Isaiah 18:1

Woe to the land shadowing with wings, which is beyond the rivers of Ethiopia:

Woe to the land shadowing with wings,.... Or, "O land", as calling to it; so Aben Ezra and Kimchi. It is very difficult to determine what land is here meant: some think the land of Assyria is here designed, as Aben Ezra and others, and so it is a continuation of the prophecy concerning the destruction of the Assyrians, in the three last verses of the preceding chapter Isaiah 17:12; the stretching out of whose wings is mentioned, Isaiah 8:8 and thought to be referred to here; others are of opinion that the land of Judea is intended, which trusted under the shadow of the wings of Egypt and Ethiopia, to whom the characters in the next verse Isaiah 18:2 are supposed to belong: but the more generally received sense is, that either Egypt or Ethiopia themselves are pointed at, described as "shadowing with wings"; not with the wings of birds, as Jarchi interprets it, which flocked thither in great numbers, the country being hot, and so shaded it with their wings; but rather with mountains, with which Ethiopia, at least some part of it, was encompassed and shaded; or else with ships, whose sails are like wings, and which resorting hither, in numerous fleets of them, and hovering about their coasts and ports, seemed to shadow them; to which agrees the Septuagint version, "Woe to the land, the wings of ships!" and so the Targum,

"Woe to the land to which they come in ships from a far country, whose sails are stretched out, as an eagle that flies with its wings;''

so Manasseh Ben Israel {c} renders them,

"Woe to the land, which, under the shadow of veils, falls beyond the rivers of Ethiopia.''

The word translated "shadowing" is used for a cymbal, 2 Samuel 6:5

Ps 150:5 and so it is rendered here in the Vulgate Latin version, "Woe to the land, with the cymbal of wings": and some think the "sistrum", is meant, which was a musical instrument used by the Egyptians in their worship of Isis; and which had wings to it, or had transverse rods in the middle of it, which looked like wings, one of which may be seen in Pignorius {d}; and so it describes the land of Egypt, famous for its winged cymbals. Minucius Felix {e} makes mention of the swallow along with the sistrum, which was a bird of Isis; and which some say was placed over the statue of Isis, with its wings stretched out.

which is beyond the rivers of Ethiopia; the principal of which were Astaboras and Astapus {f}, and also Nile itself, which came out of Ethiopia into Egypt: or, "which is on this side of the rivers of Ethiopia" {g}; and so may intend Egypt, which bordered on this side of it towards Judea; or, "which is beside the rivers of Ethiopia" {h}; and so may denote Ethiopia itself, situated by these rivers. The Targum renders it,

"the rivers of Judea.''

Some would have it, that the rivers of Arabia Chusaea are meant, which, lay between Judea and Egypt, as Besor, Rhinocorura, Trajan, and Corys; and Arabia seems rather to be meant by "Cush", than Ethiopia in Africa, since that lay beyond the rivers of Egypt, rather than Egypt beyond the rivers of Ethiopia.

{c} Spes Israelis, sect. 17. p. 57.
{d} Mensa Isiaca, p. 67.
{e} Octav. p. 21.
{f} Plin. Nat. Hist. l. 5. c. 9. Ptolem. Geograph. 1. 4. c. 8.
{g} vwk yrhnl rbem rva "quae est citra flumina Cuscheae", Vitringa. So some in Gataker.
{h} "Quae est secundum flumina Aethiopiae", Junius & Tremellius, Piscator.