Isaiah 11, 12   

© David H. Linden   (Revised 2008)


Israel would be cut down so severely that only a stump would remain (6:13); now we are told in 11:1 a shoot will come out of that stump. The stump is the remnant of Israel, but now in chapter 11 an individual called the Branch comes from the stump of Jesse. Since Jesse is the father of David, and the Messiah may be called David (Ezekiel 34:23), Jesus the Son of David is the ultimate David King.


Then Christ is also called the Root of Jesse in 11:10. How can one be the root from which Jesse comes and still be the sapling that emerges from the Jesse stump? Since Christ has always been the Lord and only in human history became a man in the line of David, He is both before and after. (Note John 1:15, and also Revelation 5:5, where Jesus is the Root of David.)


Between chapters 6 & 12, the text begins and closes with a king in chapter 7 & 11. Ahaz (chapter 7) was a very bad one, rejecting the promise and protection of God. He worshipped false gods and offered children in sacrifice to them (2 Chronicles 28). In that context Isaiah gave God’s promise of a good king to be born to a virgin, a blessing Ahaz would never see. Then the prophet followed in the end of chapter 7 and most of chapter 8 with a bleak picture of judgment in the form of invasion, darkness, gloom, and occultic confusion. Here in Isaiah 11 the picture is of a king of character, endowed by the Holy Spirit, ruling competently and bringing in a new world order. In Isaiah 11 there is nothing but a beneficial result because of the great King Who would come from the stump of Jesse. (Isaiah 60 is another such chapter.) Gathering the whole world to Himself with everyone knowing Him, and all mankind reconciled to God and unified as mankind – all this is an astounding supernatural transformation. It is nothing less than a new creation that reverses the destruction from sin in the Garden of Eden.




11:1   It is difficult to pass on a word-play from one language to another. There is such a likeness of a word here in Hebrew that it appears in the New Testament. First, we must remember that the verse really is about Christ, so there is no manipulation of the text involved. The word for Branch is nezer. And where did Jesus live most of his life, but Nazareth? Thus Matthew 2:23 refers to 11:1. Isaiah was not making a prophecy of where Jesus would live, but that He would arise as the promised Branch from the line of David. Jesus Christ is the subject of this great Messianic prophecy.


11:2,3   David’s sons were often wicked men; some of their lives are a horror to read. The coming Branch in David’s line would delight in the fear of the Lord, the very opposite of Ahaz in chapter 7.  Christ as a man would be so filled with the Holy Spirit that He had the full range of spiritual abilities as well as a holy character. These qualities are essential to godly governing. His birth as David’s Son made His claim to Israel’s throne legitimate, but it was the endowment of the Holy Spirit that made His ministry effective. The Deity of Christ as “God with us” in 7:14, appears again in His being called Wonderful Counselor and Mighty God in 9:6. His reign will bring deliverance from enemies, the increase of the nation and joy in it, life in the place of death, and light for darkness, effective government, and an eternal rule – all this is predicted in 9:1-7. In these early chapters much is provided for us about the reign of Christ. 


It is chapter 11 that adds the ministry of the Spirit and a very explicit prediction of the universal extent of His kingdom (vv.10,11). The Messiah will be filled with the Spirit (Luke 4:1; Acts 10:38). Men with moral flaws may be filled with the Spirit too, but in His work as our Mediator, Jesus alone received the Spirit without limitation (John 3:34). When His public ministry began in His baptism (Matthew 3:16) our Lord received the Spirit in fulfillment of Isaiah 11:1. That Christ would be given the Spirit is emphasized in Isaiah in 42:1; 59:21 & 61:1. All four Gospels include the descent of the Spirit (meaning that the Spirit is from the Father) at the outset of Jesus’ public ministry. 


The seven Spirits of God?  It is puzzling to read of “seven spirits” in Revelation 1:4, but this is relieved when we read of the list of seven in Isaiah 11:1. The Spirit of the Lord is the same Person as the Spirit of wisdom and the Spirit of understanding, etc. What is promised in Christ is a King to rule over us who is absolutely holy in every respect and qualified to rule, having all the wisdom and knowledge and counsel and power to fulfill His role as king.  Here is the ultimate resumé combined with the character description of our King, the Lord Jesus Christ. He fears the Lord, so His rule over us is also characterized by His obedience to the Father.  Later in Isaiah He will be called the Lord’s Servant.


11:3-5   Unlike others He can read the heart and judge men in a way superior to the limitations of mere men.   He has the Spirit of knowledge, so is not confined to what the eyes and ears discern. Because Christ, unlike Ahaz, delights in the fear of the Lord, He will make righteous decisions. The poor will rejoice, because Jesus is the opposite of all the judicial corruption reported earlier in this prophet. Others with power abused the poor. In Christ we have a lofty king Who died for them. This King of Kings suppresses wicked people as in Revelation 19:15,16. It must have been a great joy for Isaiah to report all this. Isaiah 11:1-5 is another way to say that Christ loves righteousness and hates iniquity (Hebrews 1:8,9). Because of the godly character of the King there is no harsh rule. He is not evil Himself and in His kingdom He does not tolerate those who are. His clothing (v.5) indicates that the Person so dressed is consistent with what He wears. It is wrong for anyone who is not a policeman to appear before others in a police uniform. Christ is true to His uniform of righteousness and faithfulness. (The significance of clothing is emphasized in 59:17 and 61:10.)


11:6-9   The result of such a rule is given in nine graphic images of safety and peace, such as the wolf living with the lamb, and the lamb is still safe.  Every one of the examples given is a situation of danger. Animals that are never together normally (v6) eat the same food together and so does their offspring (v.7). The snake was the instrument of Satan’s approach in Eden. It was cursed by God, but now in Isaiah 11, the snake harms no more. This shows redemption complete with the curse removed.


Reading this conveys what a transformation the world will undergo. Many Christians look on this as a description of a glorious future. That must be true, though the text simply ties all the good to the blessing of the reign of Christ in unspecified time. This kind of peace on earth is the effect that will come when it is not just the King Who delights in the Lord, but when the entire earth knows Him. The godly King and His godly subjects will be united in worship. (Compare vv.1-3 with v.9). This is not an unusual message in the Bible. In Jeremiah 31:31-34 the Lord says, All shall know me.  And the earth shall be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the Lord as the waters cover the sea (Habakkuk 2:14). Thus we pray, May Your kingdom come.



11:10-16  Coming to the Lord      In Isaiah 2 foreign nations stream to the Lord. Other Scriptures indicate that they will be accepted as His people – no longer as strangers but fellow-citizens (Ephesians 2:11-22). Isaiah 11:10 shows that Gentile nations rally to Christ, yet most of this section is on gathering His people from exile. Salvation widens, because both Gentile nations and the people of Israel will come to Christ. It would be a mistake to read any of Isaiah 11:10-16 as retribution. The entire picture is one of saving grace. In prophecy, Jesus stands as a banner for nations to rally to Him; in fulfillment, He said of being lifted up on the cross, “I … will draw all men to myself,” (John 12:32,33). This day these things are being fulfilled before our eyes as many find rest in Christ. 




11:10   The attraction is highly personal.  Jesus is the Root of David and the nations gather around Him. They do not come because we are attractive. They do not come to an idea, or as a human movement. They come to Christ (Romans 15:12). The first part of Isaiah 11 gives a good reason why, and then it adds the effects of His rule. The nations, weary of sin, strife, and false gods (46:1), will come under the rule of a wonderful King. In Him they find rest (Matthew 11:28,29).


11:11,12   What does “a second time” mean in v. 11?  The Hebrew means “to do again”.  There was an earlier deliverance of people from a foreign power; now v.11 speaks of another. The first great redemption was the exodus from Egypt (Exodus 20:2). Later in Isaiah “a new thing,” a greater deliverance, will be the return from Babylon (43:14-21) and that foreshadows the greatest of all emancipations when the nations come to Christ.  


This chapter speaks of an exodus from some countries never named as a place where Israelites had ever been captive such as Upper Egypt or distant islands. The language of past captivity and exile is employed to speak of the Lord reaching out His hand to claim and save His elect from the four quarters of the earth (v.12). This is not universal salvation as to all individuals but salvation universal in its scope since it embraces every tribe and language and people and nation (Revelation 7:9).


11:13-15   Salvation includes removing old hostilities and frictions. The brothers Ephraim and Judah (meaning Israel and Judah) will no longer quarrel (v.13), as they did in 9:19-21. They will work together in taking their enemies captive (v.14). The Lord zealously removes barriers to bring His people home. Just as in His parting the Red Sea, He will again act in a rescue that is powerful. The same imagery appears of a dry passage through the Euphrates River as through the Red Sea. The remnant will have a smooth highway on their way home to the Lord. Isaiah pictures an exodus from Egypt, Assyria, and the four corners of the earth.


The entire passage is of saving grace. How then shall we understand v.14? They swoop down on these old enemies of Edom, Moab, Philistia, and Ammon. No word used here means to destroy. Instead they make them subject to them, just as Israel itself has the Son of David as King. Isaiah presents this as a great blessing. To be subject to the King is a wonderful thing if He is the good king of vv.1-5.  Warfare language is used of the church.  Christ takes men captive according to Ephesians 4:8. Our service is a spiritual warfare in Ephesians 6. We have been made subject to Him in great mercy and so we bow (Philippians 2:9-11). His kingdom is extended without literal swords, yet this is described in the language of battle and subjugation. It is better to read v.14 as a service to the King, the Great Son of David by bringing their neighbors into His kingdom. And this is done not by force of arms or deceit, but by the proclamation of the gospel. In v.10 using another military analogy, the Lord Jesus is the banner held up to view. The nations rally to Him. They find His yoke is easy and His burden is light (Matthew 11:28-30). They also find that His place of rest is glorious (v.10). He is the Prince of Peace.


Q. 26. How does Christ execute the office of a king?     A. Christ executes the office of a king, in subduing us to himself, in ruling and defending us, and in restraining and conquering all his and our enemies.

                                                                                                       Westminster Shorter Catechism   



A Little Review      The Prophet Isaiah did not begin his prophecy as Jeremiah did with his call to the ministry. The Lord had him begin with the shabby sin of God’s people who did not know their Lord. He recounts their sins of insincere worship, their oppression of their neighbors, even their trust in a vicious heathen king rather than God’s covenanted commitment to preserve the House of David. Their women were interested in their jewelry. They disdained the Word of the Lord and went to seek counsel of mediums.  So the people lived in darkness. God was not done with them.  He would punish them with overwhelming destruction, but He would also send Immanuel by a virgin to sit on David’s throne forever. The remnant would be saved.  But not only them, for the nations will stream to God’s holy Mount and submit to His word and rule.  The whole earth will be full of the knowledge of the Lord, the result of God’s zealous (9:7) work to build the kingdom of His Son. All of this and much more is in Isaiah 1-11.



Isaiah 12,  The Psalm of Praise


In chapter 6 Isaiah spoke of atonement for his sins and the removal of his guilt, as He encountered the Presence of the Lord. Isaiah was also commissioned to speak for the Lord. The three themes of salvation, mission and presence return in chapter 12. It begins with an individual speaking of God’s anger removed. Soon it is a large company who have experienced God’s salvation, who proclaim it to the nations, and have the presence of the Holy One of Israel among them. Salvation is not just stated. The joy of sins forgiven and peace granted by our God reconciled to us and angry with us no more, all this leads to a psalm of thanksgiving. No gloom appears here (8:22; 9:1). It is the same eternal song of which we will never tire. It will never become dull to us, but will always be like fresh water from the wells of salvation. 


12:1-3   God’s anger was turned away at the altar when Isaiah’s sin was atoned for. As a result he had comfort, and his fear of God’s wrath was gone when he believed the word of God. Trust was then characteristic of Isaiah (8:17). Salvation for sinners is a rescue from the wrath of the God Who is offended by our sin. But it is this same Lord God Who made a provision for our sin. Christ in His death satisfied the justice of God, Who required death for sin. Christ died for us; we rest in Him, and we are saved. Isaiah did not make atonement, did not seek it, and did not reconcile God. He did not create his own salvation; instead the Lord became his salvation. The hand that claimed him was God’s (11:11). Then Isaiah’s Lord continued life and strength as a sustained gift. Others too drew salvation from the same source. Once the water was cut off (3:1); now in 12:3, there is an endless supply.


12:4-6   The song is multiplied. A great company (Psalm 68:11) joins Isaiah as God worshippers, calling on His Name. They proclaim, sing, and broadcast to the far reaches of the earth. Their testimony is affected by their experience, but the testimony was centered in what He has done (v.4), for He has done (v.5), and let this  [that He has done] be known (v.5). The people who did not know God in the beginning of this prophecy (1:3) now make Him known to all the earth. They now know Who is among them. A male voice praises throughout but in v.6 shout is a feminine singular verb. The inhabitant of Zion is also singular and feminine. The women in Isaiah 3 were a depraved group. Now, like Miriam in Exodus 15:20,21, a woman urged the praise of the Lord upon others. 


Our Singing     One of the chief weaknesses in worship today is that people sing wonderful words as 12:5, “Sing to the Lord for he has done glorious things…” unaware of the activity of the Lord in these very passages of Scripture.  So they end up with wonderful words unattached to the glorious things the words actually refer to. It is like a wife saying, “My husband is so wonderful,” but she does not refer to anything he has done for her. If we study entire passages and maintain their context, we will not fall into this kind of superficiality.  God’s praise in song is always connected to “making known what He has done” (v.4).


Our Reconciled Lord      Their songs humbly recognize sin and God’s right to be angry, yet that anger is turned away. In Jesus’ death God has been propitiated (Romans 3:25). They did not turn to the Lord on their own; He reached out His hand to save (11:11).  Now they have comfort (40:1,2), see it clearly, and praise accordingly.  Their gloom is replaced by joy.  Once the water was cut off (3:1); now they have wells of salvation. Good songs of praise have substance and depth.