Questions From Readers
◼ Why does Isaiah 11:6 say that “the wolf will actually reside for a while with the male lamb”? Will such peace not be permanent?
The refreshing peace in the animal creation prophesied at Isaiah 11:6-9 will be permanent. But a careful rendering of Isaiah 11:6 makes it clear that such animals will not be together constantly.
In the New World Translation of the Holy Scriptures, Isaiah 11:6 reads: “The wolf will actually reside for a while with the male lamb, and with the kid the leopard itself will lie down, and the calf and the maned young lion and the well-fed animal all together; and a mere little boy will be leader over them.”
The reading in many Bible versions is something like: “The wolf also shall dwell [or, “live”] with the lamb.” Such renderings might convey an image of a wolf and a lamb being continual companions, as if in a new family or living arrangement.
However, the Hebrew word translated “dwell” or “live” is gur. According to lexicographer William Gesenius, it means “to sojourn, to dwell for a time, to live as not at home, i.e. as a stranger, foreigner, guest.” (A Hebrew and English Lexicon of the Old Testament, translated by Edward Robinson) The lexicon by F. Brown, S. Driver, and C. Briggs gives the meaning “sojourn, dwell for a (definite or indef[inite]) time, dwell as a new-comer . . . without original rights.”
God used gur in telling Abraham to “reside as an alien” in Canaan. The patriarch would not own the land, but he could be a protected resident there. (Genesis 26:3; Exodus 6:2-4; Hebrews 11:9, 13) Likewise, Jacob said that he was ‘residing as an alien’ in the area of Haran, for he would return to Canaan.—Genesis 29:4; 32:4.
In the Paradise that God will soon establish, animals and humans will be at peace. The lamb will be at no risk to be with a wolf or a calf with a leopard. As if to show the contrast with the present, the language even allows for the idea that the wolf would be a resident protected by the lamb.—Isaiah 35:9; 65:25.a
Yet, such animals might still have distinct habitats. Some animals are suited to the forests, others to the plains, still others to the coastal regions or mountains. Even at the time of the original Paradise, God spoke of ‘domestic animals and wild beasts.’ (Genesis 1:24) Domestic animals evidently were those that might commonly be near humans and their dwellings. The wild beast, though not ferocious, apparently preferred to live away from mankind. So, as Isaiah’s prophecy foretells, the wolf will “reside for a while with the male lamb,” but it will not continuously be around such domestic animals.
a The Bible in Living English words Isaiah 11:6 this way: “And wolf will be sheep’s tenant.”
[Picture Credit Line on page 31]
Zoological Research Center, Tel-Aviv Hebrew University