Chapter 18 of Isaiah is a continuation of the details that were begun in chapter 17. An overview of these details was given in the first six verses in chapter 17: The Burden of Damascus. The overview covered the seven years of the tribulation period, and the details provide a detailed analysis of what happens to the Church, Israel, Gentiles, America, and Egypt. Chapter 17 provided the details of the Church, Israel, and the Gentiles. Chapter 18 provides the details for America, and chapter 19: The Burden of Egypt provides the details for Egypt. Consequently, this section provides the details for America in the tribulation period, and there is a special prophecy about what happens to the Church in America.
Chapter 18 of Isaiah has been described by Bottcher as “perhaps the most difficult in the whole of the Old Testament.” Since it is such a difficult chapter to understand, we must depend upon the Holy Spirit to enlighten us in regard to the details in this chapter.
We will now attempt a verse-by-verse, phrase-by-phrase exposition of this chapter.
(Isa 18:1 KJV) Woe to the land shadowing with wings, which is beyond the rivers of Ethiopia:
The “woe” in this verse is an exclamation of pain, and it demonstrates compassion for this particular land instead of anger and judgment, even though a severe judgment will definitely come upon this land that Isaiah so aptly described. It is important to note that Isaiah named the other countries in his detailed prophecy, and he even named the city of Damascus, but he does not name this country. Instead, Isaiah provides an unmistakable detailed description of this land for the reader. The reason he does not name this country is simple logic, since this country did not exist at the time Isaiah prophesied. This is important in helping us identify this land.
Isaiah first describes this land as the land of whirring wings. The Hebrew word for whirring means a sound like the buzzing or droning of an insect, and this buzzing occurs on the wings. Without going into a prolonged apologetic, this particular land is the land of the airplane. This conclusion is further confirmed in verse two that follows this commentary. America is clearly the land of the airplane. This was assured when Wilbur and Orville Wright took the world’s first airplane flight in Kitty Hawk, North Carolina. America has always been in the forefront of the design and building of airplanes since that first airplane flight on December 17, 1903.
Isaiah further nails down the identity of this land by describing its location. The phrase “which is beyond the rivers of Ethiopia” is a misleading translation, so we must delve further into the Hebrew to understand where this land is located. The definition of the Hebrew word for rivers includes large bodies of water such as seas and oceans. To attempt to identify and locate a nation as being beyond some rivers in another country is nonsensical. Also, the actual Hebrew word for Ethiopia means Cush. The word Cush means black and refers to all of the black descendants of Ham through Cush. Thus, Cush means black Africa, which includes the whole continent south of Egypt, Libya, Algeria, and Morocco. There are two large bodies of water west of Israel that border black Africa. These large bodies of water are the Red Sea and the Atlantic Ocean. With this understanding, we can now provide an accurate paraphrase of the above verse as follows:
(Isaiah 18:1 Paraphrase) Woe to the land of the airplane, which is beyond the Red Sea, Africa, and the Atlantic Ocean.
Now we know that this nation must be in North America or South America, so we look for the next detail.
(Isa 18:2 KJV) 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!
The description of this land continues. This nation sends out ambassadors, or missionaries in vessels (i.e., thingamajigs) made out of papyrus type material. These thingamajigs travel above the waters—not on the waters. This is the further confirmation that we mentioned above that portrays this land as the land of the airplane. There was not a word for airplanes at the time of this prophecy, so Isaiah described the airplanes appropriately as thingamajigs covered or made of a thin material made like papyrus, which is made out of bulrushes. From verse one we see that these thingamajigs have wings that make a buzzing or droning sound. Of course, the buzzing is the droning of the engines that are located on the wings of these airplanes. Using the vocabulary that he had, Isaiah accurately described the airplane. He continues with his description, and he provides an amazingly accurate description of America, and the Church that comes out of America at the time of the end.
The Hebrew word for messenger means God’s chosen messengers, or his prophets and teachers. The Hebrew word for swift means lightly esteemed, or not very well thought of by the people. The Hebrew word for go is walk and it refers to a manner of life pleasing to God. The order by the prophet Isaiah is to these lowly esteemed prophets and teachers of God to walk in faithfulness among this nation that Isaiah further describes as “a nation scattered and peeled.” Scattered means this nation is a very broad or stretched out nation. The word for peeled means the nation has been denuded of its trees. This is a perfect description of America. America is a very wide and stretched out nation, and the lands of America have been cleared of the great majority of its trees to provide land for farming and grazing of cattle. Also, the lumber industry in America is very large, and numerous forests have been cleared. In addition, much of the West consists of plains that have very few trees, except for the lines of trees that border the rivers and creeks. I just flew across America and back on Thursday of this week, and I came to a full appreciation of the phrase “scattered and peeled.” America is most certainly the nation that Isaiah referred to in this verse.
Isaiah further describes this nation as a people who were terrible or powerful and from their very inception. When America began as a nation, it defeated the most powerful kingdom on the earth, Great Britain. Thus, America was an extremely powerful nation from its very inception. “A nation meted out and trodden down” means a nation of might and strength, a nation of double or gigantic strength. It is a nation of treading down—not trodden down. It is a nation that subdues or tramples down wherever it goes. This is a nation of imposing grandeur. It is also a nation whose internal boundaries are divided by its waterways and rivers. This is what is meant by “whose land the rivers have spoiled (i.e., divided). A look at a map of America quickly establishes that the internal boundaries of many of its states, cities and counties are along its rivers and creeks. Mark Twain even described how the boundary between Mississippi and Arkansas, and Mississippi and Louisiana used to change when the river would suddenly change its course.
This nation is a ruling and conquering nation that receives the attention of the whole world. This is confirmed in the following verses when this nation is used as an object lesson to the whole world. This nation will be the focal point for the whole world to observe two events that will take place. The first event will be the Firstfruits rapture of the bride and her court, and this event and the subsequent hot summer time (i.e., the tribulation period) will have a profound effect on the remainder of the Church in America. This effect is that the remainder of the Church in America will offer itself as a freewill offering to God, and this effect is due to the Firstfruits Rapture and the subsequent persecution and martyrdom that will go on among the Church during the tribulation period. This is all seen in the following verses as we continue our exegesis of each verse, phrase-by-phrase.
(Isa 18:3 KJV) 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.
This verse is addressed to the totality of a group of people, and that group of people is the main body of Church, which remains upon the earth after the Firstfruits Rapture. The Hebrew word for inhabitants means those who remain. The word for dwellers means those in the Church who have settled down and gotten comfortable in the earth. “Lifteth up” means to be taken away, and the word for ensign means a signal, sign, or token. The signal, sign or token are those Christians who are taken in the Firstfruits Rapture. The Christians who are left behind because they have settled down and gotten comfortable in the world system are told to “see ye” when the Firstfruits are taken up to the kingdom (i.e., mountains). “See ye” means to pay attention to and to heed the warning. They are then told to listen for the trumpet and to hear it, which is a reference to the Main Harvest Rapture at the Feast of Trumpets. “Hear ye” means to hear with attention or interest. All Christians will hear the trumpet at the Main Harvest Rapture, but the command here is to hear it with attention or interest when it is sounded. A token is one or more of a particular group who represent the rest of the group as a prime example to them.
With the above understanding of the above verse, the verse can be accurately paraphrased as follows:
(Isaiah 18:3 Paraphrase) All of you in the Church who will remain in the world because you have settled down and gotten comfortable in the world system, pay attention to and heed the warning when God removes the faithful Christians to the kingdom as a sign to you. When God blows the trumpet for the Main Harvest Rapture, be sure you hear it with interest and attention.
The following verse goes on to elaborate on what will take place in America after the Firstfruits Rapture takes place, and during the time when the hot summer sun and the morning dew ripens the Church for harvest. It will seem like God is not in control because of the persecution that will be going on among the Church, but God has purposely determined beforehand that He will just sit back and rest while the hot summer sun (i.e., persecution) and the refreshing morning dew (i.e., the Word of God) ripens or prepares the Church for the Main Harvest Rapture.
(Isa 18:4 KJV) 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.
The above verse can be paraphrased as follow:
(Isaiah 18:4 Paraphrase) For God has spoken to me and said, “I will be still and not interfere, and I will observe with pleasure, favor and care from my throne, as the shimmering heat from the sun, and the cloud of dew during the heat of harvest ripens the grain.
The following verse elaborates on how the grain or wheat harvest will be maturing for the final or main harvest at the same time that the grapes will just start setting fruit as the blossom or bud drops off. The wheat harvest will take place in the middle of the tribulation at the time that the Gentiles (i.e., grapes) saved during the tribulation period will just start bearing fruit. The Gentile (i.e., vintage) harvest will not take place until the very end of the tribulation period.
The following verse also describes how God will in the face or the presence of the wheat harvest begin to prune the grape vines that are producing fruit, and he will cut off and take away the branches that are not bearing fruit.
(Isa 18:5 KJV) 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.
A paraphrase of the above verse is as follows:
(Isaiah 18:5 Paraphrase) For in the presence of the grain harvest, when the blossom is mature, and the immature grape is just beginning to ripen, He shall cut off the vine suckers with a pruning knife, and he shall cut down and take away the branches that have no fruit on them.
The following verse states that these branches that are cut off will be left to the emissaries of Satan, and to the Antichrist and his cohorts throughout the entire harvest time. The fowls are the fallen angels of Satan, and the beasts of the earth are the followers of Antichrist. The Gentiles will have to spend the summer (i.e., first half of the tribulation period) and the autumn (i.e., second half of the tribulation period) on the earth. The word translated winter also means autumn.
(Isa 18:6 KJV) 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.
A paraphrase of the above verse is as follows:
(Isaiah 18:6 Paraphrase) The saved and unsaved Gentiles shall spend the entire tribulation period subject to the attacks by the demons of Satan and the persecution by the followers of Antichrist. The demons shall attack them during the first half of the tribulation period (i.e., the summer), and the followers of Antichrist shall persecute them during the last half of the tribulation period (i.e., autumn—not winter).
(Isa 18:7 KJV) 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.
This last verse of the chapter states that at the time of the grain harvest when the grape blossom has set to produce the ripening grape, the Christians who have gone through the first half of the tribulation period will have matured to the point where they will offer themselves as a freewill offering to God. The reason for this great repentance by the main body of the Church was the divine act of God in taking up the token or Firstfruits of the Church to the kingdom, which drew their attention to the coming Main Harvest Rapture of the Church. If the main body of the Church had been taken to heaven at the time of the Firstfruits, there would not have been the glorious rewards that are now in store for this group of people.
America is the Great City Babylon in Scripture, and it will be totally destroyed. The destruction of America is described in detail in Jeremiah 50 and 51, and in Revelation 18. This destruction will take place at the very end of the tribulation. This chapter is primarily a description of America during the first half of the tribulation period when the Church is still there, and God still has compassion for this great nation that he has blessed so much. America has been the leader of the missionary movements in the world.