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Go to Bible: Isaiah 11
“shoot.” This is another word for “branch,” which is in the second half of the verse. The shoot and branch are likely members of the Davidic dynasty, but ultimately THE shoot and branch is the Messiah.
“will come out.” The Hebrew text is more literally, “has come out.” This is the prophetic perfect idiom. In the Hebrew and Aramaic language in which much of the Bible was written, when something was absolutely going to happen in the future, it was sometimes spoken of as if it had already occurred in the past. This idiomatic use of the language was apparently due to the fact that it is sometimes hard to express that a future event is certain to happen. Many times when we simply say that something “will” happen it does not happen. One way the Semitic languages avoided that was by idiomatically saying that a future event had already happened even though the event was actually still future. The prophetic perfect idiom is used a lot in prophecy to express the prophecy will come true.
Only the Messiah will fulfill the prophecy of Isaiah 11:1-12. Isaiah 11 has many prophetic perfects, emphasizing what the Messiah will do. To emphasize this fact, reproduced below are the prophetic perfects in Isaiah 11:1-10. The text has been shortened for ease of reading, but the salient past-tense verbs have been translated as past tense. Although translating the text more literally as is done below would be confusing to an English reader, to a native Hebrew speaker who is used to the idiom the text is quite understandable. Isaiah 11:1-10 (shortened):
Writing of the future events in the past tense can create a very powerful experience for the reader, and build the reader’s excitement and hope for the future when these things will be fulfilled. However, as was stated above, reading a literal rendition of the text without a thorough knowledge of how the prophetic perfect idiom works is likely to only cause the reader to be confused.
“stump.” This is the same word as “trunk” in Isa. 40:24, but here it is to be understood as a stump because the trunk was cut down by Yahweh, using the Assyrians as His tool (Isa. 10:15, 34). The translation “trunk” would be okay if one understood that it had been cut down into a stump.
“of Jesse.” Jesse was the father of David, and thus an ancestor of the Messiah, Jesus Christ. John Oswalt writes, “Commentators (cf. Calvin) are possibly correct when they suggest that the use of Jesse is an attempt to downplay the house of David (cf. Isa. 7:1, 13). Salvation would not come from the pomp and glory of the royal house. Rather, it would come from the promise of one who could create a royal house from a peasant family. Deliverance is God’s gracious gift, an exercise of his faithfulness. Nevertheless, God’s promise to David stands. It is not merely through any of Jesse’s sons that deliverance will come, but specifically through a descendent of David. Both earlier (cp. Isa 9:6 [Eng. Isa. 9:7] and later exegesis (Isa. 16:5; 55:4-5; Jer. 23:5; 33:15) make the connection explicit” (NICOT: The Book of Isaiah, Chapters 1-39. Scripture references modified to link in the REV commentary).
“from his roots.” The plural “roots” refers to the descendants of Jessie via David that are left over after the Assyrians attack. The roots continue to grow after a tree is cut down, and here the roots are the descendants of Jesse, and specifically David and the Davidic dynasty that has been preserved—there are still descendants of David who are alive. From one of those descendants the dynasty will continue. This is all about the continuation of the dynasty of David and God’s actions in preserving it.(top)
“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.(top)
|Isa 11:3||- (top)|
“righteousness.” In this context, “righteousness” is doing what is right to God and others. The Messiah will not play favorites; he will be just and equitable toward everyone. He will not favor the rich or powerful, but he will do what is right (for “righteousness” referring to “justice” in some contexts, see commentary on Matt. 5:6).
“he will judge the poor.” It is chapters such as Isaiah 11 that caused the Jews to believe that when the Messiah came he would conquer the earth and set up his kingdom. There is no hint of a 2,000-year break between Isaiah 11:3 and Isaiah 11:4 (although one could argue the break is between verses 2 and 3), and certainly no hint that the Messiah would die for the sins of mankind. Instead, he would come and kill the wicked. The reader must get his understanding of the death of Christ from places such as Isaiah 53, although that was unclear to Jews before Christ. There are many Scriptures in the Old Testament that speak of the coming of Christ and God’s vengeance on the wicked as if they were going to happen at the same time (cp. Isa. 9:6-7; 11:1-9; 61:1-3; Micah 5:2; Zech. 9:9-10; Mal. 3:1-3; 4:1-3). Those many Scriptures, along with the fact that there are no clear Scriptures that portray the two comings of Christ, are the reason that at the time of Christ people did not think that Christ would die (cp. Matt. 16:21-22; Luke 18:31-34; 24:19-21, 44-46; John 12:34; 20:9).
Like several of the prophetic verses here in Isaiah 11, The Hebrew text of Isaiah 11:4 uses the prophetic perfect idiom, and states the future event in the past tense as if it had already happened. The Hebrew text has “he has judged the poor” to emphasize the fact that he will judge the poor.
[For more on Scriptures that directly connect the coming of Christ with him conquering the earth, see commentary on Isa. 61:2. For more on the prophetic perfect idiom, see commentary on Eph. 2:6].
“oppressed.” The Hebrew word refers to those people who are “low” and thus oppressed, afflicted, downtrodden, meek, humble, etc. In this context of judging with equity, the word “oppressed” fits very well. These oppressed people have not been given a fair trial on earth, but they will when Christ returns.
“spirit from his lips.” The Messiah’s prophetic word will kill the wicked. The word “spirit,” ruach (#7307), can refer (by metonymy) to the message that is spoken by the spirit. The Book of Revelation shows Jesus with a sword coming from his mouth (Rev 1:16; 2:16; 19:15, 21), and 2 Thessalonians 2:8 says the Lord Jesus will kill the Lawless One (the Antichrist) by the spirit from his mouth.
While the Hebrew word ruach, “spirit,” can also mean “breath” (cp. ESV, KJV, NASB, NIV), we do not feel that is the best translation in this context due to the use in both the Old and New Testaments of “spirit” referring to a message or prophecy spoken by the power of the spirit. Also, it is not like Jesus breathes out and the wicked die. It is his prophecies, his powerful word, that kills them, just like Joshua’s prophecy stopped the sun (Josh. 10:12), or Jesus’ prophecy caused the death of a fig tree (Matt. 21:20). The HCSB gets the sense correct, although their translation is not literal: “He will kill the wicked with a command from his lips.” Jesus’ prophetic command is powerful and effective. It will do its work. [For more on “spirit” being used for a message spoken by the spirit, see commentaries on 1 Cor. 14:12 and Rev. 19:15].
“he will kill the wicked.” When the Messiah comes from heaven, fights the Battle of Armageddon, and conquers the earth, he will kill the wicked. There are a number of verses that express that fact in various ways (cp. Rev 19:19-21; Isa. 11:4; 63:1-6; 2 Sam. 7:10; Ps. 45:3-5; Matt. 25:41-46). The fact that there will be no wicked people on earth when the Messiah rules it as king is one of the reasons that the next life will be wonderful and called “Paradise.”
There are many Christians who believe that Jesus is always this “nice guy” who would never hurt anybody for any reason. That is not the testimony of Scripture. In his first coming, Christ lived a very sacrificial life so he could die for the sins of humankind, but in his second coming he will be the king and will take very seriously his responsibility to carry out God’s laws and keep the good people of society safe from criminals and predatory people. Even our current fallen world would be a much nicer place if there were no criminals, and the next life will be Paradise in part because there will not be any evil people there.
[For more on the kingdom of Christ on earth, see Appendix 3, “Christ’s Future Kingdom on Earth. For more on why the future kingdom is called “Paradise,” see commentary on Luke 23:43].
|Isa 11:5||- (top)|
“The wolf will live with the lamb.” Isaiah 11:6-9 is shortened and restated in Isaiah 65:25. When Christ conquers the earth and reigns as king, the earth will be restored to an Edenic state and animal nature will revert to the wonderful way it was before Adam and Eve sinned. The Bible says in a couple different places that there will not be any more harmful animals on earth (Isa. 11:6-9; 65:25; Ezek. 34:25).(top)
|Isa 11:7||- (top)|
|Isa 11:8||- (top)|
|Isa 11:9||- (top)|
“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.](top)
“Pathros.” This is most likely a designation for “Upper Egypt” which is southern Egypt. “Lower Egypt” was the Egypt that was close to the Mediterranean Sea. Thus, the NIV has “Upper Egypt” and the NLT has “southern Egypt,” to make the text clearer to English readers. If “Pathros” is southern Egypt, then “Egypt” in this list refers to northern Egypt, which was in fact the Egypt that people in and around Israel were more familiar with since not many people from the nations around Israel traveled deeply into southern Egypt.(top)
“assemble the outcasts of Israel.” When Jesus Christ comes from heaven and conquers the earth at the Battle of Armageddon, he will set up his kingdom on earth and reign 1000 years. He will raise the righteous dead of the Old Testament, Gospels, and Book of Revelation in the “Resurrection of the Righteous,” the first resurrection, and gather the people of Israel and Judah back to the land of Israel. Many verses describe this regathering of Israel and Judah to the land of Israel (see commentary on Jer. 32:37). [For more on the Resurrection of the Righteous and the Resurrection of the Unrighteousness, see commentary on Acts 24:15. For more on Christ’s future Millennial Kingdom, see Appendix 3, “Christ’s Future Kingdom on Earth”].(top)
|Isa 11:13||- (top)|
|Isa 11:14||- (top)|
“the Euphrates River.” In Old Testament prophecy, “the River” is the Euphrates River. Thus Isaiah 11:15 is a wonderful prophecy about God’s provision for inclusiveness in Christ’s Millennial Kingdom. Barriers such as rivers and seas that would block people from coming to Jerusalem to worship God will be removed.
[For more on the Millennial Kingdom of Christ, see Appendix 3, “Christ’s Future Kingdom on Earth”].(top)
|Isa 11:16||- (top)|