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.
Among others, Cyril of Alexandria considered Isaiah’s prophecy as already fulfilled in a metaphorical way. He wrote that knowledge of the Lord had already come with Jesus Christ and that it dwells on the Holy Mountain-like Church to where animalistic heathens are drawn. Martin Luther followed the same line but was especially concerned that all should be allowed to come to Jesus without any outside force.
But Irenaeus of Lyons disagrees with Cyril’s metaphorical approach. Iraneus accepts the text’s message as it is. Thus he connects it with the world situation that the Lord, Our God, had originally planned for us. We can, by accepting The Word, Jesus Christ, and His sacrifice, live in that atmosphere, being free from sin and its consequent disharmony. Irenaeus points out that when the Lord’s Peace makes even the animals like lions to tranquilly eat straw, why would (or should) man commit violence just to fill his belly?
We too can ponder Irenaeus words. An important consideration to make is that if the time prophesied already began 2000 years ago because our Lord Jesus being here on earth, aren’t we supposed to try and live accordingly: in harmony with all of God’s creatures great and small without any trace of violence? And on the other hand, if the Day of The Lord is yet to come in an undefined future (Mark 13:32), shouldn’t we try to be ready for that day by starting already now to “neither harm nor destroy”?
“It will be good for those servants whose master finds them ready” (Luke 12:38).
…From part of an exegetic essay I wrote this week on Isaiah 11:6-9. Literature used: New International Version of the Holy Bible; Childs, Brevard S. (2004). The Struggle to Understand Isaiah as Christian Scripture. Louisville: Westminster John Knox; Wilken, Robert Louis (2007). Isaiah, Interpreted by Early Christian and Medieval Commentators. (From: The Church’s Bible) Grand Rapids/Cambridge: Eerdmans