Isaiah 18:1
Verse (Click for Chapter)
New International Version
Woe to the land of whirring wings along the rivers of Cush,

New Living Translation
Listen, Ethiopia--land of fluttering sails that lies at the headwaters of the Nile,

English Standard Version
Ah, land of whirring wings that is beyond the rivers of Cush,

New American Standard Bible
Alas, oh land of whirring wings Which lies beyond the rivers of Cush,

King James Bible
Woe to the land shadowing with wings, which is beyond the rivers of Ethiopia:

Christian Standard Bible
Woe to the land of buzzing insect wings beyond the rivers of Cush,

Contemporary English Version
Downstream from Ethiopia lies the country of Egypt, swarming with insects.

Good News Translation
Beyond the rivers of Ethiopia there is a land where the sound of wings is heard.

Holman Christian Standard Bible
Ah! The land of buzzing insect wings beyond the rivers of Cush

International Standard Version
Woe to the land of whirring wings that is beyond the rivers of Cush,

NET Bible
The land of buzzing wings is as good as dead, the one beyond the rivers of Cush,

New Heart English Bible
Ah, the land of the rustling of wings, which is beyond the rivers of Ethiopia;

GOD'S WORD® Translation
How horrible it will be for the land of whirring wings which lies beyond the rivers of Sudan.

JPS Tanakh 1917
Ah, land of the buzzing of wings, Which is beyond the rivers of Ethiopia;

New American Standard 1977
Alas, oh land of whirring wings Which lies beyond the rivers of Cush,

Jubilee Bible 2000
Woe to the land which makes shade with her wings, which is beyond the rivers of Ethiopia:

King James 2000 Bible
Woe to the land with whirring wings, which is beyond the rivers of Ethiopia:

American King James Version
Woe to the land shadowing with wings, which is beyond the rivers of Ethiopia:

American Standard Version
Ah, the land of the rustling of wings, which is beyond the rivers of Ethiopia;

Douay-Rheims Bible
WOE to the land, the winged cymbal, which is beyond the rivers of Ethiopia,

Darby Bible Translation
Ha! land shadowing with wings, which art beyond the rivers of Cush,

English Revised Version
Ah, the land of the rustling of wings, which is beyond the rivers of Ethiopia:

Webster's Bible Translation
Woe to the land shadowing with wings, which is beyond the rivers of Cush:

World English Bible
Ah, the land of the rustling of wings, which is beyond the rivers of Ethiopia;

Young's Literal Translation
Ho, land shadowed with wings, That is beyond the rivers of Cush,
Study Bible
A Message to Ethiopia
1Alas, oh land of whirring wings Which lies beyond the rivers of Cush, 2Which sends envoys by the sea, Even in papyrus vessels on the surface of the waters. Go, swift messengers, to a nation tall and smooth, To a people feared far and wide, A powerful and oppressive nation Whose land the rivers divide.…
Cross References
2 Kings 19:9
When he heard them say concerning Tirhakah king of Cush, "Behold, he has come out to fight against you," he sent messengers again to Hezekiah saying,

Isaiah 20:3
And the LORD said, "Even as My servant Isaiah has gone naked and barefoot three years as a sign and token against Egypt and Cush,

Isaiah 37:9
When he heard them say concerning Tirhakah king of Cush, "He has come out to fight against you," and when he heard it he sent messengers to Hezekiah, saying,

Isaiah 45:14
Thus says the LORD, "The products of Egypt and the merchandise of Cush And the Sabeans, men of stature, Will come over to you and will be yours; They will walk behind you, they will come over in chains And will bow down to you; They will make supplication to you: 'Surely, God is with you, and there is none else, No other God.'"

Ezekiel 30:4
"A sword will come upon Egypt, And anguish will be in Ethiopia; When the slain fall in Egypt, They take away her wealth, And her foundations are torn down.

Ezekiel 30:5
"Ethiopia, Put, Lud, all Arabia, Libya and the people of the land that is in league will fall with them by the sword."

Ezekiel 30:9
"On that day messengers will go forth from Me in ships to frighten secure Ethiopia; and anguish will be on them as on the day of Egypt; for behold, it comes!"

Zephaniah 2:12
"You also, O Ethiopians, will be slain by My sword."

Zephaniah 3:10
"From beyond the rivers of Ethiopia My worshipers, My dispersed ones, Will bring My offerings.
Treasury of Scripture

Woe to the land shadowing with wings, which is beyond the rivers of Ethiopia:

A.M. cir.

the land

Isaiah 20:3-6 And the LORD said, Like as my servant Isaiah has walked naked and …

Isaiah 30:2,3 That walk to go down into Egypt, and have not asked at my mouth; …

Isaiah 31:1 Woe to them that go down to Egypt for help; and stay on horses, and …


Ruth 2:12 The LORD recompense your work, and a full reward be given you of …

Psalm 17:8 Keep me as the apple of the eye, hide me under the shadow of your wings,

Psalm 36:7 How excellent is your loving kindness, O God! therefore the children …

Psalm 57:1 Be merciful to me, O God, be merciful to me: for my soul trusts in …

Psalm 61:4 I will abide in your tabernacle for ever: I will trust in the covert …

Psalm 63:7 Because you have been my help, therefore in the shadow of your wings …

Psalm 91:4 He shall cover you with his feathers, and under his wings shall you …

Matthew 23:37 O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you that kill the prophets, and stone them …


2 Kings 19:9 And when he heard say of Tirhakah king of Ethiopia, Behold, he is …

Ezekiel 30:4,5 And the sword shall come on Egypt, and great pain shall be in Ethiopia, …

Zephaniah 2:12 You Ethiopians also, you shall be slain by my sword.

Zephaniah 3:10 From beyond the rivers of Ethiopia my suppliants, even the daughter …


(1) Woe to the land shadowing with wings.--A new kingdom, hitherto unnamed by Isaiah, comes now within his horizon. The movements of Tirhakah, king of Cush or Ethiopia, from the upper valley of the Nile, subduing Egypt, and prepared to enter into conflict with the great Assyrian king (Isaiah 37:9), had apparently excited the hopes of such of Hezekiah's counsellors as put their trust in an arm of flesh. To these Isaiah now turns with words of warning. The words "shadowing with wings" have been very variously interpreted as implying (1) the image of a mighty eagle stretching out its imperial wings (Ezekiel 17:1-8); (2) the ur?us or disk with outspread wings which appears in Egyptian paintings as the symbol of Ethiopian sovereignty; (3) the rendering resounding being adopted instead of "shadowing," the swarms of the tse-tse fly that have been the terror of all travellers in Abyssinia. Of these (2) has most to commend it, and receives confirmation from the inscription of Piankhi-Mer-Amon, translated by Canon Cook in Records of the Past (2 p. 89), in which that king, an Ethiopian, who had conquered Egypt, appears with the ur?us on his head, and the chiefs of the north and south cry out to him, "Grant us to be under thy shadow." (Comp. Isaiah 30:2-3.) The phrase, "beyond the river," points, as in Zephaniah 3:10, to the region of the White and the Blue Nile, south of Meroe or Sennar, and not far from the Lake Nyanza of modern explorers.

Verses 1-7. - THE HOMAGE OF ETHIOPIA TO JEHOVAH. Amid the general excitement caused by the advance of Assyria, Ethiopia also is stirred, and stirred to its furthest limits. The king sends messengers in beats upon the canals and rivers to summon his troops to his standard (vers. 1, 2). The earth stands agaze to see the result of the approaching collision (ver. 3); but God rests calmly in heaven while events are ripening (vers. 4, 5). When the time comes he will strike the blow - Assyria will be given to the fowls of the air and the beasts of the field (ver. 6). Then Ethiopia will make an act of homage to Jehovah by the sending of a present to Jerusalem (ver. 7). The time seems to be that immediately preceding the great invasion of Sennacherib (about B.C. 700), when Shabatok the Ethiopian was King of Egypt, and Tirhakah (Tahark) either Crown Prince under him, or more probably Lord Paramount of Egypt over him, and reigning at Napata. Verse 1. - Woe to the land; rather, Ho for the land! (comp. Isaiah 17:12). Shadowing with wings; literally, either the land of the shadow of wings or the land of the noise of wings, most probably the latter. Allusion is thought to be made to the swarms of buzzing flies, especially the tsetse, with which Ethiopia abounds. At the same time, these swarms are, perhaps, intended to be taken as emblems of the hosts of warriors which Ethiopia can send forth (comp. Isaiah 7:18). Beyond the rivers of Ethiopia. The prophet cannot be supposed to have had more than a vague knowledge of African geography. He seems, however, robe aware that Ethiopia is a land of many rivers (see Baker's 'Nile Tributaries'), and he assumes that the dominion of the Ethiopian kings extends even beyond these rivers to the south of them. His object is, as Mr. Cheyne says, "to emphasize the greatness of Ethiopia." It may be questioned, however, whether the dominion of the Ethiopian kings of the time extended so far as he supposed. The seat of their power was Napata, now Gebel Berkal, in the great bend of the Nile between lat. 18° and 19° N.; and its southern limit was probably Khar-toum and the line of the Blue Nile (see Rawlinson's 'History of Ancient Egypt,' vol. 2. p. 436). Woe to the land shadowing with wings,.... Or, "O land", as calling to it; so Aben Ezra and Kimchi. It is very difficult to determine what land is here meant: some think the land of Assyria is here designed, as Aben Ezra and others, and so it is a continuation of the prophecy concerning the destruction of the Assyrians, in the three last verses of the preceding chapter Isaiah 17:12; the stretching out of whose wings is mentioned, Isaiah 8:8 and thought to be referred to here; others are of opinion that the land of Judea is intended, which trusted under the shadow of the wings of Egypt and Ethiopia, to whom the characters in the next verse Isaiah 18:2 are supposed to belong: but the more generally received sense is, that either Egypt or Ethiopia themselves are pointed at, described as "shadowing with wings"; not with the wings of birds, as Jarchi interprets it, which flocked thither in great numbers, the country being hot, and so shaded it with their wings; but rather with mountains, with which Ethiopia, at least some part of it, was encompassed and shaded; or else with ships, whose sails are like wings, and which resorting hither, in numerous fleets of them, and hovering about their coasts and ports, seemed to shadow them; to which agrees the Septuagint version, "Woe to the land, the wings of ships!" and so the Targum,

"Woe to the land to which they come in ships from a far country, whose sails are stretched out, as an eagle that flies with its wings;''

so Manasseh Ben Israel (c) renders them,

"Woe to the land, which, under the shadow of veils, falls beyond the rivers of Ethiopia.''

The word translated "shadowing" is used for a cymbal, 2 Samuel 6:5, Psalm 150:5 and so it is rendered here in the Vulgate Latin version, "Woe to the land, with the cymbal of wings": and some think the "sistrum", is meant, which was a musical instrument used by the Egyptians in their worship of Isis; and which had wings to it, or had transverse rods in the middle of it, which looked like wings, one of which may be seen in Pignorius (d); and so it describes the land of Egypt, famous for its winged cymbals. Minucius Felix (e) makes mention of the swallow along with the sistrum, which was a bird of Isis; and which some say was placed over the statue of Isis, with its wings stretched out.

Which is beyond the rivers of Ethiopia; the principal of which were Astaboras and Astapus (f), and also Nile itself, which came out of Ethiopia into Egypt: or, "which is on this side of the rivers of Ethiopia" (g); and so may intend Egypt, which bordered on this side of it towards Judea; or, "which is beside the rivers of Ethiopia" (h); and so may denote Ethiopia itself, situated by these rivers. The Targum renders it,

"the rivers of Judea.''

Some would have it, that the rivers of Arabia Chusaea are meant, which, lay between Judea and Egypt, as Besor, Rhinocorura, Trajan, and Corys; and Arabia seems rather to be meant by "Cush", than Ethiopia in Africa, since that lay beyond the rivers of Egypt, rather than Egypt beyond the rivers of Ethiopia.

(c) Spes Israelis, sect. 17. p. 57. (d) Mensa Isiaca, p. 67. (e) Octav. p. 21. (f) Plin. Nat. Hist. l. 5. c. 9. Ptolem. Geograph. 1. 4. c. 8. (g) "quae est citra flumina Cuscheae", Vitringa. So some in Gataker. (h) "Quae est secundum flumina Aethiopiae", Junius & Tremellius, Piscator. CHAPTER 18

Isa 18:1-7.

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 (Isa 18:3). As Isa 17:12-14 announced the presence of the foe, so Isa 18:1-7 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 (Isa 55:1; Zec 2:6): "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 Isa 18:2; 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 Isa 8:8; the rendering "bark," or "ship," is rather dubious [Maurer]. The armies referred to are those of Tirhakah, advancing to meet the Assyrians (Isa 37:9). 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 (Ps 91:4).

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 Candace's kingdom (Ac 8:27). 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 18:2; Isa 60:9, 10; Ps 45:15; 68:31; Zep 3:10). Phoenician 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 (Ge 2:13).18:1-7 God's care for his people; and the increase of the church. - This chapter is one of the most obscure in Scripture, though more of it probably was understood by those for whose use it was first intended, than by us now. Swift messengers are sent by water to a nation marked by Providence, and measured out, trodden under foot. God's people are trampled on; but whoever thinks to swallow them up, finds they are cast down, yet not deserted, not destroyed. All the dwellers on earth must watch the motions of the Divine Providence, and wait upon the directions of the Divine will. God gives assurance to his prophet, and by him to be given to his people. Zion is his rest for ever, and he will look after it. He will suit to their case the comforts and refreshments he provides for them; they will be acceptable, because seasonable. He will reckon with his and their enemies; and as God's people are protected at all seasons of the year, so their enemies are exposed at all seasons. A tribute of praise should be brought to God from all this. What is offered to God, must be offered in the way he has appointed; and we may expect him to meet us where he records his name. Thus shall the nations of the earth be convinced that Jehovah is the God, and Israel is his people, and shall unite in presenting spiritual sacrifices to his glory. Happy are those who take warning by his judgment on others, and hasten to join him and his people. Whatever land or people may be intended, we are here taught not to think that God takes no care of his church, and has no respect to the affairs of men, because he permits the wicked to triumph for a season. He has wise reasons for so doing, which we cannot now understand, but which will appear at the great day of his coming, when he will bring every work into judgment, and reward every man according to his works.
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