Continued from Chapter 19

(Isaiah 11)

Isaiah 11 is generally accepted as a passage which speaks of the Messiah and the messianic age. In verse 1 the prophet states: “And there shall come forth a shoot out of the stock of Jesse, and a branch out of his roots shall bear fruit.” The phrase, “out of the stock of Jesse” is a reference to the Davidic dynasty, from which will come an invigorated leader of Israel (“the shoot”) who will be the Messiah.

Christians, recognizing that this chapter speaks of the Messiah and the messianic age attempt to apply it to Jesus. But, for this passage to have any connection to the life of Jesus it would need to be referring to his so-called first coming, and that is not the case. This prophecy concerns the “shoot” coming “out of the stock of David,” which would refer to the Messiah’s ancestry at the time of his birth not at a supposed second coming. And it should be noted that Davidic ancestry in general and lineal descent from the regal line in particular is not firmly established for Jesus by the pertinent New Testament narratives.

This presents a serious problem for the Christian interpretation of Isaiah 11. This chapter, which Christians identify with Jesus, gives a very positive and widely accepted leadership portrait of the individual described. It stands in stark contrast to the portrayal of the suffering servant of Isaiah 53:1-2, who Christians also identify with Jesus. The servant is portrayed in difficult circumstances, from his very beginning. Now, if Isaiah’s two prophecies (11:1 and 53:1-2) are both applied to Jesus, they would have to refer to his so-called first coming and this leads to an irreconcilable contradiction. The respective passages simply could not both be referring to one person and are mutually exclusive of each other. Some Christians divide this passage into two separate periods, one during Jesus’ lifetime and the other after his supposed future return following his death. Nonetheless, it is apparent that there is but one “coming” indicated in the passage. This is confirmed by verse 10 where all the events listed in verses 2-9 occur. There the individual spoken of is called, “a shoot of the stock of Jesse,” and typical of biblical poetic style parallel to this he is called “a branch out of his [Jesse’s] roots shall bear fruit.” This can only refer to one’s earthly existence and not to a supposedly resurrected divine being coming back at some future date. Christians claim that Jesus appeared first to offer a means of salvation for mankind. They then claim that he will return a second time, at which time he is supposed to judge and rule the world. This Christian explanation, however, has nothing in common with the text of Isaiah 11. The subject of this passage is not portrayed as a resurrected divine being returning to earth as its judge and king.

Some Christians claim that verse 2, “The spirit of the Lord shall rest upon him” was fulfilled at Jesus’ baptism (Matthew 3:16, Mark 1:10, Luke 3:22). This explanation also has no textual support. It is said that “God anointed him [Jesus] with the Holy Spirit and with power” (Acts 10:38; see also John 3:34). Are we to assume that Jesus, one-third of a triune deity, needed the “Spirit of God,” another one-third of the deity, to descend upon him by permission of still another one-third of this deity? The author of Acts claims that Jesus had the ability to do wonders because God anointed him and that “God was with him.” But, now, think about this! If Jesus was a coequal part of a triune God, he would not need to be anointed by another part of this God and have this other God “with him” in order to perform miracles. Even more so, if Jesus was God in any way, whatsoever, he could not stand in a relationship with God that is outside of God. If the New Testament Jesus, at any time, gave up any of his supposed pre-incarnation godly powers he could not be God in any ontological subdivision. God cannot be diminished or subdivided.

Christians choose those verses that they think have been fulfilled in a first coming by Jesus and leave the remainder to be fulfilled during a second coming. A perusal of the entire chapter 11 shows that there is no evidence to suggest a two part division within the prophecy. Needless to say, this passage has nothing to do with Jesus.

© Gerald Sigal