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Bible Commentaries

Sutcliffe's Commentary on the Old and New Testaments

Isaiah 11

Verses 1-16

Isaiah 11:1 . A rod out of the stem of Jesse. See the note on Isaiah 4:2. David’s house had been cut down by Jehu, and latterly by the invasion against Ahaz: chap. 7. Now a branch shall arise out of Jesse’s root, notwithstanding all the excisions of the sword, to overshadow the church. This the elder rabbins with one consent expound of the Messiah, though modern Jews apply the prophecy to Hezekiah. This is the way to destroy the credibility of divine revelation, for none of the glorious things that follow in this chapter, were fulfilled in Hezekiah’s days, nor in the days of any of his successors.

A branch shall grow out of his roots. נצר naitzer, a shoot, a cion. Branches do not grow from the root, but from the tree. The Chaldaic paraphrase adds, A king shall come forth of Jesse, and Messiah shall be anointed of his sons’ sons.

Isaiah 11:2 . The Spirit of the Lord shall rest upon him. It did so at the Jordan, when the Messiah was baptized; and in the sevenfold gifts of wisdom, understanding, counsel, might, knowledge, fear, quickness of understanding. Revelation 4:5.

Isaiah 11:6 . The wolf also shall dwell with the lamb. The Sibyls, the Voluspa, the Poets of Greece and Rome, and of the Eastern world, have all the same sentiments as are here, with far greater force and beauty, expressed by Isaiah. It has often been said, that the sibylline prophetesses borrowed their verses from Isaiah. Since the enlargement of human knowledge, of northern antiquities and of Indian literature, this notion can no longer be maintained.

It is granted that the sibyls, or pythonesses of the heathen temples, can have no fair claims to inspiration. On the contrary, their augurs, as stated on Isaiah 41:23, were evidently the emanations of the deliberate wisdom of the rulers of the temples; or if otherwise, they spake by a diabolical influence, as the pythoness who followed Paul and Silas at Philippi. Acts 16:16-18. Yet the Cumæan sibyl, contemporary with Abraham, and Sibylla Erythræa, as cited on Psalms 50:3, ought not to be classed with the pythonesses of the gentile temples. They knew God, and were devout worshippers of the true God, according to the covenant of Noah. Their reputation has been unspotted, their persons and memory regarded as sacred by the Greeks, the Romans, and the Christians. The names of Justin Martyr, of Clemens of Alexandria, of Constantine the emperor, of Lactantius, a father of polished literature, with many others of the ancients, must have great weight in the future ages of the church. Yet some doubts remain whether those women were really inspired, or whether they only turned the traditions of the holy patriarchs into sacred verse? Bishop Horsley, of our own times, after stating what is known of the ancient sibyls, declines giving his own opinion on this delicate point. In either case, their verses diffused among the gentiles the promise of God made to the fathers respecting the advent of Christ, the end of the world, and the terrors of a future judgment. From these scattered rays of divine truth the Pagan Poets gained their ideas of the renewal of the golden age, and sang of happier times which were coming on the world. In comparison of the Hebrew Prophets their light was darkness; but they establish the fact, that God left not himself without witness among the nations; and are collateral evidence of the truth of Revelation, from Moses down to Jesus Christ.

Virgil, in his fourth Eclogue, has given us a selection of the old Cumæan verses concerning the expected golden age, and the advent of the Prince. But he basely spoils his verse by flattering Pollio, the consul, that this Prince should be his son.

Ille Deûm vitam accipiet, Divisque videbit Permixtos heroas, et ipse videbitur illis: Pacatumque reget patriis virtutibus orbem. Eclog. 4:15.

The son shall lead the life of gods, and be By gods and heroes seen, and gods and heroes see. The jarring nations he in peace shall bind, And with paternal virtues rule mankind. DRYDEN.

In the following lines, he speaks of the subduction of ferocity from the wild beasts, and of the cessation of venom in serpents.

Nec magnos metuent armenta leones. Eclog. 4:22. Nor shall the lowing herds fear the great lions. Occidet et serpens, et fallax herba veneni Occidet. Eclog. 4:24.

The serpent’s brood shall die. The sacred ground Shall weeds and pois’nous plants refuse to bear. DRYDEN.

The Poet closes this singular Eclogue with the following invocation:

Incipe, parve puer, risu cognoscere matrem: Matri longa decem tulerunt fastidia menses. Incipe, parve puer, cui non risere parentes, Nec Deus hunc mensâ, Dea nec dignata cubili est.

Begin, oh lovely boy, to recognize thy mother with a smile. Ten long months did thy mother bear thee, the child on whom parents never smiled, nor god honoured with his table, nor goddess with her bed.

Of the number of the sibyls, and the high estimation in which their mysterious books have been held in different ages of the world, a brief account has already been given in the second and third page of the Introduction to this section of the Commentary. And to this we may now add, that the objection that those books were forged, does not seem entitled to refutation, it being impossible to forge the traditions of the whole primitive world. But should we admit that the sibyl forged her books, which is no delicate compliment to the Roman senate, it is impossible to forge the Indian and the Scandinavian traditions, who hung their hopes on the Messiah. “The earnest expectation of the creation waited for the manifestation of the sons of God.” Romans 8:19.

Isaiah 11:8 . Cockatrice. See on Proverbs 23:32.

Isaiah 11:11 . The second time to recover the remnant of his people. It is added, from the four corners of the earth, in the next verse. The sixteenth verse compares this second gathering with that from Egypt. Though our divines with one consent understand this passage of the gathering of the Jews under the Messiah, by some Elias or great prophet, who shall persuade the Jews, as Dr. Thomas Burnet thinks, to believe in Christ. Yet I have doubts of a secular gathering to Jerusalem to any great extent, because that city has no navigation because the temple of Ezekiel seems too large to be built with human hands because the last temple is to be exalted above the hills and because the apostles, Paul and John, expound it as the temple of the christian church. Hebrews 12:0. Revelation 21:0.


Isaiah, led by the Spirit, had just painted the calamities of Israel, and in sentiments the same as Moses, when he foresaw what would follow apostasy. His soul now softened with the weight of vengeance; now the dark and long portentous cloud cleared up, and visions of the Messiah’s kingdom and glory opened. He saw the branch, or rather the shoot, grow out of the root of Jesse, whose fruit should give life to the world, and whose leaves should heal the nations. Et egredietur rex de filis Ishai, says the Chaldaic paraphrase: et Messias de filiis filiorum ejus germinabat. A king shall come from the sons of Jesse, and the Messiah shall issue from his posterity. Hence those who understand this prophecy of Hezekiah, would do well to consider that he was already born; that the epithets are too strong for any mere creature; that there was no diffusion of sacred knowledge to cover the earth, and convert the gentiles; nor was there any permanent glory, or universal gathering of the people in his day. Neither can the prophecy be understood of the gathering of the people in Judea, after Cyrus liberated the captive Hebrews; for then Jesse’s families were only governors, and the number of those who returned was small. Hence the Chaldee is assuredly right in referring this most luminous prophecy to the age of the Messiah.

The glory of his person is next described. The Spirit of the Lord shall rest upon him; yea, it was said to John, on whomsoever thou shalt see the Spirit descending, and remaining on him, the same is he which baptizeth with the Holy Ghost. John 1:33. The Holy Spirit without measure replenished his humanity with gifts and grace correspondent to his mission. In a moral view, both as a prince and a priest, righteousness was the girdle of his loins.

We have next the peace and happiness of his kingdom. The wolf shall dwell with the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the kid. The heathens as well as the Jews expected the golden age to be restored; for they justly regarded their own wicked and bloody times as the iron age. We know not what the millennium will be till it comes; but assuredly the age of righteousness shall follow the ages of wickedness. The Messiah shall effectuate the change by vengeance on those who despise his mercy. He shall smite the earth with the rod of his mouth, and with the breath of his lips shall he slay the wicked. Here the Chaldaic paraphrase describes the objects of the Lord’s wrath by their name, for the antichrist. Armillium improbum, “the wicked one,” whose body is decorated with bracelets, rings and crowns. And it is very remarkable that St. Paul should so obviously refer to the Chaldaic paraphrase, when he says, Then shall that wicked (one) be revealed, whom the Lord shall consume with the spirit of his mouth, and shall destroy with the brightness of his coming. 2 Thessalonians 2:8. Now, there can be no permanent peace in the church, here called God’s holy mountain to distinguish it from the wild wastes of the world, till the wicked one, or in another view, the mother of harlots, so gorgeously arrayed, is destroyed. Whence come wars? Come they not of men’s lusts? We must therefore seek to fill the earth with the knowledge of God, and the hearts of men with the spirit of love, before wars can cease. Then the angry wolf and the fierce greedy lion, divested of their ferocity, shall lie down with the lamb, an emblem of that spirit of meekness and of peace which shall be diffused abroad among the inhabitants of the earth.

We have lastly the conversion of the gentiles, connected with the gathering of the Jews. This is not a partial gathering, as from Babylon, but from the face of the whole earth, and under the whole heaven, as Moses expresses himself concerning their dispersion. Deuteronomy 27:64. The names of the countries are here called by the names of the fathers who first inhabited them. Genesis 10:0. The Hebrews would not falsify their venerable scriptures to adopt the prevailing names of the gentiles, though this is done in the Septuagint. Cush is called Ethiopia: the islands of the sea may signify the whole of Europe: and the phrase, to fly on the shoulders of the Philistines, seems to import, that many of the Jews under the auspices of some christian power, shall return armed to their own country, and possess the land given by oath to their fathers. Destroying the tongue of the Egyptian sea, imports, according to the Septuagint, the making of its commerce desolate, which will then be diverted towards the holy land. Surely there is something in these prophecies which should keep Israel’s hope alive, and elevate the soul of the christian world to confident exertions in the Lord’s work. And according to our mode of calculating Daniel’s prophecies, the time must now be near.

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Bibliographical Information
Sutcliffe, Joseph. "Commentary on Isaiah 11". Sutcliffe's Commentary on the Old and New Testaments. 1835.