Isaiah 18:3
All ye inhabitants of the world, and dwellers on the earth, see ye, when he lifteth up an ensign on the mountains; and when he bloweth a trumpet, hear ye.
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(3) When he lifteth up an ensign . . .—Both clauses are better taken as indefinite, when an ensign is set up . . . when a trumpet is sounded. The prophet calls on all nations (Ethiopia being specially included) to watch for the signal that shall be given, distinct as the beacon-fire on the hill, or the alarm of the trumpet, to proclaim the downfall of Assyria.

Isaiah 18:3. All ye inhabitants of the world, &c,, see ye — Take notice of what I say, and what God will do: Or, Ye shall see. “We have here the declaration made to the other people of the world, to expect the fall of the Assyrian. God invites all the people of the earth to this sight; that, as soon as they should observe the sign appointed by God, namely, the standards lifted up by Sennacherib, on the mountains of Judea, and the sound of the trumpets of the hostile army preparing to besiege Jerusalem, they should attend to the execution of this divine judgment.” — Vitringa.

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.All ye inhabitants of the world - These are to be regarded as the words of the prophet summoning all nations to attend to that which was about to occur. Grotius, however, and some others, suppose that they are the words of the Ethiopians. The meaning is, that the events which are here predicted would be of so public a nature as to attract the attention of all the world.

When he - Vitringa supposes that this means the Assyrians lifting up a standard on the mountains of Judea. But the better interpretation is that which refers it to the people of Nubia, mustering their forces for war. 'All nations behold when that people collects an army; sounds the trumpet for war; and arrays its military forces for battle. See then the judgments that God will inflict on them - their discomfiture Isaiah 18:4-7, and their turning to Yahweh, and sending an offering to him Isaiah 18:7.' According to this interpretation, it will refer to the people making preparation for battle; and perhaps it may mean that they were preparing to join the enemies of Judea - "not improbably preparing to join the forces of Sennacherib, and to invade Judea." For this purpose it may have been that the messengers were sent to negotiate the terms of alliance with Sennacherib; and the object of the prophecy is, to assure the Jews that this people, as well as Sennacherib, would be discomfited, and that they would yet bring an offering to God Isaiah 18:7.

Lifteth up an ensign - A military standard (see the note at Isaiah 5:26).

And when he bloweth a trumpet - Also a signal for an army to assemble (see the note at Isaiah 13:2).

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 hosts together (Isa 5:26) on "the mountains" round Jerusalem, to their own destruction. This (the eighteenth chapter) declares the coming overthrow of those armies whose presence is announced in 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 [714]twenty-second chapter, 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. See ye; take notice of what I say and God will do. Or, ye shall see it; you shall be eye-witnesses of this dreadful woe or judgment which I am bringing upon the people of whom I have spoken: The prophet doth in a manner summon all nations to bear witness of his prophecy, and of the accomplishment thereof.

When he lifteth up an ensign on the mountains, and when he bloweth a trumpet; when God shall gather together the nations, as it were, by the lifting up of an ensign, or by the sound of a trumpet, to execute his judgments upon this people. Heb. as when a man

lifts up an ensign upon the mountains, which men can easily see; and as when a man sounds a trumpet, they can hear: no less visible and manifest shall this judgment of God be.

Hear ye; ye shall hear it, as in the other branch.

All ye inhabitants of the world, and dwellers on the earth,.... All the men of the world are here called upon, either by the Lord, or rather by the prophet, to be eye and ear witnesses of the judgment that should be inflicted upon the above nation, and of the salvation of his own people; which should be so manifest, that all should see it as easily as an ensign set up on a mountain; and the news of it should ring through the earth, and be as plainly heard as when a trumpet is blown: unless it should be thought that these are the words of the messengers sent to the above nation, addressing them in such terms, assuring them, that, however stupid and secure they were now, they should quickly see the sign and hear the alarm of war; it being usual to call any large kingdom the world, and the earth:

see ye, when be lifteth up an ensign on the mountains; or ye shall see this as clearly as when a flag is set up on a mountain; or ye shall be sensible of this judgment coming on, when a standard shall be set up on the mountains, to gather the people to war. Vitringa interprets this of the mountains of Judea, where the Assyrians would set up their banners, and blow their trumpets, as follows:

and when he bloweth a trumpet, hear ye; or, "ye shall hear"; the trumpet sounding as an alarm of war, by which the people will be summoned, and come to execute the judgment threatened. The Targum is,

"ye shall hear the redemption;''

that is, of Israel, in the times of the Messiah, and in the war of Gog and Magog; of which times Jarchi and Kimchi interpret this whole prophecy.

All ye inhabitants of the world, and dwellers on the earth, see ye, when {f} he lifteth up an ensign on the mountains; and when he bloweth a trumpet, hear ye.

(f) When the Lord prepared to fight against the Ethiopians.

3. This verse gives the message which the ambassadors are to carry home to their countrymen, although it concerns all the world as much as the Ethiopians.

Render: when a signal is lifted up … when a trumpet is blown. Cf. ch. Isaiah 13:2. Since the whole process is supernatural it is idle to enquire what the “signal” and “trumpet” signify. The verse is simply a summons to be prepared for the moment of Jehovah’s decisive intervention.

Verse 3. - All ye inhabitants of the world. From exhorting the messengers to hasten on their errand, Isaiah turns to the nations generally, and bids them attend to a coming signal - an ensign is about to be raised, a trumpet is about to be sounded - let them gaze and hearken; the result will be well worth noting. The imagery is not to be taken literally, but in the same way as the notices in Isaiah 11:10, 12; Isaiah 13:2. When he lifteth up an ensign... when he bloweth a trumpet; rather, when an ensign is lifted up... when a trumpet sounds. On the mountains. Wherever the great event took place, the signal for it was given on the mountains of Judea (see 2 Kings 19:20-34). Isaiah 18:3The prophecy commences with hoi, which never signifies heus, but always vae (woe). Here, however, it differs from Isaiah 17:12, and is an expression of compassion (cf., Isaiah 55:1; Zechariah 2:10) rather than of anger; for the fact that the mighty Ethiopia is oppressed by the still mightier Asshur, is a humiliation which Jehovah has prepared for the former. Isaiah 18:1, Isaiah 18:2: "Woe to the land of the whirring of wings, which is beyond the rivers of Cush, that sends ambassadors into the sea and in boats of papyrus over the face of the waters." The land of Cush commences, according to Ezekiel 29:10 (cf., Isaiah 30:6), where Upper Egypt ends. The Sevēneh (Aswân), mentioned by Ezekiel, is the boundary-point at which the Nile enters Mizraim proper, and which is still a depot for goods coming from the south down the Nile. The naharē-Cush (rivers of Cush) are chiefly those that surround the Cushite Seba (Genesis 10:7). This is the name given to the present Sennr, the Meroitic island which is enclosed between the White and Blue Nile (the Astapos of Ptolemy, or the present Bahr el-Abyad, and the Astaboras of Ptolemy, or the present Bahr el-Azrak). According to the latest researches, more especially those of Speke, the White Nile, which takes its rise in the Lake of Nyanza, is the chief source of the Nile. The latter, and the Blue Nile, whose confluence (makran) with it takes place in lat. 15 25, are fed by many larger or smaller tributary streams (as well as mountain torrents); the Blue Nile even more than the Nile proper. And this abundance of water in the land to the south of Sevēnēh, and still farther south beyond Seba (or Mero), might very well have been known to the prophet as a general fact. The land "beyond the rivers of Cush" is the land bounded by the sources of the Nile, i.e., (including Ethiopia itself in the stricter sense of the word) the south land under Ethiopian rule that lay still deeper in the heart of the country, the land of its African auxiliary tribes, whose names (which probably include the later Nubians and Abyssinians), as given in 2 Chronicles 12:3; Nahum 3:9; Ezekiel 30:5; Jeremiah 46:9, suppose a minuteness of information which has not yet been attained by modern research. To this Ethiopia, which is designated by its farthest limits (compare Zephaniah 3:10, where Wolff, in his book of Judith, erroneously supposes Media to be intended as the Asiatic Cush), the prophets give the strange name of eretz tziltzal cenâp. This has been interpreted as meaning "the land of the wings of an army with clashing arms" by Gesenius and others; but cenâphaim does not occur in this sense, like 'agappim in Ezekiel. Others render it "the land of the noise of waves" (Umbreit); but cenâphaim cannot be used of waters except in such a connection as Isaiah 8:8. Moreover, tziltzal is not a fitting onomatopoetic word either for the clashing of arms or the noise of waves. Others, again, render it "the land of the double shadow" (Grotius, Vitringa, Knobel, and others); but, however appropriate this epithet might be to Ethiopia as a tropical land, it is very hazardous to take the word in a sense which is not sustained by the usage of the language; and the same objection may be brought against Luzzatto's "land of the far-shadowing defence." Shelling has also suggested another objection - namely, that the shadow thrown even in tropical lands is not a double one, falling northwards and southwards at the same time, and therefore that it cannot be figuratively described as double-winged. Tziltzal cenâphaim is the buzzing of the wings of insects, with which Egypt and Ethiopia swarmed on account of the climate and the abundance of water: צלצל, constr. צלצל, tinnitus, stridor, a primary meaning from which the other three meanings of the word-cymbal, harpoon (a whirring dart), and grasshopper

(Note: Schrring supposes tziltzal to be the scarabaeus sacer (Linn.); but it would be much more natural, if any particular animal is intended, to think of the tzaltzalya, as it is called in the language of the Gallas, the tzetze in the Betschuana language, the most dreaded diptera of the interior of Africa, a species of glossina which attacks all the larger mammalia (though not men). Vid., Hartmann, Naturgeschichtlich-medic. Skizze der Nillnder, Abth. i. p. 205.)

- are derived. In Isaiah 7:18 the forces of Egypt are called "the fly from the end of the rivers of Egypt." Here Egypt and Ethiopia are called the land of the whirring of wings, inasmuch as the prophet had in his mind, under the designation of swarms of insects, the motley swarms of different people included in this great kingdom that were so fabulously strange to an Asiatic. Within this great kingdom messengers were now passing to and fro upon its great waters in boats of papyrus (on gōme, Copt. ‛gōme, Talm. gâmi, see at Job 8:11), Greek βαρίδες παπύριναι (βαρίς, from the Egyptian bari, bali, a barque). In such vessels as these, and with Egyptian tackle, they went as far as the remote island of Taprobane. The boats were made to clap together (pilcatiles), so as to be carried past the cataracts (Parthey on Plutarch. de Iside, pp. 198-9). And it is to these messengers in their paper boats that the appeal of the prophet is addressed.

He sends them home; and what they are to say to their own people is generalized into an announcement to the whole earth. "Go, swift messengers, to the people stretched out and polished, to the terrible people far away on the other side, to the nation of command upon command and treading down, whose land rivers cut through. All ye possessors of the globe and inhabitants of the earth, when a banner rises on the mountains, look ye; and when they blow the trumpets, hearken!" We learn from what follows to what it is that the attention of Ethiopia and all the nations of the earth is directed: it is the destruction of Asshur by Jehovah. They are to attend, when they observe the two signals, the banner and the trumpet-blast; these are decisive moments. Because Jehovah was about to deliver the world from the conquering might of Assyria, against which the Ethiopian kingdom was now summoning all the means of self-defence, the prophet sends the messengers home. Their own people, to which he sends them home, are elaborately described. They are memusshâk, stretched out, i.e., very tall (lxx ἔθνος μετέωρον), just as the Sabaeans are said to have been in Isaiah 45:14. They are also mōrât equals memorât (Ges. 52, Anm. 6), smoothed, politus, i.e., either not disfigured by an ugly growth of hair, or else, without any reference to depilation, but rather with reference to the bronze colour of their skin, smooth and shining with healthy freshness. The description which Herodotus gives of the Ethiopians, μέγιστοι καὶ κάλλιστοι ἀνθρώπων πάντων (iii. 20), quite answers to these first two predicates. They are still further described, with reference to the wide extent of their kingdom, which reached to the remotest south, as "the terrible nation והלאה מן־הוּא," i.e., from this point, where the prophet meets with the messengers, farther and farther off (compare 1 Samuel 20:21-22, but not 1 Samuel 18:9, where the expression has a chronological meaning, which would be less suitable here, where everything is so pictorial, and which is also to be rejected, because מן־הוּא cannot be equivalent to הוּא מאשׁר; cf., Nahum 2:9). We may see from Isaiah 28:10, Isaiah 28:13, what kâv (kăv, with connecting accusatives and before makkeph), a measuring or levelling line, signifies, when used by the prophet with the reduplication which he employs here: it is a people of "command upon command," - that is to say, a commanding nation; (according to Ewald, Knobel, and others, kâv is equivalent to the Arabic kūwe, strength, a nation of double or gigantic strength.) "A people of treading down" (sc., of others; mebūsah is a second genitive to goi), i.e., one which subdues and tramples down wherever it appears. These are all distinctive predicates - a nation of imposing grandeur, a ruling and conquering nation. The last predicate extols its fertile land. בּזא we take not in the sense of diripere, or as equivalent to bâzaz, like מאס, to melt, equivalent to mâsas, but in the sense of findere, i.e., as equivalent to בזע, like גּמא, to sip equals גּמע. For it is no praise to say that a land is scoured out, or washed away, by rivers. Bttcher, who is wrong in describing this chapter as "perhaps the most difficult in the whole of the Old Testament," very aptly compares with it the expression used by Herodotus (ii. 108), κατετμήθη ἡ Αἴγυπτος. But why this strange elaboration instead of the simple name? There is a divine irony in the fact that a nation so great and glorious, and (though not without reason, considering its natural gifts) so full of self-consciousness, should be thrown into such violent agitation in the prospect of the danger that threatened it, and should be making such strenuous exertions to avert that danger, when Jehovah the God of Israel was about to destroy the threatening power itself in a night, and consequently all the care and trouble of Ethiopia were utterly needless.

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