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Isaiah 18-22 Listen
Now we turn to the land southwest of Israel (Isaiah 18)
1 Woe to the land shadowing with wings, which is beyond the rivers of Ethiopia:
2 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!
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.
4 For so the LORD said unto me, I will take my rest, and I will consider in my dwelling place like a clear heat upon herbs, and like a cloud of dew in the heat of harvest.
5 For afore the harvest, when the bud is perfect, and the sour grape is ripening in the flower, he shall both cut off the sprigs with pruning hooks, and take away and cut down the branches.
6 They shall be left together unto the fowls of the mountains, and to the beasts of the earth: and the fowls shall summer upon them, and all the beasts of the earth shall winter upon them.
7 In that time shall the present be brought unto the LORD of hosts of a people scattered and peeled, and from a people terrible from their beginning hitherto; a nation meted out and trodden under foot, whose land the rivers have spoiled, to the place of the name of the LORD of hosts, the mount Zion.
The Hebrew word translated "Ethiopia" here is "Cush." As a matter of fact, it is sometimes simply transliterated "Cush" into English. These were not Semites as were the Jews and the nations in every other direction from Israel. These were descendants of Cush in Genesis 10 (see notes), the son of Ham and grandson of Noah. Ethiopia (Cush) probably included modern-day southern Egypt, Sudan and perhaps northern Ethiopia. There's no judgment against them in this passage, but rather the mention of friendly relations with Israel after the fall of Assyria. The fall of Ethiopia to Assyria is not mentioned in Isaiah's prophecy until chapter 20 (see below).
Egypt will fall also (Isaiah 19:1-15)
1 The burden of Egypt. Behold, the LORD rideth upon a swift cloud, and shall come into Egypt: and the idols of Egypt shall be moved at his presence, and the heart of Egypt shall melt in the midst of it.
2 And I will set the Egyptians against the Egyptians: and they shall fight every one against his brother, and every one against his neighbour; city against city, and kingdom against kingdom.
3 And the spirit of Egypt shall fail in the midst thereof; and I will destroy the counsel thereof: and they shall seek to the idols, and to the charmers, and to them that have familiar spirits, and to the wizards.
4 And the Egyptians will I give over into the hand of a cruel lord; and a fierce king shall rule over them, saith the Lord, the LORD of hosts.
5 And the waters shall fail from the sea, and the river shall be wasted and dried up.
6 And they shall turn the rivers far away; and the brooks of defence shall be emptied and dried up: the reeds and flags shall wither.
7 The paper reeds by the brooks, by the mouth of the brooks, and every thing sown by the brooks, shall wither, be driven away, and be no more.
8 The fishers also shall mourn, and all they that cast angle into the brooks shall lament, and they that spread nets upon the waters shall languish.
9 Moreover they that work in fine flax, and they that weave networks, shall be confounded.
10 And they shall be broken in the purposes thereof, all that make sluices and ponds for fish.
11 Surely the princes of Zoan are fools, the counsel of the wise counsellors of Pharaoh is become brutish: how say ye unto Pharaoh, I am the son of the wise, the son of ancient kings?
12 Where are they? where are thy wise men? and let them tell thee now, and let them know what the LORD of hosts hath purposed upon Egypt.
13 The princes of Zoan are become fools, the princes of Noph are deceived; they have also seduced Egypt, even they that are the stay of the tribes thereof.
14 The LORD hath mingled a perverse spirit in the midst thereof: and they have caused Egypt to err in every work thereof, as a drunken man staggereth in his vomit.
15 Neither shall there be any work for Egypt, which the head or tail, branch or rush, may do.
Isaiah prophesied that Egypt too would fall to the Assyrians. This happened in 681 B.C. Is it not fascinating that all the nations and cities around Jerusalem fell to the Assyrians, but not Jerusalem? God is good. The siege on Jerusalem in 701 B.C. failed during King Hezekiah's day. He went before the Lord, and God delivered Jerusalem. The whole story of that miraculous deliverance is found in II Kings 18:13-19:37; II Chronicles 32:9-22; Isaiah 36-37 (see notes).
There's coming a day! (Isaiah 19:16-25)
16 In that day shall Egypt be like unto women: and it shall be afraid and fear because of the shaking of the hand of the LORD of hosts, which he shaketh over it.
17 And the land of Judah shall be a terror unto Egypt, every one that maketh mention thereof shall be afraid in himself, because of the counsel of the LORD of hosts, which he hath determined against it.
18 In that day shall five cities in the land of Egypt speak the language of Canaan, and swear to the LORD of hosts; one shall be called, The city of destruction.
19 In that day shall there be an altar to the LORD in the midst of the land of Egypt, and a pillar at the border thereof to the LORD.
20 And it shall be for a sign and for a witness unto the LORD of hosts in the land of Egypt: for they shall cry unto the LORD because of the oppressors, and he shall send them a saviour, and a great one, and he shall deliver them.
21 And the LORD shall be known to Egypt, and the Egyptians shall know the LORD in that day, and shall do sacrifice and oblation; yea, they shall vow a vow unto the LORD, and perform it.
22 And the LORD shall smite Egypt: he shall smite and heal it: and they shall return even to the LORD, and he shall be intreated of them, and shall heal them.
23 In that day shall there be a highway out of Egypt to Assyria, and the Assyrian shall come into Egypt, and the Egyptian into Assyria, and the Egyptians shall serve with the Assyrians.
24 In that day shall Israel be the third with Egypt and with Assyria, even a blessing in the midst of the land:
25 Whom the LORD of hosts shall bless, saying, Blessed be Egypt my people, and Assyria the work of my hands, and Israel mine inheritance.
Isaiah prophesies of a day yet future (the millennium) when Egypt will look to Judah for leadership. Israel will be the center of worship for the Egyptians and the Assyrians. Notice verse 20, "...for they shall cry unto the LORD because of the oppressors, and he shall send them a saviour, and a great one, and he shall deliver them." We see in verse 21, "...the Egyptians shall know the LORD in that day." And verse 22 goes on to say of Egypt, "...they shall return even to the LORD." We know that when the Davidic Kingdom (per the Davidic Covenant, see notes) is established according to God's promise to Israel, the whole world will experience peace at the hand of the Messiah, Jesus Christ our Lord...and that includes Egypt. The highway between Egypt and Assyria presents a far-fetched scenario to the Jews of Isaiah's day. Isaiah prophesies friendly relations between Israel and Egypt and Assyria. Whoa! Who saw that coming? However, this will take place during the millennium - not during Isaiah's day nor the years immediately following.
The prophecy reinforced against Cush and Egypt (Isaiah 20)
1 In the year that Tartan came unto Ashdod, (when Sargon the king of Assyria sent him,) and fought against Ashdod, and took it;
2 At the same time spake the LORD by Isaiah the son of Amoz, saying, Go and loose the sackcloth from off thy loins, and put off thy shoe from thy foot. And he did so, walking naked and barefoot.
3 And the LORD said, Like as my servant Isaiah hath walked naked and barefoot three years for a sign and wonder upon Egypt and upon Ethiopia;
4 So shall the king of Assyria lead away the Egyptians prisoners, and the Ethiopians captives, young and old, naked and barefoot, even with their buttocks uncovered, to the shame of Egypt.
5 And they shall be afraid and ashamed of Ethiopia their expectation, and of Egypt their glory.
6 And the inhabitant of this isle shall say in that day, Behold, such is our expectation, whither we flee for help to be delivered from the king of Assyria: and how shall we escape?
As indicated in chapter 18 (see above), the Hebrew word translated "Ethiopia" here is "Cush." As a matter of fact, it is sometimes simply transliterated "Cush" into English. These were not Semites as were the Jews and the nations in every other direction from Israel. These were descendants of Cush in Genesis 10 (see notes), the son of Ham and grandson of Noah. Ethiopia (Cush) probably included modern-day southern Egypt, Sudan and perhaps northern Ethiopia. Isaiah then prophesies regarding the complete defeat that will be suffered by Cush and Egypt. The Philistine city, Ashdod, fell in 711 B.C. "Tartan" (verse 1) was the title of the highest official next to the King of Assyria (Sargon, 721-705), which in a military empire like Assyria would be the commander-in-chief. This title is also used of the messenger sent by Sennacherib (704-681), King of Assyria, to intimidate King Hezekiah at Jerusalem in II Kings 18:17 (see notes).
The fall of the city of Babylon (Isaiah 21:1-10)
1 The burden of the desert of the sea. As whirlwinds in the south pass through; so it cometh from the desert, from a terrible land.
2 A grievous vision is declared unto me; the treacherous dealer dealeth treacherously, and the spoiler spoileth. Go up, O Elam: besiege, O Media; all the sighing thereof have I made to cease.
3 Therefore are my loins filled with pain: pangs have taken hold upon me, as the pangs of a woman that travaileth: I was bowed down at the hearing of it; I was dismayed at the seeing of it.
4 My heart panted, fearfulness affrighted me: the night of my pleasure hath he turned into fear unto me.
5 Prepare the table, watch in the watchtower, eat, drink: arise, ye princes, and anoint the shield.
6 For thus hath the Lord said unto me, Go, set a watchman, let him declare what he seeth.
7 And he saw a chariot with a couple of horsemen, a chariot of asses, and a chariot of camels; and he hearkened diligently with much heed:
8 And he cried, A lion: My lord, I stand continually upon the watchtower in the daytime, and I am set in my ward whole nights:
9 And, behold, here cometh a chariot of men, with a couple of horsemen. And he answered and said, Babylon is fallen, is fallen; and all the graven images of her gods he hath broken unto the ground.
10 O my threshing, and the corn of my floor: that which I have heard of the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel, have I declared unto you.
Meanwhile, back in modern-day Iraq, a man named Marduk-apal-iddina (King of Babylon, 703-702) decides to lead a revolt against Assyria. The attempt failed. Before all of this takes place, Isaiah prophesies here that this revolt will not only be unsuccessful, but will also lead to the fall and devastation of the city of Babylon. This took place in 702 B.C.
Edom and Arabia will also meet the Assyrian army (Isaiah 21:11-17)
11 The burden of Dumah. He calleth to me out of Seir, Watchman, what of the night? Watchman, what of the night?
12 The watchman said, The morning cometh, and also the night: if ye will enquire, enquire ye: return, come.
13 The burden upon Arabia. In the forest in Arabia shall ye lodge, O ye travelling companies of Dedanim.
14 The inhabitants of the land of Tema brought water to him that was thirsty, they prevented with their bread him that fled.
15 For they fled from the swords, from the drawn sword, and from the bent bow, and from the grievousness of war.
16 For thus hath the Lord said unto me, Within a year, according to the years of an hireling, and all the glory of Kedar shall fail:
17 And the residue of the number of archers, the mighty men of the children of Kedar, shall be diminished: for the LORD God of Israel hath spoken it.
It is not possible to say with certainty, but since "Dumah" means silence or stillness, a word play in Hebrew indicates to us that Edom is in view here. We assume so because Seir is a mountain range which runs along the eastern side of the Arabah, occupied by the descendants of Esau. We know this to be Edom of the Old Testament. So, this oracle involves Edom and Arabia who also met their demise at the hand of the Assyrian army. Everyone fell to the Assyrians in the area...except the inhabitants of Jerusalem under faithful King Hezekiah - remarkable protection - don't you agree? Edom was ravaged by the Assyrian army, but not destroyed; that came later. By the way, Obadiah's prophecy (see notes) exclusively addresses the fall of Edom to the Babylonians after the fall of Jerusalem. They have not existed as a country since.
A prophecy concerning Jerusalem (Isaiah 22)
1 The burden of the valley of vision. What aileth thee now, that thou art wholly gone up to the housetops?
2 Thou that art full of stirs, a tumultuous city, a joyous city: thy slain men are not slain with the sword, nor dead in battle.
3 All thy rulers are fled together, they are bound by the archers: all that are found in thee are bound together, which have fled from far.
4 Therefore said I, Look away from me; I will weep bitterly, labour not to comfort me, because of the spoiling of the daughter of my people.
5 For it is a day of trouble, and of treading down, and of perplexity by the Lord GOD of hosts in the valley of vision, breaking down the walls, and of crying to the mountains.
6 And Elam bare the quiver with chariots of men and horsemen, and Kir uncovered the shield.
7 And it shall come to pass, that thy choicest valleys shall be full of chariots, and the horsemen shall set themselves in array at the gate.
8 And he discovered the covering of Judah, and thou didst look in that day to the armour of the house of the forest.
9 Ye have seen also the breaches of the city of David, that they are many: and ye gathered together the waters of the lower pool.
10 And ye have numbered the houses of Jerusalem, and the houses have ye broken down to fortify the wall.
11 Ye made also a ditch between the two walls for the water of the old pool: but ye have not looked unto the maker thereof, neither had respect unto him that fashioned it long ago.
12 And in that day did the Lord GOD of hosts call to weeping, and to mourning, and to baldness, and to girding with sackcloth:
13 And behold joy and gladness, slaying oxen, and killing sheep, eating flesh, and drinking wine: let us eat and drink; for to morrow we shall die.
14 And it was revealed in mine ears by the LORD of hosts, Surely this iniquity shall not be purged from you till ye die, saith the Lord GOD of hosts.
15 Thus saith the Lord GOD of hosts, Go, get thee unto this treasurer, even unto Shebna, which is over the house, and say,
16 What hast thou here? and whom hast thou here, that thou hast hewed thee out a sepulchre here, as he that heweth him out a sepulchre on high, and that graveth an habitation for himself in a rock?
17 Behold, the LORD will carry thee away with a mighty captivity, and will surely cover thee.
18 He will surely violently turn and toss thee like a ball into a large country: there shalt thou die, and there the chariots of thy glory shall be the shame of thy lord’s house.
19 And I will drive thee from thy station, and from thy state shall he pull thee down.
20 And it shall come to pass in that day, that I will call my servant Eliakim the son of Hilkiah:
21 And I will clothe him with thy robe, and strengthen him with thy girdle, and I will commit thy government into his hand: and he shall be a father to the inhabitants of Jerusalem, and to the house of Judah.
22 And the key of the house of David will I lay upon his shoulder; so he shall open, and none shall shut; and he shall shut, and none shall open.
23 And I will fasten him as a nail in a sure place; and he shall be for a glorious throne to his father’s house.
24 And they shall hang upon him all the glory of his father’s house, the offspring and the issue, all vessels of small quantity, from the vessels of cups, even to all the vessels of flagons.
25 In that day, saith the LORD of hosts, shall the nail that is fastened in the sure place be removed, and be cut down, and fall; and the burden that was upon it shall be cut off: for the LORD hath spoken it.
While it's not clear from verse 1, verses 9-10 make it obvious that Isaiah is prophesying concerning Jerusalem. Remember, while Jerusalem survived in 701 B.C. the attack of Sennacherib of Assyria, they were surrounded for some time, and the cities around Jerusalem fell to the Assyrians along with many leaders of Judah. The historical record is found in II Kings 18:13-19:37; II Chronicles 32:9-22; Isaiah 36-37 (see notes). So, when your city is surrounded and close to falling to the enemy, how do you react? Well, you can see from this passage that they did not beseech God for help; they lived it up instead. That's the description of activity we see portrayed in this chapter. Some of the defensive measures employed by Hezekiah are seen in verses 9-11.
Then we see some leadership issues in Jerusalem dealt with by Isaiah beginning with verse 15.
Here's what Easton writes about this issue:
Shebna: tender youth, treasurer over the house in the reign of Hezekiah, i.e., comptroller or governor of the palace. On account of his pride he was ejected from his office, and Eliakim was promoted to it (Isaiah 22:15-25). He appears to have been the leader of the party who favoured an alliance with Egypt against Assyria.
While Jerusalem did not fall to the Assyrians, Judah (around Jerusalem) took a whipping. The city of Jerusalem was not God fearing at this point in time, but God was faithful to King Hezekiah and spared the city. In II Kings 18:13-19:37; II Chronicles 32:9-22; Isaiah 36-37 (see notes) we see that the angel of the Lord went out into the camp of the Assyrians after Hezekiah prayed and killed 185,000 in one night...miraculously. Sennacherib of Assyria then retreated back home. In his own writings he would detail how he had Jerusalem surrounded and fearful, but he was never able to actually conquer the city.