The Word Made Fresh
1But a sprig shall grow from the stump of Jesse;
and a branch shall spring from his roots.
2The spirit of the LORD shall be with him –
a spirit of wisdom and understanding,
of counsel and strength,
of knowledge and respect for the LORD
3and that shall be the LORD’s greatest delight.
God shall not make judgments
based only on what eyes can see,
nor make decisions based only on what ears hear;
4but will judge the poor fairly,
and rule equally for the meek of the earth.
God shall strike the earth with words that are fair to all,
and slay the wicked with the breath of the spoken words.
5The belt around God’s waist will be righteousness,
and the strap around God’s thigh will be faithfulness.
6The wolf will live peacefully beside the lamb.
The leopard will lie down to rest with the goat’s kid.
The calf and the lion and the yearling goat will live together,
and a little child shall lead them.
7The cow and the bear shall feed
with their young lying down together,
and the lion shall eat straw like the ox.
8The child that is still nursing will play
over the den of the asp,
and the weaned child shall put its hand
where the adder is resting.
9None of them will hurt or destroy anything on my holy hill
because the earth will be full of knowledge of the LORD,
like the waters covering the sea.
10Then the offspring of Jesse shall stand for all people as a signal; the nations shall seek truth from God, and God’s dwelling place will be something to see. 11When that comes to pass the LORD will reach out a second time, and recover the remnant of God’s people left in Assyria, Egypt, Pathros, Ethiopia, and from Elam, Shinar, Hamath and the coastlands along the sea.
12God will send a message to the nations
and assemble the outcasts of Israel,
and gather the people of Judah
who have been dispersed to the four corners of the earth.
13Ephraim will cease being jealous
and their hostility toward Judah will end,
for Ephraim shall no longer be jealous of Judah,
and Judah shall no longer be hostile toward Ephraim.
14They will pounce together on the backs of the Philistines in the west,
and together plunder the nations of the east.
They shall lay their hands on the Edomites and Moabites,
and even the Ammonites shall be obedient to them.
15And the LORD will completely destroy that tongue of the sea
that reaches into Egypt;
and raise a hand over the River with a scorching wind.
It will divide into seven streams and
a way will be made to cross over it on foot.
16So, a highway will be from Assyria
for God’s people who remain there,
just as there was for Israel
when they emerged from the land of Egypt.
1-3: Following on the imagery of the last chapter that had God cutting off kings and generals as an ax chopping down trees, now the prophet pictures a shoot growing out of “the stump that was Jesse,” a clear reference to the Davidic line of kings in Judah — Jesse was the father of David.
2-5: This new ruler (many Christians see this as a description of the coming Messiah) will have the spirit of the LORD with divine wisdom and understanding that can only come from the fear of the LORD (see Proverbs 1:7). He will exercise righteousness and justice, championing the cause of the poor and doing away with the wicked.
6-9: Perhaps the most beautiful description to this point in the Bible of the way God wants people to live in harmony with creation.
10: This new king will rule from Jerusalem, but all the nations of the world will prosper from his rule.
11-16: The vision continues, describing a mass return of exiles of Judah and Israel from around the world. The two kingdoms will be reunited and their traditional enemies in Philistia, Edom, Ammon, and Moab will be subdued. The barrier between Egypt and Israel will be destroyed, the River Euphrates will be divided so that it can be crossed on foot, and a highway will be made from Assyria to Israel for the exiles to return. In other words, easy access from both directions will be available.
Isaiah is prophesying a complete turnaround of Israel’s fortunes. The divisiveness of God’s people (Judah and Israel) will be healed, and they will be one people again, God’s people. Old ties will be restored, and old enemies of the faith will be assimilated or destroyed. Not everything Isaiah prophesies comes to pass, at least not permanently. The people will be determined to order their own steps and will walk back into subservience to foreign powers and foreign gods. How many times must they endanger their sacred heritage before they learn to submit to God’s rule without reservation?