Isaiah 18:2
Parallel Verses
New International Version
which sends envoys by sea in papyrus boats over the water. Go, swift messengers, to a people tall and smooth-skinned, to a people feared far and wide, an aggressive nation of strange speech, whose land is divided by rivers.

New Living Translation
that sends ambassadors in swift boats down the river. Go, swift messengers! Take a message to a tall, smooth-skinned people, who are feared far and wide for their conquests and destruction, and whose land is divided by rivers.

English Standard Version
which sends ambassadors by the sea, in vessels of papyrus on the waters! Go, you swift messengers, to a nation tall and smooth, to a people feared near and far, a nation mighty and conquering, whose land the rivers divide.

New American Standard Bible
Which 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.

King James Bible
That sendeth ambassadors by the sea, even in vessels of bulrushes upon the waters, 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!

Holman Christian Standard Bible
sends couriers by sea, in reed vessels on the waters. Go, swift messengers, to a nation tall and smooth-skinned, to a people feared far and near, a powerful nation with a strange language, whose land is divided by rivers.

International Standard Version
which sends envoys by the sea, in papyrus boats over the water! Go, swift messengers, to a tall, smooth-skinned nation, to a people feared far and wide, a nation that metes out punishment and oppresses, whose land the rivers divide.

NET Bible
that sends messengers by sea, who glide over the water's surface in boats made of papyrus. Go, you swift messengers, to a nation of tall, smooth-skinned people, to a people that are feared far and wide, to a nation strong and victorious, whose land rivers divide.

GOD'S WORD® Translation
It sends messengers by sea in boats made of reeds [skimming] over the surface of the water. Go, swift messengers, to a tall and smooth-skinned people, a people [who are] feared far and near, a strong and aggressive nation, whose land is divided by rivers.

Jubilee Bible 2000
He who sends ambassadors by the sea, even in vessels of bulrushes upon the waters, saying, Go, ye swift messengers, to the people scattered and peeled, to the people full of fears from their beginning, and until now, a people tired of waiting and trodden down, whose land the rivers have spoiled!

King James 2000 Bible
That sends ambassadors by the sea, even in vessels of bulrushes upon the waters, saying, Go, you swift messengers, to a nation tall and smooth of skin, to a people feared from their beginning until now; a nation powerful and treading down, whose land the rivers divide!

American King James Version
That sends ambassadors by the sea, even in vessels of bulrushes on the waters, saying, Go, you swift messengers, to a nation scattered and peeled, to a people terrible from their beginning till now; a nation meted out and trodden down, whose land the rivers have spoiled!

American Standard Version
that sendeth ambassadors by the sea, even in vessels of papyrus upon the waters,'saying , Go, ye swift messengers, to a nation tall and smooth, to a people terrible from their beginning onward, a nation that meteth out and treadeth down, whose land the rivers divide!

Douay-Rheims Bible
That sendeth ambassadors by the sea, and in vessels of bulrushes upon the waters. Go, ye swift angels, to a nation rent and torn in pieces: to a terrible people, after which there is no other: to a nation expecting and trodden under foot, whose land the rivers have spoiled.

Darby Bible Translation
that sendest ambassadors over the sea, and in vessels of papyrus upon the waters, [saying,] Go, swift messengers, to a nation scattered and ravaged, to a people terrible from their existence and thenceforth; to a nation of continued waiting and of treading down, whose land the rivers have spoiled!

English Revised Version
that sendeth ambassadors by the sea, even in vessels of papyrus upon the waters, saying, Go, ye swift messengers, to a nation tall and smooth, to a people terrible from their beginning onward; a nation that meteth out and treadeth down, whose land the rivers divide!

Webster's Bible Translation
That sendeth embassadors by the sea, even in vessels of bulrushes upon the waters, saying, Go, ye swift messengers to a nation scattered and peeled, to a people terrible from their beginning hitherto; a nation measured by line and trodden down, whose land the rivers have laid waste.

World English Bible
that sends ambassadors by the sea, even in vessels of papyrus on the waters, saying, "Go, you swift messengers, to a nation tall and smooth, to a people awesome from their beginning onward, a nation that measures out and treads down, whose land the rivers divide!"

Young's Literal Translation
That is sending by sea ambassadors, Even with implements of reed on the face of the waters, -- Go, ye light messengers, Unto a nation drawn out and peeled, Unto a people fearful from its beginning and onwards, A nation meeting out by line, and treading down, Whose land floods have spoiled.
Parallel Commentaries
Matthew Henry's Concise Commentary

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.

Pulpit Commentary

Verse 2. - That sendeth ambassadors; rather, perhaps, messengers, as the word is translated in Isaiah 57:9 and Proverbs 25:13. They are sent, apparently, by the king to his own people. By the sea. "The sea" must in this place necessarily mean the Nile, which is called "the sea" in Nahum 3:8 certainly, and probably in Isaiah 19:5. Vessels of papyrus could not possibly have been employed in the very difficult navigation of the Red Sea. Vessels of bulrushes. That some of the boats used upon the Nile were constructed of the papyrus (which is a sort of bulrush) we learn from Herodotus (it. 96), Theophrastus ('Hist. Plant.,' 4:9), Plutarch ('De Isid. et Osir.,' § 18), Pliny (Hist. 'Nat.,' 6:22), and Lucan ('Pharsal.,' 4:136). They are represented occasionally on the Egyptian monuments. Saying. This word is interpolated by our translators, and gives a wrong sense. It is the prophet that addresses the messengers, not the king who sends them. To a nation scattered and peeled; rather, tall and polished, or tall and sleek. The word translated "scattered" means properly "drawn out," and seems to be applied here to the physique of the Ethiopians, whose stature is said to have been remarkable (Herod., 3:20, 114). The other epithet refers to the glossy skin of the people. A people terrible from their beginning hitherto; The Israelites first knew the Ethiopians as soldiers when they formed a part of the army brought by Shishak (Sheshonk I.) against Rehoboam, about B.C. 970 (2 Chronicles 12:3). They had afterwards experience of their vast numbers, when Zerah made his attack upon Asa; but on this occasion they succeeded in defeating them (2 Chronicles 14:9-13). It was not till about two centuries after this that the power of Ethiopia began to be really formidable to Egypt; and the "miserable Cushites," as they had been in the habit of calling them, acquired the preponderating influence in the valley of the Nile, and under Piankhi, Shabak, Shabatek, and Tirhakah (Tahark), reduced Egypt to subjection. Isaiah, perhaps, refers to their rise under Piankhi as "their beginning." A nation meted out and trodden down; rather, a nation of meting out and trampling; i.e. one accustomed to mete out its neighbors' bounds with a measuring-line, and to trample other nations under its feet. Whose land the rivers have spoiled; rather, whose land rivers despoil. The deposit of mud, which fertilizes Egypt, is washed by the rivers from Ethiopia, which is thus continually losing large quantities of rich son. This fact was well known to the Greeks (Herod., 2:12, ad fin.), and there is no reason why Isaiah should not have been acquainted with it.

Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible

That sendeth ambassadors by the sea,.... The Red Sea, which washed the coasts of Egypt and Ethiopia, and which were united into one kingdom under Sabacus, or So the Ethiopian, called king of Egypt, 2 Kings 17:4 and this kingdom, or rather the king of it, is here described as sending ambassadors by sea to foreign courts, to make leagues and alliances, and thereby strengthen himself against attempts made on him; though some understand it of one part of Ethiopia, on one side of the Red Sea, sending to that on the other side; and some of Tirhakah the Ethiopian sending messengers to the king of Assyria to bid him defiance, and let him know he intended to fight him; and at the same time sent to the Jews, that they might depend upon his protection and help, Isaiah 37:9 some understand this of the Egyptians sending to the Ethiopians, to let them know of the Assyrian expedition; and others, of their sending to the Jews, with the promise of a supply; and the word for "ambassadors" signifying "images", Isaiah 45:16 some have thought it is to be understood of carrying the head of Osiris, and the image of Isis, from place to place, in proper vessels:

even in vessels of bulrushes upon the waters; or, "upon the face of the waters" (i); where these light vessels floated without sinking, not drawing the quantity of waters as vessels of wood did. Both the Egyptians and Ethiopians had ships made of the "papyrus" (k), or "biblus" (l), a sort of rush, that grew upon the banks of the Nile, and which were light, and moved swiftly, and were also safest; there was no danger of their being broken to pieces, as other vessels, on shelves, and rocks, and in waterfalls: yea, Pliny (m) says, that the Ethiopian ships were so made, as to fold up and be carried on their shoulders, when they came to the cataracts.

Saying, go, ye swift messengers; the word "saying" is not in the text, nor is it to be supplied; for these are not the words of the nation before described, sending its messengers to another nation after described, either the Jews or the Assyrians; but they are the words of God to his messengers, angels or men, who were swift to do his will, whom he sends to denounce or inflict judgment upon the same nation that is before mentioned, with which agrees Ezekiel 30:9,

to a nation scattered; that dwelt in towns, villages, and houses, scattered about here and there; or who would be scattered and dissipated by their enemies: or, "drawn out", and spread over a large tract of ground, as Ethiopia was:

and peeled; of their hair, as the word signifies; the Ethiopians, living in a hot country, had very little hair upon their bodies. Schultens (n), from the use of the word in the Arabic language, renders it,

"a nation strong and inaccessible:''

to a people terrible from their beginning hitherto; for their black colour and grim looks, especially in some parts; and for the vast armies they brought into the field, as never were by any other people; see 2 Chronicles 12:3 and they might well be said to be so from the beginning, since Nimrod, the mighty hunter, was the son of Cush, from whence the Ethiopians have the name of Cushites, and is the name Ethiopia is called by in the preceding verse Isaiah 18:1,

a nation meted out, and trodden down: to whom punishment was measured by line, in proportion to their sins, and who in a little time would be trodden under foot by their enemies:

whose land the rivers have spoiled: which must not be understood literally of Niger and Nilus, of Astapus and Astaboras, which were so far from spoiling the land, that it was much more pleasant and fruitful for them; but figuratively, of powerful princes and armies, that should come into it, and spoil and plunder it; see Isaiah 8:7. Jarchi and Kimchi interpret it of the kings of the nations of the world; and so the Targum,

"whose land the people spoil.''

Some understand all this of the Assyrians, whose army was now scattered, and its soldiers exhausted, who had been from the beginning of their monarchy very terrible to their neighbours, but now marked for destruction; and whom the Ethiopians, who dwelt by the rivers, despised, as some render the words: and others interpret them of the Jews, as overrun by the Assyrian army like a mighty river, by whom they were scattered, and peeled, and spoiled, and plundered; who from their beginning had been very terrible, because of the wonderful things wrought for them at the Red Sea, in the wilderness, and in the times of Joshua and the judges; and because of the dreadful punishments inflicted on them; but the first sense is best. Vitringa interprets all this of the Egyptians, whose country was drawn out or long, their bodies peeled or shaved; a people terrible to their neighbours, and very superstitious; a nation of line and line, or of precept and precept.

(i) "super facies aquarurum", Montanus. (k) Hence , paper skiffs, in Plutarch, de Is. et Osir. and , ships of reeds which the Indians made and used, as Herodotus relates, l. 3. sive Thalia, c. 98. and so Diodorus Siculus speaks of ships made of a reed in India, of excellent use, because they are not liable to be eaten by worms, Bibliothec. l. 2. p. 104. to the Egyptian vessels of this kind Lucan has respect when he says, "-----Sic cum tenet omnia Nilus, Conficitur bibula Memphitis cymba papyro. Pharsal. l. 4.

(l) Plin. Nat. Hist. l. 6. c. 22. & l. 13. 11. Heliodor. l. 10. c. 4. p. 460. (m) Nat. Hist. l. 5. c. 9. (n) Animadv, Philol. in Job, p, 108.

Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary

2. ambassadors—messengers sent to Jerusalem at the time that negotiations passed between Tirhakah and Hezekiah against the expected attack of Sennacherib (Isa 37:9).

by … sea—on the Nile (Isa 19:5): as what follows proves.

vessels of bulrushes—light canoes, formed of papyrus, daubed over with pitch: so the "ark" in which Moses was exposed (Ex 2:3).

Go—Isaiah tells them to take back the tidings of what God is about to do (Isa 18:4) against the common enemy of both Judah and Ethiopia.

scattered and peeled—rather, "strong and energetic" [Maurer]. The Hebrew for "strong" is literally, "drawn out" (Margin; Ps 36:10; Ec 2:3). "Energetic," literally, "sharp" (Hab 1:8, 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, "extended" (Isa 45:14, "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 [Rosenmuller]. The Jews who, because of God's plague, made others to fear the like (De 28:37). Rather, "awfully remarkable" [Horsley]. God puts the "terror" of His people into the surrounding nations at the first (Ex 23:27; Jos 2:9); 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 destroying buildings (Isa 34:11; 2Ki 21:13; La 2:8). 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 (Isa 14:25), 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.

Isaiah 18:2 Additional Commentaries
Context
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. 3All 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.…
Cross References
Luke 10:19
I have given you authority to trample on snakes and scorpions and to overcome all the power of the enemy; nothing will harm you.

Genesis 10:8
Cush was the father of Nimrod, who became a mighty warrior on the earth.

Genesis 10:9
He was a mighty hunter before the LORD; that is why it is said, "Like Nimrod, a mighty hunter before the LORD."

Exodus 2:3
But when she could hide him no longer, she got a papyrus basket for him and coated it with tar and pitch. Then she placed the child in it and put it among the reeds along the bank of the Nile.

2 Chronicles 12:2
Because they had been unfaithful to the LORD, Shishak king of Egypt attacked Jerusalem in the fifth year of King Rehoboam.

2 Chronicles 14:9
Zerah the Cushite marched out against them with an army of thousands upon thousands and three hundred chariots, and came as far as Mareshah.

2 Chronicles 16:8
Were not the Cushites and Libyans a mighty army with great numbers of chariots and horsemen? Yet when you relied on the LORD, he delivered them into your hand.

Job 9:26
They skim past like boats of papyrus, like eagles swooping down on their prey.

Isaiah 18:7
At that time gifts will be brought to the LORD Almighty from a people tall and smooth-skinned, from a people feared far and wide, an aggressive nation of strange speech, whose land is divided by rivers-- the gifts will be brought to Mount Zion, the place of the Name of the LORD Almighty.

Jeremiah 49:14
I have heard a message from the LORD; an envoy was sent to the nations to say, "Assemble yourselves to attack it! Rise up for battle!"

Ezekiel 30:9
"'On that day messengers will go out from me in ships to frighten Cush out of her complacency. Anguish will take hold of them on the day of Egypt's doom, for it is sure to come.

Obadiah 1:1
The vision of Obadiah. This is what the Sovereign LORD says about Edom-- We have heard a message from the LORD: An envoy was sent to the nations to say, "Rise, let us go against her for battle"--

Habakkuk 1:7
They are a feared and dreaded people; they are a law to themselves and promote their own honor.
Treasury of Scripture

That sends ambassadors by the sea, even in vessels of bulrushes on the waters, saying, Go, you swift messengers, to a nation scattered and peeled, to a people terrible from their beginning till now; a nation meted out and trodden down, whose land the rivers have spoiled!

sendeth

Isaiah 30:2-4 That walk to go down into Egypt, and have not asked at my mouth; …

Ezekiel 30:9 In that day shall messengers go forth from me in ships to make the …

vessels. It is well known that the Egyptians commonly used on the Nile a light sort of ships or boats made of the papyrus. See note on Ex.

Isaiah 2:3 And many people shall go and say, Come you, and let us go up to the …

to a notion

Isaiah 18:7 In that time shall the present be brought to the LORD of hosts of …

scattered and peeled. or, outspread and polished. Or, as Bp. Lowth renders, 'stretched out in length and smoothed.' Egypt, which is situated between

to a people

Genesis 10:8,9 And Cush begat Nimrod: he began to be a mighty one in the earth…

2 Chronicles 12:2-4 And it came to pass, that in the fifth year of king Rehoboam Shishak …

2 Chronicles 14:9 And there came out against them Zerah the Ethiopian with an host …

2 Chronicles 16:8 Were not the Ethiopians and the Lubims a huge host, with very many …

Heb. Meted out and trodden down. or, that meteth out and treadeth down. Heb. of line, line, and treading under foot. This is an allusion to the frequent necessity of having recourse to mensuration in Egypt, in order to determine their boundaries, after the inundation of the Nile had smoothed their land and effaced their landmarks; and to their method of throwing seed upon the mud, when the waters had subsided, and treading it in by turning their cattle into the fields.

have spoiled. or, despise

Isaiah 19:5-7 And the waters shall fail from the sea, and the river shall be wasted …

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OT Prophets: Isaiah 18:2 That sends ambassadors by the sea even (Isa Isi Is) Christian Bible Study Resources, Dictionary, Concordance and Search Tools

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