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Isaiah 11

PARAGRAPH DIVISIONS OF MODERN TRANSLATIONS

NASB NKJV NRSV TEV NJB
Righteous Reign of the Branch The Reign of Jesse's Offspring The Messianic King The Peaceful Kingdom A Descendant of David
11:1-9 11:1-5 11:1-3a 11:1 11:1-4
(1-9) (1-5) (1-3a)   (1-4)
      11:1-5  
      (2-5)  
    11:3b    
    (3b)    
    11:4-9    
    (4-9)    
        11:5

(5)

  11:6-9   11:6-9 11:6-9
  (6-9)   (6-9) (6-9)
    The Messianic Age The Exiled People Will Return Return From the Dispersion
11:10 11:10 11:10 11:10-16 11:10-16
(10) (10)     (10-16)
The Restored Remnant        
11:11-16 11:11 11:11-16    
(11-16) (11)      
  11:12-16 (12-16)    
  (12-16)      

READING CYCLE THREE (see introduction)

FOLLOWING THE ORIGINAL AUTHOR'S INTENT AT PARAGRAPH LEVEL

This is a study guide commentary, which means that you are responsible for your own interpretation of the Bible. Each of us must walk in the light we have. You, the Bible, and the Holy Spirit are priority in interpretation. You must not relinquish this to a commentator.

Read the chapter in one sitting. Identify the subjects (reading cycle #3). Compare your subject divisions with the five translations above. Paragraphing is not inspired, but it is the key to following the original author's intent, which is the heart of interpretation. Every paragraph has one and only one subject.

1. First paragraph

2. Second paragraph

3. Third paragraph

4. Etc.

 

BACKGROUND STUDY

A. Chapter 11 is in sharp contrast to chapter 10, vv. 33-34, which describes the fall of Assyria (cf. 10:15-19).

 

B. As Assyria is cut down as a great forest, so the Messiah will rise from the stump of Jesse. Isaiah often uses imagery from trees.

 

C. Isaiah 11 reflects the promises to David's descendants found in II Samuel 7.

 

D. This ideal eschatological period is also described in 2:2-4; 9:1-7. Chapter 11, v. 10 could go with 1-9 or 11:16 depending on how one views the scope of the Messianic reign (i.e., the Promised Land restored or the whole earth).

 

WORD AND PHRASE STUDY

NASB (UPDATED)TEXT: 11:1-5
 1Then a shoot will spring from the stem of Jesse,
And a branch from his roots will bear fruit.
2The Spirit of the Lord will rest on Him,
The spirit of wisdom and understanding,
The spirit of counsel and strength,
The spirit of knowledge and the fear of the Lord.
3And He will delight in the fear of the Lord,
And He will not judge by what His eyes see,
Nor make a decision by what His ears hear;
4But with righteousness He will judge the poor,
And decide with fairness for the afflicted of the earth;
And He will strike the earth with the rod of His mouth,
And with the breath of His lips He will slay the wicked.
5Also righteousness will be the belt about His loins,
And faithfulness the belt about His waist.

11:1 "a shoot" This rare word found only here in the OT, ("twig," "branch," or "shoot" translated "rod" in Pro. 14:3, BDB 310, KB 307) obviously refers to a supernatural Davidic descendant (cf. 6:13; II Samuel 7; Rev. 22:16) out of a seemingly dead stump (i.e., exiled Judah) will come a new king! This imagery (but different Hebrew word) is seen again in the Suffering Servant Song of Isaiah 52:13-53:12 (i.e., v. 2).

The Jewish Study Bible (p. 807) adds an interesting comment on "stump."

"If the translation 'stump' is correct, then the passage may presume that the Davidic dynasty will (or has) come to an end; this reading would deviate significantly from Isaiah's notion that Davidic kings will reign eternally (cf. II Sam. 7:8-16; Ps. 89:20-37). But the Hebrew 'geza' refers not only to a stump of a tree that has been cut down but also to the trunk of a living tree."

I cannot confirm this meaning for "shoot" unless it is 40:24.

▣ "from the stem of Jesse" Jesse was King David's father. This future descendant is mentioned in v. 10; 9:7; 16:5.

The OT gives the lineage of the Special Coming One, the Anointed One.

1. from the tribe of Judah, Gen. 49:8-12, esp. v. 10 and Rev. 5:5

2. from the family of Jesse, II Samuel 7

The special child of the new age has now been identified as a special ruler. His character will characterize the new age (cf. Jer. 23:5).

▣ "a branch from his roots" The noun "branch," "sprout," or "shoot" (BDB 666, cf. 14:19; 60:21; Dan. 11:7) is parallel to "branch" or "sprout" (BDB 855, cf. 4:2; 61:11). New growth will come! See Special Topic at 4:2.

▣ "will bear fruit" The MT has the verb "bear fruit" (פרה, BDB 826, KB 963, Qal imperfect, Dead Sea Scrolls, NASB), but most ancient and modern versions assume a similar verb, פרח (BDB 827).

1. NKJV, NRSV, Peshitta, "shall grow out"

2. NJB, "will grow"

3. LXX, Targums, "shall come up"

4. REB, "will spring from"

5. JPSOA, "shall sprout"

The second option fits the parallelism best!

11:2 "the Spirit" Many have tried to relate this passage to the seven-fold spirits of Rev. 1:4. This seems doubtful to me. The MT lists six characteristics, but the LXX adds a seventh, "piety," in place of "fear" in v. 2, but then adds "fear" from v. 3. However, this does relate to the titles of Isa. 9:6 and describes the king fully equipped by God in insight, administration, and piety. The Spirit of the Lord abides on him as He did on David (cf. I Sam. 16:13).

The personality of the "Spirit" is not fully revealed in the OT. In the OT the Spirit is YHWH's personal influence to accomplish His purposes, much like the "Angel of the Lord." It is not until the NT that His full personality and Deity are revealed. See Special Topic: The Trinity at 6:8. See SPECIAL TOPIC: THE PERSONHOOD OF THE SPIRIT at 32:15-20.

The other problem with the word (BDB 924) is that it can refer to human characteristics or divine action.

▣ "will rest on him" The verb (BDB 628, KB 679) is a Qal perfect denoting a settled condition. It will abide and remain. This same truth is stated in different ways in 42:1; 59:21; 61:1; Matt. 3:16; Luke 4:18.

▣ "the spirit of. . ." Basically there are three groups of gifts.

1. intellectual

a. wisdom, BDB 315 (opposite of 10:13)

b. understanding, BDB 108 (see first pair in Deut. 4:6)

2. effective administration (cf. 9:6-7)

a. counsel, BDB 420

b. strength, BDB 150

(Reign of peace through military power, cf. II Kgs. 18:20)

3. personal piety

a. knowledge of the Lord, BDB 395

b. fear of the Lord, BDB 432 (cf. v. 3)

This same type of description is found in 2:2-4; 9:6-7; 42:1-4. It will be a time of justice, righteousness. and peace.

11:3 "will delight" This is literally "breathe in" (BDB 926, KB 1195, Hiphil infinitive construct). This is used in the sense of the pleasing smell of the sacrifice or incense rising to God (i.e., Gen. 8:21).

▣ "in the fear of the Lord" This term "fear" (BDB 432) denotes a respect for the awesomeness of God. It was meant to keep the covenant people from sinning (cf. Exod. 20:20; Deut. 4:10; 6:24). King David feared YHWH (cf. II Sam. 23:3). This Messiah, the new David, perfectly reflects this reverence as the ideal example of a "true Israelite." Note how it forms the introduction to Proverbs (cf. 1:7; also note 2:5; 14:26,27)!

"He will not judge by what His eyes see" Because of the gifts of the Spirit this special Davidic ruler will be able to discern truth and not be tricked by false testimony. He will be the perfect righteous judge. The kings of Israel functioned as the last resort for justice.

11:4 Does it surprise you that poverty and oppression will continue into the new age? This is the kind of literalism that causes confusion. This verse's purpose is the character of the Ruler, not a description of a millennial society! It was meant to show that He will bring conformity to the ideals of God's revealed covenant. He will reflect YHWH's character Himself and project this onto human relationships!

"righteousness" See Special Topic at 1:4.

▣ "with the rod of his mouth" This sounds very similar to the phrase used in Rev. 1:16; 2:16, which speaks of the power of the spoken word (cf. Genesis 1; John 1) in the phrase "sword of my mouth." The last two lines of poetry speak of the ruler's effective power (cf. v. 2c).

11:5 Clothing is a metaphor used to describe the qualities of the coming righteous Davidic ruler. Later Paul will use this to describe the believer's provisions for spiritual conflict (cf. Eph. 6:14).

NASB (UPDATED)TEXT: 11:6-9
6And the wolf will dwell with the lamb,
And the leopard will lie down with the young goat,
And the calf and the young lion and the fatling together;
And a little boy will lead them.
7Also the cow and the bear will graze,
Their young will lie down together,
And the lion will eat straw like the ox.
8The nursing child will play by the hole of the cobra,
And the weaned child will put his hand on the viper's den.
9They will not hurt or destroy in all My holy mountain,
For the earth will be full of the knowledge of the Lord
As the waters cover the sea.

11:6-9 This is a picture of the Messianic era, described in terms of Genesis 1 and used in Revelation 22. Nature has been affected by mankind's sin, Genesis 3. It will also be affected by the Messiah's salvation (cf. Rom. 8:19-25). Notice the emphasis again on the small child of the new age.

The fellowship between humans and animals reflects the Garden of Eden. Humans have so much in common with the animals that occupy the surface of this planet. They were also created for fellowship with God (cf. Job 38:39; 40:34) and us! The Bible starts with God, humans, and animals in a garden setting (Genesis 1-2) and it concludes with God, humans, and with these passages in Isaiah, animals (cf. Isa. 65:15; Hosea 2:18; Revelation 21-22). I personally do not think our pets will be in heaven, but I do think animals will be a part of eternity! They add a wonderful richness to life. They only became food and coverings after the Fall!

Another point about the inherent ambiguity involved in texts associated with the eschaton is the age of the persons mentioned. Little children (v. 6) and infants (v. 7) implies that physical birth continues. This assumes an earthly setting totally analogous to current life (cf. Matt. 24:38; Luke 17:27). However, Jesus asserts that there will be no sexual activity in the new age (cf. Matt. 22:29-30). Will humans in the eschaton be all different ages? Will they grow old? These are questions that have caused commentators to postulate a limited earthly period of restored righteousness (i.e., a millennium) and a future idealized state. Some have even postulated a split between a group in heaven and a group on earth. I prefer a single, visible Second Coming and an immediate idealized fellowship with God. If this is true, much of the OT and NT has to be viewed as accommodation related to the spiritual Kingdom of God. Please see my commentaries on Revelation, Daniel, Zechariah online free at www.freebiblecommentary.org.

This new day of universal peace is described in idealistic, area-wide, inclusivistic terms. When is this new age to manifest itself?

1. return from exile under Zerubbabel and Joshua (i.e., Ezra and Nehemiah)

2. the Maccabean period (interbiblical)

3. the inauguration of the Kingdom of God in Jesus' lifetime (Gospels)

4. a millennial period (Rev. 20:1-10 only)

5. an eternal kingdom (cf. Dan. 7:14)

Each is viewed as a new opportunity, but with problems (#1-4). This is where different systematic (denominational) theologies take the ambiguous references and turn them into a "theological grid" through which to view all Scripture. The promises are sure! But the time frame and specifics are not.

One central question which deals with this issue is "how literal is the restoration of an earthly garden (i.e., Eden) to be taken (Genesis 1-3 and Revelation 21-22)"? Is (1) this planet the focus; (2) the kosmos the focus; or (3) a spiritual realm beyond time-space, possibly another dimension of reality (cf. John 4:21-24; 18:36)?

11:6

NASB, NKJV,
NRSV"and the fatling"
REV, REB"will feed together"
NJB"fat-stock beast"

The LXX and Peshitta add "ox" and also add the verb "feed together." The MT has "fatling," but no verb. With an emendation "and the fatling" (ומריא) can be changed to "will be fed" (ימרו). The UBS Hebrew Text Project gives the verb a "C" rating (considerable doubt). With the parallelism of the first two and fourth lines of poetry having verbs, one would expect the third line to have one also. The Dead Sea Scroll of Isaiah and the Septuagint have the verb "fed."

The fatling would have sacrificial connotations (cf. 1:11; Amos 5:22).

11:9 "My holy mountain" This does not refer to Jerusalem or Sinai, but to the entire earth as the parallel phrase in v. 9b shows. Also notice that the attributes of the Messiah have now been effectively communicated to all humans (cf. Gen. 1:26-27; 3:15). He is the ideal covenant man!

NASB (UPDATED)TEXT: 11:10
10Then in that day
The nations will resort to the root of Jesse,
Who will stand as a signal for the peoples;
And His resting place will be glorious.

11:10 Verses like 4, 9, and 10 can be understood in one of two ways.

1. YHWH will restore His people to Canaan and the world will acknowledge them.

2. The emphasis of a worldwide reign of a Davidic seed fulfills the promise of Gen. 3:15 for the restoration of the image and likeness of God in all humanity, which was damaged by the Fall.

Are these Isaiah texts ultimately about Israel only or about the world? Are they literal, symbolic, or multiple fulfillment? Here is where one's overall view of Scripture begins to organize (for better or worse) texts. I have biases like everyone else! I have tried to list mine in the Special Topic: Bob's Evangelical Biases. You can read this at 1:3. It is difficult to be faithful to texts and context and all texts at the same time! No one does it well!

NASB (UPDATED)TEXT: 11:11-16
11Then it will happen on that day that the Lord
Will again recover the second time with His hand
The remnant of His people, who will remain,
From Assyria, Egypt, Pathros, Cush, Elam, Shinar, Hamath,
And from the islands of the sea.
12And He will lift up a standard for the nations
And assemble the banished ones of Israel,
And will gather the dispersed of Judah
From the four corners of the earth.
13Then the jealousy of Ephraim will depart,
And those who harass Judah will be cut off;
Ephraim will not be jealous of Judah,
And Judah will not harass Ephraim.
14They will swoop down on the slopes of the Philistines on the west;
Together they will plunder the sons of the east;
They will possess Edom and Moab,
And the sons of Ammon will be subject to them.
15And the Lord will utterly destroy
The tongue of the Sea of Egypt;
And He will wave His hand over the River
With His scorching wind;
And He will strike it into seven streams
And make men walk over dry-shod.
16And there will be a highway from Assyria
For the remnant of His people who will be left,
Just as there was for Israel
In the day that they came up out of the land of Egypt.

11:11 This verse speaks of a climactic visitation by God (cf. 2:2,11,12,20; 3:7,18; 4:1,2; 7:17,18,20; 9:14; 10:3,17,20,27). Here it is a day of restoration! The covenant people (i.e., in this case the Northern Ten Tribes), scattered across the ANE, will return home (a symbol of returning to faith in YHWH).

However, the rest of the literary unit (chapters 7-12) has a universal element (cf. 2:2-4; 9:1-7)!

▣ "with His hand" This is an anthropomorphic idiom for divine activity within history. In Genesis 1 God speaks and things occur, but here He moves His hand (cf. v. 15; 1:25; 5:25; 8:11; 9:12,17,21; 10:4, etc.).

11:12 "the four corners of the earth" Four is the symbolic number for the whole earth.

SPECIAL TOPIC: SYMBOLIC NUMBERS IN SCRIPTURE

11:13 "Ephraim will not be jealous of Judah,

And Judah will not harass Ephraim" Notice in the new era unity will be the keynote, not the division that has characterized the people of God in the past.

11:14 This verse is surprising! Is Isaiah prophesying a vindictive united Israel or is she to be the channel of revelation for "the nations" to come to YHWH in peace (cf. 2:2-4)?

▣ "sons of the east" This phrase can refer to several different people groups, depending on the context (cf. Gen. 29:1; Jdgs. 6:3,33; 7:12; 8:10; I Kgs. 4:30; Job 1:3; Isa. 11:14; Jer. 49:28; Ezek. 25:4,10).

11:15 The covenant people's traditional enemies will be utterly defeated.

NASB, NKJV,
NRSV"will utterly destroy"
TEV, NJB"will dry up"
LXX"make desolate"
Peshitta"will utterly dry up"
REB"will divide"

The NASB follows the MT (והחרים, BDB 355, KB 353, Hiphil perfect), which the UBS Hebrew Text Project gives a "B" rating (some doubt). The other reading is ( והחריב, BDB 351, KB 349). The NEB and REB assume a proposed root (חרם, KB 354 II, Hiphil perfect), which means "split" or "divide" (cf. Exod. 14:16). This is an allusion to a new exodus (cf. v. 11)!

11:16 "a highway" See full note at 19:23.

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS 

This is a study guide commentary, which means that you are responsible for your own interpretation of the Bible. Each of us must walk in the light we have. You, the Bible, and the Holy Spirit are priority in interpretation. You must not relinquish this to a commentator.

These discussion questions are provided to help you think through the major issues of this section of the book. They are meant to be thought-provoking, not definitive.

1. Are the titles of the child used in chapters 9 and 11 an assertion of his Deity?

2. Explain the historical background of chapters 7 through 10:4 and 10:4 through 34.

3. Will nature be a part of heaven?