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Isaiah - The Stump of Jesse

Trees, stumps, roots, shoots, plants & gardens!

Written by David Steltz on .




We’re going to be looking at chapter 11 today, and rather than have one of us read the chapter out loud, we’re going to play a video with the first 10 verses:


Chapter 11 starts out with a very interesting image:

Isaiah 11:1 (CSB)

1 Then a shoot will grow from the stump of Jesse,

and a branch from his roots will bear fruit.

The verses that come after build on this idea of the shoot from the stump and the branch from his roots. This is a metaphor describing a person, and the rest of the chapter describes what this person will do, and the impact he will have on the world.

So, we’re going to spend some time looking at the metaphor itself, and its significance. It’s unique in that only the Messiah is described in exactly this way. But it’s also not unique, in that trees and plants are very commonly used as metaphors for people, and trees and plants are a very core thematic element in scripture. So we’re going to talk about that just a little bit.

Then, we’re also going to look at what some of these implications are of this person’s arrival. Some of the major effects that Isaiah is prophesying the Messiah will have on the world.

Stump of Jesse

So, first of all, what is the “stump of Jesse?” Actually, before we answer that, who is Jesse?


ASK: Who is Jesse?

  • Father of David
  • Grandson of Ruth

So, the name “Jesse” is being used like a patriarch of the Davidic dynasty, the Davidic line of Kings, and thereby the Davidic covenant. The Davidic covenant was a promise to David, for the whole nation of Israel, which at that point was not yet divided. But the fact that Isaiah singles out David’s lineage also keys into the fact that the Messiah was promised to come through the line of David, from the tribe of Judah.

We’re going to talk more about the importance of this, but it should be on your radar right away that we’re talking about King David’s lineage: that’s what the name “Jesse” should immediately bring to mind.


So, we know who Jesse is, but what is the stump of Jesse?

ASK: What is a stump?

A “stump” is what’s left of something after the majority of it has been cut down, or cut off. Generally, a “stump” is the bottom part of a tree that has had the rest of the trunk chopped down. When a tree hasn’t been completely uprooted, but the top part of the tree is chopped down, you’re left with a stump.

So, why is this image of a “stump” being associated with Jesse?

It’s implying that Jesse’s descendants grew into something...and in fact, they did! David and Solomon built a great and powerful kingdom! A tall, mighty tree! But that tree was cut down, leaving only a stump. A shadow of what once was.


Israel being “cut down” like a tree corresponds to the “doom and gloom” message of Isaiah and other pre-exile prophets. BUT the main point in verse 1 of Isaiah 11 is not to dwell on how depressing the stump is! Rather, it is providing the hope of new life, new growth! It says that out of the stump, a shoot will grow. The “shoot” of a plant is the stem and appendages, where eventually leaves and branches grow. So we should be picturing just a little seedling of new growth, shooting up out of the stump. And then the second half of verse 1 says that it will grow to full maturity: having branches and bearing fruit.

So, verse 1 sets up the whole rest of the chapter with this very clear image: a stump of a tree that has been cut down, representing how Israel will have fallen, but of this new growth, representing hope: the hope of God’s plan for restoring life to Israel through the line of David.

The Metaphor of Trees & Plants

Now, before we move on further in the chapter, we want to pause and just acknowledge the significance of this type of metaphor in the larger narrative of scripture.

Again, this specific metaphor, of a shoot coming from the stump of Jesse, and the branches from its roots bearing fruit, is unique. But people are compared to trees and plants in many other ways and thinking of people as plants was a very common metaphor in ancient Jewish culture. In fact, you can find it in every major genre of literature in the Bible: it’s in the narrative, in the poetry, in the prophets, and in speeches and letters.

In OUR culture, we might not use this metaphor quite as often or in exactly the same ways, BUT it’s still not totally foreign to us, if you think about it. We have a lot of terms and phrases which refer to people as plants:

  • If we say someone is blossoming we don’t mean they are suddenly growing soft, colorful petals out of their neck, it means they are developing good, attractive, qualities, or maturing and becoming more successful in some way.
  • If we say someone is “putting down roots here” we don’t mean that they have a literal root system coming out of their toes and into the ground, it means they really love the North Country and have decided to settle here and make connections with the community, and maybe family, and they have long-term expectations of staying around.
  • We even use this kind of metaphor to talk about our own lineage and genealogies, don’t we? What do we call a diagram of our relatives over multiple generations? A family TREE! Trust us, a flow-chart diagram of a genealogy does not align perfectly with the metaphor, or even just the shape of a tree (trust us, we went way too far down that rabbit hole), but we don’t hesitate to talk about and diagram our “family trees” and even learn how to make them in school!

So, Isaiah 11 starts out by talking about a tree stump, and roots, and new growth coming out of it, to become a full, fruit-bearing tree again. And it’s using all of this imagery as a metaphor, to describe people: the people of Israel, the line of David, and the Messiah: the one who will restore life to the people.

Trees, Plants, Garden Imagery

The choice of the tree and plant imagery is not unique to this passage, nor is it unique to Isaiah. In fact, Trees and plants, both literal and symbolic, are significant throughout the whole Bible from beginning to end!

There are a TON of references to trees in the bible; it’s a major theme that we couldn’t even begin to tackle in just one week, and we want to focus on what Isaiah is saying, but just to acknowledge the significance of this theme, we wanted to list just a few of the major references you might be familiar with.

  • Garden of Eden: Trees of course play a HUGE rule in the Garden of Eden. Here the Tree of Life is introduced, which would sustain human life forever, but also the Tree of Knowing Good and Bad, which was the ONE tree in the whole garden that was off limits. When the humans took from that tree, they were banished from the Garden and no longer had access to the Tree of Life. THIS tree is a bookend of our Bibles.
  • Wood: Hebrew nerd moment: in Hebrew, the word for “wood” is the same as the word for “tree” (עֵץ) ...which kind of makes sense, because wood comes from trees. But we don’t necessarily automatically think “tree” when we see the word “wood.” But in Hebrew, that association is more obvious. This is interesting when you consider how “wood” or “tree” was used in sacrifices (think Abraham and Isaac), or how Noah and his family were saved from the flood by living in an ark made of “tree.” Suddenly, it just opens up a whole bunch of “tree” references that aren’t as obvious in English.
  • Moses & the Burning Bush: Then there is that hugely pivotal moment with Moses and the burning “bush,” where Moses meets the God of his ancestors and learns his name, “Yahweh.”
    [“bush” is a different word from “tree” in Hebrew, (סְנֶה) like it is in English, but in both languages the correlation is clear between tree/plant/bush]
  • Jonah’s Plant: Of course, because we just studied Jonah recently, we have to mention Jonah’s plant! At the end of the book, there is a plant of great significance, which God uses as a lesson to Jonah (much to his frustration), and as a symbolic prophecy for Israel.
  • Neb’s Dream: Also, in the book of Daniel, we touched on the Babylonian king Nebuchadnezzar’s dream in which he saw a large, abundant tree, which was then cut down! In his case, the tree represented him and the humiliation he would soon endure.

THIS is an amazingly similar picture but showing how a normal human cannot be the messiah! The tree was his kingdom, it was cut off and capped, and later there was re-growth after Neb was humbled and acknowledged God. SIMILAR story to Israel!

  • New Testament: And before you think this theme is mainly just for the Old Testament, in the New Testament, you have
    • Zacchaeus and the sycamore tree,
    • a blind man being healed saw people walking around and described them as “trees walking,”
    • people gathered under trees,
    • Jesus saw Nathanael under the fig tree,
    • Jesus cursed a fig tree,
    • Jesus was killed on a “tree” (and mistaken for a “gardener”) after he resurrected),
    • Paul wrote about Jesus followers being “grafted” into Israel’s tree trunk, and being “rooted” in Christ.
    • And as we’ll see in a bit, we see tree and garden imagery play a major role in Revelation as well.

Now, some of these references and their significance are more clear or obvious than others, but the point is that there are a LOT of them! Trees, plants, and gardens can be used in a variety of ways, and to represent a variety of things in scripture. But in general, and certainly in the context of Isaiah, these images are meant to make you think of a few certain things: maturity, growth, abundance, safety, and especially a return to Eden and the tree of life as we are talking of the Anointed One!

The promise of Isaiah 11:1 is a promise of the Messiah. The Messiah will bring humanity back to the garden of Eden.

Isaiah is saying that, although that one tree in the garden got humankind in trouble, and the tree of Israel’s kingdom will be cut down, another tree will come, and by being killed on a tree, will restore the tree, so they can be a tree, and eat from the right tree again.

Since this theme is so prevalent in our Bibles, most of the rest of our time will be spent reading passages with you. Get your pens ready to write down the references and be ready to start turning or tapping as we travel from Genesis to Revelation.

Hebrew Mindset

And the message of Isaiah in this passage is one of hope for the Messiah (anointed one) will come on that day! This promise of the Messiah has been engrained into the heart of mankind since Genesis 3 when we were kicked out of the garden:

Genesis 3:15 (CSB) — 15 I will put hostility between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring. He will strike your head, and you will strike his heel.

If you read the NASB, NKJV or RSV you will see “seed” there, and if you have a study Bible is might give you a note that says “literally seed” or the ESV says,” Hebrew seed; so throughout Genesis”. So from the very beginning of Genesis, the plant theme and even the concept of the Messiah as a seed, has been implanted into the story of humans.

The Jews were also looking for the Messiah because of the Abrahamic and Davidic Covenants. God’s promise to Abraham was that through him all the nations of the earth would be blessed. God’s promise to David was that there would be someone from his descendants that would be on the throne for eternity.

1 Chronicles 17:23–27 (CSB) — 23 Now, Lord, let the word that you have spoken concerning your servant and his house be confirmed forever, and do as you have promised. 24 Let your name be confirmed and magnified forever in the saying, “The Lord of Armies, the God of Israel, is God over Israel.” May the house of your servant David be established before you. 25 Since you, my God, have revealed to your servant that you will build him a house, your servant has found courage to pray in your presence. 26 Lord, you indeed are God, and you have promised this good thing to your servant. 27 So now, you have been pleased to bless your servant’s house that it may continue before you forever. For you, Lord, have blessed it, and it is blessed forever.

1 Chronicles 28:4 (CSB) — 4 “Yet the Lord God of Israel chose me out of all my father’s family to be king over Israel forever. For he chose Judah as leader, and from the house of Judah, my father’s family, and from my father’s sons, he was pleased to make me king over all Israel.

Obviously, David knew he was mortal and that HE would not be the king forever. Yet he speaks as if he would be.

The Hebrew mindset was that God would establish the Davidic rule through a descendant. For this reason, very accurate records of genealogies were kept of David’s family line, even to this day.

The Prophets Use of Tree Imagery

Of course, the prophets seem to have had a LOT to say about the messiah. Let’s continue on with our OT passages.

In chapter 11, we have these elements:

  • TREE = nation of Israel
  • STUMP = The broken remnant of Israel
  • ROOTS & BRANCH = Messiah

Now, let’s look at some of the other ways the prophets use tree imagery.

Isaiah 4:2 (ESV) — 2 In that day the branch of the Lord shall be beautiful and glorious, and the fruit of the land shall be the pride and honor of the survivors of Israel.

Jeremiah 23:5 (ESV) — 5 “Behold, the days are coming, declares the Lord, when I will raise up for David a righteous Branch, and he shall reign as king and deal wisely, and shall execute justice and righteousness in the land.

Jeremiah 33:14–15 (ESV) — 14 “Behold, the days are coming, declares the Lord, when I will fulfill the promise I made to the house of Israel and the house of Judah. 15 In those days and at that time I will cause a righteous Branch to spring up for David, and he shall execute justice and righteousness in the land.

Isaiah seems to really want to plant in us this concept of seed, root, branch and tree (pun!). All of them being garden imagery.

Mike shared on chapters 6 and 9. BOTH have a reference to David and/or some form of tree/garden imagery:

Isaiah 6:11-13 - Then I said, “Lord, how long?” And he answered, “Until cities are devastated and without inhabitant, Houses are without people And the land is utterly desolate, The Lord has removed men far away, And the forsaken places are many in the midst of the land. Yet there will be a tenth portion in it, And it will again be subject to burning, Like a terebinth or an oak Whose stump remains when it is felled. The holy seed is its stump.”

Isaiah 9:7 (CSB) — The dominion will be vast, and its prosperity will never end. He will reign on the throne of David and over his kingdom, to establish and sustain it with justice and righteousness from now on and forever. The zeal of the Lord of Armies will accomplish this.

When we come to chapter 11, the idea of a seed and stump have been planted within us. We also have the reminder of the throne of David. Then we read this:

Isaiah 11 (CSB) 1-10 Then a shoot will grow from the stump of Jesse, and a branch from his roots will bear fruit. 2 The Spirit of the Lord will rest on him— a Spirit of wisdom and understanding, a Spirit of counsel and strength, a Spirit of knowledge and of the fear of the Lord. 3 His delight will be in the fear of the Lord. He will not judge by what he sees with his eyes, he will not execute justice by what he hears with his ears, 4 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. 5 Righteousness will be a belt around his hips; faithfulness will be a belt around his waist. 6 The wolf will dwell with the lamb, and the leopard will lie down with the goat. The calf, the young lion, and the fattened calf will be together, and a child will lead them. 7 The cow and the bear will graze, their young ones will lie down together, and the lion will eat straw like cattle. 8 An infant will play beside the cobra’s pit, and a toddler will put his hand into a snake’s den. 9 They will not harm or destroy each other on my entire holy mountain, for the land will be as full of the knowledge of the Lord as the sea is filled with water. 10 On that day the root of Jesse will stand as a banner for the peoples. The nations will look to him for guidance, and his resting place will be glorious.

First of all, you cannot read this passage and NOT see the Exodus written all over it! [but that is another sermon!]

SIDE NOTE: the spirit of the Lord will rest upon him” is a great connector or hyperlink to the baptism of Jesus and connecting Jesus with this Messiah passage.

New Testament

By the time we get to the New Testament, there has been silence from the prophets, but there is still the hope of shoot/branch from Jesse, the holy seed, the Davidic heir to the throne that will restore Israel and also restore creation back to the Eden ideal.

The Hebrew mindset has not changed – the people wait eagerly for the coming Anointed One who will establish his rule and redeem mankind (and all of creation for that matter!)

The message from the angel to Mary gives us a clear picture into the mindset of the people and the plan of God. Those two were not at odds except in how they thought it would look when it was fulfilled.

Luke 1:30–33 (CSB) — 30 Then the angel told her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. 31 Now listen: You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you will name him Jesus. 32 He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High, and the Lord God will give him the throne of his father David. 33 He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and his kingdom will have no end.”

The covenant with David is quoted to Mary – that her son would be that One who will sit on the throne for eternity.

This is one of our famous Christmas passages! Though it is significant that a human found favor with God (much like Noah, Abraham and others did) and it is significant that he will be named Jesus, the news of MAJOR significance is that this is the PROMISED ONE! This is the Messiah, the one selected by God to rule on his behalf for the rest of eternity! This is the branch from the stump of Jesse.

Jesus also referred to the promise to David when he confronted the religious leaders (Pharisees) towards the end of his earthly ministry:

Matthew 22:42–45 (CSB) — 42 “What do you think about the Messiah? Whose son is he?” They replied, “David’s.” 43 He asked them, “How is it then that David, inspired by the Spirit, calls him ‘Lord’: 44 The Lord declared to my Lord, ‘Sit at my right hand until I put your enemies under your feet’? 45 “If David calls him ‘Lord,’ how, then, can he be his son?”

Jesus pointed out that the Messiah must be more than a human to be the Lord of his father. In that way he was stating that the seed of David must be more than just a seed of man but also a holy seed – divine. This is the root from the stump of Jesse.

In the book of Acts, Paul’s first missionary speech and his first public speech at all, he stands up in the synagogue and gives the history of Israel and how it pointed to the Messiah.             In that speech he says this:

Acts 13:22–23 (CSB) — After removing [Saul as king], he raised up David as their king and testified about him, ‘I have found David the son of Jesse to be a man after my own heart, who will carry out all my will.’ “From this man’s descendants, as he promised, God brought to Israel the Savior, Jesus.

And a bit later in the speech he says,

Acts 13:36–37 (CSB) — For David, after serving God’s purpose in his own generation, fell asleep, was buried with his fathers, and decayed, but the one God raised up did not decay.

As Paul continued to preach and teach, he made some bold statements that the root of Jesse, the Messiah, did not come JUST for Jews. THIS Is the good news that brings great joy of ALL PEOPLE!

Isaiah 11 is a message “for the nations”, NOT just the Jews!

Isaiah 11:10 (CSB) — On that day the root of Jesse will stand as a banner for the peoples. The nations will look to him for guidance, and his resting place will be glorious.

The word “peoples” refers to “kin” and very likely would represent Israel. However, the word “nations” has the meaning of pagans or heathen nations – which would NOT be Israel. It is a reminder that the messiah would be the one to fulfill the Abrahamic covenant that through a descendant of Abraham all the nations of the earth would be blessed.

In the NT the word “Gentile” is the word ethnos from which we get our word ethnic. In the Greek it means people groups or nations and has a similar meaning to the Hebrew word we just talked about.

Paul makes this connection and makes a bold statement:

Romans 15:12 (CSB) — 12 And again, Isaiah says, The root of Jesse will appear, the one who rises to rule the Gentiles; the Gentiles will hope in him.

“The one God anointed for his purpose will appear, the one who will rule the nations; all people groups will hope in him.” (ME – Mike’s Edition)

The good news, the gospel, is that freedom from sin and acceptance into God’s kingdom is available to all including you and me!

At the end of our Bibles is the book of Revelation. Some of you love this book, others avoid it at all costs. It is the book of the new Genesis – the re-creation of mankind and the re-establishment of what God set up in Eden.

Revelation 2:7 (CSB)

“Let anyone who has ears to hear listen to what the Spirit says to the churches. To the one who conquers, I will give the right to eat from the tree of life, which is in the paradise of God.

The beginning of the book of Revelation takes us to the throne room of heaven where the divine council is in session. By chapter 5 we have the beginning of the judgement on the nations.

Revelation 5:2–6 (ESV) — 2 And I saw a mighty angel proclaiming with a loud voice, “Who is worthy to open the scroll and break its seals?” 3 And no one in heaven or on earth or under the earth was able to open the scroll or to look into it, 4 and I began to weep loudly because no one was found worthy to open the scroll or to look into it. 5 And one of the elders said to me, “Weep no more; behold, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has conquered, so that he can open the scroll and its seven seals.”

Jesus takes the scroll and when he does a heavenly song breaks out (Revelation the Musical):

Revelation 5:9–10 (CSB) — 9 And they sang a new song: You are worthy to take the scroll and to open its seals, because you were slaughtered, and you purchased people for God by your blood from every tribe and language and people and nation. 10 You made them a kingdom and priests to our God, and they will reign on the earth.

All nations are welcome back to God because of Jesus and those that accept Jesus belong to the kingdom, to serve as priests (God’s representatives) and to reign the earth (the original commandment in Eden to rule over the earth and subdue it).

FLASHBACK: This is what Isaiah was referring to in this section:

Isaiah 11:6–9 (CSB) — 6 The wolf will dwell with the lamb, and the leopard will lie down with the goat. The calf, the young lion, and the fattened calf will be together, and a child will lead them. 7 The cow and the bear will graze, their young ones will lie down together, and the lion will eat straw like cattle. 8 An infant will play beside the cobra’s pit, and a toddler will put his hand into a snake’s den. 9 They will not harm or destroy each other on my entire holy mountain, for the land will be as full of the knowledge of the Lord as the sea is filled with water.

Things will be restored, by the root of Jesse – back to the way God created in the beginning.


When we get to the end of the Revelation, see the re-creation of the earth as a new Eden. Our Bibles end in a restored version of where they began because of the root of Jesse!

There is a new heaven, new earth and new city. And in the middle of this new city, this new Jerusalem, is a TREE:

Revelation 22:1–3 (CSB) — 1 Then he showed me the river of the water of life, clear as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb 2 down the middle of the city’s main street. The tree of life was on each side of the river, bearing twelve kinds of fruit, producing its fruit every month. The leaves of the tree are for healing the nations, 3 and there will no longer be any curse. The throne of God and of the Lamb will be in the city, and his servants will worship him.

The tree that mankind was barred from having access to in Genesis 3 will be fully available for all to eat from – the tree of life! The curse from Genesis 3 will no longer exists. ALL of this is brought about because of the “branch of Jesse”.

Revelation 22:16 (ESV) — 16 “I, Jesus, have sent my angel to testify to you about these things for the churches. I am the root and the descendant of David, the bright morning star.”

There are only 5 verses after that one in our Bibles. This was the last summary statement of Jesus and the completion of the story of God redeeming mankind through the Messiah.

Kingdom Conclusion/Summary

God is going to grow a new Eden for a new humanity, which is a new Jerusalem and a new temple. This is the new seed that God promised David he would plant. The seed who will accomplish God’s plan is the suffering servant who, like Moses, offers his life for the people. Isaiah brings these themes together in significant ways.

The Gospel authors later tap into this imagery in their depiction of Jesus, the seed who will be the new David and new Adam, who will bring about a new people through sacrificing his life on their behalf.

That sacrifice was not the show of kingly force against Rome that Israel was hoping for. And yet, it was exactly what Israel, and the rest of the world needed, and in the biggest plot twist of all time, Christ’s execution was also his inauguration. And now, Jesus, a new kind of human, sits as king on the throne over all creation, inviting all who would follow him to become new humans and enter his kingdom. He is our king and high priest, and we, the church, are his servants and his temple.

Today, in this age, may his gift to us, the Holy Spirit, so nourish and permeate the branches and leaves of our lives, that we bear fruit worthy of the master gardener, and let us look with hope and anticipation to the day when we all enjoy perfect peace, abundance, health and safety, in the garden of God’s kingdom.

Isaiah - The Stump of Jesse