New European Commentary


About | PDFs | Mobile formats | Word formats | Other languages | Contact Us | What is the Gospel? | Support the work | Carelinks Ministries | | The Real Christ | The Real Devil | "Bible Companion" Daily Bible reading plan

Deeper Commentary

Isaiah 11:1 A shoot will come out of the stock of Jesse, and a branch out of his roots will bear fruit- As explained on Is. 10:33, it was the original Divine intention that the Assyrians would take Jerusalem and cut down the cedars of Lebanon associated with the temple. That language of cutting down Judah like trees paves the way for this next prophesy in Is. 11, which envisages the Messianic shoot sprouting forth out of the cut down stump of the house of David. But things worked out differently. The temple was not destroyed at that time, and so the planned shoot didn't come forth; the potential may have been that a son of Isaiah developed into this figure, or perhaps Hezekiah (see on Is. 7:6; 8:1,18). And so the Messianic potential was reapplied to the time of the restoration, and then finally to the Lord Jesus.

When Zedekiah was taken into captivity (Ez. 17:20), it was prophesied that “a tender one” (Messiah- Is. 11:1; 53:2) would be planted “upon an high mountain”, and grow into a tree in whose shadows all animals would live (Ez. 17:21,22). This is clearly the Messianic Kingdom (Lk. 13:19). This young twig at the time of the captivity was surely Zerubabbel, and the “high mountain” upon which his Kingdom could have been established is surely he “high mountain” of Ez. 40:2 where the temple could have been built. Yet the prophecy had to suffer a massive deferment until its fulfilment in Christ.

It seems that Haggai and Zechariah returned to Jerusalem from Babylon in order to prepare the way for Zerubbabel- they were therefore the primary fulfillment of the prophecies of an Elijah-type prophet heralding the coming of the Messiah king. Zerubbabel failure therefore meant that their ministry was re-scheduled and fulfilled in the work of John the Baptist. Zerubbabel is called “the branch” (Zech. 3:8; 6:12; Jer. 23:5,6), and this obviously invites connection with the prophecy of a branch / Messiah who would grow out of the cut down stump of Jesse (Is. 11:1). Again, Zerubbabel fits the picture perfectly. The house of David had been cut down in judgment, but the prophesied branch would not be from the royal line of Kings- but rather simply from the ‘stump’ that had been left, i.e. a descendant of Jesse who was not in the direct line of kings. Mic. 5:2 speaks of a similar person- a Messiah-king who would be from Bethlehem, i.e. the family of Jesse, rather than from Jerusalem where the royal line of kings were born. His origins would be “from old”- i.e. a person who is still a descendant of Jesse, but not in the direct line of kings. But despite all this, yet again we come to the sad realization that Zerubbabel like his people simply didn’t live up to it; and the prophecies came to be fulfilled finally in Jesus. He could have been Yahweh’s signet ring (Hag. 2:23), His specially favoured son- but he baulked at the height of the calling.

Isaiah 11:2 The Spirit of Yahweh will rest on him-
The Spirit was also to rest upon the dry bones of Ezekiel 37, causing the exiles to revive and become a reformed Kingdom of God in Judah (Ez. 37:1,14). Although the envisioned Messianic figure didn't arise in Hezekiah's time, he could have arisen at the restoration. But all these possibilities weren't realized, and so the ultimate fulfilment was in the Lord Jesus.

The spirit of wisdom and understanding, the spirit of counsel and might, the spirit of knowledge and of the fear of Yahweh- This makes six endowments of the Spirit, and the general mention of the Spirit resting upon him in the first part of the verse makes seven. Seven spirits resting upon a Messiah figure is the language of what could have happened at the restoration through Zerubbabel (Zech. 3:9; 4:2). Again we see that the Messianic figure could have appeared at various stages, but human dysfunction precluded this happening. Yet all this comes to fulfilment in the Lord Jesus. Indeed "the seven spirits" of Rev. 1:4 could be read as a title of the Lord.

Isaiah 11:3 His delight will be in the fear of Yahweh-
AV "Of quick understanding in the fear of the Lord". James alludes to this: "Let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath" (James 1:19 RV). If we are truly born by the word then we will swift to hear it, as the Lord Jesus was of quick understanding in the word. We will share His aptitude for it, and we will be slow to speak anything else. For He is but the epitome of personalization of the entire body of Christ.

The Lord Jesus is right now "quick to discern the thoughts and intents of [our hearts]" in mediating for us (Heb. 4:12 RV). But this is how He was in His mortal life here- for then He was "of quick understanding" too (Is. 11:3 is applied to Him then). He would have had a way of seeing through to the essence of a person or situation with awesome speed- and this must have made human life very irritating for Him at times. But who He was then is who He is now. It's the same Jesus who intercedes for us in sensitivity and compassion. Note carefully the tense used in Heb. 4:15: "We have not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities". It doesn't say 'which could not have been touched...', but rather "which cannot [present tense] be touched". It's as if He is now touched with the feeling of our infirmities. Which opens a fascinating window into what having God's nature is all about. When we by grace come to share it, it's not just that we will dimly remember what it was like to be human.


He will not judge by the sight of his eyes, neither decide by the hearing of his ears- Judging and deciding are the same Hebrew words used in Is. 2:4. Again, the picture of the restored Kingdom of God we meet there could have come about after the arising of a Messianic figure who would save Judah from the Assyrian in Hezekiah's time.

Isaiah 11:4 But with righteousness he will judge the poor, and decide with equity for the humble of the earth. He will strike the earth with the rod of his mouth-
In contrast to the unjust and faulty leadership Judah had at the time. And it was Messiah and not the Assyrian who was now going to strike the earth with His rod (Is. 10:5,15). There was to be a replacement of the Assyrian king with Israel's Messiah.

And with the breath of his lips he will kill the wicked- Note that “the man of sin” of 2 Thess. 2:8 alludes to “the wicked one” of Is. 11:4 LXX  who is, again, “the Assyrian” in the initial context. So it would appear very likely that the antichrist figure is somehow associated with ‘Assyria’. And what’s going on in Iraq and the territory of ‘Assyria’ right now is gripping the whole world’s attention. Note how the Assyrian is described in Is. 30:31–33 as being thrown into a lake of fire – just as the future beast will be (Rev. 19:20).

Isaiah 11:5 Righteousness will be the belt of his waist and faithfulness the belt of his loins-
This was the clothing and symbolism of the High Priest; but we have in view here a king-priest, after the order of Melchizedek. Zerubbabel could have met this requirement, but he too failed, and so the prophecy came to total fulfilment in the Lord Jesus.

Paul’s description of the warrior of the Gospel in Ephesians 6 composites together various descriptions of Messiah’s clothing in the servant songs (Is. 11:5 = “loins girded with truth”; Is. 49:2 “mouth like a sharp sword”; Is. 52:7 “bring good tidings / publish salvation” = “the preparation of the Gospel of peace”; Is. 59:17 “breastplate of righteousness”; Is. 59:17 “helmet of salvation”). We are to be Christ to the world.

Isaiah 11:6 The wolf will live with the lamb, and the leopard will lie down with the young goat; the calf, the young lion, and the fattened calf together; and a little child will lead them-
This section of Isaiah repeatedly mentions "a child". As noted on Is. 7:6; 8:1,18; 10:19, this child could have been Isaiah's specially predicted son, in whose childhood the Kingdom could have been restored, perhaps with a reduction of the curse amongst the animal creation. But as noted on :7, the wild animals can be understood as representing the nations around Judah who are now at peace with her and her Messiah; and thereby also with each other. But this didn't happen, and so the prophecy will come to a much grander fulfilment in the future kingdom of the Lord Jesus on earth.

Isaiah 11:7 The cow and the bear will graze, their young ones will lie down together. The lion will eat straw like the ox-
The lions in Is. 5:29,30 clearly represent the Babylonians and Assyrians; but here the prophetic hope was that the young lion would be tamed and live in Zion. The vision was of Judah's enemies being judged and repenting, and coming to live in the restored Kingdom. Wild beasts were symbolic of Israel's enemies (see on Is. 5:5). But the idea is that they would become harmless, and through repentance as a result of their judgment, come to live in God's restored Kingdom. This was precluded at Isaiah's time by Hezekiah's wrong attitude to the Babylonians, and Judah serving their gods rather than bringing them to Israel's God. And so the prophecy will come to a much grander fulfilment in the future kingdom of the Lord Jesus on earth.

Isaiah 11:8 the nursing child will play near a cobra’s hole, and the weaned child will put his hand on the viper’s den-
I suggested on :6 that this child could have been Isaiah's specially predicted son, in whose childhood the Kingdom could have been restored, perhaps with a reduction of the curse amongst the animal creation.

Isaiah 11:9 They will not hurt nor destroy in all My holy mountain-
The situation in mount Zion would reflect that in "the earth" / land of Israel- there would be no destruction on mount Zion "for the earth / land will be full of the knowledge of Yahweh". No longer would human sacrifices be offered there; the sins of Israel would no longer be repeated in the new Kingdom envisaged here. Destruction on Zion has been a theme of Is. 10:32-34; there was envisaged there the destruction of both Israelites and Assyrians on that mountain. But "nor shall they at all be able to destroy any one on my holy mountain" (LXX).

For the earth will be full of the knowledge of Yahweh, as the waters cover the sea- This stands in contrast to how the land was "full" (s.w.) of idolatry and trust in human philosophy (Is. 2:6,7). The descriptions of the restored Kingdom are so often expressed in terms of how spiritually, this would be the reversal of the unspiritual situation then extant in the earth / land of Israel. "The knowledge of Yahweh" doesn't so much refer to correct doctrinal knowledge as to the Hebraic 'knowing', referring to relationship. This relationship with Yahweh would be throughout the entire eretz promised to Abraham; there would be no person or geographical spot which held out against it. Absolutely everyone who survived the conflict around Mount Zion would enter covenant relationship or "knowledge of Yahweh".

Isaiah 11:10 It will happen in that day that the nations will seek the root of Jesse, who stands as a banner of the peoples-
"The nations", referring usually to those immediately around Judah, those within the entire eretz promised to Abraham, would seek this Messiah figure. This explains how the universal knowledge or relationship with Yahweh of the previous verse comes about. This didn't happen at the time; but His standing as a banner or ensign is alluded to in the figure of the Lord Jesus being lifted up on the cross as an ensign on a pole, and all believers coming to Him there in faith / trust. Hence the LXX "And in that day there shall be a root of Jesse, and he that shall arise to rule over the Gentiles; in him shall the Gentiles trust, and his rest shall be glorious". This is quoted in Rom. 15:12 about Gentiles in this dispensation believing in the Lord Jesus. We note again that the inspired New Testament writers prefer to quote the LXX when it differs with the Hebrew text. For "in him shall the Gentiles trust" is in the LXX but not the Masoretic text.

And his resting place will be glorious- This could simply refer to a literal appearance of glory upon mount Zion, as hinted at in several prophecies. But this was precluded at the time by Judah refusing this "rest" (Is. 28:12 s.w.). Or His resting place could be the hearts of those who "trust" in Him (Is. 66:1,2 s.w.), a resting place chosen by Him because the temple on Zion had not been rebuilt as required and therefore God chose to dwell in the hearts of individuals instead.

Isaiah 11:11 It will happen in that day that the Lord will set His hand again the second time to recover the remnant that is left of His people from Assyria, from Egypt, from Pathros, from Cush, from Elam, from Shinar, from Hamath, and from the islands of the sea
- see on Zech. 12:4. For "Pathros" LXX has "Babylon". These areas included the areas where the ten tribes had been taken captive, and where it was envisaged Judah would also be taken. The prophetic potential was that at the restoration of the Kingdom, all God's people would be gathered together, along with repentant Gentiles, united by the joint experience of conviction of sin, forgiveness and God's grace. And to this day, that is the basis of unity; "doctrine divides, experience unites", as Paul Tournier put it. Their impenitence at the time of Isaiah and the restoration from Babylon precluded this regathering; they did not return to God, and so He did not return them to their land. But "His hand", His powerful activity, was potentially ready to do this; and it is outstretched to all Israel to this day. This is why the repentance of Israel is critical to the reestablishment of the Kingdom in our days.

Isaiah 11:12 He will set up a banner for the nations and will assemble the outcasts of Israel, and gather together the dispersed of Judah from the four corners of the earth-
As explained on :10, this ensign was refused by the Gentiles and the outcasts of Israel; and so the banner or ensign is alluded to in the figure of the Lord Jesus being lifted up on the cross as an ensign on a pole, and all believers coming to Him there in trust / faith (see on :10). The whole congregation (LXX ekklesia) of Israel were "gathered together" before the smitten rock, which "was Christ" crucified (Num. 20:8 cp. 21:16; 1 Cor. 10:4). The “ensign", the pole on which the brazen serpent was lifted up, would draw together the scattered individuals of God's people; and as stricken Israel were gathered around that pole, so the lifting up of the crucified Christ brings together all His people (Jn. 12:32 cp. 3:14).

We note that the repentant of the nations as well as Israel and Judah were to all come to that banner or ensign. The ensign was the rallying point for a tribe, and they would together become a new tribe or nation / ekklesia in the restored Kingdom.


Isaiah 11:13 The envy also of Ephraim will depart, and those who persecute Judah will be cut off. Ephraim won’t envy Judah, and Judah won’t persecute Ephraim-
All God's people would be gathered together, along with repentant Gentiles, united by the joint experience of conviction of sin, forgiveness and God's grace. And to this day, that is the basis of unity. All interpersonal frictions, envy (jealousy), the perceived need to settle old historical scores... fade into irrelevance if we genuinely have these experiences of reconciliation with God. Our vertical binding with Him naturally outflows into horizontal bonding with others who have tasted the same grace; as John's letters make clear. We note that in Isaiah's time, it was Israel (Ephraim) who had persecuted Judah, even besieging Jerusalem. So Judah's persecuting of Ephraim refers to their desire for vengeance for that. But that would be no more in their hearts if they accepted the new covenant of grace and accepted their own sins.

Isaiah 11:14 They will fly down on the shoulders of the Philistines on the west. Together they will plunder the children of the east. They will extend their power over Edom and Moab, and the children of Ammon will obey them-
The vision of a greater, reestablished Kingdom was of dominance over the surrounding nations of the eretz promised to Abraham. Israel and Judah "together" would do this, flying down as if in perfect league with the cherubim armies of Heaven.

Isaiah 11:15 Yahweh will utterly destroy the tongue of the Egyptian sea; and with His scorching wind He will wave His hand over the River, and will split it into seven streams, and cause men to march over in sandals-
We noted on :11 that if the exiles wished to return / repent, then God's hand was ready to work mightily to literally return them to the land. Just as with a strong east wind He had dried up the Red Sea, called here "the tongue of the Egyptian sea", so He could dry up "the River", Euphrates, to allow the ten tribes and Judah [envisioned as going into captivity in Babylon] to return. As they wore sandals which didn't wear out to cross the Red Sea, also part of the miracle, so God would miraculously provide all the human side of things for this great exodus to happen. We note that here and in :12, God foresees that Judah would go into captivity in Babylon; as later Isaiah recognizes. The great possibilities at Hezekiah's time would not come about; and yet God appears to hope against hope that once they had suffered in Babylon, they would finally learn their lesson. The essential hopefulness of God for humanity is our pattern.

Isaiah 11:16 There will be a highway for the remnant that is left of His people from Assyria, like there was for Israel in the day that he came up out of the land of Egypt
- LXX reads "Egypt" for Assyria here. Egypt was always attractive for the Jews; they trusted in Egypt and some even fled there, seeking help from Egypt rather than from their God. The significance of the highway is therefore that God would give the opportunity for spiritual repentance and return to Him; playing on the idea that the Hebrew word for "return" is also used for repentance. Just as He could dry up the Euphrates for the return to happen from there, so He could build a highway in the desert. But there was no literal highway built for Israel when they left Egypt. Yet they had God's guidance, and therefore the unchartered desert was in fact a direct highway- for those with faith to perceive it. And the apparent random twists and turns of our lives must be understood by us in that same way. It's all in fact a direct highway.