06
Aug
14

Isaiah Chapter 18 Notes

Isaiah Ch 18 Commentary // larryhuntbiblecommentary.wordpress.com

My thoughts on Isaiah 18…

Vs. 1-2: Barnes and the Oxford Commentary both agree that the land the prophet refers to here is Ethiopia.  I believe the messengers of v. 2 are the same as those of v.1 and that in v. 2 the prophet is commissioning the messengers of Ethiopia to return to their own land either

1.because God rejects the message they came with (and has no particular message for them in return other than the answer “no”)

or

2.because God has a substantial message of his own (vs.3-6) to send back to Ethiopia.

If the second reason is correct, then I would take vs. 3-6 to be directed against Assyria with the whole world (but particularly Ethiopia and Judah) as their target audience.

If the first reason is correct, then I would take vs. 3-6 to be directed against Ethiopia with the whole world (but particularly Judah) as their target audience.

So, what was the message the Ethiopians came with in the first place?  Barnes believes that the Ethiopians “were 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…” (322).

On the other hand, the Oxford Commentary suggests that there was an Ethiopian/Egyptian allianceagainstSennacherib (Assyria) and that the messengers came to invite Hezekiah into this anti-Assyrian alliance.

Barnes and Oxford both agree that the historical context of this passage is the invasion of Israel by Sennacharib, and we know from 2nd Kings 19:9 that “King Tirhakah of Ethiopia” was coming to fightagainstSennacherib even as the Assyrians were invading Judea, so Oxford’s suggestion about the nature of the message seems more reasonable to me.  Barnes[1] himself claims that an Ethiopian dynasty of Kings was ruling Egypt as well as Ethiopia at this time, so an offer of alliance from Egypt would be synonymous with an offer of alliance from Ethiopia.  We know that Egypt did, in fact, offer Hezekiah an alliance against Assyria (2nd Kings 18:21), and that Hezekiah seems to have entered into such an alliance, against God’s advice.[2] For these reasons, I believe that the message the Ethiopians brought was an invitation for Hezekiah to join them (Ethiopia/Egypt) in an alliance against Assyria, and that vs. 3-6 contain God’s response to this invitation: God tells Ethiopia/Egypt (and Judah) to watch as he annihilates Assyria himself.

Vs. 3-6: Isaiah speaks in v. 3, and I believe that verse could be paraphrased thus: “Ethiopia/Egypt, Judah (and anyone else who is afraid of Assyria), when you hear of Assyria preparing for war, watch what will happen.”

Then in vs. 4-6 Isaiah relates the words of God.  I would paraphrase these verses thus:  “the LORD said to me, ‘I will wait calmly while Assyria pursues its plans for conquest.  Then, just before its crowning moment, I will strike and annihilate it.”

v. 6: Threatening to leave someone to the birds of the air and the animals of the earth must have been a common expression.  It is what Goliath said he would do to David (1st Samuel 17:44).

v. 7: I believe the phrase “At that time” could mean “after these events.”  (For a discussion of the phrase “at that time,” see notes on 4:2.)  I also believe that this verse predicts the conversion to Judaism of a substantial portion of Ethiopia’s population.  Chapter 20 predicts the desolation of Ethiopia and Egypt by Assyria, so the events alluded to in that chapter must be prior to those alluded to in this chapter.  Assyria desolated Ethiopia; God desolated Assyria; then, Ethiopia turned to God (perhaps not as a direct result of God’s destruction of Assyria, but sometime after that destruction, nevertheless).  So, rather than getting Judah to join them (Ethiopia) in a political alliance, they wound up joining Judah in a spiritual alliance.  I do not know exactly when the Falashas, the Ethiopian Jews, appeared in Ethiopia; Barnes says, “the Abyssinian [Ethiopian] annals represent the country as converted to Judaism several centuries before the Christian era” (324).

Along these lines, it is interesting to note that Phillip met and converted to Christianity a high rankingEthiopianreading the book of Isaiah in the 1st century A.D. (Acts 8:26-39).


[1] “Tirhakah king of Ethiopia…was the last king of the 25th or Ethiopian dynasty.  He probably ascended the Egyptian throne about B.C. 692, having previously ruled over Ethiopia before he became king of Egypt.  He was probably reigning…at the time of Sennacherib’s expedition” (Barnes Notes: 1st Samuel – Esther 285).

[2] It was during this time that Isaiah went naked for three years as a sign against a political alliance with Egypt and Ethiopia; his nakedness illustrated the point that these lands would be stripped of their possessions by Assyria (Isaiah 20:3).

 

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