Isaiah 9:6

“For a child has been born to us, a son has been given to  us, and the government was upon his shoulder, and he called his name –  wonderful counselor, mighty God, father unto (eternity), prince of peace.”

The missionary interpretation jumps out of this excerpt  from scripture. Who can this child be? Why would a human child be entitled with  divine names if he was not in fact divine? The missionaries argue that the  child of this verse, can only be Jesus of Nazareth.

The most prominent problem with the missionary rendition  of this verse in Isaiah, is that it flies in the face  of the context of this verse. But before we get to context, let us examine the  words of the verse itself. The prophet is speaking of a child having been born,  in the past. Can this be a reference to Jesus who was born several centuries  after Isaiah spoke these words? Isaiah speaks of “government.” Did Jesus  “govern” in any sense of the word? In what way can Jesus be considered a  “wonderful counselor”? In what way did Jesus earn the title “mighty God”?  Jesus’ career did not produce any demonstrations of wondrous counsel, nor was  it an expression of strength in any manner. These would not be the titles given  to Jesus. In fact the Christians who worship Jesus as a deity do not refer to  him as a wonderful counselor or as a mighty God (unless they are paraphrasing  this particular verse in Isaiah). Christians do not call Jesus a “father.” On  the contrary, he is called a “son.” So without resorting to the context of the  verse, we can see how the missionary interpretation is problematic, at best.

When we examine the verse in context, the missionary  interpretation disappears. The passage in which this verse appears talks of a  military threat being miraculously eliminated, namely the threat of the  Assyrian king Sennacherib. Verse 3 (of chapter 9) of the  passage talks of the yoke of his (the nation’s) burden and the rod of her  oppressor being broken as on the day of Midian.  The “day of Midian” was when God miraculously put an  army of multitudes to flight before Gideon’s small band of 300 (Judges 6 and  7). This is a clear parallel to the miraculous annihilation of Sennacherib’s  troops (as described in chapters 37 of Isaiah, 19 of second Kings, and 32 of  second Chronicles). The various phrases in this passage are repeated over and  over again in the book of Isaiah as reference to the destruction of  Sennacherib’s army. The expressions “yoke” and ‘burden” (9:3) are used in 14:25  with a direct reference to Assyria’ army being  broken. The expressions “staff” and “rod” (9:3), can be found in 10:5,24,27, and 30:31, clearly talking of this same event. The  reference to Midian (9:3) is repeated in 10:26 in  relation to Sennacherib’s destruction. The concept of “burning” as a  description of this miracle (9:4), is mentioned in 10:16,17  and again in 30:31 and 31:9 as a description of the death of Sennacherib’s  soldiers. The concept of “counsel” (9:5) is used in 14:26,27  to speak of this miracle. The words “mighty God” (9:5), are repeated in 10:21  to describe Israel’s  return to God after this amazing event. The words “zeal of the Lord of Hosts”  is repeated in 37:32 in direct reference to this miraculous event. There are many more cross references from this passage to the  various passages that speak of Sennacherib’s destruction, but these can be used  as a starting point in understanding this passage.

It is only by disregarding the context of the verse, and  with no respect for the spirit of scripture that the missionary can wrench the  words out of context and use them as a reference to a pagan concept with no  foundation in scripture.

So what is the meaning of this enigmatic passage? Who is  the child that is deserving of all of these divine names?

There are several Jewish interpretations offered to  explain this verse, but they all recognize that the verse is speaking of  Hezekiah’s salvation from the threat of Sennacherib. The words “he called his name”  can be read in three different ways. 1) That the following phrases are all  names of the child (this is how the Christians read the verse). 2) That the  phrases following the introduction (“he called his name”) are descriptions of  the one doing the calling. 3) The concept of calling a name is not being used  in its literal sense, but rather in a metaphoric sense as in Ruth 4:11, where  the phrase “and call a name” is used to mean – making a mark, or leaving a  memory. According to this interpretation the phrases are not names of the child  or of the name-giver. Rather these describe concepts that people will associate  with the memory of the child. All of these interpretations conform with the grammatical structure of the verse, and the Jewish  commentators may utilize any of the three readings (or a combination of these  explanations) of this introductory phrase.

Assuming that the names are titles of the child, one  Jewish commentator offers the following interpretation. The child will be  called “The Mighty God, Father unto eternity and Prince of peace is planning a  wonder.” In other words, the child’s name is a complete sentence describing  God’s action. Another interpretation in keeping with this reading of the  introductory phrase ascribes all of these titles to Hezekiah, but changes the  translation. Hezekiah was a wonderful counselor to his people. The words “e-l gibbor”, generally translate as “mighty God”, but they  could just as easily mean “mighty warrior”, with no reference to divinity. In  fact the same expression “el gibbor” is found in  Ezekiel 32:21 (in the plural form) and the context makes  it obvious that the reference is to humans with no connection to divine  strength. “Avi ad” is generally translated as “father of eternity”, but that is  not the literal meaning of the words. The literal translation is “father unto”  or “father until”, with the implication of “father unto eternity.” Some would  argue that Hezekiah’s personal life reflected God’s control over time, for he  merited two miracles that violated the natural laws of time (Isaiah 38). Others  would say that the translation is incorrect, but rather it should read “father  of spoils”, which is an apt description of Hezekiah’s victory over Sennacherib.  And Hezekiah was indeed a prince of peace, as Isaiah prophesied (39:8).

The oldest Jewish commentary (Targum  – which probably predates the advent of Christianity) explains that the first  three titles in the verse are those of the One giving the name, while the name  given to the child is “prince of peace.” So God is the wonderful Counselor,  Mighty God, and Father unto (eternity), while Hezekiah is the prince of peace.

The spirit of the verse, is that  the child will somehow be a cause for the salvation of the Jewish people from  the oppression of Sennacherib. Indeed, Hezekiah’s prayer was the catalyst for  God’s intervention on behalf of His people (Isaiah 37:21, 2Kings 19:20). Isaiah  is comforting his people. Although Achaz  (Hezekiah’s father) was evil, but his child was holy and righteous. In  the merit of this holy child, who bore upon his shoulders the government of his  people, the nation could hope to survive the onslaught of Sennacherib and his  hordes.