“root from Jesse.” The “root from Jesse” (cp. NET) are the descendants of Jesse. It is important to understand that the “root” of Jesse does not refer to the rootstock of Jessie, i.e., the ancestors of Jesse, or to an ancestor of Jesse, but rather to a descendant of Jessie. The Hebrew noun translated “root” is sheresh (#08328 שֹׁרֶשׁ), which means “root.” While it can refer to the root of a plant, which is the first definition in the HALOT Hebrew and Aramaic Lexicon of the Old Testament, the second definition in HALOT is “branch of a root, descendant.” For support of the definition “descendant,” HALOT says, “see especially Dietrich-Loretz-Sanmartin Texte 1, 17:i:20, 25, 43; ii:15.” But then it says evidence can also be found in people’s personal names that are related to the word “root,” which indicates they are a descendant. Furthermore, the “branch of a root” is still a descendant.
The conservative scholar and commentator, John Oswalt, says this about the word “root” in his commentary on Isaiah 11:10: “shoresh, ‘root’, is the normal word for the literal root of a plant. But it is also a favorite term for descendants or for that elemental hope which remains for a person (Deut. 29:18; Job 14:8; 2 Ki. 19:30; Isa. 40:24; Dan. 4:15, 23, 26, 11:7. Eventually, like ‘branch,’ shoresh became a term for the Messiah (Isa. 53:2, Sir. 47:22; Rev. 5:5, 22:16)” (NICOT The Book of Isaiah, Eerdmans, vol. 1, p. 284, 1986).
George Gray also saw that the word “root” referred to a descendant, and wrote, “The root of Jesse, i.e., the new shoot from the old root (cp. v.1), ‘root’ being used in the same sense as in Isaiah 53:2” (The International Critical Commentary: The Book of Isaiah I-XXXIX. Also see commentary on Isa. 53:2). In Isaiah 53:2, the Messiah, Jesus Christ, grows up before God as a “root,” that is, as a descendant of David and an heir of the promises made to David about an everlasting kingdom (2 Sam. 7:13, 16).
It was a common practice particularly in the Semitic languages to double a point to make it clear, and we see that in many references to the Messiah. For example, In Isaiah 11:1, the Messiah is called a “shoot” and a “branch.” In Isaiah 53:2, the Messiah grows up before God as a “young plant” and a “root,” both words referring to a descendant. In Revelation 22:16, Jesus Christ is referred to as “the root” and “the descendant.”
It is also worth noting that the NET translation of Isaiah 11:10: “At that time a root from Jesse will stand like a signal flag for the nations,” and the NIRV (the New International Reader’s Version) also reads “root from Jesse.” The NLT paraphrases the Hebrew text such that the more literal “root from Jesse” was translated as “the heir to David’s throne.” [For more information on the word “root” referring to a descendent, see commentary on Revelation 22:16.]