They shall join forces to swoop down and fly on the slopes of Philistia, on the shoulders of the Philistines towards the west. Together they will attack and plunder the sons and the people of the east. They will possess subdue and occupy Edom and Moab, extending their power and rule over them. And the sons of the Ammonites will be subject to them and obey them. (Isaiah 11:14 My own Translation)
Confession time! Forgive me reader: I am a little unclear on Isaiah 11:14. I would like to say, “Oh yes! I know what it means! It’s all the translators who have got the meaning of the words wrong! And it just so happens that I know above everybody else on the planet exactly what this verse is saying.” Then in a musical tone in the key of C Minor I would attempt to sing; “Tadaa!” However, the truth is that the more I research the Hebrew, the Aramaic, the Greek version of the Old Testament – and the more pastors I ask and discuss with, the more I have to hold my hands up in the air and say, “I simply have nothing but a vague clue as to what this verse signifies. I can only state that it must be the activities of the state of Israel in the immediate following days after Christ’s return to Olivet and thence to Jerusalem.
Why am I so specific in saying that Isaiah 11:14 will be fulfilled in the opening days, if not hours after His return? Simply because Christ’s reign is a reign of peace, and the old political scenario of
The language of the verse is quite plain in its meaning. The unification and oneness that will join all twelve tribes of Israel together will see them swooping down on the hills and slopes of Philistia, suggesting that they would move as one body down into Gaza and its environs. Then in that selfsame state of unity they would attack and plunder Edom, Moab and Ammon. No problem at all with the translation. The entire universe of Bible translators into English, and one or two of those into German that I know could not be more unanimous and joined together.
My issue is that this verse is in the midst of an entire chapter that is talking about Christ’s return to earth in power and His reign on earth in peace. In Christ’s thousand year reign there is peace and harmony amongst all the nations. So, I ask: “What is all this “flying down the slopes of Philistia,” which indirectly and vaguely infers an attack of aggression, or “attacking and plundering” Edom, Moab and Ammon on their eastern flanks? That last part of the verse could not be more explicit if one tried. One really needs help to misunderstand the text.
I am not fooled into stating that because Edom, Moab and Ammon do not exist in the twenty first century, therefore it must be talking historically of wars, attacks and plunders that took part earlier in history. That, ridiculously, puts Isaiah talking in whole paragraphs of the future, with a single sentence out of sequence referring to a different time and scenario than the rest of the line. There are clearly portions of prophetic scripture whereby one sentence may start discussing Christ’s first advent and finish in the same breath with the second coming (eg: Isaiah 61 and those first 4 verses), but this is utterly different.
Israel and Judah were split immediately after the death of Solomon. They were two distinct nations, sometimes friends and sometimes bitter enemies until Israel was exiled by Assyria and scattered to goodness knows where as the centuries passed. Judah existed as the lone Jewish nation until 587 BC. After the exile and the return of the Jews as recorded in the books of Ezra and Nehemiah the other ten lost tribes of Israel were left in the darkness of the diaspora. So Israel and Judah have never been together in the harmony that the prophet here discusses in Isaiah 11:14 since the days of King David. It is true that some of those Jews returning to Israel today have claimed to be descended from some of the other ten tribes, but the entire context of Isaiah 11 does not fit with the present scenario of the population demographic or geography of Israel as presented to us here by the prophet. Isaiah 11:14 simply has to be referring to what happens as a result of Messiah’s enthronement in Jerusalem, the full nation of the Hebrews coming together in national harmony – and then the activities of verse 14 are to follow thereafter.
But how can attacking and plundering be true under the peaceful reign of Christ? My answer is simply that in the opening days of the millennial reign there may be a few forays in a mopping up exercise.
I am the first to put my hand up and say that I think my explanation here is a bit shaky. If there are any authorities on eschatology out there who read this page, please contact me and let me no of any improvement to my insight …. or lack of it.
You may ask me as to why I do not simply restate my opinions concerning the millennium and reconstruct my understanding. My answer there is a clear one.
There is more prophetic scriptures explaining the millennial reign of Christ on earth, making plain its character and activities than any other single subject throughout the Old Testament writing prophets. I have never counted or measured the verses, the sentences or the words, but it does seem to me to be a truthful statement that there is much more material about the second advent of Jesus Christ to the earth and especially His millennial reign than there is prophetic material concerning the first advent and the Master’s passion (I am ready to be questioned on this by any of my readers). Why is this so?
One of the major reasons why I understand this to have been a necessary thrust of the Holy Spirit in the hearts of the writing prophets is the necessary fulfillment of the four major promises, commitments and covenants of God to and with the nation of Israel concerning their future and God’s interaction with them as a people. The thousand year reign of Christ, commonly referred to as “the Millennium” has to become a reality to plainly and visibly fulfill and manifest the full and glorious substance of these four planks of certain hope, promises that were given to Israel and by which the psyche of the Hebrew nation was held tightly in deep expectation – as it still is.
It is this writer’s deep conviction that :
- the promises made to Abraham in Genesis 12,
- the words spoken by Moses in Deuteronomy 30,
- the promise of a king to sit on David’s throne forever in 2 Samuel 7, and
- the new covenant as expressed by Jeremiah in Jeremiah 31 are the entire key to the Jewish Expectations of the Messiah and His soteriological activities towards Israel.
When these four aspects of prophecy are seen in conjunction with each other and the historical grammatical, literal principles of interpretation are consistently and soundly utilized one cannot help but arrive at certain conclusions.
Allow me to explain.
The four mountain peaks of this expectation are as follows:
The Promises Given and the Covenant made with Abraham Demand the Reign of Christ for Fulfilment.
12:1Now, the LORD, Yahweh had said to Abram, “You are to depart for yourself and go forth out from your native land and country, your people, your kindred and relatives, your father’s family and household and go to the land I am going to show you. 12:2 I will make you into a great nation by your descendants, and I will bless you; I will magnify your name and make you famous and your reputation great, so that you will exemplify to all the divine blessing in the manner in which you will be blessed and you will be a blessing to others. 12:3 I will bless those who bless you, however, whoever curses you, dishonours you and treats you lightly or with contempt I will curse. All families and peoples on earth will bless one another by your name and be blessed in and through you.” (Genesis 12:1-3 my own Translation)
The promises of God’s commitment to Abraham concerning the land and the ethnic physical seed of the Patriarch, and the circumstances that ultimately permeate that ownership of the land demand the reign of Christ on earth and the impact on all of creation as expressed in Isaiah (especially in his eleventh chapter) as well as some of the other prophetic writings.
The covenant promises are stated and then repeated in ever enlarging parameters made by God Himself as per Genesis 12:1-3 (immediately above) and then 12:6-7, followed by 13:14-17, expanded yet again by 15:1-21, pushed further in 17:1-14, and finalized in 22:15-18. It is extremely difficult to overstate the importance of these promises to Abraham. They are both the foundation and backbone of the entire prophetic infrastructure given to mankind by God Almighty. Most importantly the covenant thus made and given was and therefore still is an everlasting covenant.
As for Abraham Himself there is the individual promise that his name shall be great in the earth (12:2). He himself would be a blessing so great that the entire universe of mankind would be blessed in him (12:3). God was to be a God to him and to His seed both physical and spiritual. His actions towards them would prove the glorious reality of that fact. Whosoever (i.e. of whatever race and nation) blessed Abraham would also be blessed, and whoever cursed him would be cursed (12:3). In the seed of Abraham all the families and nations of the world would be blessed (12:3). The entire globe has indeed been touched by this blessing that rested on Abraham, yet it can never be true that every single family on the planet has been blessed through him until Christ comes to reign on the planet. Abraham was to be the father of many nations. Kings would proceed from him. The promise stated at first here in Genesis 12:1-3 was that a great nation was to come from him. We have therefore a promise, or rather a series of promises and commitments made by God, unsolicited by Abraham, that impacts on Israel throughout history to such a degree that it is no overstatement to refer to Genesis 12:1-3 as the Hebrew raison d’etre (their reason for existence).
The multitude of Abraham’s physical seed were to be like the dust of the ground. The multitude of his spiritual seed who were to have the same faith were to be like the stars of the sky.
To Abraham personally, and to his seed would be given the land of Canaan (Israel) in perpetuity. When Abraham heard that he would have realized that the land could not be his until he had enjoyed the resurrection (i.e. the land was to be Abraham’s (Genesis 15:7) Yet he would die in a ripe old age not having possessed the land (Genesis 15:15); and because Jesus talks of people sitting down and eating with Abraham in the resurrection, we cannot but conclude that Abraham will be the inheritor of the land of Canaan in the resurrection. The land of Canaan was to be an everlasting possession (Genesis 17:8). His seed were promised to possess the gates of His enemies (Genesis 22:17).
The entire vista of the fulfillment of all these covenanted prophetic words to Abraham have clearly never been fulfilled. The concept of the reign of Christ on earth lasting for a thousand years, and thereafter continuing His reign in the new heaven and the new earth IS the fulfillment of the unconditional Abrahamic covenant. All Israel’s covenants are unconditional except the Mosaic. The Millennium is demanded by the contents of such a covenant for its fulfillment. The everlasting nature of Israel, their possession of the land, and their inheritance of the blessings are seen quite literally in the biblical description of the earthly rule of Messiah. Until Christ rules on earth these promises remain unfulfilled. Christ and His physical presence in Israel completes them all.
- The Promises made in Deuteronomy 30 concerning Diaspora and Regathering of Israel Demand Christ’s Reign for their Fulfilment.
30:1So it will be that In the future, when all these blessings and curses which I have listed and set before you come on you, taking them to heart when you call them to mind and come to your senses wherever Yahweh your God has dispersed and exiled you, driving you among the nations, 30:2 and when you and your children and descendants return to Yahweh your God and obey him with all your heart and with all your soul in all the commands I have given you today, 30:3 then the LORD your God will restore your fortunes turn your captivity and have pity, mercy and compassion on you and gather you back again from all the peoples and nations of the world where Yahweh your God had scattered you before. 30:4 Even if you have been banished exiles to the most distant land under the heavens, driven as far as the ends of the earth or to the poles of heaven as outcasts, from there Yahweh your God will gather you and fetch you, and bring you back again. 30:5 Yahweh your God will bring you to the land that your ancestors inherited and owned, and you will take possession of it. He will do you good and make you more prosperous and numerous, multiplying you more than your ancestors. 30:6 Yahweh your God will circumcise, cleanse and change your hearts and the hearts of your descendants, so that you may love Yahweh your God with all your heart and with all your soul, and so you may live. 30:7 Yahweh your God will inflict all these oaths and curses on your enemies and on those who hate and persecute you. 30:8 Then you will again turn back and obey Yahweh and hear, keep, follow and observe all his commands that I am giving you today. 30:9 Then Yahweh your God will make you most prosperous and successful, abounding in all the work of your hands and in the fruit of your womb, the young of your livestock and the crops of your fields and land. Yahweh will again delight in you and make you prosperous, just as he delighted in your ancestors, 30:10 if and when you listen to and obey the voice of Yahweh your God and keep his commands, his statutes, ceremonies and decrees that are written in this scroll, this Book of Teachings and His Law and turn to Yahweh your God with all your heart and with all your soul. (Deuteronomy 30:1-10. My own Translation)
In this passage there are several features to be understood in the light of the explicit nature of biblical Eschatology. These words are spoken at a crucial moment of transition from the tried and tested and manifestly divinely ordained leadership of Moses into the untried, untested general that was Joshua.
The promises of Genesis 12:7, and 13:15 would be the battle cry of all the twelve tribes. Yet here they are, in Moses’ last days and about to depart to his eternal reward with the “novice” of a leader (not the Joshua was a young man – he was at least 83) and Canaan was crawling with at least seven nations of godless and violent heathens, and some of them were giants, that is the sons of Anak who were commonly a yard or so taller than the rest of the planet.
The thought of returning to Egypt was clearly never going to be on the table for discussion. Moses nailed the issue firmly into the hearts and minds of the people. Was Canaan really and truly theirs by divine promise? What impact did the Mosaic covenant have on the promises God had already made to Abraham? The Mosaic covenant was conditional. The Abrahamic covenant was unconditional. Could the single nation of Israel challenge the settled and huge nations that occupied the land?
It was to settle the Israeli philosophy and mindset that God instructed Moses to restate the whole scenario and the divine promise to the people of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. Deuteronomy 30:1-10 is the embodiment of God’s statement to His people.
This is hugely important to the formulation of a biblical eschatology because it makes a clear statement concerning Israel’s relationship to the land of Canaan as promised to Abraham.
- The overriding steamroller to crack the nut of the issue is that Moses unequivocally states that Canaan belongs to Israel. No matter how sinful, evil, Godless and unfaithfulness to the God of their fathers, the covenant of the land being given to Abraham was never rescinded, retracted, repealed or abrogated. The Land was theirs in the mind of God. That is a self-evident presupposition of the moment of Deuteronomy 30 in the divine perspective.
- The conditional promise of the Mosaic covenant under which Israel was now existing did not set aside the original promise made to Abraham in the book of Genesis. This was Paul’s reasoning when he penned the context as well as the words of Galatians 3:17.
- If we are going to be pedantic about the issue, these ten verses are an actual expansion of the parameters of the promises made to Abraham. And all this was stated in the face of their idolatry, their sin and their constant murmuring against God Himself.
- In Moses’ speech there is the initial shocking pronouncement made before Joshua had even assumed leadership and prior to them even entering the land that they were to be exiled from it because of their idolatry and sin (Deuteronomy 28:63-68. 30:1-3). No matter how things looked, at the very moment they were foreseen by Yahweh and his prophet Moses as turning their backs on Yahweh and being dispersed around the globe because of it. This is a phenomenal insight of the prophetic leader.
- The next feature after that startling statement is that there would be a future repentance of Israel while they are scattered in a global diaspora (Deuteronomy 28:63-68. 30:1-3).
- Then Messiah shall come (Deuteronomy 30:3-6). In the straight forward reading the advent and physical presence of Messiah does not seem to be necessary to fulfil the prediction. Hebrew diaspora’s have before known a regathering by the divine hand, but never in the terms and parameters that are here described. The prosperity, the increase in numbers, the divine favour that will be even greater than what was seen by any of their forefathers – including David and Solomon’s contemporaries – has never been seen. For this to happen it means that Yahweh fetching the children of Israel and bringing them to their promised land is still future. This means that from our present perspective this can only take place with the present Messiah. Read Deuteronomy 30:3-6 in as many translations as are available and it becomes clear.
- Israel thereafter would be returned to the land (Deuteronomy 30:5), and they will be converted to Messiah – that is the whole nation will be turned to God (Deuteronomy 30:4-8. See also Romans 11:26-27).
- After all that, Israel’s enemies will be judged (30:7) and Israel will step into their full blessing (30:9).
Yet again I assert that none of this this can come to pass without the circumstances as described by the prophets during Christ’s millennial reign. These promises require Christ to be reigning on the earth in order to be fulfilled.
- The Promises Given and the Covenant Made with David Demand the Reign of Christ for Their Fulfillment.
7:9 Furthermore, I am and I have been remaining with you wherever you have walked and gone, and I have slain, defeated, cut off, annihilated and destroyed all your enemies in front of you from before your eyes and taken them out of your sight. Now I will make your name great and famous with reputations, as famous as, and like the names of the greatest men that have ever been in the earth. 7:10 And I will establish and provide a place as a homeland for my people Israel and will plant them in a secure location where they can tabernacle and dwell, having a home of their own, moving no more and being no longer disturbed. Violent men, children of wickedness and evil nations will not oppress or afflict them anymore, as they did formerly at the beginning and throughout their history, 7:11 and have been doing starting from the time I appointed and ordered judges to administer and rule over my people Israel. I will also give you rest and relief from all your enemies. Furthermore ‘Yahweh announces and declares to you that He himself will establish a dynastic house for you – a dynasty of kings! 7:12 When your days are over, complete and fulfilled, and you lie down, being buried with your ancestors, I will send to you, and raise and set up in place of you one of your offspring and descendants to succeed you – your own flesh and blood, and I will establish and fortify his kingdom and make his kingdom strong. 7:13 He is the one who will build a house – a temple even – dedicated to and for my Name, and I will establish and secure his royal throne, his dynasty and his kingdom forever. 7:14 I will be to him a father, and he will be to me a son. When he sins or does wrong, committing iniquity, I will punish, correct and discipline him, chastening him with a rod and the stripes wielded by men, with floggings inflicted by human hands – by the sons of Adam, like any father would do. 7:15 But my steadfast gracious loving kindness, mercy and favour will never be taken away from him. I will never stop showing him my Chesed, as I took it away from Saul, whom I removed from before you. 7:16 Your house, your dynasty, your throne and your kingdom will continue and endure, being made secure and steadfast forever before me and you, in my presence; your throne will be securely established forever.'” (2 Samuel 7:9-16 my own translation)
Here in 2 Samuel 7:12-16 God made certain promises to King David. The first statement was that David was to have a son that would succeed him on the throne, and his kingdom would be solidly and firmly established. There was to be no revolutions or coups to steal his throne as there was with David himself. This part of the promise has a double fulfilment in the reign of Solomon, as well in the thousand year reign of Christ. The reference to sins being dealt with , of course, refer solely to Solomon.
This son shall build “the temple”. In Solomon’s case this refers to the very first temple known as “Solomon’s” built in his reign. But there is also a centre of worship, many believe to be the one we refer to as “Ezekiel’s temple” that will be present in the reign of Christ Himself. It is this writer’s conviction that in this manner the promise of a son of David who builds the temple refers to both Solomon and Christ.
The throne of the latter “Son of David” will be established forever. Because the word “forever” is here included we understand it to mean that Christ Himself will reign eternally, as well as the single dynasty that included both temple building sons. This could mean, of course, that the Davidic dynasty would have a king to sit on David’s throne not only for the rest of time, but if and when time ceases in the new heavens and the new earth, the ultimate Son of David will still be reigning. There was a son of David sat on the throne until 586 BC. A Davidic son will reign again in Jerusalem in this time space world after the second advent of Christ – and that king will be Christ Himself. Although the reign of Christ on this earth is for a thousand years, it is in actuality forever as His reign continues in the new earth and the new heavens beyond the thousand years as mentioned six times in Revelation twenty, and on and on forever.
The main thrust of the promise that utterly humbled and staggered David was the fact that his house and dynasty, the very throne of David and the kingdom of Israel would be established forever. This is the warp and woof of what the Davidic covenant of 2 Samuel 7 is all about.
It is self-evident that the promises made to David in 2 Samuel require the return of Christ as well as the circumstances as pronounced by Isaiah and other of the prophets, to be in existence during the Millennium.
- The promises of Jeremiah’s new covenant require the millennial blessings to fulfill all the covenanted promises.
31:31 “Look the days are coming,” this is Yahweh’s declaration, “when I will make a new covenant with the people of Israel and with the people of Judah. 31:32 It will not be like the covenant I made with their ancestors when I took them by the hand to lead them out of Egypt, because they violated my covenant, though I had married them and loved them as a husband loves his wife,” declares Yahweh. 31:33 “This is the new covenant I will make with the people and house of Israel after those days and that time,” declares the LORD. “I will put my law and instructions within them in their inward parts, in their minds and write it on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be my people. 31:34 No longer will they teach their neighbor, or teach their relatives, ‘You need to know the LORD,’ because they will all know me already, from the least of them to the greatest,” declares the LORD. “For I will forgive their wickedness and will remember their sins no more.” (Jeremiah 31:31-34. My own translation)
This covenant declared by Jeremiah actually states that a single minded conversion of the soul of the nation of Israel towards Yahweh and His Messiah is the rock sure foundation of all their hope and blessings. No forgiveness or conversion is possible without the shedding of blood. The offering of Christ for the sins of the whole world, the Lamb of God that takes away the sins of the whole world, makes Christ’s offering of Himself the ground of Israel’s future conversion and faith. It has to be centred on Christ and faith in Him.
Note the following facts that jump at us from the above text:
- The new covenant of Jeremiah 31 promises a renewed mind and heart to Israel. The promise is specifically made to Israel pointing to a day when the church is not alive on the planet.
- The new covenant as explained by Jeremiah is unconditional and everlasting. The immovable “I will’s” of God in the surrounding context of Jeremiah 31:31-34 settle that issue clearly.
- The new covenant promises restoration of Israel to the blessing of God and the nation’s full restoration to His favour.
- Forgiveness of sin, fullness and indwelling of the Holy Spirit will be the norm for all of Israel.
- Although geographical location is not mentioned in the statements of the new covenant by Jeremiah, the entire scenario of all twelve tribes being in unity and becoming the united people of God is impossible before the return of Christ as the rest of the prophetic scriptures tell us.
It is plainly a fact that none of these prophetic promises have yet been fulfilled, and biblically they have no hope of being fulfilled without the physical return and presence of the Lord Jesus Christ on planet earth. The Millennium is the full and glorious completion and manifestation of all that God promised Israel in the Old Testament.
So there we have it: What I see and clearly understand, and why what I understand leads me to say that I am not sure where to put Isaiah 11:14 in the midst of it all.
Let me know if you have greater light on it.
Christ in the Desert