Bible Commentary: Isaiah 11-12

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Bible Commentary

Isaiah 11-12

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Ushering in World Peace

This wonderful section concludes the prophecies begun in chapter 7 relating to the Messiah. With the power of God's Spirit, He will judge the earth, establish righteousness and bring to reality the dream of ages, world peace—even throughout the whole of nature, transforming the world into an Edenic paradise (compare Isaiah 51:3; Ezekiel 36:35).

Indeed, Isaiah 11:6-9 explains that the very nature and perhaps even physiology of many animals will be changed, thus requiring, it would seem, a restructuring of the global ecosystem. Isaiah repeats this amazing prophecy in Isaiah 65:25. But, it should be noted, the animals here may well also be symbolic of the nations of the world, with their peacefully dwelling together representing an end of war between people. The lamb, kid, calf, fatling, ox and cow are often used in Scripture to symbolize the generally peace-loving Israelite peoples. The wolf (the wild dog-kind) may be a reference to the descendants of Esau or to certain other Arabs (the Edomite Herod was referred to as a fox by Christ in Luke 13:32). And the great cats (leopard and lion) and the bear are used in Daniel 7 to symbolize great gentile kingdoms. These parallels are perhaps most clearly seen in Jeremiah 5:6, where the lion, wolf and leopard are widely understood to represent Israel's enemies. In God's millennial reign the wild nature of the "beasts" among men will be changed, as was figuratively portrayed by Nebuchadnezzar when he (the Babylonian lion, compare Daniel 2 and 7) was made to eat grass with the oxen (Daniel 4:33).

Isaiah 11:9 dramatically foretells the time when the knowledge of God will be universal. Just as there are no gaps in the oceans where water doesn't flow, not a single individual will be missed by Jesus Christ and His glorified saints as they educate and evangelize the world. Paul loosely paraphrases verse 10 in his letter to the gentile Romans to show their inclusion in God's Kingdom (Romans 15:12).

Isaiah 11:11 describes the wonderful second Exodus that will follow the end-time captivity of Israel and Judah. The people are shown returning from these locations: Assyria (designating Central Europe in the end-time context of this prophecy); Egypt; Pathros (southern Egypt); Cush (Sudan and Ethiopia or perhaps greater parts of Africa); Elam (which could denote Iran or perhaps, based on end-time settlement, Eastern Europe); Shinar (Mesopotamia and, therefore, Iraq, northeastern Syria and southeastern Turkey); Hamath (in northwestern Syria); and "the islands of the sea." This last location could also be translated "coastlands of the sea" (NRSV). It is understood to mean from all around the world. When we compare this prophecy with others showing the end-time Israelites dwelling in the "isles afar off" (Jeremiah 31:10; see Jeremiah 41:1, Jeremiah 41:8-9) and that God will bring them back "from the coasts of the earth" (Jeremiah 31:7-9), this last location in Isaiah 11:11 must denote their latter-day homelands—the British Isles, Northwest Europe, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, Canada and the United States.

Putting this account together with other passages, it is evident that most of the Israelites who are still alive when their countries are conquered and invaded will be carried away captive to other lands soon before Christ's return. Notice again that those returning from their homelands are listed last—evidently the minority. Assyria is mentioned first—as the place of captivity. So why are other lands mentioned? As was noted in the Beyond Today Bible Commentary on Hosea 9, two major factors will likely contribute to the scattering of captive Israelites throughout what appear to be Muslim territories. First, Revelation 18:11-13 shows that end-time Babylon, of which modern Assyria will be a leading player, will engage in slave trade, no doubt of the captive Israelites and perhaps other peoples. Second, since the end-time European ruler, known in Daniel 11 as the "king of the North," will sweep down and occupy a number of Muslim territories (verses 40-43), it seems likely that the Europeans will set up military bases and labor camps in these areas and then ship down Israelite slave labor from Europe to work at them. Of course, it could also be that some Israelites and Jews will be taken captive by Muslim powers even before the final European invasion.

Isaiah 11:12-14 shows the Israelites returning to take back the Holy Land. Verses 15-16 describe the return as a miraculous one, guided by God with great power as He led the Israelites out of Egypt of old. Again, God will smite the Red Sea but this time also "the River"—commonly understood to mean the Euphrates—as His people will be returning to the Promised Land from both the south and the north. Thus, there will be a highway—an unimpeded path—for those coming from both directions.

Chapter 12 is very short, but contains the beautiful scripture, "Therefore with joy you will draw water from the wells of salvation" (verse 3)—pointing ultimately to the offering of God's Spirit to all mankind (compare 44:3; John 7:37-39).

Furthermore, Isaiah 12 is one of many passages in the Bible that exhort us to worship God with music and singing (verses 5-6). In fact, the Bible shows that one of the most important uses of music should be to worship God. Today, with modern recording and playback technology, there is more listening to music (which can be fine and good depending on the music), but regrettably there is much less singing and making music. And sadly, only a very small percentage of music is sacred music—music that is reverential to God. And not all of that is even biblically accurate in lyrics, with so-called gospel or Christian music—and even many church hymns—often misrepresenting God's Word. It is as important to sing the truth as it is to speak the truth.

Finally, notice this interesting phrase in verse 2: "For Yah, the Lord, is my strength and song [or "song of strength"]; He also has become my salvation." The same words are found in Exodus 15:2 and Psalm 118:14, which means that they occur in each of the three parts of the Old Testament: the Law, the Prophets and the Writings. Often a stirring melody or rousing anthem is able to strengthen and encourage us. Yet in nothing will we experience greater strengthening than in God Himself.

(Incidentally, some take the reference to the Hebrew "Yah" and similar scriptural references as proof that this or the fuller form Yahweh—or some variant spelling of the word—is how we must always refer to God. But this is not biblical. For those who wish to study the matter further, see our Bible Q&A article, "What is the correct name for God?")