Isaiah 11:1-16

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11:1. Masoretic Text: And a rod will come out from the stump of Jesse, and a branch from his roots will be fruitful.

Septuagint: And a rod will come out from the root of Jesse, and a blossom will shoot up from the root.


Jesse was the father of David, the first king from the tribe of Judah and the monarch with whom the royal dynasty had its start. The reference to a “stump” indicates that the royal dynasty would then have ceased to be in a ruling position, no longer providing shelter to its subjects like a tree. Nevertheless, life remained in this stump of Jesse, allowing for the possibility of sprouting and for the future new growth once again to function in a royal capacity.

In the prophecy, the stump is represented as sprouting a “rod,” “twig,” or “branch,” and the living roots below the stump are represented as making it possible for a growing branch to be productive. This pointed to the coming of a future king who would be in the line of Jesse through his son David.

The Targum of Isaiah is explicit in identifying the reference to be to the coming forth of a king from the “sons” or descendants of Jesse and that an “Anointed One” or “Messiah” would grow up from his sons’ sons. While the enemy warring power had been represented as trees that were cut down, the “stump” to which the royal line of David had been reduced would sprout again, producing a king, the Messiah.

11:2. Masoretic Text: And the spirit of YHWH will rest on him, a spirit of wisdom and understanding, a spirit of counsel and might, a spirit of knowledge and fear of YHWH,

Septuagint: And God’s spirit will rest on him, a spirit of wisdom and understanding, a spirit of counsel and might, a spirit of knowledge and piety,


YHWH’s spirit would be fully operative on the Messiah, the future king from the “stump of Jesse.” When Jesse’s son David was anointed as king, the “spirit of YHWH came mightily upon [him] from that day forward.” (1 Samuel 16:13) Likewise, when Jesus was anointed with God’s spirit at the time of his baptism, he immediately came to be under the impelling power of the holy spirit. (Mark 1:9-12)

The future king to whom the prophecy pointed would manifest the qualities that have their source in God’s spirit. A “spirit of wisdom” would be evident from words that reflected sound judgment and actions that were productive of good or beneficial results. In his expressions and dealings, the future king would be in possession of a “spirit of understanding,” discerning what was the right action to take in a given situation and perceiving the true significance of what others might do or say. A “spirit of counsel” would be apparent from the good advice and teaching that he would impart. The future king’s outstanding courage would reveal a “spirit of might.” His words and actions would demonstrate that he had an exceptional fund of knowledge from which to draw, proving that he was in possession of a “spirit of knowledge.” His disposition, words, and deeds would be governed by a fear of YHWH, a reverential regard for him and a complete submission to his will at all times.

11:3. Masoretic Text: And his delight [will be] in the fear of YHWH. And not by what his eyes see will he judge, and not by what his ears hear will he reprove.

Septuagint: The spirit of the fear of God will fill him. He will not judge according to [outward] glory nor reprove according to [others’] talk.


The Hebrew word rendered “delight” is réyach, meaning “fragrance,” “smell,” or “odor.” In this context, it designates the kind of delight one experiences from a pleasing fragrance. This pleasure the future king would derive from a fear or reverential regard for YHWH, always wanting to do his will. In the case of Jesus, he delighted to do his Father’s will even when it involved much suffering. (Matthew 26:39-44; John 4:34; 5:30; 6:35-40) On account of his reverential regard for his God and Father, Jesus was always concerned about doing his Father’s will. As indicated in the rendering of the Septuagint, the “spirit of fear” or profound awe for God filled him. This is also why his judgments will always be just, as he will be governed by this wholesome fear. He would not judge by outward appearances, merely by what the eyes can see. His judgments would not be based on what others might say or what he would hear respecting a particular situation. He would never deviate from administering justice according to the highest standard.

11:4. Masoretic Text: And he will judge the lowly with righteousness and reprove with uprightness for the needy of the earth. And he will smite the earth with the rod of his mouth, and with the spirit of his lips he will slay the wicked.

Septuagint: But he will judge a case for a lowly one and reprove the lowly ones of the earth. And he will strike the earth with the word of his mouth, and with the spirit through is lips he will slay the impious.

In the Dead Sea Scroll of Isaiah, the definite article “the” precedes “earth” after the verb strike, but it is not in the Masoretic Text. With reference to the wicked, the Dead Sea Scroll of Isaiah does not say “he will slay,” but indicates that the “wicked will be slain.”


The lowly or poor among the people commonly became the victims of abuse and oppression but could not obtain just decisions from the then-existing judicial arrangement. This would cease to be the case under the administration of the coming Messiah. He would see to it that justice would be rendered to the lowly, and his decisions for the needy would be upright, upholding the loftiest standard of justice. The rendering of the Septuagint about his reproving the lowly ones could be understood to mean he would do so impartially, not just favoring the lowly on account of their disadvantaged state. (Compare Leviticus 19:15.)

The striking of the “earth” or “land” with the “rod of his mouth” refers to his expressing an adverse judgment that, like a rod, would strike those of the land against whom it was directed. The “spirit of his lips” is the breath involved when speaking and which passes over the lips. When the future king expresses his judgment against them, it takes effect, resulting in their deserved end.

11:5. Masoretic Text: And righteousness will be the girdle of his loins, and faithfulness the girdle of his hips.

Septuagint: And with righteousness he will be girding his loin, and truth [he will be] wrapping around [his] sides.

In the Masoretic Text, the word for “faithfulness” is preceded by the definite article but not in the Dead Sea Scroll of Isaiah.

The Targum of Isaiah represents the righteous as being around the Anointed One or Messiah and indicates that the faithful ones would be brought near to him.


The king’s consistent adherence to righteousness or justice would be of such a nature as to be comparable to its being tied around his waist like a girdle. Likewise, his “faithfulness,” trustworthiness, or honesty in the performance of his duties would meet the highest standard. Faithfulness would be so firmly attached to him as if it had been wrapped around his hips or sides.

11:6. Masoretic Text: And the wolf will dwell with the lamb, and the leopard will lie down with the kid, and the calf, and the lion, and the fatling together, and a little boy will lead them.

Septuagint: And the wolf will pasture together with the lamb, and the leopard will rest together with the kid. And the calf and the bull and the lion will pasture together, and a little child will lead them.

The Dead Sea Scroll of Isaiah does not include the reference to a “fatling.”


In the time of Isaiah, the territory of the two-tribe kingdom of Judah provided a habitat for wolves, lions, leopards, bears, and poisonous snakes. When invading armies desolated extensive areas of land, wild animals would start living and hunting in formerly densely populated areas. As a result, small children encountered wild animals, and domestic animals came to be preyed upon by wolves, lions, leopards, and bears.

The idyllic portrayal of peace in the prophecy of Isaiah should be considered with this background in mind. Wild animals would remain in their habitat, largely preventing the kind of problems to which frequent encounters with humans can give rise. As the dietary needs of wild animals would be met in their habitat and their environment would not be ruined through the ravages of war, the wolf could dwell with the lamb, and leopards and lions would not be preying on domestic animals. Small children would not be in any danger from beasts of prey, and the circumstances would be such as if a little boy could lead them without the risk of any harm coming to him.

Wild animals have needs, and those needs cannot be met in the manicured garden state that many persons envision a “paradise” to be. The prophecy of Isaiah contains poetic imagery to illustrate a condition of peace and security. It should not be regarded as a literalistic depiction of a future transformation of the natural environment that is suited to the needs and habits of wild animals into what might be described as an earthwide, parklike petting zoo.

11:7. Masoretic Text: And the cow and the bear will pasture. Together their young ones will lie down, and the lion will eat straw like the bovine.

Septuagint: And the bovine and the bear together will pasture. And together their young ones will be, and the lion and the bovine together will eat straw.


The idyllic picture of peace and security is continued, highlighting that no harm would come to domestic animals from such wild animals as bears and lions (as if both domestic and wild animals and their young were peacefully pasturing or resting together.) As a lion would pose no threat to cattle, the situation would be as though the lion had come to share their diet.

11:8. Masoretic Text: And a suckling will play over the hole of a viper, and a weanling will stretch out its hand on the [nest] opening of a serpent.

Septuagint: And a young child will cast its hand on the hole of asps and on the nest of the offspring of asps.

In the Dead Sea Scroll of Isaiah, the terms here translated “[nest] opening” and “serpent” are plural.


This idyllic portrayal continues the assurance that the environment will be such that small children will not be vulnerable to harm from animals. Their being near the holes of vipers or serpents is represented as something that did not have to be feared.

11:9. Masoretic Text: They will not harm and will not destroy in all my holy mountain, for the earth will be full of the knowledge of YHWH as the waters cover the sea.

Septuagint: And by no means will they do harm nor be able to destroy anyone on my holy mountain, for the whole [sphere] was filled to know the Lord, [filled] like abundant water to cover seas.

In connection with the holy mountain, the Dead Sea Scroll of Isaiah, does not include a word for “all.”

The expression “by no means” translates two Greek words for “not” and serves to convey the emphatic sense.


The “holy mountain” appears to refer to Mount Zion by reason of its being YHWH’s representative place of dwelling. No injury or ruin would come to anyone there under God’s protective care. The reason for the state of well-being and security is that the “knowledge of YHWH” fills the “earth” or “land.” Possessing this knowledge would mean having an approved relationship with YHWH as evident from a life that harmonizes with his will and purpose. (Compare Jeremiah 22:15, 16.) Because the subjects of the Anointed One or Messiah, the foretold future king in the royal line of David, would know YHWH, reflecting his personality, ways, and dealings, they would not experience any harm. The degree to which the knowledge of YHWH would exist is likened to the abundant water that covers the sea basin or, according to the Septuagint rendering, the water in the basins of all the seas.

11:10. Masoretic Text: And it will occur in that day that the root of Jesse, which will be standing up as a signal for the peoples; to him, nations will resort [darásh], and his rest will be honor.

Septuagint: And it will be in that day [that] the root of Jesse, even the one rising up to rule nations; on him, nations will hope, and his rest will be honor.

To indicate where the Septuagint rendering parallels the Hebrew text, the incomplete nature of the initial part of the verse has been preserved.


The “root of Jesse” refers to the future Anointed One or Messiah who would be a descendant of Jesse through his son David. Like a root beneath a tree stump, he would be giving new life to the royal line that had sunk into obscurity like a tree that had been chopped down. In the Targum of Isaiah, the expression “root of Jesse” does not appear, but it refers to the “son of the son of Jesse.” According to the Hebrew text, including the Dead Sea Scroll of Isaiah, this “root of Jesse” would come to be a raised signal or banner that identifies the location for nations to assemble. In the case of the fulfillment in Jesus, the “Anointed One,” “Messiah,” or “Christ,” non-Jewish peoples, starting with Cornelius, his relatives and acquaintances, put faith in him in response to the message his disciples proclaimed. Through the public proclamation of Jesus Christ, believers called attention to him as to a raised banner, and peoples from the nations began to assemble around him as his followers, identifying themselves as belonging to him.

The Septuagint rendering places the emphasis on the “root of Jesse” in the capacity of one who would be ruling over the nations. In Romans 15:12, the quotation from Isaiah 11:10 follows the reading of the Septuagint.

The Hebrew word darásh can, depending on the context, denote “seek,” “resort to,” “search,” “investigate,” “study,” and “inquire” about or from. Here the sense appears to be that people of the nations would be turning to the “root of Jesse,” wanting to come under his rule and to benefit from everything that he would provide for their guidance and well-being. The implication of the Septuagint rendering is that they would look to the “root of Jesse” as one in whom they could place their hope, confidence, or trust as the ruler who would secure their welfare.

Both the Hebrew text and the Septuagint rendering express the same thought about the “rest.” It appears that “rest” here designates a place where rest or refreshment may be found, and the “root of Jesse” would be the source of this rest. So wherever his presence would be in evidence, there is where the place of rest and refreshment would be. This “rest” or “place of rest” is associated with “honor,” for it would be of an honorable, noble, glorious, or magnificent nature. The kind of rest that is available through Jesus Christ fits this description, for it results in relief from the burden of sin and the problems associated with life in a sinful world. In its ultimate sense, the “rest” to be enjoyed will be one of an enduring relationship with God and Christ as sinless persons.

11:11. Masoretic Text: And it will occur in that day [that] my Lord will again [literally, “add”] [reach out] his hand a second time to acquire a remnant of his people that is left from Assyria, and from Egypt, and from Pathros, and from Cush [Ethiopia], and from Elam, and from Shinar, and from Hamath, and from islands [or “coasts”] of the sea.

Septuagint: And it will be in that day [that] the Lord will continue [literally, “add” or “increase”] to show his hand to be zealous for the surviving remnant of the people, whoever is remaining from the Assyrians, and from Egypt, and Babylonia and Ethiopia, and from the Elamites, and from the rising of the sun, and out of Arabia.


People from non-Jewish nations would not be the only ones to respond to the raised signal in the person of the “root of Jesse.” There would be a gathering of a remnant of Israelites who had been scattered and were living in the lands of other nations. The first time God delivered his people was when he liberated them from Egyptian enslavement and brought them into the land of Canaan that he had promised to give them. While a remnant of Israel returned to the land after Babylon fell to the Medo-Persian conquerors and the Persian king Cyrus issued a decree that made the return possible, this development proved to be only a precursor of the future gathering of a remnant around the “root of Jesse.” The return from exile in the sixth century BCE, however, was (as the rendering of the Septuagint indicates) a display of YHWH’s zeal for the remnant of his people, for he effected the release that came through King Cyrus as his instrument. YHWH then did acquire a remnant of his people, delivering them from Babylonian exile as he had previously rescued them from Egyptian enslavement. Nevertheless, no descendant of David began to rule as king over this remnant, indicating that this would take place in the future and that a gathering of a remnant would also occur at that time.

In the first century CE, Jesus appeared as the “son of David,” the promised Anointed One, Messiah, or Christ. At the time, the people were subject to the authority of Rome, but they were in a state of captivity that was more oppressive and had far more serious consequences than subjection to Rome. They were enslaved to sin and under the condemnation of sin. By sending his Son to them, God made it possible for them to be liberated from enslavement to sin and to have his Son as their Lord or King who would secure their eternal welfare. (John 8:31-36) A remnant did respond.

On the day of Pentecost after Jesus’ death and resurrection, thousands from various parts of the world heard the apostle Peter identify the resurrected Jesus as the promised Messiah or Christ through whom they could be forgiven of their sins. About 3,000 subsequently did accept Jesus as being the one who was foretold to come in the royal line of David. (Acts 2:5-41) Thereafter still others became believers. Thus through the believers who proclaimed Jesus as the Christ, God raised him as a signal around which a remnant of his people could gather as persons liberated from enslavement to sin. And this remnant came from all the lands that were mentioned in the prophetic words of Isaiah.

The territory of the Assyrians lay in the northern part of the plain of Mesopotamia (the region between the Tigris and Euphrates rivers). Many Israelites fled to the African country of Egypt after the Babylonian campaign against the kingdom of Judah. (Jeremiah 43:4-7) Pathros appears to have been a region of Egypt that bordered on the northern boundary of ancient Cush or Ethiopia. Ancient Elam lay north of the Persian Gulf. Shinar (Babylonia) was situated in the southern part of the plain between the Tigris and Euphrates rivers. Hamath is a region associated with the city by that name on the Orontes River in Syria. The “coasts” or coastlands could be regions along the coast of the Mediterranean Sea or, if the meaning of the term is “islands,” these would be islands in that sea.

The expression “rising of the sun,” appearing in the Septuagint, seems to include the region lying to the east of the Tigris. Arabia, also mentioned in the Septuagint, applies to the Arabian Peninsula.

11:12. Masoretic Text: And he will raise a signal for the nations and gather the exiles of Israel and collect the scattered ones of Judah from the four wings of the earth.

Septuagint: And he will raise a signal for the nations and gather the lost ones of Israel, and he will gather the scattered ones of Judah from the four wings of the earth.

The Dead Sea Scroll of Isaiah does not include “four” with reference to the Hebrew word that literally means “wings.”


This verse clearly indicates that, besides people from non-Israelite nations, Israelites who had lived in the territories of the ten-tribe kingdom of Israel and the two-tribe kingdom of Judah would be gathered to the raised signal, the descendant of Jesse in the royal line of his son David. God is the one who would raise the signal, making the Anointed One or Messiah stand out prominently through the activity of his followers, and is the one who would gather Israelites to it. To indicate that the former inhabitants of the areas of both kingdoms had been scattered to distant places, God is represented as gathering them from the four “wings,” ends, or extremities of the earth or of the then-known world.

11:13. Masoretic Text: And the jealousy of Ephraim will depart, and those being hostile to Judah will be cut off. Ephraim will not be jealous of Judah, and Judah will not be hostile to Ephraim.

Septuagint: And the jealousy of Ephraim will be removed, and the enemies of Judah will be destroyed. Ephraim will not be jealous of Judah, and Judah will not oppress Ephraim.


Under the rulership of the future Messiah, the jealousy or bitter rivalry that had existed between the ten-tribe kingdom of Israel and the two-tribe kingdom of Judah would end. Ephraim, as the dominant northern tribe, represented the people of the northern kingdom of Israel, and Judah, as the dominant southern tribe, represented the people of the southern kingdom of Judah. Any Israelite from the north who would be at enmity with an Israelite from the territory of the southern kingdom would be cut off, ceasing to have a share with fellow Israelites in the benefits and blessings that would come to them through the Messiah. Likewise, no subject of the king of the royal line of Judah would be at enmity toward an Israelite from the territory of the ten-tribe kingdom. With no one who continued to have the former feelings of ill-will being in the realm where the Messiah is king, the previous rivalry and enmity between the northern and the southern tribes would cease to exist.

11:14. Masoretic Text: And they will fly upon the shoulder of the Philistines in the west; together they will plunder the sons of the east. Their hand will be stretching out to Edom and Moab, and the sons of Ammon [will be] their subjects.

Septuagint: And they will fly in ships of allophyles [those of another tribe]. Together they will plunder the sea and the ones from the rising of the sun and Idumea. They will cast the hands first on Moab, but the sons of Ammon, [as] first ones, will obey.

In the Hebrew text, a noun meaning “outstretching” appears, and it is here rendered “will be stretching out to.”

In the Septuagint, the word for “sea” follows “allophyles.” According to the punctuation in Rahlfs’ text, the word “sea” belongs to the first phrase. If this is the case, “sea” could signify “west,” as does the Hebrew word for “sea” (yam) in this verse (the Mediterranean Sea being on the west coast of the land of Israel). The Greek text could be translated, “And they fly west in ships of allophyles. Together they will plunder the ones from the rising of the sun and Idumea.”


In the past, neighboring nations (the Philistines on the west, the Ammonites and Moabites on the east, and the Edomites on the southeast) repeatedly threatened the security of the Israelites. To indicate that they would not be subject to troubles from these nations, the remnant of Israel (as a united people from all the tribes) is portrayed as triumphing over them. Their “flying” upon the “shoulder of the Philistines” may be understood to mean that they would speedily rush down to the eastern border of Philistine territory and gain the victory. Instead of being subjected to pillaging from nomadic tribes living to the east of their land, the remnant of Israel would be the ones who would have the ascendency and plunder these “sons” or people of the east. To Edom and Moab, they would reach out to take the booty of victory and make them their possession. The Ammonites would likewise be subject to them, indicating that the remnant of Israel would be triumphant.

According to the Septuagint rendering that does not follow Rahlfs’ punctuation, the triumphs of the remnant of Israel could be understood to extend even farther west than the coastal territory the Philistines occupied. Using ships from a seafaring people, they would swiftly conquer islands and seize spoils. In this way they would “plunder the sea.” Extending their victories eastward, they would take spoils from those in the territory where the sun is seen to rise. These would be the nomadic “sons of the east.”

The basic message conveyed by means of the images of triumph is that the remnant of Israel would come to be in a secure position. The prophetic words are framed in language that reflected the then-existing circumstances but did not serve to foretell military campaigns against the Philistines, Moabites, Ammonites, and Edomites. According to the Jewish historian Josephus, John Hyrcanus I subjugated the Edomites and forced them to accept Judaism. (Antiquities, XIII, ix, 1). This was between 130 and 120 BCE, long after the remnant of Israel returned from Babylonian exile.

In the case of the remnant of Israelites who attached themselves to the “root of Jesse,” their victories were of a spiritual kind. They boldly made known to others that Jesus was the promised Messiah who had been resurrected from the dead and ascended to heaven, where he occupied the position of highly exalted King at the right hand of God. By the exemplary lives they lived and the message they proclaimed, they helped others to come to Jesus as a raised signal, acknowledging him as their Lord and King. Thus, as God’s instruments, believers functioned to increase the number of subjects in the realm where he rules by means of his Son. In this realm, believers, on the basis of their faith in Jesus Christ, are persons who have been forgiven of their sins and enjoy a newness of life in an enduring relationship with him and his Father.

11:15. Masoretic Text: And YHWH will annihilate the tongue of the sea of Egypt and will wave his hand over the River with the heat of his wind, and he will smite it into seven streams, and one may tread [there] with sandals.

Septuagint: And the Lord will dry up the sea of Egypt and cast his hand upon the River with a violent wind, and he will strike seven ravines in order for it [the remnant of Israel] to cross in sandals.

In the Dead Sea Scroll of Isaiah, the word translated “wind” is not identified as being “his,” that is, God’s. This scroll reads “hands,” not “hand.”


The return of the remnant of Israel is depicted in poetic language that parallels Israel’s being delivered from Egypt and entering the land of Canaan. At that time, the Red Sea divided and a strong wind dried the passage through the sea. (Exodus 14:21, 22) About four decades later, to make it possible for the Israelites to cross the Jordan River at flood stage, it was miraculously dammed up. (Joshua 3:14-17) The message conveyed by the prophetic words of Isaiah is that YHWH, to facilitate the return of the remnant of Israel, would remove all obstacles. This would be comparable to his drying up a sea and making a river fordable. The “tongue of the sea of Egypt” may refer to the tongue-like projection of the Red Sea now known as the Gulf of Suez. It is depicted as being annihilated, utterly destroyed, or completely dried up, making it possible to cross to the other side with ease. A scorching wind would serve to evaporate the water of the River (the Euphrates), and smiting it or transforming it into seven small streams would make it fordable. Those crossing would not even have to take off their sandals. In this case, “seven” may be used as a complete number of streams with a very low volume of water.

The rendering of the Septuagint may be understood to refer to ravines through which torrents flowed. God is depicted as striking these, which would involve clearing away the obstacle they posed when one needed to cross to the other side.

11:16. Masoretic Text: And [there] will be a highway for the remnant of his people that remains from Assyria, as [there] was for Israel in the day it came up from the land of Egypt.

Septuagint: And [there] will be a passage for the remnant of my people in Egypt, and it will be for Israel like the day when it exited from the land of Egypt.

A number of translations make the text indicate that the highway would be one extending from Assyria to the land of Israel. “There shall be a highway from Assyria for the remnant that is left of his people.” (NRSV) “Thus there shall be a highway for the other part of His people out of Assyria.” (Tanakh) In view of the fact that Assyria was then the major threat and Israelites were taken into exile subsequent to Assyrian military campaigns, it may be preferable to regard the reference to be to those of the remnant yet remaining in Assyria, which would include their descendants.

It appears that the Septuagint translator was influenced by the time in which he lived, as many Israelites were then living in Egypt. This may explain why Assyria is not mentioned.


When the Israelites left Egypt they did not traverse a literal highway that led directly to the land of Canaan. In view of YHWH’s leading of his people, the circumstance proved to be as if a highway had been prepared for them. In the same sense, a highway for the return of the remnant of Israel may be understood as the way YHWH opened up for the return of his people from Assyrian territory. The mention of a highway would also serve to stress the ease with which the return trip could be undertaken.

This verse in particular reveals that a literal application is not intended. One needs to focus on the message of the imagery and avoid a literalistic approach that obscures the true nature of the poetic language.