Isaiah 18:2

That sendeth ambassadors by the sea, even in vessels of bulrushes upon the waters, saying, Go, ye swift messengers, to a nation scattered and peeled, to a people terrible from their beginning hitherto; a nation meted out and trodden down, whose land the rivers have spoiled!

That sendeth ambassadors by the sea,.... The Red Sea, which washed the coasts of Egypt and Ethiopia, and which were united into one kingdom under Sabacus, or So the Ethiopian, called king of Egypt,

2 Kings 17:4 and this kingdom, or rather the king of it, is here described as sending ambassadors by sea to foreign courts, to make leagues and alliances, and thereby strengthen himself against attempts made on him; though some understand it of one part of Ethiopia, on one side of the Red Sea, sending to that on the other side; and some of Tirhakah the Ethiopian sending messengers to the king of Assyria to bid him defiance, and let him know he intended to fight him; and at the same time sent to the Jews, that they might depend upon his protection and help, Isaiah 37:9 some understand this of the Egyptians sending to the Ethiopians, to let them know of the Assyrian expedition; and others, of their sending to the Jews, with the promise of a supply; and the word for "ambassadors" signifying "images", Isaiah 45:16 some have thought it is to be understood of carrying the head of Osiris, and the image of Isis, from place to place, in proper vessels:

even in vessels of bulrushes upon the waters; or, "upon the face of the waters" {i}; where these light vessels floated without sinking, not drawing the quantity of waters as vessels of wood did. Both the Egyptians and Ethiopians had ships made of the "papyrus" {k}, or "biblus" {l}, a sort of rush, that grew upon the banks of the Nile, and which were light, and moved swiftly, and were also safest; there was no danger of their being broken to pieces, as other vessels, on shelves, and rocks, and in waterfalls: yea, Pliny {m} says, that the Ethiopian ships were so made, as to fold up and be carried on their shoulders, when they came to the cataracts.

saying, Go, ye swift messengers; the word "saying" is not in the text, nor is it to be supplied; for these are not the words of the nation before described, sending its messengers to another nation after described, either the Jews or the Assyrians; but they are the words of God to his messengers, angels or men, who were swift to do his will, whom he sends to denounce or inflict judgment upon the same nation that is before mentioned, with which agrees Ezekiel 30:9:

to a nation scattered; that dwelt in towns, villages, and houses, scattered about here and there; or who would be scattered and dissipated by their enemies: or, "drawn out", and spread over a large tract of ground, as Ethiopia was:

and peeled; of their hair, as the word signifies; the Ethiopians, living in a hot country, had very little hair upon their bodies. Schultens {n}, from the use of the word in the Arabic language, renders it,

"a nation strong and inaccessible:''

to a people terrible from their beginning hitherto; for their black colour and grim looks, especially in some parts; and for the vast armies they brought into the field, as never were by any other people; see

2 Chronicles 12:3 and they might well be said to be so from the beginning, since Nimrod, the mighty hunter, was the son of Cush, from whence the Ethiopians have the name of Cushites, and is the name Ethiopia is called by in the preceding verse Isaiah 18:1:

a nation meted out, and trodden down: to whom punishment was measured by line, in proportion to their sins, and who in a little time would be trodden under foot by their enemies:

whose land the rivers have spoiled: which must not be understood literally of Niger and Nilus, of Astapus and Astaboras, which were so far from spoiling the land, that it was much more pleasant and fruitful for them; but figuratively, of powerful princes and armies, that should come into it, and spoil and plunder it; see Isaiah 8:7. Jarchi and Kimchi interpret it of the kings of the nations of the world; and so the Targum,

"whose land the people spoil.''

Some understand all this of the Assyrians, whose army was now scattered, and its soldiers exhausted, who had been from the beginning of their monarchy very terrible to their neighbours, but now marked for destruction; and whom the Ethiopians, who dwelt by the rivers, despised, as some render the words: and others interpret them of the Jews, as overrun by the Assyrian army like a mighty river, by whom they were scattered, and peeled, and spoiled, and plundered; who from their beginning had been very terrible, because of the wonderful things wrought for them at the Red Sea, in the wilderness, and in the times of Joshua and the judges; and because of the dreadful punishments inflicted on them; but the first sense is best. Vitringa interprets all this of the Egyptians, whose country was drawn out or long, their bodies peeled or shaved; a people terrible to their neighbours, and very superstitious; a nation of line and line, or of precept and precept.

{i} Mym ynp le "super facies aquarurum", Montanus.
{k} Hence papurina skafh, paper skiffs, in Plutarch, de Is. et Osir. and ploia kalamina, ships of reeds which the Indians made and used, as Herodotus relates, l. 3. sive Thalia, c. 98. and so Diodorus Siculus speaks of ships made of a reed in India, of excellent use, because they are not liable to be eaten by worms, Bibliothec. l. 2. p. 104. to the Egyptian vessels of this kind Lucan has respect when he says, "-----Sic cum tenet omnia Nilus, Conficitur bibula Memphitis cymba papyro. Pharsal. l. 4.

{l} Plin. Nat. Hist. l. 6. c. 22. & l. 13. 11. Heliodor. l. 10. c. 4. p. 460.
{m} Nat. Hist. l. 5. c. 9.
{n} Animadv, Philol. in Job, p, 108.