The Gifts of the Spirit in Isaiah – Chapter 11

With it being Pentecost (or thereabouts) I decided to do something on the Holy Spirit.  But then I found my blog going off at a tangent, so here it is for what it’s worth.

Isaiah 11: 1-2  A shoot springs from the stock of Jesse, a scion from his roots: on him the spirit of the Lord rests, a spirit of wisdom and insight, a spirit of counsel and power, a spirit of knowledge and the fear of the Lord. (Jerusalem Bible)

The Catholic church says there are seven gifts of the spirit in Isaiah, but if you count above you will find six.  This is because there are seven in the Old Testament Greek translation called the Septuagint dating from the 3rd century BC.  This translation was made from the Hebrew by 70 Hebrew scholars (Septuagint – got it?) in Alexandria and commissioned during the reign of Ptolemy Philadelphus in 285-247 BC.

Isaiah 11:1-2  And there shall come forth a rod out of the root of Jesse, and a blossom shall come up from his root: and the Spirit of God shall rest upon him, the spirit of wisdom and understanding, the spirit of counsel and strength, the spirit of knowledge and Godliness shall fall on him.  The spirit of the fear of God.  (Septuagint)

Does it matter?  Perhaps not, but it is important to remember that Hebrew often has nuances which are lost in translation.  Hence seven gifts of the Spirit in the Greek conveying what was expressed in six in the Hebrew.  Also there is often a preference for sevens, amongst theologians and bible scholars, as seven  is God’s number of holiness and completeness, as in seven days of creation.

The Septuagint was regarded as a very good translation in the lingua franca of the ancient world.  It may also be that it was present in those times in a more portable form than the Hebrew scrolls which were kept in the synagogues.  When Jesus quotes from the scriptures he is quoting from the Septuagint most of the time.

Nowadays modern translations pay more attention to the Hebrew but the Catholic church also makes use of the Septuagint.  This is particularly noticeable in the book of Esther.  In a non-Catholic bible there is no mention of God in this book.  In a Catholic bible – there is.  It is worth doing a study with both bibles open side by side to see this.

Back to the Gifts of the Spirit.  Here they are listed;

From the Greek (Septuagint)                                 From the Hebrew (Jerusalem Bible)

Wisdom                                                                                   Wisdom

Insight                                                                                      Knowledge

Counsel                                                                                    Counsel

Power                                                                                       Strength

Knowledge                                                                              Knowledge


The fear of the Lord                                                              The fear of the Lord

When the gifts of the Spirit are referred to the Catholic church often refers to these gifts in Isaiah 11.  It is important to remember that there is another list of gifts in the First Letter of St Paul to the Corinthians.

1 Cor 12:7-11  The particular way in which the Spirit is given to each person is for a good purpose.  One may have the gift of preaching with wisdom given him by the Spirit; another may have the gift of preaching instruction given him by the same Spirit; and another the gift of faith given him by the same Spirit; another again the gift of healing, through this one Spirit; one, the power of miracles; another, prophecy; another the gift of recognising spirits; another the gift of tongues and another the ability to interpret them.  All these are the work of one and the same Spirit, who distributes different gifts to different people as he chooses.

In summary these could be listed as;







Discernment of spirits (very Ignatian)


Interpretation of Tongues


I would suggest that the list from Isaiah is a comfortable one and the list from Corinthians is more challenging.  (e.g. Send me any gift Lord except tongues.)

The other thing to remember about the list in Isaiah is that these gifts are exhibited by a particular person described as a shoot from the stock of Jesse.  Who might this be?

Jesse (1 Samuel 16;1-13) was the father of David who is anointed by Samuel to be King of Israel.  David later receives the promise, through the prophet Nathan, of a descendent who will have an everlasting Kingdom. (2 Samuel 7:1-17).

Who is this person?  Jesus, of course!  Have a look at the lineage of Jesus given in the Gospel of St Matthew 1:1-16 and the Gospel of St Luke 3:23-38 and find the names of Jesse and David.  Note – There are differences in the 2 lineages thought now to be because Matthew gives Joseph’s lineage and Luke gives Mary’s.  Both lineages are royal lines of the House of David and the tribe of Judah.

“A shoot springs from the stock of Jesse”

What Jesus is he shows us and what he has he shares with us.  Being in Christ we can see how those gifts of the Spirit were poured out at Pentecost over the Apostles and the baby church  (Acts chapter 2) including those particular gifts mentioned by Paul in First Corinthians.  These gifts are still being poured out to this day.

Additionally we can see the great comfort of the Fruits of the Spirit listed by St Paul in the letter to the Galatians 6:22  “Love, Joy, Peace, Patience, Kindness, Goodness, Faithfullness, Gentleness, Self-control.”

We can see how the gifts and fruits of the Spirit are given to build up the church and transformed the apostles from frightened men hiding in the upper room, into bold witnesses for Christ.

We can also see those gifts in Jesus the “author and perfector of our faith”.  Hebrews 12:2.