10 December 2019

Isaiah 11:1-10

A shoot shall come out from the stock of Jesse, and a branch shall grow out of his roots. (v. 1)

Psalm: Psalm 96


The message of this passage relates to the 'messianic promise' (the promise that God would send a messiah – a chosen one – to 'save' Israel). It emphasises three aspects of this long-awaited figure:

  1. Verses 2 and 3a are about his divine endowment for ruling.
  2. Verses 3b-5 are about the absolute justice of his rule.
  3. Verses 6-10 describe the quality of safety which will characterise his rule.

The passage moves from qualifications to performance to results. There is no sense in which the divine re-establishment of God's people somehow envisions a return to theocracy (where the state is governed by religious leaders, and where religious law is dominant over civil law). What it does envision is a time when the ruler will no longer see himself as privileged, but as responsible. When he will become one for whom his people's welfare is uppermost.

In verse 1 the Davidic dynasty is compared to a tree, which has been reduced to a mere stump. Isaiah is saying that just as this can again send forth shoots, so too the royal family will renew itself from a further group of descendants of Jesse, the father of David, and the originator of the royal line (1 Samuel 16:1-13).

Just as King David emerged from obscurity, so now, after the apparently final abdication of the house of David from its people, a second David will arise from the stock of their ancestor.

Verses 3-5 say that the Messiah will not govern on the basis of appearances, but will instead operate out of a fundamental righteousness and faithfulness that will give his pronouncements an unshakeable moral force.

In verses 6-9 it is striking that the expectations of the return of primal peace, embracing both humans and animals, is limited within the entire Old Testament to this one passage (although the same thought is briefly taken up in  Isaiah 65:25). However alongside it stands another notion that in the time of salvation, God will remove all wild animals (see  Leviticus 26:6b Isaiah 35:9 Ezekiel 34:25).


To Ponder:

  • Verses 6-9 hold the vision of a peaceful co-existence between humans and between the flora and fauna on God's holy mountain. How do you assess our contemporary world in the light of this claim? Is the claim achievable?

Bible notes author

The Revd Jonathan Gichaara

Revd Dr Jonathan Gichaara is a Methodist minister in the Doncaster Circuit of Sheffield District. Formerly a World Church tutor with the Urban Theology Unit in Sheffield, Jonathan is now Honorary Research Fellow of Queen’s Theological Foundation in Birmingham.

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