Isaiah 11


The Messiah represented as a slender twig shooting up from the

root of an old withered stem, which tender plant, so extremely

weak in its first appearance, should nevertheless become

fruitful and mighty, 1-4.

Great equity of the Messiah's government, 5.

Beautiful assemblages of images by which the great peace and

happiness of his kingdom are set forth, 6-8.

The extent of his dominion shall be ultimately that of the

whole habitable globe, 9.

The prophet, borrowing his imagery from the exodus from Egypt,

predicts, with great majesty of language, the future

restoration of the outcasts of Israel and the dispersed of

Judah, (viz., the whole of the twelve tribes of Israel,) from

their several dispersions, and also that blessed period when

both Jews and Gentiles shall assemble under the banner of

Jesus, and zealously unite in extending the limits of his

kingdom, 10-16.


The prophet had described the destruction of the Assyrian army

under the image of a mighty forest, consisting of flourishing

trees growing thick together, and of a great height; of Lebanon

itself crowned with lofty cedars, but cut down and laid level with

the ground by the axe wielded by the hand of some powerful and

illustrious agent. In opposition to this image he represents the

great Person who makes the subject of this chapter as a slender

twig shooting out from the trunk of an old tree, cut down, lopped

to the very root, and decayed; which tender plant, so weak in

appearance, should nevertheless become fruitful and prosper. This

contrast shows plainly the connexion between this and the

preceding chapter, which is moreover expressed by the connecting

particle; and we have here a remarkable instance of that method so

common with the prophets, and particularly with Isaiah, of taking

occasion, from the mention of some great temporal deliverance, to

launch out into the display of the spiritual deliverance of God's

people by the Messiah; for that this prophecy relates to the

Messiah we have the express authority of St. Paul, Ro 15:12. 'He

joins this paragraph, with respect to the days of the Messiah,

with the fidelity that was in the days of Hezekiah."-Kimchi, in

Isa 11:1. Thus in the latter part of Isaiah's prophecies the

subject of the great redemption, and of the glories of the

Messiah's kingdom, arises out of the restoration of Judah by the

deliverance from the captivity of Babylon, and is all along

connected and intermixed with it.

Verse 4. With the rod of his mouth-"By the blast of his mouth"]

For beshebet, by the rod, Houbigant reads

beshebeth, by the blast of his mouth, from nashab, to

blow. The conjecture is ingenious and probable; and seems to be

confirmed by the Septuagint and Chaldee, who render it by the word

of his mouth, which answers much better to the correction than to

the present reading. Add to this, that the blast of his mouth is

perfectly parallel to the breath of his lips in the next line.

Verse 5. The girdle-"The cincture"] All the ancient Versions,

except that of Symmachus, have two different words for girdle in

the two hemistichs. It is not probable that Isaiah would have

repeated azer, when a synonymous word so obvious as

chagor occurred. The tautology seems to have arisen from the

mistake of some transcriber. The meaning of this verse is, that a

zeal for justice and truth shall make him active and strong in

executing the great work which he shall undertake. See note on

Isa 5:27.

Verse 6. The wolf also shall, &c.-"Then shall the wolf," &c.]

The idea of the renewal of the golden age, as it is called, is

much the same in the Oriental writers with that of the Greeks and

Romans:-the wild beasts grow tame; serpents and poisonous herbs

become harmless; all is peace and harmony, plenty and happiness:-

Occidet et serpens, et fallax herba veneni

Occidet. VIRG. Eclog. iv. 24.

"The serpent's brood shall die. The sacred ground

Shall weeds and noxious plants refuse to bear."

____Nec magnos metuent armenta leones.

VIRG. Eclog. iv. 22.

"Nor shall the flocks fear the great lions."

Non lupus insidias explorat ovilia circum,

Nec gregibus nocturnus obambulat: acrior illum

Cura domat: timidae damae cervique fugaces

Nunc interque canes, et circum tecta vagantur.

VIRG. Georg. iii. 537.

"The nightly wolf that round the enclosure prowled,

To leap the fence, now plots not on the fold:

Tamed with a sharper pain, the fearful doe

And flying stag amidst the greyhounds go;

And round the dwellings roam, of man, their former foe."


Nec vespertinus circumgemit ursus ovile,

Nec intumescit alta viperis humus.

HOR. Epod. xvi. 51.

"Nor evening bears the sheepfold growl around,

Nor mining vipers heave the tainted ground."




THEOC. Idyl. xxiv. 84.

There shall be a time when the ravenous wolf shall see the kid

lying at ease, and shall feel no desire to do it an injury.

I have laid before the reader these common passages from the

most elegant of the ancient poets, that he may see how greatly the

prophet on the same subject has the advantage upon the comparison;

how much the former fall short of that beauty and elegance, and

variety of imagery, with which Isaiah has set forth the very same

ideas. The wolf and the leopard not only forbear to destroy the

lamb and the kid, but even take their abode and lie down together

with them. The calf, and the young lion, and the fatling, not only

come together, but are led quietly in the same band, and that by a

little child. The heifer and the she-bear not only feed together,

but even lodge their young ones, for whom they used to be most

jealously fearful, in the same place. All the serpent kind is so

perfectly harmless, that the sucking infant and the newly weaned

child puts his hand on the basilisk's den, and plays upon the hole

of the aspic. The lion not only abstains from preying on the

weaker animals, but becomes tame and domestic, and feeds on straw

like the ox. These are all beautiful circumstances, not one of

which has been touched upon by the ancient poets. The Arabian and

Persian poets elegantly apply the same ideas to show the effects

of justice impartially administered, and firmly supported, by a

great and good king:-

"Mahmoud the powerful king, the ruler of the world,

To whose tank the wolf and the lamb come, together to drink."


"Through the influence of righteousness, the hungry wolf

Becomes mild, though in the presence of the white kid."


JONES, Poes. Asiat. Comment., p. 380.

The application is extremely ingenious and beautiful: but the

exquisite imagery of Isaiah is not equalled.

Verse 7. In this verse a word is omitted in the text,

yachdav, together; which ought to be repeated in the second

hemistich, being quite necessary to the sense. It is accordingly

twice expressed by the Septuagint and Syriac.

Verse 8. The cockatrice' den.] This is supposed, both by the

Targum and by Kimchi, to mean the pupil of this serpent's eye.

"When," says Kimchi, "he is in the mouth of his den, in an obscure

place, then his eyes sparkle exceedingly: the child, seeing this,

and supposing it to be a piece of crystal, or precious stone, puts

forth his hand to take it. What would be very dangerous at another

time, shall be safe in the days of the Messiah; for the serpent

will not hurt the child."

Verse 10. A root of Jesse, which shall stand &c.-"The root of

Jesse, which standeth," &c.] St. John hath taken this expression

from Isaiah, Re 5:5, and Re 22:16, where Christ hath twice

applied it to himself. Seven MSS. have omed, standing, the

present participle. Radix Isaei dicitur jam stare, et aliquantum

stetisse, in signum populorum.-VITRINGA. "The root of Jesse is

said to stand, and for some time to have stood, for an ensign to

the people." Which rightly explains either of the two readings.

The one hundred and tenth psalm is a good comment on this verse.

See the notes there.

Verse 11. And it shall come to pass in that day] This part of

the chapter contains a prophecy which certainly remains yet to be


The Lord-"JEHOVAH"] For Adonai, thirty-three MSS. of

Kennicott's, and many of De Rossi's, and two editions, read


The islands of the sea.] The Roman and Turkish empires, say


Verse 13. The adversaries of Judah-"And the enmity of Judah"]

tsorerim. Postulat pars posterior versus, ut intelligantur

inimicitiae Judae in Ephraimum: et potest ( tsorerim)

inimicitiam notare, ut ( nichumim) poenitentiam,

Ho 11:8.-SECKER.

Verse 15. The Lord-shall smite it in the seven streams-"Smite

with a drought"] The Chaldee reads hecherib; and so

perhaps the Septuagint, who have ερημωσει, the word by which they

commonly render it. Vulg. desolabit; "shall desolate." The

Septuagint, Vulgate, and Chaldee read hidrichahu,

"shall make it passable," adding the pronoun, which is necessary:

but this reading is not confirmed by any MS.

Here is a plain allusion to the passage of the Red Sea. And the

Lord's shaking his hand over the river with his vehement wind,

refers to a particular circumstance of the same miracle: for "he

caused the sea to go back by a strong east wind all that night,

and made the sea dry land," Ex 14:21. The

tongue; a very apposite and descriptive expression for a bay

such as that of the Red Sea. It is used in the same sense,

Jos 15:2, 5; 18:19. The Latins gave the same name to a narrow

strip of land running into the sea: tenuem producit in aequora

linguam. LUCAN. ii. 613. He shall smite the river to its seven

streams. This has been supposed to refer to the Nile, because it

falls into the Mediterranean Sea by seven mouths: but R. Kimchi

understands it of the Euphrates, which is the opinion of some good

judges. See the Targum. See below.

Herodotus, lib. i, 189, tells a story of his Cyrus, (a very

different character from that of the Cyrus of the Scriptures and

Xenophon,) which may somewhat illustrate this passage, in which it

is said that God would inflict a kind of punishment and judgment

on the Euphrates, and render it fordable by dividing it into seven

streams. "Cyrus, being impeded in his march to Babylon by the

Gyndes, a deep and rapid river which falls into the Tigris, and

having lost one of his sacred white horses that attempted to pass

it, was so enraged against the river that he threatened to reduce

it, and make it so shallow that it should be easily fordable even

by women, who should not be up to their knees in passing it.

Accordingly he set his whole army to work, and cutting three

hundred and sixty trenches, from both sides of the river, turned

the waters into them, and drained them off."

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