Isaiah 11.1-16 – Fulfilled or to be fulfilled, that is the question

In discussing the return of the Jews and the fulfillment of the promises to ‘national Israel’ a reader stated,

There is no way that someone can demonstrate that Isaiah 11 has been fulfilled.

I felt that this was not something to be discussed in a comment section, but that it might serve a purpose as an individual post.

The little that I do know of the Hebrew language as employed by the writers of the Old Testament, I realize that many times, parallelism was used to set things off, or to explain things in a different manner. Here, the prophet-poet delivers a passage of hope, twice.

There is the other view, that somehow of the course of time, like Isaiah, there are two writers contributing to this passage. (This is not an argument against inerrancy.) This passage not merely speaks to the establishment of the Davidic monarchy through the Messiah, but serves as a capstone for the previous few chapters.

There shall come forth a shoot from the stump of Jesse, and a branch shall grow out of his roots.

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 the fear of the LORD.

And his delight shall be in the fear of the LORD. He shall not judge by what his eyes see, or decide by what his ears hear; but with righteousness he shall judge the poor, and decide 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 he shall slay the wicked. Righteousness shall be the girdle of his waist, and faithfulness the girdle of his loins.

The wolf shall dwell with the lamb.
The leopard shall lie down with the kid.
The calf and the lion and the fatling together,
Then a little child shall lead them.

The cow and the bear shall feed;
their young shall lie down together;
and the lion shall eat straw like the ox.

The infant child shall play over the hole of the asp – the toddler shall put his hand on the adder’s den.
They shall not hurt or destroy in all my holy mountain;

for the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the LORD as the waters cover the sea.

It strikes me as I look more closely at the passage that there is a nearly one-to-one correspondence between the virtues of the first part of the text and the animals of the second. Just as wisdom, understanding, counsel and might rest on the shoot of Jesse, so the wolf, lamb, leopard and the little child are celebrated in the second half. As it is the spirit of counsel, might and knowledge of the Lord that triumph at the beginning, so it is the calf and lion and fatling together in the second, with the little child triumphing over them al – by leading them.

But, just who are these animals? In my understanding, they are the Gentile Nations. While Jacob refers to Benjamin as a wolf in Genesis 49.27, we should look at Jeremiah 49.27 which describes the nations around Judah as different animals. Daniel also refers to the Gentile kingdoms in animal terms.

If we understand the animals as Gentile nations, then we can understand the children in the passage as the Jews (Mark 7.27-28). Taking this together, we understand this passage as fulfilled at the start on Pentecost.

The second half of the parallel,

In that day the root of Jesse shall stand as an ensign to the peoples; him shall the nations seek, and his dwellings shall be glorious.

Paul, seeing this passage as being fulfilled, writes,

Now I say that Jesus Christ has become a servant to the circumcision for the truth of God, to confirm the promises made to the fathers, and that the Gentiles might glorify God for His mercy, as it is written: “For this reason I will confess to You among the Gentiles, And sing to Your name.” And again he says: “Rejoice, O Gentiles, with His people!” And again: “Praise the LORD, all you Gentiles! Laud Him, all you peoples!” And again, Isaiah says: “There shall be a root of Jesse; And He who shall rise to reign over the Gentiles, In Him the Gentiles shall hope.” (Romans 15:8-12 NKJV)

To Isaiah,

In that day the Lord will extend his hand yet a second time to recover the remnant which is left of his people, from Assyria, from Egypt, from Pathros, from Ethiopia, from Elam, from Shinar, from Hamath, and from the coastlands of the sea. He will raise an ensign for the nations, and will assemble the outcasts of Israel, and gather the dispersed of Judah from the four corners of the earth.

Again, we see that these nations were, at least in part, represented at Pentecost,

Par’thians and Medes and E’lamites and residents of Mesopota’mia, Judea and Cappado’cia, Pontus and Asia, Phryg’ia and Pamphyl’ia, Egypt and the parts of Libya belonging to Cyre’ne, and visitors from Rome, both Jews and proselytes, Cretans and Arabians,  (Acts 2:9-11 RSVA)

We see again, that this passage of Isaiah, conveniently placed in a single chapter by some 14th or 15th century monk, has been fulfilled.

The jealousy of E’phraim shall depart, and those who harass Judah shall be cut off; E’phraim shall not be jealous of Judah, and Judah shall not harass E’phraim. But they shall swoop down upon the shoulder of the Philistines in the west, and together they shall plunder the people of the east. They shall put forth their hand against Edom and Moab, and the Ammonites shall obey them. And the LORD will utterly destroy the tongue of the sea of Egypt; and will wave his hand over the River with his scorching wind, and smite it into seven channels that men may cross dryshod. And there will be a highway from Assyria for the remnant which is left of his people, as there was for Israel when they came up from the land of Egypt. (Isaiah 11:1-16 RSVA)

Some scholars understand Ephraim, as a whole, to indicate the Gentiles (remember, the northern Kingdom, the Ten Lost Tribes) were scattered among the Nations.

I believe that in the scope of biblical prophecy, this passage has been fulfilled. Paul himself thought so.


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22 Replies to “Isaiah 11.1-16 – Fulfilled or to be fulfilled, that is the question”

  1. Polycarp-

    The apostle Paul did not see Isaiah 11 as fulfilled. He saw Gentile nations being ruled by the Messiah in the Messianic Kingdom here on earth. That’s what the prophecy in Isaiah was about. Paul saw the current salvation of the Gentiles as proof that God would save Gentiles in the future kingdom. I have blogged about the salvation of the Gentiles in Romans 15:8-12. Far from Gentiles becoming Israelites, this passage shows Gentiles saved alongside national Israel. Feel free to check out my post here.

    http://theorangemailman.spaces.live.com/blog/cns!FD6CC4005A27EADA!589.entry

    Polycarp, if Paul believed that Israel became the church, why are Gentiles viewed as being saved alongside national Israel in every single OT passage which Paul quotes in Romans 15:8-12. He is the minister to the circumcision to confirm the promises made to Abraham, Isaac, and Israel.

    Quote “Again, we see that these nations were, at least in part, represented at Pentecost,”

    This is simply not true. The only people who received the Holy Spirit at Pentecost were Israelites. They were gathered to Jerusalem for the feast. Gentiles did not receive the pouring out of the Holy Spirit until Peter preached at Caesarea.

    Have fun and stay busy – Luke 19:13

    -The Orange Mailman

  2. Polycarp-

    Why not either

    (A) ~ Interact with the way I interpret the scriptures and prove another view to be superior or

    (B) ~ provide some type of scriptural backing for statements like “Israel is the church”. Ephesians 2 only demonstrates that Gentiles are saved alongside national Israel, not that Gentiles become Israelites. Or perhaps

    (C) ~ Read my blog post to fully understand my view.

    Have fun and stay busy – Luke 19:13

    -The Orange Mailman

  3. Hello Polycarp-

    I’m not understanding what you mean by Israel/Church because you fail to quote any scriptural references in relation to your position. Do you have any references which state that Israel became the church at Pentecost?

    The writer to the Hebrews viewed the church as being in existence in the OT in Hebrews 2:11-13. If Psalm 22:22 is referring to the church in the context that the writer to the Hebrews is stating, then the church is the “assembly” of all believers throughout time. To demonstrate my point, Abel, Enoch, and Noah are a part of the church, but were not part of Israel, Hebrews 11. Abraham was a pagan Gentile who was saved by grace through faith. He was not a part of Israel.

    To say there is no Israel outside the church is true from one point of view. There is no Israel ELECT outside the church, Romans 11:7. There is Israel after the flesh outside the church. This is what Romans 9-11 is all about – DEFINING ISRAEL. Israel has been temporarily blinded, resulting in a spiritual sleep. But that blindness will be lifted on a national level resulting in an awakening from a spiritual sleep on a national level resulting in national salvation. All Israel will be saved at that time. So all Israel will enter the church after the fullness of the Gentiles has come in, Romans 11:25-27, which is a quote from Israel 59:20-21. The original context of that passage is that after the redeemer comes to Zion, Israel’s descendants from that time on will always be in covenant relationship with the God of Israel on a national level.

    There is no Israel elect outside the church, but there are citizens of the kingdom outside of national Israel. Israel was always to be a light to the nations that all Gentiles might be saved, not become Israelites. You say that both Jew and Gentile make up the church thereby conceding the very argument you are trying to defend, namely that Israel became the church. BTW, my theology is based loosely on Ladd’s theology. He believed that the disciples of Jesus did not represent a new Israel, but the TRUE Israel; that is, the believing remnant (according to the election of grace, Romans 11:6) of Israelites through whom God had been working all along. When Messiah came, the nation as a whole did not repent, but a remnant did. This remnant of believing Israelites was baptized in the Holy Spirit at Pentecost. Later, much later, believing Gentiles were allowed to participate in the kingdom of God as introduced by John and Jesus without having to become Israelites. Israel as a nation still awaits a future fulfillment of the prophecies which Paul states will be fulfilled at the second coming, when the Redeemer comes to Zion, which He clearly viewed as a future event. The kingdom also awaits a future consummation according to Matthew 13:24-43.

    The reason why your analogy in Isaiah 11 breaks down is that if the animals are Gentile nations, they certainly are not at peace now, and have not been the entire time since Messiah was incarnated. At no time did Messiah “slay the wicked with the breath of His mouth” at His first coming. The Apostle Paul placed this as future in II Thess. 2. Further, the gathering of the elect of Israel from among all nations did not occur at Pentecost as the book of Acts as a whole demonstrates. All throughout the book the message is going out from Jerusalem, but as they go forth, those who believe (Israel elect) are not gathered to Jerusalem. In fact, they remain scattered throughout the ministries of James and Peter, James 1:1, I Peter 1:1.

    You mention that it would be nice if I address the points that you have given. If there is another point that I have missed, please point it out and I will attempt to address it. Thanks for reading.

    Have fun and stay busy – Luke 19:13

    -The Orange Mailman

  4. Hello Polycarp. Respond when you can. In the mean time. Your original comment was this.

    Quote: “we should look at Jeremiah 49.27 which describes the nations around Judah as different animals. Daniel also refers to the Gentile kingdoms in animal terms.”

    In essence now you are saying that Jesus Christ has brought peace to the nations surrounding Israel. So why isn’t there peace between Lebanon and Syria? Why isn’t there peace between Egypt and the Gaza Strip? Why isn’t there peace between Afghanistan and Pakistan? Why isn’t there peace between Israel and Iraq? Your view doesn’t make sense to me.

    Have fun and stay busy – Luke 19:13

    -The Orange Mailman

  5. Okay Polycarp, I’ll try not to read my views into yours. I’m really just trying to take what you say at face value. Let me know when you can address the rest of my comments.

    Have fun and stay busy – Luke 19:13

    -The Orange Mailman

  6. I don’t believe Israel is the church, or vice-versa. I think Israel grew from the root of Jesse. True Israel are those who trusted God and believed in the coming Messiah. However, the peace spoken of is most likely not JUST between mankind and mankind, also between mankind and God. I think it has begun with the reconciliation of man to God through faith in Christ. But I think it will be complete when the New Jerusalem comes.

    I think we become confused when we try to use the terms Israel and Church. I prefer family of God. Israelite believers and Gentile believers have been (are being) reconciled to God through faith in Christ. In that sense, the Gentiles have been grafted into the tree. The root of Jesse is Christ. The branches are those whom grew out of that root – some did not have faith and were broken off, while others with at least a saying faith were grafted in. Those who do not prove to have a saving faith will be cut off, and those who were cut off but gain faith will be grafted back in.

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