Isaiah: Chapter 18 | The Wolfe Notes

Welcome, Family! We're spending 2024 with the prophet Isaiah. While we claim no expertise, we're excited to sit with you as we both learn at the feet of Jesus. Each month, we offer a calendar that outlines daily exercises (adapted from Jenn Wilkin's Women of the Word Bible study process) to progress through Isaiah. Download March's calendar to begin with us and witness what we uncovered in our weekly "Wolfe Note" postings.

A dew-filled grassy meadow with text overlay that quotes Isaiah 18:4


  1. Different Versions Noting and clarifying differences between ICB & LSB.
  2. Annotation My thoughts, connections, clarifications, and questions.
  3. Research The nation of tall and smooth-skinned people.
  4. Summary An approximately twenty word overview of the chapter.
  5. Memorize Why I chose to memorize Isaiah 18:4.
  6. Cross References Of Isaiah 18:4.
  7. Respond Based on reflections on God's character and my own.

Different Versions

I read Chapter 18 in the International Children's Bible (ICB) and the Legacy Standard Bible (LSB). The ICB is a thought-for-thought translation and the LSB is a word-for-word translation. 

Major differences I noticed (*My thoughts alone are in italics and designated with an asterisk.):
  • "with the sound of wings" ICB v. "the whirring of wings" LSB. Verse 1*But, KJV says shadowing with wings, which implies power and the other two fear. 
  • "tall and smooth-skinned" ICB v. "tall and smooth" LSB. Verse 2. *But, KJV says scattered and peeled which offers a very different image. In Hebrew, mashak (to draw, drag, stretch) and yarat (obstinate, i.e. independent). *So, if we look at the Hebrew it offers a very different view altogether. It could perhaps be translated "a diverse and independent people".
  • "They are a powerful nation with strange speech" ICB v. "A powerful and oppressive nation" LSB. Verse 2. *Neither LSB or KJV mention their speech at all.
  • "They defeat the other nations" ICB v. "oppressive" LSB. Verse 2. *In KJV "a nation meted out and trodden down" which feels very different.
  • "divided by rivers" ICB v. "land the rivers divide" LSB. *In KJV is spoiled by rivers which could mean the same thing, or could mean that the rivers destroy the land.
  • "Everyone who lives in the world, look! You will see a banner raised" ICB v. "All you inhabitants of the world and dwellers on earth, As soon as the standard is raised, you will see it." LSB. Verse 3. ICB reads like a warning: look for the banner; listen for the trumpet. While LSB reads like you won't be able to miss it. Other versions are also split on the translation.
  • "Then the enemy will cut the plants" ICB v. "Then He will cut off the sprigs" LSB. Verse 5. *A huge contrast and the subject is of huge importance to meaning. If the enemy cuts, it's to destroy, if God is cutting, it's for good. Translations are equally divided on the interpretation.
  • "At that time gifts will be brought" ICB v. "At that time a gift of homage will be brought" LSB. Verse 7*In KJV, "In that time shall the present be brought"
*Conclusions: The ICB and LSB agree with each other in translation when compared to the KJV. Two isolating examples are when the ICB adds the idea of strange speech into the description of the people from a distant land and defines the enemy as the cutter of the plants.


Notes on my process*Denotes my thoughts alone. ! Denotes a connection. Researched quick answers are in italics. *Indicates a topic with more extensive notes under the research heading.
  1. Prophecy Beyond Cush (18:1-2)
    1. A distant land, feared, odd, and powerful, is urgently sought to help amid present danger.
      1. Where is Cush? v1 *R
      2. What do the wings represent? v1 *R
      3. Who are the tall and smooth-skinned people? v2 *R
      4. What nation is this? Is it the US because it's a melting pot (strange speech) and is divided by many rivers? v2 *R
  2. A Message for Everyone (18:3-6)
    1. Everyone: look for the signal. Listen for the call. v3
      1. ? Who is raising the banner? v3
    2. God is watching. Feel His warmth in the sunshine and His comfort in the dew. v4
      1. ? Is it good or bad that God is watching? *He's not intervening but is present. He's barely seen, yet if you look you know He's there. Which could be comforting or frustrating. And honestly, sounds a lot like the current state of the world. Enduring Word Suggests this verse depicts annoyance on God's part because He can handle Assyria on His own. Israel's actions show a lack of faith in Him by forming an alliance with another country.  
    3. When growth blossoms but before we benefit from it, Satan will destroy the new growth, separating and slowly eroding its support systems. v5-6
      1. ! God is the vine, we are the branches (John 15:5)! *So if we remain in God, we have nothing to fear. 
      2. Henry offers that these verses remind us that God's people are protected in all seasons, even though wicked may triumph for a time. 
      3. ? Do the birds represent demons?
  3. Gifts for God (Isaiah 18:7)
    1. Then gifts will be brought to God from the people who were sought out to help.
      1. ? What gifts will be brought to God? v7
      2. ? Who are the people that will come? v7
      3. ? How will the gifts be brought to Mt. Zion? v7
      4. ! This verse is a near repeat of Isaiah 18:2, with the addition of the gift brought to God at Mt. Zion.


*Thoughts that are mine alone are marked with an asterisk and italicized.
What nation is this prophecy about?


  • Preferred theory of most commentators at Enduring Word and Bible Hub, and is specifically named in the NLT. Yet, most versions say "beyond the rivers of Ethiopia (or Cush)"
  • Cush, often interpreted as Ethiopia, began with Noah's grandson through Ham, Cush. Cushites frequently interacted with the Israelites. Many scholars believe it references the African continent south of Egypt. See a map of Africa at or a world map at
  • Ethiopia ruled Egypt and rivaled Assyria and in this verse we see Judah aligning with them. (Enduring Word )
  • Ethiopians are described as "the tallest and handsomest of all men" by Herodotus, a 5th century Greek historian and geographer, which could translate to tall and smooth-skinned people here (Cambridge).
  • The present they would bring God was their faith, which might have been fulfilled at that time, was fulfilled in Acts 8:26-40, and continues to be fulfilled in the Ethiopian church today. (Enduring Word)


  • The rivers that spoil describe the flooding of the Nile. (Benson)
  • A smooth-skinned people refers to the Egyptians who shaved their skin. (Barnes)
  • "Papyrus vessels" are like the ark that carried Moses down the Nile in Egypt. Exodus 2:3: "But she could not hide him any longer. So she took for him an ark of papyrus reeds and covered it over with tar and pitch. Then she put the child into it and put it among the reeds by the bank of the Nile." (Jamieson-Fausset-Brown)

The United States 

Notes from "Isaiah 18 and the United States" by Philip du Nard at Hope of the Nation

  • The country in Isaiah 18 is unnamed unlike Babylon (Isaiah 13 & 14), Moab (Isaiah 15 & 16), and Damascus (Isaiah 17), which lead up to this prophecy, and Egypt (Isaiah 19) which follows. As the United States was still undiscovered at the time of Isaiah, its name could not be given. 
  • This country honors God in some regard because they offer Him a present. (Isaiah 18:7)
    • Perhaps, English, the universal language, is the language of Zephaniah 3:9:"For then will I turn to the people a pure language, that they may call upon the name of the Lord, to serve him with one consent."
    • And from the land of pure language, that is "beyond the rivers of Ethiopia" and contains "the daughter of [God's] dispersed" comes an offering to the Lord (Zephaniah 3:10)
  • Specific details that link this description (Isaiah 18:1-2) to the US:
    • Shadowing with wings = eagle or age of air travel
    • Beyond the Nile = westerly direction because Israel is east of the Nile
    • Ambassadors by sea in bulrushes = separated by sea and use propellers
    • Swift messengers = future technology and that the US projects its power far beyond its own shores
    • A nation scattered & peeled = tall, stretched out, & clean-shaven, *Appearance, but also, the United States is stretched out and scattered, yet united or smooth. And, in Hebrew, yarat, the word translated as "peeled" here actually means obstinate, i.e. independent.
    • Terrible from their beginning = militarily strong
    • Meted out and down trodden = measured out, surveyed, pioneers trod down the land, divided by rivers
    • Everyone notices when the US raises its flag and blows its trumpets for war, as described in Isaiah 18:3.

A Different Nation Entirely

  • A valiant, fierce, bold people that sharpen a sword like the sword mentioned from Babylon in Ezekiel 21:11-12 "The sword shall be polished...ready for the hand of the killer...the sword is against my people." (Barnes)
  • A nation meted out could reference a ceremonial nation, with many rites and laws. Or, it could be a nation measured by a line or land divided by victors. Or, a nation that has extended its domain over other provinces. Perhaps Nubia or Abyssinia. (Barnes) *But I think also describes the United States accurately. 


God watches as Satan weakens the world. In time, allies from a distant land offer God gifts at Mt. Zion.


I chose to memorize Isaiah 18:4.
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.

This verse reminds me that God is always present. He is watching over us and provides us with a steady source of comfort.

Cross References

*Thoughts that are mine alone are marked with an asterisk and italicized.

Of Isaiah 18:4: For so the Lord said unto me, ...

...I will take my rest,...

  • Different from when God rested on the Sabbath in Genesis 2;2-3. That rest, shaqat in Hebrew, means take away, remove, cease.
  • This rest is quiet, calm, peace like:
    • Rest from war.
      • Joshua 11:23 ICB: Joshua took control of all the land of Israel. This was what the Lord had told Moses to do long ago. He gave the land to Israel because he had promised it to them. Then, Joshua divided the land among the tribes of Israel. The fighting had ended. And there was peace in the land.
      • Judges 3:30 LSB: So Moab was subdued that day under the hand of Israel. And the land was quiet for eighty years
    • Relaxed, undetermined. Ruth 3:18 KJV: Then said she, Sit still, my daughter, until thou know how the matter will fall: for the man will not be in rest until he have finished the thing this day.
    • Provided by God.
      • Job 34:29 ICB: But if God keeps quiet, who can blame him? If he hides his face, no one can see him. But God still rules over both men and nations.
      • Job 37:17 TLB: Do you understand the balancing of the clouds with wonderful perfection and kill? Do you know why you become warm when the south wind is blowing and everything is still?
      • Psalm 83:1 LSB: O God, do not remain at rest; Do not be silent, O God, do not be quiet.
    • Missing when we're separated from God. 
      • Job 3:13 TLB: For if only I had died at birth, then I would be quiet now, asleep and at rest.
      • Job 3:26 ICB: I have no peace. I have no quietness. I have no rest. I only have trouble.
      • Psalm 76:8 KJV: Thou didst cause judgment to be heard from heaven; the earth feared, and was still.
  • *Conclusion: In this verse God's quiet can be a source of peace, or frustration. Peace when we abide in Him and trust He's in control. Frustration because we want Him to move but He's not. We see evil all around us and we do not see God stopping it, and that frustrates us.

...I will consider... 

  • Nabat, in Hebrew, which can also mean look on, scan, look intently, and regard.
  • When we consider we can...
    • Gain wisdom
      • Proverbs 6:6-11 Go to the ant, thou sluggard; consider her ways, and be wise: Which having no guide, overseer, or ruler, provideth her meat in the summer, and gathereth her food in the harvest. How long wilt thou sleep, O sluggard? when wilt thou arise out of thy sleep? Yet a little sleep, a little slumber, a little folding of the hands to sleep: So shall thy poverty come as one that travelleth, and thy want as an armed man.
      • Proverbs 24:30-34 I went by the field of the slothful, and by the vineyard of the man void of understanding; And, lo, it was all grown over with thorns, and nettles had covered the face thereof, and the stone wall thereof was broken down. Then I saw, and considered it well: I looked upon it, and received instruction. Yet a little sleep, a little slumber, a little folding of the hands to sleep: So shall thy poverty come as one that travelleth; and thy want as an armed man.
    • Experience wonder. Genesis 15:5: And he brought him forth abroad, and said, Look now toward heaven, and tell the stars, if thou be able to number them: and he said, So shall thy seed be.
    • Become lost:
      • Genesis 19:17, 26: And it came to pass, when they had brought them forth abroad, that he said, Escape for thy life; look not behind thee, neither stay thou in all the plain; escape to the mountain, lest thou be consumed...But his wife looked back from behind him, and she became a pillar of salt.
      • Exodus 3:6 Moreover he said, I am the God of thy father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob. And Moses hid his face; for he was afraid to look upon God.
    • Become found. Numbers 21:9: And Moses made a serpent of brass, and put it upon a pole, and it came to pass, that if a serpent had bitten any man, when he beheld the serpent of brass, he lived.
    • Become known. I Samuel 16:7: But the Lord said unto Samuel, Look not on his countenance, or on the height of his stature; because I have refused him: for the Lord seeth not as man seeth for meen looketh on the outward appearance, but the Lord looketh on the heart.
  • God considers all:
    • Job 35:5 Look unto the heavens, and see; and behold the clouds which are higher than thou.
    • Job 28:24 For he looketh to the ends of the earth, and seeth under the whole heaven;
    • Psalm 33:13 The Lord looketh from heaven; he beholdeth all the sons of men.
    • Psalm 80:14  Return, we beseech thee, O God of hosts: look down from heaven, and behold, and visit this vine.
  • *Conclusion: God is not sleeping. He is on His throne watching, carefully considering, regarding us intently, gaining insight into who we are. my dwelling place...

  • Hosea 5:15 I will go and return to my place, till they acknowledge their offence, and seek my face: in their affliction they will seek me early.
  • Isaiah 26:21 For, behold, the Lord cometh out of his place to punish the inhabitants of the earth for their iniquity: the earth also shall disclose her blood, and shall no more cover her slain.
  • Isaiah 18:7 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.
  • Psalm 89:14 Justice and judgment are the habitation of thy throne: mercy and truth shall go before thy face.
  • Isaiah 4:5 And the Lord will create upon every dwelling place of mount Zion, and upon her assemblies, a cloud and smoke by day, and the shining of a flaming fire by night: for upon all the glory shall be a defence.
  • Psalm 33:14 From the place of his habitation he looketh upon all the inhabitants of the earth.
  • I Kings 8:49 Then hear thou their prayer and their supplication in heaven thy dwelling place, and maintain their cause.
  • *Conclusion: God watches in justice and judgement from his dwelling place, which is heaven or Zion, coming out to punish with mercy and truth once we repent and seek His face.

...Like a clear heat...

  • Clear (tsach in Hebrew) shimmering, dazzling, sunny, bright, glowing evident.
  • Song of Solomon 5:10 GW My beloved is dazzlingyet ruddy. He stands out among 10,000 men.
  • Isaiah 32:4 The heart also of the rash shall understand knowledge, and the tongue of the stammerers shall be ready to speak plainly.
  • Jeremiah 4:11 At that time shall it be said to this people and to Jerusalem, A dry wind of the high places in the wilderness toward the daughter of my people, not to fan, nor to cleanse.
  • *Conclusion: A clear can be "good" or "bad" from our perspective, but it is always just and pure, which is perfectly good.

...upon herbs...

  • The singular form means light, or fire, but here we see the plural form which means vegetables or herbs, owrah in Hebrew. The connection comes from understanding that vegetables need light to grow. Furthermore, the result of the heat will produce a harvest that is talked about in verses 5 and 6. This form is used in two more places:
    • 2 Kings 4:39 And one went out into the field to gather herbs, and found a wild vine, and gathered thereof wild gourds his lap full, and came and shred them into the pot of pottage: for they knew them not.
    • Isaiah 26:19 Thy dead men shall live, together with my dead body shall they arise. Awake and sing, ye that dwell in dust: for thy dew is as the dew of herbs, and the earth shall cast out the dead.
  • *Conclusion: We know heat on herbs is good and they thrive in sunshine, however too much heat and they die. Herbs, overall, have a positive connotation. We want them to grow and not be distracted by "wild vines".

...And like a cloud...

  • cloud, or ab in Hebrew, also can be translated envelope, darkness, thicket
  • Proverbs 16:15 In the light of the king's countenance is life; and his favour is as a cloud of the latter rain.
  • 2 Samuel 23:4 And he shall be as the light of the morning, when the sun riseth, even a morning without clouds; as the tender grass springing out of the earth by clear shining after rain.
  • 2 Samuel 22:12 He made darkness his shelter around him, surrounded by fog and clouds.
  • Job 22:14 Thick clouds are a covering to him, that he seeth not; and he walketh in the circuit of heaven.
  • Psalm 18:12  Out of the brightness of his presence came clouds. They came with hail and lightning.
  • Isaiah 5:30 And in that day they shall roar against them like the roaring of the sea: and if one look unto the land, behold darkness and sorrow, and the light is darkened in the heavens thereof.
  • *Conclusion: In many cases clouds seem to obscure, although, there are times clouds are used to provide direction, communicate presence, and show favor. (Exodus 13:21-22Proverbs 16:15)

...of dew...

  • Job 38:28 Hath the rain a father? or who hath begotten the drops of dew?
  • Hosea 14:5 I will be as the dew unto Israel: he shall grow as the lily, and cast forth his roots as Lebanon.
  • Deuteronomy 32:2 My doctrine shall drop as the rain, my speech shall distil as the dew, as the small rain upon the tender herb, and as the showers upon the grass:
  • Exodus 16:13 That evening, quail came and covered the camp. And in the morning dew lay around the camp.
  • Numbers 11:9 And when the dew fell on the camp at night, the manna would fall with it.
  • Judges 6:37 Behold, I will put a fleece of wool in the floor; and if the dew be on the fleece only, and it be dry upon all the earth beside, then shall I know that thou wilt save Israel by mine hand, as thou hast said.
  • Proverbs 19:12 The king's wrath is as the roaring of a lion; but his favor is as dew upon the grass.
  • Song of Solomon 5:2 I sleep, but my heart waketh: it is the voice of my beloved that knocketh, saying, Open to me, my sister, my love, my dove, my undefiled: for my head is filled with dew, and my locks with the drops of the night.
  • *Conclusions: Dew seems to consistently denote favor or blessing. the heat of harvest.

  •  Harvest, or qatsar in Hebrew, also means severed, the crop, the time, the reapers, a limb or bough.
  • Genesis 8:22 While the earth remaineth, seedtime and harvest, and cold and heat, and summer and winter, and day and night shall not cease.
  • Exodus 34:21 Six days thou shalt work, but on the seventh day thou shalt rest: in earing time and in harvest thou shalt rest.
  • Leviticus 23:10 Speak unto the children of Israel, and say unto them, When ye be come into the land which I give unto you, and shall reap the harvest thereof, then ye shall bring a sheaf of the firstfruits of your harvest unto the priest.
  • *Conclusion: Harvest is a good time, a time of celebration. But, when dew comes at harvest, it can slow your labor and perhaps ruin your crop, or it can provide comfort from the heat of your toilsome labor.
*Conclusions: Job & Isaiah describe the current state of the world. God is quiet, calmly watching, considering, while Satan runs the earth tempting, destroying, deceiving. God's favor is upon us as dew and as warm sunshine OR His judgement comes as scorching heat and dew that devastates. His favor determines whether we receive blessing or cursing. And, ultimately, which we receive is up to us. God's favor is obtained when 1) we trust God, 2) we believe He is who He says He is, and 3) when we earnestly seek Him. Hebrews 11:6


  1. God wants us to watch. He gives us clues in His word and asks us to be waiting for their fulfillment. I have not invested any significant effort into understanding or watching for fulfillment of these signs. I will study my Bible to know what it says. Pray to God for help in interpretation. Respond in obedience to His leading. Watch for fulfillment of His promises and prophecies.
  2. God watches us carefully to judge and reward righteousness. Sometimes I doubt His goodness, His presence, and wonder if He even really cares. I can find comfort in remembering He's not only watching, but He's carefully considering. I can trust He will set all things right in His time. I can focus on my job of loving, believing, and obeying and let Him do His job.
  3. God has planned His purpose for our lives from creation to the end of time and nothing can stop it. He is the I am of yesterday, today, and tomorrow. I am part of His plan. I can watch with excitement and anticipation as His plan unfolds, knowing nothing happens without His knowledge and His plan will prevail.

In Closing

Father God, sometimes Your words to us are hard to understand. We don't see from the beginning to end like You do, nor do we have the wisdom to understand your perfect purpose in every situation. But, we trust You! We trust You are always present, watching over all the world with eyes that see the truth, and You will respond with righteous judgment in Your perfect timing. You know us, Lord! While You give and take away, we ask for eyes to see what You need us to see, for ears to hear Your truth, and for hearts that are ready to respond in willing obedience to You. 

Learning with You,

Ready for Chapter 19?

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