Isaiah 11:6
The wolf also shall dwell with the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the kid; and the calf and the young lion and the fatling together; and a little child shall lead them.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(6) The wolf also shall dwell with the lamb . . .—It is significant of the prophet’s sympathy with the animal world that he thinks of that also as sharing in the blessings of redemption. Rapine and cruelty even there were to him signs of an imperfect order, or the consequences of a fall, even as to St. Paul they witnessed of a “bondage of corruption” (Romans 8:21). The very instincts of the brute creation should be changed in “the age to come,” and “the lion should eat straw like the ox.” Men have discussed the question whether and when the words shall receive a literal fulfilment, and the answer to that question lies behind the veil. It may be that what we call the laws of animal nature in these respects are tending to a final goal, of which the evolution that has tamed the dog, the bull, the horse, is as it were a pledge and earnest (Soph., Antig., 342-351). It may be, however, that each form of brute cruelty was to the prophet’s mind the symbol of a human evil, and the imagery admits, therefore, of an allegorical rather than a literal interpretation. The classical student will remember the striking parallelism of the fourth Eclogue of Virgil, which, in its turn, may have been a far-off echo of Isaiah’s thoughts, floating in the air or embodied in apocryphal Sibylline Oracles among the Jews of Alexandria and Rome.

Isaiah 11:6-8. The wolf shall dwell with the lamb, &c. — “We have here the illustrious consequence of the economy of this divine kingdom, this kingdom of righteousness, equity, faith, and grace.” The expressions which describe it are metaphorical: they represent the subjects of it under the figure of a flock, lying down and feeding under the care of the Messiah, as the great and chief shepherd, in the utmost peace, harmony, and security. Men of fierce, cruel, and ungovernable dispositions shall be so transformed by the preaching of the gospel, and by the grace of Christ, that they shall become most humble, gentle, and tractable, and shall no more vex and persecute those meek and poor ones, mentioned Isaiah 11:4; but shall become such as they. Yea, the most inveterate enemies of the kingdom of God, such as the persecuting Saul, shall be brought into its communion, having laid down their cruelty, barbarity, and ferocity, their inclination to hurt, their craft and subtlety; and not only so, but this kingdom also shall be purged from all offences, from all evils and instruments of malice. For the people, being enlightened with truth, and renewed by grace, shall put 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 in all the offices of good-will. This is the sum of the present passage, divested of metaphor. For, it is evident, as Michaelis has observed, that a mystical sense is not intended to be assigned to each of these images, or figurative expressions, and a particular and partial truth to be deduced therefrom; but a general doctrine is to be learned from the whole, namely, that the kingdom of the Messiah is a kingdom of peace, as well as of righteousness; of happiness, as well as of holiness; and that the natural tendency of his religion is to produce meekness, gentleness, long- suffering, and the exercise of mutual benevolence among men, as well as piety in all its branches toward God. This indeed is declared in plain words in the next verse.

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.The wolf also - In this, and the following verses, the prophet describes the effect of his reign in producing peace and tranquility on the earth. The description is highly poetical, and is one that is common in ancient writings in describing a golden age. The two leading ideas are those of "peace" and "security." The figure is taken from the condition of animals of all descriptions living in a state of harmony, where those which are by nature defenseless, and which are usually made the prey of the strong, are suffered to live in security. By nature the wolf preys upon the lamb, and the leopard upon the kid, and the adder is venomous, and the bear, and the cow, and the lion, and the ox, cannot live together. But if a state of things should arise, where all this hostility would cease; where the wild animals would lay aside their ferocity, and where the feeble and the gentle would be safe; where the adder would cease to be venomous, and where all would be so mild and harmless that a little child would be safe, and could lead even the most ferocious animals, that state would represent the reign of the Messiah. Under his dominion, such a change would be produced as that those who were by nature violent, severe, and oppressive; those whose disposition is illustrated by the ferocious and bloodthirsty propensities of the lion and the leopard, and by the poison of the adder, would be changed and subdued, and would be disposed to live in peace and harmony with others. This is the "general" idea of the passage. We are not to cut the interpretation to the quick, and to press the expressions to know what particular class of people are represented by the lion, the bear, or the adder. The "general" image that is before the prophet's mind is that of peace and safety, "such as that would be" if a change were to be produced in wild animals, making them tame, and peaceful, and harmless.

This description of a golden age is one that is common in Oriental writers, where the wild beasts are represented as growing tame; where serpents are harmless; and where all is plenty, peace, and happiness. Thus Jones, in his commentary on Asiatic poetry, quotes from an Arabic poet, "Ibn Onein," p. 380:

Justitia, a qua mansuetus fit lupus fame astrictus,

Esuriens, licet hinnulum candidurn videat -

'Justice, by which the ravening wolf, driven by hunger, becomes tame, although he sees a white kid.' Thus, also, Ferdusi, a Persian poet:

Rerum Dominus, Mahmud, rex. potens,

Ad cujus aquam potum veniunt simul agnus et lupus -

'Mahmud, mighty king, lord of events, to whose fountain the lamb and the wolf come to drink.' Thus Virgil, Eclogue iv. 21:

Ipsae lactae domum referent distenta capellae

Ubera; nec magnos metuent armenta leones -

Home their full udders, goats, unurged shall bear,

Nor shall the herd the lordly lion fear.

And immediately after:

Occidet et serpens, et fallax herba veneni

continued...

6. wolf … lamb—Each animal is coupled with that one which is its natural prey. A fit state of things under the "Prince of Peace" (Isa 65:25; Eze 34:25; Ho 2:18). These may be figures for men of corresponding animal-like characters (Eze 22:27; 38:13; Jer 5:6; 13:23; Mt 7:15; Lu 10:3). Still a literal change in the relations of animals to man and each other, restoring the state in Eden, is a more likely interpretation. Compare Ge 2:19, 20, with Ps 8:6-8, which describes the restoration to man, in the person of "the Son of man," of the lost dominion over the animal kingdom of which he had been designed to be the merciful vicegerent under God, for the good of his animal subjects (Ro 8:19-22). The wolf also shall dwell with the lamb, & c.; the creatures shall be restored to that state of innocency in which they were before the fall of man. But this is not to be understood literally, which is a gross and vain conceit of some Jews; but spiritually and metaphorically, as is evident. And the sense of the metaphor is this, Men of fierce, and cruel, and ungovernable dispositions, shall be so transformed by the preaching of the gospel, and by the grace of Christ, that they shall become most humble, and gentle, and tractable, and shall no more vex and persecute those meek and poor ones mentioned Isaiah 11:4, but shall become such as they; of which we have instances in Saul being made a Paul, and in the rugged jailer, Ac 16, and in innumerable others. But how can this be applied to Hezekiah with any colour?

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

And the wolf also shall dwell with the lamb,.... This, and the three following verses Isaiah 11:7, describe the peaceableness of the Messiah's kingdom; and which the Targum introduces in this manner,

"in the days of the Messiah of Israel, peace shall be multiplied in the earth.''

The wild and tame creatures shall agree together, and the former shall become the latter; which is not to be understood literally of the savage creatures, as if they should lose their nature, and be restored, as it is said, to their paradisiacal estate, which is supposed to be the time of the restitution of all things; but figuratively of men, comparable to wild creatures, who through the power of divine grace, accompanying the word preached, shall become tame, mild, meek, and humble; such who have been as ravenous wolves, have worried Christ's sheep, made havoc of them, breathing out slaughter and threatenings against them, as did Saul, through converting grace, become as gentle and harmless as lambs, and take up their residence in Christ's fold, and dwell with, yea, some of them even feed, Christ's lambs and sheep, as the above mentioned person:

and the leopard shall lie down with the kid; such who are like the leopard, for the fierceness of his nature, and the variety of his spots; who can no more change their hearts and their actions, than that creature can change its nature and its spots; are so wrought upon by the power of divine grace, as to drop their rage against the saints, alter their course of life, and attend on the word and ordinances, lie down beside the shepherds' tents, where the church feeds her kids, or young converts:

and the calf and the young lion and the fatling together; either dwell and feed together, or lie down together, or walk together, since it follows:

and a little child shall lead them; become through the grace of God so tractable, that they shall be led, guided, and governed by the ministers of the Gospel, Christ's babes and sucklings, to whom he reveals the great things of his Gospel, and out of whose mouths he ordains praise. Bohlius (a) interprets this little child of Christ himself, by whom they should be led and directed, see Isaiah 9:6 and the following passages are referred to the times of the Messiah by the Jewish writers (b); and Maimonides (c) in particular observes, that they are not to be understood literally, as if the custom and order of things in the world would cease, or that things would be renewed as at the creation, but in a parabolical and enigmatical sense; and interprets them of the Israelites dwelling safely among the wicked of the nations of the world, comparable to the wild beasts of the field.

(This verse may apply to the future state when all things will be restored to their original state before man fell. By Adam's sin, death and bloodshed were introduced into the creation. Romans 5:12. In the final state these will be removed and the wild nature of animals become tame. Editor.)

(a) Comment. Bibl. Rab. in Thesaur. Dissert. Philolog. par. 1. p. 752. (b) Tzeror Hammor, fol. 25. 3. Baal Hatturim in Deuteronomy 11. 25. (c) Hilchot Melachim, c. 12. sect. 1. & Moreh Nevochim, par 3. c. 11. p. 354.

The {c} wolf also shall dwell with the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the kid; and the calf and the young lion and the fatling together; and a little child shall lead them.

(c) Men because of their wicked affections are named by the names of beasts, in which the same affections reign: but Christ by his Spirit will reform them, and work in them such mutual charity, that they will be like lambs, favouring and loving one another and cast off all their cruel affections, Isa 65:25.

EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
6–8. This remarkable prophecy of the idyllic state of the brute creation is imitated in the Sibylline Oracles (3:766 ff.) and more faintly echoed in the Fourth and Fifth Eclogues of Vergil. Similarly, an Arabic poet (Ibn Onein, quoted by Ges.) speaks of “a righteousness, through which the hungry wolf becomes tame.”—The description is not to be interpreted allegorically, as if the wild beasts were merely symbols for cruel and rapacious men. Neither perhaps is it to be taken quite literally. It is rather a poetic presentation of the truth that the regeneration of human society is to be accompanied by a restoration of the harmony of creation (cf. Romans 8:19-22). The fact that tame and wild animals are regularly bracketed together shews that the main idea is the establishment of peace between man and the animals (Hosea 2:20); the animals that are now wild shall no longer prey on those that are domesticated for the service of man. But the striking feature of the prophecy is that the predatory beasts are not conceived as extirpated (as Ezekiel 34:25; Ezekiel 34:28) but as having their habits and instincts changed.

Verses 6-9. - Messiah's kingdom, when fully realized, shall be one of perfect peace. "They shall neither hurt nor destroy in all his holy mountain." Primarily, no doubt, the passage is figurative, and points to harmony among men, who, in Messiah's kingdom, shall no longer prey one upon another (see especially ver. 9). But, from the highest spiritual standpoint, the figure itself becomes a reality, and it is seen that, if in the "new heavens and new earth" there is an animal creation, it will be fitting that there harmony should equally prevail among the inferior creation. Human sin may not have introduced rapine and violence among the beasts - at least, geologists tell us that animals preyed one upon another long before the earth was the habitation of man - but still man's influence may prevail to eradicate the beasts' natural impulses and educate them to something higher. Already domestication produces an accord and harmony that is in a certain sense against nature. May not this be carried further in the course of ages, and Isaiah's picture have a literal fulfillment? Jerome's scorn of the notion as a poetic dream has about it something harsh and untender. Will not God realize all, and more than all, of love and happiness that poets' dreams can reach to? Verse 6. - The wolf... the leopard... the young lion... the bear are the only ferocious animals of Palestine, where the tiger, the crocodile, the alligator, and the jaguar are unknown. That the Palestinian bear was carnivorous, and a danger to man, appears by Lamentations 3:10; Daniel 7:5; Amos 5:19. A little child shall lead them. Man's superiority over the brute creation shall continue, and even be augmented. The most powerful beasts shall submit to the control of a child. Isaiah 11:6The fruit of righteousness is peace, which now reigns in humanity under the rule of the Prince of Peace, and even in the animal world, with nothing whatever to disturb it. "And the wolf dwells with the lamb, and the leopard lies down with the kid; and calf and lion and stalled ox together: a little boy drives them. And cow and bear go to the pasture; their young ones lie down together: and the lion eats shopped straw like the ox. And the suckling plays by the hole of the adder, and the weaned child stretches its hand to the pupil of the basilisk-viper. They will not hurt nor destroy in all my holy mountain: for the land is filled with knowledge of Jehovah, like the waters covering the sea." The fathers, and such commentators as Luther, Calvin, and Vitringa, have taken all these figures from the animal world as symbolical. Modern rationalists, on the other hand, understand them literally, but regard the whole as a beautiful dream and wish. It is a prophecy, however, the realization of which is to be expected on this side of the boundary between time and eternity, and, as Paul has shown in Romans 8, is an integral link in the predestined course of the history of salvation (Hengstenberg, Umbreit, Hofmann, Drechsler). There now reign among irrational creatures, from the greatest to the least, - even among such as are invisible, - fierce conflicts and bloodthirstiness of the most savage kind. But when the Son of David enters upon the full possession of His royal inheritance, the peace of paradise will be renewed, and all that is true in the popular legends of the golden age be realized and confirmed. This is what the prophet depicts in such lovely colours. The wolf and lamb, those two hereditary foes, will be perfectly reconciled then. The leopard will let the teazing kid lie down beside it. The lion, between the calf and stalled ox, neither seizes upon its weaker neighbour, nor longs for the fatter one. Cow and bear graze together, whilst their young ones lie side beside in the pasture. The lion no longer thirsts for blood, but contents itself, like the ox, with chopped straw. The suckling pursues its sport (pilpel of שׁעע, mulcere) by the adder's hole, and the child just weaned stretches out its hand boldly and fearlessly to me'ūrath tziph‛ōni. It is evident from Jeremiah 8:17 that tziph‛ōni is the name of a species of snake. According to Aquila and the Vulgate, it is basiliskos, serpens regulus, possibly from tzaph, to pipe or hiss (Ges., Frst); for Isidorus, in his Origg. xii. 4, says, Sibilus idem est qui et regulus; sibilo enim occidit, antequam mordeat vel exurat. For the hapax leg. hâdâh, the meaning dirigere, tendere, is established by the Arabic; but there is all the more uncertainty about the meaning of the hap. leg. מאורה. According to the parallel חר, it seems to signify the hollow (Syr., Vulg., lxx, κοίτη): whether from אּוּר equals עוּר, from which comes מערה; or from אור, the light-hole (like מאור, which occurs in the Mishna, Ohaloth xiii. 1) or opening where a cavern opens to the light of day. It is probable, however, that me'ūrâh refers to something that exerts an attractive influence upon the child, either the "blending of colours" (Saad. renders tziph‛oni, errakas', the motley snake), or better still, the "pupil of the eye" (Targum), taking the word as a feminine of mâ'ōr, the light of the eye (b. Erubin 55b - the power of vision). The look of a snake, more especially of the basilisk (not merely the basilisk-lizard, but also the basilisk-viper), was supposed to have a paralyzing and bewitching influence; but now the snake will lose this pernicious power (Isaiah 65:25), and the basilisk become so tame and harmless, as to let children handle its sparkling eyes as if they were jewels. All this, as we should say with Luthardt and Hofmann (Schriftbeweis, ii. 2, 567), is only colouring which the hand of the prophet employs, for the purpose of painting the peace of that glorified state which surpasses all possibility of description; and it is unquestionably necessary to take the thought of the promise in a spiritual sense, without adhering literally to the medium employed in expressing it. But, on the other hand, we must guard against treating the description itself as merely a drapery thrown around the actual object; whereas it is rather the refraction of the object in the mind of the prophet himself, and therefore a manifestation of the true nature of that which he actually saw.

But are the animals to be taken as the subject in Isaiah 11:9 also? The subject that most naturally suggests itself is undoubtedly the animals, of which a few that are alarming and destructive to men have been mentioned just before. And the fact that they really are thought of as the subject, is confirmed by Isaiah 65:25, where Isaiah 11:6-9 is repeated in a compendious form. The idea that ירעוּ requires men as the subject, is refuted by the common רעה חיּה (compare the parallel promise in Ezekiel 34:25, which rests upon Hosea 2:20). That the term yashchithu can be applied to animals, is evident from Jeremiah 2:30, and may be assumed as a matter of course. But if the animals are the subject, har kodshi (my holy mountain) is not Zion-Moriah, upon which wild beasts never made their home in historical times; but, as the generalizing col (all) clearly shows, the whole of the holy mountain-land of Israel: har kodshi has just this meaning in Isaiah 57:13 (cf., Psalm 78:54; Exodus 15:17). The fact that peace prevails in the animal world, and also peace between man and beast, is then attributed to the universal prevalence of the knowledge of God, in consequence of which that destructive hostility between the animal world and man, by which estrangement and apostasy from God were so often punished (2 Kings 17:25; Ezekiel 14:15, etc.: see also Isaiah 7:24), have entirely come to an end. The meaning of "the earth" is also determined by that of "all my holy mountain." The land of Israel, the dominion of the Son of David in the more restricted sense, will be from this time forward the paradisaical centre, as it were, of the whole earth - a prelude of its future state of perfect and universal glorification (Isaiah 6:3, "all the earth"). It has now become full of "the knowledge of Jehovah," i.e., of that experimental knowledge which consists in the fellowship of love (דעה, like לדה, is a secondary form of דעת, the more common infinitive or verbal noun from ידע: Ges. 133, 1), like the waters which cover the sea, i.e., bottom of the sea (compare Habakkuk 2:14, where lâda‛ath is a virtual accusative, full of that which is to be known). "Cover:" cissâh l' (like sâcac l', Psalm 91:4), signifies to afford a covering to another; the Lamed is frequently introduced with a participle (in Arabic regularly) as a sign of the object (Ewald, 292, e), and the omission of the article in the case of mecassim is a natural consequence of the inverted order of the words.

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