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Isaiah’s prophesies about Cush, Egypt, Babylon, Edom, Arabia, and Shebna (Hezekiah’s official): Isaiah 18–23

The Bible is as much poetry as narrative.

In a series of devastating prophecies over several countries, Cush has the more poetic of starts

Isaiah 18:1-2 Listen, Cush — land of whirring wings
that lies at the headwaters of the Nile,
that sends ambassadors
in swift boats down the river.

The country Cush probably is Sudan and adjacent countries. Some translations suggest a literal translation of Ethiopia (from the Greek text), but that’s not the same as the country we know as Ethiopia.

The various translations also have trouble with the words ‘whirring wings’ in the first line: some say ‘fluttering sails’ and others say ‘many locusts’. You can make a good academic argument for either one, and it doesn’t really change the implications of the rest of the prophecy, which are devastating for Cush.

Isaiah 18:3-7Go, swift messengers!
Take a message to a tall, smooth-skinned people,
who are feared far and wide
for their conquests and destruction,
and whose land is divided by rivers.

All you people of the world,
everyone who lives on the earth—
when I raise my battle flag on the mountain, look!
When I blow the ram’s horn, listen!
For the Lord has told me this:
‘I will watch quietly from my dwelling place—
as quietly as the heat rises on a summer day,
or as the morning dew forms during the harvest.’
Even before you begin your attack,
while your plans are ripening like grapes,
the Lord will cut off your new growth with pruning shears.
He will snip off and discard your spreading branches.
Your mighty army will be left dead in the fields
for the mountain vultures and wild animals.
The vultures will tear at the corpses all summer.
The wild animals will gnaw at the bones all winter.

At that time the Lord of Heaven’s Armies will receive gifts
from this land divided by rivers,
from this tall, smooth-skinned people,
who are feared far and wide for their conquests and destruction.
They will bring the gifts to Jerusalem,
where the Lord of Heaven’s Armies dwells.

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