We will continue the discussion of Isa. 17:3 here in Part 5.
[[As verse 4 shows, "the glory" of the remnant of Ephraim (and, according to this verse, the glory of the remnant of Aram will be like the glory of the remnant of Ephraim) will be very thin/faded/low indeed. But the good news is that there will be a humbled, repentant end-time remnant for both nations. And, as verses 7, 8 show, this remnant (along with the remnant of mankind worldwide) will submit to God after His end-time judgment of the world. This fits the pattern established by Isaiah chapters 13-27, and other passages. When the remnant of the Arameans (and other nations) finally submit to God at the end of this age, they will begin to experience the glory of God in a very positive way and in a very full dimension. All those from the nations left to enter the millennial kingdom that do not later rebel will have a place in God's new heaven and new earth (as pictured in Revelation chapters 21, 22).]] (4) Now in that day [after God's end-time judgment has been accomplished] the glory of Jacob [Jacob here apparently refers to Ephraim, the northern kingdom.] will fade [literally, become thin], And the fatness of his flesh will become lean. (5) It will be even like the reaper gathering the standing grain, As his arm harvests the ears, Or it will be like one gleaning ears of grain In the valley of Rephaim. (6) Yet gleanings will be left in it like the shaking of an olive tree, Two or three olives on the topmost bough, Four or five on the branches of a fruitful tree, Declares the LORD [Yahweh], the God of Israel. [In Isa. 24:13 the humbled, repentant end-time remnant of mankind worldwide after God's end-time judgment is pictured with similar words.] (7) In that day man will have regard for his Maker [[This wording fits mankind worldwide; it is not limited to those of the northern kingdom of Israel, or to those of Israel and Judah combined. The people of true Israel are the exception; Christians who are living for God do not wait for the day of judgment to have regard for their Maker. They will be raptured from the earth at the time Christ returns to judge the world.]] And his eyes will look to the Holy One of Israel. (8) He will not have regard for the altars, the work of his hands, Nor will he look to that which his fingers have made, Even the Asherim [i.e. wooden symbols of a pagan female deity] and incense stands. [[Compare, for example, Isa. 2:18, 20. The humbled, repentant end-time remnant of the world will forsake their former gods and false religious practices to worship the one true God.
I'll quote part of what Bultema said here ("Commentary on Isaiah," page 186). "Not only Israel will see Him; thus, the text speaks of a man in the most general sense of the word. [Bultema is following the KJV with the translation "a man." It is better to translate "man" with the NASB. The Hebrew has the definite article with the word for man ("adam").] This glorious Messiah [God the Father cannot be excluded here.] will take such a great place in the heart of all people that they will no longer look at the work of their own hands, but they will forget them, despise them, and cast them away. 'And the LORD shall be king over all the earth: in that day shall there be one LORD, and his name one' (Zech. 14:9). In Isa. 2:20 we saw that at the coming of the Lord Jesus Christ all idolatry will be abolished and all false religions put away to make place for the one religion of King Jesus."]] (9) In that day their strong cities [Isaiah is apparently prophesying about the strong cities of Ephraim, but it is to be understood that the strong cities of the Arameans and of the rest of mankind will suffer a similar fate through God's end-time judgment of the world.] will be like forsaken places in the forest, Or like branches which they abandoned before the sons of Israel; And the land will be a desolation. [[I'll quote part of what J. Alec Motyer said here ("Isaiah" [Inter-Varsity Press, 1999], page 133). "The Hebrew, taken in order, reads 'their strong cities will be like the forsaken thing of forest and height which they left because of the sons of Israel.' Doubtless the ruins of the long-deserted, overgrown fortresses of the pre-Israelite inhabitants of Canaan were still visible." The idea seems to be that the cities of Ephraim will become desolate (through God's judgments) just like the cities of those who lived in that land before Israel became desolate when Israel conquered them.]] (10) For you have forgotten the God of your salvation And have not remembered the rock of your refuge. [These words are apparently spoken to backsliden Ephraim. On God as the Rock of refuge for His people, compare Deut. 32:4, 18; Psalm 18:2; and Isa. 26:4.] Therefore you plant delightful plants And set them with vine slips [According to Webster's Dictionary, a "slip" is "a stem, root, twig, etc. cut or broken off a plant and used for planting or grafting."] of a strange god. (11) In the day that you plant it you carefully fence it in, And in the morning you bring your seed to blossom; But the harvest will be a heap In a day of sickliness and incurable pain. [[All the pagan practices that Ephraim (or Judah, or the Christian church) picked up from the nations/world (with at least most of them ultimately coming from the devil and his demons) constitute rebellion against God and ultimately lead to a harvest of judgment.]] (12) Alas, the uproar of many peoples Who roar like the roaring of the seas, And the rumbling of nations Who rush on like the rumbling of mighty waters! (13) The nations rumble on like the rumbling of many waters, But He will rebuke them and they will flee far away, And be chased like chaff in the mountains before the wind, Or like whirling dust before a gale. [Cf., e.g., Psalms 1:4-6; 9:5 (with all of Psalm 9); 83:9-18; Isa. 29:5-8; and 41:11-16.] (14) At evening time, behold, there is terror! Before morning they are no more. [God's partial judgment of Assyria in Isaiah's day (see 2 Kings 19:32-37; Isa. 37:36-39) fits the wording here, and it foreshadows God's end-time night of judgment.] Such will be the portion of those who plunder us And the lot of those who pillage us. [[These last three verses fit well with the theme of this chapter. The nations roar on, doing there own thing; they attack the people of God (true Israel), especially looking to the end-times under Antichrist (cf., e.g., Psalm 2; Rev. 12:6-19:21); but they will be judged by God, and they will cease to exist as peoples independent of God or as enemies of the people of God. The good news for the nations, though it is not mentioned in these last three verses, is that the humbled, repentant end-time remnant will submit to God.]]
ISAIAH CHAPTER 18.
This chapter of Isaiah, which apparently shows the submission of (the end-time remnant of) the Ethiopians to God, has a different emphasis than many of the chapters we are looking at. This chapter doesn't directly mention the judgment of the Ethiopians that will reduce them to a humbled, repentant remnant; that point must be inferred - it is an easy inference to make with the subject matter of this chapter and in context with all of chapters 13-27. The primary judgment pictured in this chapter is God's judgment of the "world" kingdom (after He has used that kingdom to judge many nations, including Ethiopia). We can see God's judgment of Assyria here, the "world" kingdom that was causing such great havoc for so many nations (including Judah and Ethiopia) in the days of Isaiah, but the more important fulfillment of this prophecy will take place at the end of this age, when God destroys the final, super-evil "world" kingdom that is headed up by Antichrist.
Having been humbled by God's end-time judgment of the world won't be the only factor that leads the end-time remnant of the nations to turn to God. Another important factor that will lead to their conversion is their learning what God is really like. For one thing, He keeps His Word. He will save His people, true Israel, and He will destroy His enemies and the enemies of His people who persist in rebellion (cf., e.g., Isaiah chapters 25, 26). The end-time remnant of the nations will be ready to admit that the God of true Israel is God, the only God, and that His ways are right, including His judgments. They will be thankful that He has destroyed the evil "world" kingdom, and they will be thankful that He has spared them as a remnant.
There was an important foreshadowing of God's judging a "world" kingdom (Assyria) in the incident recorded in Isa. 37:8-38; 2 Kings 19:8-37; and 2 Chron. 32:9-23 when God fought for Judah (in the days of King Hezekiah) and overthrew the Assyrian army that threatened Jerusalem in 701 BC. But that defeat did not overthrow Assyria, which continued as the "world" kingdom until it was overthrown by Babylon in 609 BC. The comments under Isa. 18:2 (also see Isaiah chapter 20) show that the Ethiopians were defeated by the Assyrians and that their problems did not end in 701 BC.
"Alas, oh land of whirring [or, buzzing] wings [[The most common view is that the whirring/buzzing wings speak of a particular flying insect, or of all the flying insects of Ethiopia. The NIV also translates "whirring wings," and in the margin it has "or, of locusts." In Deut. 28:42 the Hebrew noun ("tselatsal"), which is very similar to the Hebrew noun ("tsiltsal") translated "whirring" here in Isa. 18:1, was translated "swarms of locusts" by the NIV. ((I had a footnote: Both of these Hebrew nouns, which were derived from the same Hebrew verb, were used just once in the Old Testament. The BDB Hebrew Lexicon gives "whirring, buzzing" as the meaning of the noun used here in Isa. 18:1 and "whirring locust" for the noun used in Deut. 28:42. The NASB has "the cricket" in Deut. 28:42.))
I assume that those commentators are correct who see more than literal flying insects here. J. Alec Motyer, for example, comments that the "whirring suggest[s] a busy restless world" ("Isaiah" [Inter-Varsity Press, 1999], page 135). The Ethiopians were apparently engaged in frantic activities (trying to prepare to face the Assyrians through such things as sending out envoys to establish alliances [18:2] and raising and training armies). The whirring/buzzing activity on the part of man, which is to be contrasted with the restful, patient activity of God pictured in 18:4-6, will never solve the real problem(s) of mankind. The major problem is that they have left God out of the equation. Eventually the humbled, repentant remnant of the nations will wake up to that fact. Nothing that the nations do to try to stop the "world" kingdom that is being used by God to humble them can succeed. This was true regarding the Assyrian "world" kingdom back then, and it will be true regarding the revived Roman Empire headed up by Antichrist in the last days (see, for example, Isa.10:5-34; Jer. 25:17-38).]] Which lies beyond the rivers of Cush [[In the margin the NASB has, "or, [rivers of] Ethiopia." Instead of "beyond the rivers of Cush," the NIV has "along the rivers of Cush," which is possible, but the translation of the NASB is quite reasonable (cf. Zeph. 3:10). According to John A. Martin, "Cush included modern-day southern Egypt, Sudan, and northern Ethiopia" ("Bible Knowledge Commentary, Old Testament" [Victor Books, 1985], page 1065). Merrill F. Unger agrees with the widespread viewpoint that this prophecy is directed to Ethiopia. I'll quote a sentence from what he said here ("Unger's Commentary on the Old Testament," Vol. 2 [Moody Press, 1981], page 1190). "Ethiopia corresponded roughly with modern Sudan, and its capital was at Napata beyond the Blue Nile, White Nile, and the Athbara - 'the rivers of Ethiopia.' "]], (2) Which sends envoys by the sea, Even in papyrus vessels on the surface of the waters. [[Ethiopia had apparently sent envoys to Jerusalem (and other places) to discuss/plot how they might defeat the Assyrians (cf., e.g., Isa. 14:32). This is a very common viewpoint with the commentators, including Martin ("Bible Knowledge Commentary," page 1065), but he adds, "Nothing is known elsewhere in the Bible or from extrabiblical sources about any contacts of this nation with Israel in a joint venture against Assyria."]] Go, swift messengers, to a nation tall and smooth ((I had a footnote: It is not of crucial significance for us to know what was meant by "smooth" here, but I'll quote what Edward J. Young gave as the likely meaning ("Book of Isaiah," Vol. 1 [Eerdmans, 1983 reprint], page 476). "...smooth because the hair has been removed. It may be then that there is some reflection upon a custom of removing the hair from the body [or parts of the body]. Herodotus (2:37) claims that on every third day the Egyptian priests shaved the entire body." G. W. Grogan ("Expositor's Bible Commentary," Vol. 6 [Zondervan, 1986], page 122, 123) mentions "the general admiration felt in antiquity for the tall, handsome, CLEAN-SHAVEN [my emphasis] Nubians of Cush.")), To a people feared far and wide, A powerful and oppressive nation Whose land the rivers divide. [[See Isa. 18:7. The apparent meaning here is that the envoys of Ethiopia should return to their own nation. Isaiah 18:3 shows that the message of this chapter is intended for all nations. What happens to Ethiopia is representative of what happens to all nations. People are not to look to the arm of the flesh to solve their problems. They are to look to God, the only real God, the One who will judge the nations (including Judah and Ethiopia) through the "world" kingdom(s) and who will, at the right time, judge the "world" kingdom(s) too. God's plans cannot be overturned. True salvation, security, and peace can only be found in Him.
I'll quote a few sentences from Gleason L. Archer that give some historical background for the Ethiopians in those days ("Wycliffe Bible Commentary" [Moody Press, 1962], page 623). "Under Piankhi the Ethiopians had established the Twenty-fifth Dynasty in Egypt [They had conquered Egypt in 715 BC; the Egyptians eventually regained control of Egypt (at least by 633 BC).], and Piankhi's son Shabaka (called 'So' in 2 Kings 17:4) had encouraged Hoshea of Israel [the northern kingdom] in the last unsuccesful revolt against Assyria. Shabaka also leagued with Merodach-baladan of Babylon, and was later an encouragement to Hezekiah [king of Judah] to rebel against Sennacherib [king of Assyria], who finally crushed the Ethiopian forces at Eltekeh in 701. So's nephew, Tirhakah [cf. 2 Kings 19:9; Isa. 37:9], led a new Egyptian effort but was finally crushed by Ashurbanipal [a later king of Assyria] in 667."]] (3) All you inhabitants of the world and dwellers on earth, As soon as a standard is raised on the mountains, you will see it And as soon as the trumpet is blown, you will hear it. [[There was some application of these words for Isaiah's generation, and subsequent generations, but the primary fulfillment of these prophetic words will come to pass at the end of this age when God judges and destroys the final "world" kingdom headed up by Antichrist, after He has used Antichrist to destroy Babylon the great (which is a symbol for the world) and to reduce the nations to a humbled, repentant remnant. On the "trumpet" see under 18:7 below.]] (4) For thus the LORD [Yahweh] has told me, 'I [God] will look from My dwelling place quietly [The NIV has, "I will remain quiet and will look on from my dwelling place."] Like dazzling [The BDB Hebrew Lexicon has "glowing" here, which apparently refers to the effect of the sun when the sky is clear.] heat in the sunshine, Like a cloud of dew in the heat of harvest.' [[This verse seems to be quite important, but the meaning is not so obvious that it jumps out at you. Isaiah 26:21 says, "For behold, the LORD is about to come out from His place To punish the inhabitants of the earth for their iniquity; And the earth will reveal her bloodshed And will no longer cover her slain." God will leave His place (heaven) to judge the world at the end of this age. (This is not to say, of course, that the only time God decisively acts is at the end of this age.) One of the primary sins that God will judge is the innocent blood that has been shed.
Until it is time for God to act, He remains relatively quiet (but He is very far from being uninvolved or inactive/passive). (This is like Isa. 45:15, "Truly, You are a God who hides Himself, O God of Israel, Savior!" Also compare 1 Kings 19:11, 12.) That is one reason that God's people must walk by faith, not by sight. But God is not being inactive throughout those periods when He is hiding Himself. Like the heat and light of the sunshine on a clear day and the cloud of dew quietly (slowly but steadily) make their necessary contributions to the growth that takes place in the fields of the earth, so too God is continuously working, often in imperceptible ways, doing the necessary things. At the right time He will intervene to overthrow the end-time "world" kingdom (as He intervened to raise up and then to put down the other "world" kingdoms, etc.). Before God destroys the final "world" kingdom, He uses that kingdom to judge and humble the nation of Israel (which leads to the salvation of the remnant of the nation) and the nations (which leaves a humbled, repentant remnant of the nations that will be ready to submit to God).
In the days of Isaiah his hearers/readers would be thinking of God's judgment of Assyria (and God did overthrow Assyria at the right time, and then ancient Babylon, etc.), but as I mentioned (and as is common in these prophecies we are studying), this prophecy is looking forward to the time when God will destroy the last "world" kingdom. The things spoken of in Isa. 18:5-7 will not come to pass in any full sense until the end of this age.]] (5) For before the harvest, as soon as the bud blossoms And the flower becomes a ripening grape, Then He will cut off the sprigs with pruning knives And remove and cut away the spreading branches. [That is, at the right time (His time), God will destroy the evil kingdom, thereby saving His people from destruction and leaving a thankful, ready-to-submit-to-Him remnant of the nations.] (6) They [the armies/peoples of the "world" kingdom] will be left together for mountain birds of prey, And for the beasts of the earth; And the birds of prey will spend the summer feeding on them, And all the beasts of the earth will spend harvest time on them. [[As I mentioned in the last paragraph of the introduction to this chapter, there was a partial fulfillment of this prophecy when God judged the Assyrian army threatening Jerusalem, but that event, as significant as it was, did not save the Ethiopians (or other nations) from the Assyrians. The primary fulfillment of these prophetic words will take place when the Lord Jesus Christ destroys Antichrist and his armies that have been gathered to Armageddon (see Rev. 14:17-20; 16:12-16; and 19:17-21 [Revelation 19:17-21 mention that the birds will be assembled to eat the flesh of the armies that are gathered to Armageddon to be destroyed.]). At that time the remnant of the nations will turn to God as pictured, for example, in Psalm 76:11; Isa. 2:2-4; 11:10; and Rev. 15:3, 4; cf. Rev. 20:3.]] (7) At that time a gift of homage will be brought to the LORD [Yahweh] of hosts From a people tall and smooth, Even from a people feared far and wide, A powerful and oppressive nation, Whose land the rivers divide - To the place of the name of the LORD [Yahweh] of hosts, even Mount Zion. [[See Isa. 18:2. There may have been a partial fulfillment of this prophecy in the past (see 2 Chron. 32:20-23), but, as I mentioned, the primary fulfillment will be at the end of this age (see Psalm 68:31; 87:4; Isa. 45:14; and Zeph. 3:10 [These verses all look to the end of this age, and, significantly, they all mention (the remnant of) Ethiopia/the Ethiopians]).
I'll quote what Herbert M. Wolf said regarding this verse ("Interpreting Isaiah" [Zondervan, 1985], page 122). "The Lord's rescue of Hezekiah from Sennacherib [in 701 BC] led many nations to bring gifts to the King of Judah (2 Chron. 32:23). [2 Chron. 32:23 mentions "bringing gifts to the LORD at Jerusalem."] Ethiopia may have been one of those nations, but the broader meaning of verse 7 involves the future submission of Ethiopia to the God of Mount Zion (cf. Zeph. 3:10). Moab had been instructed to send tribute to Zion ([Isa.] 16:1-5). In [Isa.] 45:14 the subjection of Egypt and Ethiopia is discussed again."
I'll quote part of what John A. Martin said under this verse ("Interpreting Isaiah" [Zondervan, 1985], page 122). "Whether this [the bringing of a gift of homage to God at Jerusalem] occurred after the fall of Assyria is not known. Possibly Isaiah was speaking of the millennial kingdom when peoples from around the world will worship the LORD (cf. Zech. 14:16) because of His gracious acts."
I'll quote a few sentences from what Merrill F. Unger said under verses 5 and 7 ("Unger's Commentary on the Old Testament," page 1191). "The 'harvest' [mentioned in 18:5]...look[s] beyond the Assyrian menace of Isaiah's day to the Tribulation of the last days preceding...the Kingdom, when the wicked enemies of the LORD and His people shall be destroyed (Rev. 14:15-20). ... [In the Kingdom age] all nations will serve Him and bring their gifts of adoration to Him who will dwell on Mount Zion (Psalms 2:6-12; 72:15; Isa. 60:6; Zech. 14:16-21). Isaiah's prophetic vision glimpsed God's saving grace eventually going out to the entire world and, in the Kingdom age, embracing all nations (cf. Gen. 12:3)." Unger mentions that the prophetic words of verse 7 about bringing a gift to God at Jerusalem undoubtedly included bringing a gift to God after His overthrow of the Assyrian army mentioned in 2 Kings 19:35.
I'll also quote part of what Harry A. Bultema said under these verses ("Commentary on Isaiah" [Kregel, 1981 reprint], pages 192, 193. "...at the return of Christ, God will terminate His silence [mentioned in verse 4] and annihilate His and Israel's enemies. He will arise and do battle against all those who hate Him. ... Regarding the blowing of a "trumpet" [mentioned in verse 3], compare 27:13; Zechariah 9:14 and Matthew 24:31, where this sound is connected with the gathering and return of Israel. [[The trumpet of Isa. 27:13; Matt. 24:31; 1 Cor. 15:52; 1 Thess. 4:16; and Rev. 11:15, which also apparently is the trumpet of Isa. 18:3; Zech. 9:14, will sound, I believe, right in the middle of Daniel's 70th week. At that time the Lord Jesus Christ will return, the rapture of the Christian church will take place, the day of judgment will officially begin and the Lord Jesus will destroy His enemies and the enemies of His people (Babylon the great harlot and then Antichrist and his forces after gathering them to Armageddon). This trumpet will also signal the gathering of the end-time remnant of Israel, who will not submit to the Lord Jesus Christ until after the rapture (see Isa. 27:12, 13, which are discussed in my paper "Isaiah's Little Apocalypse" on this Christian article site; and see Matt. 24:31, which is discussed along with all of Matthew chapter 24 in my paper on Matthew chapters 24 and 25.).]] Until that time God will quietly consider all the vain activity of the nations. 'He that sitteth in the heavens shall laugh: the Lord shall have them in derision (Ps. 2:4).'
... Finally, 'in that time' [referring to the first three words of Isa. 18:7, which the NASB translates "At that time"], i.e., after Armageddon, a present will be brought to Jehovah Sabaoth in Jerusalem. ... The bringing of gifts, of which we read in 2 Chronicles 32:23, was but a faint example and prelude. ... The verb for bringing of a present is used elsewhere in connection with Israel's restoration (Ps. 45:15; 68:29; 86:9)."]]
ISAIAH 19:4, 16-25.
The earlier verses of this significant prophetic chapter of Isaiah, which I will not quote (with the exception of verse 4), deal with God's judgments of Egypt and their effect on the Egyptians. These judgments, understood in the fullest sense, include His judgments through the "world" kingdoms of Assyria (who reigned in Isaiah's day and afterwards), through Babylon, Medo-Persia, and Rome, plus the attacks of other nations and the strife of Egyptian against Egyptian mentioned in 19:2, not to mention the other ways God has to judge nations, but the primary fulfillment will take place at the end of this age through the revived Roman Empire and its ruler, Antichrist. He is the ultimate "cruel master...a mighty king [who] will rule over them" (Isa. 19:4).
There is much good news in this chapter for the humbled, repentant, end-time remnant of Egypt. "The LORD [Yahweh] will strike Egypt [with judgment], striking but healing; so they [the humbled, repentant remnant] will return to the LORD [Yahweh], and He will respond to them and will heal them" (Isa. 19:22). They will submit to their Creator and God; they will become His people. One of the most important passages in the Bible that demonstrates that God will save a remnant of the nations (including Egypt) after His end-time judgment of the world is Rev. 15:3, 4. Revelation 20:3 is also very important in that it confirms that (a remnant of) the nations will be left by God after His end-time judgment to enter the millennial kingdom. (The entire book of Revelation has been discussed in a verse-by-verse manner in my book, "The Mid-Week Rapture" or in papers on my internet site.)
All the people that submit to God from the nations, including Egypt, with the exception of those who subsequently rebel against Him (cf. Rev. 20:7-10), will have a place in His eternal kingdom (after the millennial kingdom and the great-white-throne judgment [Rev. 20:11-15]), which is spoken of in the last two chapters of the book of Revelation.
(4) " 'Moreover, I will deliver the Egyptians into the hand of a cruel master, And a mighty king will rule over them,' declares the Lord God of hosts. [[Regarding Antichrist as the ultimate "cruel master" and the "mighty king [that] will rule over them," see Dan. 7:7-27; 8:23-26; 9:27; 11:36-45 (Daniel 11:42, 43 specifically mention Egypt); Zech. 11:9-17; 2 Thess. 2:3-12; Rev. 13:1-18; and 17:8-18. The devil will give Antichrist "his power and his throne and great authority" (Rev. 13:2), but the Bible makes it clear that ultimately it is God who uses Antichrist in His end-time judgment of the world. (See Dan. 11:36 [note God's "indignation"; cf. Dan. 8:19]; Zech. 11:16; Rev. 13:5 [This "authority" of Antichrist ultimately comes from God]; and Rev. 17:16, 17.)] ... (16) In that day [cf. Isa. 19:18, 19, 21, 23, and 24] the Egyptians will become like women [cf. Jer. 50:37; 51:30; and Nah. 3:13], and they will tremble and be in dread because of the waving of the hand of the LORD [Yahweh] of hosts, which He is going to wave over them. [[Compare Isa. 9:4-7; 11:1-15 (God's end-time judgment of Egypt is mentioned in 11:15). "That day" will not come in the full sense spoken of in these verses until God judges the world in the last days through His Son Jesus Christ. I listed some verses under Isa. 19:4 which demonstrate that the Lord Jesus will use Antichrist in His end-time judgment of the world. At the end of Daniel's 70th week, Christ will destroy Antichrist and his armies after gathering them to Armageddon.]];
We will continue this discussion of Isa. 19:4, 16-25 in Part 6, starting with verse 17.