They that dwell in the wilderness - The ציים tsiyim, termed Ethiopians by the Vulgate, Septuagint, Ethiopic, and Arabic. The Syriac terms them the islands. But it is likely that those who dwell by the sea-coasts, and support themselves by navigation and fishing, are here intended.
His enemies shall lick the dust - Shall be so completely subdued, that they shall be reduced to the most abject state of vassalage, till they shall become proselytes to the Jewish faith.
They that dwell in the wilderness shall bow before him - The word rendered “they that dwell in the wilderness” - ציים tsı̂yı̂ym means properly those who abide in deserts, dry places, solitudes; and it might be applied either to animals or to people. It is applied to the former in Isaiah 13:21 (see the notes at that place); Isaiah 23:13; Isaiah 34:14; Jeremiah 50:39. In all these, except Isaiah 23:13, it is rendered “wild beasts of the desert,” denoting jackals, ostriches, etc.; but here, and in Psalm 74:14, it is evidently applied to people, as denoting shepherds - nomadic tribes - people who have no permanent home, but who wander from place to place. The idea is, that these wild, wandering, unsettled hordes would become subject to him, or would bow down and acknowledge his authority. This can be fulfilled only under the Messiah.
And his enemies shall lick the dust - This is expressive of the most thorough submission and abject humiliation. It is language derived from what seems actually to occur in Oriental countries, where people prostrate themselves on their faces, and place their mouths on the ground, in token of reverence or submission. Rosenmuller (Morgenland, vol. ii., pp. 82,83) quotes a passage from Hugh Boyd‘s Account of his embassage to Candy in Ceylon, where he says that when he himself came to show respect to the king, it was by kneeling before him. But this, says he, was not the case with other ambassadors. “They almost literally licked the dust. They cast themselves on their faces on the stony ground, and stretched out their arms and legs; then they raised themselves upon their knees, and uttered certain forms of good wishes in the loudest tones - May the head of the king of kings reach above the sun; may he reign a thousand years.” Compare the notes at Isaiah 49:23.