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Peter Pett's Commentary on the Bible
Isaiah 11



Verses 1-4

Chapter Isaiah 11:1-4 The Coming of The Son of Jesse.

Isaiah 11:1

‘And there will come forth a shoot out of the stock of Jesse,

And a branch out of his roots will bear fruit.’

The word translated ‘stock’ means the basic element of the tree (Isaiah 40:24; Job 14:8). Here the stock is Jesse, the father of David (1 Samuel 16:1-13) and the father of the Davidic house. Each descendant was thought of as ‘David. (Rehoboam, Solomon’s son, is called ‘David’ and ‘son of Jesse’ in 2 Chronicles 10:16). But the tree has wilted, for the present representative of the Davidic house has been rejected (Isaiah 7:9). Thus a return must be made to the stock. Another David is required. And here He is promised. A shoot (young growth) will come forth from the stock, and a branch (sapling) from the roots. The failed branch of the Davidic house has been replaced by a new growth.

The importance of this cannot be overemphasised. This One is not just one of a long line of Davidic kings, He goes back to the root. The miraculous birth of Isaiah 7:14 is required. And it is this shoot and this sapling Who will bear the fruit that God looked for from that house.

Isaiah 11:2

‘And the Spirit of Yahweh will rest on him,

The spirit of wisdom and understanding,

The spirit of counsel and might,

The spirit of knowledge and of the fear of Yahweh.

Once again there will come a king on Whom has come the Spirit of Yahweh. It is noteworthy that the last king who was said to have received the Spirit of Yahweh was David. But here the benefits are sevenfold indicating divine completeness. Here is the greater David. For the Spirit Who has come upon him is the Spirit of Yahweh, the Spirit of wisdom and of understanding, the Spirit of counsel and of might, the Spirit of knowledge and of the fear of Yahweh. When we remember that the fear of Yahweh is the beginning of wisdom we see here the source of ultimate wisdom, founded in the might of Yahweh. He is the Mighty, All-Wise One, seven times wiser than Solomon, the wisest of the wise (see 1 Kings 3:12).

Note how the couplets go together. Wisdom is the basic fullness of knowledge, understanding its outworking. Counsel is the duty and expression of wisdom of princes, and might the ability to carry it through (He is the Counsellor and the Mighty God (Isaiah 9:6)). Knowledge constantly refers to awareness about God and His ways and ‘the fear of Yahweh’ is the result of that knowledge carried to fruition. This last part is then doubly emphasised. Faithfulness to Yahweh is all.

Isaiah 11:3-4

‘And his delight will be in the fear of Yahweh,

And he will not judge after the sight of his eyes,

Nor reprove after the hearing of his ears,

But with righteousness will he judge the poor,

And reprove with equity on behalf of the meek of the earth.’

His great delight will be to serve and reverence Yahweh, and His reign will be in total justice. For all His judgments and reproofs will give consideration to what Yahweh is in His awesomeness and holiness. They will not be on the basis of what is seen on the surface or be based on hearsay, but will be given in true righteousness and on the basis of equity. The poor and the meek, those who have previously been at the mercy of unjust decisions based on bias, prejudice and desire for gain, will receive full justice. Those who deserve rebuke will be dealt with. The poor will be vindicated. He is the Everlasting Father.

The picture is an ideal one of the perfect king and judge, and the point is that everlasting righteousness will have come in (Psalms 119:142; Daniel 9:24 compare Psalms 72:2-5).

‘His delight will be in the fear of Yahweh.’ This will necessarily be so because the ‘Spirit of Yahweh’ rests on Him making Him delight in the fear (awe) of Yahweh. Where the Spirit is there is ‘His fear’.

Isaiah 11:4

‘And he will smite the earth with the rod of his mouth,

And with the breath of his lips he will slay the wicked.’

On the other hand he will punish those who are in rebellion against Him and who refuse His right to reign. For them His words will be like a rod of chastisement and His breath like a powerful weapon for slaughter. When He speaks just punishment will follow, and finally death for those who reject Him. Here we see the righteous King doing precisely what the Lord, Yahweh of hosts has done in Isaiah 10:33-34.

We can compare here Psalms 2:9, ‘you will break them with a rod of iron, you will dash them in pieces like a potter’s vessel. The thought is of final judgment. In the New Testament this is cited as, ‘you will shepherd them with a rod of iron’ (Revelation 2:27; Revelation 12:5; Revelation 19:15), just as a shepherd uses his rod to smite the enemies of the sheep (note how in Revelation 2:27 it parallels the idea of the shattering of the potter’s vessel, and in Revelation 19:15 parallels the treading of the winepress of His wrath. To translate as ‘rule’ gives the wrong impression).

Verses 5-10

The Coming Paradise (Isaiah 11:5-10).

And now, having depicted a situation where good will triumph and evil perish, where all will be just and right, where everything will be in accord with the holiness and justice of God, Isaiah goes on to finalise the perfect picture. The King will rule in righteousness (Isaiah 11:5), and even throughout the animal kingdom peace and harmony will reign. For He is the Prince of Peace (Isaiah 11:6-9), while the nations and peoples will seek to the root of Jesse, and find a glorious resting place, in the same way as the animals will, a resting place provided by Him.

Many seek to depict these scenes as though they applied to a kingdom on earth, but a few moments thought will reveal the impossibility of such a situation. Such justice and righteousness can only be applicable where men are totally good. Otherwise men could not live with such righteousness and life would not be liveable. This is not describing a kingdom age where right conflicts with wrong, but a golden age in the new heavens and the new earth when all is harmony (Isaiah 66:22 and see Isaiah 65:17-25). A time when death is no more. It is an idealistic picture, not one of which the details should be pressed. Both nature and man will have come to their consummation. (And to suggest that while all this peace and harmony within creation is going on, man is busy offering sacrificial memorial offerings in the Temple would be to contradict the whole picture).

Analysis of Isaiah 11:5-10.

a And righteousness will be the girdle of His loins, and faithfulness the girdle of His reins (Isaiah 11:5).

b And the wolf will make himself at home with the lamb, and the leopard will lie down with the kid, and the calf, and the young lion, and the fatling together, and a little child will lead them (Isaiah 11:6).

c And the cow and the bear will feed, their young ones will lie down together, and the lion will eat straw like the ox (Isaiah 11:7).

c And the suckling child will play on the hole of the asp, and the weaned child will put his hand on the adder’s den (Isaiah 11:8).

b They will not hurt nor destroy, in all My holy mountain, for the earth will be full of the knowledge of Yahweh, as the waters cover the sea (Isaiah 11:9).

a And it will come about in that day that the root of Jesse, which stands for an ensign of the peoples, to Him will the nations seek, and His resting place will be glory (Isaiah 11:10).

In ‘a’ we have the picture of the ideal king clothed for His ideal reign, and in the parallel He will be sought to by the people and His resting place for them (as for the animals and children) will be glorious. They too will enjoy His rest, as will nature. In ‘b’ all the fiercest predators will be at peace with their former prey, for in the parallel they will not hurt or destroy in all His holy mountain because all will have the knowledge of Yahweh. In ‘c’ all nature is at one, and in the parallel man is at one with nature.

Isaiah 11:5

‘And righteousness will be the girdle of his loins,

And faithfulness the girdle of his reins.’

The King will clothe Himself in righteousness and faithfulness. Righteousness will determine all His activities, and He will reveal His faithfulness by how He conducts His affairs. (‘The reins’ determine control and direction). For all things will be ruled in righteousness in His righteous kingdom, so that all nature will be in harmony and men will seek to Him and enjoy His glorious resting place.

Isaiah 11:6-8

‘And the wolf will make himself at home with the lamb,

And the leopard will lie down with the kid,

And the calf, and the young lion, and the fatling together,

And a little child will lead them.

And the cow and the bear will feed,

Their young ones will lie down together,

And the lion will eat straw like the ox,

And the suckling child will play on the hole of the asp,

And the weaned child will put his hand on the adder’s den.’

Such will be His righteous rule that all nature will be in harmony. The picture is idyllic, the hunters and the hunted sharing their food and lifestyle together and at peace, and their young all in harmony together, and all will be in harmony with man whose young will have control over all. Genesis 1:28 is finally fulfilled. No one will seek to benefit by the death of another. All predatory instincts will have ceased. So much so that the snake will no longer be man’s enemy, but totally trustworthy and safe to dally with. It is the reversal of the fall in Eden. The Enemy will no longer be able to exercise his guile. There will be no killing, no bloodlust, no devouring of another, no fear, no bite of death, no fear or deceit of the snake. It will be Paradise, with evil fully defeated.

(Note: This sits ill with the suggestion made by some of a world where the cow and the lamb and the kid and the fatling have one thing to fear, being offered as an offering in an earthly Temple. That is the exact opposite of what is depicted here. There are no sacrifices here. This cannot reasonably be thought of as including such an idea. In this world no sacrifices are necessary. End of note).

Note how in Isaiah 65:25 this glorious scene is linked with the new heaven and the new earth (Isaiah 65:17).

Isaiah 11:9

‘They will not hurt nor destroy,

In all my holy mountain,

For the earth will be full of the knowledge of Yahweh,

As the waters cover the sea.’

Thus there will be no more death, no more hurt, no more enmity, no more tears (compare Revelation 21:3-4), for all nature will have full knowledge of Yahweh and be obedient to His will. This is a picture of the everlasting kingdom. All will be made perfect just as it was intended to be in the beginning of creation. God’s holy mountain here has filled the whole earth, which is in turn filled with the knowledge of Yahweh. Knowledge here implies full understanding and harmony and response. It is a further reminder that God’s holy mountain is not the same as Jerusalem (see on Isaiah 2:2-4). In Isaiah 2:3 all nations came to the mountain of Yahweh, but here the mountain of Yahweh has embraced all that remains once the wicked have been slain with the breath of His mouth. The mountain of Yahweh is greater and more spiritually widespread than Jerusalem, that is, until finally ‘Jerusalem’ itself is also spoken of in universal terms (Isaiah 66:12-14; Isaiah 66:20-23; compare Galatians 4:26; Hebrews 12:22).

Thus does Isaiah present his picture of the time when God will have brought in perfection, presented in terms that the people of that time could appreciate, and yet having that added extra that warns us against taking it too literally.

Isaiah 11:10

‘And it will come about in that day that the root of Jesse,

Which stands for an ensign of the peoples,

To him will the nations seek,

And his resting place will be glory.’

And men too must have their part in this perfect kingdom (up to now all concentration has been on animals and little children, demonstrating its perfect innocence). The new King, the root of Jesse, will set up His banner, and all nations and people will seek to Him and enjoy His glorious resting place along with the animals and children.

So having expanded his thought to the restoring of Paradise Isaiah again brings attention back to the King. But now He is not just Jesse’s seed. He is a greater than Jesse. He is the root from which Jesse springs. He is the world King. It is He, the very root of Jesse, to whom the nations will seek. He will have raised Himself as a banner, and they will flock to Him and find rest within His glory, in His glorious resting place. This is a banner of peace as is appropriate for the Prince of Peace (Isaiah 9:6). Contrast Isaiah 5:26; Isaiah 13:2. It found a glorious fulfilment when His banner was raised at Pentecost and after, and the nations flocked to His banner. Jesus may well have had this verse in mind when He promised His own that in His Father’s house were many resting places (John 14:1-2).

The description of the coming One as ‘the root of Jesse’ contrasts with Isaiah 11:1 and emphasises that His glory does not come from Jesse. He is the root, Jesse is the stock. So in the end He Himself is the root, the stock, the branch and everything. All eyes must be on Him.

‘In that day.’ That is, in the future ‘day’, whenever it is, when God brings His purposes to fruition. How long that day would be was unknown to Isaiah. It was simply the future restoration, and he did not know how long it would take. It would be a long day in our terms. It began with the restoring of the people to the land, continued when Jesus Christ first came and through the ages, and awaits its final completion at His second coming in glory when His people find rest within His glory. With God a day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as a day (2 Peter 3:8).

Verses 11-16

The Restoration Of Israel And Judah (Isaiah 11:11-16).

And now, as after Isaiah 2:5; Isaiah 9:7, we are suddenly brought abruptly down to earth again. The glory of the coming eternal kingdom has been revealed. But what has been described is not just a myth, it relates specifically to the world situation and the position of God’s people. It is something to be truly enjoyed in the future. But before creation can be so blessed His people must return to Him and must be restored in readiness to act as His servant in the spreading of His truth, that the word of Yahweh may go out from Jerusalem (Isaiah 2:3).


a And it will come about in that day that the Lord will set His hand again the second time to recover the remnant of His people who will remain, from Assyria, and from Egypt, and from Pathros, and from Cush, and from Elam, and from Shinar, and from Hamath and from the islands of the sea (coastlands) (Isaiah 11:11).

b And He will set up an ensign for the nations, and will assemble the outcasts of Israel, and gather together the dispersed of Judah, from the four corners of the earth (Isaiah 11:12).

c And the envy also of Ephraim will depart, and those who vex Judah will be cut off. Ephraim will not envy Judah, and Judah will not vex Ephraim (Isaiah 11:13).

c And they will fly down on the shoulder of the Philistines on the west, together they will spoil the children of the east. They will put out their hand on Edom and Moab, and the children of Ammon will obey them (Isaiah 11:14 b).

b And Yahweh will utterly destroy the tongue of the Egyptian sea, and with His scorching wind He will shake His hand over the River, and He will smite it into seven streams (nahal - dried up river beds), and cause men to march over dryshod.

a And there will be a highway for the remnant of His people, who will remain, from Assyria, just as there was for Israel, in the day that he came up out of the land of Egypt

In ‘a’ the Lord will restore His people from Assyria and Egypt, etc. and in the parallel there will be a highway for them from Assyria, just as there had been in the day they came out of Egypt. In ‘b’ the Lord will set up a banner and gather to it the exiles of both Israel and Judah, and in the parallel Yahweh will make ways for His people to cross the barriers to their return dryshod. In ‘c’ those who vex Ephraim and Judah will be dealt with, and in the parallel they themselves will triumph over them.

Isaiah 11:11

‘And it will come about in that day that the Lord will set his hand again the second time to recover the remnant of his people who will remain, from Assyria, and from Egypt, and from Pathros, and from Cush, and from Elam, and from Shinar, and from Hamath and from the islands of the sea (coastlands).’

‘A second time’ refers back to Israel’s captivity in Egypt. Then the sovereign Lord delivered them, now He will deliver them again. Note that here we are back to the action of God Himself, and that it is only ‘the remnant’ of His people that He gathers. Large numbers of them have aligned themselves with the nations. Only the few will return. They will come from Assyria and Egypt, the then two greatest known nations, and from further afield, from Upper Egypt (Pathros), from North Africa (Cush), from beyond Assyria, from Elam and Shinar (Babylon), and from Hamath, and from the furthest coastlands. The spread reveals Isaiah’s consciousness of the fact that Yahweh will yet scatter His people further abroad because of their constant unfaithfulness (Isaiah 6:11-12). The scattering of first Galilee, and then Samaria is only the beginning.

Such a return of exiles undoubtedly took place within the inter-testamental period. All who wished to do so could return to their native land. Thus by the time of Jesus visitors from all over the world came to Jerusalem for the feasts, and could stay there if they willed. Compare Acts 2:5, ‘and there were dwelling at Jerusalem, Jews, from every nation under heaven.’ And that is followed by a similar list to here (Acts 2:9-11).

Note that Babylon is not prominently mentioned. While there are exiles there (Shinar) they are simply some among many. Babylon is not specifically in his sights.

Isaiah 11:12

‘And he will set up an ensign for the nations,

And will assemble the outcasts of Israel,

And gather together the dispersed of Judah,

From the four corners of the earth.’

The ensign here is not necessarily to be equated with the one in Isaiah 11:10. It is a favourite picture of Isaiah. In Isaiah 49:22 an ensign/banner is set up ‘to the peoples’ calling on them to bring God’s people back to the land. The ensign there is God’s signal to the peoples. Presumably therefore the same thing is in mind here. The setting up of an ensign is also used to call nations to battle (Isaiah 5:26; Isaiah 13:2), so the symbol does not have one fixed idea. Thus the nations are here being called on to help in the gathering of Israel/Judah back to the land.

We note that he is remembering Isaiah 6:12; and the name of his son, Sheer-jashub, ‘the remnant shall return’. He is well aware that Judah is to have its exiles. But there is no stress on their being in Babylon.

Alternately, however, we may see Isaiah 11:12 as recapitulating Isaiah 11:10-11. (We might begin Isaiah 11:12 by translating ‘so’.) Then we may see two actions as depicted here, the setting up of the Ensign for the nations on the one hand in Isaiah 11:12 a, as a recapitulation of Isaiah 11:10, and the gathering together of God’s remnant on the other in Isaiah 11:12 b as recapitulating Isaiah 11:11. Two necessary actions in God’s purposes. The Ensign to the nations is then the King Himself, and primary, and therefore comes first, while the gathering of the people is then also described as occurring.

But note that in Isaiah 11:10 He is set up as an Ensign to gather all the nations and people together in order that they may seek Him, an act of peace, whereas here the purpose of the ensign is to call on the nations to send back the dispersed of Israel and Judah from exile, and at no stage elsewhere is He said to be set up as the Ensign around which Israel will so gather. That is why we prefer the first interpretation, which also fits better with the analyses.

Either way the emphasis is at this point on the fact that God’s people will gather once more, drawn by Him, to serve Him once again, as Acts 2:5-11 tells us that they had done.

(An ensign is set up in Isaiah 5:26 to ‘the nations from far’ which calls the nations to come against His people. There the Assyrian invasion is probably mainly in mind, although it is deliberately not specific. In Isaiah 13:2 an ensign is set up ‘on the bare mountain’ where again it calls the nations for battle, but this time with reference to the destruction of Babylon. The principle behind the ensign is Yahweh’s sovereignty in world events).

The mention of Babylon at this stage under the name of Shinar stresses that Babylon is not seen as yet as a distinctive power with its name established, but as one among others. It fits well with Isaiah’s earlier ministry before the danger of Babylon became more impressed on him.

We may see for all this a twofold fulfilment. Firstly when the people were gathered back after the exile, and, over the later decades and centuries, were once again established in the land as a united people, and secondly when the Message of the Gospel went out into the world, and the banner of Christ was lifted up, and Jews from every nation under heaven responded to Him (compare Acts 2:5), finally drawing in all whom God has chosen.

Isaiah 11:13

‘And the envy also of Ephraim will depart,

And those who vex Judah will be cut off.

Ephraim will not envy Judah,

And Judah will not vex Ephraim.

And they will fly down on the shoulder of the Philistines on the west,

Together they will spoil the children of the east.

They will put out their hand on Edom and Moab,

And the children of Ammon will obey them.’

Those who envy Ephraim (or the envy that they have of Ephraim) will ‘depart’, they will not be able to do anything against them, and those who vex Judah will be cut off. And in their being gathered together the two nations will become one. Judah will not vex Ephraim, Ephraim will not envy Judah. They will be one people.

Then in what follows, as previously in Isaiah 10:26, Isaiah probably has in mind past history after the exodus when the Philistines, the children of the East (Judges 6:3), Edom (Numbers 20:20), Moab and Ammon (Judges 3:13) were fierce enemies of Israel (see also 1 Samuel 14:47) seeking either to prevent their establishment in the land, or to bring them into bondage and despoil them.

Others see in this a reference to the time of David when all these tribes and nations were in submission to him.

The mention of the Philistines as being ‘on the west’ also suggests a deliberate contrast with the children of the East, thus signifying all their enemies round about. This time there will be no such problem. Yahweh will bring them all in submission to them. And certainly in the inter-testamental period these areas came into Israelite hands. Nor would the two nations themselves be divided. They would be in the land as one people.

Again we are probably to see the twofold fulfilment, the literal establishing in the land in unity and control over these nations who had once held them in bondage, which became a reality in the inter-testamental period, and the triumph of the Gospel as taken out by Jewish missionaries (the Apostles and disciples) to ‘conquer’ those nations and bring them into subjection to Yahweh. The uniting of the tribes is then symbolic of the oneness of the true church of Christ.

Isaiah 11:15-16

‘And Yahweh will utterly destroy the tongue of the Egyptian sea,

And with his scorching wind he will shake his hand over the River,

And He will smite it into seven streams (nahal - dried up river beds),

And cause men to march over dryshod.

And there will be a highway for the remnant of his people,

Who will remain, from Assyria,

Just as there was for Israel,

In the day that he came up out of the land of Egypt.’

Access both from Egypt and from Assyria will be made possible by Yahweh’s power. Both the Egyptian sea and the Euphrates will open up to make it possible for God’s people to come over dryshod. Indeed the tongue of the Egyptian sea will be utterly destroyed so that it can hinder no more. It is under the Ban. There is no more division, no barrier from entering or leaving Egypt. (And as we know, until the construction of the Suez canal those ‘seas’ had disappeared). They will be exiles no more.

Later we will also be told of a highway between Egypt and Assyria as they are one with His people in worshipping Him (Isaiah 19:23-25). Such a situation was open to God’s people in the Roman Empire, and facilitated the spread of the Gospel in the days of the early church.

The descriptions are idealistic as is demonstrated by the River splitting into seven dried up river beds, dried up by Yahweh’s scorching wind. Seven is regularly the symbol of idealism. It is simply saying that by His power He will make a divinely perfect way open, as He did in the case of Egypt long before, and will do again.

This all connects with the glorious days when the Gospel had free rein in Egypt and Assyria and they united in worship along with the Christian Jews in Palestine in the early century of the Christian era. It will have even deeper fulfilment in the new heavens and the new earth where all are as one.

Note the emphasis on the power of the hand; the hand of the Lord in Isaiah 11:11, the hand of Israel and Judah in Isaiah 11:14, and the hand of Yahweh in Isaiah 11:15. It is Yahweh Who also strengthens their hand. The hand is the means by which things are done (compare Psalms 44:2).

We may end our look at this chapter by considering the final phrase. ‘Like as there was for Israel in the day that he came up out of the land of Egypt.’ There will be a new Exodus. It will be a new beginning. The old will have past, the new will have come.


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Bibliography Information
Pett, Peter. "Commentary on Isaiah 11:4". "Peter Pett's Commentary on the Bible ". 2013.

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