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Isaiah 11:1-9 – The Peaceable Kingdom

Summary

In the coming messianic kingdom, not only humans, but all God's creatures, will live together in peace and harmony.

Analysis

Here is another of Isaiah's promises of a restored "Messianic Kingdom" (see Introductory Issues). Though the family tree of Jesse, David's father, has been reduced to a stump, God will make it grow a new branch (see Isaiah 4:2; Jeremiah 23:5; 33:15; Zechariah 3:8).

The new king will be given God's spirit, just as God's spirit "came mightily" upon David (1 Samuel 16:13). Governing in the spirit of God will mean caring for the poor and the meek, as it does throughout the Bible (Psalm 72).

This text goes beyond what we have heard so far by including all creatures in the kingdom of peace. The "dog eat dog" world of "nature red in tooth and claw" will no longer prevail, even though for now that, too, is part of God's created order (Psalm 104:21). The vision of a world in which wolves and lambs, calves and lions all lie down together clearly moves beyond the possibilities of the present age. The description seems to partake of elements common to fables and fairy tales, but something else is at stake here. By bringing together in peace the child and the snake, the text reminds us of the enmity brought through human sin in Eden (Genesis 3:14-15). God will overcome the curse of sin and establish a world in which all creatures thrive. This is just one of many texts in Isaiah that contain what we might now call an "environmental impact statement." Judgment and promise, sin and grace are not only for humans, but their consequences, good and bad, are felt by the entire creation.

Isaiah 11:1-9

The Peaceful Kingdom

11A shoot shall come out from the stock of Jesse,
   and a branch shall grow out of his roots.
2 The spirit of the Lord shall rest on him,
   the spirit of wisdom and understanding,
   the spirit of counsel and might,
   the spirit of knowledge and the fear of the Lord.
3 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;
4 but with righteousness he shall judge the poor,
   and decide with equity for the meek of the earth;
he shall strike the earth with the rod of his mouth,
   and with the breath of his lips he shall kill the wicked.
5 Righteousness shall be the belt around his waist,
   and faithfulness the belt around his loins.


6 The wolf shall live with the lamb,
   the leopard shall lie down with the kid,
the calf and the lion and the fatling together,
   and a little child shall lead them.
7 The cow and the bear shall graze,
   their young shall lie down together;
   and the lion shall eat straw like the ox.
8 The nursing child shall play over the hole of the asp,
   and the weaned child shall put its hand on the adder’s den.
9 They will not hurt or destroy
   on all my holy mountain;
for the earth will be full of the knowledge of the Lord
   as the waters cover the sea.

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10 February 2011

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