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Bible Commentaries

James Nisbet's Church Pulpit Commentary

Isaiah 11

Verse 4


‘With righteousness shall He judge the poor, and reprove 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.’

Isaiah 11:4

As it may in many ways be shown that the Church of Christ, though one Church with the Jewish, differs from it as being a kingdom, so now let me dwell on this point: that though a kingdom like empires of the earth, it differs from them in being a Church, i.e. a kingdom of truth and righteousness. That Scripture speaks of the kingdom of Christ as not an earthly kingdom, not supported by strength of arm or force of mind, or any other faculty or gift of the natural man, is plain. But consider some objections to which the circumstances of its actual history and condition give rise.

I. It may be said that the event has not fulfilled the prophecies; that the kingdom has indeed been large and powerful, but it has not ruled according to justice and truth; that at times it has had very wicked men among its rulers, and that great corruptions, religious and moral, have been found in it; and that, as has sometimes been said, worse crimes have been perpetrated under colour of religion than in any other way. But this may be granted in the argument; yet the Scripture account of the Church remains uncompromised. It is a kingdom of righteousness, because it is a kingdom founded, based, in righteousness.

II. In the Gospel, Christ’s followers are represented as poor, despised, weak, and helpless—such pre-eminently were the Apostles.—But in the Prophets, especially in Isaiah, the kingdom is represented as rich and flourishing and honoured, and powerful and happy. If the Church of Christ were to seek power, wealth, and honour, this were to fall from grace; but it is not less true that she will have them, though she seeks them not—or rather, if she seeks them not. Such is the law of Christ’s kingdom, such the paradox which is seen in its history. It belongs to the poor in spirit; it belongs to the persecuted; it is possessed by the meek; it is sustained by the patient. It conquers by suffering; it advances by retiring; it is made wise through foolishness.

III. Temporal power and wealth, though not essential to the Church, are almost necessary attendants on it.—They cannot be long absent from it; it is but a matter of time, as we speak, when they will be added.

Verse 10


‘A root of Jesse.’

Isaiah 11:10

Judah, like an old and decayed tree, in spite of springtime burst of bloom, followed by midsummer witherings, was tottering to its fall. A century and a quarter before that fall, and seven hundred years before the event, Isaiah saw a straight, tall, beautiful second-growth tree spring up from the root. With most beautiful figures and symbolism we are told of the perfect king and kingdom.

I. The king.—He is of David’s line, through which had poured for ages such spiritual revelations for men ( Isaiah 11:1). The Spirit of the Lord shall rest upon him ( Isaiah 11:2). What a flush of expressions, what figures of beauty, of gushing life, of justice, of care for the poor, perfectness of equity, what a stinging whip or rod of speech, what smiting of the wicked with words, what girding with righteousness! Thanks be to God for such efflorescence of expressive speech, and to the perfect King for so minutely fulfilling all that mortals inspired of God could utter. Mortals see Him ‘who looks and ten thousands of angels rejoice.’

II. The kingdom.—It is to be peace. To express it, each ferocious animal is coupled with its natural prey, living in perfect affection. All danger to a helpless child ceases, for the kingdom is one of transformed natures. As surely as a persecuting Saul can become a loving Paul, counting it all joy when he has divers persecutions inflicted on him, so surely can all nature, cursed by sin, be changed by grace.

It is a kingdom of knowledge. Even the knowledge of God shall cover the earth as the waters cover the sea.

It is a universal kingdom. Jews saw Palestine only as the place of the glorious kingdom. But God sitting above the sphere of the earth always saw it all.

It shall be. The Root of Jesse shall be the ensign of the people, and unto him shall the nations seek. Blessed vision. Blessed prophecy. The ages see it being blessedly fulfilled. For the complete fulfilment, ‘Hasten, Lord, the glorious time.’


‘Israel, harmonious at last, shall at once be superior in strength to all its neighbours. It is very evident here how the prophet paints the remotest future with the colours of the present. Still in the period of the reign of peace (cf. 2:4) he makes Israel take vengeance on his enemies, and subdue them quite in the fashion that, in the prophet’s time, would be the heart’s desire of a true theocrat.’

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Bibliographical Information
Nisbet, James. "Commentary on Isaiah 11". Church Pulpit Commentary. 1876.