What Will It Mean for the Earth to Be “Full of the Knowledge of the LORD as the Sea Is Full of Water”?
A reader asked me, “The last part of Isaiah 11:9 says, ‘For the earth will be full of the knowledge of the LORD as the sea is full of water.’ Most of the things I’ve read focus on the first part of the verse, which says, ‘They will neither harm nor destroy on all my holy mountain.’ What are your thoughts on this beautiful promise in Isaiah 11:9 and how it relates to the New Earth?”
Here’s the context leading up to the culminating promise of a future time when the earth will be full of the knowledge of God:
6 The wolf will live with the lamb,
the leopard will lie down with the goat,
the calf and the lion and the yearling together;
and a little child will lead them.
7 The cow will feed with the bear,
their young will lie down together,
and the lion will eat straw like the ox.
8 The infant will play near the cobra’s den,
and the young child will put its hand into the viper’s nest.
9 They will neither harm nor destroy
on all my holy mountain,
for the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the Lord
as the waters cover the sea. (Isaiah 11:6-9)
A parallel passage to verse 9 is, “The earth will be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the LORD, as the waters cover the sea” (Habakkuk 2:14). Glory speaks of unparalleled magnificence. To know God fully is to be overwhelmed with the luminous greatness of who He is.
As the entire sea is water, Isaiah 11:9 speaks of a time and place where the pervasive “atmosphere” of the land of all the earth will be God and the knowledge of Him. The Hebrew erets is sometimes translated land and sometimes earth, as it is here in most translations, but the comparison of water and land in this verse is noticeable. The CSB captures this well and perhaps makes it clearer: “They will not harm or destroy each other on my entire holy mountain, for the land will be as full of the knowledge of the LORD as the sea is filled with water.”
In other words, there will be nowhere and no one devoid of the true and delightful knowledge of God, who is the source of all life, truth, and joy. There will be an authentic, personal, and universal knowledge of God. This is not mere knowledge about God, but a relational knowledge of Him and with Him. Just as when you are in the sea, water is all around you, so when you walk the face of the earth, God and the knowledge of Him will be all around you, all the time.
The words immediately preceding this are, “They will neither harm nor destroy on all my holy mountain.” So this is about a time on earth utterly devoid of harm and destruction, which is the inevitable result of universal knowledge of God in the last part of the verse. The earth will be untouched by sin and curse, and safely and eternally out of the reach of Hell.
That doesn’t fit with the millennium, which is followed by sinful people rebelling against God and then being destroyed by Him (Revelation 20:7-9). Isaiah 11:9 fits perfectly, however, with the New Earth, after the final judgment that follows the millennium, where “God will dwell with them” and “wipe every tear from their eyes,” “There will be no more death’ or mourning or crying or pain,” “nothing impure will ever enter it,” “the tree of life” will be planted as in Eden, there will be “no more curse,” “they will see his face,” and “the Lord God will give them light” (Revelation 21:3-4, 27; 22:2-4).
Here’s Isaiah 11:6-9 as paraphrased in the Message:
The wolf will romp with the lamb, the leopard sleep with the kid. Calf and lion will eat from the same trough, and a little child will tend them. Cow and bear will graze the same pasture, their calves and cubs grow up together, and the lion eat straw like the ox. The nursing child will crawl over rattlesnake dens, the toddler stick his hand down the hole of a serpent. Neither animal nor human will hurt or kill on my holy mountain. The whole earth will be brimming with knowing God-Alive, a living knowledge of God ocean-deep, ocean-wide.
This will be a totally transformed, restored, renewed, and redeemed Earth, and animals and human beings will be full of the true knowledge of the true God and therefore permeated by holiness and happiness. “We are looking forward to a New Earth, in which righteousness dwells” (2 Peter 3:13).