When Moroni visited Joseph Smith on the night of September 21, 1823, “he quoted the eleventh chapter of Isaiah, saying that it was about to be fulfilled” (Joseph Smith—History 1:40). Isaiah 11:1–5 prophesies that Jesus the Messiah will smite the earth and slay the wicked at His Second Coming, preparing the way for the glorious Millennium (11:6–10), when He will rule with justice and righteousness. Doctrine and Covenants 113 provides us with an interpretation of some of the key elements of Isaiah 11 (see also 2 Nephi 30:9).
Rod, stem, branch, and roots continues the prophecy of the Lumberjack (the Lord) and the trees of the previous two verses (10:33–34), wherein He cut down the unproductive trees (foreign leaders and their nations, the evil trees), including the tree of Judah (kingdom of Judah). All that remains of the tree of Judah is a stem (= trunk), meaning a dead tree—the kingdom of Judah will no longer exist once the tree is cut down. rod will come forth. “What is the rod spoken of in the first verse of the 11th chapter of Isaiah, that should come of the Stem of Jesse? Behold, thus saith the Lord: It is a servant in the hands of Christ, who is partly a descendant of Jesse as well as of Ephraim, or of the house of Joseph, on whom there is laid much power” (Doctrine and Covenants 113:3–4). Stem of Jesse. The KJV’s “Stem” may also be translated “Stump.” “Who is the Stem of Jesse spoken of in the 1st, 2d, 3d, 4th, and 5th verses of the 11th chapter of Isaiah? Verily thus saith the Lord: It is Christ” (Doctrine and Covenants 113:1–2). Jesus came from the lineage of Jesse, who was the father of David; Jesus Christ would continue the Davidic royal dynasty. Branch. In this parallelism, the Branch is Christ (Jeremiah 23:3–6; Zechariah 3:8).
The several blessings in this verse—“Spirit of the Lord,” “wisdom,” “understanding,” “counsel,” “might,” “knowledge”—belong to the Messiah, Jesus Christ (see Doctrine and Covenants 113:1–2).
At His Second Coming, Jesus Christ will slay the wicked but spare the righteous. He will use His “mouth” and “lips” to utter truth and judgments against the wicked. Isaiah 11:4–5 is cited in 2 Nephi 30:9, 11. he will smite the earth with the rod of his mouth. “Rod” is used to punish and defeat enemies and predators, etc. but rather than an actual rod, God will use the power of speaking: “Therefore I command you to repent—repent, lest I smite you by the rod of my mouth, and my wrath” (Doctrine and Covenants 19:15).
sash. The twice-attested “sash”—symbolizing “righteousness” and “faithfulness.” This parallelism states that the Lord is clothed in righteousness and faithfulness. Compare Revelation 1:13, where Christ wears a robe and a golden sash.
The Millennium is the outcome of the power and righteous impact of Jesus Christ at His Second Coming (11:1–5). Isaiah’s prophecy of glorious conditions in the Millennium contains seven beautiful parallelisms.
graze. DSS Isaiah reads the verb “to graze” rather than “fatling.” “Graze” parallels the verb “lead” in the second line. Verse 6 lists six animals—three carnivores (“wolf,” “leopard,” and “lion”) feed on three tame animals (“lamb,” “kid,” and “calf”), but the Millennium will be a time of peace for the animal kingdom, to the point that a little child will lead the six animals. Furthermore, the peaceful environment extends to humankind, who alter weapons into agricultural implements: “And nation will not lift up a sword against nation, nor will they learn war again” (2:4).
Isaiah prophesies that four additional animals—two carnivores (“bear” and “lion”) and two domesticated beasts (“cow” and “ox”)—will feed together; the lion, in fact, will eat straw like the ox. In sum, during the Millennium, “the enmity of man, and the enmity of beasts, yea, the enmity of all flesh, shall cease from before [the Lord’s] face” (Doctrine and Covenants 101:26).
Isaiah pairs “nursing babe” with “toddler” (two small children who are completely helpless in the face of danger) and “viper” with “adder” (the exact identification of the two poisonous snakes is uncertain). During the Millennium, the animal kingdom will live harmoniously with humans.
In the middle of Isaiah’s prophecy, the Lord speaks this promise: “They [ravenous beasts and poisonous snakes] will not do evil nor destroy in all My holy mountain” (11:9). “In all My Holy mountain” suggests that the entire earth will be temple-like. full of the knowledge of the Lord. Joseph Smith stated, “The earth will be full of the knowledge of the Lord,” and then explained that it would be “sacred knowledge” that will fill the earth (Teachings, 93). Nephi also cited this line and explained that “all things which have been revealed unto the children of men shall at that day be revealed” (2 Nephi 30:18; see also verses 15–17). as the waters cover the sea. The sacred knowledge of God will be extensive, just “as the waters cover the sea.”
This prophecy regarding the ensign (or flag or banner), together with Isaiah’s previous prophecy about the ensign (5:26–30), is being fulfilled in our day. Just as a flag is an emblem for nations and peoples to gather around and to affirm their allegiance, God’s Saints gather around the gospel ensign.
set His hand again the second time. The first time that the Lord set His hand to gather His people was when He led Israel out of Egypt (Exodus 3:19–20; 13:3; Deuteronomy 6:21); the Restoration of the gospel in the last days, which began with Joseph Smith, signals the “second time” (Teachings, 14). Jacob 6:2 states, “And the day that he shall set his hand again the second time to recover his people, is the day, yea, even the last time, that the servants of the Lord shall go forth in his power, to nourish and prune his vineyard; and after that the end soon cometh” (see also 2 Nephi 6:14; Doctrine and Covenants 137:6). The gathering continues today. remnant of His people. The remnant refers to members of the house of Israel “who are scattered abroad upon the face of the earth” (3 Nephi 5:24). Assyria, Egypt, Pathros, Cush, Elam, Shinar, Hamath, islands—this list of nations that surrounded ancient Israel symbolizes the entire world. In the latter-days, Israel will be gathered from all nations, “from the four corners of the earth” (11:12).
He will raise an ensign. Meaning by and with God’s authority. The ensign, which may be translated “flag” or “banner,” represents the gospel of Jesus Christ (Doctrine and Covenants 45:9; 105:39). assemble the outcasts of Israel/gather the dispersed of Judah. The outcasts of both Judah and Israel (including the ten tribes) will see the ensign, recognize it as a divine signal from God, and then gather to Zion. The gathering focuses on temples and temple work, as Joseph Smith instructed. from the four corners of the earth. The gathering of Israel is not a regional event; rather, it is a global, all-embracing marvelous work and a wonder and people from all parts of the world will gather around the ensign.
Ephraim will not envy Judah/Judah will not be hostile toward Ephraim. In ancient times, the kingdom of Israel (also known as Ephraim) and the kingdom of Judah were often hostile with each other, commencing with Jeroboam’s break with Rehoboam (1 Kings 11–12). But during the last days, the entire house of Israel, all twelve tribes, will be united by the gospel of Jesus Christ.
they will swoop down. Isaiah portrays the house of Israel as birds of prey. As Israel returns to God and receives His power, righteousness, and temple blessings, it will be victorious over its former enemies—Philistines, the enemies on the east, the Edomites, Moabites, Ammonites, Egyptians, and Assyrians are all symbols for nations of our day.
Egyptian sea. The Red Sea. The language of this verse recalls the crossing of the Red Sea under the direction of Moses (Exodus 14:21–22). Just as Moses led ancient Israel out of Egypt, our modern prophets will lead us out of the world into Zion. This will be a miraculous event, just as it was during the days of Moses.
there will be a highway. This likely refers to the covenant path designed for God’s people rather than an actual highway. For this meaning of “highway,” see 40:3; 42:16; 49:11; 57:14; 62:10; and 133:27.