With the exception of Avi’ad, the names here are not composites like, “Shmuel (Samuel), Avimelech, Avraham etc. To the contrary they are precise descriptions of the very nature of this child. Where the composite names common to the Tanakh (OT) reflect G-d’s functional purpose for the individual, these names describe G-d with us (Emmanuel). Meaning that this child is G-d, Yeshua, the fully G-d and fully man Messiah of Israel.
In the Hebrew Tanakh (OT), this passage begins with the verse which describes a specific people (Ha-am: the people) living in darkness. The phrase, “Ha-am” is synonymous with the people of Israel. Making this verse the ultimate verse of this chapter is a correct distribution of contextual markers (chapter & verse) because the prophet Isaiah is recording a new creation in these poetic and prophetic words concerning the Messiah’s entry into time and space as a new born male child, and this new creation correlates to the New Covenant promised to the house of Israel (Yisra: overcome, in El: G-d) and the house of Judah (Praise) [Jeremiah 31:31]. Thus through the boy (Yeshua) we overcome in G-d and are redeemed that we might praise the G-d of love and reconciliation.
While the context is understood to be in the wake of the Assyrian invasion of the north (734 and 732 BC, 2 Kings 15:29), which resulted in Naphtali suffering greatly, we are wise to measure our conclusions regarding who this past tense prophecy of Isaiah applies to. While this type of prophecy usually seeks to correlate a future fulfilment with a past persona or event, this particular prophecy is the subject of much futile conjecture. The key to understanding it is in verse 6(7):
“In order to increase the government and bring peace, (wholeness, completion and soundness)
without end to the throne and kingdom of David (Beloved of G-d), to secure it and sustain it
through mishpat (judgement) and tz’dakah (righteousness) from this time forth and eternally (v’ad) forever (olam).”
What this section of the text makes clear is that the kingdom being spoken of is an eternal one, therefore no kingdom prior to Isaiah’s writing, or any kingdom since (with the exception of the inception of Messiah’s kingdom) qualifies. This text can only be understood in light of future fulfilment. Additionally this kingdom must be connected to the throne of David, which is a figurative form that is synonymous with the Messiah’s reign.
This portion of Isaiah is one of Israel’s oldest Messianic prophecies, much disputed by certain rabbinical scholars and anti-evangelists, but affirmed by both the Messiah Himself and the New Testament writers. It is a glimpse into the wonderful meta-narrative of G-d’s redemptive story, a drawing together of the first creation and the future re-creation. During the festival of lights, we are wise to rededicate (Chanukah) the temples of our bodies, both plural and singular, allowing the Light of the world (Yeshua) to illuminate the darkness that seeks to blind us to the Holy home that the Father and the Son have prepared for each of us.
1 (2) The people (ha-am: people of Israel) whose walking's (Haholchim) are in darkness (Choshek: Genesis 1:2)have seen, (perceived and understood) great light (Or gadol: Genesis 1:3-5);
those living (dwelling, remaining) in the land (B’eretz: Land of Israel) that lies
in the shadow of death, light has enlightened (rested upon) them.
The Hebrew text opens with, “ha-am”, the people/tribe, and refers, as indicated by the remainder of the text of Isaiah 9, to Israel [verse 2(3) uses ha-goy: the nation, also synonymous with Israel]. It is therefore Israel whose walking’s (way of life, actions) are in darkness and Israel that has seen the great light. This is affirmed by the phrase, “B’eretz” (in the land), which refers specifically to the land of Israel. It is the land (where the Jewish people live), that lies in the shadow of death, meaning that a shadow is being cast over the entire nation by darkness itself. They have been in danger of death both physical and spiritual. However, the light shines in the darkness and the darkness cannot overcome it (John 1:5).
We should note that the Hebrew, “Ha-holchim” is from the root, “Halakh”, meaning, “to go, walk”, from which we get the common rabbinical term Halakhah (the way we walk), which in turn refers to the way we live out our theological belief. Remembering of course that in ancient Jewish religious thought there is no separation of theology and action. Therefore we’re able to conclude that Israel (ha-am: the nation) where both living and working out their spirituality in darkness (a metaphor for evil).
This prophecy links the creation to the nation of Israel. “Or gadol”, is the great light of Genesis 1:3-5, which is spoken (D’var/Kol) from the mouth of G-d, this light is not subject to the sun or moon, or to the limitation of the 24 hour day, but is the light of G-d’s revelation that illuminates all things.
2 (3) Who (The light) enlarged the nation (ha-goy: singular, meaning Israel) not growing in joy;
they rejoice in (the presence of) your face as if rejoicing at harvest time, the way men rejoice when dividing up plunder (rejoicing over a victory won).
It is G-d, as light, Who enlarges the nation of Israel even while she is in darkness. The phrase, “not growing in joy” finds its poetic double in the former phrase, “living in darkness”. Whereas the phrase, “they rejoice at (seeing) Your face” finds its poetic double in the former phrase, “have seen great light”. In other words G-d’s face is a great light to the people of Israel.
The people of Israel rejoice over the victory won on their behalf by G-d’s light, like those who understand that the harvest has been secure and that there will be ample food for the coming days. Their enemies have been overcome and all the plunder taken from Israel in the past has been returned to them.
This is of course an allegory for the Gospel of Messiah and can be applied as a drash (illuminated spiritual teaching) to both ethnic Israel and those among the nations who have received the light of the Messiah.
3 (4) That the yoke of burden, the rod across their shoulders,
the sceptre of oppression is shattered in the day of Midyan (literally: strife and figuratively: overcoming idolatry and the pollution of a nation, Numbers 31)
The yoke is a Hebrew euphemism meaning both rule and teaching. If the yoke is a burden then it is an oppressive rule, one that emulates Israel’s slavery in Egypt and ultimately represents Israel’s slavery to sin. This oppressive rule over the hearts, minds and souls of Israel has and will yet be shattered.
This will be done again at a time in the future when Israel is in strife (Midyan) under an oppressive rule. The joy of deliverance will echo throughout Judea and Israel, just as it echoed throughout the borders of the land when Israel conquered the Midianites (Numbers 31). We can also link the victory over Midyan to Gideon’s victory recorded in Judges 7:22-25, although I believe Isaiah (at the inspiration of G-d) intended the former victory recorded in the book of B’midbar (Numbers: Wilderness).
The victory over Midyan (strife) was a victory over Idolatry, sexual immorality and oppression. The Midianites, due to the influence of the false prophet Baalam, had sought to entice Israel into idolatry. The victory over them, commanded by G-d through Moses, included warrior priests, who decimated the Midianite peoples. This is the kind of victory we are reading of here, victory over darkness, idolatry and sin: freedom from slavery to sin and idolatry.
The oppressive yoke is spoken of again as being destroyed in Isaiah 10:26-27, where it refers to the defeat of the Assyrians which was to take place in 701 BC. This is yet another reason why we are unwise to make presumptions based on the past tense used in the Hebrew text. With regard to prophecy the past tense is just as likely to strengthen future fulfilment as it is to refer to past events alone.
4 (5) For all the boots of soldiers marching and every cloak rolled in blood is destined for burning,
fuel for the fire (that is the armies who come against G-d and His people).
The meaning is clear. All those who had once oppressed and marched against Israel and her G-d, be they physical or spiritual entities, will be destroyed. There are numerous correlations to this throughout the Bible as a whole.
5 (6) For a boy (yeled) is born to us, a son (ben) is given to us;
all government (Misra: not just earthly government but all forms of government) will rest on His shoulders, and He will be called by the name (Shem: not just a proper noun but an indication of the functional nature of soul or character), Pele-Yo‘etz El Gibbor Avi-‘Ad Sar-Shalom (Wonderful Counsellor, Mighty G-d, Father of Eternity, Prince of Peace),
Where there was once a burden of oppression on Israel, the boy that is born as a gift to Israel will rest all government on His shoulders. This is the counterpoint to the doublet of verses 3 & 4.
In Hebrew a person’s name usually describes G-d’s prophetic purpose for their lives. This text follows the same understanding. However, with the exception of Avi’ad, the names here are not composites like, “Shmuel (Samuel), Avimelech, Avraham etc. To the contrary they are precise descriptions of the very nature of this child. Where the composite names common to the Tanakh (OT) reflect G-d’s functional purpose for the individual, these names describe G-d with us (Emmanuel). Meaning that this child is G-d, Yeshua, the fully G-d and fully man Messiah of Israel.
The names are in fact one long description of the attributes of G-d with us (Yeshua). “Pele-Yo‘etz El Gibbor Avi-‘Ad Sar-Shalom (Wonderful Counsellor, Mighty G-d, Father of Eternity, Prince of Peace),
Some Anti-evangelists, using Targums (ancient commentaries on the Scriptural texts), claim that the names listed describing the child belong to G-d rather than to the Child, and yet G-d is not mentioned in the context of this passage until He is mentioned as being the boy born to us. Even a simple general understanding of grammar tells us that the subject must be presented in the text in order to be named. The subject of these names is the boy. The irony of the anti-evangelist argument is that they have a portion but not all of the truth: the names belong to both G-d and the child, Who is G-d with us (Emmanuel), Yeshua the Mashiyach.
In order to pursue the false reading of the anti-evangelists, one must ignore basic Hebrew grammar. The Hebrew “Sh’mo” (his name) indicates that the names that follow belong to the boy described in the preceding verses. Any other reading is at very least dishonest and at worst, worthy of curse, a defiling of the Scripture. The motivation for this is desperate and contrary to Messiah, it is also misspent energy given that there are numerous other passages in the Tanakh that reveal the deity of the coming Messiah (Yeshua), not to mention the literal claims made by Yeshua Himself as to His deity.
As followers of Yeshua we understand that anyone who denies that Yeshua is G-d with us is speaking from a spirit of anti-Messiah (anti-Christ).
The Rav Shaul/Paul says:
“But even if we or an angel (messenger) from heaven should preach to you a gospel contrary to the one we preached to you, let him be accursed. As we have said before, so now I say again: If anyone is preaching to you a gospel contrary to the one you received, let him be accursed.” –Galatians 1:8-9
6 (7) In order to increase the government and bring peace, (wholeness, completion and soundness)
without end to the throne and kingdom of David (Beloved of G-d), to secure it and sustain it
through mishpat (judgement) and tz’dakah (righteousness) from this time forth and forever.
Following the couplet of verses 3 & 5, the opening phrase here confirms Israel’s journey from oppression to the Messianic rule of freedom under G-d. While the Hebrew text is in the past tense, it is a known prophetic form that notes certain past events and places a future fulfilment upon them. We know this because it speaks of David’s kingdom as being an eternal one as a result of the boy Who would become king. In order for this kingdom to have been established already, Israel would need to have a current Davidic king ruling over it, a king born thousands of years ago. Therefore we know that the prophet intended a future fulfilment, one that will happen in stages:
1.) A child will be born to rule Israel
2.) He will break the oppression of the yoke that is on Israel’s back
3.) He will establish the kingdom of the beloved of G-d (David) as an eternal kingdom and will rule over it
- Yeshua was born to be a light to Israel
- He broke the yoke of sin off of Israel’s back through His death and resurrection
- He is coming again to complete and reign over the eternal kingdom of G-d, which is both physically and metaphorically represented in David’s earthly dynasty (the Beloved of G-d)
Yeshua will secure His kingdom through mishpat (Judgement: The Day of The L-rd) and tz’dakah (righteousness: the redeemed of the L-rd).
The zeal (like that of a jealous husband) of Adonai-Tzva’ot (YHVH of heavens armies) will accomplish this.
It is not just zeal, but the zeal of a jealous husband, that HaShem exhibits in accomplishing these things. G-d is jealous for those He has chosen, both Jew and Gentile. He will not allow idolatrous spiritual adultery to stain His bride.
A Brief Word on Christmas:
This passage from Isaiah prophecies the birth of our Messiah, sent into time and space to redeem us from sin and death. Therefore I feel compelled to speak briefly on the subject of Christmas (Messiah is sent) celebration.
For many and varied illegitimate reasons, a number of modern Christians (Hebrew Roots movement) and Messianics (a term that is now so loosely applied that it has become unable to properly identify any group), have decided not to celebrate Christ-mas (Messiah is sent). This on its own would be of no consequence if they had chosen to celebrate His birth at another time, however in the aftermath of this foolish pseudo-learned decision, they have ceased celebrating the birth of our Messiah altogether. Like the Separatists of the late 19th century, they have become so convinced of their own separation from the Ecclesia (Viewing themselves as the so called “called out” pure Church/Bride), that they have, in seeking purity through their own actions, become subject again to bondage; forgetting that in Messiah we are not keepers of the Torah but rather we are kept by the Living Torah, Ha-d’var Emet (The Word of Truth) Yeshua, Who, if not for His birth into time and space, could not have been crucified and resurrected, thus leaving us without hope. Therefore, let us celebrate His birth, which illuminates His purpose in being sent, that we might also hope in the future glory purchased for us in His death and resurrection.
This year (5776: 2015) our congregation will once again delight ourselves in remembering the birth of our Messiah Yeshua, each one practicing the Biblical remembrance of Christmas (Messiah is sent) utilizing the symbolism and positive traditions that affirm their own convictions regarding this celebration. We are reminded that every Shabbat we light the candles of Sh’mor (Observance) and Zakhor (Remembrance), therefore we observe the holy day, remembering that Yeshua was born for the purpose of our Salvation (yeshua). We remember what G-d has done, what He is doing and what He has promised to do, in Messiah, The Hope of Glory.
My prayer is that the illumination of the text of Isaiah 9 will aid our joy (Simchataynu) during this season of Chanukah (dedication) and Mashiyach Neshlach (Messiah is sent).
In combination with this study please also consider the articles I’ve written on Luke chapters 1 and 2:
Luke 1:1-38: Choosing Between Disbelief and Wonder
Luke 1:39-80: From Generation to Generation
Luke 2:1-24: G-d’s Plan is not World Peace, it is Peace for the World
Luke 2:25-52: Hearing About Grace and Favour
© Alastair Brown