Message to Ethiopia
18 Woe (judgment is coming) to the land of [a]whirring wings
Which is beyond the rivers of [b]Cush (Ethiopia),
Which sends ambassadors by the sea,
Even in vessels of papyrus on the surface of the waters.
Go, swift messengers, to a nation [of people] tall and smooth (clean shaven),
To a people feared far and wide,
A powerful and oppressive nation
Whose land the rivers divide.
All you inhabitants of the world, you who dwell on the earth,
When a banner is raised on the mountains, you will see it!
When a trumpet is blown, you will hear it!
4 For this is what the Lord has said to me,
“I will be quiet and I will look on from My dwelling place,
Like shimmering heat above the sunshine,
Like a cloud of dew in the heat of harvest.”
For before the harvest, when the blossom is over
And the flower becomes a ripening grape,
He will cut off the sprigs [without buds] with pruning knives,
And [He will] remove and cut away the spreading branches.
They (warriors) will be left together for the mountain birds of prey,
And for the beasts of the earth;
And the birds of prey will [spend the] summer feeding on them,
And all the beasts of the earth will spend harvest time on them.
At that time a gift of homage will be brought to the Lord of hosts
From a people tall and smooth (clean shaven),
From a people feared far and wide,
A powerful and oppressive nation,
Whose land the rivers divide—
To the place [of worship] of the [c]name of the Lord of hosts, to Mount Zion [in Jerusalem].(A)
Message to Egypt
19 The [mournful, inspired] oracle ([d]a burden to be carried) concerning Egypt:
Listen carefully, the Lord is riding on a swift cloud and is about to come to Egypt;
The idols of Egypt will tremble at His presence,
And the heart of the Egyptians will melt within them.
“So I will provoke Egyptians against Egyptians;
And they will fight, each one against his brother and each one against his neighbor,
City against city, kingdom against kingdom.
“Then the spirit of the Egyptians will become exhausted within them and emptied out;
And I will confuse their strategy,
So that they will consult the idols and the spirits of the dead,
And mediums and soothsayers.
“And I will hand over the Egyptians to a hard and cruel master,
And a mighty king will rule over them,” declares the Lord God of hosts.
The waters from the sea will dry up,
And the river will be parched and dry.
The canals will become foul-smelling,
The streams of Egypt will thin out and dry up,
The reeds and the rushes will rot away.
The meadows by the Nile, by the edge of the Nile,
And all the sown fields of the Nile
Will become dry, be blown away, and be no more.
The fishermen will lament (cry out in grief),
And all those who cast a hook into the Nile will mourn,
And those who spread nets upon the waters will languish.
Moreover, those who make linen from combed flax
And those who weave white cloth will be ashamed.
[Those who are] the pillars and foundations of Egypt will be crushed;
And all those who work for wages will be grieved in soul.
The princes of [e]Zoan are complete fools;
The counsel of the Pharaoh’s wisest advisors has become stupid.
How can you say to Pharaoh,
“I am a son of the wise, a son of ancient kings?”
Where then are your wise men?
Please let them tell you,
And let them understand what the Lord of hosts
Has purposed against Egypt [if they can].
The princes of Zoan have acted like fools,
The princes of Memphis are deluded [and entertain false hope];
Those who are the cornerstone of her tribes
Have led Egypt astray.
The Lord has mixed a spirit of distortion within her;
Her leaders have caused Egypt to stagger in all that she does,
As a drunken man staggers in his vomit.
There will be no work for Egypt
Which head or tail, [high] palm branch or [low] bulrush, may do.
16 In that day the Egyptians will become like [helpless] women, and they will tremble and be frightened because of the waving of the hand of the Lord of hosts, which He is going to wave over them. 17 The land of Judah [Assyria’s ally] will become a terror to the Egyptians; everyone to whom Judah is mentioned will be in dread of it, because of the purpose of the Lord of hosts which He is planning against Egypt.
18 In that day five cities in the land of Egypt will speak the language of [the Hebrews of] Canaan and swear allegiance to the Lord of hosts. One [of them] will be called the City of [f]Destruction.
19 In that day there will be an altar to the Lord in the midst of the land of Egypt, and a memorial stone to the Lord near its border. 20 It will become a sign and a witness to the Lord of hosts in the land of Egypt; for they will cry to the Lord because of oppressors, and He will send them a Savior, a [Great] Defender, and He will rescue them.(B) 21 And so the Lord will make Himself known to Egypt, and the Egyptians will know [heed, honor, and cherish] the Lord in that day. They will even worship with sacrifices [of animals] and offerings [of produce]; they will make a vow to the Lord and fulfill it. 22 The Lord will strike Egypt, striking but healing it; so they will return to the Lord, and He will respond to them and heal them.
23 In that day there will be a highway from Egypt to Assyria, and the Assyrians will come into Egypt and the Egyptians into Assyria; and the Egyptians will worship and serve [the Lord] with the Assyrians.
24 In that day Israel will be the third party with Egypt and with Assyria [in a Messianic league], a blessing in the midst of the earth, 25 whom the Lord of hosts has blessed, saying, “Blessed is Egypt My people, and Assyria the work of My hands, and Israel My heritage.”
Prophecy about Egypt and Cush (Ancient Ethiopia)
20 In the year that the Tartan [the Assyrian commander in chief] came to Ashdod [in Philistia], when Sargon king of Assyria sent him and he fought against Ashdod and captured it, 2 at that time the Lord spoke through Isaiah the son of Amoz, saying, “Go, untie the [g]sackcloth from your hips and take your sandals off your feet.” And he did so, walking around [h]stripped [to his loincloth] and barefoot.(C) 3 And the Lord said, “Even as My servant Isaiah has walked [i]stripped and barefoot for three years as a sign and forewarning concerning Egypt and Cush (Ethiopia), 4 in the same way the king of Assyria will lead away the Egyptian captives and the Cushite exiles, young and old, stripped and barefoot, even with buttocks uncovered—to the [j]shame of Egypt. 5 Then they will be dismayed and ashamed because of Cush their hope and Egypt their boast. 6 So the inhabitants of this coastland [the Israelites and their neighbors] will say in that day, ‘Look what has happened to those in whom we hoped and trusted and to whom we fled for help to be spared from the king of Assyria! But we, how will we escape [captivity and exile]?’”
God Commands That Babylon Be Taken
As windstorms in the Negev (the South) sweep through,
So it (God’s judgment) comes from the desert, from [the hostile armies of] a terrifying land.
A harsh vision has been shown to me;
The treacherous one deals treacherously, and the destroyer destroys.
Go up, Elam! Lay siege, Media!
All the groaning [caused by Babylon’s ruthless oppressions] I [the Lord] have brought to an end.(D)
Therefore [continues Isaiah] my loins are filled with anguish;
Pains have seized me like the pains of a woman in childbirth;
I am so bent and bewildered that I cannot hear, I am so terrified that I cannot see.
My mind reels, horror overwhelms me;
The twilight I longed for has been [m]turned into fear and trembling for me.(E)
They set the table [for the doomed banquet], they spread out the cloth, they eat, they drink;
“Rise up, captains [of Belshazzar’s court], oil your shields [for battle, for your enemy is at the gates]!”
6 This is what the Lord says to me,
“Go, station the lookout, let him report what he sees.
“When he sees a chariot, horsemen in pairs,
A train of donkeys and a train of camels,
Let him pay attention and listen closely, very closely.”
8 And the lookout called like a lion,
“O Lord, I stand continually on the watchtower by day,
And I am stationed every night at my guard post.
“Now look! Here comes a troop of riders, horsemen in pairs.”
And one said, “Fallen, fallen is Babylon;
And all the carved images of her gods are shattered on the ground.”
O my threshed people [Judah, who must be judged and trampled down by Babylon], my afflicted of the threshing floor.
What I have heard from the Lord of hosts,
The God of Israel, I have [joyfully] announced to you [that Babylon is to fall].
Oracles about Edom and Arabia
11 The [mournful, inspired] oracle ([n]a burden to be carried) concerning Dumah (Edom):
Someone keeps calling to me from Seir (Edom),
“Watchman, what is left of the night [of Assyrian oppression]?
Watchman, what is left of the night? [How long until morning?]”
The watchman says,
“The morning comes [only briefly], but also [comes] the night [of Babylonian oppression].
If you would ask [of me then], ask [again, if Edom really wishes to know];
Come back again.”
13 The [mournful, inspired] oracle ([o]a burden to be carried) concerning Arabia:
In the thickets of Arabia you must spend the night,
Caravans of Dedanites.
Bring water for the thirsty [Dedanites],
O inhabitants of the land of Tema [in Arabia];
Meet the fugitive with bread.
For they have fled from the swords,
From the drawn sword, from the bent bow
And from the press of battle and grief of war.
16 For the Lord has said this to me, “Within a year, according to the years of a hired man [who will work no longer than was agreed], all the splendor of [the tribe of] Kedar will end; 17 and the remainder of the number of archers, the mighty men of the sons of Kedar, will be few; for the Lord, the God of Israel, has spoken.”
The Valley of Vision
22 The [mournful, inspired] oracle ([p]a burden to be carried) concerning the Valley of Vision:
What is the matter with you now, that you have all gone up to the housetops,
You [Jerusalem] who were full of noise,
A tumultuous city, a joyous and exuberant city;
Your slain were not slain [in a glorious death] with the sword,
Nor did they die in battle.
All your leaders have fled together [with your king],
And have been captured without the bow [which they had thrown away];
All of you who were found were taken captive together,
Though they had fled far away.
Therefore I say, “Look away from me;
Let me weep bitterly.
Do not try to comfort me over the destruction of the daughter of my people.”
For the Lord God of hosts has a day of panic and of tumult, of trampling, of confusion
In the Valley of Vision,
A [day of] breaking down walls
And a crying [for help] to the mountain.
Elam took up the quiver
With the chariots, infantry and horsemen;
And Kir uncovered the shield.
And it came to pass that your choicest valleys were full of chariots,
And the horsemen took their fixed positions [in an offensive array] at the gate [of Jerusalem].(F)
Then God removed the [protective] covering of Judah;
And in that day you looked to the weapons of the House of the Forest (Solomon’s armory).(G)
You saw that the breaches
In the wall of the City of David [the citadel of Zion] were many;
You collected [within the city’s walls] the waters of the Lower Pool (Siloam).
Then you counted the houses of Jerusalem
And you tore down the houses [to get materials] to fortify the city wall [by extending it].
You also made a reservoir between the two walls
For the waters of the [q]Old Pool,
But you did not look to its Maker,
Nor did you recognize Him who planned it long ago.
Therefore in that day the Lord God of hosts called you to weeping, to mourning,
To shaving the head and to wearing sackcloth [in humiliation].
Instead, there is joy and jubilation,
Killing of oxen and slaughtering of sheep,
Eating meat and drinking wine, saying,
“Let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we may die.”
But the Lord of hosts revealed Himself in my ears,
“This sin absolutely will not be forgiven you
Until you die,” says the Lord God of hosts.
For the Lord God of hosts says this, “Go to this [contemptible] steward,
To [r]Shebna, who is in charge of the royal household [but is building himself a tomb worthy of a king, and say to him],
‘What business do you have here?
And whom do you have here,
That you have hewn out a tomb here for yourself,
You who hew a sepulcher on the height,
You who carve a resting place for yourself in the rock?
‘Listen carefully, the Lord is about to hurl you away violently, O man;
And He is about to grasp you firmly
And roll you up tightly like a ball
And toss you into a vast country;
There you will die
And there your splendid chariots will be,
You shame of your master’s house.’
“I will depose you from your office,
And you will be pulled down from your position [of importance].
“Then it will come to pass in that day
That I will summon My servant Eliakim the son of Hilkiah.
“And I will clothe him with your tunic [of distinction]
And tie your sash securely around him.
I will entrust him with your authority;
He will become a father to the inhabitants of Jerusalem and to the house of Judah.
“Then I will set on his shoulder the key of the house of David;
When he opens no one will shut,
When he shuts no one will open.
“I will drive him like a peg in a firm place,
And he will become a throne of honor and glory to his father’s house.
24 “So they will hang on him all the honor and glory [the complete responsibility] of his father’s house, offspring and issue [of the family, high and low], all the least of the articles, from the bowls to all the jars. 25 In that day,” declares the Lord of hosts, “the peg (Eliakim) that was driven into the firm place will give way; it will even break off and fall, and the burden hanging on it will be cut off, for the Lord has spoken.”
- Isaiah 18:1 Perhaps a reference to the warships of Cush.
- Isaiah 18:1 Ancient Ethiopia was south of Egypt and included portions of modern Egypt, Sudan, and Ethiopia.
- Isaiah 18:7 See note Deut 12:5.
- Isaiah 19:1 I.e. an urgent message the prophet is under compulsion to proclaim.
- Isaiah 19:11 Or Tanis, an ancient capital of the Pharaohs.
- Isaiah 19:18 A number of manuscripts read sun, so that the name is taken to be Heliopolis.
- Isaiah 20:2 A coarse cloth usually made of goat hair or camel hair and worn as a sign of mourning, or worn by prophets.
- Isaiah 20:2 Or naked. The Hebrew can refer to someone completely naked, or only stripped to the underwear (i.e. a loincloth); see note v 4. The ancient rabbis were particularly sensitive to the issue, and some maintained (contrary to the text) that Isaiah was wearing worn-out clothes and patched shoes or sandals.
- Isaiah 20:3 Stripping off the outer garments was an act symbolizing disgrace and humiliation.
- Isaiah 20:4 Lit nakedness. As noted for v 2, the Hebrew can refer to complete nakedness or to being stripped to the underwear. A loincloth might leave the buttocks exposed to a greater or lesser extent.
- Isaiah 21:1 I.e. an urgent message the prophet is under compulsion to proclaim.
- Isaiah 21:1 Probably a reference to the Euphrates and Tigris Rivers and their tributaries which overflowed their banks like a sea. Great dams were constructed to control their floodwaters.
- Isaiah 21:4 The vision reveals the events to occur at the feast of Belshazzar—the defilement of the golden articles taken from God’s temple, the handwriting on the wall, the murder of Babylon’s great king.
- Isaiah 21:11 I.e. an urgent message the prophet is under compulsion to proclaim.
- Isaiah 21:13 I.e. an urgent message the prophet is under compulsion to proclaim.
- Isaiah 22:1 I.e. an urgent message the prophet is under compulsion to proclaim.
- Isaiah 22:11 Perhaps a reference to the Gihon Spring, also called the Upper Pool.
- Isaiah 22:15 Shebna would have been second in command to King Hezekiah before being deposed from steward (administrator) to the position of scribe (36:3).