on Isaiah 18 :1
Wo to the land - הוי ארץ hoi arets! This interjection should be translated ho! for it is properly a particle of calling: Ho, land! Attend! Give ear!
Shadowing with wings "The winged cymbal" - צלצל כנפים tsiltsal kenaphayim. I adopt this as the most probable of the many interpretations that have been given of these words. It is Bochart's: see Phaleg, 4:2. The Egyptian sistrum is expressed by a periphrasis; the Hebrews had no name for it in their language, not having in use the instrument itself. The cymbal they had was an instrument in its use and sound not much unlike the sistrum; and to distinguish it from the sistrum, they called it the cymbal with wings. The cymbal was a round hollow piece of metal, which, being struck against another, gave a ringing sound: the sistrum was a round instrument, consisting of a broad rim of metal, through which from side to side ran several loose laminae or small rods of metal, which being shaken, gave a like sound. These, projecting on each side, had somewhat the appearance of wings; or might be very properly expressed by the same word which the Hebrews used for wings, or for the extremity, or a part of any thing projecting. The sistrum is given in a medal of Adrian, as the proper attribute of Egypt. See Addison on Medals, Series 3. No. 4; where the figure of it may be seen. The frame of the sistrum was in shape rather like the ancient lyre; it was not round.
If we translate shadowing with wings, it may allude to the multitude of its vessels, whose sails may be represented under the notion of wings. The second verse seems to support this interpretation. Vessels of bulrushes, גמא gome, or rather the flag papyrus, so much celebrated as the substance on which people wrote in ancient times, and from which our paper is denominated. The sails might have been made of this flag: but whole canoes were constructed from it. Mat sails are used to the present day in China. The Vulgate fully understood the meaning of the word, and has accordingly translated, in vasis papyri, "in vessels of papyrus." Reshi vesselis. - Old MS. Bib. This interpretation does not please Bp. Lowth, and for his dissent he gives the following reasons: -
In opposition to other interpretations of these words which have prevailed, it may be briefly observed that צלצל tsiltsel is never used to signify shadow, nor is כנף canaph applied to the sails of ships. If, therefore, the words are rightly interpreted the winged cymbal, meaning the sistrum, Egypt must be the country to which the prophecy is addressed. And upon this hypothesis the version and explanation must proceed. I farther suppose, that the prophecy was delivered before Sennacherib's return from his Egyptian expedition, which took up three years; and that it was designed to give to the Jews, and perhaps likewise to the Egyptians, an intimation of God's counsels in regard to the destruction of their great and powerful enemy.
Which is beyond the rivers of Ethiopia "Which borders on the rivers of Cush" - What are the rivers of Cush? whether the eastern branches of the lower Nile, the boundary of Egypt towards Arabia, or the parts of the upper Nile towards Ethiopia, it is not easy to determine. The word מעבר meeber signifies either on this side or on the farther side: I have made use of the same kind of ambiguous expression in the translation.
on Isaiah 18 :1
Woe to the land - (הוי hôy). This word, as has been already remarked (the note at Isaiah 17:12), may be a mere interjection or salutation, and would be appropriately rendered by 'Ho!' Or it may be a word denouncing judgment, or wrath, as it is often used in this prophecy (the note at Isaiah 5:8).
Shadowing with wings - (כנפים צלצל tsı̂letsal kenāpāı̂ym). This is one of the most difficult expressions in the whole chapter; and one to which as yet, probably, no satisfactory meaning has been applied. The Septuagint renders it, Οὐαὶ γῆς πλοὶων πτέρυγες Ouai gēc1;υγες Ouai gēs ploiōn pteruges - 'Ah! wings of the land of ships.' The Chaldee, 'Woe to the land in which they come in ships from a distant country, and whose sails are spread out as an eagle which flies upon its wings.' Grotius renders it, 'The land whose extreme parts are shaded by mountains.' The word rendered, 'shadowed' צלצל tsı̂letsal, occurs only in this place and in Job 41:7, where it is translated 'fish-spears' - but as we know nothing of the "form" of those spears, that place throws no light on the meaning of the word here. The word is derived, evidently, from צלל tsālal, which has three significations:
(1) "To be shady, dark, obscure;" and hence, its derivatives are applied to anything that "makes" a shade or shadow - particularly "shady trees" Job 40:21-22; the shades of night Sol 2:17; Sol 4:6; or anything that produces obscurity, or darkness, as a tree, a rock, a wing, etc.
(2) It means "to tingle," spoken of the ears 1 Samuel 3:11; 2 Kings 21:13; "to quiver," spoken of the lips Habakkuk 3:16; and hence, its derivatives are applied to anything that makes a sound by "tinkling" - an instrument of music; a cymbal made of two pieces of metal that are struck together 2 Samuel 6:5; 1 Chronicles 15:16; 1 Chronicles 16:42; 1 Chronicles 25:6; 2 Chronicles 5:12; Nehemiah 12:27; Psalm 150:5)
(3) It means "to sink" Exodus 15:10. From the sense of making "a shade," a derivative of the verb צלצל tselâtsâl - the same as used here except the points - is applied to locusts because they appear in such swarms as to obscure the rays of the sun, and produce an extended shade, or shadow, over a land as a cloud does; or because they make a rustling with their wings.
The word used here, therefore, may mean either "shaded, or rustling, or rattling," in the manner of a cymbal or other tinkling instrument. It may be added, that the word may mean a "double shade," being a doubling of the word צל tsêl, a "shade, or shdow," and it has been supposed by some to apply to Ethiopia as lying betwen the tropics, having a "double shadow;" that is, so that the shadow of objects is cast one half of the year on the north side, and the other half on the south. The word 'wings' is applied in the Scriptures to the following things, namely:
(1) The wing of a fowl. This is the literal, and common signification.
(2) The skirts, borders, or lower parts of a garment, from the resemblance to wings Numbers 15:38; 1 Samuel 24:5, 1 Samuel 24:11; Zechariah 8:13. Also a bed-covering Deuteronomy 33:1.
(3) The extremities or borders of a country, or of the world Job 37:3; Isaiah 24:16; Ezekiel 17:3, Ezekiel 17:7.
(4) The "wing" or extremity of an army, as we use the word "wing" Isaiah 8:8; Jeremiah 48:40; Daniel 9:27.
(5) The expanding rays of the morning, because the light "expands or spreads out" like wings Psalm 139:9; Malachi 4:2.
(6) The "wind" - resembling wings in rapid motion Psalm 18:10, Psalm 18:21; Psalm 104:3; Hosea 4:19.
(7) The battlement or pinnacle of the temple - or perhaps the porches extended on each side of the temple like wings (Daniel 9:27; compare Matthew 4:5).
(8) "Protection" - as wings are a protection to young birds in their nest (see Psalm 18:8; Psalm 36:7; Psalm 61:4; Psalm 91:4; Matthew 23:37). It has been proposed by some to apply this description to "ships," or the sails of vessels, as if a land was designated which was covered with "sails," or the "wings" of vessels. So the Septuagint, and the Chaldee. But there is no instance in which the word "wings" is so applied in the Scriptures.
on Isaiah 18 :1
18:1 The lord - Either Ethiopia beyond Egypt; or of Egypt. Wings - The title of wings is given, in scripture, to divers things which have some kind of resemblance to wings, as to the battlements of an house or temple, to an army, and to the sails of a ship, as this word is here commonly understood. And shadowing with wings is nothing else but overspread or filled with them. Which title may be given either to Ethiopia or Egypt, in regard of the great numbers either of their armies, or of their ships or vessels sailing upon the sea or rivers. Besides - Situated on both sides of the Nile. Rivers - Called rivers, in the plural number, either for its greatness, or for the many rivulets that run into it, or for the various streams into which it is divided.