Written by Paul J. Bucknell on August, 15, 2019
Isaiah 11:6: An Interpretation - The Wolf Dwells with the Lamb
What is the figurative connection for the “wolf will dwell with the lamb?” Are you saying this means a specific people is being represented as the wolf and lamb?
Interpretations of Isaiah 11:6
The purpose of this article was not to fully explain the possible meanings of the words but to guide our approach to this passage. I have attempted to prove that the figurative interpretation is by far the most reliable way to approach this passage.
Many seek further explanations on the individual meaning to certain parts within this section, such as “The wolf will live with the lamb” (Isaiah 11:6). Although this goes beyond my main purpose, it can serve as an excellent example of how to use the figurative approach to guide our specific interpretations.
The interpretation of this particular passage, as always, begins in its context. The figurative approach assumes this period refers to Jesus’ work during His time on earth, though having ongoing effects. Being both poetic and figurative, we do not conclude that the wolf and lamb are literal animals, which drive us far from its intended meaning. But instead, we project the wolf to be an aggressive enemy adjacent to the vulnerable (lamb) and look for such teaching and illustrations in the New Testament.
New Testament Confirmation
Jesus Himself uses the wolf-lamb analogy to compare to wolf-like tendencies of some individuals next to His disciples (Luke 7:15, 10:3; Mat 10:16). Paul, too, says, “I know that after I leave, savage wolves will come in among you and will not spare the flock” (Acts 20:29). Without the Lord’s touch on the hearts of people, some individuals will act as wolves when near God’s people.
The two, wolves and lambs, never calmly settle down next to the other, but Jesus radically transforms relationships. The prophecy shapes our dreams about how the terrifying normal can be reversed. Saul’s conversion (cf. Acts 9) provides a wonderful picture of how the wolf predator, Saul, goes after the lambs in Antioch but later, upon his conversion, lies down with them (Jewish and Gentile believers).
Because of the gospel, innate enemies actually become lovingly committed to each other. For instance, I attend a Chinese church where there are believers from Taiwan and mainland China. Politically speaking, the large country of China, like the wolf, threatens the smaller and more vulnerable Taiwan—much like the sheep. But because of their common commitment to Christ, they together engage in worship, discipleship, and evangelism. Jesus, in His time on earth, invited all to follow Him and follow the principles of love. These otherwise implausible scenes have become regular occurrences in our churches. Praise the Lord!
A Study of Interpreting Isaiah 11