O Come, Thou Rod of Jesse’s Stem
O Come, Thou Rod of Jesse’s stem,
From ev’ry foe deliver them
That trust Thy mighty power to save,
And give them vict’ry o’er the grave.
Emmanuel Shall come to thee, O Israel.
O Radix Jesse, qui stas in signum populorum,
super quem continebunt reges os suum,
quem gentes deprecabuntur:
veni ad liberandum nos, jam noli tardare.
O Root of Jesse, standing as a sign among the peoples;
Before You kings will shut their mouths,
To You the nations will make their prayer:
Come and deliver us, and delay no longer.
LSB “O Antiphons” under Hymn 357 and in Treasury of Daily Prayer p. 1032:
O Root of Jesse, standing as an ensign
before the peoples, before whom all
kings are mute, to whom the nations
will do | homage: *
Come quickly to de- | liver us.
Radix is the Latin word “Root.” The reference is to Isaiah 11:1 and 10:
1 There shall come forth a Rod from the stem of Jesse,
And a Branch shall grow out of his roots.
10 “And in that day there shall be a Root of Jesse,
Who shall stand as a banner to the people;
For the Gentiles shall seek Him,
And His resting place shall be glorious.”
This title for Christ focuses on the fact that He is the legitimate Heir to the throne of David. He fulfills the promise made to Abraham and renewed in David. The genealogy of Christ in Matthew chapter 1 emphasizes that Jesus is the legal Inheritor of the title “Son of David” the son of Abraham. The prophecy in Isaiah and elsewhere paints the parallel that the Son of God is the Root of Jesse and ALSO the branch that grows from the stem of Jesse. The Tree and its branches represent the inheritance of the Davidic Throne according to God’s Promise. The tree symbolism also calls to remembrance Christ as the Tree of Life in Genesis 2-3, in Proverbs, and in Revelation 2:7 and 22:2.
The fact that God, the Creator of Jesse and David would choose to become the human Son of David, humbling Himself to offer His life in the place of sinners for their forgiveness would cause even Kings to shut their mouths in astonishment.
13 Behold, My Servant shall deal prudently;
He shall be exalted and extolled and be very high.
14 Just as many were astonished at you,
So His visage was marred more than any man,
And His form more than the sons of men;
15 So shall He sprinkle many nations.
Kings shall shut their mouths at Him;
For what had not been told them they shall see,
And what they had not heard they shall consider. (Isaiah 52)
Study for O Radix Jesse
The Hebrew word used for “Branch” in this text is Netzer. And while some linguists have doubted whether the name Nazareth is actually derived from this word, the crowds on Palm Sunday cut branches from the trees, acknowledge Jesus as the “Son of David” and pray to Him the words of Psalm 118.
The Gospel of Matthew in particular focuses on the fulfillment of words spoken by “the Prophets” that the Messiah would be called a “Nazarene” “Branch” and that this relates to where Jesus would grow up (2:23). Matthew highlights the word Netzer/Branch used in Isaiah 11:2. And just as English has synonyms for branch (for example: shoot, limb, rod, bud, flower) so also Hebrew has synonyms for this word (for example: Tsemach) used in other prophecies teaching the same Promise. The context makes clear that these prophecies in the Hebrew Old Testament speak of the same thing. Notice the pattern: The Tree (David’s descendents) is destroyed due to sin, God sends the miraculous Branch to sprout, forgiving sin, and through Whom God will dwell with His people forever.
Isaiah 4:2-6, preaching a hundred years before the fall of Jerusalem to Babylon and some seven hundred years before the fulfillment of the Promise:
2 In that day the Branch of the Lord shall be beautiful and glorious;
And the fruit of the earth shall be excellent and appealing
For those of Israel who have escaped.
3 And it shall come to pass that he who is left in Zion and remains in Jerusalem will be called holy—everyone who is recorded among the living in Jerusalem. 4 When the Lord has washed away the filth of the daughters of Zion, and purged the blood of Jerusalem from her midst, by the spirit of judgment and by the spirit of burning, 5 then the Lord will create above every dwelling place of Mount Zion, and above her assemblies, a cloud and smoke by day and the shining of a flaming fire by night. For over all the glory there will be a covering. 6 And there will be a tabernacle for shade in the daytime from the heat, for a place of refuge, and for a shelter from storm and rain.
From the same time period as Isaiah, Hosea the prophet uses the same imagery to discuss the same topic:
4 “I will heal their backsliding,
I will love them freely,
For My anger has turned away from him.
5 I will be like the dew to Israel;
He shall grow like the lily,
And lengthen his roots like Lebanon.
6 His branches shall spread;
His beauty shall be like an olive tree,
And his fragrance like Lebanon.
7 Those who dwell under his shadow shall return;
They shall be revived like grain,
And grow like a vine.
Their scent shall be like the wine of Lebanon.
Jeremiah 23:1-8 preaching during the fall of the Davidic Throne and about six hundred years before the fulfillment of the Promise:
“Woe to the shepherds who destroy and scatter the sheep of My pasture!” says the Lord. 2 Therefore thus says the Lord God of Israel against the shepherds who feed My people: “You have scattered My flock, driven them away, and not attended to them. Behold, I will attend to you for the evil of your doings,” says the Lord. 3 “But I will gather the remnant of My flock out of all countries where I have driven them, and I will bring them back to their folds; and they shall be fruitful and increase. 4 I will set up shepherds over them who will feed them; and they shall fear no more, nor be dismayed, nor shall they be lacking,” says the Lord.
5 “Behold, the days are coming,” says the Lord,
“That I will raise to David a Branch of righteousness;
A King shall reign and prosper,
And execute judgment and righteousness in the earth.
6 In His days Judah will be saved,
And Israel will dwell safely;
Now this is His name by which He will be called:
THE LORD OUR RIGHTEOUSNESS.
7 “Therefore, behold, the days are coming,” says the Lord, “that they shall no longer say, ‘As the Lord lives who brought up the children of Israel from the land of Egypt,’ 8 but, ‘As the Lord lives who brought up and led the descendants of the house of Israel from the north country and from all the countries where I had driven them.’ And they shall dwell in their own land.”
12 “Thus says the Lord of hosts: ‘In this place which is desolate, without man and without beast, and in all its cities, there shall again be a dwelling place of shepherds causing their flocks to lie down. 13 In the cities of the mountains, in the cities of the lowland, in the cities of the South, in the land of Benjamin, in the places around Jerusalem, and in the cities of Judah, the flocks shall again pass under the hands of him who counts them,’ says the Lord.
14 ‘Behold, the days are coming,’ says the Lord, ‘that I will perform that good thing which I have promised to the house of Israel and to the house of Judah:
15 ‘In those days and at that time
I will cause to grow up to David
A Branch of righteousness;
He shall execute judgment and righteousness in the earth.
16 In those days Judah will be saved,
And Jerusalem will dwell safely.
And this is the name by which she will be called:
THE LORD OUR RIGHTEOUSNESS.’
17 “For thus says the Lord: ‘David shall never lack a man to sit on the throne of the house of Israel; 18 nor shall the priests, the Levites, lack a man to offer burnt offerings before Me, to kindle grain offerings, and to sacrifice continually.’”
During the Exile, about 500 years before the Promise would be fulfilled, Ezekiel 17 parallels this prophecy in imagery and meaning. The same kind of image was used by God for Nebuchadnezzar in Daniel 4. But in Ezekiel 17 the imagery of the tree represents the House of David just as in the rest of the prophecies quoted above. And the fact that God cut down that tree by using Babylon (2 Kings 25:6-7). Thus the Tree of Jesse was felled at the Exile (2 Kings 25:6-7) This parallel with the fall of the Davidic Throne is made with vine and branch in Psalm 80.
Zechariah, preaching after the return from the exile (about four hundred years before Christ), preached the future fulfillment of this same promise:
8 ‘Hear, O Joshua, the high priest,
You and your companions who sit before you,
For they are a wondrous sign;
For behold, I am bringing forth My Servant the BRANCH.
9 For behold, the stone
That I have laid before Joshua:
Upon the stone are seven eyes.
Behold, I will engrave its inscription,’
Says the Lord of hosts,
‘And I will remove the iniquity of that land in one day.
10 In that day,’ says the Lord of hosts,
‘Everyone will invite his neighbor
Under his vine and under his fig tree.’”
9 Then the word of the Lord came to me, saying: 10 “Receive the gift from the captives—from Heldai, Tobijah, and Jedaiah, who have come from Babylon—and go the same day and enter the house of Josiah the son of Zephaniah.11 Take the silver and gold, make an elaborate crown, and set it on the head of Joshua the son of Jehozadak (literally: “Jesus the son of Yahweh-Is-Righteous”), the high priest. 12 Then speak to him, saying, ‘Thus says the Lord of hosts, saying:
“Behold, the Man whose name is the BRANCH!
From His place He shall branch out,
And He shall build the temple of the Lord;
13 Yes, He shall build the temple of the Lord.
He shall bear the glory,
And shall sit and rule on His throne;
So He shall be a priest on His throne,
And the counsel of peace shall be between them both.”’
About two hundred years before the Branch of David came into the world Shimon ben Yeshua ben Eliezer ben Sira of Jerusalem confessed his faith in the coming Heir to David’s Throne:
Yet God is ever merciful; his own design he will not mar fruitlessly, nor undo; should he destroy it root and branch, the posterity of his chosen servant? Should the man that so loved him have begotten sons in vain? 25 Jacob must have a stock to breed from; the root of David should burgeon yet.
Christ is both Root and Branch to Jesse’s stem. Jesus highlights this fact quoting the words of David’s Psalm 110 in Mark 12
35 Then Jesus answered and said, while He taught in the temple, “How is it that the scribes say that the Christ is the Son of David? 36 For David himself said by the Holy Spirit:
‘The Lord said to my Lord,
“Sit at My right hand,
Till I make Your enemies Your footstool.”’
37 Therefore David himself calls Him ‘Lord’; how is He then his Son?”
And the common people heard Him gladly.
Paul shows that the benefit not only of Israel but of the Gentiles according to the original Promise to Adam, Eve, and Abraham:
8 Now I say that Jesus Christ has become a servant to the circumcision for the truth of God, to confirm the promises made to the fathers, 9 and that the Gentiles might glorify God for His mercy, as it is written:
“For this reason I will confess to You among the Gentiles,
And sing to Your name.”
10 And again he says:
“Rejoice, O Gentiles, with His people!”
11 And again:
“Praise the Lord, all you Gentiles!
Laud Him, all you peoples!”
12 And again, Isaiah says:
“There shall be a root of Jesse;
And He who shall rise to reign over the Gentiles,
In Him the Gentiles shall hope.”
13 Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.
And in the closing book and closing chapter of Scripture we hear the words of the Son of God showing Him as Root and Branch, Source and Offspring, God the Creator and God incarnate to dwell with His redeemed creatures.
1 And I saw in the right hand of Him who sat on the throne a scroll written inside and on the back, sealed with seven seals. 2 Then I saw a strong angel proclaiming with a loud voice, “Who is worthy to open the scroll and to loose its seals?” 3 And no one in heaven or on the earth or under the earth was able to open the scroll, or to look at it.
4 So I wept much, because no one was found worthy to open and read the scroll, or to look at it. 5 But one of the elders said to me, “Do not weep. Behold, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has prevailed to open the scroll and to loose its seven seals.”
6 And I looked, and behold, in the midst of the throne and of the four living creatures, and in the midst of the elders, stood a Lamb as though it had been slain, having seven horns and seven eyes, which are the seven Spirits of God sent out into all the earth. 7 Then He came and took the scroll out of the right hand of Him who sat on the throne.
12 “And behold, I am coming quickly, and My reward is with Me, to give to every one according to his work. 13 I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End, the First and the Last.”
14 Blessed are those who do His commandments, that they may have the right to the tree of life, and may enter through the gates into the city. 15 But outside are dogs and sorcerers and sexually immoral and murderers and idolaters, and whoever loves and practices a lie.
16 “I, Jesus, have sent My angel to testify to you these things in the churches. I am the Root and the Offspring of David, the Bright and Morning Star.”
O Lord Jesus Christ, the new shoot Who has grown from the hewn down stump of Jesse’s line, in whom all the promises should be fulfilled; the champion of Your people, to whom the Gentile nations should turn in faith and obedience:
You come through the seed of David according to the flesh, being born in obscurity of a virgin of the royal line; You have set up Your holy Christian Church, commanding Your Apostles to make disciples of all nations through Baptism, and to train them in all that You have commanded:
Come now, we pray You, by Your grace, and tarry not, hasten the manifestation of Your kingdom; grant that Your Church may continually be increased by the gathering in of new children to You, and perfected by the increasing devotion and growth through Your Word and Sacrament.
“Behold, a Branch is Growing”
1. Behold a branch is growing
As of loveliest form and grace,
As prophets sung, foreknowing;
It springs from Jesse’s race
And bears one little Flower
In midst of coldest winter,
At deepest midnight hour.
2. Isaiah hath foretold It
In words of promise sure,
And Mary’ s arms enfold It,
A virgin meek and pure.
Through God’s eternal will
This Child to her is given
At midnight calm and still.
The Lutheran Hymnal
Text: Is. 11:1-2
Author: Unknown, c. 1500
Translated by: Harriet R. Spaeth, 1875; stanzas 1-4
Translated by: John C. Mattes,1914; stanza 5
Titled: “Es ist ein’ Ros’ entsprungen”
Tune: “Es ist ein’ Ros'”