Does Isaiah 9:6 Affirm the Deity of Israel’s Messiah?

This past weekend, I had the privilege of participating in a moderated panel debate with my friends Dr. Shabir Ally, Yusuf Ismail, and Samuel Green. The topic was focused around the question of whether Isaiah 9:6 affirms the deity of Christ. Isaiah 9:6-7 reads,

6 For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder, and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. 7 Of the increase of his government and of peace there will be no end, on the throne of David and over his kingdom, to establish it and to uphold it with justice and with righteousness from this time forth and forevermore. The zeal of the LORD of hosts will do this.

In this essay, I intend to flesh out in more detail than I was able during our short dialogue the case that Isaiah 9:6 indeed affirms the divine status of Israel’s Messiah. I will be defending two basic contentions: (1) Isaiah 9:6 is best understood as a text concerning the Messiah, and (2) Isaiah 9:6 identifies the Messiah as a divine person.

The Messianic Context of Isaiah 9:6

In this first section, I will outline the case for taking Isaiah 9:6 to be a text concerned with the awaited Messiah of Israel. This was the view of the evangelist Matthew, who quoted Isaiah 9:1-2 of Jesus in 4:14-16. This section will be divided into four subsections. In the first, I will argue that the broader context of the entire book of Isaiah implies the Messianic identity of the child born in Isaiah 9. In the second, I will argue that intertextual connections between Isaiah’s prophecy and the prophecy of Micah and Zechariah suggest the Messianic identity of Isaiah’s promised deliverer. Third, I will interact with the popular objection that Isaiah 9 was in fact fulfilled not by Jesus but by King Hezekiah. Fourth, I will show that the interpretation of Isaiah 9 as a Messianic text is not a Christian invention, but rather was affirmed by Jonathan ben Uzziel, in his Aramaic Targum interpretive translation of the book of Isaiah.

Isaiah 9:6 In the Light of the Servant Songs

The Messianic identity of the child described in Isaiah 9 can be determined by an analysis of intertextual links with other parts of the book of Isaiah. In Isaiah 11:1-5,10, we read,

A shoot will come up from the stump of Jesse; from his roots a Branch will bear fruit. 2 The Spirit of the Lord will rest on him— the Spirit of wisdom and of understanding, the Spirit of counsel and of might, the Spirit of the knowledge and fear of the Lord— 3 and he will delight in the fear of the Lord. He will not judge by what he sees with his eyes, or decide by what he hears with his ears; 4 but with righteousness he will judge the needy, with justice he will give decisions for the poor of the earth. He will strike the earth with the rod of his mouth; with the breath of his lips he will slay the wicked. 5 Righteousness will be his belt and faithfulness the sash around his waist…10 In that day the Root of Jesse will stand as a banner for the peoples; the nations will rally to him, and his resting place will be glorious.

This text is indisputably speaking of the Messiah, as even the great medieval Jewish commentator Rashi (Rabbi Shlomo Yitzhaki) concedes [1] — the descendant of David (and therefore of his father Jesse). This means that this text connects with our text in Isaiah 9:6-7, which speak of a divine child reigning from David’s throne. The conclusion that Isaiah 11 is speaking of the same individual as Isaiah 9 is further supported by the statement that “with righteousness he will judge the needy, with justice he will give decisions for the poor of the earth”, which resembles what is said of the child born in Isaiah 9 (verse 7): “Of the increase of his government and of peace there will be no end, on the throne of David and over his kingdom, to establish it and to uphold it with justice and with righteousness from this time forth and forevermore. The zeal of the Lord of hosts will do this.” Thus, the Messiah spoken of in Isaiah 11 is the same individual as that spoken of in Isaiah 9:6-7. The idea in both of those texts is that the Davidic dynasty, though it would fade away into obscurity, would one day bring forth a shoot from its stump, or a root out of its dry ground. Indeed, the Hebrew word used in Isaiah 11:10 for “root” (verse 1 uses the same word in the plural) is שֹׁ֣רֶשׁ (sheresh), the very same word used of the suffering servant in Isaiah 53:2: “For he grew up before him like a young plant, and like a root (שֹּׁ֙רֶשׁ֙) out of dry ground.” We can further confirm the connection between Isaiah 53 and 9 & 11 by looking at Isaiah 42:2-7, which speaks of the same servant as that described in Isaiah 53:

“Here is my servant, whom I uphold, my chosen one in whom I delight; I will put my Spirit on him, and he will bring justice to the nations. 2 He will not shout or cry out, or raise his voice in the streets. 3 A bruised reed he will not break, and a smoldering wick he will not snuff out. In faithfulness he will bring forth justice; 4 he will not falter or be discouraged till he establishes justice on earth. In his teaching the islands will put their hope.” 5 This is what God the Lord says— the Creator of the heavens, who stretches them out, who spreads out the earth with all that springs from it, who gives breath to its people, and life to those who walk on it: 6 “I, the Lord, have called you in righteousness; I will take hold of your hand. I will keep you and will make you to be a covenant for the people and a light for the Gentiles, 7 to open eyes that are blind, to free captives from prison and to release from the dungeon those who sit in darkness.

Thus, like the Messiah of Isaiah 9 and 11, the servant is going to “bring justice to the nations” (verse 1) and “establish justice on the earth” (verse 4). God also says “I will put my Spirit on him”. Compare with Isaiah 11:2 (“And the Spirit of the Lord shall rest upon him…”). Moreover, the servant is going to “open eyes that are blind, to free captives from prison and to release from the dungeon those who sit in darkness.” But that is exactly what we read of the divine child in Isaiah 9:1: “The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who dwelt in a land of deep darkness, on them has light shone.” He is also to be a “light for the gentiles”, just as we saw in Isaiah 11:10: “In that day the root of Jesse, who shall stand as a signal for the peoples—of him shall the nations inquire, and his resting place shall be glorious.” Isaiah 9:2 similarly says, “The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who dwelt in a land of deep darkness, on them has light shone.” We also see these texts being connected to Isaiah 49:1-7, yet another Messianic text:

Listen to me, O coastlands, and give attention, you peoples from afar. The Lord called me from the womb, from the body of my mother he named my name. 2 He made my mouth like a sharp sword; in the shadow of his hand he hid me; he made me a polished arrow; in his quiver he hid me away. 3 And he said to me, “You are my servant, Israel, in whom I will be glorified.” 4 But I said, “I have labored in vain; I have spent my strength for nothing and vanity; yet surely my right is with the Lord, and my recompense with my God.” 5 And now the Lord says, he who formed me from the womb to be his servant, to bring Jacob back to him; and that Israel might be gathered to him— for I am honored in the eyes of the Lord, and my God has become my strength— 6 he says: “It is too light a thing that you should be my servant to raise up the tribes of Jacob and to bring back the preserved of Israel; I will make you as a light for the gentiles, that my salvation may reach to the end of the earth.” 7 Thus says the Lord, the Redeemer of Israel and his Holy One, to one deeply despised, abhorred by the nation, the servant of rulers: “Kings shall see and arise; princes, and they shall prostrate themselves; because of the Lord, who is faithful, the Holy One of Israel, who has chosen you.”

This text portrays the servant as the true Israel (verse 3), an individual who regathers and redeems national Israel (verse 5) (note also the comparison of the righteous servant in Isaiah 42:1-9 with the unrighteous servant, Israel, in Isaiah 42:18-25). The servant also — just as we saw in our other texts — is a light for the gentiles (verse 6). There is also a striking parallel in verse 7 to Isaiah 52:15: 

…so shall he sprinkle many nations. Kings shall shut their mouths because of him, for that which has not been told them they see, and that which they have not heard they understand.

Notice also that the servant in Isaiah 52:15 sprinkles the nations, which is consistent with the mission statement assigned to the servant in Isaiah 9, 11, 42 and 49. This, among other clues, indicates that the suffering servant of Isaiah 53 is the same individual as is spoken of in these other texts by Isaiah, including chapter 9.

It is of relevance here to note that, consistent with the divine titles that are bestowed upon the child of Isaiah 9:6, one can adduce further evidence in support of the divine status of the servant from these parallel texts in Isaiah. For example, one of the most intriguing aspects of Isaiah 52-13-53:12 is the exaltation language that is applied to the suffering servant in 52:13: “Behold, my servant shall act wisely; he shall be high and lifted up, and shall be exalted.” This is the very same exaltation language that is used exclusively of Yahweh elsewhere in the book of Isaiah. Consider, for example, Isaiah 6:1: “In the year that King Uzziah died I saw the Lord sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up.” We likewise read in Isaiah 33:5,10, “The Lord is exalted, for he dwells on high… ‘Now I will arise,’ says the Lord, ‘now I will lift myself up; now I will be exalted.’ Isaiah 57:15 similarly says, “For thus says the One who is high and lifted up, who inhabits eternity, whose name is Holy: ‘I dwell in the high and holy place, and also with him who is of a contrite and lowly spirit, to revive the spirit of the lowly, and to revive the heart of the contrite.’” In case any readers were in doubt about whether this exaltation language of being “high and lifted up” could be applied to anyone who is not Yahweh, Isaiah 2:11-17 sets the record straight: 

11 The haughty looks of man shall be brought low, and the lofty pride of men shall be humbled, and the Lord alone will be exalted in that day. 12 For the Lord of hosts has a day against all that is proud and lofty, against all that is lifted up—and it shall be brought low; 13 against all the cedars of Lebanon, lofty and lifted up; and against all the oaks of Bashan; 14 against all the lofty mountains, and against all the uplifted hills; 15 against every high tower, and against every fortified wall; 16 against all the ships of Tarshish, and against all the beautiful craft. 17 And the haughtiness of man shall be humbled, and the lofty pride of men shall be brought low, and the Lord alone will be exalted in that day. 

Thus, we see, that the language that Isaiah 52:13 applies to the suffering servant can only be used of a divine person. However, we see further evidence in the suffering servant song of a divine Messiah. Consider again Isaiah 53:11-12: 

11 Out of the anguish of his soul he shall see and be satisfied; by his knowledge shall the righteous one, my servant, make many to be accounted righteous, and he shall bear their iniquities. 12 Therefore I will divide him a portion with the many, and he shall divide the spoil with the strong, because he poured out his soul to death and was numbered with the transgressors; yet he bore the sin of many, and makes intercession for the transgressors. 

Thus, we read that the servant will justify many and make intercession for sinners. However, we read in Isaiah 59:16: “He saw that there was no man, and wondered that there was no one to intercede; then his own arm brought him salvation, and his righteousness upheld him,” (c.f. Isa 63:5). Thus, there was nobody found worthy enough to intercede or bring about salvation — so Yahweh did it Himself using His very own arm. And yet we see in Isaiah 53:11-12 that the servant shall intercede. How can He do so if nobody besides Yahweh is worthy? This is explained if indeed the servant is a divine person.

Isaiah 9:6 in the Light of Immanuel

There is a clear link between the child of Isaiah 9:6-7 and that who bears the name of Immanuel in Isaiah 7:14. To do justice to the text of Isaiah 7 and its various interpretations would require an extensive discussion. I will therefore succinctly summarize my own preferred interpretation of this text, and how it relates to our text in Isaiah 9. The context of the text is, in brief, that Rezin, the Syrian king, and Pekah, the king of the northern kingdom of Israel (that is, Ephraim) had formed an anti-Assyrian alliance, and had requested cooperation from Ahaz, king of Judah. Upon Ahaz’s refusal to cooperate with their coalition, Syria and the northern kingdom waged war upon Judah, seeking to take it and set up the son of Tabeel as king in place of Ahaz. This posed a grave threat to the continuity of the Davidic line and therefore to the Messianic hope. Thus, Isaiah was instructed by the Lord to go and meet Ahaz, taking with him his son, Shear-jashub, and give Ahaz reassurances that God would protect them from Syria and Ephraim:

It shall not stand, and it shall not come to pass. 8 For the head of Syria is Damascus, and the head of Damascus is Rezin. And within sixty-five years Ephraim will be shattered from being a people. 9 And the head of Ephraim is Samaria, and the head of Samaria is the son of Remaliah. If you are not firm in faith, you will not be firm at all.’”

It should be observed that verse 9 makes the promise conditional upon Ahaz’s faith in God for deliverance: “If you are not firm in faith, you will not be firm at all.” God then speaks to Ahaz in verse 11 and asks him to name a sign that God can give him as further assurance that God will be with him: “Ask a sign of the LORD your God; let it be deep as Sheol or high as heaven.” Ahaz replies in verse 12, with a false pretense of piety: “I will not ask, and I will not put the LORD to the test.” This incurs God’s anger, who replies thus in verse 13-14: “Hear then, O house of David! Is it too little for you to weary men, that you weary my God also? Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign. Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel.” Alec Motyer comments, “The sign is no longer a matter of invitation but of prediction, no longer persuading to faith but confirming divine displeasure.” [2]

Though invisible in the English translations, the Hebrew verbs and second person pronouns in verse 13-14 are no longer in the singular but in the plural, suggesting that the addressee has shifted from Ahaz to the entire house of David. To the house of David, God gives assurance that the promised Davidic heir – the Messianic expectation – is still on track. The name Immanuel means “God with us.” Does this imply a literal dwelling of God in the midst of his people in the form of this child, Immanuel? This, of course, is the New Testament teaching, and it is noteworthy that Matthew’s gospel quotes Isaiah 7:14 of Jesus at the beginning of his gospel, in 1:23 and at the concluding verse of his gospel, in the context of the great commission, Jesus says, “And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” Thus, Matthew’s gospel is bookended with the idea that, in the person of Jesus, God himself has come to dwell in the midst of his people. What, though, is the meaning of the name Immanuel in the context of Isaiah 7:14? Is it a divine title, or is it merely a prayer of a mother in Judea for deliverance? On this, Alec Motyer remarks, “We can weigh the probability of this interpretation by putting ourselves into the situation. Leaving aside the momentous possibilities that she is a virgin (‛almâ), a young woman becomes pregnant and calls her child Immanuel, either as an expression of faith in the face of adverse facts or as a prayer for help. Where is the ‘sign quality’ in this—especially after Isaiah has spoken the name and set the idea in motion? … What a depressing anticlimax following the Lord’s expressed willingness to ‘move heaven and earth’ and Isaiah’s dramatic outburst about the Sovereign himself giving a sign! The passage requires something more and if we look to the wider context of this closely integrated section we find it.” [3] Indeed, in Isaiah 8:8, we read, allusion is made to “your land, O Immanuel.” Motyer notes that “Nowhere else does the Old Testament exemplify ‘land’ with a possessive pronoun accompanied by the subject of the pronoun in the vocative.” [4] The use of the possessive pronoun attributing the land to Immanuel is rather suggestive that this child is no ordinary individual. Consistent with this, Motyer observes that “the singular possessive is linked with ‘land’ as a political unit only in the case of kings (e.g. Dt. 2:31; 2 Sa. 24:13), Israel personified or some other personification (e.g. Je. 2:15; Ho. 10:1), or of the Lord (e.g. 1 Ki. 8:36; Ezk. 36:5).” [5] Given that the child described in Isaiah 7:14 is most probably the same child as that spoken of in Isaiah 9:6-7 (that is, the recipient of the four-fold title, including “Mighty God” and “Father of Eternity”), the best explanation is that Immanuel is not merely a theophoric name, but in fact an indication that in this child God himself has come to dwell in the midst of his people.

Comment must be given at this point in regard to the common assertion that the idea of a virginal conception is foreign to the text of Isaiah 7:14. According to this view, the Hebrew word עַלְמָה (almah) is not the word for a virgin but merely a young woman. Apparently, the translators of the Septuagint did not think that that παρθένος (the Greek word for a virgin) was an unreasonable rendering of the Hebrew. One might also wonder how a young woman giving birth to a son would be a miraculous “sign”. Furthermore, Alec Motyer notes that “Of the nine occurrences of ‛almâ those in 1 Chronicles 15:20 and the title of Psalm 46 are presumably a musical direction but no longer understood. In Psalm 68:25; Proverbs 30:19 and Song of Solomon 1:3 the context throws no decisive light on the meaning of the word. In Genesis 24:43 and Exodus 2:8 the reference is unquestionably to an unmarried girl, and in Song of Solomon 6:8 the ‛alāmôṯ, contrasted with queens and concubines, are unmarried and virgin. Thus, wherever the context allows a judgment, ‛almâ is not a general term meaning ‘young woman’ but a specific one meaning ‘virgin’. It is worth noting that outside the Bible, ‘so far as may be ascertained’, ‛almâ was ‘never used of a married woman’.” [6] Moreover, “Genesis 24 is particularly important as providing a direct comparison of ‛almâ and beṯûlâ. Abraham’s servant’s prayer (24:14) is couched in terms of a ‘girl’ (na‛arâ), of marriageable age (beṯûlâ) and single (‘no man had ever lain with her’). The qualifying words indicate that by itself beṯûlâ is not specific. In the light of this accumulating knowledge of Rebekah, verse 43 finally describes her as ‛almâ, which is clearly a summary term for ‘female, marriageable, unmarried’. There is no ground for the common assertion that had Isaiah intended virgo intacta he would have used beṯûlâ. ‛almâ lies closer to this meaning than the other word. In fact this is its meaning in every explicit context. Isaiah thus used the word which, among those available to him, came nearest to expressing ‘virgin birth’ and which, without linguistic impropriety, opens the door to such a meaning.” [7]

Verse 15 indicates that “He shall eat curds and honey when he knows how to refuse the evil and choose the good.” This indicates that the Immanuel child would be born into the poverty of his people, since curds and honey is, according to verses 21-22, the food of those who survive the coming desolation. Why will Immanuel grow up eating the food of poverty? Verses 16 and 17 explain. His diet will be impoverished because he will grow up in a desolate land. Though God will cause Judah’s northern neighbors (Syria and Ephraim) to be deserted, in accordance with his unconditional promise to Ahaz, Immanuel will have an impoverished diet in the land of Judah! Because Ahaz failed to trust God, instead seeking deliverance through Assyria, God will turn his deliverance into his demise. With the fall of the buffer nations that stood between Assyria and Judah (that is, Syria and Ephraim), Judah will lie fully exposed to Assyria. As we read in verse 17, “The Lord will bring upon you [Ahaz] and upon your people and upon your father’s house such days as have not come since the day that Ephraim departed from Judah—the king of Assyria!” 

Verse 16 is perhaps the most challenging verse for a Messianic reading: “For before the boy knows how to refuse the evil and choose the good, the land whose two kings you dread will be deserted.” Michael Rydelnik suggests the following approach: “While many have considered v. 16 to be a continuation of the prophecy in 7:13-15, the grammar of the passage suggests otherwise. The opening phrase in Hebrew can reflect an adversative nuance, allowing for a disjunction between the child described in 7:13-15 and the one described in verse 16.” [8] Indeed, Rydelnik suggests, “There is a different child in view in this verse,” and “it makes most sense to identify the lad as Shear-Jashub. Otherwise there would be no purpose for God directing Isaiah to bring the boy.” [9] Recall that in verse 3, Isaiah had been instructed to bring his son Shear-Jashub (meaning, a remnant shall return) to the meeting with Ahaz. Rydelnik proposes that “having promised the virgin birth of the Messiah (7:13-15), the prophet then points to the very small boy that he has brought along and says, ‘But before this lad (using the article with a demonstrative force) knows enough to refuse evil and choose good, the land whose two kings you dread will be forsaken.’” [10] Isaiah goes on to say to Judah in the very next chapter, “Behold, I and the children whom the LORD has given me are signs and portents in Israel from the LORD of hosts, who dwells on Mount Zion.” Though I was once sympathetic to this position, I do not believe any longer that it works grammatically. While Rydelnik is correct that the conjunction כִּ֠י can reflect an adversative nuance, this is only the case following a negative clause. The interpretation of verse 16 towards which I instead presently incline is that, whereas verse 15 concerns the fact that the child will be eating the food of poverty (curds and honey) by the time he reaches moral maturity, verse 17 indicates that, before this time, “the land whose two kings you [Ahaz] dread will be deserted.” In other words, the Immanuel child is to be born on the other side of the coming desolation. Just as Isaiah indicated, this was indeed fulfilled long before the Messiah was born — within a couple of years, Tiglath-Pileser had defeated both Israel and Syria. It is noteworthy that in verse 16 the second person pronoun is once again in the singular, suggesting that the addressee is Ahaz again.

In Isaiah 8:3-4, we read,

3 And I went to the prophetess, and she conceived and bore a son. Then the LORD said to me, “Call his name Maher-shalal-hash-baz; 4 for before the boy knows how to cry ‘My father’ or ‘My mother,’ the wealth of Damascus and the spoil of Samaria will be carried away before the king of Assyria.”

The individual who bears the name Maher-shalal-hash-baz (meaning “quickly to the plunder”) is not the same individual as the child who bears the name Immanuel, described in the previous chapter. This is apparent because he is born to the prophetess through marital intercourse, which disqualifies his mother from being an עַלְמָה (almah), a word which, as discussed previously, denotes an unmarried woman. Furthermore, the child does not bring blessing upon the people of Judah but rather judgment, resulting from Ahaz’s unbelief. As God explains in 8:6-8,

6 “Because this people has refused the waters of Shiloah that flow gently, and rejoice over Rezin and the son of Remaliah, 7 therefore, behold, the Lord is bringing up against them the waters of the River, mighty and many, the king of Assyria and all his glory. And it will rise over all its channels and go over all its banks, 8 and it will sweep on into Judah, it will overflow and pass on, reaching even to the neck, and its outspread wings will fill the breadth of your land, O Immanuel.”

As noted earlier, the use of the possessive pronoun in this verse attributing the land to Immanuel is suggestive that the name Immanuel is not merely a theophoric name, but in fact represents that this individual bears a divine nature. This gains all the more traction with the four-fold title given to the child in Isaiah 9:6, the implications of which we shall soon discuss.

Isaiah 9:6 in the Light of Micah 5:2-5

A further Messianic text that bears on our passage is Micah 5:2-5, written by a prophet who was a contemporary of Isaiah, in which we read,

Now muster your troops, O daughter of troops; siege is laid against us; with a rod they strike the judge of Israel on the cheek. 2 But you, O Bethlehem Ephrathah, who are too little to be among the clans of Judah, from you shall come forth for me one who is to be ruler in Israel, whose coming forth is from of old, from ancient days. 3 Therefore he shall give them up until the time when she who is in labor has given birth; then the rest of his brothers shall return to the people of Israel. 4 And he shall stand and shepherd his flock in the strength of the LORD, in the majesty of the name of the LORD his God. And they shall dwell secure, for now he shall be great to the ends of the earth. 5 And he shall be their peace.

Even Rashi concurs that this text expresses the Messianic hope. [11] Notice the parallels between this text and those Christological passages in Isaiah. Micah 5:5 indicates that “he shall be their peace,” which links with the title bestowed upon the child in Isaiah 9:6, “prince of peace.” He is also said to come out of Bethlehem, the city of David (which links with the prophecies of Isaiah 9:7 and 11:1, which assert that the individual will be of Davidic descent). The allusion in Micah 5:3 to “when she who is in labor has given birth” has long been recognized to be an intertextual reference to Isaiah 7:13-15. Verse 3 also indicates that “then the rest of his brothers shall return to the people of Israel.” This is consistent with what is said of the servant in Isaiah, namely, that he will “bring Jacob back to him; that Israel might be gathered to him” and that he will “bring back the preserved of Israel” (Isa 49:5-6). Micah 5:4 also indicates that the Messiah will be “great to the ends of the earth.” This too is consistent with the servant from Isaiah, of whom it is said that he “shall stand as a signal for the peoples—of him shall the nations inquire, and his resting place shall be glorious,” (Isa 11:10) and that through him God’s salvation would “reach to the ends of the earth” (Isa 49:6). Note too the statement in Isaiah 11:10 that the servant “shall stand as a signal for the peoples,” which dovetails with the statement in Micah 5:4 that he “shall stand and shepherd his flock.”

Verse 2 indicates that the Messiah’s “coming forth is from of old, from ancient days.” The King James Version translates this phrase, “whose goings forth have been from of old, from everlasting.” The latter translation is more suggestive of the Messiah’s eternal and divine nature, whereas the rendering of the ESV (which reads “from ancient days” rather than “from everlasting”) could be interpreted to mean that the Messiah had his origins in Bethlehem back in the ancient times of King David. Which translation is correct? Michael Brown notes that “In most cases in the Scriptures, ʿolam clearly means eternity, as in Psalm 90:2, where God’s existence is described as meʿolam weʿadʿolam, “from eternity to eternity” (cf. NJPSV). There are, however, some cases where ʿolam cannot mean “eternal” but rather “for a long time” (either past or present).” [12] Examining the broader context of Micah reveals that the Hebrew word עוֹלָם (olam) means “forever” in 2:9 and 4:5, 7. However, in Micah 7:14 the phrase “as in the days of old (עוֹלָם)” uses the word in its non-eternal sense. The context therefore allows for either translation, and we cannot be dogmatic as to the translation of Micah 5:2.

Some might worry that the reference to “the Lord his God” in Micah 5:4 undermines the interpretation of the Messiah as a divine person. However, the New Testament implies that, at the incarnation, Jesus submitted to the Father as his God. Indeed, this is a corollary of the fact that the Lord is the God of all flesh (Jer 32:27) and that in the person of Jesus the son of God became flesh (Jn 1:14). Even the gospel of John and the book of Revelation, both of which are quite emphatic about Jesus’ deity, refer to the Father as Jesus’ God (c.f. Jn 20:17; Rev 1:6, 3:2 and 3:12). For further discussion of this subject, I refer readers to my article here.

Isaiah 9:6 in the Light of Zechariah 9:9-12

The Messianic identity of the child described in Isaiah 9:6-7 is further supported by a comparison with Zechariah 9:9-12, which is unequivocally Messianic. As even Rashi states with regards to this text, “It is impossible to interpret this except as referring to the King Messiah, as it is stated: ‘and his rule shall be from sea to sea.’ We do not find that Israel had such a ruler during the days of the Second Temple.” [13] If, then, it can be shown to be probable that Isaiah 9:6-7 and Zechariah 9:9-12 speak of one and the same individual, this would supply yet further evidence for identifying the child with the Messiah. In this text, Zechariah prophecies:

9 Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion! Shout aloud, O daughter of Jerusalem! Behold, your king is coming to you; righteous and having salvation is he, humble and mounted on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey. 10 I will cut off the chariot from Ephraim and the war horse from Jerusalem; and the battle bow shall be cut off, and he shall speak peace to the nations; his rule shall be from sea to sea, and from the River to the ends of the earth. 11 As for you also, because of the blood of my covenant with you, I will set your prisoners free from the waterless pit. 12 Return to your stronghold, O prisoners of hope; today I declare that I will restore to you double.

The individual of whom Zechariah speaks in this passage is clearly the same individual of whom Isaiah spoke. Notice the close parallels. Just as we read of the servant in Isaiah, this individual establishes worldwide justice and peace on the earth, and his rule extends from shore to shore, including to the gentiles. We also have a reference to prisoners being set free from the waterless pit, which bears striking parallels to Isaiah 9:2 (“The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who dwelt in a land of deep darkness, on them has light shone”) and Isaiah 42:7 (“…to open the eyes that are blind, to bring out the prisoners from the dungeon, from the prison those who sit in darkness”). Furthermore, the expression, “his rule shall be from sea to sea, and from the River to the ends of the earth” parallels Psalm 72:8, in which it is said of Solomon, the Davidic heir, “May he have dominion from sea to sea, and from the River to the ends of the earth!” This is consistent with the statement in Isaiah 9:7 that the one spoken of would reign “on the throne of David and over his kingdom, to establish it and to uphold it with justice and with righteousness from this time forth and forevermore.”

It is also of note that Zechariah 9:9-12 can be argued on its own terms to speak of a divine-human person, thus paralleling the divine titles bestowed on the child of Isaiah 9:6. In this text, we see that Israel’s king (the same individual as spoken of by Isaiah), who is to come and establish peace on the earth, is to be a human who rides on a donkey (to ride on the back of a donkey, he must be physical). But Zechariah also tells us something else that is very important in relation to Israel’s coming king. In Zechariah 14:1-9, we read, 

Behold, a day is coming for the Lord, when the spoil taken from you will be divided in your midst. 2 For I will gather all the nations against Jerusalem to battle, and the city shall be taken and the houses plundered and the women raped. Half of the city shall go out into exile, but the rest of the people shall not be cut off from the city. 3 Then the Lord will go out and fight against those nations as when he fights on a day of battle. 4 On that day his feet shall stand on the Mount of Olives that lies before Jerusalem on the east, and the Mount of Olives shall be split in two from east to west by a very wide valley, so that one half of the Mount shall move northward, and the other half southward. 5 And you shall flee to the valley of my mountains, for the valley of the mountains shall reach to Azal. And you shall flee as you fled from the earthquake in the days of Uzziah king of Judah. Then the Lord my God will come, and all the holy ones with him. 6 On that day there shall be no light, cold, or frost. 7 And there shall be a unique day, which is known to the Lord, neither day nor night, but at evening time there shall be light. 8 On that day living waters shall flow out from Jerusalem, half of them to the eastern sea and half of them to the western sea. It shall continue in summer as in winter. 9 And the Lord will be king over all the earth. On that day the Lord will be one and his name one. 

This refers to a time yet future when all nations will be gathered for battle against Jerusalem, but God Himself will intervene against Israel’s enemies. Verse 4 states something very intriguing: the feet of Yahweh will stand upon the Mount of Olives. For Yahweh’s feet to stand upon the mount of olives, He must join to Himself a physical body — for a non-material being has no feet. It seems that this allusion is intended to be taken literally rather than metaphorically, since the feet touching the mount of olives is responsible for the mountain literally being split in two from east to west. Thus, here we see a picture of Yahweh himself clothed with a physical body. Verse 9 further tells us that in that day “the Lord will be king over all the earth.” Thus, the king of Zechariah 9:9-10, whom we read of coming to Jerusalem with salvation, physically mounted upon a donkey, appears to be Yahweh Himself. Here we thus see a foreshadow of the incarnation where, in the person of Christ, God will take upon himself human flesh. One might object to this by suggesting that the Messianic king of Zechariah 9:9-12 is merely God’s agent, and hence he can be appropriately referred to as “king” because he stands in the place of God, doing his bidding. However, on this interpretation it makes little sense for God to physically come to earth to reign if he was intent on working through a non-divine human intermediary.

Another reason to take the Messianic king spoken of in Zechariah 9:9-12 as a divine figure is the passage’s intertextuality with Zephaniah 3:14-20, which exhibits several striking parallels with Zechariah 9:9-12, including the expressions “Sing aloud, O daughter of Zion; shout, O Israel! Rejoice and exult with all your heart, O daughter of Jerusalem!” This text also speaks of a king of Israel in the midst of His people who comes as their salvation to clear away all Israel’s enemies. The text also speaks about the restoration of Israel’s fortunes (Zeph 3:20, c.f. Zech 9:12). However, the king of Israel in Zephaniah 3 is identified in verse 15 as none other than the Lord God Himself: “The King of Israel, the LORD, is in your midst.” This provides further support for interpreting the Messianic king of Zechariah 9:9-12 as a divine person.

Is Hezekiah the Fulfilment of Isaiah 9:6?

An objection to our interpretation that must be considered is stated by Rabbi Tovia Singer: “In an effort to portray Isaiah 9:6 as a future prophecy about a divine Jesus, Christian Bibles crudely mistranslated this passage. This verse is not discussing any future event or the messiah. Rather, Isaiah is describing the exaltation of King Hezekiah and the divine names bestowed upon him following the miracle when Jerusalem was saved from the Assyrian siege 2,700 years ago. Read this passage in the original Hebrew for yourself! The KJV, NAS, and a host of other Christian Bibles meticulously changed all of the past tense verbs in this verse into a future tense so it would appear to be foretelling of an event in the distant future.” [14] However, the use of the perfect tense in Isaiah 9:6 may be plausibly understood as utilizing the Hebrew idiom of the prophetic perfect, where a future event is so assured that it is spoken of as though it were already completed. Other examples of the prophetic perfect are Isaiah 5:13 (where Isaiah speaks of the future captivity of Judah as though it had already transpired); Isaiah 10:28-32; Isaiah 53:2-11; and Amos 5:2.

Is this text referring to King Hezekiah, as Singer and other Jewish apologists suggest? To begin, let us look at what may be said in favor of this interpretation. It is sometimes alleged that the name Hezekiah means “mighty God.” However, this is quite the stretch, as the name literally means “God gives strength.” [15] However, a somewhat stronger case may be made from observing intertextual parallels between Isaiah 9 and texts that concern the Assyrian siege of Judah during the days of King Hezekiah. In Isaiah 9:4, we read, “For the yoke of his burden, and the staff for his shoulder, the rod of his oppressor, you have broken as on the day of Midian.” Compare this to Isaiah 10:5, in which we read, “Woe to Assyria, the rod of my anger; the staff in their hands is my fury!” Isaiah continues in 10:24-27, 

24 Therefore thus says the Lord GOD of hosts: “O my people, who dwell in Zion, be not afraid of the Assyrians when they strike with the rod and lift up their staff against you as the Egyptians did. 25 For in a very little while my fury will come to an end, and my anger will be directed to their destruction. 26 And the LORD of hosts will wield against them a whip, as when he struck Midian at the rock of Oreb. And his staff will be over the sea, and he will lift it as he did in Egypt. 27 And in that day his burden will depart from your shoulder, and his yoke from your neck; and the yoke will be broken because of the fat.”

Tovia Singer also claims another parallel between Isaiah 9:6, which identifies the child as “the Mighty God” and Isaiah 10:21, which states that “The remnant shall return, the remnant of Jacob, to the mighty God.” [16] However, this parallel is a weak one since the title is conferred upon the child of Isaiah 9:6 (identified by Singer as Hezekiah), whereas it is unequivocally a title of the God of Israel in Isaiah 10:21.

A more striking parallel exists between the ending of Isaiah 9:7, which asserts that “The zeal of the Lord of hosts will do this.” In the entire Hebrew Biblical corpus, this phrase appears only two other times, in Isaiah 37:32 and 2 Kings 19:31, both of which refer to God’s miraculous salvation of Hezekiah and his besieged nation from King Sennacherib and his Assyrian army.

This positive case, though seeming initially plausible, is, however, clearly overtaken by the negative evidence against this text being fulfilled by Hezekiah. For one thing, Hezekiah’s son, Manasseh, was a wicked and idolatrous king who reversed his father’s reforms and restored polytheistic worship in the temple of Baal and Asherah (2 Kgs 21). He even apparently participated in the cult of Moloch, sacrificing children as offerings (2 Kgs 21:6). Within just four generations, the nation was exiled to Babylon, which conflicts with Isaiah’s statement that “Of the increase of his government and of peace there will be no end, on the throne of David and over his kingdom, to establish it and to uphold it with justice and with righteousness from this time forth and forevermore,” (Isa 9:7). The Medieval scholar, Isaac Troki, attempts to evade this conclusion by claiming that the words “without end” are “a mere figure of speech,” and that “We find, similarly, in Isaiah 2:7, ‘And his land was full of silver and gold, and there was no end to his treasures; and his land was full of horses, and there was no end to his chariots.’ Thus we also find in Ecclesiastes 4:8, ‘There is One, and no second, and he has neither son nor brother; and there is no end to all his troubles.” [17] Troki also interprets the phrase, “on the throne of David and over his kingdom, to establish it and to uphold it with justice and with righteousness from this time forth and forevermore,” (Isa 9:7) to mean “that his dominion – that is the dynasty of David – will never perish. And though an interruption occurred during the time of the captivity, the government, nonetheless, will, in the days of the Messiah, return to the scion of David.” [18] However, as Michael Brown notes in response to Troki, “it is clear from the examples he cites that these words refer to something that can hardly be counted or measured because it is so vast and boundless, like the riches of Solomon or the troubles of an afflicted man. How then can this prophecy that states ‘of the increase of his government and peace there will be no end’ apply to Hezekiah? Even granting that the words ‘without end’ do not have to be taken literally in terms of an eternal kingdom—although this would be a perfectly good way of expressing that concept in Hebrew—they simply do not describe Hezekiah’s reign, which was quite limited in international scope and influence.” [19] Brown also asks, regarding Troki’s suggestion that this text need not refer to an uninterrupted reign, “How could Isaiah have been more clear? Is there no significance to the words ‘from that time on and forever’?” [20]

Though there are, as discussed above, some textual parallels between Isaiah 9 and the texts that concern the Assyrian siege of Jerusalem during the reign of Hezekiah, there are also intertextual links – in my view, more striking – between Isaiah 9 and other texts that deal with the Davidic Messiah who would establish global peace and establish a worldwide dominion under his reign. Moreover, since the same individual is also spoken of by Isaiah and other prophets in the context of the Babylonian exile (Isaiah 52:13-53:12 is sandwiched between passages that clearly concern the Babylonian exile, as are other Biblical Messianic texts, such as Jeremiah 23:5-6), the textual links between those passages regarding the Messiah and those regarding the Assyrian siege and the Babylonian exile are, in my view, best understood as parallels of what would one day be accomplished in a much greater way, and a prophecy of hope in the midst of those trials, rather than as texts that speak of the same event. 

Furthermore, given that Hezekiah (and indeed anyone else who may be said to be the individual concerned) failed to fulfil what is spoken of the child in Isaiah 9, our text must be adjudged to be either a failed prophecy or a Messianic prophecy. One might, of course, object that Jesus has not fulfilled these predictions either, since global peace has not yet been realized. However, it is plausible to view this prophecy as still awaiting its ultimate completion when Jesus returns again. Given Jesus’ resurrection from the dead (that may be historically confirmed), the Christian has a justified expectation that the Messiah will indeed return to finish what he has begun. This was the interpretation of Jesus and the apostles (c.f. Mk 13:26-27; Acts 1:11; 1 Thess 3:13, 4:13-18). I would contend that there are also hints to this effect in the Old Testament. There are texts in the Hebrew Bible that prophecy of a suffering Messiah who suffers and dies (c.f. Isa 52:13-53:12; Dan 9:26). On the other hand, there are prophecies that indicate this same “pierced” Messiah will be beheld by his enemies (Zech 12:10). The reference to being “pierced” dovetails with Isaiah 53:5, where the servant is said to be “pierced” for our transgressions. Though the Hebrew verb is different (חלל vs דקר), the connotation is the same. Zechariah 12:10 is undoubtedly speaking of the same event as that described in Zechariah 14, when the Lord God himself will descend from heaven to the aid of his people against their enemies. This is apparent from the context, since the verses leading up to 12:10 indicate that “On that day the LORD will protect the inhabitants of Jerusalem, so that the feeblest among them on that day shall be like David, and the house of David shall be like God, like the angel of the LORD, going before them. And on that day I will seek to destroy all the nations that come against Jerusalem,” (Zech 12:8-9, c.f. Zech 14:1-9). As discussed earlier, Zechariah 14:4 indicates that the Lord’s feet will physically stand on the mount of olives. As shown previously, verse 9 suggests that the physically descending Lord is none other than the Messianic king of whom we read in Zechariah 9:9-12. If this is so, then the implication is that the one pierced in 12:10 is likewise the Messiah. The fact that the Lord descends upon the mount of Olives in a physically embodied form is also consistent with the Jews beholding a physical affliction originating during his former coming.

Singer further alleges, “To further conceal that Isaiah 9:6 is referring to names given to Hezekiah, the New International Version Bible completely deletes the word ‘name,’ causing the verse to read, ‘and he will be called.’” [22] This, however, is an incredibly weak point since to say that someone will be called by a name can be non-literal and need not denote a birthname. Indeed, Tovia Singer himself points out that Jeremiah 33:16, speaking of the city of Jerusalem, asserts that “And this is the name by which it will be called: ‘The LORD is our righteousness.’” [23] Hezekiah was certainly not conferred those names by his mother.

Ancient Jewish Messianic Interpretation of Isaiah 9:6

It may also be observed that the Targum of Jonathan Ben Uzziel, an Aramaic paraphrase of the Hebrew Bible, explicitly identifies this text as speaking of the Messiah: “The prophet said to the house of David, For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given, and he has taken the law upon himself to keep it. His name is called from before Him who is wonderful in counsel, the mighty God who lives to eternity — the Messiah whose peace shall be great upon us in his days.” [21]

The Deity of Israel’s Messiah

Having established that Isaiah 9:6 concerns the Messiah, we must now turn our attention to the question of whether it affirms His deity. As we have seen, Isaiah 9:6 confers upon the Messiah a four-fold title: Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace

Mighty God

The most provocative of those titles is Mighty God. At first consideration, one might think that this ends the debate. However, orthodox Jewish interpreters often point out that the title God can be used in some contexts of those who are not God. For example, in Exodus 7:1, God says to Moses, “See, I have made you God (אֱלֹהִ֖ים) to Pharaoh” (though some English translations add the word “like” before “God,” this is not present in the Hebrew text). Psalm 8:5 also uses the word אֱלֹהִ֑ים (Elohim) in reference to angels, or heavenly beings.

A royal inauguration Psalm refers to the Davidic King as “God” (Ps 45:6-7):

6 Your throne, O God (אֱ֭לֹהִים), is forever and ever. The scepter of your kingdom is a scepter of uprightness; 7 you have loved righteousness and hated wickedness. Therefore God, your God, has anointed you with the oil of gladness beyond your companions.

Notice that the referent of this Psalm is ascribed the title of אֱ֭לֹהִים (Elohim), yet distinguished from his God who has anointed him with the oil of gladness. Some Christian commentators have identified this as a reference to the Messiah. [24] However, I believe this to be a mistake, since the context makes it clear that this Psalm concerns a royal inauguration of a Davidic heir. The Psalm is introduced in verse 1 with a royal tribute: “My heart overflows with a pleasing theme; I address my verses to the king; my tongue is like the pen of a ready scribe.” This by itself is not fatal to a Messianic interpretation. However, verse 9 adds further clarity: “…daughters of kings are among your ladies of honor; at your right hand stands the queen in gold of Ophir.” If this Psalm concerns the Messiah, who is the queen of whom this text also speaks, not to mention the daughters of kings who are his ladies of honor? It has been suggested that the “wedding in Ps 45 is intended to be a figurative depiction of the eschatological wedding banquet,” with the queen being a metaphor for God’s people and the bridesmaids representing foreign nations. [25]  While this is not impossible, it seems to me that the most straightforward reading is that the bride and bridesmaids are literal rather than figurative. Thus, it must be granted that the title אֱ֭לֹהִים (Elohim) carries a broader meaning than merely an alternative designation of Yahweh, though of course it can be (and usually is) used in this sense. The question, then, is what we can determine from the context about its meaning in Isaiah 9:6.

In Isaiah 9:6, the complete phrase that is used is אֵ֣ל גִּבּ֔וֹר (el gibbor). This expression occurs three other times in the Hebrew Biblical corpus, and in all three of those cases it refers specifically to Yahweh (Deut 10:17; Jer 32:18; Isa 10:21). One of those references is in fact in the very next chapter that follows our text: “A remnant will return, the remnant of Jacob, to the mighty God (אֵ֖ל גִּבּֽוֹר),” (Isa 10:21). This tends to favor an interpretation of the same expression in Isaiah 9:6 as likewise denoting divine status. However, a sample size of three is not sufficiently large to render this conclusion beyond all doubt, and so we must further supplement it with additional argumentation. It should be noted here that it may be contended that an exception is found in Ezekiel 32:21: “The mighty chiefs (אֵלֵ֧י גִבּוֹרִ֛ים) shall speak of them…” This verse uses the phrase, אֵלֵ֧י גִבּוֹרִ֛ים (ele gibborim), which is sometimes claimed to be the same words used in Isaiah (in the same order) but in the plural form and connected in a genitive relation, literally “gods of mighty ones.” However, the word אֵלֵ֧י (ele) actually derives from the root, אַ֫יִל (ayil), which can mean a ram or a leader/chief. [26]

It is also noteworthy that the word, אֵ֖ל (el) occurs in the singular form 217 times in the Biblical text, and always (without exception) denotes nothing less than absolute deity, though there is a handful of instances where it is used to refer to false gods (c.f. Deut 32:12; Pss 44:20, 81:9; Isa 44:10, 45:20; and Mal 2:11). Thus, if Isaiah 9:6 does not use the word אֵ֖ל (el) to denote divine status, it would be the sole exception.

Some have pointed out that the word גבר (gibbor) is sometimes used as a noun, meaning ‘hero’ or ‘warrior’, and thus the phrase אֵ֣ל גִּבּ֔וֹר (el gibbor) in Isaiah 9:6 could perhaps mean something like ‘godlike warrior.’ On this view, the word אֵ֖ל (el) would be taken adjectivally rather than as a noun. There are many examples in the Hebrew Bible of the word אֵ֖ל (el) being used with a following noun or adjective. Hebrew scholar Alec Motyer comments, “With a following adjective ’ēl always retains its full status as a noun (e.g. Ex. 20:5; Dt. 7:9; 10:17).” [27] He further remarks, “if ever ’ēl is used adjectivally, the phrase is never identical with Isaiah 9:6〈5〉and its meaning is never diluted into ‘godlike’. Whenever we find a construction identical with Isaiah 9:6〈5〉 (’ēl with a following adjective or noun), ’ēl is never adjectival but is always the ruling noun, more closely defined by the additional word.” [28]

As quoted previously, the Targum of Jonathan ben Uzziel renders Isaiah 9:6 into Aramaic: “The prophet said to the house of David, For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given, and he has taken the law upon himself to keep it. His name is called from before Him who is wonderful in counsel, the mighty God who lives to eternity — the Messiah whose peace shall be great upon us in his days.” [29] This rendering avoids the implication of the child being afforded titles such as “Mighty God” and “Father of Eternity.” However, on this translation, Michael Brown remarks, “The problem with this translation, aside from the fact that it is grammatically strained, is that almost all the names are heaped upon God, and only the last two are given to the son—although it is the naming of this royal child that is central to the verse. How odd! Clearly, the names refer to the son, not to the Lord who gave them. In other words, the Targumic rendering would be like saying, ‘And God—the great, glorious, holy, wonderful, eternal, unchangeable Redeemer and King and Lord—calls his name Joe.’ There is no precedent or parallel to this anywhere in the Bible and no logical explanation for this rendering, nor is it even a natural, grammatical rendering of the Hebrew. The characteristics of the royal child are central—highlighted here by his names—not the characteristics of the Lord.” [30]

Everlasting Father

The child is also identified by the title, “Everlasting Father,” (אבי־עד ad abi) which may be translated as a genitive phrase, “Father of Eternity” (since אֲבִיabi, in the Hebrew text, stands in a genitive relationship to עַ֖ד, ad). Hans Wildberger concurs with this rendering: “אבי־עד can only mean ‘father of eternity.’” [31] This translation implies that the child is in fact the creator himself, which is unequivocally an attribute of deity. Rydelnik and Spencer note that “The child born here is not to be confused with the Father in the triune Godhead. Rather, the Son of God is the creator of time, the author of eternity.” [32] Walter Kaiser likewise comments, “Thus the one who will arrive later is one who has been here from the beginning of time and more!” [33] The NET Bible notes similarly stress, “This title 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.” [34] Indeed, God is portrayed as a Father to his people in various texts, including Isaiah 22:21, 63:8, and Job 29:16.

The term “Father” may also describe the relationship of the Messiah to his people. This would not be inconsistent with what Isaiah says elsewhere concerning the Messiah: “when his soul makes an offering for guilt, he shall see his offspring (זֶ֖רַע, zera); he shall prolong his days,” (Isa 53:10). It is sometimes alleged that this verse precludes Jesus from being the Messiah, since Jesus left no physical descendants. However, the expression יִרְאֶ֥ה זֶ֖רַע (yireh zera ,‘see seed’) is only used one time in the Hebrew Bible, and so one can hardly be dogmatic as to its meaning. At any rate, the word זֶ֖רַע (zera) is used figuratively at times in the Hebrew Scriptures, even including the book of Isaiah. Isaiah referred to Israel as ‘a seed of evildoers’ (1:4), ‘a seed of an adulterer’ (14:20) and ‘a seed of falsehood’ (57:3-4). Thus, in those texts, the term ‘seed’ or ‘offspring’ refers to one who is to the core an evildoer etc. In like-manner, in Isaiah 53:10, it refers to the fact that the suffering servant would see his disciples transformed by virtue of his work on their behalf. This is related in Isaiah 53 to the prolonging of his days, which alludes to his resurrection from the dead. However, even aside from this interpretation, the word זֶ֖רַע can be used to speak of a future generation, without making reference to the particular descendants of one individual. For example, Psalm 22:30-31 states, “Posterity (זֶ֥רַע) shall serve him; it shall be told of the Lord to the coming generation; they shall come and proclaim his righteousness to a people yet unborn, that he has done it.” In the context of Isaiah 53:10, the implication would be that the Lord’s servant would see future generations serving the God of Israel.

Wonderful Counsellor

Another title that is ascribed to the child is “wonderful counsellor,” literally “wonder-counsellor.” Though admittedly less conclusive than the titles already surveyed, I believe that this phrase is also suggestive of the child’s divine identity. Indeed, Isaiah says of God elsewhere, “This also comes from the LORD of hosts; he is wonderful in counsel and excellent in wisdom,” (Isa 28:29, emphasis mine). Motyer concludes concerning this text, “To designate the child as pele’ makes him ‘out of the ordinary’, one who is something of a ‘miracle’. Isaiah’s use of the noun in 25:1 and the verb in 28:29 of the Lord’s ‘counsel’ suggests that he would not resist the notion of deity in 9:6〈5〉, specially when it is contextually linked with Mighty God (’ēl-gibbôr).” [35]

One must exercise caution, however, not to overstate the case with respect to this title, as some well-meaning Christian scholars have done. For example, Edward E. Hindson asserts that “Motyer notes that pele’ is used 15 times of extraordinary acts of God.” [36] However, Motyer in fact writes that “It is used fifteen times of human acts etc. where it means ‘what is out of the ordinary’, e.g. Jonathan’s love for David (2 Sa. 1:26; cf. 2 Ch. 2:9; Dn. 8:24). Even where it has unfortunate overtones (e.g. 2 Sa. 13:2) it means ‘more than he could bring himself to do’.” [37] Hindson’s representation of Motyer is therefore inaccurate. Arnold G. Fruchtenbaum also claims that “In English, ‘wonderful’ may be freely used of many things, but in Hebrew it is reserved exclusively for that which is divine.” [38] However, this is incorrect, as the examples listed by Motyer attest. The above caveats notwithstanding, Motyer nonetheless notes that “It is used fifty-four times of the acts of God and there the meaning is ‘supernatural’, that which, for whatever reason, requires God as its explanation, for example his omnicompetence (Gn. 18:14), the way his acts confound human estimates (Ps. 118:23), the ranges of his moral providences (Ps. 107:8, 15) and when the beleaguered people felt only a ‘miracle’ could save them (Je. 21:2). In particular it describes God’s exodus-acts (Ex. 3:20; 34:10). Isaiah uses the verb in 28:29 of the Lord’s ‘counsel’ (linking with 9:6〈5〉) and in 29:14 of his work of changing the human heart.” [39] There is also a possible connection with Judges 13:18, where the angel of the Lord says to Manoah, after Manoah inquired after his name, “Why do you ask my name, seeing it is wonderful (פֶּלִאי, peli)?” I have argued elsewhere that the angel of the Lord is himself revealed to be the Messiah and indeed a divine theophany. It may be that the translators of the Greek Septuagint translation of the Hebrew Bible made this connection, since the Septuagint translation reads, “Because a child was born to us; a son was given to us whose leadership came upon his shoulder; and his name is called ‘Messenger of the Great Council,’ for I will bring peace upon the rulers and health to him.” [40] The Greek word translated “messenger” is ἄγγελος which, much like the Hebrew equivalent מַלְאָךְ (malak) can be translated both as “messenger” or “angel.” It seems plausible that the Septuagint translators thus understood the child of Isaiah 9:6 to be none other than the angel of the Lord!

Prince of Peace

The final title to be ascribed to the child is “Prince of Peace.” This title does not contribute to our case for the divine status of the child of Isaiah 9, though it does connect with those passages (as discussed earlier) elsewhere in Isaiah, as well as Zechariah, which speak of the Messianic figure establishing global peace. It also connects our text with the prophecy of Micah 5:5, which states of the Messiah to be born in Bethlehem that “he shall be their peace.”


In summary, we have seen that Isaiah 9:6-7 can be shown to be a Messianic text, by careful comparison of this text with other indubitably Messianic prophetic passages, both in the book of Isaiah as well as elsewhere in the Hebrew Biblical corpus. We have also seen that Isaiah 9:6 is best understood to indicate the deity of the child concerned, both by an analysis of the four-fold title that is bestowed upon the child, particularly the provocative titles, “Mighty God” and “Father of Eternity,” as well as other texts that can be shown to concern the same individual.


[1] “Rashi on Isaiah 11:1”, Sefaria,

[2] J. A. Motyer, The Prophecy of Isaiah: An Introduction & Commentary (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1996), 84.

[3] Ibid., 85-86.

[4] Ibid., 86.

[5] Ibid.

[6] Ibid., 84-85.

[7] Ibid., 85.

[8] Michael Rydelnik, The Messianic Hope: Is the Hebrew Bible Really Messianic? (Nashville, TN: Broadman & Holman, 2010), kindle.

[9] Ibid.

[10] Ibid.

[11] “Rashi on Micah 5:2”, Sefaria,

[12] Michael L. Brown, Answering Jewish Objections to Jesus: Messianic Prophecy Objections, vol. 3 (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 2003), 39.

[13] “Rashi on Zechariah 9:9”, Sefaria,

[14] Tovia Singer, Let’s Get Biblical! Why Doesn’t Judaism Accept the Christian Messiah? Volume 1 (RMBN Publishers, 2014), 182.

[15] Francis Brown, Samuel Rolles Driver, and Charles Augustus Briggs, Enhanced Brown-Driver-Briggs Hebrew and English Lexicon (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1977), 306.

[16] Tovia Singer, Let’s Get Biblical! Why Doesn’t Judaism Accept the Christian Messiah? Volume 1 (RMBN Publishers, 2014), 185.

[17] Isaac Troki, Hizzuk Emunah: Faith Strengthened, trans. Moses Mocatta (New York: Sefer Hermon, 1970), 106–7.

[18] Ibid., 107.

[19] Michael L. Brown, Answering Jewish Objections to Jesus: Messianic Prophecy Objections, vol. 3 (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 2003), 37.

[20] Ibid.

[21] “Targum Jonathan on Isaiah 9:5”, Seferia,

[22] Tovia Singer, Let’s Get Biblical! Why Doesn’t Judaism Accept the Christian Messiah? Volume 1 (RMBN Publishers, 2014), 182

[23] Ibid., 183.

[24] Seth D. Postell, “Psalm 45: The Messiah as Bridegroom,” in The Moody Handbook of Messianic Prophecy: Studies and Expositions of the Messiah in the Old Testament, ed. Michael Rydelnik and Edwin Blum (Chicago, IL: Moody Publishers, 2019), 573-586.

[25] Ibid., 579.

[26] James Swanson, Dictionary of Biblical Languages with Semantic Domains : Hebrew (Old Testament) (Oak Harbor: Logos Research Systems, Inc., 1997).

[27] J. A. Motyer, The Prophecy of Isaiah: An Introduction & Commentary (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1996), 104.

[28] Ibid., 105.

[29] “Targum Jonathan on Isaiah 9:5, Sefaria,

[30] Michael L. Brown, Answering Jewish Objections to Jesus: Messianic Prophecy Objections, vol. 3 (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 2003), 32–33.

[31] Hans Wildberger, A Continental Commentary: Isaiah 1-12 (Minneapolis, MN: Fortress Press, 1991), 404.

[32] Michael A. Rydelnik and James Spencer, “Isaiah,” in The Moody Bible Commentary, ed. Michael A. Rydelnik and Michael Vanlaningham (Chicago, IL: Moody Publishers, 2014), 1024.

[33] Walter Kaiser, The Messiah in the Old Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Academic, 1995), 164.

[34] Biblical Studies Press, The NET Bible First Edition Notes (Biblical Studies Press, 2006), Is 9:6.

[35] J. A. Motyer, The Prophecy of Isaiah: An Introduction & Commentary (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1996), 104.

[36] Edward E. Hindson, “Isaiah 9:1–7: The Deity of Messiah,” in The Moody Handbook of Messianic Prophecy: Studies and Expositions of the Messiah in the Old Testament, ed. Michael Rydelnik and Edwin Blum (Chicago, IL: Moody Publishers, 2019), 836.

[37] J. A. Motyer, The Prophecy of Isaiah: An Introduction & Commentary (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1996), 104.

[38] Arnold G. Fruchtenbaum, Messianic Christology: A Study of Old Testament Prophecy Concerning the First Coming of the Messiah (Tustin, CA: Ariel Ministries, 1998), 39.

[39] J. A. Motyer, The Prophecy of Isaiah: An Introduction & Commentary (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1996), 104.

[40] Rick Brannan et al., eds., The Lexham English Septuagint (Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press, 2012), Is 9:6.

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