(Isa. 11:11-12) Does this refer to the modern regathering of Israel?

CLAIM: Isaiah states that the Jewish people will be regathered “a second time.” Some interpreters argue that the first gathering refers to the Exodus from Egypt (citing verse 16), and the second gathering refers to the return from the Babylonian Exile.[1] Is this the case?

RESPONSE: This passage does not refer to the regathering under Ezra and Nehemiah. Instead, it predicts a future regathering of Israel at the end of human history.

First, Isaiah promised that a “remnant” will be regathered a second time. Yet the Exodus from Egypt was not a remnant, rather God gathered all of his people in the Exodus.

Second, the context of Isaiah 11 reveals that this event will occur toward the end of human history, when Christ returns to judge and rule the Earth (vv.5-10). As scholar Alec Motyer accurately notes, Isaiah typically uses the expression “in that day” to refer to the end of history.[2] Since Isaiah wrote this before the Exile in the eighth century BC, the return from the Babylonian and Assyrian exile was the first regathering—not the second (cf. Isa. 10:20-27; 44:26-45:8).

Third, Isaiah 11 uses language that refers to a global regathering (“from the islands of the sea… from the four corners of the earth”), rather than a local regathering like that from the Babylonian Exile. Isaiah 11 doesn’t fit with the Babylonian Exile in 538 BC which “was only from Babylon and not from these other lands.”[3] The first regathering under Ezra and Nehemiah only contained about 50,000 Jewish exiles from only a few surrounding nations.[4] Even John Goldingay—who interprets the second regathering to refer to the Babylonian Exile—frankly admits, “There has not been one particular moment when all the people of Israel have been brought back to Palestine from the four corners of the world, as is evidenced by the fact that most of the Jewish people do not live there.”[5]

While even today this prophecy has not been completely fulfilled, we’ve seen this prediction coming to fruition:

Population of Modern-day Israel[6]


Jewish Population (1948)

Jewish Population (Today)


66,000 Jews. A few hundred.
Assyria & Babylon

(modern day Iraq)

150,000 Jews

Fewer than 10!


(modern day Syria)

15,000 Jews.

Fewer than 100.


(modern day Persia, then Iran)

95,000 Jews.

20,000 to 25,000.

[1] Anthony A. Hoekema, The Bible and the Future (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1979), 206.

[2] J. A. Motyer, The Prophecy of Isaiah, Isaiah 11:10-11.

[3] John N. Oswalt, Isaiah: The New Application Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2003), 189.

[4] Eugenie Johnston writes, “About 50 thousand Jews from Babylon returned immediately under Zerubbabel (Neh. 7:6-7, 66-67). Nearly a century later, Nehemiah led another group from Shushan in Persia (Neh. 1:1; 2:1-11). No other places are mentioned from which Jews returned. Among the names of Jews who returned, we find a number of Babylonian and Persian names, indicating that the Jews had lived in these areas, but no evidence of return from other regions.” Robert C. Newman, The Evidence of Prophecy: Fulfilled Prediction as a Testimony to the Truth of Christianity (Hatfield, PA: Interdisciplinary Biblical Research Institute, 1988), 90.

[5] John Goldingay, Isaiah (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson, 2001), 86. To avoid the prediction, critical scholars hold that the nations besides Egypt and Assyria are scribal additions. See Joseph Blenkinsopp. Isaiah 1-39: A New Translation with Introduction and Commentary (New York: Doubleday, 2000), 267-268.

[6] These figures all come from the website, www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/jsource/anti-semitism/