Dear readers, I thought I would be able to continue our study of Isaiah in June; but family and other responsibilities, including the death of Tillie’s father have delayed it until now.
In that last essay weeks ago we studied 9:8-10:34, to which I gave the title, “The Destroyer Destroyed,” though that title was most appropriate for the second part of the lesson. In the first part, we saw a judgment proclaimed against Israel. And in the second part we saw a judgment against Assyria.
In this essay we study chapters 11-12, which concludes a large major section that began back at 7:1. In 11:1-5 the focus is on the coming Messiah. He was first mentioned in 7:14 in the prophecy about the child to be born named Immanuel. Then his role was expanded upon in 9:1-6, especially in the titles given him: “Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father,” and “Prince of Peace.” In these verses the role of Prince of Peace is laid out, because it is prophesied that he will usher in a time of righteous rule that also will be a time of safety and security.
In verse one the Messiah is described as a “shoot” from “the stump of Jessie.” The imagery is vivid. Assyria’s campaign against Israel and Judah had been so destructive that it left only stumps in Israel. In other words all of the “trees,” the leaders, were cut down. But out of the stump of Jessie, a reference to the family of King David, comes a small shoot (in previous imagery a small child) that is the Messiah. Of course the testimony of the New Testament (Luke 4:14, 18: John 1:14) is that Jesus was the complete fulfillment of this prophecy.
In verses 2-3a we see that “the Spirit of the Lord shall rest upon him.” This was not a new idea in the Old Testament. For instance, Bezalel was given supernatural craftsman skills, because the Holy Spirit filled him (Ex. 31:1-3). Another example is Sampson, who killed a lion with his bare hands, because the Spirit of the Lord came upon him (Judges 14:5-6). So empowerment by the Holy Spirit was a known concept. And it would be crucial that the Messiah be filled ad empowered by the Holy Spirit. And of course Jesus was Spirit-filled and empowered.
Notice the list of endowments that the Spirit gives him: wisdom, understanding, counsel, might, knowledge, and fear of the Lord, the latter meaning a proper fear of the heavenly Father.
In verses 3b-5 we see that the Messiah, when he judges, will not depend on what he sees and hears, but will have insight into the hearts of people. And he will judge the poor with righteousness. He also will rule firmly, with a rod, and kill the wicked. And verse five tells us that righteousness and faithfulness will characterize him as a person and judge. “Righteousness” in this context is the capacity to do the right thing. And “faithfulness” is being dependable or true, that is, having integrity.
Now then, as you can see, in 11:6-9 Isaiah uses classic imagery to portray the kind of peace and security that will result from the Messiah’s rule. There are three ways to interpret these images. One way is a literal interpretation. The problem with a literal interpretation is that it requires a fundamental change in the nature of some of the animals, for example, the lion. That is possible, but not necessary. A second way is an allegorical interpretation, which allows the interpreter to apply any desired meaning to the various animals. The problem with such an interpretation is that there are no controls on it. Each individual interpreter can assign meanings willy-nilly. Thus I believe the third way is the best. It is a figurative interpretation that looks for the point of the passage as a whole. In this case the point is that the Messiah’s rule will remove the fearful insecurity, danger and evil. In a literal interpretation the “They” of verse nine would be the animals, but in a figurative interpretation the “They” would have a broader meaning of human activity.
In verses 10-16 Isaiah moves to a prophecy about the return to the homeland of the scattered peoples of Israel. Verses 10-11 give a general prophecy, and verses 12-16 give some of the details. Notice that the “shoot” of Jessie of 11:1 is called here in 11:10 the “root” of Jessie. However, the meaning is the same. “On that day,” once again referring to the restoration following the judgment, under the Messiah’s rule, there will be a great restoration of God’s people from every part of the known world.
That this restoration of God’s people is “a second” restoration raises the question of what the first was. John Oswalt believes Isaiah had the Exodus in mind (The Book of Isaiah, Vol. 1, p. 287). There are two ways to understand this influx of God’s people. It could refer to the New Israel, the Church (Calvin and others). Or it could refer to an end-time restoration of literal Israel, whose people will then turn to Christ. Oswalt likes the latter interpretation (p. 286).
Verse 12 repeats the thought of verses 10-11. Then verses 13-14 indicate that Isaiah’s vision of the end-time would include a reestablishment of Israel’s rule over the nations that traditionally surrounded her. However, we must realize that Isaiah has made it clear that the end-time victory is God’s, not Israel’s. So Isaiah simply is picturing the end-time restoration as a return to ideal conditions that existed during the days of David, when the two Hebrew nations were unified and Israel was in control of the entire region. The larger vision is that all of the nations, including Israel, will be submitted to God: and that is why there will be peace.
Verses 15-16 picture God’s opening the way for people to return from Egypt and Assyria by once again, as he did during the Exodus, making a dry place across the waters. The “River” mentioned in verse 15 is the Euphrates.
In 12:1-6 we find a song of praise and trust that closes out the section that began at 7:1. The song looks forward to the day when remnant Israel finally will trust God. Once again the phrase “in that day” points not to the Day of Judgment, but to the day of restoration following the judgment. Notice that the focus is on God. Notice also that the reason for the praise is the discovery that God’s anger has been removed from them, and God now is a source of comfort for them.
Verse two reveals that the restored remnant will understand that there is no salvation apart from God. In Isaiah’s time, Ahaz and the people of Judah in general failed to understand that; and they paid the price. But the restored remnant will trust God, and they will reap security and blessings.
In verses 3-4 we see that the restored Israelites will want to share the “good news” about God to the nations around them. And in verses 5-6 we see that they will sing praises to the Lord, the Holy One of Israel.