Isaiah 18

Is Isaiah 18 about the United States?
By Bob Westbrook - April 19, 2005

I've been asked more than once if there is any mention of the United States in the prophetic writings of the Bible. While I cannot be certain of this, I believe that a strong circumstantial case can be made that Isaiah 18 is describing the US. I have heard others indicate this as well, and have long had an suspicion that they may be correct.

The broader context of Isaiah 14-17 contains some scenes that may take place in the relatively near future, and the following chapter 19 also contains prophecies not yet fulfilled. Given this context, and the indication that chapter 18 has never been historically fulfilled in any significant manner, I believe Isaiah 18 warrants some serious consideration, especially if it is indeed speaking of the United States.

This chapter is strangely compelling to me, and the Spirit has put a heaviness in my heart concerning it. It is a message of woe to the nation it addresses, but also describes a very favorable role for them in the final verse.

The United States matches the detailed description of that nation in verses 1, 2, and 7
The identification of the nation in this chapter is found in verses 1, 2, and 7, and contains a number of detailed specifications. (Several different Bible translations will be used here). As we examine the specifics, it will become clear that no modern nation fits the description as closely as does the United States, and no ancient nation fulfilled the prophecy.

First, it is a nation of "whirring wings", "where the sound of wings is heard", or the "land of clamorous wings". Given that the military prominence of this nation figures largely later on, we might assume that this is a reference to the sounds of jets and helicopters. No other nation has the fearsome air power of the US.

Next, it is a nation that "lies beyond the rivers of Cush". This is an area that roughly corresponds to Sudan in Africa. But notice it does not say it is Cush itself, but beyond there. Obviously, in those days, central northern Africa would have seemed like the ends of the earth. So if Isaiah were trying to convey the idea of a land far, far away from where he was, wouldn't he probably say it's beyond the farthest area with which he was familiar? Therefore, this prophecy is not about Ethiopia or Sudan or that region, but a nation beyond there.

This nation in question "sends envoys (ambassadors) over the sea" , "shipping emissaries all over the world". What nation is currently known for sending envoys overseas? The United States. With what political situation are the US diplomats and envoys most involved to an extraordinary degree? It is the Middle East conflict. This corresponds to some crucial details later on in the chapter.

Also, "envoys over the sea" is another indicator that the prophet was not speaking of an area in central Africa, which does not have access to oceans.

To further qualify the nation being addressed, Isaiah then describes its people, its geography, and its power. The people are described as tall and smooth-skinned. Handsome and bronzed are words used in other translations. What image do other parts of the world have of the appearance of Americans, especially from American TV shows piped all over the world? Tall, attractive, smoothed-skinned people. The geography of the land these people live in is "a land divided by rivers". That also describes the US.

The military and political might of the nation to which Isaiah is prophesying are described
Finally, the military and political might of the nation to which Isaiah is prophesying are described. "A people inspiring awe through out their history", "a nation that inspired awe since it came into being", "a strong nation, crushing down its haters", "feared all over the world", "a mighty and masterful nation," "strong and victorious" -- could these be describing the world's sole superpower?

But to me, the clincher regarding the identification of this nation is found in verse 7, the final verse of the chapter.

"At that time gifts will be brought to the LORD of hosts from a people tall and smooth, from a people feared near and far, a nation mighty and conquering, whose land the rivers divide, to Mount Zion, the place of the name of the LORD of hosts." (Isaiah 18:7 RSV)

After the events described in Isaiah 18 transpire, the people of this nation (presumably US Christians and Jews) will be noted for the gifts they bring to "the place of the name". This is, of course, the Temple Mount in Jerusalem. One can assume these gifts are not designated for the Islamic structures that currently stand there, but for the rebuilding of the Temple after the Dome of the Rock and Al Aqsa mosque are obliterated. And what nation is better prepared, equipped, and motivated to send monetary gifts and supplies to Mount Zion for rebuilding the Temple than the United States?

Given this strong circumstantial case, we can conclude that no other nation, ancient or modern, fits the description as closely as the United States. But this prophecy is a message of disaster for that nation. The first word of the chapter is "woe".

A bit of irony is expressed here as well. While saying that this country sends messengers all over the world, Isaiah is telling them "go home, messengers, and give this message of disaster to the country itself".

"Go back quickly, O representatives, to a nation tall and smooth, to a people causing fear through all their history; a strong nation, crushing down its haters, whose land is cut through by rivers." (Isaiah 18:2 BBE).

So the messengers are to take a message to that country. But the next verses seem somewhat out of place at first. Perhaps they are there to give us some historical context of when this prophecy will be fulfilled. Whenever it is, globally important events will be taking place:

"All you people of the world, you who live on the earth, when a banner is raised on the mountains, you will see it, and when a trumpet sounds, you will hear it." (Isaiah 18:3 NIV)

When a flag is raised on the mountains, pay attention!
We can surmise that the mountains are the mountains of Israel (the West Bank) and the banner is an Israeli flag. The shofar is blown during battle. Therefore, it is likely whatever is happening to the nation described in this chapter is happening in conjunction with Israel retaking Biblical Judea and Samaria back as their own possession, through a military operation. This would happen once the Palestinians are vanquished and that land becomes part of Israel formally. So, God is telling the world, "when that happens, pay attention."

The nation that is the primary subject of this chapter, presumably the United States, is at the forefront of the process to create a Palestinian state. We are assured by the prophetic Scriptures that ancestral heartland of Israel, which is the object of contention today, will one day fully belong to Israel, in spite of the world's efforts to seize it. So verse 3 has a defiant tone to it, addressed at the entire world, that God's intentions for that land will be accomplished. Israel's banner will be raised on the mountains of Israel, visible to all.

As we shall see in verse 5, the efforts by others to seize that land will appear to be succeeding for awhile, but just as they is about to come to fruition, God will take dramatic action to put a stop to them.

This is the point where we might begin to get a little nervous, because if this chapter is talking about the US, and if the time of fulfillment is soon, the next verses do not bode well at all.

"This is what the LORD says to me: "I will remain quiet and will look on from my dwelling place, like shimmering heat in the sunshine, like a cloud of dew in the heat of harvest."" (Isaiah 18:4 NIV)

Something spectacular is going to happen, we presume, because the Lord says that he's just going to sit and watch quietly when it does, giving the appearance of doing nothing about it. The next phrases, I'm sorry to say, sound very much like a description of nuclear explosions. Looking at the Hebrew words used, they seem similar to how someone in those days might have described a nuclear blast: dazzling, shimmering, white heat, a thick cloud. What happens to dew in the heat of a late summer day? It dissipates rapidly when hit by the radiation of the sun.

Is this describing some kind of traumatic event which will effectively put a halt to the so-called "peace process"? Another translation of that verse provides a different view of one aspect of God's intentions. "I will look after My Place of Foundation." (Stone Edition Tanach) As God plants His banner and sounds His shofar to confirm His designation of the entire land of Israel to the people of Israel, He takes special care to look after the Temple Mount. Though the world powers, in conjunction with Islam, attempt to keep their grip on the place God founded as the place for His name to dwell forever, they will not succeed.

The JPS translation of verse 4 ends, "like a rain cloud in the heat of reaping time." The notes of the JPS Bible explain "i.e. like a threat of disaster". During the harvest period, it is the threat of rain that can turn that process into a failure. That use of the word harvest leads us to the next verse, where the harvest which be aborted is presumably the "land for peace" efforts, propelled by the US, to form a Palestinian state.

For, before the harvest, when the blossom is gone and the flower becomes a ripening grape, he will cut off the shoots with pruning knives, and cut down and take away the spreading branches. (Isaiah 18:5 NIV)

Just before the harvest, just before the process is consummated, God lops off the branches ripe with fruit. If we link this back to the proclamation to the whole world back in verse 3, we deduce the attempts to create a Palestinian state will be approaching ripeness when God severs them. He does this by bringing the "woes" pronounced on the nation that is the object of this prophecy, presumably the United States. The spreading branches he will hew away are the contrivances of the Palestinian Authority to spread into Israel's land.

(Isaiah 18:6 NIV) They will all be left to the mountain birds of prey and to the wild animals; the birds will feed on them all summer, the wild animals all winter.

After God takes the conclusive, forceful action to terminate the process about to come to fruition, the numerous carcasses of those God has cut down will be devoured by the carrion animals for an extended period.

The nation which is the focus of this prophecy will finally play a role of blessing to Israel.
Even so, the chapter ends on a very positive note, as we mentioned earlier. Could it be that whatever events take place here are also simultaneous to the liberation of the Temple Mount in Jerusalem? Verse 7 seems to imply that.

(Isaiah 18:7 NIV) At that time gifts will be brought to the LORD Almighty from a people tall and smooth-skinned, from a people feared far and wide, an aggressive nation of strange speech, whose land is divided by rivers-- the gifts will be brought to Mount Zion, the place of the Name of the LORD Almighty.

The nation which is the focus of this prophecy, once again identified here, will finally play a role of blessing to Israel. That nation will be singled out as the primary contributor of gifts designated for the Temple.

Let's tie it all together in a what is sure to be a controversial proposition: This prophecy may be speaking of the US, in conjunction with actions taken that will result in an Israeli victory over the Palestinians. As the process to create a Palestinian state appears to be approaching consummation, God takes forceful action to thwart it. Something that for all appearances is a nuclear attack hits the US. This great calamity upon the "land of whirring wings" puts an end to the process.. But afterwards, Christians and Jews in the US will bring gifts to the Temple Mount for the rebuilding of the Temple.


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