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Bible Commentaries

Coke's Commentary on the Holy Bible

Isaiah 11


The peaceable kingdom of the Branch cut of the root of Jesse. The victorious restoration of Israel, and vocation of the Gentiles.

Before Christ 713.

Verse 1

Isaiah 11:1. And there shall come forth a rod The fifth section of the fifth discourse, beginning here, and concluding with the next chapter, is twofold: in the first part, the kingdom of Jesus Christ is described; in what manner, arising from the smallest beginnings, it should go on to increase, till at length it should attain the highest perfection, Isaiah 11:1-9. In the second part are set forth some remarkable events of that kingdom, illustrating its glory, with their consequences, Isa 11:10 to chap. Isaiah 12:6. The first part again is twofold: 1st, Exhibiting to us the king or ruler of this glorious kingdom, Isa 11:1-3 who is described by his birth, and humble state after his birth; Isa 11:1 by his qualities, eminent endowments, or virtues; Isaiah 11:2; Isa 3:2 nd, We have the entire oeconomy of this kingdom, Isa 11:4-9 where this oeconomy is set forth, as well with respect to the true subjects of the kingdom,—ver. 4 to the middle, as with respect to its enemies and adversaries, in the remainder of the 4th verse. The reason and foundation of that oeconomy are delivered in the fifth verse; after which are set forth the excellent consequences, that is to say, the flourishing and desirable state of the kingdom, to be known from its attributes; among which are peace and concord among the subjects of every different kind and nation, combining in one faith, and performing obedience to the same king, Isa 11:6-8 and also the removal and destruction of all those hurtful and destructive things from which the kingdom might apprehend any detriment, together with the exuberance of the knowledge of God and his ways, Isaiah 11:9. There can be no doubt, from the particle and, and from the manifest opposition of the sentences, that this prophesy is in immediate connection with that preceding. After the prophet had said that the Assyrian forest and tree should be entirely cut off and destroyed, ch. Isa 10:33-34 he observes, that it shall be very different with the house of David; from whose trunk, though cut down, a king shall arise and flourish, who shall subject the whole world to himself. From a review of ch. Isa 9:4-6 Isaiah 16:4-5 Isa 31:8-9 Isa 32:1 the connection of these chapters will appear more evident. The prophet, borne away by the divine Spirit, saw more in the breaking of the Assyrian yoke, and the deliverance procured for the church in the time of Hezekiah by the hand of God, than is seen by the carnal eye: he beheld in this remarkable event an example of the true deliverance and vengeance which the Son of God, about to erect his kingdom in this world, would hereafter perform for his church: the whole scheme of that divine oeconomy was before his eyes: he saw the anti-type in the type; the truth in the figure; in the example of the deliverance from Assyria, an image of the true and perfect deliverance: in the fall of the king of Assyria he contemplated the fall of all the enemies, and of Satan, the chief of those enemies, who have opposed themselves to God and his kingdom in the world, from the birth of the church; and thence, in prophetic rapture, having mentioned the overthrow of the Assyrian, leaping over the intermediate times and events, he thus continues his prophesy: And there shall come forth a rod from the trunk of Jesse, and a branch shall grow out of his roots. We may just remark, that a continued prophetic oration often coheres less with the parts preceding, than with the thoughts of the prophet, with which it ought truly to be connected; whence those various transitions so observable in all the prophetic writings; for, as the prophets thought more than they spoke or wrote, they left their discourse to be supplied by their readers and hearers; which is to be prudently interpreted, according to the analogy and history of other prophesies: as here when it is said, And Lebanon shall fall by a mighty one; and there shall come forth a rod from the trunk of Jesse; we are thus to understand it, according to the mind and ideas of the prophet, "And after their fall, and other notable events, to happen in process of time, according to their order; among which will be the Babylonish captivity, the departure of the sceptre of the house of David, the kingdom of the Asmoneans, and afterwards of the Herods, to be joined with the remarkable humiliation of the house of David; a rod shall come forth from this trunk of David, so cut down and reduced, under whose kingdom the church shall obtain a perfect deliverance." See Vitringa, where many examples of a similar connection are produced. The metaphorical expressions made use of in this verse are designed to set forth, not only the humble birth of the Messiah from the family of David, when that family was greatly reduced, the posterity of Jesse being few only, and the kingdom of David destroyed; but that he should be born in such a way, by virtue of the promise given to the fathers, that in his birth something divine might be observed, and a great expectation of him should be raised from his origin and first appearance. See John 7:42. The birth of Jesus Christ fully verified this prophesy.

Verse 2

Isaiah 11:2. And the Spirit of the Lord shall rest upon him After an account of his birth, the prophet here exhibits the qualities and endowments of the Messiah; namely, the excellent and extraordinary gifts of the Holy Spirit. See 1 Corinthians 12:8-9. By the gifts of the Spirit, I understand certain spiritual dispositions, which adorn and perfect the man, so far forth as he is spiritual; concerning which, as found in the Messiah, the prophet here informs us of three things: First, what these gifts should be; secondly, by what cause they shall be produced; thirdly, in what manner they shall be possessed by the Messiah. As to the first, these gifts are commonly thought to be six; wisdom, prudence, counsel, courage, knowledge or love, and the fear of Jehovah; but as the gifts of the Spirit are commonly said to be seven, (Revelation 1:4-6.) so Vitringa and others have thought that the Spirit of the Lord, in the first part of the verse, denotes here also a distinct gift; namely, the spirit of prophesy, (see chap. Isa 42:1 Isaiah 61:1.) that is, that gift of grace, by which a person is endued, through the Spirit, with a knowledge of the secret will and counsels of God: and if the spirit of prophesy be thus understood, we may remark an elegant order observed by the prophet in recounting these gifts: for he begins with the perfections of the understanding and judgment, and ends with the perfections of the will. The first perfection of the understanding is knowledge; the next to this is wisdom; which is followed by that virtue of the judgment, prudence, and by that which is near allied to it, an abundance of counsel, or an aptitude to teach: then follow three perfections of the will; fortitude, knowledge, or rather love, (for that is the meaning of the phrase in this place) and fear or reverence of Jehovah. The whole perfection of the human mind is circumscribed within these gifts and graces; and these gifts and graces were most eminently found in the human nature of Jesus Christ, to whom God gave not the Spirit by measure, and who was a prophet mighty in word and deed. See Vitringa.

Verses 3-4

Isaiah 11:3-4. And shall make him of quick understanding We have here the oeconomy of the Messiah's kingdom, with respect to his true subjects, and with respect to his adversaries: with respect to the former, we have, first, the offices of this great teacher set forth, which are, 1 to found a kingdom, or to collect a people, over whom he should preside by the preaching of the Gospel; and 2nd, to rule that kingdom with righteousness and equity. The former part of the verse is rendered by Lowth, And he shall be of quick discernment in the fear of Jehovah. The meaning is, that the Messiah, in collecting the people who should compose his kingdom, shall principally regard in them this quality of fear or reverence for the Lord; and, with the greatest sagacity and perspicuity of judgment, shall discern and separate those subjects in whom he finds this quality; not suffering that judgment to be deluded by the external appearance of truth or honesty, or by any prejudice of public report; by penetrating into the interior recesses of the mind by his prophetic spirit, he shall discriminate all error, the good from the bad, the pious and sincere from the impious and hypocritical: for an example of this in the Messiah, see John 1:48-49. With respect to his adversaries it is added, that he shall smite the earth with the rod of his mouth; by which is meant, that by his sacred doctrine he shall convince the earthly and carnal of the iniquity of their ways, and of that future and dreadful punishment reserved for those who despise his instructions, and continue in the practice of sin: or, according to others, these words denote the judgments which the Messiah, the great prophet, should not only denounce, but also inflict on the obstinate and professed enemies of his kingdom. See Revelation 11:5-6. Luke 19:14; Luke 19:27; 2Th 2:8 and Vitringa.

Verse 5

Isaiah 11:5. And righteousness shall be the girdle of his loins We have here the basis and foundation of this oeconomy, namely, the justice and fidelity of the king. Girdles were worn by the easterns both for ornament and use.

The metaphor here implies that these virtues of righteousness and fidelity, or truth, are the proper and true virtues of Christ the king; most closely adhering to him, as a girdle cleaveth to the loins of a man, Jer 13:11 that these virtues should be conspicuous in the whole administration of his kingdom; and at once be the ornament and the support of it. The sum is, that the kingdom of Christ should be a kingdom of the highest equity, and the king of it most perfect; who, though judging his true subjects by the law of grace, by faithfully performing all the promises of the Gospel, and every condition of the covenant to them, will yet not omit to punish the enemies of his church according to their deserts, and thus to satisfy the law of justice: so that he shall not be less venerable and awful for his justice in judgment, than amiable and desirable for his truth, fidelity, and constancy in performing his promises; which, being things naturally united, are not by any means to be separated.

Verses 6-9

Isaiah 11:6-9. The wolf also shall dwell with the lamb We have here the illustrious consequence of the oeconomy of this divine kingdom, this kingdom of righteousness, equity, faith, and grace. Who can wonder that a kingdom, though increasing from the smallest beginning, should make a great progress in a little time, extend its wings widely, and procure for its subjects security, peace, concord, felicity, and a clear and abounding knowledge of the ways of God; whose king, armed with divine power, exercises in the administration of it perfect justice; enriches his subjects with excellent heavenly gifts, and at the same time teaches and instructs them himself? Who would not wish to be the subjects of so blessed, so perfect a kingdom? Who would wonder at the conflux of the nations to this kingdom?—A kingdom, if you consider its security and glory; if its discipline and instruction, a school; if its consolation and spiritual food, a fold, for a flock well fed and safely reposed? This is the connection of the prophet. His expressions are metaphorical: he teaches us, that it shall come to pass in this kingdom (which here, changing the metaphor, he represents under the figure of the flock lying down and feeding under the care of the Messiah, as the great and chief shepherd) not only the most profound peace shall flourish, but also the utmost security; insomuch, that the most inveterate enemies of the kingdom of God, brought into its communion, shall lay down their cruelty, barbarity, and ferocity, their inclination to hurt, their craft and subtilty; and not only so, but this kingdom also shall be purged from all offences, from all evils and instruments of malice; which eminent good proceeds from another, and that equally or more remarkable, namely, the repletion of the earth with the knowledge of the Lord; whereby the people being illuminated, shall cast off their barbarous and depraved manners, shall willingly subject themselves to the rule of the Messiah, with meekness and humility, and shall fulfil the law of brotherly love by the grace of the Holy Spirit, in the offices of mutual good-will. This is the sum of the present passage, divested of metaphor, whereof the prophet himself gives us the key in the beginning of the 9th verse. Compare Acts 10:10-11; Acts 10:48. The holy mountain, Isa 11:9 means the Christian church; and so it is commonly used by our prophet. See ch. Isa 65:25 and Matthew 13:41. Michaelis observes, that these figurative expressions have employed the wits of interpreters, who have endeavoured to assign a mystical sense to each of the images; whereas the nature of the description is such, that a general truth is to be deduced from the whole, not a partial one from every particular. The intention of the prophet was, to describe the happiness of the Messiah's reign, which was to consist in the greatest purity of worship, in the abolition of the Levitical ceremonies, and in the unlimited promulgation of the doctrines of the Gospel throughout the world; the natural tendency of which would be, the promotion of peace, and the exercise of benevolence among mankind. Though it would argue some degree of enthusiasm to interpret Virgil's 4th Eclogue in this manner, yet it is no absurdity to ascribe this meaning to the sacred prophet. The intention of his whole book is, to communicate the knowledge of future events, and more especially the coming of the Messiah: to interpret this passage, therefore, in that light, is consistent with the whole tenor of the prophet's writings; and it should be observed, that the Jewish metaphors, which were originally borrowed from hieroglyphics, were used in common to express these hidden sentiments; and the interpretation of them in this sense is natural, and consistent with the canons of true criticism. We may just remark, that the last sentence in the 9th verse, expressing the exuberance of the divine knowledge, is elliptical. The meaning is, "The earth shall be spread over, and filled with the knowledge of the Lord, as the waters spread over the bottom, and entirely fill all the channels of the sea. From the efficacious preaching of the Gospel, and the knowledge of Christ, those wonderful conversions and blessed effects signified in these verses shall proceed." See Habakkuk 2:14. This prophesy may with propriety be referred to the kingdom of grace, as first established upon the earth; though there can be no doubt that in its perfection it refers to those latter days, that end of time, when we hope and expect that the knowledge of Christianity, universally diffused, will produce a more eminent exertion of all those divine graces and virtues which it inculcates.

Verse 10

Isaiah 11:10. And in that day, &c.— We have here the latter part of the prophesy, which sets forth some more illustrious events of this kingdom, with their consequences; and it is twofold. First, we have the events themselves, Isaiah 11:10-16. Secondly, the consequence of the events; a remarkable thanksgiving of the Jewish people, converted to the Messiah, for the redemption granted to them; chap. Isaiah 12:1-6. The events here proposed are three; the remarkable conversion of the Gentiles, Isaiah 11:10.; the calling of the dispersed Jews to the communion of the kingdom of Christ, Isaiah 11:11-14.; and a diminution of the adverse empires, Egypt and Assyria, Isaiah 11:15-16. The present verse should be rendered, And it shall be in that day that the Gentiles shall consult or seek to the root of Jesse, which stands for an ensign of the people; and his rest shall be glory. The meaning is, that the Gentiles, hitherto deluded by false miracles and false teachers, after they shall understand that there is an illustrious teacher of true religion sprung from the root of Jesse, who, like a divine oracle, teaches the way of salvation without error; who is also the salvation of God, the refuge of the sinner, the king and Saviour of the miserable; having left their false teachers, oracles, and superstitions, would consult this teacher, prophet, and source of true divinity, and seek salvation in him with desire, thirst, faith, hope, love, confidence,—all which is implied in the very expressive words of the original; and moreover, that every place, in which this root of Jesse should manifest himself, and rest as in a house, palace, or temple, should be distinguished with the undoubted signs and proofs of the divine glory; as heretofore God distinguished the tabernacle, and afterwards the temple, his seat, and the place of his rest, with the signs of his glory and presence. In short, wherever the Messiah should have his church, the prophet foretels he should demonstrate his presence by illustrious signs of his grace, and the operation of his Spirit. See Vitringa.

Verses 11-14

Isaiah 11:11-14. And it shall come to pass, &c.— Another event of the kingdom of the Messiah is, the calling of the dispersed Jews, the outcasts of Israel, the dispersed of Judah, and their general collection to the church. The period is difficult: it divides itself into two parts: the first describing the benefit itself of this vocation and collection, and its manner; Isa 11:11-12 and the second, the state of the people restored. There can be no doubt of the subject of this prophesy. It certainly refers to the Jews; but there is more difficulty in determining the period to which this prophesy refers. There were two collections of the dispersed Jews after the delivery of this prophesy: the one from the Babylonish captivity; the other of those who were dispersed among the Gentiles, and who were called to the faith at the first preaching of the Gospel: a third will hereafter follow, as we learn from other prophesies; and that universal, of the whole Jewish race to the communion of Christ in the latter days. See Rom 11:25-26 and it seems that the prophet in this place more immediately refers to this last and general calling of the Jews; which, according to him, is evidently to happen after the calling of the Gentiles: this appears probable from a variety of parallel passages in the prophets, and from the emblem made use of; wherein this deliverance of the Jews under the Messiah is compared by the prophet to their great and entire redemption out of Egypt. See Isaiah 11:15. It is my opinion, therefore, says Vitringa, that this prophesy, in its first sense, with respect to its incipient completion, is to be referred to the first time of establishing the kingdom of Christ out of Canaan; but in its second sense, with respect to its perfect completion, to the end of time. The reader must observe here, in proof of what has been advanced above, that the prophet's ideas respecting this future and spiritual deliverance, are wholly taken from the temporal deliverances of the Jews out of Assyria and Egypt. In the 13th and 14th verses the state of the converted Jews is set forth; first, That all envy shall be extinguished among them, and a true brotherly love shall fill their souls; and secondly, that, joined to the Gentiles, they shall strenuously defend the cause of Christ and his kingdom against the enemies and opposers of it. The sense of the 14th verse can be understood in no other than a spiritual and mystical sense, to signify that those who are called by the Gospel, and converted to Jesus Christ, full of zeal for his glory, shall labour with all their might to reduce to the obedience of Christ all the people bordering upon the Jewish nation, and who were formerly enemies to it; such as the Philistines, Ammonites, Moabites, Arabs, and Syrians; either confounding them by the clear demonstration of the truth, or, by rational convictions and the grace of God, subjecting them to the obedience of Christ, and his church. See 2 Corinthians 10:4.Matthew 11:12; Matthew 11:12. They shall fly upon the shoulders of the Philistines toward the west, is a metaphorical expression, signifying literally, that the Jews and Ephraimites with a sudden and quick motion, like that of birds, should invade the Philistines, who were situated towards the East, and subdue them. Lowth renders the passage, They shall invade the borders of the Philistines westward. The history of the church manifestly proves the completion of this prophesy in part; and other prophesies respecting the state of the Jews evidently lead us to expect the perfect completion in God's good time.

Verses 15-16

Isaiah 11:15-16. And the Lord shall utterly destroy This is the last part of this illustrious prophesy, in which the prophet declares, that about that time in which God should establish the kingdom of his Son in the world, two adverse kingdoms, which seemed to threaten a delay of this great work, should be destroyed or reduced to such a state as not to be able to hinder the progress of the calling of the Jews and Gentiles; which two kingdoms are here, in the prophetic style, denoted by the names of Egyptian and Assyrian. Bishop Warburton observes, that it was usual among the Hebrews to denote any character or action by that of the kind which was become most known or celebrated. In this place a second passage through the Red Sea is promised in literal terms; but who will therefore say that this is the literal meaning? The literal meaning, though the prophesy be in figurative terms, is, simply, redemption from bondage; for Egypt in the Hebrew phrase signified a place of bondage. Vitringa reads the first clause of the 15th verse, The Lord shall devote to destruction the gulph or bay of the Egyptian sea; by which is meant the Nile, as a symbol of the kingdom of Egypt; as, in the next clause, the river means the Euphrates, or symbol of Assyria; and accordingly Vitringa renders it, Over the Euphrates, and shall smite it into seven outlets; that is to say, he shall divide or separate it into seven streams, so as to render it easy to be passed over. The fate of the Egyptian and Assyrian empire under the Seleucidae and Lagidae is thought to be here referred to, and spiritually the destruction of the kingdoms of idolatry and superstition. My belief, says Vitringa, upon the strength of this prophesy, to which we grant the most ample and extensive sense, is that it will come to pass: all the impediments of the great empire of the world being removed, which yet delay the perfect completion of the great and excellent promises made to the church, the empire of the kingdom of Christ will extend itself over the whole world, according to the remarkable prediction of Daniel, chap. Daniel 2:35, &c.

REFLECTIONS.—1st, As the coming of the glorious Messiah was the great hope of God's people of old, in every time of trouble; the prophet directs them to look above their temporal deliverance from the power of Sennacherib, to that eternal salvation which their great Redeemer would accomplish for all the faithful.

1. His descent is spoken of: As a rod out of the stem of Jesse; it being promised to David, that from him Christ should spring; and a branch shall grow out of his roots; signifying the meanness of his appearance in the flesh, as a tender branch compared with the tall cedars of this world's princes; and intimating the low estate to which the family of Jesse would be reduced, when all the former royalty that it possessed would be gone, as the tree cut down, whose stump only remains in the earth. And such was the case with the family of Joseph and Mary when Jesus was born.

2. His qualifications for the work appointed him are mentioned. The Spirit of the Lord shall rest upon him; even the fulness of the Godhead bodily; and with this text he once opened his ministry, Luk 4:18 the spirit of wisdom and understanding; the hid treasures of which are all resident in Jesus; the Spirit of counsel and knowledge; how to execute the plan of redemption, to preach the gospel, instruct his people, and order the affairs of his spiritual kingdom, to God's glory, and the salvation of the faithful; the spirit of might, to conquer all his foes, and accompany his word of truth with effectual demonstration and power unto the consciences of men, and of the fear of the Lord; being the perfect pattern of all godliness, and setting us an example that we should follow his steps: and shall make him of quick understanding in the fear of the Lord; or of acute smell; intimating the thorough discernment that he shall possess of the hearts of men. See John 1:47. Note; (1.) When we have such a Redeemer, of wisdom and might to counsel and support us, how firm and unshaken ought our confidence in him to be? (2.) A quick understanding in the fear of God, is the gift of God; the brightest genius, without his grace, is in spiritual things dark and ignorant.

3. His throne shall be established in righteousness. As he knows men's hearts, he can judge of their characters, not by their outward appearance, but by their inward tempers and principles; detecting the hypocrite under all the disguises of outward formality and religious profession, Matthew 22:18. The poor and humbled sinner who flies to him for pardon and grace, he will justify by his infinite merit, and rescue the meek from their oppressors, whether Satan or wicked men, whom he will rebuke in equity, and smite the earth with the rod of his mouth, in warnings against those who place their affections upon it; and with the breath of his lips slay the wicked, by present judgments, or more terrible and eternal vengeance, 2 Thessalonians 2:8. In all which dispensations of mercy and judgment, the righteousness of his government shall appear as a glorious ornament; and his faithfulness, in accomplishing the promises made to his faithful people, and in completing the ruin denounced on his enemies, shall be manifested to his everlasting praise.

4. His kingdom shall enjoy the most happy union and concord: such a change will pass upon the spirits of men by the grace of Jesus, that the most persecuting, fierce, and untractable, shall become meek, lowly, and gentle as the lamb; all animosities subside, and no more venom remain in the human bosom. The knowledge of the Lord, which shall be diffused through the earth, shall produce this marvellous renovation of our fallen nature: and all united in love and peace, under the divine Redeemer, become one fold under one shepherd: the fulfilment of which appears now wherever the power of the gospel is known and felt; and we hope to see a day when not partially, but universally, this wonder-working Jesus shall make his power to appear, and all shall know him, love him, and serve him, from the least unto the greatest.
2nd, We have a farther prophesy of the glory and enlargement of the Messiah's kingdom; which, whatever regard it may have to the times of Hezekiah, or the return of the Jews from Babylon, which was but a partial deliverance, certainly looks forward to the days of the gospel, when Jews and Gentiles were incorporated in one church; and will have, we trust, its final accomplishment, when the fulness of the Gentiles shall be come in, and all Israel shall be saved.
1. The great author of this salvation is the root of Jesse, the Lord Jesus, before called the rod and branch; for he is both the root and offspring of David, Revelation 5:5. He shall stand for an ensign of the people; lifted up in the preaching of the gospel among all nations, who shall be invited to list under his banners; and to it shall the Gentiles seek for pardon and peace through his blood and merit, desiring to become willing subjects of his government, and to live in safety under his care and protection; and his rest shall be glorious; either Christ's, when, having in his sufferings and death finished the great work of atonement, he entered into his rest above in glory everlasting: or it refers to his believing people, who in him find a present happy rest to their souls from guilt and fear, and expect an eternal rest with him hereafter in his kingdom.

2. The completion of the salvation is described. Notwithstanding every opposition, God is said to do it the second time. The faithful are called a remnant, or those that remain, some in all ages having embraced the truth in its power; but now, more universally than ever, the gospel shall go forth into all lands, to gather from the four corners of the earth, and most distant Isles of the sea, the dispersed Jews, as well as the Gentiles, among whom they dwell. All enmity between Jew and Gentile, as subsisted of old between Judah and Ephraim, shall be at an end, all uniting in the service of their Redeemer; the inveterate enemies of Christ and his people, whether Papal or Pagan, &c. as the Philistines, Moabites, Ammonites, were to the Jews, shall be vanquished by the powerful word of the gospel, and be brought to the obedience of the faith. And Antichrist and his followers, compared to Egypt, for their enmity against the church, Rev 11:8 who will rise up to make war with the saints, shall be utterly destroyed, Rev 16:16-19 as when God, by the rod of Moses, opened a way for his people to pass over, but overwhelmed their enemies in the Red Sea: and, every enemy being thus removed, converts from every side shall be added to the church daily, till all flesh shall see the glory of the Lord.

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Bibliographical Information
Coke, Thomas. "Commentary on Isaiah 11". Coke's Commentary on the Holy Bible. 1801-1803.