Isaiah 18 (the Land beyond the Rivers of Ethiopia)

The exact people to whom the prophet speaks is not identified, except that their location is described to be “the Land…which is beyond the rivers of Ethiopia” (Isa. 18:1). Perhaps it is a land of many Nations, or Cities, whose names are irrelevant except that they have pursued personal gain at Israel’s expense. In doing so, from a historical perspective, they have sent ambassadors by the sea in the aftermath of the Assyrian Captivities, saying, “Go, ye swift messengers, to a nation scattered and peeled, to a people terrible from their beginning hitherto; a nation meted out and trodden down, whose land the rivers have spoiled!” (Isa. 18:2). Various conjectures have been raised as to whom the Lord is talking about in the above description, some believing that the description is fitting for Egypt, but the whole tenor of Biblical Prophecy would suggest otherwise. For example, when Isaiah, Jeremiah, and Ezekiel were compelled by the Spirit to prophesy to heathen nations, the offences that warranted the wrath of the God of Israel on this wise were, of course, the sins of the heathen nations against the Israelites. Usually, this is the most prominent subject matter of such prophecies – namely, their relationship with God’s people, the Jews, and how they have evilly affected or dealt injuriously with them.

This follows the tenor of Isaiah’s prophecies heretofore, like for example in Isaiah 10:5-19, where it is explicitly stated that God will punish Assyria for the harm that they have done to the Jews in Isaiah 10:12, which means that the two will exchange places in the latter end (Isa. 10:16-22). In the latter end, Assyria will be spoiled and wasted even as they wasted the Jews, only worse, and the Israelites will be restored and mightily established (Isa. 10:20-22). Now, only with respect to “the Land…which is beyond the rivers of Ethiopia” (Isa. 18:1), the prophetic narrative continues as was demonstrated in Isaiah 10 with Assyria and the Jews. The peoples of the identified region (Isa. 18:1), thinking to spoil the Jews in their weakened, wasted, and scattered estate in the aftermath of Assyria, hastened to steal, kill, and destroy for unjust gain (Jn. 10:10).

However, the short-lived spoiling of the Jews in this brief moment of history following the Assyrian Captivities is then dwarfed by a broader vision of futurity being described in Isaiah 18:3-7. Behold, the shift from history to futurity in one seamless prophetic utterance! The LORD, the God of Israel, beckons the attention of “all” the “inhabitants of the world” by way of ensigns and trumpets (Isa. 18:3). Why? Because in the latter end the spoilers of the Jews, whom we know to be Babylon’s World in the Last Days (Rev. 17:12-18), will be spoiled by God in the 2nd Advent War of Christ which precedes the Millennial Reign (Rev. 19:11-21), and in that time the positions of the two will be effectively reversed (Rev. 18:1-24). All nations that have thought or done evil to the Jews will become like unto them, which means that they will become “a people scattered and peeled”, “a nation meted out and trodden under foot, whose land the rivers have spoiled” (Isa. 18:7). Specifically speaking, this weakened, wasted, and scattered residue of Babylon’s World will be forced to bring presents to the LORD in Zion (“in that time shall the present be brought unto the LORD of hosts…to the place of the Name of the LORD of hosts, the Mount Zion” – Isa. 18:7), just as has been prophesied at length by the prophets (Zech. 14:9-21, Hag. 2:6-8, Isa. 60:1-22).