Isaiah 11
Pulpit Commentary
And there shall come forth a rod out of the stem of Jesse, and a Branch shall grow out of his roots:
Verses 1-9. - A RENEWED PROPHECY OF MESSIAH AND OF HIS KINGDOM. This chapter is closely connected with the preceding. With the final destruction of Assyria, which, being cut down, sends out no shoot (Isaiah 10:33, 34), is contrasted the recuperative energy of Israel, which, though equally leveled with the ground (Isaiah 9:18, 19), shall spring afresh into life, and "renew its youth." The recovery is connected - or rather identified with the coming of Messiah, whose character is beautifully portrayed (vers. 2-5). An elaborate description of Messiah's kingdom follows (vers. 6-10) - an expansion of the briefer one in Isaiah 2:3, 4. Verse 1. - There shall come forth a rod out of the stem of Jesse. The blasted and ruined "stem" or stock of Jesse, cut down, and for ages hidden from sight, shall suddenly put forth a sprout - a young green sapling, tender vet vigorous, weak seemingly, yet foil of life (comp. Job 14:7-9, "There is hope of a tree, if it he cut down, that it will sprout again, and that the tender branch thereof will not crease. Though the root thereof wax old in the earth, and the stock thereof die in the ground; yet through the scent of water it will bud, and bring forth boughs like a plant"). "The stem of Jesse" must mean the house of David, for there is but one Jesse (Ishai) in Scripture - David's father. A Branch shall grow out of his roots. That which is at first a sapling gains strength and grows into a "branch" (see Isaiah 4:2, where the word used, though different, is synonymous).
And the spirit of the LORD shall rest upon him, the spirit of wisdom and understanding, the spirit of counsel and might, the spirit of knowledge and of the fear of the LORD;
Verse 2. - The Spirit of the Lord shall rest upon him (comp, Matthew 3:16; Luke 2:40; Luke 4:1, 14, 18; John 3:34, etc.). The human nature of our Lord required, and received abundantly, the sanctifying and enlightening influences of the Holy Spirit. These influences were not in him transient or occasional, as in too many men, who more or less "resist the Spirit," but permanent and enduring. They "rested upon" him; from first to last never quitted, and never will quit, him. The spirit of wisdom and understanding. The influences of the Holy Spirit are manifold, affecting the entire complex nature of man (see 1 Corinthians 12:8-11). Here, three pairs of graces are set forth as specially manifested in the Messiah through the power of the Spirit:

(1) "Wisdom and understanding," or intellectual and moral apprehension (εὐσυνεσία) the ability to perceive moral and abstract truth;

(2) "counsel and might," or the power at once to scheme and originate, and also to carry out thought into act;

(3) "The knowledge and the fear of the Lord," or acquaintance with the true will of God, combined with the determination to carry out that will to the full (John 4:34; Luke 22:42; Hebrews 10:7). It is needless to say that all these qualities existed in the greatest perfection in our blessed Lord.
And shall make him of quick understanding in the fear of the LORD: and he shall not judge after the sight of his eyes, neither reprove after the hearing of his ears:
Verse 3. - And shall make him of quick understanding. This rendering of the original, though defended by Dr. Kay, is quite without support from any other passage where the same word is used. Modern writers almost all translate, either "the breath of his nostrils shall be in the fear of the Lord" (Herder, Ewald, Meier, Cheyne), or "a sweet savor shall he find in the fear of the Lord" (Gesenius, Delitzsch, Rosenmüller, Knobel). He shall not judge after the sight of his eyes. "God sooth the heart." Our Lord "knew men's thoughts" (Matthew 9:4, etc.), and therefore did not need to "judge according to the appearance" (John 7:24). Thus his judgments were always righteous.
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.
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.
And righteousness shall be the girdle of his loins, and faithfulness the girdle of his reins.
Verse 5. - Righteousness shall be the girdle of his loins, etc.; i.e. "righteousness shall be ever with him, ever ready for active use, ever (as it were) bracing him for action." Assuredly, he was "righteous in all his ways, and holy in all his works" (Psalm 145:17). Faithfulness (comp. Ephesians 6:14, "Having your loins girt about with truth").
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.
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.
And the cow and the bear shall feed; their young ones shall lie down together: and the lion shall eat straw like the ox.
Verse 7. - The lion shall eat straw (comp. Isaiah 65:25). There is nothing impossible in this. Cats are fond of some kinds of vegetable food.
And the sucking child shall play on the hole of the asp, and the weaned child shall put his hand on the cockatrice' den.
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').
They shall not hurt nor destroy in all my holy mountain: for the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the LORD, as the waters cover the sea.
Verse 9. - My holy mountain. As the Jewish Church is always bound up with the "holy hill of Zion," so the Messianic one receives the designation of "the mountain of the Lord" (Isaiah 2:3; Isaiah 30:29; Micah 4:2), or "the holy mountain" (Zechariah 8:3). What was physically true of the type is transferred to the antitype, which is "a city set upon a hill" in a certain sense. The earth shall be full of the knowledge of the Lord (romp. Habakkuk 2:14; Joel 2:28; Matthew 28:29). A fruitful knowledge, guiding and influencing conduct, seems to be intended (see below, Isaiah 54:13, "All thy children shall be taught of the Lord, and great shall be the peace of thy children"). As the waters cover the sea; i.e. "as the ocean covers and fills the bed prepared for it."
And in that day there shall be a root of Jesse, which shall stand for an ensign of the people; to it shall the Gentiles seek: and his rest shall be glorious.
Verses 10-13. - THE JEWS AND GENTILES SHALL BE GATHERED TOGETHER INTO MESSIAH'S KINGDOM. It is characteristic of "the evangelical prophet" that he dwells earnestly and frequently on the calling of the Gentiles (see Isaiah 2:2; Isaiah 19:22-25; Isaiah 25:6; Isaiah 27:13, etc.). The prophecies to Abraham had repeatedly declared that "in him," or "in his seed," "all the families of the earth should be blessed" (Genesis 12:3; Genesis 18:18; Genesis 22:18; Genesis 26:4); and some of the psalmists had echoed the glad sound and spoken of God as worshipped generally by "the nations" (Psalm 117:1; Psalm 148:11). But the idea had taken little hold upon the chosen people generally; and was practically new to them when Isaiah was inspired to preach it afresh. To render it the more palatable, he unites with it the promise of a great gathering of the dispersed Israelites from all quarters to the banner of Messiah, when it is set up. Verse 10. - There shall he a root of Jesse. The "root" of this place is the same as the "rod" and "branch" of ver. 1. The "rod" springs up out of a "root," and is inseparably connected with it. Which shall stand for an ensign of the people; rather, of the peoples. The "rod" shall lift itself up, and become an ensign, seen from afar, and attracting to itself the attention of "the peoples" or "nations" generally. The Acts and Epistles show how speedily this prophecy was fulfilled. Greeks, Romans, Galatians, Cappadoeians, Babylonians (1 Peter 5:13), saw the ensign, and sought to it. His rest shall be glorious; rather, his resting-place; i.e. his Church, with which he abides forever (Matthew 28:20). The Shechinah of his presence makes the Church "glorious" (literally, "a glory") throughout all ages; but the glory will not fully appear till the time of the "new heavens and new earth" (Isaiah 65:17; Roy. 21, 22.), when he will dwell visibly with it.
And it shall come to pass in that day, that the Lord shall set his hand again the second time to recover the remnant of his people, which shall be left, from Assyria, and from Egypt, and from Pathros, and from Cush, and from Elam, and from Shinar, and from Hamath, and from the islands of the sea.
Verse 11. - The Lord shall set his hand again the second time to recover, etc. The first recovery was from the servitude in Egypt. Isaiah now foresees that there will be a dispersion of the Israelites through several distant lands, instead of a mere transference of them from one land to another, as in Jacob's time (Genesis 46:1-29). God, who brought them out of Egypt, will likewise some day "set his hand" to recover them from the various countries through which they will have been dispersed, and restore them to their own land once more. The first fulfillment of the prophecy was undoubtedly, the return from the Babylonian captivity. A secondary fulfillment may have been the gathering of so many Jews from all quarters into the Christian Church (Acts 2:9-41). It is possible that there may be ultimately a further fulfillment in a final gathering together of Israel into their own land. From Assyria. Assyria is placed first because already the bulk of the Israelites, as distinct from the Jews, had been carried into Assyria by Tiglath-Pileser (2 Kings 15:29) and Sargon (2 Kings 17:6; 2 Kings 18:11), and were captives there at the time when Isaiah wrote. The transportation of Israelites to the other places mentioned was subsequent to his day. Egypt... Pathros. There was a great migration of Jews into Egypt in the time of Jeremiah (Jeremiah 43:7; Jeremiah 44:1), and a steady influx for some generations under the early Ptolemies. There was also a second large migration in the time of Onias. The Jewish element in Alexandria for some centuries both before and after Christ was very considerable. Pathros was probably a portion of Upper Egypt, perhaps the Phaturite nome, which was the district about Thebes. It is mentioned as the residence of certain Jews in the time of Jeremiah (Jeremiah 44:1, 15). From Cush. "Cush" here may he either the African or the Asiatic. It is slightly in favor of the African that we hear in the Acts of an Ethiopian eunuch who was a Jew in the service of Candace, Queen of the African Ethiopia (Acts 8:27). And it is against the Asiatic that it was so remote. It adjoined, however, upon Elam. From Elam, and from Shinar. "Elam" was the fertile tract of alluvial land to the east of the Tigris, between that stream and the mountains, parallel with Babylonia. Its capital was Susa, and in Isaiah's time it was an important country, frequently at war with Assyria. Shinar was an ancient name of Babylonia (Genesis 10:10; Genesis 11:1-9). The word is used also by Daniel (Daniel 1:2) and Zechariah (Zechariah 5:11). Some regard it as meaning "the land of the two fleers." From Hamath. (On this town, see note to Isaiah 10:9.) From the islands of the sea; i.e. the islands and coasts of the Mediterranean. During the Maccabee period, there was a gradual spread of Jews over the Western world. Alliances were made with Rome end Sparta (1 Macc. 8:1 1 Macc. 12:2-21 1 Macc. 14:20-23, etc.), and Jews became familiar with both Greece and Italy. St. Paul finds numerous Jews at Rome, and in almost every city of Greece.
And he shall set up an ensign for the nations, and shall assemble the outcasts of Israel, and gather together the dispersed of Judah from the four corners of the earth.
Verse 12. - He shall set up an ensign for the nations (comp. ver. 10). Christ is the Ensign. God sets it up to draw the nations to his standard. The outcasts of Israel... the dispersed of Judah. "Outcasts" is masculine, "the dispersed" feminine. The meaning is, "He shall gather together the outcasts and dispersed of both Israel and Judah, both male and female."
The envy also of Ephraim shall depart, and the adversaries of Judah shall be cut off: Ephraim shall not envy Judah, and Judah shall not vex Ephraim.
Verse 13. - The envy also of Ephraim shall depart. In the kingdom of the Prince of Peace there shall no longer be quarrels or jealousies among the members. Old feuds shall be put aside; the northern and southern tribes shall agree together, and there shall be peace and harmony throughout the entire Church. Adversaries of Judah. If any such remain among the Ephraimites, Divine vengeance shall "cut them off," that there be no open disturbance of the harmony.
But they shall fly upon the shoulders of the Philistines toward the west; they shall spoil them of the east together: they shall lay their hand upon Edom and Moab; and the children of Ammon shall obey them.
Verses 14-16. - THE UNITED CHURCH SHALL TRIUMPH OVER ITS ENEMIES. PHYSICAL OBSTACLES TO ITS UNION GOD WILL REMOVE. Israel's most persistent enemies had been the border-nations of the Philistines, the Edomites, the Arabs, Moab and Ammon. These are now taken as types of the enemies of the Church, and victory over them is promised (ver. 14). A further promise is made that physical difficulties shall not prevent the return of the Jewish exiles from distant countries (vers. 15, 16). Verse 14. - They shall fly upon the shoulders of the philistines. It is not to be supposed that actual war is intended. The subjects of the Prince of Peace will not draw the sword. But the Church will for many centuries be confronted by enemies, and must contend with them with legitimate weapons. It is this warfare of which Isaiah now speaks. The united Church will be strong enough to assail her enemies on all sides, and will "swoop" upon the border country of the Philistines like a bird of prey. They shall spoil them of the east; or, the Bent Kedem. The phrase is commonly used in an ethnic sense of the nomadic Arabs inhabiting the deserts east of Jordan, beyond the Ammonite and Moabite country, from whose raids Palestine frequently suffered (see Jeremiah 49:28, 29; Ezekiel 25:4, 10).
And the LORD shall utterly destroy the tongue of the Egyptian sea; and with his mighty wind shall he shake his hand over the river, and shall smite it in the seven streams, and make men go over dryshod.
Verse 15. - The Lord shall utterly destroy; rather, shall lay under a curse (Aquila, ἀναθεματίσει). The tongue of the Egyptian sea. Either the Gulf of Suez or that of Akabah. God shall do away with those obstacles which keep the nations apart and prevent ready intercourse. Both gulfs are thought to have extended anciently considerably further inland than they do at present. With his mighty wind; rather, with the might of his breath (in fortitudine spiritus sui, Vulgate). Shall he shake his hand. A gesture of menace (comp. Isaiah 10:32). Over the river. "The river" (hun-unbar) is, as usually, the Euphrates, the great river of Western Asia. And smite it in the seven streams; rather, and smite it into seven streams; i.e. divide its waters among seven channels, so that it may be readily forded, and cease to be a barrier. Dry-shod; literally, in their shoes; i.e. without taking them off;
And there shall be an highway for the remnant of his people, which shall be left, from Assyria; like as it was to Israel in the day that he came up out of the land of Egypt.
Verse 16. - There shall be an highway. This is the object in view - the free and unhindered passage of his people from the various regions where they are scattered (ver. 11) to their resting-place in Palestine.

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