In the last verse of chapter 10 Isaiah spoke of the coming destruction of the Assyrian empire, likening it to the felling of the mighty trees of Lebanon: Assyria would fall and never rise again. The disgraced and desolate house of David however, would again sprout a new branch which would grow and bear fruit. Today the Assyrian empire is ancient history, while the sustained and restored people of Israel remain: ethnic, religious, political, empirical.
Isa 11:1 V’yatza And then will come out khoter a shoot (seed, stem) migeiza from the stump (stock) of Yishay (Jesse: I exist, I possess, I have substance), v’neitzer and a green branch (from natzar: guard) misharashayhu from his root yiphreh will bear fruit.
A stem will come out from the stump of I exist and a guardian from his root will bear fruit.
"And a King shall come forth from the sons of Jesse:'' -Targum
Note the different words used to describe the coming forth of the shoot/branch. This figurative language first explains how close Israel would come to annihilation. She would be reduced to a stump. But out of the line of David, born of Jesse (whose name means I exist: this is a description of the uncreated nature of God Himself) a shoot (Messiah) would come forth. Using poetic Hebraic repetition Isaiah affirms that from Jesse’s root (Spiritually speaking from God and physically speaking from Abraham) a fresh, green branch (Messiah) will bear fruit.
Note also that while the language is figurative it also uses the proper noun Jesse. This chapter is in every sense both literal and figurative, combining elements of both forms throughout.
By far the majority of rabbinical commentators agree that this prophecy refers to the Messiah [Bereshit Rabba, sect. 85. fol. 75. 1. Midrash Tillim in Psal. lxxii. 1. Apud Yalkut Simeoni, par. 2. fol. 112. 2. Abarbinel, Mashmia Yeshua, fol. 8. 4. Iben Ezra, Yarchi, & Kimchi, in loc. Nachman. Disputat. cum Fratre Paulo, p. 53.].
There are those that dispute this, claiming that Isaiah 11 refers to Hezekiah. However, at the time of this prophecy Hezekiah was already a young boy between 10 and 12 years of age, making it impossible for him to come forth from the stump of Jesse in the future sense. Additionally, any temporal victory over Assyria during the reign of Hezekiah does not explain the Messianic age or the eternal significance of the subsequent verses. As explained previously, Hezekiah simply does not qualify, not in character nor in a chronological sense.
Referring to the first part of this verse, Metzudat David reads:
“Don’t be surprised by the great nissim (Miraculous signs) HaShem is doing because a time will come that HaShem will do greater nissim. Talking of the time of Moshiach (Messiah)…”
In both the Scripture (See for example Isaiah 4:2 and the relevant Targum) and rabbinic literature the Branch (Netzer) is a well-known figure for the Messiah. In fact Natzeret (Nazareth) is from the root netzer. This is why Mattitiyahu (Matthew) writes, “And He went and lived in a city called Natzeret, to fulfil what was spoken through the prophets, that Yeshua shall be called a Natzrati.” –Matthew 2:23 (TLV) Matthew is alluding to the very text we’re studying.
Isa 11:2 V’nakhah And resting upon Him, the Ruach Spirit (breath, wind) of HaShem (YHVH: Mercy), Ruach Spirit (breath, wind) of chokhmah wisdom uvinah and understanding (insight, skill), Ruach Spirit (breath, wind) of eitzah counsel u’gevurah and might (strength, greatness), Ruach Spirit (breath, wind) of da’at knowledge (perception) v’yir’at and of the fear (awe, reverence) of HaShem (YHVH: Mercy).
The Spirit breath of Mercy will rest upon Him: the Spirit breath of wisdom and understanding, the Spirit breath of counsel and might, the Spirit breath of knowledge and of the awe of Mercy.
When we read the meanings of the Hebrew words and see the Mercy denoted by the Holy Name YHVH, we are able to properly translate the Hebrew yirah (usually translated as “Fear”). In the context of this passage the phrase “The Fear of The Lord” is better understood in the sense of awe rather than terror. Thus we’re able to read, “The awe of Mercy”.
When, through the fear (yirah) of YHVH (Mercy) a wicked man becomes a righteous one: his understanding of yirah (fear) changes from fear to awe (yirah). Therefore, the wicked fear but the righteous are in awe.
The Branch of verse 1 is of course the subject of verse 2. The Spirit (of God) resting upon the Branch correlates to the Prince of Peace and the Spirit (of God) of counsel and might correspond to two of the other Messianic titles of Isaiah 9:6. The Spirit (of God) of understanding and knowledge correspond to the Messiah’s just reign as alluded to in Isaiah 9:7. The Spirit of the current verse is in fact the Eternal Father, and the Awe of the Lord finds its counterpart in the zeal of the Lord, also mentioned in Isaiah 9:6-7. Thus, verses 2 and 3 of Isaiah 11 correspond to verses 6-7 of Isaiah 9. This is yet further affirmation of the identity of the Branch, Who is clearly Yeshua the King Messiah.
It is interesting to note that the Spirit of God rests upon the Branch as the central point from which six emanations of the Spirit form six additional branches of the Messiah’s nature. Thus, the Spirit, Who is symbolised in the Tanakh by oil, is described in union with the Messiah as the seven branched (pun intended) Menorah of the Mishkhan/Temple. This Menorah being a symbol of the manifest presence of God’s glory k’vod/shekhinah. Therefore, the Branch will be both a physical and spiritual manifestation of God with us (Imanu-el).
The seven branches of the Menorah of the Spirit in Isaiah 11:2 are as follows:
Unlike Joshua (Deut. 34:9), who was filled with the spirit of wisdom from the laying on of hands by Moses, the Messiah of the present verse (Yeshua) is connected directly to the Spirit of HaShem. It is HaShem Who rests His Spirit upon the Branch and reveals His character through the physical manifestation of the Branch. The King Messiah Yeshua.
This description of the spiritual nature of the coming Branch (Messiah) sees its physical outworking in the following verses. Thus, although He will have physical eyes (v.3), He will not make judgement according to what He sees through them. The Branch will be fully of God’s Spirit while also being fully human.
Once again, this verse is applied to the Messiah by the great majority of both ancient and modern Jewish commentators [Talmud. Bab. Sanhedrin, fol. 93. 2. Zohar in Gen. fol. 68. 3. & in Numb. fol. 54. 4. & 92. 1. & in Deut. fol. 123. 3. Bereshit Rabba, sect. 2. fol. 2. 4. sect. 8. fol. 6. 3. Bemidbar Rabba, sect. 13. fol. 209. 3. Midrash Rut, fol. 34. 4. Pirke Eliezer, c. 3. fol. 3. 2. Raziel, fol. 11. 1. Tzeror Chammor, fol. 156. 1. Baal Hatturim in Numb. vii. 12. Yalkut Simeoni, par. 1. fol. 3. 1.]
Isa 11:3 V’hariychu And He will inhale, accept, and delight in the Awe of HaShem (YHVH: Mercy). He will not yishpot judge, govern by what His eyes see, nor will He yocheiach prove, decide, correct, by what His ears hear.
“Do not judge by mere appearances, but judge with right judgment.” –Yeshua [Yochanan (John) 7:24]
The opening Hebrew phrase of this verse is truly extravagant in its meaning. The Hebrew hariychu is from the root ruach (Spirit, wind, breath) and means to inhale scent. It is used in Leviticus 3:5, 16 to describe the act of inhaling the fragrant offering. Thus the Branch (Messiah) not only delights in, but also inhales, breathes in and accepts the Awe of God.
The latter part of the verse so perfectly describes the nature of Yeshua that it is difficult to even consider another historical or future figure as an alternative for the Branch. Yeshua himself, both in life and in His correction of others, epitomizes true judgement.
It is significant that physical sight and hearing are alluded to as being potential gates for deception, misunderstanding, misinformation and poor judgement, but the sense of smell is the premise for the receiving of the Awe of God. This is because the Branch/Messiah is being spoken of in reference to His spiritual nature using His physical attributes as a figure of that nature. In Hebrew, ruach (spirit) also means breath or wind: The eyes do not receive breath, nor do the ears. It is the nose and mouth that exercise the natural rhythm of breathing, the more common process being to breathe in through the nose and out through the mouth. Smell is often also attached to taste. Thus, “He will not judge by sight or hearing but by smelling the Awe of God.” The Awe of God is the foundation of the Messiah’s judgement. We would do well to live in this way, being in awe of God means submitting our own judgements to His judgement and allowing His judgement to be the lens through which we view life and the world around us.
Isa 11:4 V’shapat And He will govern betzedek in righteousness over the daliym weak, and decide in uprightness for the poor of the aretz land, and He will strike the eretz land besheivet with the rod, staff, sceptre (tribe) of His mouth, and uv’ruach with the spirit breath of His sephatayu lips, language, speech, He will slay the wicked.
"He shall smite the sinners of the earth with the word of his mouth, and with the speech of his lips he shall slay the wicked Armillus.'' –Targum
The Jewish sages agree that Armillus of the Targum is the one whom the goyim (nations) call “antichrist”. The rabbinical idea of the twofold Messiah supposes that Messiah, the son of Joseph shall be slain, and afterwards Messiah the son of David will slay Armillus (antichrist) (Abkat Rocel, p. 52. Ed. Huls. Vid. Buxtorf. Lex. Talmud, p. 221, 222, 223, 224).
Once again, the majority of Jewish commentators, both ancient and modern, agree that this verse is speaking of the Moshiach (Messiah).
“From His mouth comes a sharp sword—so that with it He may strike down the nations—and He shall rule them with an iron rod, and He treads the winepress of the furious wrath of Elohei-Tzva’ot.” –Revelation 19:15
A comparison can be made, not with the sword but with the rod/sceptre of Revelation 19:15. The present text is specifically concerning the Messiah’s governance over the land (Ha-aretz) of Israel and her people (His brothers and sisters) and does not correlate to the judgement of the sword over the nations alluded to in the revelation text. However, the rod/sceptre of both passages holds the same meaning, that of rule. In Revelation it refers to Messiah’s rule over all nations, but in the present text of Isaiah it refers specifically to His rule over His own people and the land of Israel.
We note that Messiah will slay the wicked, “with the spirit breath of His sephatayu lips, language, speech.” In fact Yeshua did this very thing when He illuminated the Word of God to first century Jewish society: the Jewish generation He was born into. He slayed the wicked not with a physical sword but with a stern correction that warned of a greater punishment that awaits those who fail to return to God’s love. The breath of Yeshua continues to slay the wicked today as it issues from the mouths of those who have received His Spirit. This same breath remains accessible to the humble, firstly and always to the Jew and also always to the nations.
“Therefore I cut them down by the prophets. I slew them by the words of My mouth. Now the judgments pronounced against you: light will go forth.” –Hosea 6:5 (TLV)
Isa 11:5 Vehayah And it comes to pass, tzedek righteousness will be the cloth strapped around mateynayu His waist, vehaemunah and faithfulness, fidelity, trust, firmness, will be the cloth around chalatzayhu His loins.
The opening phrase can be read as “And it has come to pass”, meaning that God sees these things complete outside of time and space.
The strapping of the waist and loins is a figurative way of saying, “He will prepare to battle an adversary”.
The reason for the use of the two different Hebrew terms “moten” and “chalatz” is to express to distinct preparations for battle. First, He will strap His waist to strengthen the seat of human emotion (Stomach, belly, bowel etc.). Second, He girds His loins to strengthen the fruitfulness of His mission and to show Himself pure and faithful.
Both the mid-section and the loins are associated with emotion in Scripture. While the nefesh (soul) and lev (heart, centre) are also at times spoken of in emotional terms, they differ in that they denote the centre of soul existence and have eternal potential.
A Note Regarding the Stomach/Belly as the Seat of Emotion:
The Hebrew "beten" Stomach/Belly:
Intestines/bowels are also attached to the stomach/belly and are associated to emotional responses:
"My beloved extended his hand through the opening, and my feelings (intestines) were agitated for him." (Song of Solomon 5:4)
"Therefore, my bowels moan toward Moab like a lyre And my guts for Kir-Heres." (Isaiah 16:11)
“Behold, O LORD, for I am in distress! My bowels are boiling;” (Lamentations 1:20)
The Hebrew “Lev” heart/centre and “nefesh” soul:
Of course the Scripture also relates emotion to both the heart (lev) and the soul (nefesh) ref. Isaiah 13:7 and 19:1. However, as the soul (nefesh) is the union of all parts of human existence and the heart (Lev) is the convergence point of all the components of human life, this type or emotional figure conveys a spiritual (having eternal implications) sense of emotion rather than the temporary (flesh) emotion associated with the appetite (Stomach):
"For such men are slaves, not of our Lord Christ but of their own appetites; and by their smooth and flattering speech they deceive the hearts of the unsuspecting." Romans 16:18 (Philippians 3:19).
“Stand firm then! Fasten truth as a girdle around your waist, and put on the breastplate of righteousness.” –Rav Shaul’s letter to the Ephesians 6:14
Shaul (Paul) is using imagery from Israel’s priesthood to promote the believers need for truth, right action, the Scriptures and the power of God as they prepare to do battle against the darkness. There is a strong correlation between Shaul’s letter and the present verses. For the Hebrew the heart or lev is the centre of being where all parts of our soul existence converge. Thus, in Shaul’s letter the heart or breast is protected by righteousness but the Hebraic seat of emotion, the mid-section, is girded with Truth. Messiah is both the Righteous One and the Truth. Therefore, His righteous blood is the breastplate over the soul and His truth girds and guides our emotional responses.
On the other hand, Isaiah 11:5 shows the Truth Himself, strapping right action around the seat of His emotion, meaning that His very nature will strengthen His emotional and physical responses. He then girds His loins with emunah fidelity, trust, meaning that He will neither compromise His physical sexual purity or the faithful execution of His ministry on earth. Thus, although His physical seed will not bear fruit, His spiritual seed will birth many brothers and sisters (Romans 8:29).
THE MESSIANIC AGE
The age described in the next verses is, even in our day, yet to come. The opening verses of this chapter allude to the first coming of the Branch/Messiah, however, the remaining verses describe a second coming and the resulting peace that will be experienced in a world without death. The Olam Haba (World to come) is described in literal-figurative language prior to the revealing of the catalyst event which will bring it about. This is why 11:11 reads, “It has also come about in that same day (figuratively: an age) that Adoniy my Lord will again redeem a second time with His hand, the remnant of His people.”
This portion of Isaiah 11 is applied to the Age of Messiah by both ancient and modern Jewish commentators (Zohar in Exod. fol. 28. 3. Kimchi in Joel 2. 28. Maimon. Melachim. c. 12. sect. 1. Caphtor, fol. 57. 2. and 93. 1. and 108. 1.)
Isa 11:6 The wolf will dwell with the lamb, the leopard will lie down with the kid, the calf and the young lion and the yearling together, and a little child will lead them. Isa 11:7 The cow and the bear will graze, their young ones lie down together, and the lion will eat straw like an ox. Isa 11:8 A nursing child will play over a cobra’s hole, and a weaned child will put his hand into a viper’s den.
Some suggest that these verses should be understood only figuratively, they say that animals will not exist in the Olam Haba (World to come). Others demand that the verses be taken literally. However, it is foolish to require the reader to choose between a literal and figurative interpretation of this text, it is a false choice.
The text of Isaiah 11 is both literal and figurative. The hunter and the prey will literally walk the earth in peace, which figuratively conveys a world without death or end. We must remember that animals are called living souls [nefesh chayah] (Gen 1:20) making them, in the Hebraic view, a perpetual part of the plan of the living God. Rav Shaul reminds us that creation (including animals) will be set free from its bondage to decay and brought into the glorious freedom of the children of God. (Romans 8:21-23). It is ludicrous therefore, to presume that creation being set free from death and into the glorious freedom of the children of God, means an end to animal life. To the contrary, it means the exact opposite.
The prophet uses similar phrasing in 55:12b & 65:25. It is clear that creation itself is somehow intrinsically involved in the redemption of humanity.
Isa 11:9 Lo yareiu They will not hurt (do evil) or yashchiytu destroy becol in all Har kadoshi My holy mountain, for Ha-aretz the land will be filled with the deiah knowledge of HaShem (YHVH: Mercy), as the waters flow to the body of water mecasiym from coverings.
Har Kadoshi, “My Holy Mountain” is the seat of the Messiah King’s power, both literally and figuratively. Har Beit, Har Tziyon etc. The Temple Mount in Jerusalem.
The land mentioned is the land of Israel. While it is true that the glory and knowledge of the Lord will fill the whole earth that is not what is meant here in verse 9. This is a specific prophecy regarding Israel and her land. The waters and the body of water mentioned are the Jordan River and its tributaries, lake Kineret (Galilee) and the Mediterranean ocean.
These waters are also figurative, a symbol of the abundant living waters mayim chayim of God and their enrichment of all aspects of life, physical, spiritual, mental etc.
It is important to note the fact that it is the knowledge of HaShem that fills the land with life, not knowledge alone. An increase of knowledge devoid of HaShem invites death.
The glorious description of the Messianic age in verses 6 – 9 prompts the reader to ask, “When?”
The following verses answer this question by alluding to events that will be a sign (miracle, banner) for the ushering in of the Messianic age and the Olam Haba (World to come).
A SECOND REDEMPTION
Isa 11:10 Vehayah And it has come to pass bayom in that day that the shoresh root of Yishay (Jesse: I exist, I possess, I have substance) will stand leneis to be a sign, banner, miracle for the amiym peoples. The nations will seek for Him, and menuchato His resting place will be kavod glory.
"and there shall be at that time a son of the sons of Jesse;'' –Targum
‘Then one of the elders tells me, “Stop weeping! Behold, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has triumphed—He is worthy to open the scroll and its seven seals.”’ – Revelation 5:5 (TLV)
The root of Jesse is the established Hebraic designation of the Messiah (Zohar in Exod. fol. 71. 1. Bereshit Rabba, sect. 98. fol. 85. 3. Midrash in Yalkut Simeoni, par. 2. fol. 97. 2. Baal Hatturim in Numb. 26. 10).
Being both the Root (shoresh) of Jesse and the Branch from the Stock (geiza) of Jesse, means that the Messiah existed prior to Avraham and at the same time is born of the seed of Yaakov, Judah, Jesse, and David.
While initially unknown among the nations, He is to become a sign, miracle, banner of God, to Whom the tribes and nations will turn. His menuchato resting place is Mount Zion, Jerusalem, the Temple Mount, Mount Moriah. This connects the absence of death in the Holy Mountain (verse 9) to the rest found in the Glory of Messiah unto God (YHVH).
“And the city has no need for the sun or the moon to shine on it, for the glory of God lights it up, and its lamp is the Lamb.” – Revelation 21:23 (TLV)
The prophet Isaiah is describing the events of the latter days. He reaffirms the origin of the Branch/Messiah and then speaks of the Messiah’s reign and glory. We note that with great continuity the letter of Rav Shaul to the Roman believers (Romans 11:25-27) reveals the very same pattern of redemption described in Isaiah 11:10-11. First the tribes will seek Messiah, then the nations who are made up of the tribes will turn to Him, and finally, when the fullness of the nations have come in, a second redemption will come to Israel.
Isa 11:11 Vehayah And it has come about bayom in that day that Adoniy my Lord will again redeem—a second time with His hand—the se’ar remnant (rest of, remainder) of amu His people who remain from Ashur (Assyria: A step), from Mitzrayim (Egypt: double distress), from Patros (Upper Egypt, region of the south), from Cush (Black), Eilam (Eternity, world), Shinar (Babylon, two rivers), Chamat (Syria, fortress), and from the islands of hayam the body of water (Mediterranean).
Messiah, having come first to Israel as the seed of David via Jesse now comes a second time to redeem His people. Note that the prophet uses the title Adoniy (My Lord) rather than YHVH. This is because the Lord he is referring to is Immanuel (With us God), the Branch/Messiah.
The general redemption of Israel alluded to in this verse did not take place during the reign of Hezekiah, in fact, it is yet to be made complete.
Isa 11:12 He will lift up neis a sign, banner, miracle for the nations, and assemble the dispersed of Yisrael (Israel: overcome in God), and gather the scattered of Yehudah (Judah: Praise) from the four corners of ha-aretz the land/earth.
“From the four winds of the earth” - Targum
“He” is the Messiah, mentioned in the previous verse as My Lord. It is Messiah Who will lift up a sign, banner, miracle that will be known throughout the earth so that Jews in every nations might return to the land of promise and to the God of Israel. The qualifying factor in interpreting the Hebrew aretz as “earth” in this instance is the phrase “four corners” which is a Hebraic idiom that denotes the entire earth.
Isa 11:13 And turned aside will be the jealousy of Ephraim (Double fruitfulness), vetzorereiy the distress of Yehudah (Judah: Praise) will be cut off. Ephraim will not be jealous of Yehudah, and Yehudah will not harass Ephraim.
Ephraim had been jealous of the Davidic reign and Judah’s control of the Temple Mount. In the days being prophesied here, Ephraim (Representing the 10 tribes) will accept Judah’s God given role and submit to the King Who sits on David’s throne. Ephraim will no longer be jealous of the fact that the Messiah is born of Judah.
Judah will no longer suffer distress at the hands of Ephraim and the nations. Israel will again be echad (a complex unity), all the tribes being united under the banner of Judah and the Messiah King.
Isa 11:14 They will swoop down becateif on the shoulder of the Pelishtiym (Immigrants) toward the yamah body of water (West, Mediterranean). Together they will plunder the children of the kedem East—laying their hand on Edom (Red) and Moav (Of his father), the children of Ammon (Tribal) will be their subjects.
The first act born of Israel’s renewed unity will be to plunder and subjugate their enemies.
“They shall be joined together in one shoulder, to smite the Philistines;'' - Targum
One of the central elements that is to bind all Israel together is the restoration of the Hebrew tongue.
“For then I will restore to the people pure speech, so that all of them may call upon the Name of Adonai and serve Him shoulder to shoulder.” –Zephaniah 3:9
Isa 11:15 Then HaShem (YHVH: Mercy) will utterly destroy lashon the tongue of the yam body of water of the Mitzrayim (Egyptians: double distress). He will wave His hand over the River (Euphrates or Nile) with His scorching wind, and will strike it into seven streams, and let men walk over in sandals.
"And the Lord shall dry up the tongue of the Egyptian sea, and shall lift up the stroke of his strength upon Euphrates, by the word of his prophets;'' -Targum
This is again both figurative and literal. God will literally dry up the mouth of the Gulf of Suez (red sea), and either the Nile or the Euphrates, perhaps both. This will make Israel’s physical return easier. This is also a figure which alludes to the drying up and destruction of the economic and military strength of Israel’s enemies throughout the Middle East.
Isa 11:16 So there will be a highway for the se’ar remnant (rest of, remainder) amu of His people who remain, from Ashur (Assyria, a step), as there was for Yisrael (Israel) in the day they came up out of the land of Mitzrayim (Egypt: Double distress).
We note that the word remnant is formed from what remains. That is, “all that remains”, or, “the rest”. Therefore, the remnant being spoken of is not as some suppose, only part of all the Jews that remain at the time but rather “the rest”, meaning all of ethnic, religious, empirical Israel, the Jewish people. Thus, once again the correlation between this text and Romans 11:25-27 is abundantly clear.
This second deliverance will begin as a physical return to the land (Something that we have witnessed over the past 70 years but has yet to be made complete, and will culminate in the spiritual redemption of all Israel (ethnic, religious, empirical) through the Messiah, the Branch, the King Yeshua our Redeemer.
“A highway will be there—a roadway. It will be called the Way of Holiness. He will not pass over unclean. And he will walk in the way, and fools will not wander.” –Isaiah 35:8
© 2018 Yaakov Brown
Spiritual leader of Beth Melekh Community, Auckland, Aotearoa, N.Z.