Isaiah 9:6

Isaiah 9:6 For a child has been born to us, a son has been given to us. He shoulders responsibility and is called: Extraordinary Strategist, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.

I recently read this verse in the NET (New English Translation) which is a Bible filled with translators’ notes. It can be accessed for free at bible.org. I was shocked in a pleasant way to see how much honesty there was in the notes on Isaiah 9.6 of this Bible.

– – = [first insight] = – –

There is great debate over the syntactical structure of the verse. No subject is indicated for the verb “he called.” If all the titles that follow are ones given to the king, then the subject of the verb must be indefinite, “one calls.” However, some have suggested that one to three of the titles that follow refer to God, not the king. For example, the traditional punctuation of the Hebrew text suggests the translation, “and the Extraordinary Strategist, the Mighty God calls his name, ‘Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.'” (tn 16)

If this is true then there is no issue at all with Isaiah 9.6 calling the child (Jesus) “Mighty God.” In this case it is the Mighty God who calls the child “Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.” Just a minor change in translation/punctuation and the whole verse changes!

– – = [second insight] = – –

(gibbor) is probably an attributive adjective (“mighty God”), though one might translate “God is a warrior” or “God is mighty.” Scholars have interpreted this title is two ways. A number of them have argued that the title portrays the king as God’s representative on the battlefield, whom God empowers in a supernatural way (see J. H. Hayes and S. A. Irvine, Isaiah, 181–82). They contend that this sense seems more likely in the original context of the prophecy. They would suggest that having read the NT, we might in retrospect interpret this title as indicating the coming king’s deity, but it is unlikely that Isaiah or his audience would have understood the title in such a bold way. Ps 45:6 addresses the Davidic king as “God” because he ruled and fought as God’s representative on earth. Ancient Near Eastern art and literature picture gods training kings for battle, bestowing special weapons, and intervening in battle. According to Egyptian propaganda, the Hittites described Rameses II as follows: “No man is he who is among us, It is Seth great-of-strength, Baal in person; Not deeds of man are these his doings, They are of one who is unique” (See Miriam Lichtheim, Ancient Egyptian Literature, 2:67). According to proponents of this view, Isa 9:6 probably envisions a similar kind of response when friends and foes alike look at the Davidic king in full battle regalia. When the king’s enemies oppose him on the battlefield, they are, as it were, fighting against God himself. (tn 18)

Thus, if this child is called “mighty God” this can mean that he is functioning as God’s representative (Messiah). I love the incredible honesty when they say, “it is unlikely that Isaiah or his audience would have understood the title in such a bold way [that the king is diety]”. I agree wholeheartedly with this assesment. When the Messiah begins to reign (at his coming) we will see God’s will be done on earth (Mat 6.9-10; Rev 11.15).

– – = [third insight] = – –

This title [Eternal Father] must not be taken in an anachronistic Trinitarian sense. (To do so would be theologically problematic, for the “Son” is the messianic king and is distinct in his person from God the “Father.”) Rather, in its original context the title pictures the king as the protector of his people. For a similar use of “father” see Isa 22:21 and Job 29:16. This figurative, idiomatic use of “father” is not limited to the Bible. In a Phoenician inscription (ca. 850–800 B.C.) the ruler Kilamuwa declares: “To some I was a father, to others I was a mother.” In another inscription (ca. 800 B.C.) the ruler Azitawadda boasts that the god Baal made him “a father and a mother” to his people. (See ANET 499–500.) The use of “everlasting” might suggest the deity of the king (as the one who has total control over eternity), but Isaiah and his audience may have understood the term as royal hyperbole emphasizing the king’s long reign or enduring dynasty (for examples of such hyperbolic language used of the Davidic king, see 1 Kgs 1:31; Pss 21:4–6; 61:6–7; 72:5, 17). (tn 19)

Jesus is the father of the coming age, the patriarch of the messianic era. This is a figurative usage of the word “father,” but it makes the most sense in light of the other Scriptures cited. It is remarkable, but we are in agreement with the trinitarians on this point because they also do not believe Jesus is the Father. For both of us, Jesus is the Son of the Father.

Well, these three insights impressed me, what do you think? How do you respond when someone says to you, “doesn’t Isaiah 9.6 prove that Jesus is ‘Mighty God?'”

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One response to this post.

  1. Posted by Dustin Smith on January 25, 2007 at 6:02 am

    BDB says that “el gibbor” means “divine hero”.

    The LXX translates “Eternal Father” as “father of the age to come”.

    Elijah was the father to Elisha, in a mentor sense. Paul was given a simular title in 1 Cor.

    Reply

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