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What does it mean that a little child shall lead them in Isaiah 11:6?


a little child shall lead them
Question: "What does it mean that a little child shall lead them in Isaiah 11:6?"

Answer:
Isaiah 11 is centered on the theme of Israel’s restoration and includes a description of the Messiah, the righteous kingdom He will establish, and the remnant who inhabit it. After describing the Messiah (verses 1–5), Isaiah begins to elaborate on the ideal conditions of the kingdom He will set up: “The wolf shall dwell with the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the young goat, and the calf and the lion and the fattened calf together; and a little child shall lead them” (Isaiah 11:6, ESV).

In the utopian environment of the Messiah’s future realm, all dangers of the animal kingdom will cease. Isaiah couples each animal with its natural prey. The lamb will be safe from the threat of the wolf, the goat will be unharmed by the leopard, and the fatted calf will not fear the menace of the lion. Under the perfect dominion of the Prince of Peace, the state of the world will be so tame that even the most ferocious wild beasts will submit to the leading of a little child.

Human superiority over animals will continue in Messiah’s millennial kingdom but be amplified. Even small children—who would ordinarily be preyed upon by wild beasts—will not only be safe from these predatory creatures but will have control over them. This serene relationship between predator and prey is used often in prophetic Scripture to portray the state of life under the Prince of Peace: “‘The wolf and the lamb will feed together, and the lion will eat straw like the ox, and dust will be the serpent’s food. They will neither harm nor destroy on all my holy mountain,’ says the LORD” (Isaiah 65:25).

Ezekiel describes the harmony and safety of a restored creation in similar terms: “I will make a covenant of peace with them and rid the land of savage beasts so that they may live in the wilderness and sleep in the forests in safety” (Ezekiel 34:25; see also Hosea 2:18). The apostle Paul seems to echo this future expectation: “For the creation waits in eager expectation for the children of God to be revealed. For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the freedom and glory of the children of God. We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time” (Romans 8:19–22). In the restored kingdom, all creation will be at peace because the curse will be lifted.

When Isaiah said, “A little child shall lead them,” he meant that even a small boy or girl would be safe to lead former predators and prey together as if they were domesticated animals, like a dog on a leash or horse on a lead. Under Messiah’s restored kingdom, peace and security will reign over all creation, even in the wild animal kingdom, and nothing will be able to disturb or threaten that tranquility.

Recommended Resource: Isaiah, Holman Old Testament Commentary by Trent Butler

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