For he shall grow up before him as a tender plant
Which springs out of the earth without notice; low in its beginning, slow in its growth, liable to be crushed with the foot, or destroyed with the frost, and no great probability of its coming to any perfection; or rather as a little "sucker", as the word F2 signifies, which grows out of the root of a tree, at some little distance from it, of which no notice or care is taken, nor anything hoped for from it; and the figure denotes the mean and unpromising appearance of Christ at his incarnation; which is the reason given why the Jews in general disbelieved, rejected, and despised him; for this phrase of "growing up" does not design his exaltation, or rising up from a low to a high estate; but his mean entrance into the world, like that of the springing up of a low and insignificant plant or shrub out of the earth: and the phrase "before him" is to be understood either of God the Father, by whom he was taken notice of, though not by men; and in whose sight he was precious, though despised by men; or his growing up, and the manner of it, or his mean appearance, were all before the Lord, and according to his will: or else it may be understood of Christ himself, and be rendered "before himself", who was meek and lowly, and was mean and low in his own eyes; or rather it may be interpreted of the unbelieving Jew, of any or everyone of them that did not believe the report concerning him: because before him, in the sight of everyone of them, he sprung up in the manner described; unless it can be thought that it would be better rendered "to his face" F3; or "to his appearance"; that is, as to his outward appearance, in the external view of him, so he grew up: and as a root out of a dry ground;
or rather, "as a branch from a root out of a dry ground"; agreeably to ( Isaiah 11:1 ) , meaning not so much the land of Judea, where he was born; or the country of Galilee, where he was brought up; as the family of David, from whence he sprung, which was reduced to a very low condition when he was born of it; his supposed father being a carpenter, and his real mother a poor virgin in Nazareth, though both of the lineage and house of David; from this passage the ancient Jews F4 are said to conclude that the Messiah would be born without a father, or the seed of man: he hath no form nor comeliness;
like a poor plant or shrub just crept out of the ground, in a dry and barren soil, ready to wither away as soon as up; has no strength nor straightness, of body; without verdure, leaves, blossom, and fruit things which make plants comely and beautiful. This regards not the countenance of Christ, which probably was comely, as were his types Moses and David; since he is said to be "fairer than the children of men"; and since his human nature was the immediate produce of the Holy Ghost, and without sin: but his outward circumstances; there was no majesty in him, or signs of it; it did not look probable that he would be a tall cedar, or a prince in Israel, much less the Prince Messiah; he was born of mean parents; brought up in a contemptible part of the country; lived in a town out of which no good is said to come; dwelt in a mean cottage, and worked at a trade: and when we shall see him:
as he grows up, and comes into public life and service, declaring himself, or declared by others, to be the Messiah: here the prophet represents the Jews that would live in Christ's time, who would see his person, hear his doctrines, and be witnesses of his miracles, and yet say, there is no beauty, that we should desire him;
or "sightliness" F5 in him; nothing that looks grand and majestic, or like a king; they not beholding with an eye of faith his glory, as the glory of the only begotten of the Father; only viewing him in his outward circumstances, and so made their estimate of him; they expected the Messiah as a temporal prince, appearing in great pomp and state, to deliver them from the Roman yoke, and restore their nation to its former splendour and glory; and being disappointed herein was the true reason of their unbelief, before complained of, and why they did not desire him, who is the desire of all nations.
F2 (qnwyk) (wv paidion) , Sept.; (wv yhlazon) , Theodotion, vox a (qny) , "lac sugere, proprie lactantem significat", Rivet. Sanctius, "surculus tener, veluti laetens", Forerius.
F3 (whynpl) "ad faciem suam, vel in facie, sua", Rivet.; "quoad conspectum, vel quoad faciem suam, seu faciem ejus", Sanctius.
F4 R. Hadarson apud Galatia, de Arcan. Cathol. Ver. l. 8. c. 2. p. 549.
F5 (harm al) "non aspectus", Munster: Vatablus, Pagninus, Montanus; "nulla spectabilis forma", Vitringa.