10 In that day the root of Jesse,
who shall stand as a signal for the peoples—
of him shall the nations inquire,
and his resting place shall be glorious.
11 In that day the Lord will extend his hand yet a second time
to recover the remnant that remains of his people,
from Assyria, from Egypt, from Pathros,
from Cush, from Elam, from Shinar,
from Hamath, and from the coastlands of the sea.
12 He will raise a signal for the nations
and will assemble the banished of Israel,
and gather the dispersed of Judah
from the four corners of the earth.
(Isaiah 11:10–12 ESV)
By DEREK LEMAN, MESSIANIC JEWISH MUSINGS—
This passage comes immediately after one of the greatest sections of Isaiah about Messiah, 11:1-9. In 11:1, Messiah is called “a shoot from the stump of Jesse” and “a branch shall grow from his roots,” whereas 11:10 speaks of the “root of Jesse.”
Is the “root of Jesse” identical with the branch that grows from his roots? The answer refers us back to vss. 3-5. We read about Messiah that he is characterized by the awe of God, that he judges with impartiality, that he protects the cause of the weak and needy, that he smites oppressors with his words, and is just and faithful. In other words, his government is what the world has always been looking for — absolute power used for pure goodness. So we see why the nations (Gentiles, goyim) come to inquire of him.
His government, of which there will be no end (see 9:6(7)), will attract the peoples of the world. The Gentiles in that day will be drawn to an ideal society ruled by a perfect king. In the time of Isaiah of Jerusalem, the Torah was largely unappreciated. The house of David tended to function just like the kings of other nations. The wealthy classes used the standard methods of dominating society, which Isaiah denounces repeatedly. But the prophet looked forward to a perfect justice, to the glory of God’s Torah going out from Zion (2:2-4), his ideal king judging with righteousness (11:4), and the Gentiles being gathered to Zion by the beauty of God’s Torah and King.
The love that Christians have for Jesus is a precursor to this prophecy but is not what this prophecy is talking about. Jesus is not yet judging the nations, deciding for the poor and meek, or smiting the oppressors with his words.
Isaiah’s prophecy is about Messiah in his Glory coming as the world’s rightful ruler. He will make a resting place on Mount Zion. The glory will be a land where goodness, healing, abundance, and security are the rule as opposed to the sad ways of life in this present age.
Vs. 11 is about God calling for a new Exodus. The first time he stretched forth his hand is a clear reference to the Exodus, where the idea of God stretching out his hand is repeated again and again in the text. The future deliverance of Israel from exile is often described as a New Exodus in the prophets (see especially Jeremiah 23:7-8). The places from which God will regather the children of Israel and Judah are limited here to places Isaiah new about, but later generations would understand the dispersion was even wider than these places. Ultimately, God’s call for his Jewish exiles to return is from every place under heaven (Deut 30:4-6).
It is in vs. 12 that we see a remarkable theme of mutual blessing between Gentiles and Jewish people, one which will resurface in Isaiah 49:22. God himself raises a signal (banner, like those used in war in ancient times) for the nations (Gentiles). In other words he summons to the nations to regather the exiles of Israel and Judah. Why does he signal the nations? Is it simply so that the Jewish exiles who live in the nations will see and return? This is a possible reading. But Isaiah 49:22, a prophecy that is much later than 11:12, is a piece of evidence that more is intended: “I will . . . raise my signal to the peoples; and they shall bring your sons in their arms.”
There is a biblical idea of Gentiles being instruments for the redemption of Israel. In the initial Abrahamic Covenant we read that “all the families of the earth” will be blessed through the Jewish people. Yet we also read there “I will bless those who bless you.” In other words, the direction of blessing goes both ways.
My own interest in Isaiah’s themes concerning Gentiles is not simply academic, nor is it limited to understanding future events. I find that there is a calling for some Gentiles to be closely associated with the Jewish people. What if some non-Jews feel drawn in our time to be near to Jewish life and to work to build up Messianic Jewish faith? What if such friendship between Jew and Gentile is not confusion or absurdity, but those who love the Jewish Messiah and who long for his own people to do the same? What if Jewish-savvy Christians and Messianic Gentiles are not an anomaly, but a people touched by the Spirit of God with a vision for the final redemption of the world?
The day is coming when God will raise a signal to the nations, when Gentiles will bring back Jewish exiles in their arms to Messiah’s resting place. In my thinking, the large numbers of Gentiles attracted to some or all of Torah, to some or all of Jewish culture, to the land of Israel — these are all precursors, early signs of something which will keep growing.