After years of indecision about this chapter, I now believe it refers to the USA because: 1) the time frame of the passage is one when the USA exists, and 2) the characteristics of the nation best match the USA, by far. I discovered recently that this is not a new idea.1
1. Ah, the land of the rustling of wings, which is beyond the rivers of Ethiopia;2 2. that sendeth ambassadors by the sea, even in vessels of papyrus upon the waters, [saying], Go, ye swift messengers, to a nation tall and smooth, to a people terrible from their beginning onward, a nation that meteth out and treadeth down, whose land the rivers divide!
There appear to be 3 nations referred to here: 1) Ethiopia, 2) a nation beyond Ethiopia sending ambassadors, and 3) finally “a nation tall and smooth …”, the theme to the end of the chapter.
No name is given, so it would not be about any nation, geographical area or people known in Isaiah’s time. It is a nation separated by water from the known world of Isaiah. The people of the USA are much taller than most other nationalities. Several other good translations use “peeled” instead of “smooth”. Many fruits and vegetables peeled are white, so possibly this means white-skinned or clean-shaven3. This is a new nation in the time-frame covered, and it is powerful from the beginning (defeating world-dominator England), and continuing so with no significant setbacks. One would normally think of war and conquest in creating a new nation, but that is not what it says. The settling of the USA was largely not a conquest of armies, but rather it was measured out and possessed, or overrun and settled, so “meteth out and treadeth down” is an excellent description of what actually happened. This could hardly happen again because there is no more unclaimed, unsettled, desirable land on earth. There are few large areas of the world so well watered as the eastern part of the USA, where significant rain falls all 12 months.4
3. All ye inhabitants of the world, and ye dwellers on the earth, when an ensign is lifted up on the mountains, see ye; and when the trumpet is blown, hear ye.
Isaiah 11:11-12 says “… the Lord will set his hand again the second time to recover the remnant of his people … And he will set up an ensign for the nations, and will assemble the outcasts of Israel, and gather together the dispersed of Judah from the four corners of the earth.”. So, I take the ensign, or banner, to signify regathered Israel, clearly putting said nation in the context of the End Times. I take this to be the trumpet of the Rapture, which remarkably everyone on earth will hear (but only saved persons will respond). Therefore, said nation must exist as described at the time of the Rapture.
4. For thus hath Jehovah said unto me, I will be still, and I will behold in my dwelling-place, like clear heat in sunshine, like a cloud of dew in the heat of harvest.
God will wait and watch, then like heat in sunshine is normal and expected, and like dew in the heat of harvest is harmful and not expected, by the next verse it will be continuing prosperity, and then unexpected disaster after the Rapture.
5. For before the harvest, when the blossom is over, and the flower becometh a ripening grape, he will cut off the sprigs with pruning-hooks, and the spreading branches will he take away [and] cut down.
The harvest surely refers to the Tribulation (Rev 14:18). So, before the Tribulation “officially” starts, said nation will lose its affluence, power and influence, just when it is at its peak. For one thing, the loss of a large number of its most productive citizens to the Rapture will be a big blow. But also, I expect the Rapture will precipitate the events of Ezekiel 38-39 where God says “And I will send a fire … among them that dwell carelessly in the isles” (Ez 39:6). Probably it will be a limited nuclear exchange5 with Russia which will destroy the power, but not the agricultural productivity of said nation.
6. They shall be left together unto the ravenous birds of the mountains, and to the beasts of the earth; and the ravenous birds shall summer upon them, and all the beasts of the earth shall winter upon them.
Said nation will then be subservient to the other nations during the Tribulation, but its undamaged rich agricultural and other resources will help feed and supply the world.
7. In that time shall a present be brought unto Jehovah of hosts [from] a people tall and smooth, even from a people terrible from their beginning onward, a nation that meteth out and treadeth down, whose land the rivers divide, to the place of the name of Jehovah of hosts, the mount Zion.
This is another indication that the time period is the End Times, indicating that said nation will continue on into the Millennial Reign of Christ, after the Tribulation.
Conclusions: Each of these points standing alone would not be very significant, but together we have the major events of End-Time prophecy in correct sequence:
- The regathering of Israel the second time,
- The Rapture of the Church of Jesus Christ,
- The war of Ezekiel 38-39 (I believe this is not the war of Armageddon, which occurs at the end of the Tribulation),
- The Tribulation, and
- The Millennial Reign of Christ from Jerusalem.
It is clear to me that the time frame of this passage is the End Times, and that we are now living in the End Times. So, said nation must exist now as described, and does any other nation in the world now qualify but the USA? Clearly not. There are no more unclaimed lands from which a new, powerful nation could arise in the manner described, nor would there be sufficient time.
This is good news for those expecting to be raptured by Jesus Christ because it seems clear that the destruction of the USA and associated disasters will come after the Rapture. Approaching the Rapture the power of the USA should increase (“…the flower becometh a ripening grape…”), and things should go its way, such as success in the Mideast wars.
Prophecy scholars have long puzzled that if we are in the End Times, why does the powerful nation of the USA not figure prominently in the major prophetic passages of the Bible. I believe God has given us the answer here, that the USA will be destroyed as a world power after the Rapture and before the Tribulation starts. There are other passages which seem to refer to the USA, but not as a major player in the Tribulation.
Don’t be left behind in the Rapture: “For God so loved the world, that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish, but have eternal life.” John 3:16
- “Isaiah’s Vision of the U.S.”, 1935. (But he completely missed the future destruction of the USA.) http://kingdomreality.info/Isaiah’s vision of the U.S..htm [↩]
- All quotes from the American Standard Version, chosen for its literalness of translation and fairly modern English. [↩]
- Whether this point is correct or not, it is very minor to the thesis as a whole. [↩]
- bible.org says the meanings of some words are not certain, but everything really seems to fit quite well. Some of the less literal translations reduce parts of this verse to nearly meaningless generalities. [↩]
- An opinion of the late Zola Levitt, expressed on his TV program, circa 1990. [↩]