Isaiah 11:8
And the sucking child shall play on the hole of the asp, and the weaned child shall put his hand on the cockatrice' den.
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(8) And the sucking child shall play on the hole of the asp . . .—The description culminates in the transformation of the brute forms which were most identified with evil. As it is, the sight of a child near the hole of the asp (the cobra) or cockatrice (better, perhaps, basilisk, the great viper), would make its mother scream with terror. There was still “enmity between the seed of the woman and the seed of the serpent” (Genesis 3:15), but in the far-off reign of the Christ even that enmity should disappear, and the very symbols of evil, subtle, malignant, venomous, should be reconciled to humanity. Some critics translate the last clause, “shall stretch out his hand to the eye-ball of the basilisk” as if alluding to the power of fascination commonly assigned to it.

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.And the sucking child - An emblem here of harmlessness and innocence. The change in the world, under the Messiah, shall be as great as if a sucking infant should be able to play unharmed with a venomous serpent.

Shall play - Shall delight himself (שׁעשׁע shı̂‛ăsha‛) as children usually engage in their sports; compare Proverbs 8:30-31; Psalm 119:24.

On the hole of the asp - Over, or around the cavern, hole, or place of retreat of the asp. He shall play over that place as safely as if the nature of the asp was changed, and it had become innocuous. The Hebrew word rendered here "asp" (פתן pethen) denotes the serpent usually called the asp, whose poison is of such rapid operation that it kills almost instantly: see Job 20:14, Job 20:16; Psalm 58:4; Psalm 91:13; Deuteronomy 32:33. The word occurs in no other places in the Old Testament. This serpent is small. It is found particularly in Egypt, though also in other places; see the note at Job 20:14. It is used here as the emblem of the more sudden, malignant, and violent passions; and the idea is, that under the Messiah a change would be performed in people of malignant and deadly passions as signal "as if" the asp or adder were to lose his venom, and become innocuous to a child.

And the weaned child - But still, a young and helpless child. The image is varied, but the same idea is retained.

Shall put his hand - That is, he shall do it safely, or uninjured.

On the cockatrice' den - Margin, 'Adder's.' The word rendered here "cockatrice" (צפעוני tsı̂p‛ônı̂y) occurs only in the fellowing places: Isaiah 14:29; Isaiah 11:8; Isaiah 59:5; Proverbs 23:32; Jeremiah 8:17. In all these places, it is rendered cockatrice, except in Proverbs 23:32. The "cockatrice" was a fabulous kind of serpent, supposed to be hatched from the egg of a cock. The serpent here designated is, doubtless, a species of the "adder," more venomous, perhaps, than the פתן pethen, but still belonging to the same species. Bochart ("Hieroz." P. ii. lib. iii. ch. ix.) supposes that the "basilisk" is intended - a species of serpent that, he says, was supposed to poison even with its breath. The general idea is the same here as above. It is in vain to attempt to spiritualize these expressions, and to show that they refer to certain individuals, or that the animals here designated refer to particular classes of the enemies of the gospel. It is a mere poetic description, denoting great peace and security; and all the changes in the mad, malignant, and envenomed passions of people, that may be necessary to produce and perpetuate that peace. Pope has versified this description in the following beautiful manner:

The lambs with wolves shall graze the verdant mead,

And boys, in flowery bands, the tigers lead.

The steer and lion at one crib shall meet,

And harmless serpents lick the pilgrim's feet.

The smiling infant in his hand shall take

The crested basilisk, and speckled snake;

Pleased, the green luster of the scales survey,

And, with their forked tongue, shall innocently play.


8. play—literally, "delight" himself in sport.

cockatrice—a fabulous serpent supposed to be hatched from the egg of a cock. The Hebrew means a kind of adder, more venomous than the asp; Bochart supposes the basilisk to be meant, which was thought to poison even with its breath.

The asp; a most fierce and poisonous serpent, Deu 32:33 Job 20:14,16, which also will not be charmed by any art of man, Psalm 58:5.

The cockatrice; a serpent of more than ordinary cunning and cruelty, Proverbs 23:32. The meaning is, They shall not fear to be either deceived or destroyed by those who formerly watched all opportunities to do it.

And the sucking child shall play on the hole of the asp,.... Without fear or danger:

and the weaned child shall put his hand on the cockatrice's den; and suffer no damage: the meaning is explained in the next words, and to be understood of regenerate persons, both of new born babes, or just born, and all such who are weaned from their own righteousness, and live by faith on Christ, who shall not be hurt by the poison of false teachers, nor by the force of violent persecutors, now no more,

See Gill (Editor's note) on "Isa 11:6".

And the sucking child shall play on the hole of the asp, and the weaned child shall put his hand on the cockatrice' den.
8. The most startling contrast of all,—the innocent babe playing with the deadly serpent.

asp] Heb. pethen, rendered “adder” in Psalm 58:4; Psalm 91:13, elsewhere as here. The species has not been identified. The cockatrice (çiph ‘ônî, rendered “adder” in Proverbs 23:32) is usually identified with the basilisk (or King-serpent) of North Africa, but that reptile is not found in Palestine.

The word den (only here) is doubtful. The most natural view is that it is fem. of the word for “luminary” and denotes the glittering eye of the serpent, which attracts the child like a jewel.

The verb rendered put means strictly “lead”; comp. ducere manum.

Verse 8. - The sucking child shall play on the hole of the asp; rather, by the hole - near it. The "asp" is probably the Coluber Naje of Egypt, whose bite is very deadly. The cockatrice den. The "cockatrice" is another deadly serpent, perhaps the Daboia xanthina (Tristram, 'Natural Hist. of the Bible'). Isaiah 11:8The 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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