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Isaiah is the prophet of Salvation. He is also known as the truly "Universalist" prophet, by which is meant that He makes it clear that salvation is extended equally to all nations and not just to Israel. He lived to see the fall of Israel and the deportation of the Israelites to Assyria, and he prophesied of their "return" to God (through repentance). He is truly a "major prophet" whose prophecies greatly influenced the Apostle Paul in the New Testament.
Category - Bible Commentaries
Isaiah 11:11, 12 says,
11 Then it will happen on that day that the Lord will again recover [qanah, “set up, erect, purchase”] the second time [sheniy, “again, a second time”] with His hand the remnant [she’ar] of His people who will remain [sha’ar], from Assyria, Egypt, Pathros, Cush, Elam, Shinar, Hamath, and from the islands of the sea. 12 And He will lift up a standard for the nations and assemble the banished ones of Israel and will gather the dispersed of the earth.
The prophet says that God will recover the remnant “the second time.” The first time, of course, was when He purchased (redeemed) Israel from Egypt and set them up as a nation in Canaan. Isaiah uses the word qanah, “set up” with a double meaning. Canaan is kena’an, and its root word is kena, which sounds similar to qanah.
The implication is that God is going to recover the remnant and “Canaan” them a second time, similar to the first time, but not in the same way. This time He gathers the people to Himself, as they return to God, rather than to the previous land where God brought them. In other words, they will follow Abraham’s example, for he sought for “a better country” (Heb. 11:16) and a heavenly city. Those who have the faith of Abraham will share his vision and goal.
God will “lift up a standard for the nations,” not only the Israelite nations but all nations in that day, for Christ has the right to rule them as well as Israel. So Isaiah 56:7, 8 tells us later,
7 … For My house will be called a house of prayer for all the peoples. 8 The Lord God, who gathers the dispersed of Israel, declares, “Yet others I will gather to them, to those already gathered.”
Perhaps more than any other prophet, Isaiah had a universal vision of the Kingdom that clearly extended beyond the borders of Israel. No doubt he had read the law and understood the impartiality of God. He knew that there was to be one law for all people, both Israelites and foreigners (Num. 15:16). He knew that love was the universal standard of the God of love (Lev. 19:33, 34). The standard of righteousness which God lifts up in that day is His own nature, as expressed in the law and manifested personally and tangibly in Jesus Christ.
Hence, theologians have called Isaiah the first prophet of Universalism, by which they mean that he saw salvation extended to all nations, rather than just to Israelites. However, most theologians limit this salvation to those who turn to God during their lifetime. Those of us who enjoy a New Covenant understanding believe that God’s promise is to save all mankind and that salvation for most people will be appropriated not in their lifetime but in the ages to come.
One of Isaiah’s main themes is that God will “lift up a standard” (Hebrew: nec), although the NASB does not always translate the word “standard.” (See Isaiah 5:26; 11:10, 12; 13:2; 18:3; 30:17; 31:9; 49:22; 62:10.) The prophet uses this in regard to the regathering of the remnant and the restoration of all the nations as they turn from their idolatry and return to God.
The nations listed in Isaiah 11:11 are not meant to be a complete list of countries from which the remnant will return to God. These nations serve only as samples. We know this because John wrote in Rev. 5:9, 10,
9 And they sang a new song, saying, “Worthy are You to take the book and to break its seals; for You were slain, and purchased for God with Your blood men from every tribe and tongue and people and nation. 10 You have made them to be a kingdom and priests to our God, and they will reign upon the earth.”
This is the nature of Isaiah’s “Universalism.”
Isaiah 11:13 says,
13 Then the jealousy of Ephraim will depart, and those who harass Judah will be cut off; Ephraim will not be jealous of Judah, and Judah will not harass Ephraim.
Sibling rivalry is common in families, tribes, and nations. Ephraim had been given the Birthright of Joseph (Gen. 48:13-20), along with the name Israel (Gen. 48:16). For this reason, when the kingdom was divided, those tribes who remained united with Ephraim formed the breakaway nation of the House of Israel, whereas the southern kingdom had to be content to call itself the House of Judah.
Judah held the Scepter (Gen. 49:10) and its kings held the Dominion Mandate until the Messiah came whose right it was.
With Ephraim and Judah each holding a legitimate calling, Ephraim was jealous of Judah, and Judah often harassed Ephraim. Obviously, this was based on carnal mindsets on both sides. But the prophet tells us that in the return of the remnant, true unity will be established. Hosea 1:11 tells us more,
11 And the sons of Judah and the sons of Israel will be gathered together, and they will appoint for themselves one Leader, and they will go up from the land, for great will be the day of Jezreel.
This great unifying “Leader” is the Messiah, who came the first time to claim the Scepter of Judah and will come the second time to claim the Birthright of Joseph (i.e., Ephraim). When He comes the second time, the dreams of Joseph will be fulfilled, wherein all the tribes, including Judah, will bow to Him (Gen. 37:8-10). Then Gen. 49:10 will be fulfilled,
10 The scepter shall not depart from Judah, nor the ruler’s staff from between his feet until Shiloh comes, and to him shall be the obedience [or gathering] of the peoples.
Shiloh is a prophetic reference to the Messiah in His role as the Heir of Joseph-Ephraim. When He comes in that role, the scepter will then depart from Judah and be put into the hands of the permanent Heir of the world. For even as Judah was called to rule Israel, Joseph ruled in Egypt as a world ruler.
Isaiah 11:14, 15 says,
14 They will swoop down on the slopes of the Philistines on the west; together they will plunder the sons of the east. They will possess Edom and Moab, and the sons of Ammon will be subject to them. 15 And the Lord will utterly destroy the tongue of the Sea of Egypt; and He will wave His hand over the River with His scorching wind; and He will strike it into seven streams and make men walk over dry-shod.
Those who glory in the physical sword of the Old Covenant will interpret this prophecy according to their Old Covenant mindset. If this had been fulfilled prior to the coming of Christ, we might agree with them. However, a New Covenant has been instituted, and its methods of conquest are very different.
We wrestle not against flesh and blood, Paul says in Eph. 6:12. Our weapons are not carnal. We have put on spiritual armor for a spiritual battle (Eph. 6:13-17). We have a better sword, the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. Heb. 4:12 says,
12 For the word of God is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing as far as the division of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart.
No physical sword has the capabilities of the sword of the Spirit. What physical sword can divide soul and spirit? When men go into battle with a physical sword, they do not take the time to question their opponents or to discover their “thoughts and intentions.” Only the sword of the Spirit has this capability through the gifts of the Spirit, as Paul says in 1 Cor. 15:24, 25,
24 But if all prophesy, and an unbeliever or an ungifted man enters, he is convicted by all, he is called to account by all; 25 the secrets of his heart are disclosed; and so he will fall on his face and worship God, declaring that God is certainly among you.
Isaiah’s prophecy is inspired, and the remnant will certainly conquer Edom, Moab, Ammon, Egypt, and, indeed, all nations. The question is HOW? With what weapons? Physical swords are inadequate, because while they may kill enemies, they do not reconcile God’s creation. Physical weapons can never accomplish God’s ultimate goal, which is to save all mankind.
The prophet tells us that “the tongue of the Sea of Egypt” will be destroyed. This is another play on words, telling us that the boasts of Egypt will be silenced. The Nile River was their boast, because it gave them prosperity. Likewise, the Euphrates River coming out of Assyria was to be struck, or judged, by God’s “scorching wind.” We understand this to be the wind (ruach) of the Holy Spirit, which John the Baptist described as a baptism of fire. Hence, it scorches the flesh.
The Euphrates will be split into seven streams, the prophet says. Again, it is not likely that this will be fulfilled literally. Instead, it suggests that when the “scorching wind” of God is sent forth, the Euphrates will split in order to allow the remnant to cross the river “dry-shod.” This suggests a repeat of the Red Sea crossing as well as the Jordan River crossing.
The Euphrates is thus a metaphor for the nations—Assyria in particular—from which the remnant returns. Hence, Isaiah 11:16 concludes,
16 And there will be a highway from Assyria for the remnant of His people who will be left, just as there was for Israel in the day that they came up out of the land of Egypt.
When Israel left Egypt, they became “the church in the wilderness” (Acts 7:38, KJV). That church had its remnant overcomers, Caleb and Joshua. So also, when the wind of the Holy Spirit created the seven churches in Revelation 2 and 3, there was an overcoming remnant in these churches as well.
The “highway” that they follow in their return to God is a theme that Isaiah develops further in Isaiah 35:8, 10,
8 A highway will be there, a roadway, and it will be called the Highway of Holiness. The unclean will not travel on it, but it will be for him who walks that way [i.e., in holiness], and fools will not wander on it… 10 And the ransomed of the Lord will return and come with joyful shouting to Zion, with everlasting joy upon their heads. They will find gladness and joy, and sorrow and sighing will flee away.
Few would insist that this highway is to be taken literally. It is the road to God that the remnant takes in its return to God. No “fool” can travel this highway, because it is a highway of holiness. In other words, only believers can travel this highway, and perhaps the requirement is also to be an overcomer. Unbelieving Jews have not traveled this highway when they immigrated to the old land in the past century. It is not a highway of Zionism.
We see, then, that Isaiah’s son, She’ar-jashub, was the embodiment of the prophecy of the returning remnant. They do not qualify as the remnant unless they are overcomers who have faith in Jesus Christ and who repent and return to God. This is the great message of hope, not only for the lost tribes of Israel but also for all the nations.
God’s house will indeed be a house of prayer for all people.