1Ah! Land of buzzing insects,*
beyond the rivers of Ethiopia,a
2Sending ambassadors by sea,
in papyrus boats on the waters!
Go, swift messengers,
to a nation tall and bronzed,
To a people dreaded near and far,
a nation strong and conquering,
whose land is washed by rivers.b
3* All you who inhabit the world,
who dwell on earth,
When the signal is raised on the mountain, look!
When the trumpet blows, listen!
4For thus says the LORD to me:
I will be quiet, looking on from where I dwell,c
Like the shimmering heat in sunshine,
like a cloud of dew at harvest time.
5Before the vintage, when the flowering has ended,
and the blooms are succeeded by ripening grapes,
Then comes the cutting of branches with pruning hooks,
and the discarding of the lopped-off shoots.
6They shall all be left to the mountain vultures
and to the beasts of the earth;
The vultures shall summer on them,
all the beasts of the earth shall winter on them.
7Then will gifts be brought to the LORD of hosts—to the place of the name of the LORD of hosts, Mount Zion—from a people tall and bronzed, from a people dreaded near and far, a nation strong and conquering, whose land is washed by rivers.d
* [18:1–2] Land of buzzing insects: the region of the Upper Nile where these multiplied with great rapidity. Ethiopia: in Hebrew, Kush. The center of this ancient kingdom corresponds geographically to the modern Sudan, Roman Nubia. Papyrus boats: light and serviceable vessels made of bundles of papyrus stalks and sealed with pitch. Egypt, ruled by a dynasty from Ethiopia, had invited Judah to join a coalition against Assyria, but Isaiah told the ambassadors to return to their own people.
* [18:3–6] A more general address but probably relating to the same topic. The Lord will not act at once, but later there will be a “harvest” of terrible destruction, probably directed against Assyria (cf. 14:24–27).