Isaiah 11:4
But with righteousness shall he judge the poor, and reprove with equity for the meek of the earth: and he shall smite the earth with the rod of his mouth, and with the breath of his lips shall he slay the wicked.
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(4) With righteousness shall he judge the poor . . .—The picture which Isaiah had drawn of the corrupt judges of his time gives point to the contrast (Isaiah 1:23; Isaiah 2:14-15; Isaiah 10:1-2). The poor whom they trampled on should be the special objects of the care of the true King (Matthew 11:5).

He shall smite the earth . . .—The “earth” stands here, if we accept the reading, for the rulers who are for the time supreme in it. A slight alteration of the Hebrew gives shall smite the tyrant, which forms a better parallelism with the “ungodly” of the next clause. The phrase “the sceptre of his mouth” is significant. The word which the Messiah-King speaks shall be as the sceptre which is the symbol of authority. So in Revelation 1:16, “a sharp two-edged sword” comes forth from the mouth of the Christ of St. John’s vision. The latter clause, “with the breath of his lips shall he slay . . . ,”has a parallel in Hosea 6:5.

Isaiah 11:4. With righteousness — With justice and impartiality; shall he judge the poor — Whom human judges commonly neglect and oppress, but whom he shall defend and deliver; and reprove with equity for the meek of the earth — Shall condemn their malicious enemies, and give sentence for them. He calls them meek, whom before he called poor, partly to show his justice in defending them when they 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 poor in the world, and not poor and proud, as many worldly persons are. And he shall smite the earth — That is, the men of the earth, intending chiefly the carnal and wicked, as it is in the next branch of the verse; with the rod of his mouth — With his word, which is his sceptre, and the rod of his power, (Psalm 110:2,) which is sharper than a sword, (Hebrews 4:12,) by the preaching whereof he subdues the world to himself, and will destroy his enemies, 2 Thessalonians 2:8. This he adds farther, 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. And with the breath of his lips — With his word, breathed out of his lips; whereby he explains what was meant by the foregoing expression, rod; shall he slay the wicked — The impenitent and unbelieving, the obstinate and irreclaimable, who will not obey the truth, but persist to obey unrighteousness. These he will slay or destroy, by the terrible judgments which he will execute upon them. This latter part of the verse will be eminently fulfilled in the destruction of antichrist, to whom St. Paul applies it 2 Thessalonians 2:3-8, (compare Revelation 19:21,) who is, by way of eminence, called the Wicked one, the man of sin, and ο αντικειμενος, the adversary to God’s truth and people.

11:1-9 The Messiah is called a Rod, and a Branch. The words signify a small, tender product; a shoot, such as is easily broken off. He comes forth out of the stem of Jesse; when the royal family was cut down and almost levelled with the ground, it would sprout again. The house of David was brought very low at the time of Christ's birth. The Messiah thus gave early notice that his kingdom was not of this world. But the Holy Spirit, in all his gifts and graces, shall rest and abide upon him; he shall have the fulness of the Godhead dwelling in him, Col 1:19; 2:9. Many consider that seven gifts of the Holy Spirit are here mentioned. And the doctrine of the influences of the Holy Spirit is here clearly taught. The Messiah would be just and righteous in all his government. His threatening shall be executed by the working of his Spirit according to his word. There shall be great peace and quiet under his government. The gospel changes the nature, and makes those who trampled on the meek of the earth, meek like them, and kind to them. But it shall be more fully shown in the latter days. Also Christ, the great Shepherd, shall take care of his flock, that the nature of troubles, and of death itself, shall be so changed, that they shall not do any real hurt. God's people shall be delivered, not only from evil, but from the fear of it. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? The better we know the God of love, the more shall we be changed into the same likeness, and the better disposed to all who have any likeness to him. This knowledge shall extend as the sea, so far shall it spread. And this blessed power there have been witnesses in every age of Christianity, though its most glorious time, here foretold, is not yet arrived. Meanwhile let us aim that our example and endeavours may help to promote the honour of Christ and his kingdom of peace.Shall he judge the poor - That is, he shall see that impartial justice is done them; he shall not take part with the rich against the poor, but shall show that he is the friend of justice. This is the quality of a just and upright magistrate, and this character the Lord Jesus everywhere evinced. He chose his disciples from among the poor; he condescended to be their companion and friend; he provided for their needs; and he pronounced their condition blessed; Matthew 5:3. There may be a reference here to the poor in spirit - the humble, the penitent; but the main idea is, that he would not be influenced by any undue regard for the higher ranks of life, but would be the friend and patron of the poor.

And reprove - הוכיח hô̂kiyach. And judge, decide, or argue for; that is, he shall be their friend and their impartial judge; Isaiah 11:3.

With equity - With uprightness, or uncorrupted integrity.

For the meek of the earth - ענוי־ארץ ‛anevēy 'ārets. For the humble, the lower class; referring to those who were usually passed by, or oppressed by those in power.

And he shall smite the earth - By the "earth" here, or the land, is meant evidently "the wicked," as the following member of the parallelism shows. Perhaps it is intended to be implied, that the earth, when he should come, would be eminently depraved; which was the fact. The characteristic here is that of an upright judge or prince, who would punish the wicked. To "smite" the earth, or the wicked, is expressive of punishment; and this characteristic is elsewhere attributed to the Messiah; see Psalm 2:9-12; Revelation 2:27. The trait is that of a just, upright, impartial exercise of power - such as would be manifested in the defense of the poor and the innocent, and in the punishment of the proud and the guilty.

With the rod of his mouth - The word שׁבט shêbet rendered here 'rod,' denotes properly a stick, or staff; a rod for chastisement or correction Proverbs 10:13; Proverbs 13:24; Job 9:34; Job 21:9; the staff, or scepter of a ruler - as an emblem of office; a measuring rod; a spear, etc.; Note, Isaiah 10:5. It is not elsewhere applied to the mouth, though it is often used in other connections. It means that which goes out of the mouth - a word command threatening decision; and it is implied that it would go forth to pronounce sentence of condemnation, and to punish. His word would be so just, impartial, and authoritative, that the effect would be to overwhelm the wicked. In a sense similar to this, Christ is said to have been seen by John, when 'out of his mouth went a sharp two-edged sword' Revelation 1:16; that is, his commands and decisions were so authoritative, and so certain in their execution, as to be like a sharp sword; compare Hebrews 4:12; Isaiah 49:2 : 'And he hath made my mouth like a sharp sword.' The discriminating preaching, the pungent discourses, the authoritative commands of the Lord Jesus, when on earth, showed, and his judicial decisions in the day of judment will show, the manner of the fulfillment of the prediction.

And with the breath of his lips - This is synonymous with the previous member of the parallelism. 'The breath of his lips' means that which goes forth from his lips - his doctrines, his commands, his decisions.

Shall he slay the wicked - That is, he shall condemn the wicked; or, he shall sentence them to punishment. This is descriptive of a prince or ruler, who by his commands and decisions effectually subdues and punishes the wicked; that is, he does justice to all. Grotius interprets this, 'by his prayers,' referring it to Hezekiah, and to the influence of his prayers in destroying the Assyrians. The Chaldee Paraphrast translates it, 'And by the word of his lips he shall slay the impious Armillus.' By "Armillus," the Jews mean the last great enemy of their nation, who would come after Gog and Magog and wage furious wars, and who would slay the Messiah Ben Ephraim, whom the Jews expect, but who would be himself slain by the rod of the Messiah Ben David, or the son of David. - "Castell."

4. judge—see that impartial justice is done them. "Judge" may mean here "rule," as in Ps 67:4.

reprove—or, "argue"; "decide." But Lowth, "work conviction in."

earth—Compare with Mt 5:5, and Re 11:15.

earth—its ungodly inhabitants, answering to "the wicked" in the parallel, and in antithesis to the "poor" and "meek," namely, in spirit, the humble pious (Mt 5:3). It is at the same time implied that "the earth" will be extraordinarily wicked when He shall come to judge and reign. His reign shall therefore be ushered in with judgments on the apostates (Ps 2:9-12; Lu 18:8; Re 2:27).

rod of … mouth—condemning sentences which proceed from His mouth against the wicked (Re 1:16; 2:16; 19:15, 21).

breath of … lips—his judicial decisions (Isa 30:28; Job 15:30; Re 19:20; 20:9-12). He as the Word of God (Re 19:13-15) comes to strike that blow which shall decide His claim to the kingdom, previously usurped by Satan, and "the beast" to whom Satan delegates his power. It will be a day of judgment to the Gentile dispensation, as the first coming was to the Jews. Compare a type of the "rod" (Nu 17:2-10).

Judge the poor; defend and deliver them, as judging is oft used, as Deu 32:36 Jeremiah 5:28 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 Jam 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, Psalm 17:14, or because the far greatest part of the inhabitants of the earth is wicked; the whole world lies in wickedness, 1Jo 5:1,9; for which reason they are oft called the world, as John 16:20 17:9,25, &c.

With the rod of his mouth; with his word, which is his sceptre, and the rod of his power, Psalm 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.

But with righteousness shall he judge the poor,.... The poor sinner, that is sensible of his spiritual poverty, and comes and acknowledges his sins and transgressions, and prays for pardoning grace and mercy, and hungers and thirsts after righteousness; such Christ justifies with his own righteousness, acquits and discharges them from all sin and condemnation, as also protects and defends them against all their enemies and oppressors:

and reprove with equity for the meek of the earth; that is, shall take the part of the meek, the lowly, and the humble, who are under a sense of their sins and unworthiness, apply to him for grace, righteousness, pardon, and eternal life; and for their sakes reprove wicked men that would distress and crush them; and in a just and equitable manner, in a way of righteous retaliation, render tribulation to them that trouble them:

and he shall smite the earth with the rod of his mouth: that is, either he shall smite the consciences of earthly and unregenerate men, by the ministration of his word, the rod of his strength, so that they shall be convinced of sin, and humbled for it, and be brought to repentance towards God, and faith in himself; or he shall smite the nations of the earth, the antichristian states, and destroy them, Revelation 19:15.

and with the breath of his lips shall he slay the wicked; either by the words of his mouth, as before; see Hosea 6:5 so that they become dead men in their own apprehensions, have no hope of life and salvation by their own works, see themselves dead in law, and liable to eternal death and damnation; or this is to be understood of the destruction of the wicked at the last day, by a sentence of condemnation pronounced upon them by Christ; and particularly of antichrist, the wicked and lawless one, the man of sin and son of perdition, whom the Lord shall consume with the spirit of his mouth, and destroy with the brightness of his coming, 2 Thessalonians 2:4 in which place the apostle seems to have respect to this; nor is the Targum foreign from the sense given, which is

"he shall smite the sinners of the earth with the word of his mouth, and with the speech of his lips he shall slay the wicked Armillus.''

Armillus seems to be a name hammered out of Romulus, and designs the Romish antichrist; for elsewhere the Jews expressly say, that Armillus is he whom the nations call antichrist (z); by whom they suppose that Messiah, the son of Joseph shall be slain, and afterwards he himself shall be slain by Messiah the son of David; or it is the same with a destroyer of the people, a name that well agrees with antichrist; see Revelation 11:18. This whole, verse is applied to the Messiah, both by ancient and modern Jews (a).

(z) Abkath Rocel, p. 52. Ed. Huls. Vid. Buxtorf. Lex. Talmud, p. 221, 222, 223, 224. (a) Shirhashirim. Rabba, fol. 22. 3. Midrash Ruth, fol. 33. 2. Pesikta apud Yalkut Simeoni, par. 2. fol. 66. 4. Nachman. Disputat. cum Fratre Paulo, p, 41.

But with righteousness shall he judge the poor, and reprove with equity for the meek of the earth: and he shall {b} smite the earth with the rod of his mouth, and with the breath of his lips shall he slay the wicked.

(b) All these properties can agree to no one, but only to Christ: for it is he who touches the hearts of the faithful and mortifies their concupiscence: and to the wicked he is the favour of death and to them who will perish, so that all the world will be smitten with his rod, which is his word.

4. The special objects of his care are the defenceless and down-trodden classes (cf. ch. Isaiah 1:23, Isaiah 10:2). Observe that the sporadic outbreak of injustice and violence does not appear to be excluded from Isaiah’s conception of the Messianic age; only, the transgressors are at once discovered and destroyed.

the meek of the earth] Possibly “the oppressed in the land.” Two words (‘ânî and ‘ânâv) are often confounded in the Hebr. Text; the former means simply to be in abject circumstances, the latter includes the religious virtue of resignation to an adverse lot (Rahlfs, ‘Anî und ‘Anaw in den Psalmen).

he shall smite the earth] The word for “earth” (’ereç) is probably written wrongly for ‘ârîç “oppressor.” It is not permissible, with Del. &c., to explain “earth” in the N.T. sense of “the (ungodly) world,” or “Wicked,” in the next clause, of the Antichrist (cf. 2 Thessalonians 2:8).

with the rod of his mouth … with the breath of his lips] Cf. Revelation 1:6. The Messiah’s sentence has a self-fulfilling energy (cf. Hosea 6:5; Acts 5:1-10). This reveals the operation of the “spirit of might,” as Isaiah 11:3 represents the effect of the “spirit of wisdom.”

Verse 4. - With righteousness shall he judge the poor (comp. Isaiah 32:1, "A king shall reign in righteousness"). It would be characteristic of the Messiah's rule that the poor should be eared for, that oppression should cease, and judgment be no more perverted in favor of the rich. There is an intended contrast between the Messiah's rule in this respect, and that of the princes of Judah (Isaiah 1:23; Isaiah 3:15; Isaiah 10:1, 2). Christian countries still, for the most part, follow their Lord's example in this particular, if in no other, having judges that are incorruptible, and tribunals that are free from any leaning against the poor. Reprove; or, plead (as in Job 16:21). The meek of the earth; rather, the humble, or afflicted. Low condition, not meekness of spirit, is what the word used expresses. He shall smite the earth. A slight alteration of the text produces the meaning, be shall smite the terrible one (comp. Isaiah 29:20), which improves the parallelism of the clauses. But there is no need of any alteration, parallelism in Isaiah being often incomplete. The Messiah at his coming will "smite the earth" generally (see Malachi 4:6, and comp. Matthew 10:34, "I came not to send peace on the earth, but a sword"), and will also especially chastise "the wicked." The rod of his mouth... the breath of his lips. "The Word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart" (Hebrews 4:12). The sayings of Christ pierce the conscience and penetrate the soul as no other words that ever came from a human mouth. In the last day words from his mouth will consign to everlasting life or to everlasting destruction. Isaiah 11:4This is the standard according to which He will judge when saving, and judge when punishing. "And judges the poor with righteousness, and passes sentence with equity for the humble in the land; and smites the earth with the rod of His mouth, and with the breath of His lips He slays the wicked. And righteousness is the girdle of His loins, and faithfulness the girdle of His hips." The main feature in Isaiah 11:4 is to be seen in the objective ideas. He will do justice to the dallim, the weak and helpless, by adopting an incorruptibly righteous course towards their oppressors, and decide with straightforwardness for the humble or meek of the land: ‛ânâv, like ‛ânı̄, from ‛ânâh, to bend, the latter denoting a person bowed down by misfortune, the former a person inwardly bowed down, i.e., from all self-conceit (hōcı̄ach l', as in Job 16:21). The poor and humble, or meek, are the peculiar objects of His royal care; just as it was really to them that the first beatitudes of the Sermon on the Mount applied. But "the earth" and "the wicked" (the latter is not to be understood collectively, but, as in several passages in the Old Testament, viz., Psalm 68:22; Psalm 110:6; Habakkuk 3:13-14, as pointing forward prophetically to an eschatological person, in whom hostility towards Jehovah and His Anointed culminates most satanically) will experience the full force of His penal righteousness. The very word of His mouth is a rod which shatters in pieces (Psalm 2:9; Revelation 1:16); and the breath of His lips is sufficient to destroy, without standing in need of any further means (2 Thessalonians 2:8). As the girdle upon the hips (mothnaim, lxx την̀ ὀσφύν), and in front upon the loins (chălâzaim, lxx τὰς πλευράς), fastens the clothes together, so all the qualities and active powers of His person have for their band tzedâkâh, which follows the inviolable norm of the divine will, and hâ'emūnâh, which holds immovably to the course divinely appointed, according to promise (Isaiah 25:1). Special prominence is given by the article to 'emūnâh; He is the faithful and true witness (Revelation 1:5; Revelation 3:14). Consequently with Him there commences a new epoch, in which the Son of David and His righteousness acquire a world-subduing force, and find their home in a humanity that has sprung, like Himself, out of deep humiliation.
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