"Little child" in Isa
There is obvious connection among Isa 7:14; Isa 9:6,7; and Isa
The first two prophecies were, firstly and in a limited sense,
about the child Hezekiah. in Isa 7, Isaiah is commanded to bring his message of
hope to king Ahaz. The original "virgin" in the context would have been his
bride-to-be. Ahaz seems to scoff at Isaiah's offer of an encouraging message --
he wants nothing to do with the God of Israel. But the child which his young
wife would bear to him would be Hezekiah; this special child of promise was
destined to deliver his people from the Assyrian threat.
Isa 9:6,7 -- in the immediate historical context -- carries
forward the promises of Isaiah. The new child would become king, would be
specially strengthened by Yahweh (as his symbolic name implied: "Immanuel" --
"God is with us!"), and would be bring peace to a war-torn and broken
In these first two passages also, the connections with the
coming Messiah are obvious and powerful -- so much so that sometimes the
original history and Old Testament connections are not given the full weight
they deserve. But it is worth recognizing their primary -- if only partial --
fulfillment in the days of Hezekiah and Sennacherib. And seeing the "big
picture" of Isaiah helps in this respect.
This brings us to the third "child" prophecy, in Isa 11. The
words of Isaiah describe a scene of complete tranquility, when all the savagery
of the beasts of the field has been removed:
"The wolf will live with the lamb, the leopard will lie down
with the goat, the calf and the lion and the yearling together; and a little
child will lead them. The cow will feed with the bear, their young will lie down
together, and the lion will eat straw like the ox. The infant will play near the
hole of the cobra, and the young child put his hand into the viper's nest. They
will neither harm nor destroy on all my holy mountain, for the earth will be
full of the knowledge of the LORD as the waters cover the sea" (Isa
It is certainly a picture, in broad and general terms, of
man's reclamation of dominion over the earth, and his subjugation of the animal
kingdom (Gen 1:28).
But it is more than that; it is a picture, in specific terms,
of Christ's victory over sin and death. (And this is precisely what a failure to
link together the Scriptures -- and look for the larger context, the "forest"
and not just the "trees" -- may cause us to miss.) In the final and complete
fulfillment, Christ is the son born of the virgin in Isa 7:14; he is also the
child born "unto us" in Isa 9:6. Then, considering this context, he is just as
surely the "little child" in Isa 11:6, and the "infant" ("sucking child": AV)
and finally the "young child" ("weaned child": AV) in Isa 11:8. So the beautiful
vision of these verses is not impersonal. It is not just about ANY young child
-- or even ALL young children; it is about Christ!
Isa 11:6 shows Christ as the "little child" because of his
perfect trust in God (cp Mat 19:13,14); he is the "babe" ordained in strength to
still the enemy and to have dominion over all creation (Psa 8:2,6-8).
Isa 11:8 shows Christ as the "sucking child" and then the
"weaned child" -- feeding first on the "milk" and then on the "meat" of the
word, growing in spirit and wisdom and grace (Luke 2:40). Both "cobra" and
"viper" belong to the "seed of the serpent" (Gen 3:15; Mat 3:7; 23:33). Jesus,
under the nurture and admonition of his Heavenly Father, steadily grew in
spiritual strength, and steadily faced one by one the trials of the "adversary"
in his flesh. He had nothing to fear from the power of the serpent, for he faced
it and overcame it with a greater power -- faith in God's word and promises.
And, finally, in the kingdom age, the "den" of the serpent will hold no fear
whatsoever for Christ, or for those who like him have become "little children"
Note: Here is another question: is the description of the
great predators lying down at peace with their prey, in Isa 11, to be taken
literally, or only symbolically? While not ruling out some sort of more literal
fulfillment, the context surely points toward a symbolic fulfillment:
"But you, Bethlehem... out of you will come for me one who
will be ruler over Israel, whose origins are from of old, from ancient times [cp
Isa 9:6: 'everlasting Father']. Therefore Israel will be abandoned until the
time when she who is in labor gives birth [cp Isa 7:14: 'a virgin shall
conceive'; also cp with Mic 4:9,10]... He will stand and shepherd his flock [as
a shepherd protects his flock from wild beasts like the wolf or leopard or
lion!] in the strength of the LORD, in the majesty of the name of the LORD his
God... And he will be their peace [cp Isa 9:6: 'prince of peace']. When the
Assyrian invades our land and marches through our fortresses, we will raise
against him seven shepherds, even eight leaders of men. They will rule [or
'crush' -- like Gen 3:15 again!] the land of Assyria with the sword... He will
deliver us from the Assyrian when he invades our land and marches into our
borders... The remnant of Jacob will be among the nations, in the midst of many
peoples, like a lion among the beasts of the forest, like a young lion among
flocks of sheep [cp the language of Isa 11:6-9], which mauls and mangles as it
goes, and no one can rescue... I will take vengeance in anger and wrath upon the
nations that have not obeyed me" (Mic 5:2-15).
- If the "little child" in Isa 7 and Isa 9 is, ultimately, Jesus Christ, then
what is the real point of HIS proximity to the den of the poisonous serpent,
without danger to himself... if it be not Gen 3:15? In other words, Jesus -- the
child born of the virgin (the "seed of the woman": Gen 3:15!) -- is the one who
will bring true peace (Isa 9:6,7) by crushing the head of the "serpent" of sin.
And if the "child" and the "serpent" are to be best understood figuratively,
then what about the "wolf" and the "leopard" and the "lion" and the "calf" and
- The whole of the immediate context -- Isa 7-12 -- pictures
an imminent threat from the Assyrian invaders, and a people living in fear of
their depredations: in effect, a flock of helpless sheep in dread of the wild
beasts that will attack and devour them. Against this threat the LORD will raise
up a "prince of peace" (Isa 9:6) -- through whom these "wild beasts" will be
themselves destroyed. Consider how closely these verses mirror the prophecy of
Micah (a contemporary of Isaiah):