Isaiah 11 and The Mandela Effect: How Today’s Prophecy Pundits See Things That Aren’t There
Copyright © Robert E. Cruickshank, Jr (November 12, 2023)
All Rights Reserved
Eric Ogea (Editor)
The “Mandela Effect” is a phenomenon whereby people on a collective level remember something that never actually happened. The phrase was coined in reaction to most people believing that Nelson Mandela died in prison in the 1980s when in fact he didn’t. By and large, people swore they “remembered the news clips of his funeral, the mourning in South Africa, the heartfelt speech by his widow, and some rioting in cities in South Africa that started the collapse of Apartheid.” The truth is that Nelson Mandela died peaceably at 95 years old in 2013.
Good Housekeeping gives 54 examples of the Mandela Effect. For instance, we all remember Mickey Mouse wearing suspenders, the Monopoly man wearing a monocle, and the cornucopia in the Fruit of the Loom logo. Yet, America’s most beloved rodent never donned suspenders, the Monopoly Man never sported an eyepiece, and there is no cornucopia in the logo on your underwear.
The Mandela Effect also goes into effect when we’re reading our Bibles. For example, what animal lies down with the lamb? It’s a lion, of course…right? Haven’t we all read that verse? Who doesn’t know about the lion lying down with the lamb? Apparently, the prophet Isaiah didn’t know this. The verse actually says, “And the wolf will dwell with the lamb, and the leopard will lie down with the goat…” (Isa. 11:6a).
In his famous Bible quiz, Gary DeMar gives 19 similar examples of the Mandela Effect on the pages of Scripture. Most Christians flunk the quiz. And yes, the question of which animal lies down with the lamb in Isaiah 11:6 is one of the questions. However, we can cut modern believers some slack here because this “misremembered” Bible quote has a long and deep history, as even the great Bible commentator John Gill got it wrong.
In and of itself, discovering you’ve gotten the animal wrong in Isaiah 11:6 may seem as harmless as thinking the Monopoly Man wore a monocle or Mickey Mouse wore suspenders but…misinterpreting the Bible gets a little more dangerous than misremembering a cartoon. DeMar’s quiz is a fun way to help believers discover their deeper issue, i.e., Biblical illiteracy. And this is where it gets serious. As it turns out, the lion that doesn’t exist in Isaiah 11:6 isn’t the only verse in Isaiah’s 11th chapter that is affected by the Mandela Effect.
Israel’s Second Recovery
In Isaiah 11:11, the prophet speaks of God recovering Israel “a second time.” According to Jack Kelley, “The first time was after the Babylonian captivity and the 2nd time became official in 1948.” Kelley then claims that “there’s a very complicated mathematical formula based on a prophecy in Ezekiel 4 that points to 1948.” If Kelley’s “mathematical formula” is anything like Hal Lindsey’s fuzzy math in The Late Great Planet Earth, things just don’t “add up” (pun intended). The expiration date for ’48 was up in ’88 and Christians didn’t make the “great escape.” The prophecy pundits keep coming up with the wrong answers when it’s test time because they are plugging the wrong variables into the equation about Israel’s recovery “a second time.”
The truth is that the return from Babylonian captivity was the second recovery (Isa. 11:11), and the Exodus from Egypt was the first recovery (Isa. 11:16). This is seen clearly when Verse 11 is read in conjunction with verse 16:
“Then it will happen on that day that the Lord
Will again recover with His hand the second time
The remnant of His people who will remain,
From Assyria, Egypt, Pathros, Cush, Elam, Shinar, Hamath,
And from the islands of the sea” (Isaiah 11:11).
“And there will be a highway from Assyria
For the remnant of His people who will be left,
Just as there was for Israel
On the day that they came up out of the land of Egypt” (Isaiah 11:16).
The simplicity of Occam’s Razor cuts through Dispensationalism’s complicated calculations that are used to chart the future. Israel’s first recovery was the Exodus from Egypt and her second recovery was the return from exile. As pointed out in a previous article in this blog, all the Biblical prophecies about a regathering into the land take place prior to this second recovery. In other words, the prophecies have been fully fulfilled. Dispensationalism attempts to empty the fullness of the fulfillment by making the second recovery (the return from exile) into the first recovery – as if the real first recovery (the Exodus) is absent from the text. But the Exodus isn’t a result of the Mandela Effect – it’s right there in verse 16 for all to see.
The great irony here is that even if we look at the return from the Babylonian exile as the first recovery instead of the Exodus, it still wouldn’t make 1948 the second recovery. The return from exile took place in two phases. The first came under the decree of Cyrus (Ezra 1:1-7) and was led by Zerubbabel and Nehemiah (Ezra 2:1-2) in 536 BC. The second came under the reign of Artaxerxes (Ezra 7:1) and was led by Ezra (Ezra 7:11-13) in 458 BC. So even if we take Egypt (Isa. 11:16) out of the equation and make Cyrus’ decree (Ezra 1:1-7) the first recovery of Israel, the second recovery would be the second return to Jerusalem under Ezra. No matter how we want to work the equation, the final answer has the return and regathering being fulfilled by 458 BC rather than 1948 AD.
An Incomplete Recovery?
When pushed into the proverbial corner with the prophetic facts, the Dispensationalist will argue that the restoration was only “a partial return during the time of Ezra and Nehemiah.” This is another example of the Mandela Effect when it comes to the Bible. Believers by and large believe that the return from exile was incomplete and unfinished. This gives way to bizarre doctrines like the Lost 10 Tribes myth.
We’ve all read that not all the tribes returned…right? The Bible talks about the Lost 10 Tribes…doesn’t it? Wasn’t it only the tribes of Benjamin and Judah that came back under Cyrus’ decree? Just the opposite, actually. Ezra says that “all Israel” returned to “their own cities” (Ezra 2:70), and “the sons of Israel” were “gathered together as one man in Jerusalem” (Ezra 3:1). The unity of the tribes in Ezra was envisioned by Isaiah when he said:
“Then the jealousy of Ephraim will depart,
And those who harass Judah will be eliminated;
Ephraim will not be jealous of Judah,
And Judah will not harass Ephraim” (Isa. 11:13).
Isaiah also speaks of “the earth” being full of the knowledge of the Lord as the waters covering the seas” (Isa. 11:9), and “the nations” resorting “to the root of Jesse” (Isa. 11:10). Accordingly, Esther tells us that during the time of the restoration: “In each and every province and in each and every city, wherever the king’s commandment and his decree arrived, there was joy and jubilation for the Jews, a feast and a holiday. And many among the peoples of the land became Jews, because the dread of the Jews had fallen on them” (Esth. 8:17).
When the Israelites returned home at the time of Ezra and Nehemiah, no part of Isaiah’s words were fulfilled in part. Nonetheless, partial fulfillment is what the Dispensationalist leaders maintain, and the Mandela Effect goes into effect as the prophetic hucksters spin the Scriptures to their own financial gain.
Not a Profitable Prophecy
In the end, the bottom line is what it always is. By arguing that the prophecy’s fulfillment wasn’t complete and full, it keeps the prophecy pundits’ pockets full. After all, what would they have to pontificate about if the headlines didn’t match the Biblical lines? More to the point, they might have to actually drill down on the text and pound out some solid exegesis for a change. But pounding and drilling is real work, and it’s much easier to mix and match a news clip with a Bible verse. Otherwise, the Biblical prophecies just aren’t profitable for them. But they are spiritually profitable for those who invest their time in the study of God’s Word.
That investment of time and study into Isaiah 11 yields the return of seeing how God made good on His word to His ancient people. If there was any further fulfillment of Isaiah 11, beyond the restoration from exile in the Old Testament, it’s to be found in the finished work of Christ in the New Testament – and not the re-establishment of Israel in 1948.
A Shoot Springing from Jesse
Isaiah 11:1-5 speaks of a shoot springing from Jesse, who would lead the restoration effort. This accurately describes Zerubbabel, the governor of Judeah, who oversaw the rebuilding of the temple. As a descendant of David, Zerubbabel was a “shoot” or “stem” of Jesse. As such, he prefigured Christ, and Paul applies this prophecy to Jesus (Rom. 15:12), who was the ultimate restorer of all things (Acts 3:21). In both its immediate fulfillment (Zerubbabel) and larger fulfillment (Jesus), the prophecy is in fact fulfilled. As David Chilton wrote, “Isaiah’s prophecy of a ‘golden age’ when the wolf dwells peaceably with the lamb (Isa. 11:1-10) is condensed and cited by St. Paul as a present fulfillment, in the New Covenant age (Rom. 15:12)!”
The Animal Imagery
Chilton’s comments regarding the animal imagery are right on target. The prophet Jeremiah describes Israel’s enemies in language very similar to Isaiah 11:1-10, only the animals aren’t peaceful in Jeremiah’s account:
“Therefore a lion from the forest will kill them,
A wolf of the deserts will destroy them,
A leopard is watching their cities.
Everyone who goes out of them will be torn in pieces,
Because their wrongdoings are many,
Their apostasies are numerous” (Jer. 5:6).
Later in the chapter, Jeremiah makes it clear that the vicious animals, who will tear His people to pieces, represent the nation that He is going to use to bring about His judgment upon them (i.e., Babylon):
“’Behold, I am bringing a nation against you from far away,
O house of Israel,’” declares the Lord.
“It is an enduring nation,
It is an ancient nation,
A nation whose language you do not know,
Nor can you understand what they say” (Jer. 5:15).
The nonviolent conditions prophesied by Isaiah are an apt description of the restoration period once the Jews returned under Cyrus’ decree. According to Nehemiah, all the sons of Israel were back home in their own cities (Neh. 7:73), and everyone “lived securely on his own property” (Neh. 11:3). The Persians, who had liberated Judah from Babylon, were fully assisting the Jews in the restoration effort (Ezra 1). And even the Assyrians, who had taken the ten northern tribes captive 136 years prior to Babylon doing the same thing to Judah, were aiding the Jews in the restoration effort. Ezra 6:22 says “the Lord” had “turned the heart of the king of Assyria toward them to encourage them in the work of the house of the God of Israel.”
In short, things couldn’t have been better for God’s people at this time. Their most recent enemy, Babylon, was no longer a threat. Their more ancient enemy, Assyria, was now their ally. And they had the full support of Persia, the empire that was now in power. Everyone who wanted to return was back home, and the other nations were no longer a danger to them. The contrast between Jeremiah’s domineering dangers and Isaiah’s docile description poetically captures the difference between judgment and restoration.
Leaving Uber-Literalism Behind
In contrast to the uber-literalism of Dispensationalism, the passage does not mean that wolves are going to stop preying on lambs someday or that we should let our children play by a cobra’s hole. As Joshua J. Van Ee puts it: “…it is obvious that the details of the imagery — domestication of the predatory animals, peace between predatory and domestic animals, and a vegetarian diet for predatory animals – were never expected to find a literal fulfillment.” Isaiah 11 “is about prey (Jews) and predators (the nations) lying down together and not devouring one another,” writes Gary DeMar.
The peace of the restoration period served as a shadow, type or symbol of the work of Christ –who unifies all people under the New Covenant. In Jesus, there is neither Jew nor Greek (Gal. 3:28), and “He Himself is our peace, who made both groups into one and broke down the barrier of the dividing wall” (Eph. 2:14). As Paul said, “He came and preached peace to you who are far away, and peace to those who are near” (Eph. 2:15). The peace that Jesus brings in the New Testament was prefigured under the peace that was brought through Zerubbabel’s leadership in the Old Testament.
The imagery of a young child leading them (Isa. 11:6) is a fitting description of Zerubbabel. According to Peloubet’s Bible Dictionary, the name Zerubbabel means “born in Babylon.” Unlike Mordecai (Ezr. 2:2: Neh. 7:7: Esth. 2:5) for instance, Zerubbabel was not part of the elder generation who were taken into exile. As such, Zerubbabel had never seen Solomon’s original temple nor set foot on the soil of Jerusalem until Cyrus’ decree. Yet, he was God’s chosen vessel to oversee the rebuilding of the temple (Zech. 4:6-10) and appointed as the governor of Judah (Hag. 2:2, 21). As Sarah Schultz writes, “The governor (פחה) held the highest Persian administrative position at the provincial level and…the most politically influential office in the province.” This child of the exile had never even been home until a Persian King called his people home.
Coming Back Home to the Bible
With that said, God’s people today need to come back home to the Bible. We’ve been in Dispensational exile since the mid-1800s and there is much rebuilding to do. The foundation for our rebuilding project begins with getting the text correct – and reversing the Mandela Effect.
Nelson Mandela was born in 1918, but the strange phenomenon that bears his name seems to have gone into effect long before his collectively imagined death in the 1980s. To most believers today, the creation of the state of Israel on May 14, 1948, is the biggest prophetically significant event in history. In reality, it’s not only insignificant in terms of Bible prophecy, but also nonexistent.
All of the prophecies concerning Israel’s regathering were made prior to Israel’s regathering. The Persian King Cyrus invited the Israelites back to their land in 536 BC, and it was all complete by 458 BC. This was God’s second recovery of His people; the Exodus was His first. There was no prophesied third recovery coming up in 1948.
Mickey Mouse doesn’t wear suspenders, it’s not a lion that lies down with the lamb, and the Biblical text is something that today’s prophecy pundits don’t seem to understand.
 Thanks to Dr. Amy Castillo from this observation.
 The same Hebrew word, אֶ֫רֶץ (e.rets) ‘land,’ is used in both passages. Translators generally render it as “earth” in Isiah 11:9 and either “land” or “country” in Esther 8:17.
 Joshua J. Van Ee, “Wolf and Lamb as Hyperbolic Blessing: Reassessing Creational Connections in Isaiah 11:6–8,” JBL 137, no. 2 (2018): 319–337, p. 337.