Isaiah 11 Bible Commentary

Jamieson, Faussett, and Brown

(Read all of Isaiah 11)

Isa 11:1-16.

From the local and temporary national deliverance the prophet passes by the law of suggestion in an easy transition to the end of all prophecy--the everlasting deliverance under Messiah's reign, not merely His first coming, but chiefly His second coming. The language and illustrations are still drawn from the temporary national subject, with which he began, but the glories described pertain to Messiah's reign. Hezekiah cannot, as some think, be the subject; for he was already come, whereas the "stem of Jesse" was yet future ("shall come") (compare Mic 4:11, &c.; 5:1, 2; Jer 23:5, 6; 33:15, 16; Ro 15:12).

1. rod--When the proud "boughs" of "Lebanon" (Isa 10:33, 34, the Assyrians) are lopped, and the vast "forests cut down" amidst all this rage, a seemingly humble rod shall come out of Jesse (Messiah), who shall retrieve the injuries done by the Assyrian "rod" to Israel (Isa 10:5, 6, 18, 19).
stem--literally, "the stump" of a tree cut close by the roots: happily expressing the depressed state of the royal house of David, owing to the hostile storm (Isa 10:18, 19), when Messiah should arise from it, to raise it to more than its pristine glory. Lu 2:7 proves this (Isa 53:2; compare Job 14:7, 8; see on Isa 8:6).
Branch--Scion. He is nevertheless also the "root" (Isa 11:10; Re 5:5; 22:16. "Root and offspring" combines both, Zec 3:8; 6:12).

2. Spirit of the Lord--JEHOVAH. The Spirit by which the prophets spake: for Messiah was to be a Prophet (Isa 61:1; De 18:15, 18). Seven gifts of the Holy Spirit are specified, to imply that the perfection of them was to be in Him. Compare "the seven Spirits" (Re 1:4), that is, the Holy Ghost in His perfect fulness: seven being the sacred number. The prophets had only a portion out of the "fulness" in the Son of God (Joh 1:16; 3:34; Col 1:19).
rest--permanently; not merely come upon Him (Nu 11:25, 26).
wisdom-- (1Co 1:30; Eph 1:17; Col 2:3).
understanding--coupled with "wisdom," being its fruit. Discernment and discrimination (Mt 22:18; Joh 2:25).
counsel . . . might--the faculty of forming counsels, and that of executing them (Isa 28:29). Counsellor (Isa 9:6).
knowledge--of the deep things of God (Mt 11:27). The knowledge of Him gives us true knowledge (Eph 1:17).
fear of the Lord--reverential, obedient fear. The first step towards true "knowledge" (Job 28:28; Ps 111:10).

3. make him of quick understanding--literally, "quick-scented in the fear of Jehovah"; endowed with a singular sagacity in discerning the genuine principle of religious fear of God, when it lies dormant in the yet unawakened sinner (Mt 12:20; Ac 10:1-48; 16:14) [HORSLEY]. But MAURER, "He shall delight in the fear of God." The Hebrew means "to delight in the odors" of anything (Ex 30:38; Am 5:21); "smell," that is, "delight in."
after . . . sight--according to mere external appearances (Joh 7:24; 8:15; Jas 2:1; 1Sa 16:7). Herein Messiah is represented a just Judge and Ruler (De 1:16, 17).
reprove--"decide," as the parallelism shows.
after . . . ears--by mere plausible hearsays, but by the true merits of each case (Joh 6:64; Re 2:23).

4. judge--see that impartial justice is done them. "Judge" may mean here "rule," as in Ps 67:4.
reprove--or, "argue"; "decide." But LOWTH, "work conviction in."
earth--Compare with Mt 5:5, and Re 11:15.
earth--its ungodly inhabitants, answering to "the wicked" in the parallel, and in antithesis to the "poor" and "meek," namely, in spirit, the humble pious (Mt 5:3). It is at the same time implied that "the earth" will be extraordinarily wicked when He shall come to judge and reign. His reign shall therefore be ushered in with judgments on the apostates (Ps 2:9-12; Lu 18:8; Re 2:27).
rod of . . . mouth--condemning sentences which proceed from His mouth against the wicked (Re 1:16; 2:16; 19:15, 21).
breath of . . . lips--his judicial decisions (Isa 30:28; Job 15:30; Re 19:20; 20:9-12). He as the Word of God (Re 19:13-15) comes to strike that blow which shall decide His claim to the kingdom, previously usurped by Satan, and "the beast" to whom Satan delegates his power. It will be a day of judgment to the Gentile dispensation, as the first coming was to the Jews. Compare a type of the "rod" (Nu 17:2-10).

5. righteousness . . . girdle-- (Re 1:13; 19:11). The antitypical High Priest (Ex 28:4). The girdle secures firmly the rest of the garments (1Pe 1:13). So "truth" gives firm consistency to the whole character (Eph 5:14). In Isa 59:17, "righteousness" is His breastplate.

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).

7. feed--namely, "together"; taken from the second clause.
straw--no longer flesh and blood.

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.

9. my holy mountain--Zion, that is, Jerusalem. The seat of government and of Messiah's throne is put for the whole earth (Jer 3:17).
sea--As the waters find their way into every cavern of its depths, so Christianity shall pervade every recess of the earth (Hab 2:14). As Isa 11:1-5 describe the personal qualities of Messiah, and Isa 11:6-9 the regenerating effects of His coming on creation, so Isa 11:10-16 the results of it in the restoration of His people, the Jews, and the conversion through them of the Gentiles.

10. root--rather, "shoot from the root" (compare Note, see on Isa 11:1; Isa 53:2; Re 5:5; 22:16).
stand--permanently and prominently, as a banner lifted up to be the rallying point of an army or people (Isa 5:26; Joh 12:32).
the people--peoples, answering to "the Gentiles" in the parallel member.
to it . . . seek--diligently (Job 8:5). They shall give in their allegiance to the Divine King (Isa 2:2; 60:5; Zec 2:11). HORSLEY translates, "Of Him shall the Gentiles inquire"; namely, in a religious sense, resort as to an oracle for consultation in difficulties" (Zec 14:16). Compare Ro 15:12, which quotes this passage, "In Him shall the Gentiles trust."
rest--resting-place (Isa 60:13; Ps 132:8, 14; Eze 43:7). The sanctuary in the temple of Jerusalem was "the resting-place of the ark and of Jehovah." So the glorious Church which is to be is described under the image of an oracle to which all nations shall resort, and which shall be filled with the visible glory of God.

11. set . . . hand--take in hand the work. Therefore the coming restoration of the Jews is to be distinct from that after the Babylonish captivity, and yet to resemble it. The first restoration was literal, therefore so shall the second be; the latter, however, it is implied here, shall be much more universal than the former (Isa 43:5-7; 49:12, 17, 18; Eze 37:21; Ho 3:5; Am 9:14, 15; Mic 4:6, 7; Zep 3:19, 20; Zec 10:10; Jer 23:8). As to the "remnant" destined by God to survive the judgments on the nation, compare Jer 46:28.
Pathros--one of the three divisions of Egypt, Upper Egypt.
Cush--either Ethiopia, south of Egypt, now Abyssinia, or the southern parts of Arabia, along the Red Sea.
Elam--Persia, especially the southern part of it now called Susiana.
Shinar--Babylonian Mesopotamia, the plain between the Euphrates and the Tigris: in it Babel was begun (Ge 10:10). In the Assyrian inscriptions RAWLINSON distinguishes three periods: (1) The Chaldean; from 2300 B.C. to 1500, in which falls Chedorlaomer (Ge 14:1-17), called in the cuneiform characters Kudur of Hur, or Ur of the Chaldees, and described as the conqueror of Syria. The seat of the first Chaldean empire was in the south, towards the confluence of the Tigris and Euphrates. (2) The Assyrian, down to 625 B.C. (3) The Babylonian, from 625 to 538 B.C., when Babylon was taken by the Persian Cyrus.
islands of . . . sea--the far western regions beyond the sea [JEROME].

12. In the first restoration Judah alone was restored, with perhaps some few of Israel (the ten tribes): in the future restoration both are expressly specified (Eze 37:16-19; Jer 3:18). To Israel are ascribed the "outcasts" (masculine); to Judah the "dispersed" (feminine), as the former have been longer and more utterly castaways (though not finally) than the latter (Joh 7:52). The masculine and feminine conjoined express the universality of the restoration.
from the four corners of the earth--Hebrew, "wings of the earth."

13. envy . . . of Ephraim . . . Judah--which began as early as the time (Jud 8:1; 12:1, &c.). Joshua had sprung from, and resided among the Ephraimites (Nu 13:9; Jos 19:50); the sanctuary was with them for a time (Jos 18:1). The jealousy increased subsequently (2Sa 2:8, &c.; 19:41; 20:2; 3:10); and even before David's time (1Sa 11:8; 15:4), they had appropriated to themselves the national name Israel. It ended in disruption (1Ki 11:26, &c.; 1Ki 12:1-33; compare 2Ki 14:9; Ps 78:56-71).
adversaries of Judah--rather, "the adversaries from Judah"; those of Judah hostile to the Ephraimites [MAURER]. The parallelism "the envy of Ephraim," namely, against Judah, requires this, as also what follows; namely, "Ephraim shall not envy Judah, and Judah shall not vex Ephraim" (Eze 37:15, 17, 19).

14. With united forces they shall subdue their foes (Am 9:12).
fly--as a bird of prey (Hab 1:8).
upon the shoulders--This expresses an attack made unexpectedly on one from behind. The image is the more apt, as the Hebrew for "shoulders" in Nu 34:11 is used also of a maritime coast ("side of the sea": Hebrew, "shoulder of the sea," Margin). They shall make a sudden victorious descent upon their borders southwest of Judea.
them of the east--Hebrew, "children of the East," the Arabs, who, always hostile, are not to be reduced under regular government, but are only to be despoiled (Jer 49:28, 29).
lay . . . hand upon--take possession of (Da 11:42).
Edom--south of Judah, from the Dead Sea to the Red Sea; "Moab"--east of Jordan and the Dead Sea.
Ammon--east of Judea, north of Moab, between the Arnon and Jabbok.

15. There shall be a second exodus, destined to eclipse even the former one from Egypt in its wonders. So the prophecies elsewhere (Ps 68:22; Ex 14:22; Zec 10:11). The same deliverance furnishes the imagery by which the return from Babylon is described (Isa 48:20, 21).
destroy--literally, "devote," or "doom," that is, dry up; for what God dooms, perishes (Ps 106:9 Na 1:4).
tongue--the Bubastic branch of the Nile [VITRINGA]; but as the Nile was not the obstruction to the exodus, it is rather the west tongue or Heroöpolite fork of the Red Sea.
with . . . mighty wind--such as the "strong east wind" (Ex 14:21), by which God made a way for Israel through the Red Sea. The Hebrew for "mighty" means terrible. MAURER translates, "With the terror of His anger"; that is, His terrible anger.
in the seven streams--rather, "shall smite it (divide it by smiting) into seven (many) streams, so as to be easily crossed" [LOWTH]. So Cyrus divided the river Gyndes, which retarded his march against Babylon, into three hundred sixty streams, so that even a woman could cross it [HERODOTUS, 1.189]. "The river" is the Euphrates, the obstruction to Israel's return "from Assyria" (Isa 11:16), a type of all future impediments to the restoration of the Jews.
dry shod--Hebrew, "in shoes." Even in sandals they should be able to pass over the once mighty river without being wet (Re 16:12).

16. highway--a highway clear of obstructions (Isa 19:23; 35:8).
like as . . . Israel . . . Egypt-- (Isa 51:10, 11; 63:12, 13).