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Bible Commentaries
Isaiah 11

Dr. Constable's Expository NotesConstable's Expository Notes

Verses 5-16

3. Hope of God’s deliverance 10:5-11:16

Earlier God revealed that He would use Assyria to destroy Judah for her lack of trust in Yahweh (Isaiah 7:1 to Isaiah 8:22). Now He revealed that He would also destroy this destroyer (cf. Habakkuk 2:4-20). It is God who is sovereign, not Assyria, and He was with His people.

"The Messianic prophecy, which turns its darker side towards unbelief in ch. vii., and whose promising aspect burst like a great light through the darkness in ch. viii. 5-ix. 6, is standing now upon its third and highest stage. In ch. vii. it is like a star in the night; in ch. viii. 5-ix. 6, like the morning dawn; and now the sky is perfectly cloudless, and it appears like the noonday sun." [Note: Delitzsch, 1:264.]


Deliverance from Jesse’s Shoot ch. 11

This section gives the positive side of the deliverance of God’s people, that is to come, in contrast to the negative side (Isaiah 10:5-34). God would put Assyria down, but the Messiah would lift Israel up by serving her ideally. The messianic hope, introduced at various points earlier in this major section (chs. 7-12), comes to full flower in chapter 11 (cf. Isaiah 7:14; Isa 8:23-9:6). Having promised Him, Isaiah now presented Messiah as ruling.

Verse 1

The prophet had just described Assyria cut down like a forest of trees (Isaiah 10:15-19; Isaiah 10:33-34). Likewise, Israel would have only a remnant left after God finished judging her (Isaiah 10:20-23; cf. Isaiah 6:11-13). Now he pictured a shoot (Heb. nezer) sprouting from one of the stumps left after Israel’s harvesting (cf. Isaiah 4:2; Isaiah 6:13; Isaiah 53:1-3; Job 14:7). A shoot would sprout from Jesse’s family tree stump. Some interpreters believe that Matthew had this shoot (nezer) in mind when he wrote that Jesus fulfilled prophecy by being called a Nazarene (Matthew 2:23). [Note: E.g., Delitzsch, 1:282.] The reference to humble Jesse, rather than to glorious David, stresses God’s grace in providing a deliverer from a lowly family. It also indicates that Messiah would be another David, not just a son of David, and that the house of David would lack royal dignity when Messiah appeared. Other prophets referred to the coming ideal Davidic king as "David," picturing him as the second coming of David, so to speak (cf. Jeremiah 30:9; Ezekiel 34:23-24; Ezekiel 37:24-25; Hosea 3:5; Micah 5:2). The figure of a "branch" (Heb. neser, sapling), referring to Messiah, also appears in Jeremiah 23:5; Jeremiah 33:15, and in Zechariah 3:8; Zechariah 6:12.

Verses 1-9

The rule of the Shoot 11:1-9

Messiah would meet certain qualifications (Isaiah 11:2-3 a) and would rule with absolute justice (Isaiah 11:3-5)-with the result that people would live in peace (Isaiah 11:6-9)

Verse 2

Clearly this shoot would be a person, and the qualities of God’s Spirit would distinguish Him (cf. Isaiah 61:1; Exodus 31:3; Judges 14:6; 1 Samuel 10:10; 1 Samuel 16:13; Luke 4:18; John 1:31-34; John 3:34). Isaiah referred to the Holy Spirit more than any other Old Testament prophet (Isaiah 11:2; Isaiah 30:1; Isaiah 32:15; Isaiah 34:16; Isaiah 40:13; Isaiah 42:1; Isaiah 44:3; Isaiah 48:16; Isaiah 59:21; Isaiah 61:1; Isaiah 63:10-11; Isaiah 63:14). Spiritual qualities had not distinguished many of the Davidic kings thus far (cf. 2 Samuel 23:2-3), but the future ruler would enjoy divine enablement and would manifest supreme godliness. This description presents Him as perfectly endowed by the Spirit with everything He needs to fulfill His kingly task (cf. Revelation 1:4; Revelation 4:5; Revelation 5:6). "Wisdom" and "understanding" are synonyms that, together, mean great wisdom. "Counsel" and "strength" suggest His ability to strategize wisely and then execute His strategy. "Knowledge" and "fear" refer to His acknowledgement of and loyalty to God. The source of these traits would be God’s Spirit on Him.

Verse 3

The coming "David" would also delight in fearing the Lord, not fearing Him out of dread, much less, lacking respect for Yahweh. He would make decisions on the basis of reality rather than appearances, having the ability to see through issues. Such abilities demand more than a merely human ruler (cf. John 18:36-38). An earlier Messiah passage (Isaiah 9:6) showed Him to be divine, but this one presents Him as a dependent human being, "a combination that requires the Incarnation for its explanation." [Note: Grogan, p. 87.]

Verse 4

Justice for the poor was hard to find in the ancient world because the poor could not afford to bribe their judges, and they possessed little political influence. But Israel’s coming king would do what was right for the poor and be fair with the afflicted (cf. Revelation 1:5; Revelation 3:14). His words of judgment would result in the death of the wicked rather than giving them preferential treatment for what they could do for the judge (cf. Isaiah 55:10-11; Genesis 1:3; Hebrews 4:12; 2 Thessalonians 2:8; Revelation 1:16; Revelation 19:15; Revelation 19:21). Clearly, this king will acknowledge God as His sovereign.

Verse 5

Righteousness and faithfulness (to God) would be His outstanding and determining characteristics. These were the marks of the Israelites’ God (cf. Isaiah 5:16; Isaiah 65:16; Psalms 40:10; Psalms 119:75; Psalms 119:142; Zechariah 8:8). A belt in Isaiah’s culture held together everything else that the person wore. So the figure here pictures everything about the king as thoroughly righteous and pleasing to God.

Verses 6-8

Security and safety would result from this king’s rule. Whereas the conditions described may occur literally in the Millennium, Isaiah probably used them to represent those conditions figuratively. The presently rapacious-represented by the wolf, leopard, lion (twice), bear, cobra, and viper-will coexist peacefully with the defenseless-the lamb, the kid, the calf, the cow, the ox, the nursing child, and the weaned child. "The fatling" (NASB) breaks the parallelism and may be better rendered "will graze" (NET). People least able to control wild things will be able to exercise effective leadership over them then, because God will change their natures.

In that day death itself will have lost its sting (cf. Hosea 13:14; 1 Corinthians 15:55). People will have no fear of what is now fatal. The serpent will have been subdued (Genesis 3:15). Note again the recurrence of the child motif in this section, to stress the victory of humility over self-assertiveness (cf. Matthew 18:2-5). In short, these conditions indicate a return to paradise on earth (cf. Genesis 1:28-30; Psalms 8; 1 Corinthians 15:25-28; Hebrews 2:5-9).

Amillennial interpreters do not believe there will be a future reign of Messiah on the earth for a millennium. They believe the conditions Isaiah described here are either figurative descriptions of the peace that Christ has brought to humanity through His saving work, or they describe conditions in heaven.

Verse 9

The enemies of humankind, those that are hurtful and destructive, will no longer hurt or destroy people in God’s holy mountain (kingdom, cf. Isaiah 2:2-3; Daniel 2:32; Daniel 2:45; et al.)-because everyone will know (relationally) the Lord (cf. Jeremiah 31:34). "Mountain" seems to refer metaphorically here to God’s kingdom, since it is the whole earth, not just a small region, that will be full of the knowledge of the LORD. "The earth will be filled with the knowledge of the LORD" means: "there will be universal submission to the LORD’s sovereignty" (NET; cf. Isaiah 11:2). The animals contrasted in Isaiah 11:6-8 undoubtedly represent people. Peaceful conditions in the animal kingdom could not be all that Isaiah intended but global peace.

Verse 10

"In that day" points to the time when Messiah would rule (Isaiah 11:1-9). Then the Gentile nations would seek out the king who would represent His people, the Jews. The signal or standard in view seems to refer to a rallying point. The fulfillment could not be the return from Babylonian exile as the fulfillment, and the rallying of all sorts of people around Christ-as preached in the church age-does not fit the picture either. Many liberal interpreters prefer the first explanation, and amillennialists [Note: E.g., Young, 1:396.] prefer the second. It must refer to a future worldwide turning to Messiah in which the Jews will be prominent (cf. Romans 11). No resting place of Messiah was especially glorious during His first advent, but when He returns, Jerusalem will become "a glory" because He will rule there.

The title "root of Jesse" presents the Messiah as the source of the Davidic line (cf. Genesis 3:15; Genesis 17:6), not just the product of that line (Isaiah 11:1).

Verses 10-16

The return under the Shoot 11:10-16

The rebellion of one Davidic king, Ahaz, would result in the defeat and dispersion of God’s people (Isaiah 8:6-8), but the righteousness of another Davidic king, Messiah, would result in their revival and return to God and the Promised Land.

Verse 11

Then there will be a second regathering of the Israelites to the Promised Land-from all over the world. The first regathering happened under Zerubbabel, Nehemiah, and Ezra. The present return of many Jews to the State of Israel cannot fulfill this second regathering prediction because, as Isaiah explained, that will happen when Messiah rules on earth. Assyrian and Babylonian sovereigns might defeat and disperse the Jews, but the ultimate sovereign, Messiah, will restore and reassemble them (cf. Ezekiel 37).

Verse 12

The standard He lifts up for the nations is the flag of His kingdom; His will be an earthly kingdom. He will assemble under this banner a remnant of Jews from both the Northern and the Southern Kingdoms who will be living all over the earth then. The northern tribes of Israel were not lost, as some cults claim. They have a future as Israel.

Verses 13-14

Internal strife among the tribes will cease. Instead of fighting among themselves, the Israelites will subdue their common enemies and gain the whole Promised Land. Evidently this conflict will precede the peace pictured in Isaiah 11:6-9.

Verses 15-16

God will defeat Israel’s ancient enemies, Egypt and Babylonia. His judgments on them will involve the drying up of major barriers: the Red Sea and the Euphrates River (cf. Exodus 14:21; Revelation 16:12). This judgment will allow the Jews to return to the Promised Land, unhindered, from those parts of the world. They will be able to leave the territory of Assyria, where God had said He would send them captive, as easily as their forefathers left Egypt and crossed the Red Sea in the Exodus. Dividing the Euphrates into seven seasonal streams (Heb. nahal) may connote a perfect and complete taming, or even re-creation, by God.

Thus, this section of the book, dealing with the hope of God’s deliverance (Isaiah 10:5 to Isaiah 11:16), culminates in the reign of Messiah on the earth. Israel will re-gather in the Promised Land-from all over the world-trusting in God. The Gentiles, too, will acknowledge His sovereignty, which both they and His own people have forever resisted.

Bibliographical Information
Constable, Thomas. DD. "Commentary on Isaiah 11". "Dr. Constable's Expository Notes". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/dcc/isaiah-11.html. 2012.
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