Messianic Expectation In Isaiah 11 -- By: Gregory Goswell

Journal: Westminster Theological Journal
Volume: WTJ 79:1 (Spring 2017)
Article: Messianic Expectation In Isaiah 11
Author: Gregory Goswell


Messianic Expectation In Isaiah 11

Greg Goswell

Greg Goswell is Academic Dean and Lecturer in Biblical Studies (Old Testament) at Christ College, Sydney, an affiliated college of the Australian College of Theology.

Isaiah 11 is routinely identified as an OT messianic passage, and I have no wish to dispute that evaluation, but what I do seek to do is to determine exactly what kind of messianism is on display in this key text.1 In his study of messianic passages in Isa 1–35, Paul Wegner says that “the image [in 11:1 is] describing this deliverer as coming from the âوٍ [= stem] of Jesse,”2 that is, for Wegner, a messianic figure is by definition a deliverer. His working definition of messianic expectation in Isaiah is as follows: “the hope which is engendered by the belief in a future ruler/deliverer who will set up an everlasting kingdom and bring salvation to the people of God.”3 If such a definition were accepted, I would have to say that messianic expectation is not on show in Isa 11, for the future Davidic ruler in this passage does not act as deliverer nor does he set up the kingdom over which he exercises rule. Yhwh himself is depicted as doing both these things.4 Likewise, I will seek to show that the paradisial conditions of 11:6–9 are not due to the actions of the promised ruler, nor is he the agent of the gathering of the nations and the new exodus of Israelites depicted in 11:10–16. My aim is not to downplay the messianic character of Isa 11 but to analyze with precision the role of the messianic personage featured in this key Isaianic passage.

I. Isaiah 11 As A Literary Unit

There is a syntactical break at Isa 10:33, as indicated by the introductory particle הִנֵּה, “Behold” (v. 33a).5 Then, vv. 33 and 34 predict Yhwh’s action aga...

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