Isaiah 18:1. “Woe to the land shadowing with wings, which is beyond the river of Ethiopia: 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!”
Chapter 18 is addressed mainly to Ethiopia. There are several ideas about what “shadowing with wings” means, and I’m not going to try to comment on something I don’t fully understand. The most literal translation is whirring of wings, but the reference is not clear.
The land is clearly described as “beyond, over against, or on the other side of the rivers of Ethiopia”, which identifies it as Ethiopia and the Egyptian Sudan. Regarding wings, it is known that Ethiopia is one of the homes of the dreaded tsetse fly. It is located between the White Nile and the Blue Nile.
The sending of ambassadors by the “sea,”in vessels of bulrushes, further locates the country in the area of the Nile, since bulrushes or papyrus grew only on the Nile. The word “sea” is often used to describe any large body of water, including rivers the size of the Nile.
A nation scattered and peeled: Scattered translates as “to stretch out, to prolong; to develop, to be tall. Peeled is from the word “to make smooth or bright.” This phrase could also read “tall and smooth” or “tall and bronzed.”
Terrible from their beginnings refers to a nation that was very strong and warlike, conquering their foes.
Meted out and trodden down: A nation that measures and defeats its enemies, conquering all.
Whose lands the rivers have spoiled: The lands have been eroded and washed away, which is particularly true of Ethiopia, the Egyptian Sudan, and regions above the cataracts of the Nile.