Isaiah 18:1-7 Exploring the Passage

Below are some preliminary questions to assist in the study of this passage. For a comprehensive study of the passage, download the Study Guide (PDF download).

1. What nation is sending ambassadors to Judah? See Isaiah 18:1-2a (printed below)

Ah, the land of whirring wings, the land that lies beyond the rivers of Ethiopia; (2) the nation that sends ambassadors by sea in papyrus ships over the water. (Isaiah 18:1-2a)

Way down the Nile River, south of Egypt, the Ethiopians heard of what the terrible armies of Assyria were doing up north: they were on the march, they had conquered Syria, they were heading south. With a concern for the safety of their own nation, the Ethiopians now sent ambassadors to Jerusalem, hoping to enter into a mutual defense treaty with the nation of Judah.

2. How does the Lord describe Himself in verse 4 (printed below?)

…this is what Jehovah has said to me, I will remain quiet and observe from my dwelling place, like shimmering heat in the sunshine, like a cloud of dew in the heat of the harvest season. (Isaiah 18:4)

In verse 4 the Lord compares His present silence to “shimmering heat in the sunshine” (like the heat silently rippling off of a desert highway in the noon day sun) and to “a cloud of dew in the heat of the harvest season” (like a wisp of cloud silently hanging over a meadow in the early morning). In contrast to the raging and roaring of the nations (Isaiah 17:12), the Lord assumes the position of majestic stillness; He is silently present, observing; sovereignly, although imperceptibly, in control.

3. What illustration does Isaiah employ in verse 5 (printed below?) What do you think is the point of his illustration?

Before the harvest, when the blossom is gone and the flower becomes a ripening grape, he will cut off the shoots with pruning knives, and the spreading branches he will cut down and take away. (Isaiah 18:5)

In verse 5 Isaiah directs our attention to the field of agriculture. The farmer patiently watches over the vineyard. He watches the blossoms appear, and he waits. Then when the flower has become a ripening grape, he acts: he cuts off the sprigs and brings in the harvest. The point of Isaiah’s illustration is that the farmer waits for the appropriate time to act, he does not act prematurely. It is only when the grapes are ripe that he proceeds to harvest them.

4. What do you think is the application of Isaiah’s illustration with regard to the mounting threat posed by the advancing Assyrian armies and the present silence on the part of the Lord? Consider verses 4-5 (printed above under questions #2 and 3)

The application of Isaiah’s illustration to the present crisis is that the Lord acts at the proper time—just as the farmer acts to bring in the harvest at the appointed time and no sooner. Verse 5 is depicting the Lord’s miraculous destruction of the Assyrian army at just the right moment to save His people, presented in terms of a farmer lopping off the ripe clusters of grapes from the vines and discarding the branches.

5. When the Lord does act to destroy the Assyrian armies, what will the Ethiopians do? See Isaiah 18:7 (printed below) and also 2 Chronicles 32:22-23 (printed below)

At that time a people tall with shining dark skin, a people who have been fearsome from their beginning until the present time, a powerful and aggressive nation whose land is divided by the rivers, will offer themselves in homage to Jehovah of hosts at the place where Jehovah of hosts has made his name known, Mount Zion. (Isaiah 18:7)

So Jehovah saved Hezekiah and the people of Jerusalem from the hand of Sennacherib king of Assyria and from the hand of all others. He took care of them on every side. (23) Many brought offerings to Jerusalem for Jehovah and valuable gifts for Hezekiah king of Judah. From then on he was highly regarded by all the nations. (2 Chronicles 32:22-23)

These Ethiopian ambassadors are now sent home with the assurance that the Lord is in control, He will act at the proper time—and when He does, they will present themselves to Him as an act of thanksgiving and devotion. The fulfillment of this promise is described in 2 Chronicles 32:22-23. Note: The Ethiopians would be numbered among the nations who “brought offerings to Jerusalem for Jehovah.”