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Bible Commentaries

Poole's English Annotations on the Holy Bible

Isaiah 11



Christ, a Branch out of the root of Jesse, endued with the Spirit of the Lord, should set up a kingdom by the preaching of his word, Isaiah 19:1-23.19.5.

The members of his church should live in peace and unity, Isaiah 19:6-23.19.9;

and be victorious over their enemies; and to him should the Gentiles seek, Isaiah 11:10-23.11.16.

Verse 1

The prophet having despatched the Assyrian, and comforted God’s people with the promise of their deliverance from that formidable enemy, now he proceeds further, and declares that God will do greater things than that for them, that he will give them their long-expected and much desired Messiah, and by him will work wonders of mercy for them. For this is the manner of the prophets, to take the occasion of particular deliverances, to fix the people’s minds upon their great and everlasting deliverance from all their enemies by the Messiah. And having said that the Assyrian yoke should be destroyed because of the anointing, Isaiah 10:27, he now more particularly explains who that anointed person was. A rod, or twig, called a Branch in the next clause. Parents are oft compared to roots or trees, and their children to branches. He speaks of the most eminent Branch, of that famous Son of a virgin, Isaiah 7:14, of that wonderful Child, Isaiah 9:6; not of Hezekiah, as some of the Jews and judaizing Christians conceit; but of the Messiah, as will evidently appear from the following description. The stem, or trunk; or rather, stump; for the word properly signifies a trunk cut off from the root; or, root, as the LXX. here render the word, and as it is explained in the next clause. By which he clearly implies that the Messiah should be born of the royal house of David, at that time when it was in a most forlorn and contemptible condition, like a tree cut down, and whereof nothing is left but a stump or root under ground; which really was the state of David’s family when Christ was born, as is notoriously known, but was in a far better condition when Hezekiah was born. Of Jesse; he doth not say of David, but

of Jesse, who was a private and mean person, 1 Samuel 18:18,1 Samuel 18:23; 1 Samuel 20:30, to intimate, that at the time of Christ’s birth the royal family should be reduced to its primitive obscurity.

A Branch shall grow: he speaks of one not yet born, and therefore not of Hezekiah, who was born divers years before his father Ahaz (in whose time this prophecy was delivered) was king, by comparing 2 Kings 16:2; 2 Kings 18:2; but of the Messiah.

Out of his roots; out of one of his roots, i.e. branches, as this word root is sometimes used, by a very usual figure called a metonymy, as it is here below, Isaiah 11:10; Isaiah 53:2; Hosea 14:5.

Verse 2

The Spirit of the Lord; the Holy Ghost, wherewith he was anointed, Acts 10:38, and by whom his mother was overshadowed, Luke 1:35.

Shall rest upon him; not only come upon him at certain times, as he did upon the prophets now and then at his pleasure, but shall have its constant and settled abode in him; although the same phrase be sometimes used of other prophets in an inferior sense, as Numbers 11:17; 2 Kings 2:15.

The Spirit of wisdom and understanding; which hath these perfections in itself, and confers them upon him. It is neither easy, nor at all necessary, exactly to distinguish these two gifts; it is sufficient that they are necessary qualifications for a governor, and for a teacher, both which offices were to meet in the Messiah; and it is evident that they signify a practical and perfect knowledge of all things necessary for the discharge of his trust, and for his own and people’s good, and a sound judgment, to distinguish between things that differ.

Of counsel and might; of prudence, to give good counsel; and of might and courage, to execute it; which are two necessary qualifications of a ruler.

Of knowledge; of the perfect knowledge of the whole will and counsel of God, especially that which concerns the salvation of men, the prosecution whereof was his great work, as also of all secret and hidden things, yea, of the hearts of men, the knowledge whereof is ascribed to Christ. Matthew 9:4; Revelation 2:23.

Of the fear of the Lord; not a fear of diffidence or horror, but of reverence; a care to please him, and loathness to offend him, which well became the Messiah towards his God and Father.

Verse 3

Shall make him of quick understanding, Heb. he shall make him smell, i.e. perceive, as that word is used, Judges 16:9; Job 39:25; understand or judge, as it is explained in the next clause. Or, his smelling shall be. Smelling is put for judging, because the sense of smelling, where it is quick and good, is more exact and sure in the judging of its proper objects, than the senses of seeing and hearing are.

In the fear of the Lord; which is added, either,

1. As the object of his judging; he is most perspicacious and judicious in the things which concern the fear, i.e. the worship and service of God, which he was to order and establish in his church. Or rather,

2. As the rule and manner of his judging, as may be gathered from the opposite and following clause. So the sense is, He shall not judge rashly and partially, but considerately and justly, as the fear of God obligeth all judges to do.

He shall not judge, of persons or causes. And judging seems to be here synecdochically put for absolving or giving sentence for a person, as it is used Psalms 7:8,Psalms 7:11, and in many other places, because this is opposed to reproving in the next clause.

After the sight of his eyes; according to outward appearance, as men must do, because they cannot search men’s hearts, 1 Samuel 16:7, or with respect of persons, but with righteous judgment, which is opposed to judging by appearance, John 7:24. Reprove, i.e. condemn or pass sentence against a person; for Christ is here supposed to be a Judge, and so he speaks of a judicial reproof. After the hearing of his ears, by false or uncertain rumours or suggestions, but shall thoroughly examine all causes, and search out the truth of things, and the very hearts of men.

Verse 4

Judge the poor; defend and deliver them, as judging is oft used, as Deuteronomy 32:36; Jeremiah 5:28; Jeremiah 22:16, &c. Or,

judge for the poor; the prefix lamed being understood out of the next clause, as is usual in the Hebrew language. He mentions the poor, partly to signify the justice of this Judge, because human judges commonly neglect and oppress the poor; and partly to declare the nature of Christ’s kingdom, and the quality of his subjects, who should, for the generality of them, be the poor and contemptible sort of men, Matthew 11:5; James 2:5. Reprove; or, as this word seems to be taken, Isaiah 11:3, condemn, to wit, their malicious and furious enemies.

For the meek; on their behalf, or giving sentence for them. He calls them meek, whom before he called poor, partly to show his justice in defending them who are most exposed to the contempt and injuries of men and partly to signify that his subjects should be poor in spirit as well as in the world, and not poor and proud, as many worldly men are.

Smite, i.e. slay, as this word is used, Isaiah 37:36, and very commonly, and as it is expounded in the next clause.

The earth; the men of the earth, the wicked, as it is in the next branch of the verse; fitly called earth, either because of their earthly minds and conversations, as they are called

the men of this world that have their portion here upon the earth, Psalms 17:14, or because the far greatest part of the inhabitants of the earth is wicked; the whole world lies in wickedness, 1 John 5:1,1 John 5:9; for which reason they are oft called the world, as John 16:20; John 17:9,John 17:25, &c.

With the rod of his mouth; with his word, which is his sceptre, and the rod of his power, Psalms 110:2, which is sharper than a sword, Hebrews 4:12; by the preaching whereof he subdued the world to himself, and will destroy his enemies, 2 Thessalonians 2:8. This he adds, further to declare the nature of Christ’s kingdom, that it is not of this world, and that his sceptre and arms are not carnal, but spiritual, as it is said, 2 Corinthians 10:4.

With the breath of his lips; with his word breathed out of his lips, whereby he explains what he meant by the foregoing rod.

Shall he slay the wicked; either spiritually, by inflicting deadly plagues upon their souls; or properly, which he doth very frequently by his terrible judgments executed upon many of them, and will certainly do, and that fully and universally, at his coming to judgment.

Verse 5

Shall be the girdle of his loins; it shall adorn him, and be the glory of his government, as a girdle was used for ornament, Isaiah 3:24, and as an ensign of power, Job 12:18; and it shall constantly cleave to him, in all his administrations, as a girdle cleaveth to a man’s loins, which is the prophet’s similitude, Jeremiah 13:11.

The girdle of his reins; the same thing in other words.

Verse 6

The wolf also shall dwell with the lamb, & c.; the creatures shall be restored to that state of innocency in which they were before the fall of man. But this is not to be understood literally, which is a gross and vain conceit of some Jews; but spiritually and metaphorically, as is evident. And the sense of the metaphor is this, Men of fierce, and cruel, and ungovernable dispositions, shall be so transformed by the preaching of the gospel, and by the grace of Christ, that they shall become most humble, and gentle, and tractable, and shall no more vex and persecute those meek and poor ones mentioned Isaiah 11:4, but shall become such as they; of which we have instances in Saul being made a Paul, and in the rugged jailer, Acts 16:0, and in innumerable others. But how can this be applied to Hezekiah with any colour?

A little child shall lead them; they will submit their proud and rebellious wills to the conduct and command of the meanest persons that speak to them in Christ’s name.

Verse 7

Shall feed together, as it follows, without any danger or fear.

The lion shall eat straw, the grass and fruits of the earth, as they did at first, Genesis 1:29,Genesis 1:30, and shall not devour other living creatures, as now they do.

Verse 8

The asp; a most fierce and poisonous serpent, Deuteronomy 32:33; Job 20:14,Job 20:16, which also will not be charmed by any art of man, Psalms 58:5.

The cockatrice; a serpent of more than ordinary cunning and cruelty, Proverbs 23:32. The meaning is, They shall not fear to be either deceived or destroyed by those who formerly watched all opportunities to do it.

Verse 9

In my holy mountain; in Zion, in my church. Wherever the gospel comes and prevails, it will have this effect.

The earth; metonymically put for the inhabitants of the earth; and as before it was used for the greater part, Isaiah 11:4, so here it is used for the better part of the world.

Of the knowledge of the Lord; of saying and practical knowledge; whereby he intimates that all that savageness and malignity which is in wicked men towards true Christians proceeded from their deep ignorance, and particularly from ignorance of God; and withal, that a right knowledge of God will make a marvellous and thorough change in the dispositions and conversations of men.

The sea; the channel of the sea, the thing contained being put for the thing containing, by a metonymy common in Scripture and all authors.

Verse 10

A root; a branch growing upon the root; of which see on Isaiah 11:1.

Shall stand for an ensign; shall grow up into a great and high tree, shall become a visible and eminent ensign. Of the people; which not only the Jews, but all nations may discern, and to which they may and shall resort.

To it shall the Gentiles seek; as the gospel shall be preached to the Gentiles, so they shall receive it, and believe in the Messiah. His rest; his resting-place, as this word frequently signifies, as Genesis 8:9; Genesis 49:15; Psalms 132:8,Psalms 132:14; Isaiah 34:14; Micah 2:10; his temple or church, the place of his presence and abode.

Shall be glorious; shall be filled with greater glory than the Jewish tabernacle and temple were; of which see on Haggai 2:9; only this glory shall be spiritual, consisting in glorious ordinances, in the plentiful effusions of the excellent gifts, and graces, and comforts of the Holy Spirit.

Verse 11

The second time: the first time, to which this word second relates, seems to be, either,

1. The deliverance out of Egypt, as most both Jewish and Christian interpreters understand it; and then this second deliverance must be that out of Babylon. Or,

2. The deliverance out of Babylon; and then this second deliverance must be in the days of the Messiah; which, with submission to better judgments, seems to me more probable,

1. Because that first deliverance is supposed to be, like the second, a deliverance of the remnant of this people from several countries, into which they were dispersed; whereas that out of Egypt was a deliverance not of a remnant, but of the whole nation, and that out of Egypt only.

2. Because this second deliverance was universal, extending to the generality of the outcasts and dispersed ones, both of Israel, or the ten tribes, and of Judah, or the two tribes, as is evident from Isaiah 11:12,Isaiah 11:13; whereas that out of Babylon reached only to the two tribes, and to some few of the ten tribes which were mixed with them, as is acknowledged, both by Jews and Christians.

3. Because this second deliverance was given them in the days of the Messiah, and did accompany or follow the conversion of the Gentiles, as is evident from Isaiah 11:9,Isaiah 11:10; whereas that out of Babylon was long before the coming of the Messiah, and the calling of the Gentiles.

From Assyria, & c.; from all places, both far and near, into which either the ten tribes or the two tribes were carried captives; for the places of both their captivities are here named; of which it is needless to discourse particularly., because they are well known, and have been considered in former texts. Only Pathros was not named before; and that was a province in Egypt, which yet is sometimes distinguished from Egypt strictly so called. See on Jeremiah 44:1,Jeremiah 44:15; Ezekiel 29:14; Ezekiel 30:14.

Verse 12

For the nations; all nations, Jews and Gentiles, who shall then embrace the true faith and the Messiah, as was said, Isaiah 11:10.

The outcasts; that were driven and banished out of their own land into foreign parts, as the word implies.

Of Israel; strictly so called, or of the ten tribes, as is manifest, both from their opposition to Judah in this verse, and from the mention of Ephraim in the next verse.

Verse 13

Of Ephraim, i.e. of the ten tribes, frequently called by the name of Ephraim, as hath been already and frequently observed, between whom and Judah there were great emulations and contentions. Shall depart; of enemies they shall be made friends, and of wolves lambs, as was said before on Isaiah 11:6; they shall be united together in one church, under the Messiah, keeping the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.

The adversaries of Judah; not the body of Ephraim, for they are supposed to be reconciled, and they shall not be cut off, but live in love with Judah, as we see by the next clause; but those few of them which possibly may continue in their enmity against them, together with all the rest of their adversaries.

Ephraim shall not envy Judah, and Judah shall not vex Ephraim; not only all outward hostilities shall cease, but also their inward animosities.

Verse 14

Shall fly upon the shoulders; either it is a metaphor from birds and beasts of prey, which commonly fasten upon the shoulders of cattle; or from wrestlers, who endeavour to catch hold of their adversaries’ shoulders, that they may throw them down. Or, shoulder is put for a side, as Numbers 34:11; Joshua 15:8,Joshua 15:10, or for part or quarter of a country, as Deuteronomy 33:12.

They shall spoil them; they shall subdue them; which is to be understood of the spiritual victory which the Jewish Messiah shall obtain by his apostles and ministers over all nations, in bringing them to the obedience of his gospel. For it is the manner of the prophets to speak of the spiritual things of the gospel under such corporal representations.

Verse 15

Shall utterly destroy; shall not only divide it, as of old, but will quite dry it up, that it may be a highway, as it is explained in the next verse.

The tongue of the Egyptian sea; the Red Sea, which may well be called the Egyptian sea, both because it borders upon Egypt, and because the Egyptians were drowned in it, which is called a tongue in the Hebrew text, Joshua 15:2,Joshua 15:5, as having some resemblance with a tongue; for which reason the name of hath been given by geographers to promontories of land which shoot forth into the sea, as this sea did shoot out of the main ocean into the laud.

Shake his hand; he alludes to Moses’s shaking of his hand with the rod of God in it over the sea;

over the river, to wit, of Egypt, Nilus, as appears both from the foregoing and from the following words.

The seven streams; for which Nilus is famous in all authors, and by which it emptieth itself into the sea.

Verse 16

From Assyria; as there was another highway from Egypt in the former verse. So the sense is, that all impediments shall be removed, and a way made for the return of God’s Israel from all parts of the world. He mentions Assyria, because thither the ten tribes were carried, 2 Kings 17:23; whose case seemed to be most desperate.

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Bibliographical Information
Poole, Matthew, "Commentary on Isaiah 11". Poole's English Annotations on the Holy Bible. 1685.