Bible Commentary

Isaiah 11

John Wesley’s Explanatory Notes

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(Read all of Isaiah 11)

Verse 1

[1] And there shall come forth a rod out of the stem of Jesse, and a Branch shall grow out of his roots:

And — And having said that the Assyrian yoke should be destroyed because of the anointing, he now explains who that anointed person was.

The stem — Or, stump: for the word signifies properly a trunk cut off from the root. By which he clearly implies, that the Messiah should be born of the royal house of David, at that time when it was in a most forlorn condition, like a tree cut down, and whereof nothing is left but a stump or root under ground.

Of Jesse — He doth not say of David, but of Jesse, who was a private and mean person, to intimate, that at the time of Christ's birth the royal family should be reduced to its primitive obscurity.

Verse 2

[2] And the spirit of the LORD shall rest upon him, the spirit of wisdom and understanding, the spirit of counsel and might, the spirit of knowledge and of the fear of the LORD;

Wisdom — It is not needful, exactly to distinguish these two gifts; it is sufficient that they are necessary qualifications for a governor, and a teacher, and it is evident they signify perfect knowledge of all things necessary for his own and peoples good, and a sound judgment, to distinguish between things that differ.

Counsel — Of prudence, to give good counsel; and of might and courage, to execute it.

Knowledge — Of the perfect knowledge of the whole will and counsel of God, as also of all secret things, yea of the hearts of men.

Fear — A fear of reverence, a care to please him, and lothness to offend him.

Verse 3

[3] And shall make him of quick understanding in the fear of the LORD: and he shall not judge after the sight of his eyes, neither reprove after the hearing of his ears:

In the fear — He shall not judge rashly and partially, but considerately and justly, as the fear of God obliges all judges to do.

Judge — Of persons or causes.

After the sight — According to outward appearance, as men do, because they cannot search mens hearts.

Reprove — Condemn or pass sentence against a person.

His ears — By uncertain rumours or suggestions.

Verse 4

[4] But with righteousness shall he judge the poor, and reprove with equity for the meek of the earth: and he shall smite the earth with the rod of his mouth, and with the breath of his lips shall he slay the wicked.

Judge — Defend and deliver them.

Reprove — Or condemn their malicious enemies.

Thy rod — With his word, which is his scepter, and the rod of his power, Psalms 110:2, which is sharper than a sword, Hebrews 4:12, by the preaching whereof he subdued the world to himself, and will destroy his enemies, 2 Thessalonians 2:8. This he adds farther, to declare the nature of Christ's kingdom, that it is not of this world.

Verse 5

[5] And righteousness shall be the girdle of his loins, and faithfulness the girdle of his reins.

The girdle — It shall adorn him, and be the glory of his government, as a girdle was used for an ornament, Isaiah 3:24, and as an ensign of power, Job 12:18, and it shall constantly cleave to him in all his administrations, as a girdle cleaveth to a man's loins.

Verse 6

[6] The wolf also shall dwell with the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the kid; and the calf and the young lion and the fatling together; and a little child shall lead them.

The wolf — The creatures shall be restored to that state of innocency in which they were before the fall of man. Men of fierce, and cruel dispositions, shall be so transformed by the grace of Christ, that they shall become gentle, and tractable.

A child — They will submit their rebellious wills to the conduct of the meanest persons that speak to them in Christ's name.

Verse 7

[7] And the cow and the bear shall feed; their young ones shall lie down together: and the lion shall eat straw like the ox.

Feed — Together, without any danger or fear.

Straw — The grass of the earth, as they did at first, and shall not devour other living creatures.

Verse 9

[9] They shall not hurt nor destroy in all my holy mountain: for the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the LORD, as the waters cover the sea.

My holy mountain — In Zion, in my church.

The sea — The channel of the sea.

Verse 10

[10] And in that day there shall be a root of Jesse, which shall stand for an ensign of the people; to it shall the Gentiles seek: and his rest shall be glorious.

A root — A branch growing upon the root.

Ensign — Shall grow up into a great tree, shall become an eminent ensign.

The people — Which not only the Jews, but all nations, may discern, and to which they shall resort.

Rest — His resting-place, his temple or church, the place of his presence and abode.

Glorious — Shall be filled with greater glory than the Jewish tabernacle and temple were; only this glory shall be spiritual, consisting in the plentiful effusions of the gifts, and graces, of the Holy Spirit.

Verse 11

[11] And it shall come to pass in that day, that the Lord shall set his hand again the second time to recover the remnant of his people, which shall be left, from Assyria, and from Egypt, and from Pathros, and from Cush, and from Elam, and from Shinar, and from Hamath, and from the islands of the sea.

The second — The first time, to which this word second relates, seems to be the deliverance out of Babylon: and then this second deliverance must be in the days of the Messiah.

To recover — From all places far and near, into which either the ten tribes or the two tribes were carried captives. Pathros was a province in Egypt.

Verse 12

[12] And he shall set up an ensign for the nations, and shall assemble the outcasts of Israel, and gather together the dispersed of Judah from the four corners of the earth.

Nations — All nations, Jews and Gentiles.

Out-casts — That were driven out of their own land, into foreign parts.

Israel — Of the ten tribes.

Verse 13

[13] The envy also of Ephraim shall depart, and the adversaries of Judah shall be cut off: Ephraim shall not envy Judah, and Judah shall not vex Ephraim.

Ephraim — Of the ten tribes, frequently called by the name of Ephraim. Of enemies they shall be made friends.

The adversaries — Not the body of Ephraim, for they are supposed to be reconciled, and they shall not be cut off, but live in love with Judah, as we see by the next clause; but those few of them who continue in their enmity together with all the rest of their adversaries.

Verse 14

[14] But they shall fly upon the shoulders of the Philistines toward the west; they shall spoil them of the east together: they shall lay their hand upon Edom and Moab; and the children of Ammon shall obey them.

Fly — It is a metaphor from birds and beasts of prey.

Spoil — They shall subdue them, which is to be understood of the spiritual victory which the Messiah shall obtain by his apostles and ministers over all nations.

Verse 15

[15] And the LORD shall utterly destroy the tongue of the Egyptian sea; and with his mighty wind shall he shake his hand over the river, and shall smite it in the seven streams, and make men go over dryshod.

Destroy — Shall not only divide it, as of old, but dry it up, that it may be an high-way.

The sea — The Red Sea, which may well be called the Egyptian sea, both because it borders upon Egypt, and because the Egyptians were drowned in it, which is called a tongue in the Hebrew text, Joshua 15:2,5, as having some resemblance with a tongue: for which reason the name of tongue hath been given by geographers to promontories of land which shoot forth into the sea, as this sea did shoot out of the main ocean into the land.

Rivers — Nile.

Seven streams — For which it is famous in all authors.

Verse 16

[16] And there shall be an highway for the remnant of his people, which shall be left, from Assyria; like as it was to Israel in the day that he came up out of the land of Egypt.

As it was — As there was another high-way from Egypt. All impediments shall be removed, and a way made for the return of God's Israel from all parts of the world. He mentions Assyria, because thither the ten tribes were carried, whose case seemed to be most desperate.

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