Isaiah chapter 11

 

“The wolf also shall dwell with the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the kid; and the calf and the young lion and the fatling together; and a little child shall lead them. And the cow and the bear shall feed; their young ones; their young ones shall lie down together: and the lion shall eat straw like the ox. And the sucking child shall play on the hole of the asp, and the weaned child shall put his hand on the cockatrice’s den. They shall not hurt nor destroy in all my holy mountain: for the earth shall be full of the knowledge of Yahweh, as the waters cover the sea” (Isa. 11:6-9)

The prophecy of Isaiah is characterised by many references to the judgment to come upon Yahweh’s People – whilst being interspersed with many cameos of the glory that is to follow in Messiah’s coming kingdom. Isaiah chapter 11 provides a beautiful picture of hope – a hope that knows no bounds. Being given to the Jews in the first instance, it describes how that by contrast to the Assyrian Tree that would be cut down, “there shall come forth a rod out of the stem of Jesse, and a branch shall grow out of his roots” (Isa. 11:1). These words convey a beautiful symbolism – no-one can mistake the fact that the prophecy is using symbols to describe a particular situation with regard to the Lord Jesus Christ. This “branch” language is plainly not literal, and is not meant to be understood in a literal manner (see also Zech. 3:8).

In this article, we submit that the other references in this passage, to beasts dwelling harmoniously in this prophecy (cited above) are also symbolic of a greater reality to be fulfilled when Messiah bears rule over the earth, and forges peace between the nations (cp. Isa. 2:4). That is not to say that we deny a literal basis for what is described in these words, as often in Scripture the natural is used to teach the spiritual – and literal events reflect a symbolism of a greater reality yet to come. The use of Animals to represent nations is something we should be familiar with in Scripture – Daniel chapter 7 uses such symbology in order to describe various characteristics of particular nations. Similarly, Isaiah 11 speaks of the animal-nations, but particularly how they stand in relation to Yahweh’s chosen race – Israel. So Brother Robert Roberts writes in The Ministry of the Prophets:

“The popular view of this prophecy finds expression in a well-known and beautiful picture of a little child leading some of the beasts spoken of; and in that vision the matter is for most people exhausted. But let the questions be asked : How does the knowledge of the Lord bear upon the taming of the wild beasts? And what special reference has the matter to God’s holy mountain ? A greater and more interesting development then comes into view, and one which is the subject of description in other Scriptures.”

A PRELIMINARY OBSERVATION

Perhaps the first point to notice, is that in this passage the animals are paired in terms of clean, and unclean beasts. Notice this: in the citation below, Clean are in italics, and Unclean in Bold.

“The wolf also shall dwell with the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the kid; and the calf and the young lion and the fatling together; and a little child shall lead them. And the cow and the bear shall feed; their young ones; their young ones shall lie down together: and the lion shall eat straw like the ox. And the sucking child shall play on the hole of the asp, and the weaned child shall put his hand on the cockatrice’s den. They shall not hurt nor destroy in all my holy mountain: for the earth shall be full of the knowledge of Yahweh, as the waters cover the sea” (Isa. 11:6-9)

This concept of Clean and Unclean beasts in relation to the New Covenant, is seen in the vision shown to Peter, prior to his meeting Cornelius. The Narrative states that there were “all manner of four-footed beasts of the earth, and wild beasts, and creeping things, and fowls of the air” (Acts 10:12). Peter recognised these things in terms of the Law, saying: “I have never eaten anything that is common or unclean” (Acts 10:15). But in relation to the immediate circumstance, the vision showed that Cornelius as a Gentile – considered unclean – had now been accepted as “clean” through the washing of the water by the word. In this vision then, clean and previously unclean beasts come together as representative of those who have been sanctified and accepted by Yahweh. The point we wish to notice here, is that both Jew and Gentile are both brought together with acceptance before the Judge of all the earth.

Returning to Isaiah 11 then, we find principles similar to this. Clean and unclean animals are paired together as elements of a harmonious picture of life in the Kingdom – all are accepted, having been humbled under the mighty hand of Yahweh, with all the earth being “full of the knowledge of Yahweh, as the waters cover the sea” (Isa. 11:9). In looking at the various animals in turn, we will have revealed to us a wonderful vision of nations lying down in peace; an illustration of what life will be like in the coming kingdom of the Deity upon earth.

THE UNCLEAN ANIMALS

The first animal to be mentioned is the Wolf, which is said to “dwell with the lamb” – that is, a creature which would ordinarily be a predator and devour the lamb instead lies down in harmony, the enmity between the two beasts being removed. The figure of the Wolf is used a number of times in Scripture, and it is this aspect of being a predator that is emphasised:

“Benjamin shall ravin as a wolf: in the morning he shall devour the prey, and at night he shall divide the spoil” (Gen. 49:27)

“Wherefore a lion out of the forest shall slay them, and a wolf of the evenings shall spoil them …” (Jer. 5:6).

“he that is an hireling, and not the shepherd, whose own the sheep are not, seeth the wolf coming, and leaveth the sheep, and fleeth: and the wolf catcheth them, and scattereth the sheep” (Jno. 10:12)

“… I know this, that after my departing shall grievous wolves enter in among you, not sparing the flock” (Acts 20:29)

“beware of false prophets, which come unto you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves” (Mat. 7:15).

These testimonies reveal the Wolf to be symbolic of those forces that oppose the Truth, and devour Yahweh’s people. An interesting example of the taming of a wolf is seen in the case of Saul of Tarsus, who became the Apostle Paul. Being a Benjamite, he ravened like a wolf against the flock of God, just as Messiah had prophesied. But as a direct consequence of him receiving the knowledge of the Glory of God shining to him on the Damascus road (cp. 2 Cor. 4:6), his energies and enthusiasm became harnessed by Christ, to be used in the spreading forth of that Word throughout the Roman Habitable.

THE LEOPARD

The Leopard is a little easier to recognise, for we are well accustomed to the use of this symbol in Daniel chapter 7. In that place, it is used to describe the Greek Empire, one of those nations which shall be permitted to exist during the Millennium, albeit having had their dominion “taken away”, being subdued under the authority of Christ (Dan. 7:6, 12).

Again, the symbol of a leopard is used similarly in Jeremiah chapter 5, and verse 6, as cited above. Though the Greeks prevailed over the people of the Most High, both in terms of physical subjugation, and the philosophers who gained the victories over men’s minds, Isaiah saw the dawning of the Millennial day, when the Greek political animal shall lie down together with the kid, having been re-educated in the things of God.

THE LION

In the vision shown to Daniel (chapter 7), the Lion is used to symbolise the Babylonian Empire. Jeremiah comments: “Israel is a scattered sheep; the lions have driven him away: first the king of Assyria hath devoured him; and last this Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon hath broken his bones” (Jer. 50:17). The young lion would appear to be representative of Assyria, and the adult lion, the Babylonian. Together they warred against, and prevailed against Israel – yet in the coming day of glory, they shall lie down in peace.

THE BEAR

Once again, the vision of Daniel chapter 7 helps us here: the Bear in that place is representative of the Medo-Persian Empire. Though once having dominion over Israel, the bear shall feed in peace with the cow – emblematic of the Israel of the Age to come.

THE ASP & COCKATRICE

Both the Asp and the Cockatrice are types of serpent (snake), and from Eden onwards, the serpent has been recognised to be emblematic of the power of Sin (see Gen. 3:15; Psa. 140:3; Isa. 27:1; 2 Cor. 11:3; Rev. 20:2). What is of particular interest to our studies in Isaiah 11 is the positions in which the Asp and Cockatrice are said to have in relation to 3 types of Child, as we shall see:

“ … a little child shall lead them”

Here, the animals just described, as said to be led by “a little child”. Another rendering has it: “the lowliest of the young men”, which indicates Messiah as the “meek and lowly in heart” (Mat. 11:29). It is not without significance that Messiah exhorts his disciples to become as a “little child” – and he himself is the supreme example (i.e. Isaiah 9:6 – “unto us a child is given”), and these comprise the leaders of the bestial nations of the coming Age.

“The sucking child shall play on the hole of the Asp”

The “sucking child”, by definition is immature / still feeding on the milk. Milk in Scripture is used as a symbol for what we call the First Principles of the Truth (see Heb. 5:13). Isaiah 55 sends out the exhortation to the nations:

“Ho, everyone that thirsteth, come ye to the waters, and he that hath no money; come ye, buy, and eat; yea come, buy wine and milk without money and without price” (Isa. 55:1)

Israel also, we are told will be taught knowledge, being “them that are weaned from the milk, and drawn from the breasts” (Isa. 28:9).

The “Sucking Child” therefore, speaks of those who are being fed with the milk of the Word. They play, without fear “on the hole of the asp.” But why are they so fearless? The verse continues:

“and the weaned child shall put his hand on the cockatrice den”

We find then, that the weaned child prevents the emergence of the serpent by placing his hand over it’s den. In other words, through the actions of the Weaned Child, there is no longer any danger from the Serpent-Power. Revelation chapter 20 describes this suppression of the Serpent-Power:

“he laid hold on the dragon, that old serpent, which is the diabolos and satan, and bound him a thousand years. And cast him into the bottomless pit, and shut him up, and set a seal upon him, that he should deceive the nations no more, till the thousand years should be fulfilled” (Rev. 20:3).

Here, we have the role of Messiah and his brethren to suppress the serpent-power of sin for a thousand years. By definition therefore, the “Weaned Child” refers to those who have come off the milk and feed upon solid food, and who also block the serpent’s hole, rendering it harmless.

A key verse in considering this passage of Isaiah, is verse 9:

“They shall not hurt, nor destroy in all my holy mountain: for the earth shall be full of the knowledge of Yahweh, as the waters cover the sea” (Isa. 11:9).

So it is, that none of these animals will hurt nor destroy in “my holy mountain”. If these animals were literal, then this would indicate that part of the Lord’s work will be to prevent an attack by the animal kingdom on God’s Holy Mountain! But we have seen that whilst there may be an underlying literal peace between the various elements of Creation in the coming Age, the manner by which this is expressed reflects the spiritual state of the animal-nations.

Some have seen a difficulty in the specific reference to God’s “Holy Mountain,” with it being thought that the harmonious picture with which we are presented will only exist in Zion. However, Daniel chapter 2 informs us that whilst it will be that the House of God shall be built in an elevated Zion (Isa. 2:2), the entire Kingdom itself starts as a mountain, and grows until it fills all the earth.

Daniel 2:35 tells us that “the stone that smote the image became a great mountain, and filled the whole earth”. Verse 45 provides some more details: “… the stone was cut out of the mountain without hands, and that it brake in pieces the iron, the brass, the clay, the silver and the gold.”

The extra information supplied in verse 45 is that the stone itself came from a mountain, and becomes a replica of it’s own origins – i.e. it becomes a mountain. In these few words, we perceive the doctrine that we call “God Manifestation”. Our Lord, as the Stone-Power (cp. Isa. 8:14; Mat. 21:42-44; 1 Pet. 2:8) shall strike the kingdoms of men with destructive impact, shattering them in pieces, and grinding them to powder to be blown away as the chaff from the summer threshing floor. But the Stone is itself Divinely hewn out of the rock of a mountain without human hands. So it is that not of the will of man, but of God, Christ himself originated from the Father—the Rock, or Tsur (one of the titles of Yahweh), and himself is a replica of Yahweh’s Image (Cp. Heb. 1:3). But the Mountain grows, and fills all the earth. What fills the earth according to Isaiah 11 is: “the knowledge of Yahweh, as the waters cover the sea” (verse 9). The two things are thus equated – the growing mountain and the increasing knowledge of Yahweh. The ultimate purpose of Yahweh being that the earth shall be inhabited (Isa. 45:18) with those who become like Him replicating His glorious attributes.

Christopher Maddocks & Peter Moore