Commentary Critical and Explanatory
on the Whole Bible
Isaiah announces the overthrow of Sennacherib's hosts and desires the
Ethiopian ambassadors, now in Jerusalem, to bring word of it to their
own nation; and he calls on the whole world to witness the event
announced the presence of the foe, so
foretells his overthrow.
1. Woe--The heading in English Version, "God will destroy the
Ethiopians," is a mistake arising from the wrong rendering "Woe,"
whereas the Hebrew does not express a threat, but is an appeal calling attention
"Ho." He is not speaking against but to the Ethiopians,
calling on them to hear his prophetical announcement as to the
destruction of their enemies.
shadowing with wings--rather, "land of the winged bark"; that
is, "barks with wing-like sails, answering to vessels of bulrushes" in
the word "rivers," in the parallelism, also favors it; so the
Septuagint and Chaldee [EWALD].
"Land of the clanging sound of wings," that is, armies, as in
the rendering "bark," or "ship," is rather dubious [MAURER]. The armies referred to are those of Tirhakah,
advancing to meet the Assyrians
In English Version, "shadowing" means
protecting--stretching out its wings to defend a feeble
people, namely, the Hebrews [VITRINGA]. The
Hebrew for "wings" is the same as for the idol Cneph,
which was represented in temple sculptures with wings
beyond--Meroe, the island between the "rivers" Nile and Astaboras is
meant, famed for its commerce, and perhaps the seat of the Ethiopian
government, hence addressed here as representing the whole empire:
remains of temples are still found, and the name of "Tirhakah" in the
inscriptions. This island region was probably the chief part of Queen
For "beyond" others translate less literally "which borderest on."
Ethiopia--literally, "Cush." HORSLEY
is probably right that the
ultimate and fullest reference of the prophecy is to the
restoration of the Jews in the Holy Land through the instrumentality of
some distant people skilled in navigation
Isa 60:9, 10;
Ps 45:15; 68:31;
Phœnician voyagers coasting along would speak of all Western
remote lands as "beyond" the Nile's mouths. "Cush," too, has a
wide sense, being applied not only to Ethiopia, but Arabia-Deserta and
Felix, and along the Persian Gulf, as far as the Tigris
2. ambassadors--messengers sent to Jerusalem at the time that
negotiations passed between Tirhakah and Hezekiah against the expected
attack of Sennacherib
by . . . sea--on the Nile
as what follows proves.
vessels of bulrushes--light canoes, formed of papyrus, daubed over
with pitch: so the "ark" in which Moses was exposed
Go--Isaiah tells them to take back the tidings of what God is about
against the common enemy of both Judah and Ethiopia.
scattered and peeled--rather, "strong and energetic"
Hebrew for "strong" is literally, "drawn out"
"Energetic," literally, "sharp"
Margin; the verb means to "sharpen" a sword,
Eze 21:15, 16);
also "polished." As HERODOTUS (3:20, 114)
characterizes the Ethiopians as "the tallest and fairest of men," G. V.
SMITH translates, "tall and comely"; literally,
"men of stature") and polished (the Ethiopians had "smooth,
glossy skins"). In English Version the reference is to the Jews,
scattered outcasts, and loaded with indignity (literally,
"having their hair torn off," HORSLEY).
terrible--the Ethiopians famed for warlike prowess
The Jews who, because of God's plague, made others to fear the like
Rather, "awfully remarkable" [HORSLEY]. God puts
the "terror" of His people into the surrounding nations at the first
so it shall be again in the latter days
(Zec 12:2, 3).
from . . . beginning hitherto--so English Version rightly. But
GESENIUS, "to the terrible nation (of upper Egypt) and further beyond"
(to the Ethiopians, properly so called).
meted out--Hebrew, "of line." The measuring-line was used in
Hence, actively, it means here "a people meting out,--an
all-destroying people"; which suits the context better than "meted,"
passively [MAURER]. HORSLEY,
understanding it of the Jews, translates it, "Expecting,
expecting (in a continual attitude of expectation of Messiah) and
trampled under foot"; a graphic picture of them. Most translate, of
strength, strength (from a root, to brace the sinews), that
is, a most powerful people.
trodden down--true of the Jews. But MAURER
translates it actively, a
people "treading under foot" all its enemies, that is, victorious
namely, the Ethiopians.
spoiled--"cut up." The Nile is formed by the junction of many
streams in Abyssinia, the Atbara, the Astapus or Blue river (between
which two rivers Meroe, the "Ethiopia" here meant, lies), and the
Astaboras or White river; these streams wash down the soil along
their banks in the "land" of Upper Egypt and deposit it on that of Lower
Egypt. G. V. SMITH translates it, "Divide."
HORSLEY takes it figuratively
of the conquering armies which have often "spoiled" Judea.
3. see ye . . . hear ye--rather, "ye shall see . . . shall hear."
Call to the whole earth to be witnesses of what Jehovah ("He")
is about to do. He will "lift up an ensign," calling the Assyrian motley
on "the mountains" round Jerusalem, to their own destruction. This (the
declares the coming overthrow of those armies whose presence is
Isa 17:12, 13.
The same motive, which led Hezekiah to seek aid from Egypt, led him to
accept gladly the Ethiopian Tirhakah's aid
(Isa 36:6; 37:9).
Ethiopia, Egypt, and Judea were probably leagued together against the
common enemy, 713 B.C. See notes on the
where a difference of tone (as referring to a different period) as to
Ethiopia is observable. HORSLEY takes the "ensign"
to be the cross, and the "trumpet" the Gospel trumpet, which
shall be sounded more loudly in the last days.
4. take . . . rest . . . consider--I will
calmly look on and not interpose, while all seems to promise
success to the enemy; when figuratively, "the sun's heat" and "the
night dews" ripen their "harvest"; but "before" it reaches its maturity
I will destroy it
Ec 8:11, 12).
like a clear heat--rather, "at the time of the clear (serene) heat"
upon herbs--answering to "harvest" in the parallel clause.
translates, "in the sunlight"
(Job 31:26; 37:21;
like . . . dew--rather, "at the time of the dew cloud." God's "silence"
is mistaken by the ungodly for consent; His delay in taking vengeance
so it shall be before the vengeance which in the last day shall usher
in the restoration of the Jews
(Isa 34:1-8; 57:11,
end of the verse,
5. For--rather, "But."
perfect--perfected. When the enemy's plans are on the verge of
sour grape . . . flower--rather, "when the flower shall become the
ripening grape" [MAURER].
sprigs--the shoots with the grapes on them. God will not only
disconcert their present plans, but prevent them forming any future
ones. HORSLEY takes the "harvest" and vintage here as referring to
purifying judgments which cause the excision of the ungodly from the
earth, and the placing of the faithful in a state of peace
on the earth: not the last judgment
6. birds . . . beasts--transition from the image "sprigs," "branches,"
to the thing meant: the Assyrian soldiers and leaders shall be the prey
of birds and beasts, the whole year through, "winter" and "summer," so
numerous shall be their carcasses. HORSLEY
translates the Hebrew which is singular: "upon it," not "upon them"; the "it" refers
to God's "dwelling-place"
in the Holy Land, which Antichrist ("the bird of prey" with the
"beasts," his rebel hosts) is to possess himself of, and where he is to
7. present . . . people scattered and peeled--For the
right rendering, see on
The repetition of epithets enhances the honor paid to Jehovah by so
mighty a nation. The Ethiopians, wonder-struck at such an
interposition of Jehovah in behalf of His people, shall send gifts to
Jerusalem in His honor
Thus translate: "a present . . . from a people." Or
translate, as English Version; "the present" will mean "the
people" of Ethiopia converted to God
HORSLEY takes the people converted to Jehovah, as
the Jews in the latter days.
place of the name--where Jehovah peculiarly manifests His glory;
Ac 2:10 and 8:27
show how worshippers came up to Jerusalem from Egypt" and "Ethiopia."
Frumentius, an Egyptian, in the fourth century, converted Abyssinia to
Christianity; and a Christian church, under an abuna or bishop,
still flourishes there. The full accomplishment is probably still