The Root of Jesse, Day 3

“The Root of Jesse, Day 3”
Isaiah 11:2b-3a
©️2020 by Gloria M. Chang

A spirit of counsel and of strength,
a spirit of knowledge and of fear of the Lord,

and his delight shall be the fear of the Lord.

Isaiah 11:2b-3a


The Hebrew word etsah (counsel, advice, guidance) is cognate with etsah (trees), from the parent root ets (tree, trees, wood). The ideal Davidic king, the shoot from the stump of Jesse, stands firm like a tree rooted in the Lord (Psalm 1:3). He rejects the “counsel of the wicked,” but follows the “counsel of the Lord.”

Blessed is the man
who walks not in the counsel of the wicked,
nor stands in the way of sinners,
nor sits in the seat of scoffers;

but his delight is in the law of the Lord,
and on his law he meditates day and night.

He is like a tree
planted by streams of water,
that yields its fruit in its season,
and its leaf does not wither.
In all that he does, he prospers.

Psalm 1:1-3 (RSV)

The counsel of the Lord stands for ever,
the thoughts of his heart to all generations.

Psalm 33:11 (RSV)


The word geburah (strength, might) comes from the verb gabar (to prevail, be strong, mighty). The name of the archangel Gabriel, which means “the strength of God” or “mighty man of God,” comes from the verbal root gabar

Job, the suffering servant of the Lord, put his trust in the strength of God. When all his earthly happiness was stripped away, the Lord upheld him with his counsel like a mighty oak: 

With him are wisdom and might;
his are counsel and understanding.

Job 12:13


The word daath (knowledge) comes from the verb yada (to know). The pictographs in the parent root דע (da) open a window onto the Biblical concept of knowledge. The letter ד (dalet) is a picture of a door. The letter ע (ayin) is a picture of the eye.1 The “door of the eye” lets in the light of distinctions. 

The first instance of the verb yada (to know) occurs in Genesis 3:5 when the serpent beguiles the woman to partake of the forbidden fruit with the claim, “your eyes will be opened and you will be like gods, who know good and evil.” Solomon asked the Lord for the wisdom to know the difference, and understanding to judge justly (1 Kings 3:9). 

The end of knowledge is the restoration of intimacy and friendship with God.

Let us know, let us strive to know the Lord;
as certain as the dawn is his coming.
He will come to us like the rain,
like spring rain that waters the earth.”

Hosea 6:3

Fear of the Lord

Fear of the Lord (yirat YHWH) fills the person with the Spirit of reverence and awe, knowing that God is ever present and aware of human thoughts, words, and actions. 

The beginning of wisdom is fear of the Lord,
and knowledge of the Holy One is understanding.

Proverbs 9:10

The Seven Gifts of the Holy Spirit

Catholic tradition identifies seven gifts of the Holy Spirit from Isaiah 11:2-3: wisdom, understanding, counsel, fortitude, knowledge, piety, and fear of the Lord.

The Hebrew text reiterates fear of the Lord in Isaiah 11:3. The distinction between piety and fear of the Lord comes from the Greek Septuagint and Latin Vulgate.

The Septuagint and the Vulgate read “piety” for “fear of the Lord” in its first occurrence, thus listing seven gifts.

New American Bible (Revised Edition) footnote to Isaiah 11:2

The Catechism of the Catholic Church (1831) states: “The seven gifts of the Holy Spirit… belong in their fullness to Christ, Son of David (Isaiah 11:1-2).”

The gifts bestowed on the coming Messiah who is “Wonder-Counselor, God-Hero, Father-Forever, Prince of Peace” (Isaiah 9:5) are infinite and beyond enumeration. By the use of word and image, the prophet Isaiah prepares his people to recognize the anointed king who is “God with us,” Emmanuel (Isaiah 7:14).


1 See Jeff A. Benner, Ancient Hebrew Lexicon of the Bible and The Ancient Hebrew Alphabet

3 Replies to “The Root of Jesse, Day 3”

  1. Dear GMC, thank you for keeping us connected through your reflection. You give us hope that we are not alone, that God is with us and that we have one another as we journey through Advent.

  2. Trees have much to teach us about life. Standing firm for years, we have a grove of some of the oldest maples in this area. They thrive in the cemetery across the street. Mighty oaks companion them in their own stands. When one of these ancient growths is damaged or diseased, the Tree Service has a giant cherry picker to reach the tops. With rope and ladders the workers climb up to cut lower limbs. I’ve watched with wonder as the job gets done.

    The ideal Davidic king, the shoot from the stump of Jesse, stands firm like a tree rooted in the Lord (Psalm 1:3). He rejects the “counsel of the wicked,” but follows the “counsel of the Lord.” Like a mighty oak or maple, the one who follows the counsel of the Lord will have firm footing, standing on the promises of God. Tree limbs show symmetery as they sprout from the trunk. This unqiue genetic growth keeps the tree balanced. May our growth steps be as balanced with attention to the counsel of the Lord.

    1. Wow, what a beautiful reflection! I’ve also had the joy of watching tree experts do their job. A mighty oak or maple from a tiny seed is a thing of wonder.

      Mountains and all hills,
      Fruit trees and all cedars,
      Bless the Lord!
      Benediction from Psalm 148:9

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