The Expository Files



The Branch From Jesse

Isaiah 11:1-10

“Lo, Your Salvation Comes”The Messiah in Isaiah Special Series



The Prophetic Atmosphere

As Isaiah wrote the passage we know as Isaiah 10:5-12:6, Judah stood alone as a cutting reminder of what was once a glorious united kingdom just 200 years prior. No more was she a proud sovereign nation, she had been humbled and brought low and was about to be lowered still. Whether one looked to the north or the south, prospects looked bleak in Isaiah’s time.


To the south lay Egypt, once a proud and powerful kingdom, now she lay weakened and threatened before the driving force of Assyria’s mighty military arm.


To the north was the power of Assyria who seemed to know only three things: March, Conquer, and Oppress. Already, the world’s powerhouse of the day had overtaken northern Israel (10:11), yet unknown to Assyria’s proud king Shalmaneser (10:6-7), his conquest of Israel was actually God’s righteous judgment upon His idolatrous people.  


In the middle lay Judah, sandwiched between two antagonistic forces and limping between both for convenient alliances. It was difficult to separate politics from religion because each drove the other. Judah’s king Ahaz had already compromised his politics and his religion by copying the design of an Assyrian altar and installing it next to Yahweh’s altar (2 Kings 16:10-15) further weakening Ahaz, and in turn, all Judah. With an apostate king and an unfaithful people, God promised that Judah’s fate would be the same as Israel’s. In fact, Judah’s downfall had been decreed (10:23). Yes, things looked very bleak indeed.


Throughout His message of coming judgment (used over 30 times in this book), God, through the prophet, offers promises of coming comfort as a reminder that He would not forget His people or His purpose. The promise of the branch from Jesse is such a promise.

     Then a shoot will spring from the stem of Jesse

          And a branch from his roots will bear fruit.

     The Spirit of the LORD will rest on Him,

          The spirit of wisdom and understanding,

          The spirit of counsel and strength,

          The spirit of knowledge and the fear of the LORD.

     And He will delight in the fear of the LORD,

          And He will not judge by what His eyes see,

          Nor make a decision by what His ears hear;

     But with righteousness He will judge the poor,

          And decide with fairness for the afflicted of the earth;

          And He will strike the earth with the rod of His mouth,

          And with the breath of His lips He will slay the wicked.

     Also righteousness will be the belt about His loins,

          And faithfulness the belt about His waist.

     And the wolf will dwell with the lamb,

          And the leopard will lie down with the young goat,

          And the calf and the young lion and the fatling together;

          And a little boy will lead them.

     Also the cow and the bear will graze,

          Their young will lie down together,

          And the lion will eat straw like the ox.

     The nursing child will play by the hole of the cobra,

          And the weaned child will put his hand on the viper’s den.

     They will not hurt or destroy in all My holy mountain,

          For the earth will be full of the knowledge of the LORD

          As the waters cover the sea.

     Then in that day the nations will resort to the root of Jesse,

          Who will stand as a signal for the peoples;

          And His resting place will be glorious. – Isaiah 11:1–10, NASB95


The Prophetic Significance

Isaiah’s message is one of constant admonition, and yet he also continually points his audience to a future hope that is centered on God’s justice. For instance, see Isaiah 11:11-ff. There is the possibility that these series of prophecies were at least partially fulfilled by the chastisement of the Israelites by their being exiled into foreign lands, then returning during the times of Zerubbabel, Ezra, and Nehemiah. But there is more, much more to the prophecy.


Just as God’s justice was tempered by His mercy toward His people, so it would be as Isaiah foretells of the appearance of a Man that is more than a man. Already, he has foretold of a special Child to be born in an extraordinary manner - of a virgin - who would carry the identity that “God is with us” (7:14). He further reveals that the coming One’s Galilean presence would be as a light shining in darkness (9:1-2). It would be a light that would draw men to it, thus multiplying the true people of God. Already, this Coming One has been identified as “Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Eternal Father,” and “Prince of Peace” (9:6). Not only has His legacy of peace been foretold, He has been identified as no less than Deity, forever existing and forever omnipotent. In addition,  He will be an heir to David’s throne (9:7), and His authority will be complete and ultimate while He inhabits the designations that richly reveal His nature, His character, and His purpose (9:6).


Now Isaiah paints an even fuller picture of the origin, the work, and the influence of the Messiah. In 10:33-34, the prophet depicts God’s destruction of earthly power as a massive pruning of the mightiest forest. When the Mighty One has finished His cutting, the result is complete, but hope’s anticipation erupts up from a most unlikely place – a shoot from a root. But this is no ordinary shoot. This green limb will usher in God’s ultimate purpose for His people - the faithful remnant - and will provide guidance, peace, and salvation.


The Prophetic Fulfilment


The branch’s lineage is carefully treated in 11:1. As a dewooded forest is spent of its vitality, so would it seem the house of David in years to come. Amos describes the house of David as “a fallen booth” (Amos 9:11) from which God would raise a mighty house. But Isaiah mentions not David, but Jesse. Why? Perhaps he seeks to show how reduced to seeming obscurity David’s line would become by the time of Messiah.  Or perhaps it would be because “the Messiah will be a second David, rather than a descendant of David” (ISBE article “Jesse”).  Whatever the reason, the fact that the coming Messiah would arise from the crumbles of the lineage of Jesse is not insignificant. In spite of David’s feelings of unimportance (1 Sam 18:18, 2 Sam 7:18), God promised “Your house and your kingdom shall endure before Me forever; your throne shall be established forever” (2 Sam 7:16). Further, it is a reminder that Jesus came from not only the house of David, the son of Jesse, but that He is of the tribe of Judah from which God promised “the scepter shall not depart” (See Gen 49:10, Matt 1:1-ff). Jesus, born in obscurity but in the predicted lineage shows how Isaiah’s careful mention of Jesse is a testament to God’s power to preserve His promises just as He spoke them.


The branch’s character is presented in 11:2. He is predicted to have impeccable qualities in the following areas.

T            Divine Approval – Because “the spirit of the LORD rests on Him,” the Messiah would have the complete and utter blessing of God. While the Spirit literally came upon Jesus at His baptism, (Matt 3:16), the phrase seems to suggest that Jesus would have Divine approval for all He did. This was noticed even by those who questioned Jesus’ motives and intentions (John 3:2). Peter told the crowd assembled at Pentecost that Jesus was “a man attested to you by God” (Acts 2:22). Jesus Himself claimed to “always do the things that are pleasing to Him” (John 8:29).

T            Intellectual – The Messiah would have “the spirit of wisdom and understanding.” While it may be difficult to see a significant difference in the two concepts, perhaps they suggest that the Messiah would be a carefully deliberate Man. In very demanding and stressful situations Jesus acted in ways that showed a collected demeanor and a rational intelligence. He masterfully handled every interaction with others with superior wisdom and no wonder, for “He did not need anyone to testify concerning man, for He Himself knew what was in man” (John 2:25).

T            Administrative – Having “the spirit of counsel and strength” suggests the Messiah would not only have the ability to devise successful plans but also the capacity and power to carry them out. As “Wonderful Counselor” (9:6), Jesus is “the wisdom of God” (1 Cor 1:30) sent to fully execute the plan that “chose us in Him before the foundation of the world” (Eph 1:4). As “Mighty God” (9:6), He exercised power and authority in executing the plan conceived ages ago. In doing so He demonstrated His power over nature (Luke 8:25), life and death (John 11:44), forgiveness of sin (Matt 9:6), and eternal life (John 17:2-3).

T            Spirituality – Finally, the Messiah will have “the spirit of knowledge and fear of the LORD.” As Psalm 111:10 states that “A good understanding have all those who do His commandments,” so Jesus shows us how a proper understanding of the Father will lead to reverent obedience to Him. As He said, “I do know Him and keep His word” (John 8:55).


Having established a solid foundation of irreproachable character in the coming One, the prophet continues to paint a picture of moral soundness. The branch’s integrity is expounded upon in 11:3-5. For Him, loyalty and fealty to God will not occur by force or compulsion, but “He will delight in the fear of the LORD.” He will be the ideal example of human faithfulness and joy in living uprightly before God.


Because His moral direction is derived from a Divine perspective, it will be brought to bear on His judgments. His sagacity will not be based on mere outward appearances nor only by what the senses can perceive. Decisions will not be administered based on financial, social, or political position, but will be administered justly without inequity and with careful fairness. The poor and afflicted will have in Him a champion as He deals with them righteously and fairly in contrast to the oppressive leaders of Isaiah’s day (10:1-2). Without doubt, Jesus embodied the compassion for the downtrodden that is spoken of by the prophet. Jesus, “seeing the people, He felt compassion for them, because they were distressed and dispirited like sheep without a shepherd” (Matt 9:36).  Taking dispirited sheep into His protective fold, He healed them of more than their physical distresses. The Shepherd Messiah offers relief for the world-weary as He entreats, “Come to me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest” (Matt 11:28).


If justice allows comfort and succor to the oppressed, it requires condemnation and punishment upon the oppressors. While the Branch would deal gently and lovingly with the afflicted, He would mete out deserved punishment to the unrighteous. By His authoritative word - the rod of His mouth/the breath of His lips - He would “strike the earth” and “slay the wicked.” The language is demonstrative of the inherent power of royal decrees. A king could with one law provide relief for the poor while with another law inflict curses upon the violator. So with King Jesus, His mouth would breathe grace upon those citizens of His kingdom as He proclaimed them blessed who would exhibit humility, sorrow for sin, gentleness toward others, desire for righteousness, mercy, and peace while having the courage to stand for what is right and true (Matt 5:3-12).  The same mouth would also emit deserved condemnation upon those whose motives are self-serving, whose teaching leads others astray, whose religion perverts God’s intention, whose rebelliousness and hypocrisy is evident to all but themselves (Matt 23).  To those who refuse to submit to His authority and who rebel against His judgment, the penalty will be severe and none can resist it for no injustice can remain in His kingdom. Ultimately, the prophecy speaks of the inevitable judgment of the father of all lies as Satan’s dominion is defeated by the kingdom of truth and righteousness (John 16:11).      


Though men often clothe themselves with the trappings of selfishness and pride, Isaiah foretells that the Messiah will wear the belt of righteousness - conformity and submission to God’s will - and faithfulness - consistency and steadfastness in all things (11:5). Already described as being so previously, still again we are reminded of the faultless character of the matchless Messiah. Faithfulness is “the belt about His waist” because although mere men may fail to be steady and consistent, the Branch would be altogether reliable as He executes His word and His will in full success and in full faithfulness to the decrees of God. In the Branch is the full measure of confidence and integrity. Indeed, although righteousness and faithfulness are depicted as belts the Branch will wear, they are innate characteristics of who He is. In all, He will be true to His word just as Paul said, “If we are faithless, He remains faithful for He cannot deny Himself” (2 Tim 2:13).


Isaiah 11:6-9 lays out a vividly idyllic image of the branch’s influence. While the passage is a depiction of the character of the citizens of the Messiah’s kingdom, we must make no mistake: Their character is such because of the profound impact the Branch has had on them. Onetime  natural enemies now reside side by side in a delightful image of peace and security. Pictured for us are animals who no longer seek to kill and devour one another, but instead dwell together in harmony without danger to one another. Indeed, these once wild animals who would resist their taming by strong men are so docile that even a child leads them.


It is not a literal rendering of some ideal millenial kingdom as some hope, but rather a vivid portrayal of the radical transformation of the character of those who would inhabit “My holy mountain” (11:9). As Isaiah has already predicted, those once bent on war will “hammer their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks” (2:4). The prophet foretells of the far-reaching and thorough influence and effect of the Branch as men submit to His judgment and transforming power. Hostilities will disintegrate, enmity will end, and aggression will give way to brotherhood and harmony. This existence of peace, safety, and mutual compliance is a favorite theme for the prophets (Ezek 34:25, Hosea 2:18, for example), but especially so for Isaiah (see Isa 11:7, 35:9, 60:18, 65:25). Such concordance is the intention of the Branch for all those who would bend their knee and their will to His righteous way. The inspired Paul tells us that is the very intention of Christ’s sacrifice: “But now in Christ Jesus, you who formerly were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. For He Himself is our peace, who made both groups into one and broke down the barrier of the dividing wall by abolishing in His flesh the enmity ... so that in Himself He might make the two into one new man, thus establishing peace, and might reconcile them both in one body to God through the cross, by it having put to death the enmity” (Eph 2:13-16). Parties once estranged are brought into reconciliation with one another because of their submission to Jesus, the Righteous Branch. In that day, the prophet predicts, men will seek for their fellows ultimate betterment and best benevolent concerns and they “will not hurt or destroy in all My holy mountain for the earth will be full of the knowledge of the LORD” (11:10).


This knowledge is the key to the changed character and behavior of the formerly rebellious, for without it men could only wallow in uncertainty, never being sure of their compliance to an unknown will. But being convicted of their sin by the truth and desiring righteousness (John 16:8), they make the necessary changes - inwardly and outwardly - that bring them into a full fellowship with their Redeemer understanding that a complete and abrupt reversal of life is in order to effect the desired result (Eph 4:17-24). Having been enlightened by the knowledge of the truth, re-created men can walk in full apprehension and agreement with the will of God as they apply and appropriate its intentions for themselves.


Finally in our passage, Isaiah 11:10 tells of the Branch’s legacy and introduces the promise of a gathering remnant that follows. “In that day,” that is, when the Branch fulfills His mission and assumes His rightful position, He will stand as a signal, a standard, a banner, and ensign. It is not that He will stand under a banner, but that He Himself will be indeed the very rallying point under which all peoples regardless of race, ethnicity, or nationality will congregate and seek perfect guidance (Rom 15:8-12). Jesus was lifted up as a sign to which we could look, trust in, and be saved (John 3:14-15) and true to the prophet’s promise, Jesus is the very center of all that God has promised to those who seek Him for He has “blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ” (Eph 1:3).  In fact, phrases such as “in Him, in the Beloved, in Christ,” and “through Jesus Christ” abound in the first chapter of Ephesians as Paul reinforces the fact that Christ is the very focal point of all of the Father’s kind intentions for man. As Isaiah previously described how gloriously God inhabited His ancient temple (Isaiah 6:1-3), so now he affirms the glorious nature of the Branch’s inhabitance among His people. They have a “resting place” in which they can dwell safely and securely forever (Matt 11:28-30).


The Prophetic Implication

When considering the implications of the prophecy, we should ask some pertinent questions: What did the inspired prophet’s message mean for ancient Israel? How did it help them in their own time? For one, no matter in what time one believes the prophecy was physically fulfilled at least partially, the message of hope was one that a fractured people needed to hear and invest themselves in. For another, the words were a reminder that God knew of Israel’s fears and, though He would use pagan nations to discipline them, He cared for them and would provide for their ultimate reclamation and renewal.


For Christ’s church, His spiritual Israel, the implications are momentous. In the fulfilment of the prophet’s word in Messiah Jesus, God has shown His utter dependability and faithfulness in providing for our most pressing and urgent need: Our own reclamation and renewal.


Later in Isaiah’s book (chapter 53), he speaks of a coming Servant, one who will suffer as He accomplishes the will of God. Then in chapter 55 God extends an offer of mercy for His weary ones to come and partake of a feast, a feast rich in delicacies and of a sort that will satisfy in a way no bread ever could. It is a call to seek and find the Lord in true repentance, and though He reminds that His thoughts and ways are higher than man’s, still His word accomplishes the purpose for which it was sent forth. In Isaiah 11:1-10, we have the reliable word of God sent forth to accomplish His good purpose for us, even us. As Isaiah promised, “Behold, the LORD has proclaimed to the end of the earth ... ‘Lo, your salvation comes’” (Isa 62:11), let us realize that salvation has come and rally around the Branch which has shot forth from Jesse’s root and praise God for His inexhaustible grace!  


  By Zeke Flores
From Expository Files 22.4; April 2015