What does Isaiah 11:4 mean?
ESV: but with righteousness he shall judge the poor, and decide with equity for the meek of the earth; and he shall strike the earth with the rod of his mouth, and with the breath of his lips he shall kill the wicked.
NIV: but with righteousness he will judge the needy, with justice he will give decisions for the poor of the earth. He will strike the earth with the rod of his mouth; with the breath of his lips he will slay the wicked.
NASB: But with righteousness He will judge the poor, And decide with fairness for the humble of the earth; And He will strike the earth with the rod of His mouth, And with the breath of His lips He will slay the wicked.
CSB: but he will judge the poor righteously and execute justice for the oppressed of the land. He will strike the land with a scepter from his mouth, and he will kill the wicked with a command from his lips.
NLT: He will give justice to the poor and make fair decisions for the exploited. The earth will shake at the force of his word, and one breath from his mouth will destroy the wicked.
KJV: But with righteousness shall he judge the poor, and reprove with equity for the meek of the earth: and he shall smite the earth with the rod of his mouth, and with the breath of his lips shall he slay the wicked.
Verse Commentary:
In this chapter, Isaiah tells about the great future leader who will rise from the line of David to rule Israel and the world (Isaiah 11:1). This leader will be empowered by the Holy Spirit with all the qualities essential for a king (Isaiah 11:2). The prophet has written that this Messiah will delight in knowledge and honor of God and will not be taken in by mere appearances (Isaiah 11:3).

Now, Isaiah adds that, unlike the kings and people of his own time, the Messiah will care about the poor and about justice. He will do what is right for those in need. This king will judge with fairness for the meek and the powerless of the earth. This is Isaiah's first hint that the Messiah's rule will extend to the entire world. This ruler will not merely do what is right for the poor, powerless, and innocent. The Messiah will bring perfect justice against the wicked. He will strike the earth with the power and authority of His words. He will give the command and those deserving of death for their wickedness will be killed.

No mere human king would have the wisdom, power, or authority to do what Isaiah is describing in this passage. It is becoming clear that this future leader will be both human and more than human.

This Messiah is Jesus, the Son of God (Luke 4:17–21). He came once to serve and to die for the sins of humanity (John 3:16–18). Isaiah is describing the kingdom Jesus Christ will establish when He returns to rule and reign over the earth (Revelation 19:11–15). Paul, too, describes Jesus' ability to kill with the "breath of His mouth" (2 Thessalonians 2:8).
Verse Context:
Isaiah 11:1–16 once more returns to a description of a glorious kingdom to come. This passage was written when Israel's earthly kingdom hung by a thread. That future kingdom will be lead by a descendant of Jesse, David's father. He will rule the earth in the Spirit of the Lord, and restore righteousness, justice, and peace to the earth. All will live in harmony. All the non-Jewish nations will gather under the banner of the Messiah. The Lord will reassemble His Israelite people to their land from the four corners of the earth.
Chapter Summary:
Isaiah describes a future leader who will be raised up from line of Jesse and King David. The leader will be a man and yet more than just a man. He will be powered by the Spirit of the Lord to lead with wisdom, might, and knowledge. He will restore justice and bring peace to the world, ending all conflict. The non-Jewish nations of the earth will come to Him. He will reassemble the scattered Israelites. The reunited nation will have final victory over their enemies under His rule.
Chapter Context:
Isaiah 11 follows the previous chapter's promise of the Lord's defeat of the Assyrian Empire. Along with the promise that a descendant of King David will one day rule Israel and the world. He will rule in the power of the Spirit of the Lord with wisdom, justice, and righteousness. Conflict will cease, even among the animals. All the non-Jewish nations will gather to the Messiah. The Lord will reassemble His Israelite people to the land from the four corners of the world. Reunited as one nation, they will defeat their enemies and live under the rule of the Lord. Chapter 12 continues this description.
Book Summary:
Isaiah is among the most important prophetic books in the entire Bible. The first segment details God's impending judgment against ancient peoples for sin and idolatry (Isaiah 1—35). The second part of Isaiah briefly explains a failed assault on Jerusalem during the rule of Hezekiah (Isaiah 36—39). The final chapters predict Israel's rescue from Babylonian captivity (Isaiah 40—48), the promised Messiah (Isaiah 49—57), and the final glory of Jerusalem and God's people (Isaiah 58—66).
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