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Bible Commentaries

Coffman Commentaries on the Bible

Isaiah 11

Verse 1

Again in this chapter Isaiah returns to one of his favorite topics, the Messiah and his kingdom, revealing that he will descend through the posterity of the family of Jesse, thus the Root of Jesse, the Branch.

This follows logically upon the projected fulfillment of the destruction both of Israel and of Assyria; but it is significant that whereas there were no sprouts or shoots coming up from the felled forest of Lebanon, since cedars do not produce sprouts after being cut down. God's choice of the metaphor, therefore, in his use of the word "Lebanon" for Assyria, shows that Assyria would never recover from their destruction. However, Judah was represented by another type of tree, such as an oak, that will indeed preserve life after being cut down, and will send forth a sprout or shoot to make a new tree. Note that both Assyria and Israel are by this prophecy doomed to be cut down or destroyed.

True to Isaiah's promise of a revelation from God a little at a time, "line upon line, precept upon precept, here a little and there a little" (See Introduction), Isaiah here gives additional information about: (1) the Messiah; (2) kingdom of God; (3) the character of Christians; (4) the punishment of Israel; (5) the destruction of Assyria; (6) the call of the Gentiles; and (7) the triumph of Christianity.

Isaiah 11:1-5

"And there shall come forth a shoot out of the stock of Jesse, a branch out of his roots shall bear fruit. And the Spirit of Jehovah shall rest upon him, the spirit of wisdom and understanding, the spirit of counsel and might, the spirit of knowledge and of the fear of Jehovah. And his delight shall be in the fear of Jehovah; and he shall not judge after the sight of his eyes, neither decide after the hearing of his ears; but with righteousness shall he judge the poor, and decide with equity for the meek of the earth; and he shall smite the earth with the rod of his mouth; and with the breath of his lips shall he slay the wicked. And righteousness shall be the girdle of his waist, and faithfulness the girdle of his loins."

"Out of the stock of Jesse ..." The implication here is that the shoot and the branch to come forth from this stock will not occur until Jesse and the entire Davidic monarchy have completely fallen. Peake would not allow this necessary inference; and upon his unsupported denial of it, insisted that the passage "is not Isaiah's."[1] However, it is impossible to suppose that, merely because of Isaiah's friendship for Ahaz, he would not have delivered the word of God against the House of David. Had not Isaiah many years previously to the "cutting down of Israel" named his first-born Shear-Jashub? And in that name both the stock of Jesse and the shoot or branch appear in the form of the return from captivity inherently prophesied in the name Shear-Jashub. The allegations of scholars such as Peake are unacceptable.

The time indicated for this prophecy came, "When the house of David had fallen into such a state of dishonor and disrepute (Amos 9:11) that the prophet did not refer to it by David's name, but by the name of David's father Jesse."[2]

Both Assyria and Judah were about to be destroyed. Assyria would never rise again, but Judah, like the stump of an oak tree would carry within itself the sap of life and would send forth a Root, a Branch out of the stump of Judah; and in the very midst of this discouraging picture God held forth hope and promise to that small righteous remnant who would return from captivity; and from them the Messiah would be born, and the glory of Israel would once more appear in the New Israel composed of both Jews and Gentiles! The difference in the ultimate fates of Assyria and Judah appears in the prophecy which gave Lebanon as a metaphor for Assyria (a reference to their cedars). As many have noted, "Cedars when felled throw out no fresh suckers."[3]

The reference here to the coming Messiah as being from the stock of Jesse should not compromise the truth that the Messiah is the Second David. Christ is called the "Root of David" also in Revelation 5;5; 22:16. "There is a resumption here of the theme of Isaiah 9:6,"[4] namely, that of the Coming Messiah.

"And the Spirit of Jehovah shall rest upon him ..." This refers to the anointing of Jesus Christ on the occasion of his baptism (Matthew 3:16). Note the words "shall rest"; the scriptures plainly reveal that the Holy Spirit descended upon Jesus and "remained upon Him." This was the very event that revealed to John the Baptist that Jesus of Nazareth was indeed the Son of God (John 1:32-33).

The anointing of Jesus Christ with the Spirit of God was no partial or incomplete thing, for God gave his Spirit to Christ, "without measure" (John 3:34), this being signified here by the words "shall rest upon him." Peake pointed out that this Holy Spirit fully equipped Jesus with, "Six modes of manifestation, intellectual, practical, and religious."[5] See the discussion of Aaron's anointing and its typical relation to that of Christ in Vol. 3 of my Pentateuchal Series, pp. 66-73. Just as the measureless gift of the Holy Spirit in Christ was typified by pouring liberal amounts of the anointing oil upon Aaron's head, the far lesser gift of the Holy Spirit promised to Christ's followers was typified by the merely "sprinkling" of the anointing oil upon the garments of the ordinary priests.

Isaiah 11:3-4 here contrast the righteous judgment of Christ with that which was evidently common in Judea when this was written. "We can clearly read between the lines the contrast,"[6] of the kind of judgment then current on the throne of Israel with the righteous judgment of Jesus Christ. His high regard of the meek and the poor of earth was a constant characteristic of his earthly ministry.

The reference in Isaiah 11:4 to Messiah's, "smiting the earth with the rod of his mouth," and his slaying the wicked with "the breath of his lips," is fully equivalent to the declaration that the Messiah will be God. "The creative virtue of the Word belongs properly to Jehovah."[7] The words of the Holy King prophesied in these verses, "In the last day will consign to everlasting life or everlasting death,"[8] every man ever born upon earth.

"Righteousness shall be the girdle of his waist ..." All of these first verses extol the character, ability, integrity, honor, and righteousness of the Holy Messiah.

Verse 6

"And the wolf shall dwell with the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the kid; and the calf and the young lion and the fatling; and a little child shall lead them. And the cow and the bear shall feed; their young ones shall lie down together; and the lion shall eat straw like the ox. And the sucking child shall play on the hole of the asp, and the weaned child shall put his hand on the adder's den. They shall not hurt nor destroy in all my holy mountain; for the earth shall be full of the knowledge of Jehovah, as the waters cover the sea."

This is one of the most talked-about passages in the Bible; and it is a mainstay of many premillennarian groups of believers, most of whom appeal to the passage in Romans 8:22, "The whole creation groaneth and travaileth together in pain until now," supposing that in the millennium the lower animate creation shall participate in the blessings of Redemption in Christ when that day arrives. Regarding that verse in Romans, "The word for creation means exactly what the same word means in Mark 16:15, namely, all mankind, having no reference whatever to the lower creations such as animals."[9] Theories always assume that such harmony among the lower orders of life once existed in Eden prior to the fall of Adam, and the conditions mentioned in these verses would be merely the restoration of what once previously existed; but there is no Biblical evidence of such. There is not a word in all the Bible that backs up such fantastic theories.

Our understanding of this paragraph views it as not literal in any sense whatever. Note that the peace, harmony, and tranquillity depicted here exist only in God's holy mountain (Isaiah 11:9), not all over the world. This passage can no more be taken literally than the description of a sprout coming up out of Jesse, or of a rod or a sharp sword coming out of the mouth of Messiah. "The prophet is not looking to a time when animals of the natural world will live without enmity; but he is describing the peace of those in Jehovah's holy mountain, the kingdom of God."[10]

As Archer put it, "The picture of the fierce predatory animals living peaceably with the weak and defenseless symbolizes the removal of all natural fear and hostility between men."[11]

The asp (Isaiah 11:8) probably refers to the "great yellow viper common in Palestine."[12]

Peake also rejected the notion that this paragraph refers literally to wild beasts, because such a notion would be utterly contrary to the fact that Isaiah attributed the wonderful conditions described "to a diffusion of the knowledge of Jehovah (Isaiah 11:9); ... peace among men (in God's kingdom) is intended."[13]

Verse 10

"And it shall come to pass in that day, that the root of Jesse, that standeth for an ensign of the peoples, unto him shall the nations seek; and his resting place shall be glorious."

This reference to "the nations" in the Old Testament invariably means to "the Gentiles"; and this is without doubt a prophecy of the reception of the Gentiles into God's kingdom in the days of Jesus Christ. The opening words here, "in that day," could not refer to any other period.

Verse 11

"And it shall come to pass in that day, that the Lord will set his hand again the second time to recover the remnant of his people, that shall remain, from Assyria, and from Egypt, and from Pathros, and from Cush, and from Elam and from Shinar, and from Hamath and from me islands of the sea. 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. The envy also of Ephraim shall depart, and they that vex Judah shall be cut off: Ephraim shall not envy Judah, and Judah shall not vex Ephraim. And they shall fly down upon the shoulder of the Philistines on the west; together shall they despoil the children of the east: they shall put forth their hand upon Edom and Moab; and the children of Ammon shall obey them. And Jehovah will utterly destroy the tongue of the Egyptian sea a with his scorching wind will he wave his hand over the River, and will smite it into seven streams, and cause men to march over dryshod. And there shall be a highway for the remnant of his people, that shall remain, from Assyria; like as there was for Israel in the day that he came up out of the land of Egypt."

The highly figurative and symbolical nature of the prophecy continues here. What is depicted is the gathering of the Jews, scattered throughout the earth, following the Roman destruction of Jerusalem, "from the four comers of the earth," along with Gentiles from every nation on earth into the kingdom of God by the preaching of the gospel. This is made certain by the words, "The Lord will set his hand again the second time to recover the remnant of his people that shall remain, there being only two times that God ever did such a thing, once following the Assyrian captivity, and again the second time in the ingathering from the preaching of the gospel. We can find no basis whatever for agreeing with those scholars who speak of the Exodus from Egypt as the first time. In the Exodus, God did not gather his people from "the four comers" but from one nation, not from any scattering or dispersion, but from a concentration in one place, namely, the land of Goshen. This passage speaks of a second gathering from a widespread dispersion: (1) the first following the Assyrian captivity, and (2) the second being the Roman dispersion in A.D. 70.

As Hailey put it, "The first time that God set his hand to recover the remnant involved the Jews under Zerubbabel; and now this passage states that in the days of the Branch (the days of Christ) God would set his hand a second time to recover the remnant from all parts of the earth."[14]

Paul quoted Isaiah 11:10 here (Romans 15:12) as a reference to the calling of the Gentiles in Christ.

This whole paragraph continues to be a picture "of the Messianic age."[15]

We should not be surprised that the promise of victory in Jesus Christ is expressed in terms of the personal wishes and desires of a more primitive age of morality than the one to which we are now accustomed.

"Israel's most persistent and bitterest enemies throughout the centuries had been the very peoples mentioned in these closing verses; and "They are here taken as types of the enemies of God's church; and the victory over those enemies promised in Isaiah 11:14,"[16] is a reference to the spiritual victories in Christ over all of the obstacles in the way of faith.

"There shall be a highway ..." This subject will come up again in Isaiah, the meaning being that God will open the way for honest and good hearts to come unto him in Christ Jesus. The reference here to smiting such barriers as the Red Sea and the Euphrates actually promises the removal of all tribal and national boundaries. "Under this new order all barriers will be removed by the power of Jehovah,"[17] so that "Whosoever will may come!"

God's special concern for this "Highway" will be discussed at greater length in Isaiah 35:8ff.

Copyright Statement
Coffman Commentaries reproduced by permission of Abilene Christian University Press, Abilene, Texas, USA. All other rights reserved.
Bibliographical Information
Coffman, James Burton. "Commentary on Isaiah 11". "Coffman Commentaries on the Bible". Abilene Christian University Press, Abilene, Texas, USA. 1983-1999.