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'). Jehovah acknowledges Him, and consecrates and equips Him for His great work with the seven spirits."And the Spirit of Jehovah descends upon Him, spirit of wisdom and understanding, spirit of counsel and might, spirit of knowledge and fear of Jehovah." "The Spirit of Jehovah" (ruach Yehovah) is the Divine Spirit, as the communicative vehicle of the whole creative fulness of divine powers. Then follow the six spirits, comprehended by the ruach Yehovah in three pairs, of which the first relates to the intellectual life, the second to the practical life, and the third to the direct relation to God. For chocmâh (wisdom) is the power of discerning the nature of things through the appearance, and bı̄nâh (understanding) the power of discerning the differences of things in their appearance; the former is σοφία, the latter διάκρισις or σύνεσις. "Counsel" (etzâh) is the gift of forming right conclusions, and "might" (gebūrâh) the ability to carry them out with energy. "The knowledge of Jehovah" (da‛ath Yehovah) is knowledge founded upon the fellowship of love; and "the fear of Jehovah" (yir'ath Yehovâh), fear absorbed in reverence. There are seven spirits, which are enumerated in order from the highest downwards; since the spirit of the fear of Jehovah is the basis of the whole (Proverbs 1:7; Job 28:28; Psalm 111:10), and the Spirit of Jehovah is the heart of all. It corresponds to the shaft of the seven-lighted candlestick, and the three pair of arms that proceeded from it. In these seven forms the Holy Spirit descended upon the second David for a permanent possession, as is affirmed in the perf. consec. ונהה (with the tone upon the ultimate, on account of the following guttural, to prevent its being pronounced unintelligibly;

(Note: This moving forward of the tone to the last syllable is also found before Ayin in Genesis 26:10, and very commonly with kūmâh, and verbs of a similar kind; also before Elohim and Jehovah, to be read Adonai, and before the half-guttural resh, Psalm 43:1; Psalm 119:154, but nowhere on any other ground than the orthophonic rather than euphonic one mentioned above; compare also וסרה in Isaiah 11:13, with וסרוּ (with ה following) in Exodus 8:7.)

nuach like καταβαίνειν καὶ μένειν, John 1:32-33). The seven torches before the throne of God (Revelation 4:5, cf., Isaiah 1:4) burn and give light in His soul. The seven spirits are His seven eyes (Revelation 5:6).

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