Through the Bible: Isaiah 18-22
“At that time tribute 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 ESV
In today’s Bible Recap podcast, Tara-Leigh talked about how God’s heart for the nations is revealed through Isaiah’s prophecies that Assyria and Egypt will know the Lord (see Isaiah 19). But also included in that prophecy is Cush (which may be modern Ethiopia). Unlike Assyria and Egypt, we see this prophecy begin to be fulfilled in the pages of Scripture.
Chapter 18 begins with a pronouncement of judgment against Cush: “Woe to the land of buzzing insect wings.” It is no coincidence that Ethiopia has been plagued throughout its history with devastating locust swarms. The most recent was in 2020, when billions of locusts descended on Ethiopia, Somalia, and Kenya, wiping out crops and creating food insecurity for some 25 million people. Isaiah 18:4-6 seems to describe such a plague.
But the plague isn’t the final word for the land of buzzing insect wings. Verse 7 says that this nation “beyond the rivers of Cush” will bring tribute to the Lord of hosts. There is a fascinating footnote in the Christian Standard Bible with this verse. The Masoretic Text (considered by scholars to be the most accurate of the Hebrew texts) omits the word “from” in verse 7, rendering the verse,
“At that time tribute will be brought to the Lord of hosts—a people tall and smooth, 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.”
So it could mean that the Ethiopians were bringing gifts to Jerusalem, or it could mean that the Ethiopians themselves would be a tribute to the Lord of Hosts.
Now, let’s fast forward 750 years. Jesus has been raised from the dead. Before He ascends back into heaven, He tells His disciples that they will be his witnesses in Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria, and the ends of the earth (Acts 1:8).
The Day of Pentecost arrives. Acts 2:5 says that people were gathered in Jerusalem “from every nation under heaven.” When the disciples began proclaiming the gospel to them in their own language, verse 10 says that some of those who heard were from “Egypt and the parts of Libya belonging to Cyrene.” At the time of the Roman Empire, Cush was considered the territory of Libya. Which means that Cushites had come to Jerusalem to bring an offering to God (see also Zephaniah 3:10).
It gets better. A few weeks after this Philip, one of the first seven deacons, shared the gospel with an Ethiopian eunuch who had come to Jerusalem to worship (see Acts 8:26-39). Some have suggested the eunuch may have been in the crowd on the day of Pentecost. Notice that he was reading from the scroll of the prophet Isaiah. It’s likely that he had read the verses in Chapter 18 that talk about his own people either bringing or becoming a tribute to the Lord of Hosts!
Related content: Day 211: There’s a Place for Us (Isaiah 56)
Today, Christianity is the largest religion in Ethiopia. Between 63% and 67% of the population identify as Christians, making Ethiopia the only country in North Africa that survived the expansion of Islam. Christianity was declared the state religion in Ethiopia in 330AD, just twenty years after Emperor Constantine’s conversion to Christianity. The Ethiopian church is one of six branches of Christianity that share space in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem.
The land of buzzing insect wings became one of the earliest beachheads for the gospel. The people of Ethiopia were among the first to present themselves as tribute to the Lord of Hosts.
Just like Isaiah said they would!