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And the spirit of Yahweh will rest on him—
a spirit of wisdom and understanding,
a spirit of counsel and power,
a spirit of knowledge and of the fear of Yahweh. Bible other translations

“the spirit of Yahweh will rest on him.” This is the spirit of God that rested in various measures on the Old Testament prophets. God gave His gift of holy spirit to some people in the Old Testament to empower them. Then, on the Day of Pentecost (Acts 2), God gave a different gift of holy spirit to the Christian Church. The Hebrew text uses the prophetic perfect idiom and speaks of this as happening in the past to emphasize the fact that it will happen in the future. The Hebrew text more literally reads, “has rested on him,” not “will rest on him.” [For more on the difference between the gift of holy spirit God gave in the Old Testament and the gift of holy spirit that Christians have today, see commentary on Eph. 1:13. For more on the prophetic perfect idiom, see commentary on Eph. 2:6].

“a spirit of knowledge.” Here in Isaiah 11:2 the Hebrew text does not close out this list of attributes with “and” a spirit of knowledge,” but leaves off the “and,” thus making this sentence the figure of speech “asyndeton” (see Bullinger, Figures of Speech Used in the Bible). In normal grammar, when a list occurs, an “and” is placed in front of the last item in the list. Normal grammar is modified to good effect in the figures of speech “polysyndeton” and “asyndeton.” The figure polysyndeton places an “and” between each item in the list and by that literary device emphasizes each thing in the list. Thus, when Jesus says we must love God “with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength,” he is specifically emphasizing each point in the list.

In contrast to polysyndeton and normal grammar, the figure asyndeton does not have an “and” in the list, not even the standard “and” between the last two items of the list. This means that there is no emphasis on each specific thing in the list, but rather the reader is to go through the list and notice what is there, but move on to the conclusion, which is where the asyndeton is leading. Furthermore, the asyndeton lets us know that the list is not meant to be complete—there are other things that could have been on it. We see that with the asyndeton list of the fruit of the spirit in Galatians 5:22-23—there are fruit that are not on the list (patience and humility are two examples). Here in Isaiah, God could not possibly give us all the things that the spirit of God would do for His Messiah, but He gives us good examples of what the spirit did do for the Messiah.


Commentary for: Isaiah 11:2