighty Assyrian army.

Actually, there truth to what the Assyrians are saying. There had been no earthly power yet able to withstand their army. In fact, even the Ethiopians would eventually be conquered. Later, the Assyrian armies under Esarhaddon, and again under Assur-bani-pal, invaded Egypt and defeated Tirhakah, who afterwards retired into Ethiopia, where he died, after reigning twenty-six years.

But the Assyrians don’t just want to discourage Judah from trusting the Ethiopians, they want to discourage Judah from trusting in God.

Lesson #1

Satan wants you to think that God can’t be trusted.

From the beginning Satan has tried to make men question God’s Word.

(Gen 3:1 KJV) Now the serpent was more subtle than any beast of the field which the LORD God had made. And he said unto the woman, Yea, hath God said, Ye shall not eat of every tree of the garden?

We get some silly ideas about God sometimes.


A young girl, dressed in her Sunday best, was running as fast as she could to Sunday school. As she ran, she prayed, "Dear Lord, please don't let me be late! Dear Lord, please don't let me be late!" which moment she tripped on a curb and fell, getting her clothes dirty and tearing her dress. She got up, brushed herself off, and started running again, praying, "Dear Lord, please don't let me be late! Dear Lord, please don't let me be late! ...But DON'T SHOVE me."

Satan will try and tell you God is out to destroy you, or that He has forgotten you.

(Isa 40:27-31 NLT) O Israel, how can you say the LORD does not see your troubles? How can you say God refuses to hear your case? {28} Have you never heard or understood? Don't you know that the LORD is the everlasting God, the Creator of all the earth? He never grows faint or weary. No one can measure the depths of his understanding. {29} He gives power to those who are tired and worn out; he offers strength to the weak. {30} Even youths will become exhausted, and young men will give up. {31} But those who wait on the LORD will find new strength. They will fly high on wings like eagles. They will run and not grow weary. They will walk and not faint.

Lesson #2

God wants you to trust in Him.

Psalms 50:15 And call upon me in the day of trouble: I will deliver thee, and thou shalt glorify me.

This Assyrian invasion took place during Isaiah’s ministry. Hezekiah was king at that time. Look how Hezekiah replied to the Assyrian threat:

{14} And Hezekiah received the letter from the hand of the messengers, and read it: and Hezekiah went up unto the house of the LORD, and spread it before the LORD. {15} And Hezekiah prayed unto the LORD, saying, {16} O LORD of hosts, God of Israel, that dwellest between the cherubims, thou art the God, even thou alone, of all the kingdoms of the earth: thou hast made heaven and earth. {17} Incline thine ear, O LORD, and hear; open thine eyes, O LORD, and see: and hear all the words of Sennacherib, which hath sent to reproach the living God. {18} Of a truth, LORD, the kings of Assyria have laid waste all the nations, and their countries. {19} And have cast their gods into the fire: for they were no gods, but the work of men's hands, wood and stone: therefore they have destroyed them. {20} Now therefore, O LORD our God, save us from his hand, that all the kingdoms of the earth may know that thou art the LORD, even thou only.

Did God hear and answer Hezekiah’s prayer? YES! A single angel took care of the entire Assyrian army.

As we were talking about on Wednesday night, Hezekiah’s prayer is a classic example of "calling on the name of the LORD" (Rom. 10:13). He begins the prayer by using God’s name (LORD, with all capital letters, is the translation of the Hebrew "Yahweh", God’s name). Hezekiah is calling upon Yahweh, calling out His name, asking for deliverance.

Psalms 18:3 I will call upon the LORD, [who is worthy] to be praised: so shall I be saved from mine enemies.

Hezekiah was faced with enemies. He called on the Lord because he expected the Lord to save him.

Psalms 86:5 For thou, Lord, [art] good, and ready to forgive; and plenteous in mercy unto all them that call upon thee.

You may not feel like you are worthy of asking God for help. But He wants to forgive you.

He wants to forgive you because He’s already paid the ultimate price to cover all of your sins. Jesus Christ came and died a horrible death on a cross, giving Himself up as a sacrifice, to pay for your sins. God would LOVE to have Jesus pay for your sins, but you have to want Him to. God offers you a free gift of forgiveness, but you have to receive the gift, you have to want the gift.

Psalms 145:18 The LORD [is] nigh unto all them that call upon him, to all that call upon him in truth.

You can’t be playing games with God. He will be near to you, but you have to be honest with Him. You need to call on Him in "truth".

Lesson #3

Call on Him for help.

I know that some of us are under tremendous pressure. Many are facing incredibly tough times. It’s good to get your friends around you. It’s good to ask for counsel and advice. But most of all, we need to pray.


Suppose you were diagnosed with some rare disease, yet you knew that there was a special medicine that could actually cure your disease. Would you use that medicine?

The medicine for our "troubles" is prayer.

(Psa 116:1-10 NLT) I love the LORD because he hears and answers my prayers. {2} Because he bends down and listens, I will pray as long as I have breath! {3} Death had its hands around my throat; the terrors of the grave overtook me. I saw only trouble and sorrow. {4} Then I called on the name of the LORD: "Please, LORD, save me!" {5} How kind the LORD is! How good he is! So merciful, this God of ours! {6} The LORD protects those of childlike faith; I was facing death, and then he saved me. {7} Now I can rest again, for the LORD has been so good to me. {8} He has saved me from death, my eyes from tears, my feet from stumbling. {9} And so I walk in the Lord's presence as I live here on earth! {10} I believed in you, so I prayed, "I am deeply troubled, LORD."

(Psa 116:10 KJV) I believed, therefore have I spoken: I was greatly afflicted:

The Psalmist is saying, "I believed in the Lord, that’s why I prayed to Him." Because I believe He can deliver me, I will bother to ask Him for help, admitting that I am afflicted.

(2 Cor 4:11-18 KJV) For we which live are alway delivered unto death for Jesus' sake, that the life also of Jesus might be made manifest in our mortal flesh. {12} So then death worketh in us, but life in you. {13} We having the same spirit of faith, according as it is written, I believed, and therefore have I spoken; we also believe, and therefore speak; {14} Knowing that he which raised up the Lord Jesus shall raise up us also by Jesus, and shall present us with you. {15} For all things are for your sakes, that the abundant grace might through the thanksgiving of many redound to the glory of God. {16} For which cause we faint not; but though our outward man perish, yet the inward man is renewed day by day. {17} For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory; {18} While we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen: for the things which are seen are temporal; but the things which are not seen are eternal.

vs.13 – Paul too has learned that even when he’s in tough circumstances, because he believes in the Lord, he will pray and present his troubles to the Lord.

vs.16-18 – Paul will continue to trust in Jesus, even though the outward circumstances seem tough. He’s keeping His eyes on the Lord.

We are to call upon Jesus. Perhaps it may be a little confusing to you to hear me talk about calling on the name of the Lord, or upon "Yahweh". But for us, we know Him as Jesus.

(Phil 2:9-11 KJV) Wherefore God also hath highly exalted him, and given him a name which is above every name: {10} That at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth; {11} And that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

Call on Jesus. Pray. Pray often. Pray hard.

:2 saying, Go, ye swift messengers, to a nation scattered and peeled

Or better, "tall and smooth", a description of the Ethiopians.

:2 to a people terrible from their beginning hitherto; a nation meted out and trodden down, whose land the rivers have spoiled!

better, "a people who have been feared from their beginning, a nation of might who conquers others, a land divided by rivers". The land of the Ethiopians was divided by rivers like the Nile and the Astaboras.

:3 All ye inhabitants of the world, and dwellers on the earth,

These messengers were to return with a message to the world.

:3 he lifteth up an ensign … he bloweth a trumpet

lifteth up an ensign – a standard or signal or flag placed on high mountains to point out to the people a place of rendezvous when the enemy invades.

bloweth a trumpet – could mean a couple of different things (Num. 10), but usually was one way of calling people together, as in raising an army (Judg. 6:34).

God is calling the people together.

:4 I will take my rest, and I will consider in my dwelling place like a clear heat upon herbs …

like a clear heat … – NLT: "as quietly as the heat rises on a summer day, or as the dew forms on an autumn morning during the harvest."

The picture is that of God sitting on His throne, calmly watching as the Assyrian army begins to invade. Like the waves of heat coming off of something baking in the hot summer sun, God may not make much noise, but He’s pretty powerful. It may seem that He’s not doing anything now, but He’s just waiting for the right time.


God isn’t worried.

I don’t mean that God doesn’t care. But He’s not worried about what is happening to you. He will do what He needs to, just when He needs to.

If we are doing what He asks us to do when we’re in trouble, then we don’t need to be filled with worry either:

(Phil 4:6-7 NASB) Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. {7} And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, shall guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.


I read the story of a man who was the director of a YMCA in Philadelphia. Things were going bad and he was working 85 hours a week to try and keep the place open. He was on the verge of a nervous breakdown when a friend suggested that he had to find a way of letting go of the problems and letting God into the situation. As he took a walk that afternoon, he took a pencil and notepad and wrote God a note: "Dear God, today I hereby resign as general manager of the universe. Love, George." Much to his surprise, God accepted his resignation!

:5 when the bud is perfect, and the sour grape is ripening …

perfecttamam – to be complete, be finished, be at an end

sour grape … flower – when the flower becomes a ripened grape.

:5 he shall both cut off the sprigs … and cut down the branches.

The picture is that of a vine growing out in the field. First, little buds form on the branch. Then the buds blossom into tiny little flowers. Then the flowers fall off as they turn into grapes. Our grapevine in the back yard is just now forming its first batch of buds that are in turn starting to flower. But with this picture, instead of just harvesting the grapes when they’re ready, the vine dresser cuts off the entire branch.

God will not only ruin Assyria’s current plans for Judah, but will keep them from forming any future plans as well. This talks of a MAJOR defeat of the Assyrians.

:6 They shall be left together unto the fowls of the mountains …

The picture being that of the branches with their fruit (vs. 5) being cut off the vine, and just laid out for the birds to come and eat.

When the angel of the Lord came against the Assyrians (Is. 37:36), there were 185,000 dead bodies left behind in his wake, just lying there for the vultures to feast on.

I wonder if this isn’t also hinting at something in the future as well:

(Rev 19:17-18 KJV) And I saw an angel standing in the sun; and he cried with a loud voice, saying to all the fowls that fly in the midst of heaven, Come and gather yourselves together unto the supper of the great God; {18} That ye may eat the flesh of kings, and the flesh of captains, and the flesh of mighty men, and the flesh of horses, and of them that sit on them, and the flesh of all men, both free and bond, both small and great.

(Rev 19:21 KJV) And the remnant were slain with the sword of him that sat upon the horse, which sword proceeded out of his mouth: and all the fowls were filled with their flesh.

:7 In that time shall the present be brought unto the LORD …

presentshay – gift, present, gift offered as homage. The idea is that this great nation of Ethiopia, one that is feared by all, is coming to bring gifts to little Judah, as if they’ve come to fear them!!!

Partial Fulfillments:

The Ethiopian Eunuch

When Philip led the Ethiopian Eunuch to the Lord, the Eunuch had just come from Jerusalem, worshipping the Lord. (Acts 8:26-27)

The Ethiopian Airlift:

Until 1974, Ethiopia had been ruled for several thousand years by a monarchy that claimed to be descended from King Solomon. They claimed that when the Queen of Sheba came home from Jerusalem after visiting Solomon, that she was pregnant. They claim that she was their queen. In 1974, the monarchy led by Emperor Haile Selassie was overthrown by communists. In 1991, the communists were overthrown and the country is now a republic.

In 1975, after the communists took over the country, the chief rabbi of Israel ruled that the Jews living in Ethiopia were descendants of the tribe of Dan. From 1977 to 1985, Israel relocated more than 10,000 Jews who had been living in Ethiopia to Israel in various secret airlifts.

Some have suggested that these airlifts were a fulfillment of Isaiah 18:7.

Complete Fulfillment:

The Feast of Tabernacles

After Jesus returns and sets up His kingdom on earth:

(Zec 14:16-19 KJV) And it shall come to pass, that every one that is left of all the nations which came against Jerusalem shall even go up from year to year to worship the King, the LORD of hosts, and to keep the feast of tabernacles. {17} And it shall be, that whoso will not come up of all the families of the earth unto Jerusalem to worship the King, the LORD of hosts, even upon them shall be no rain. {18} And if the family of Egypt go not up, and come not, that have no rain; there shall be the plague, wherewith the LORD will smite the heathen that come not up to keep the feast of tabernacles. {19} This shall be the punishment of Egypt, and the punishment of all nations that come not up to keep the feast of tabernacles.

This will occur after Jesus has come back and set up His kingdom on earth. All nations will send representatives to Jerusalem for the Feast of Tabernacles. (see also Is. 60:6)

The Feast of Tabernacles (Succoth) takes place around October each year and for a week you live outside with your family under a makeshift shelter made of palm branches. It was designed to be a time to remember what it was like for Israel to live in tents ("tabernacles") in the wilderness as God took them to their Promised Land. It was a time of celebrating that God dwelt in the midst of them. God’s Presence, at the Tabernacle was always at the center of the camp. In the future, the Feast of Tabernacles will continue to be celebrated because God Himself will be in our midst. He will be reigning on earth.