(8:23) The gloom will be dispelled for those who were anxious.
In earlier times he humiliated
the land of Zebulun,
and the land of Naphtali;
but now he brings honor
to the way of the sea,
the region beyond the Jordan,
and Galilee of the nations.

In the Hebrew Bible, v23 is included with the previous chapter.  In Mt 4:15f, however, it introduces the present passage.

Matthew’s point, in quoting this verse, is that the northern parts of the nations, with their mixed population, were the first to see the glory of the Messiah.

This whole passage is evidently a birth announcement.  But whereas ‘the birth announcement in Isa 8:1-4 was evidently intended by Isaiah to refer to the coming of the first “Immanuel,” Isaiah’s son, while the birth announcement in Isa 9:1-7 was manifestly intended to refer to the coming of the second, greater “Immanuel,” the Messiah.’ (Nicholl, The Great Christ Comet, p209).

Many translations begin this verse with ‘nevertheless’ or ‘but’.

Matthew Henry comments:

‘Note, In the worst of times God’s people have a nevertheless to comfort themselves with, something to allay and balance their troubles; they are persecuted, but not forsaken, (2 Cor 4:9) sorrowful yet always rejoicing, 2 Cor 6:10. And it is matter of comfort to us, when things are at the darkest, that he who forms the light and creates the darkness (ch. Isa 45:7) has appointed to both their bounds and set the one over against the other, Gen 4:4. He can say, “Hitherto the dimness shall go, so long it shall last, and no further, no longer.”‘

The gloom will be dispelled – There is light at the end of the tunnel! The theme of light and darkness is continued from Isa 8:20-22. The Redeemer will bring to the world the dawning of a new day, v2; cf. Lk 1:78-79; Jn 8:12. The applicability of this prophecy to Christ is confirmed by Mt 4:13-15.

Derek Thomas notes the ‘catalogue of gloom’ already referred to by Isaiah:

  • superstition (Isa 2:6)
  • materialism (Isa 2:7; 5:8–9)
  • idolatry (Isa 2:8, 20)
  • arrogance (Isa 2:12–17; 5:15)
  • failure of leadership (Isa 3:1–4)
  • social disintegration (Isa 3:5–6, 12–14)
  • sensuality (Isa 3:16–26)
  • drunkenness (Isa 5:11–13, 22).

The darkness of godlessness is vividly described by the apostle Paul:

Eph 4:18f ‘They [the Gentiles] are darkened in their understanding, being alienated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them due to the hardness of their hearts. Because they are callous, they have given themselves over to indecency for the practice of every kind of impurity with greediness.’

On the contrast between darkness and light, see also:

Jn 3:19-21 ‘Now this is the basis for judging: that the light has come into the world and people loved the darkness rather than the light, because their deeds were evil.  For everyone who does evil deeds hates the light and does not come to the light, so that their deeds will not be exposed.  But the one who practices the truth comes to the light, so that it may be plainly evident that his deeds have been done in God. ‘

Acts 26:17f  ‘I am sending you to open their eyes so that they turn from darkness to light and from the power of Satan to God, so that they may receive forgiveness of sins and a share among those who are sanctified by faith in me.’ ‘

How shall we account for the remarkable light/darkness imagery in this passage?  According to Marvin A. Sweeney,

‘The contrasting images of light and darkness in this passage have defied adequate explanation.’

Colin Nicholl (The Great Christ Comet p211), who cites Sweeney, comments:

‘When, however the imagery is interpreted in the light of Yahweh’s offer to do a celestial sign in Isa 7:10-14, it can be readily explained.’

(For Nicholl, of course, the explanation is to be found in the form of a comet).

How do we read our past experiences? –

‘As always, the people of God must decide what reading of their experiences they will live by. Are they to look at the darkness, the hopelessness, the dreams shattered and conclude that God has forgotten them? Or are they to recall his past mercies, to remember his present promises and to make great affirmations of faith?’ (Cf. Ps 74:2-17; 77:5-15) (Motyer)

The unfaithful king will be replaced by one who is faithful:

‘In place of an unfaithful monarch whose shortsighted defensive policies will actually plunge the nation into more desperate straits, there is lifted up the ideal monarch who, though a child, will bring an end to all wars and establish an eternal kingdom based upon justice and righteousness.’ (Oswalt)

In the past – The future is spoken of as already accomplished.  As Webb comments

‘The future is written as something which has already happened, for it belonged to the prophetic consciousness of men like Isaiah to cast themselves forward in time and then look back on the mighty acts of God, saying to us, “Look forward to it, it is certain, he has already done it!”‘ (Motyer) The impending devastation of the northern kingdom by Assyria is relegated to the past. ‘By faith he sees a glorious reversal that will one day be effected by God’s grace.’

He humbled – The action is all on God’s side. The devastation of the northern lands took place around 733 BC.

Zebulum…Naphtali…Galilee – The northern parts of the northern kingdom.  Naphtali was situated on the western shore of the Sea of Galilee, and Zebulun was between the Sea of Galilee and the Mediterranean.  These regions, which were the first to fall to Assyria – around BC 733, just a few months after Isaiah’s meeting with Ahaz (cf. Isa 7:1-9) – will be the first to see the messianic glory.  Jesus was not only brought up in Nazareth, but later made his home in Capernaum.  Matthew will be at pains to point out that Jesus brought the gospel first to these same regions, Mt 4:12-17.  Jn 1:46; 7:52, however, record that this privilege was not taken full advantage of.

Galilee of the Gentiles – The northern extension of Naphtali. It was an area with a mixed population; Zebulun and Naphtali having failed to oust the original Canaanites from the area, Jud 1:30,33. Even the Gentiles are involved in the message of hope, Isa 11:10; 42:1,6; 496; 60:1-3.

By the way of the sea – That is, Zebulun, the land between the Sea of Galilee and the Meditteranean.

Along the Jordan – or, ‘over the Jordan’.

‘The gloom of God’s judgment upon his people would not be permanent. Those regions around the Sea of Galilee which were the first to be overrun by northern enemies, would be the first to see the dawn of a new day of great light, i.e., a new revelation from God (9:1f.). The passage forecasts the great work of Christ and all the blessings which he would bring. (cf. Mt 4:13ff) In four beautiful word pictures that glorious day is described.

First, the day of Messiah would be a day of expansion. God would enlarge the nation (9:3a). The reference probably is to the incorporation of Gentiles into the new Israel of God, the church of Christ.

Second, that would be a day of joy like unto that which follows a successful harvest or battle (9:3b).

Third, Messiah’s coming would usher in a day of deliverance. The rod and yoke of the Great Oppressor would be shattered as in the day when Gideon crushed the hordes of Midian (9:4).

Fourthly, that would be a day of peace. The picture is that of the clean-up after war. Warriors boots and blood-stained garments would be consigned to fire (9:5).’

(Zuck, OT Survey, paragraphing and emphasis added)

9:2 (9:1) The people walking in darkness
see a bright light;
light shines
on those who live in a land of deep darkness.

Instead of darkness there will be light, v2; instead of sorrow there will be joy, v3; instead of defeat there will be victory, v4; and instead of war there will be peace, v5.

Now comes the climax of 8:1-9:7. Indeed, we can go back as far as Isa 7:1, for in place of an unfaithful monarch whose shortsighted defensive policies will actually plunge the nation into more desperate straits, there is lifted up the ideal monarch who, though a child, will bring an end to all wars and establish an eternal kingdom based upon justice and righteousness.’ (Oswalt)

Three things are promised here:

  • a great and gladdening light, v2;
  • national enlargement and prosperity, v3;
  • peace and liberty, v4f.

These:

‘all point ultimately at the grace of the gospel, which the saints then were to comfort themselves with the hopes of in every cloudy and dark day, as we now are to comfort ourselves in time of trouble with the hopes of Christ’s second coming, though that be now, as his first coming then was, a thing at a great distance. The mercy likewise which God has in store for his church in the latter days may be a support to those that are mourning with her for her present calamities.’ (MHC)

Darkness…light – This transformation points to the creative act of God, cf. Isa 4:5; Gen 1:2-3; 2 Cor 4:6. We might reflect on the extent to which our own generation might be described as ‘walking in darkness’.

A great light – God’s presence is often likened to light, Isa 42:16; 2 Sam 22:29; Job 29:3; Ps 139:11-12; 1 Jn 1:5; see also Lk 1:78f; Jn 1:4; 8:20; 2 Cor 4:4.  Colin Nicholl (The Great Christ Comet) notes that this description is suggestive of a conspicuous celestial display, given that the sun and the moon are referred to as ‘great lights’ in Gen 1:16.  He thinks that a prominent comet is predicted, consistent with the one that led the magi to the birth-place of Jesus, Mt 2 (see also Rev 12).

Seen…has dawned – point to the subjective experience and objective fact respectively. The former is the human reaction; the latter the divine action.

The shadow of death – the kind of trouble that casts a death-like shadow.

9:3 You have enlarged the nation;
you give them great joy.
They rejoice in your presence
as harvesters rejoice;
as warriors celebrate when they divide up the plunder.

The great joy expressed in this verse is occasioned by release from oppression, v4, the cessation of war, v5, and the birth of a great king, v6. ‘The alternation of past and future tenses expresses the bold confidence with which the oracle is delivered.’ (Webb) This confidence comes from an assurance that ‘the zeal of the Lord Almighty will accomplish this’, v7.

Harvesters…warriers – These two similes ‘express the idea of every sort of joy, joy in its completeness’ (Motyer). The first occurs in the sphere of nature, the second in the arena of history. One indicates deliverance from adverse circumstances, from material want, the other from adversaries themselves, from military oppression:

‘There will be more joy than harvesters have on the successful completion of the harvest, and a group of soldiers have when dividing the spoil after a great victory.’ (Harman)

We might consider some modern-day analogies: ‘as fans rejoice when their team wins the cup’; ‘as employees rejoice when they receive an unexpected bonus’; ‘as patients rejoice when a “miracle cure” is discovered for their debiliating condition’.

9:4 For their oppressive yoke
and the club that strikes their shoulders,
the cudgel the oppressor uses on them,
you have shattered, as in the day of Midian’s defeat.

For – Each of the next three verses begin with this word.  Three reasons (or sets of reasons) are therefore given for the promised transformation from darkness to light, from sorrow to joy, from defeat to victory.

Harman sets this out as follows:

You [the LORD] have multiplied the nation and increased its joy …

For you have broken the yoke of his burden …
For every warrior’s sandal will … be used for burning …
For to us a child is born.…

For Webb, the three verses, each beginning with the word ‘for’ express the reasons for ‘rejoicing’ (v3) as release from oppression (v4), the cessation of war (v5) and the birth of an ideal ruler (v6).

In this verse, Judah is likened to an ox, upon which Assyria has placed heavy and painful burdens.

Their oppressive yoke…you have shattered – At the outset of his public ministry, Jesus would declare that he had come to liberate the oppressed (Lk 4:18f; citing Isa 61:1-3).

As in the day of Midian’s defeat – Gideon’s victory over the Midianites is recorded in Judg 6-8, and here recalled, some 500 years later.  It stood as the most notable of victory despite overwhleming odds.

There is a threefold oppression from which they will be relieved: the burden of carrying heavy loads, the pain of being hit with a stick (not ‘bar’, says Motyer) across the shoulders, and the hostility of their taskmasters.

Why ‘as on the day of Midian’? Ortlund explains:

‘Because Gideon broke the power of the Midianite hordes. He was an unlikely hero. And God deliberately reduced the size of his army from 32,000 men to 300. Then God’s strategy was an audacious bluff, with Gideon’s men blowing trumpets and breaking jars and holding up torches in the night. But God threw the enemy into a panic, and they slaughtered their own men. Isaiah is looking ahead to a Liberator even better than Gideon.’

9:5 Indeed every boot that marches and shakes the earth
and every garment dragged through blood
is used as fuel for the fire.

Every garment dragged through blood – ‘In Assyria it was common rhetoric to speak of cities and countrysides dyed red with the blood of enemies and of the army marching through the blood of their enemies.’ (IVPBBCOT)

This speaks not only of victory, but of the end of all conflict.  The final victory of the king will bring and end to war and will usher in a time of wise rule and lasting peace (cf. vv6f.).

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.

The coming dawn and the abolition of the trappings of war prepare us to meet a deliverer, already foretold as Immanuel in Isa 7:14; 8:8. Whereas Isa 7:14 concentrates on his birth and 11:1-16 on his kingdom, vs 6-7 chiefly emphasize his person.

The language of v6f recalls that of the Davidic covenant in 2 Sam 7.

For… – Here is the ultimate explanation for the great reversal of fortunes; for the relief of oppression and the ceasing of warfare..

Some scholars, especially Jewish commentators, relate all of this to the birth of Hezekiah.

Goldingay (Isaiah for Everyone), too, inclines to the view that the birth spoken of is Hezekiah to Ahaz.  This had already taken place, and people would look back to it as a significant moment in God’s protections of Jerusalem from the Assyrians.

However, it seems clear from the language that no human king is being described.  Moreover, Hezekiah had been born three years before the events recorded in Isa 7, whereas the birth described his lies in the future.

It is true, of course, that names are not necessarily descriptors or predictors of the one named.  Joshua is not himself ‘the Lord who saves’; his name simply reflects faith in the divine deliverer.

Goldingay regards the fourfold name as a single sentence (‘An-extraordinary-counselor-is-the-warrior-God, the-everlasting-Father-is-an-officer-for-well-being’).  This name does not describe the person himself, but is rather a pointer to who God is and what he will do.

But, in the present passage, it is not only the names themselves, but the other epithets, that lead us to conclude that no mere human ruler is being spoken of.  For example, ‘Everlasting Father’ is complemented by the assertion that the one spoken of will sit on David’s throne ‘for ever’.

Motyer asks:

‘To whom is the prophet referring? Certainly, the Davidic king was sometimes spoken of in terms of divine sonship, Psa 2. But this was ‘at best an adopted sonship, a “grace and favour” title; likewise, the deity of the king in Ps 45:7. But here is a born king, (cf. Mt 2:2) actually divine. In him everything that was envisaged is embodied; he is the eschaton.’

A child is born…a son is given – The first expression emphasises his humanity, the second his divinity. Calvin is of the opinion that ‘son’ can only mean ‘Son of God’, as in 2 Sam 7:14; Ps 2:7.

Motyer says:

‘The emphasis falls not on what the child will do when grown up but on the mere fact of his birth. In his coming all that results from his coming is at once secured…Child relates him to his ancestry; son expresses his maleness and dignity in the royal line; he is born as from human parentage and given as from God.’ (Motyer)

Oswalt says that the reference to child indicates two things in particular: (a) he will be truly human (i.e. with a truly human arrival), though with divine attributes; (b) he will be God’s means of victory, not by being ruthlessly destructive, but by becoming vulnerable and humble.  The best way of getting rid of your enemies is by making them your friends.

Ortlund comments that the answer to all the bullies of the world is not yet another bully, but a child.

Webb notes that throughout chapters 7-9 the outworking of God’s purposes in history is associated with the birth of children (Isa 7:3, 14-15; 8:1-4; 9:6).

Matthew Henry invites us to contemplate this divine humiliation:

‘The same that is the mighty God is a child born; the ancient of days becomes an infant of a span long; the everlasting Father is a Son given. Such was his condescension in taking our nature upon him; thus did he humble and empty himself, to exalt and fill us. He is born into our world. The Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us. He is given, freely given, to be all that to us which our case, in our fallen state, calls for. God so loved the world that he gave him. He is born to us, he is given to us, us men, and not to the angels that sinned. It is spoken with an air of triumph, and the angel seems to refer to these words in the notice he gives to the shepherds of the Messiah’s having come, (Lk 2:11) Unto you is born, this day, a Saviour.’

He shoulders responsibility – NIV – ‘and the government will be on his shoulders.’  This suggests the executive authority of a prince.  Put simply: he will rule.

When he takes up the burden of rule, the burden of oppression will be lifted from the people’s shoulders, v4. He will not only wear the badge of government, he will bear the burden of it. (MHC)

As for the titles themselves:

‘Other scriptures confirm that the first three titles imply divinity; e.g. Wonderful regularly means ‘supernatural’ (cf. especially Jdg. 13:18), and it is Yahweh who is ‘wonderful in counsel’ in Isa 28:29. There have been attempts to reduce Mighty God to ‘god-like hero’, (cf. Eze 32:21, where, however, the term is plural) but Isa 10:21 uses the identical term alongside ‘the LORD, the Holy one of Israel’ (10:20). Everlasting Father has no exact parallel but there is a paradox in so naming a child yet to be born. Father signifies the paternal benevolence of the perfect Ruler over a people whom he loves as his children. Peace in Hebrew implies prosperity as well as tranquillity, and v 7 takes up the Hebrew of Prince (in the word government) as well as peace, adding now the first explicit assurance that the prince will be Davidic (cf. 11:1). (Kidner, NBC)

And is called – Walton (IVPBBCOT) notes that it was common, in the ancient world, for a king to take one or more throne names on accession to the throne.  One such king took on the titles ‘Lord of Justice, Master of the Royal House, King Who Protects and King Who Builds.’

Walton continues:

‘Most names in the ancient world make statements. That is, they are self-contained sentences. Many of the statements are about a deity. One can easily recognize the deity name in names such as Ashurbanipal, Nebuchadnezzar, or Rameses. Anyone even casually familiar with the Bible has noticed how many Israelite names end in -iah or -el, or start with Jeho- or El-. All of these represent Israel’s God. This type of name is called a theophoric name, and it affirms the nature of the deity, proclaims the attributes of the deity or requests the blessing of the deity. One way to interpret the titulary of this verse is to understand it as reflecting important theophoric affirmations: The Divine Warrior Is a Supernatural Planner, The Sovereign of Time Is a Prince of Peace.’

Extraordinary Strategist – NIV: ‘Wonderful Counselor’.  The first word has resonances of wonder-working, of miracles, Jud 13:18.

The following are described as ‘wonders’:

  • the plagues in Egypt (Exod. 3:20)
  • the conquest of Canaan (Exod. 34:10)
  • the crossing of the Jordan (Josh. 3:5)
  • the miracles in the wilderness (Neh. 9:17).

See also Ex 15:11; Psa 40:5; 1363f; 139:14.

Think of the wonders that attended the earthly life of Christ, and of the wonder that these invoked in those who witnessed them. The second term suggests immense wisdom. Christ, being intimately acquainted with the mind of God from the beginning, is referred to as the very word of God, Jn 1:1; the word who became flesh, Jn 1:14.

Barnes concludes, from a review of the usage of the underlying word, that although it may denote the miraculous, it suits anything that excites wonder and amazement.  It is thus applicable to a whole range of attributes and achievements of our Saviour:

‘It is a word which expresses with surprising accuracy everything in relation to the Redeemer. For the Messiah was wonderful in all things. It was wonderful love by which God gave him, and by which he came; the manner of his birth was wonderful; his humility, his self-denial, his sorrows were wonderful; his mighty works were wonderful; his dying agonies were wonderful; and his resurrection, his ascension, were all fitted to excite admiration and wonder.’

In Isa 28:29 the same idea of the Lord as ‘wonder-working strategist’ is expressed:

‘…the LORD Almighty, wonderful in counsel and magnificent in wisdom.’ (NIV)

‘…the LORD who commands armies, who gives supernatural guidance and imparts great wisdom.’ (NET)

Government, not pscyhotherapy
It is anachronistic to regard wonderful counsellor as suggesting something akin to modern psychotherapy (this mistake is made by Baker Encyclopedia of Psychology and Counseling, art. ‘Counseling and psychotherapy: Biblical themes’).  The ‘counsel’ here is that of a wise ruler or judge, rather than that of a psychologist or therapist.

In English the legal use of the word dates back to the 1530s, whereas the psychological use is as recent as the 1940s.

Once again, let us be assured that ‘Wonderful Counselor’ is a divine title:

Isaiah 28:29 ‘This also comes from the LORD who commands armies, who gives supernatural guidance [NIV: ‘wonderful in counsel’] and imparts great wisdom.’

Jesus has the best strategies, plans, tactics, policies.  Let us do things – worship, evangelism, holiness, fellowship – his way, not our way.

Mighty God – a divine warrior, answering to the military allusions in vv3-5. This term is applied to Yahweh in Deut 10:17; Isa 10:21; Jer 32:18.  This title forms an interesting pair with ‘Prince of peace’.

Deuteronomy 10:17f describes God in similar, though even more expansive terms.  Note the ethical implications of the Lord’s might (which that passage immediately goes on to express in terms of the godlike character expected of his people):

‘For the LORD your God is God of gods and Lord of lords, the great, mighty, and awesome God who is unbiased and takes no bribe, who justly treats the orphan and widow, and who loves resident foreigners, giving them food and clothing.’

Smith (NAC) comments:

‘By itself, this name does not automatically mean that this son is a divine person, because many names include the name of God in them. But the later use of this same name to describe God himself in 10:21 demands that this son be identified with God in a very close manner. No other person ever has God’s name and God is never called Moses, Abram, David, or Jeremiah, so there must be something very special about this son that causes him to have God’s name.’

Everlasting Father – Or, ‘Father (i.e. author) of eternity’.

The question is, does the emphasis fall on ‘Father’ (he is the Father who is eternal) or on ‘Eternal’ (he is the source, or originator, of eternity)?

(a) Some take this to refer to fatherlike characteristics.  In this case, the one spoken of will be an enduring and compassionate provider and protector of his people. Cf. Isa 40:9-11.

Psa 103:13 ‘ As a father has compassion on his children, so the Lord has compassion on those who fear him.’

(b) But most take this to refer to the one spoken as being the author of eternity.  To the Jew, the word ‘father’ indicated a source, or originator. Hence, Satan is called ‘the Father of lies’, Jn 8:44.

Barnes offers the following examples:

  • the father of strength means strong
  • the father of knowledge, intelligent
  • the father of glory, glorious
  • the father of goodness, good
  • the father of peace, peaceful

Smith comments:

‘“Everlasting” is a title that does not apply to any human ruler, except that the Davidic promise speaks of one who will rule on the throne of David forever (2 Sam 7:16). Since 9:7 refers to a person ruling forever on the throne of David, the “everlasting father” in 6 must be the same ruler.’

Archer (Encyclopedia of Bible Difficulties) draws attention to the context, which stresses sonship in terms suggestive of incarnation (‘a child has been born to us’), and so to impute paternity would be incongruous.  Rather we should think of the one referred to here as the originator of all ages, from creation through to the final consummation.  See Jn 1:3 – ‘All things were made through him…’.

Stedman thinks that the reference is to eternal life, rather than to creation:

‘This is surely a reference to the fact that Jesus alone can give eternal life; he is its father for it originates with him. “As many as believed in him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God.”‘

Jesus is the Author (Archegos) of life (Acts 3:15). As the first to be raised from the dead, he is the one who will effect our resurrection (1 Cor. 15:20–23). He is the Author (Archegos) and the Pioneer (Archegos) of our faith and salvation (Heb. 2:10; 12:2).

Spurgeon notes that this verse is not relevant to the doctrine of the Trinity:

‘The Messiah is not here called “Father,” by way of any confusion with him who is pre-eminently called “The Father.” Our Lord’s proper name, so far as the Godhead is concerned, is not the Father, but the Son…Our text has no bearing upon the position and titles of the three Persons with regard to each other; it does not indicate the relation of Deity to itself, but the relation of Jesus Christ to us.’

What does Isaiah teach about “Fathers” – both human and divine? See Isa 22:21-23; 43:27; 51:2; 58:14; 63:16; 64:8.

‘The phrase may either mean the same as Eternal Father – and the sense will be, that the Messiah will not, as must be the case with an earthly king, however excellent, leave his people destitute after a short reign, but will rule over them and bless them for ever (Hengstenberg;) or it may be used in accordance with a custom usual in Hebrew and Arabic, where he who possesses a thing is called the father of it. Thus the father of strength means, strong; the father of knowledge, intelligent; the father of glory, glorious; the father of goodness, good; the father of peace, peaceful. According to this, the meaning of the phrase, the Father of eternity, is properly eternal. The application of the word here is derived from this usage. The term Father is not applied to the Messiah here with any reference to the distinction in the Divine nature; for that word is uniformly, in the Scriptures, applied to the first, not to the second person of the Trinity. But it is used in reference to duration as a Hebraism involving high poetic beauty. He is not merely represented as everlasting, but he is introduced, by a strong figure, as even the Father of eternity. It may be added, that this attribute is often applied to the Messiah in the New Testament: Jn 8:58; Col 1:17; Rev 1:11,17,18; Heb 1:10-11; Jn 1:1-2.’ (Barnes)

The Messiah is described as both a Son (“unto us a Son is given”) and a Father (“his name will be called…Everlasting Father”). He became a child in time (through the incarnation), but he is the Father of eternity.

‘The father of the age. The Greek translator has added future and, in my opinion, the translation is correct, for it denotes eternity, unless it be thought better to view it as denoting “perpetual duration,” or “an endless succession of ages,” lest any one should improperly limit it to the heavenly life, which is still hidden from us. (Col 3:3) True, the Prophet includes it, and even declares that Christ will come, in order to bestow immortality on his people; but as believers, even in this world, pass from death to life, (Jn 5:24; 1 Jn 3:14) this world is embraced by the eternal condition of the Church.

The name Father is put for Author, because Christ preserves the existence of his Church through all ages, and bestows immortality on the body and on the individual members. Hence we conclude how transitory our condition is, apart from him; for, granting that we were to live for a very long period after the ordinary manner of men, what after all will be the value of our long life? We ought, therefore, to elevate our minds to that blessed and everlasting life, which as yet we see not, but which we possess by hope and faith.’ (Rom 8:25) (Calvin)

‘Father is not current in the Old Testament as a title of the kings. Used of the Lord, is points to his concern for the helpless, (Ps 68:5) care or discipline of his people (Ps 103:13 Pr 3:12 Isa 63:16 64:8) and their loyal, reverential response to him. (Jer 3:4,19 Mal 1:6) For similar ideas used regarding the Davidic King see Ps 72:4,12-14 Isa 11:4. Probably the leading idea in the name Father here is that his rule follows the pattern of divine fatherhood. As eternal/’of eternity’, he receives ‘such an epithet as could, of course, be applied to Yahweh alone’. G.A.F. Knight Isaiah uses ‘eternity’ more than any other author, sometimes in a general sense (e.g. 26:4; 30:8) but also in its unmistakeable sense (e.g. 57:15; 64:9; 65:18). When the people asked for a king they had in mind that a continuing institution would provide them with a security greater and more reassuring than the episodic rule of the judges. But total security requires more even than this stop-go rule and is achieved in a king who reigns eternally.’ (Motyer)

‘He is God, one with the Father, who is from everlasting to everlasting. He is the author of everlasting life and happiness to them, and so is the Father of a blessed eternity to them. He is the Father of the world to come (so the Septuagint reads it), the father of the gospel-state, which is put in subjection to him, not to the angels, Heb 2:5. He was, from eternity, Father of the great work of redemption: his heart was upon it; it was the product of his wisdom as the counsellor, of his love as the everlasting Father.’ (MHC)

Recall that Jesus said to Philip, Jn 14:9 “Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father.” On the equality of the Father and the Son, see also Col 1:19 2:9.

This word means, “father; grandfather; forefather; ancestor.” It occurs some 1,120 times in the OT. It covers the following meanings:-

  1. Father, the male parent, Gen 2:24 Le 19:3.
  2. Grandfather, greatgrandfather, or other paternal ancestor, Gen 28:13 1 Kings 19:4
  3. The head or founder of a clan, Jer 35:6, tribe, Jos 19:47, group with a special calling, 1 Chron 24:19, dynasty, 1 Kings 15:3, nation, Jos 24:3.
  4. Founder of a class or trade, Gen 4:20.
  5. As a title of respect, any older man, 1 Sam 24:11, teacher, 2 Kings 2:12, prophet, 2 Kings 6:21, priest, Jud 17:10.
  6. Again, as a title of respect, husband, Jer 3:4.
  7. Adviser, Gen 45:8.
  8. The plural form of the word can mean ‘family’, Ex 6:25.

‘God is described as the “father” of Israel. (Deut 32:6) he is the one who begot and protected them, the one they should revere and obey. Mal 2:10 tells us that God is the “father” of all people. He is especially the “protector” or “father” of the fatherless: “A father of the fatherless, and a judge of the widows, is God in his holy habitation.” (Ps 68:5) As the “father” of a king, God especially aligns himself to that man and his kingdom: “I will be his father, and he shall be my son. If he commit iniquity, I will chasten him with the rod of men, and with the stripes of the children of men.” (2 Sam 7:14) Not every king was a son of God-only those whom he adopted. In a special sense, the perfect King was God’s adopted Son: “I will declare the decree: the Lord hath said unto me, thou art my Son; this day have I begotten thee.” (Ps 2:7) The extent, power, and duration of his kingdom are guaranteed by the Father’s sovereignty. (cf. Ps 2:8-9) On the other hand, one of the Messiah’s enthronement names is “Eternal Father:” “… And his name shall be called Wonderful, Counselor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace.” (Isa 9:6).’ (Vine)

Everlasting Father

  1. He lives forever, Isa 57:15.
  2. He is pre-existent, Mic 5:2; Jn 1:30; 3:13; 8:57-58; 16:27-28; 17:24; 19:9-11; Col 1:17; Heb 7:3. ‘Christ was unique among men in that his life did not mark his origin but merely his appearance as a man on the stage of time. Of him alone can it be said that his life did not begin when he was born. He was “the meeting-place of eternity and time, the blending of deity and humanity, the jundtion of heaven and earth”.’ (Sanders, Christ Incomparable, 16)
  3. He is the beginning and the end, Ps 90:2; Rev 1:8 (cf. Rev 21:6).
  4. He is the giver of everlasting life, Heb 5:9; Rev 21:7.
  5. He is self-existent, Ex 3:14; Jn 8:58.
  6. His character is unchangeable, Heb 13:8.

Christ is therefore described as being a source of timeless fatherless protection and provision:-

  1. He will never leave us nor forsake us, Heb 13:5
  2. He maintains an everlasting presence, Mt 28:20
  3. He gives eternal life, Jn 14:19
  4. He has an everlasting throne and kingdom, Heb 1:10.
  5. He is able to save completely and for ever, Heb 7:25

Prince of peacecf. Heb 13:20.  Peace, as Kidner (NBC) remarks, suggests prosperity as well as tranquility (cf. v7).

Messianic peace was proclaimed by the angels at Jesus’ birth (Lk 2:14).  The Saviour spoke peace to his disciples (Jn 14:27).  Paul teaches that Jesus Christ is himself our peace, having broken down the dividing wall through the blood of the cross (Eph 2:14-18).

Isaiah 2:4 ‘He will judge disputes between nations; he will settle cases for many peoples. They will beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks. Nations will not take up the sword against other nations, and they will no longer train for war.’

Isaiah 11:6-9 ‘A wolf will reside with a lamb, and a leopard will lie down with a young goat; an ox and a young lion will graze together, as a small child leads them along. A cow and a bear will graze together, their young will lie down together. A lion, like an ox, will eat straw. A baby will play over the hole of a snake; over the nest of a serpent an infant will put his hand. They will no longer injure or destroy on my entire royal mountain. For there will be universal submission to the LORD’s sovereignty, just as the waters completely cover the sea.’

2 Samuel 7:10 ‘I will establish a place for my people Israel and settle them there; they will live there and not be disturbed any more. Violent men will not oppress them again, as they did in the beginning and during the time when I appointed judges to lead my people Israel. Instead, I will give you relief from all your enemies. The LORD declares to you that he himself will build a dynastic house for you.’

Lk 2:14 “Glory to God in the highest,
and on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests.”

Jn 14:27 “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.”

Jn 20:19 ‘Jesus came and stood among them and said to them, “Peace be with you.”’

Rom 5:1 ‘Since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.’

‘It is a mighty marvel that he who was an infant should at the same time be infinite.’ (Spurgeon)

Jesus disappointed the expectations of many because they look for a Messiah who would overthrown the Romans by force.  But he was, and remains, a ‘prince of peace’.

The message of the Old Testament in a nutshell

‘This remarkable passage has brought together almost everything that God had been doing since Eden! His promise made then (Gen. 3:15) and repeated to Abraham (Gen. 12:2; cf. 21:1–3), Judah (Gen. 49:8–12), Moses (Exod. 19:6), David (2 Sam. 7:12–16) and Solomon (1 Kings 2:4; 3:11–14; Ps. 72) is summarized here in seven verses. Capture the meaning of this passage and you have a key to the Old Testament!’ (Derek Thomas)

9:7 His dominion will be vast
and he will bring immeasurable prosperity.
He will rule on David’s throne
and over David’s kingdom,
establishing it and strengthening it
by promoting justice and fairness,
from this time forward and forevermore.
The LORD’s intense devotion to his people will accomplish this.

His dominion will be vast and he will bring immeasurable prosperity – NIV ‘Of the increase of his government and peace there will be no end’.

Earthly rule has a tendency to decadence: what begins as gold ends up as clay. But Messiah’s kingdom goes from strength to strength.

On the permanence of Christ’s kingdom:

Rev 11:15 Then the seventh angel blew his trumpet, and there were loud voices in heaven saying:
“The kingdom of the world
has become the kingdom of our Lord
and of his Christ,
and he will reign for ever and ever.”

He will rule on David’s throne – Therefore, the ‘son’ referred to in v6 must be ‘the son of David’.  See also Isa 11:1 – ‘a root from the stock of Jesse’.

‘What the OT, including Isaiah, can only record as promises and ideals that contrast starkly with human reality, the NT invites the Christian to see fulfilled in Jesus Christ, Son of David and Divine King of Heaven and Earth.’ (Watts)

‘Here is the Old Testament Messianic enigma: how can a veritable son of David be Mighty God and “Father of eternity?” This was precisely the tension in Old Testament truth which the Lord Jesus tried to make the blinkered Pharisees face in Mt 22:41-46.’ (Motyer)

Smith (NAC) notes four things from this verse:

  1. This son’s rule will limitless in extend, and characterised by endless peace
  2. He will reign on David’s throne and will re-establish David’s kingdom
  3. His rule will be based on justice and righteousness
  4. He will reign for ever

These superlatives, says Smith, rule out any attempt to identify this son with Ahaz, Hezekiah or Josiah.

This verse summarises four great elements of OT teaching:-

  1. Justice
  2. Peace
  3. Stability
  4. Universality

When was this kingdom established? It did not take place in the time of any Old Testament monarch. But everything begins to fall into place when a Descendant of David is baptized and anointed with the Spirit and begins to preach in Galilee that the kingdom of God has arrived-although he refuses to allow the crowd to make him a political king.

Wiersbe rightly observes:

‘God had promised David that his dynasty and throne would be established forever (2 Sam. 7:16); and this is fulfilled literally in Jesus Christ (Luke 1:32–33; Zech. 9:9), who will one day reign from Jerusalem (Isa. 11:1–5; Jer. 23:5–8; 30:8–10).’

1 Kings 8:25 Now, O LORD, God of Israel, keep the promise you made to your servant, my father David, when you said, ‘You will never fail to have a successor ruling before me on the throne of Israel, provided that your descendants watch their step and serve me as you have done.’

2 Samuel 7:12f When the time comes for you to die, I will raise up your descendant, one of your own sons, to succeed you, and I will establish his kingdom. He will build a house for my name, and I will make his dynasty permanent.

Psalm 132:11 The LORD made a reliable promise to David; he will not go back on his word. He said, “I will place one of your descendants on your throne.

The New Testament is perfectly clear that such prophecies find their fulfilment in the coming of Jesus Christ:

Lk 2:11 “Today your Savior is born in the city of David. He is Christ the Lord.”

To be sure, this will reach its consummation in the future.  But it doubtful that these glorious promises should be shoe-horned (by Wiersbe and others) into some literal ‘Millennium’.  It is better to say that they reflect the ‘now/yet’ aspects of Christ’s reign.

The LORD’s intense devotion to his people will accomplish this – Lit., ‘The zeal of the Lord…’  God puts the whole weight of his divine nature behind this promise.  It cannot fail.

Raymond Ortlund unpacks the concept of ‘the zeal of the Lord’:

‘What does the word zeal tell us about God? My Hebrew lexicon defines this word as “ardor, zeal, jealousy.” This Hebrew word is cognate with an Arabic verb meaning “to become intensely red,” suggesting the idea of color flooding a person’s face with the flush of deep emotion within. This Hebrew word is used

  • for a husband’s jealousy for the love of his wife (Proverbs 6:34),
  • for the envy that drives human effort (Ecclesiastes 4:4),
  • for the love that burns in the hearts of a bride and groom (Song of Songs 8:6).

But this very human word says something about God. It describes his passion for our salvation.

  • Isaiah 42:13 compares God with a warrior psyching himself up before going into battle: “He stirs up his zeal.”
  • Isaiah 63:15 sets in parallel “your zeal and your might” with “the stirring of your inner parts”—the emotions surging within the being of God.
  • Zephaniah 1:18 and Zeph 3:8 speak of “the fire of his zeal.”
  • Psalm 79:5 looks with wonder at his zeal “burn[ing] like fire.” The Bible says that our God is “a consuming fire, a zealous God” (Deuteronomy 4:24; Hebrews 12:29).
  • And when Jesus threw the crooks out of the temple—the text says that he wove the whip himself—the Apostle John quotes Psalm 69:9 to explain Jesus’ boldness: “Zeal for your house will consume me” (John 2:13–17).

God…is on fire for the triumph of his grace: “The zeal of the LORD of hosts will do this.”’

(Bulleting added)

Such a hope would encourage Isaiah in his day, and we in ours, to continue to speak and work for God even if life seems nearly as gloomy as it was in Isaiah’s day.  Isaiah’s readers, if they are to take his message seriously, will not resort to political alliances, spiritism (or, we might add, to self-help) for the ultimate answers to their problems.  Only God, working in his own way, through his own means, in his own time, can be fully trusted.

Goldingay (UBCS) summarises:

‘The passage is a vision of what God is committed to achieving through David’s line. It receives partial fulfillments in the achievements of kings such as Hezekiah and Josiah, and then a fulfillment in Jesus that is potentially final even if its potential remains unrealized. It thus still indicates the agenda to which God has made a commitment and gives human beings grounds for hope.’

Christ’s people should be Christ-like

‘As God’s people who are united to Christ by his Spirit, the church should now be marked by the characteristics of Christ, such as justice, mercy, righteousness, wisdom, and peace (cf. Gal. 5:22–25). In a word, we become known by love. What we have received from God, we gladly extend to others (1 John 4:11).’

(Gospel Transformation Bible)

God’s Judgment Intensifies, 8-21

The present section runs from 9:8 to 10:4. The focus returns to present realities – in this case, the plight of the northern kingdom and its imminent demise (Webb).

This passage has much in common with Isa 5:8-25. The evils denounced are similar in both passages: arrogance, bad leadership, civil strife and oppression. The former passage, however, dealt with Judah, whereas the present one deals with Israel.

Motyer describes this passage as ‘a classic of biblical social analysis, impressive in its logic, frightening in its inevitability.’ The four stanzas indicate:

1. National decline, 9:8-12. Internal setbacks, v10, will be followed by external attack, v11.

2. Political collapse, 9:13-17. Because of failure to repent, v13, leadership will be undermined, vv14-16, and there will be widespread suffering, v17.

3. Social anarchy, 9:18-21. A spirit of total self-concern, v19, brings no satisfaction, v20. The nations falls apart, united only in its hostility to Judah, v21.

4. Systematic injustice, 10:1-4. The basis of morality, undergirded by law, is overturned. The suffering of the helpless, v2, is matched only by that of the perpetrators in the day of judgement, v3f.

9:8  The sovereign master decreed judgment on Jacob,
and it fell on Israel.
9:9 All the people were aware of it,
the people of Ephraim and those living in Samaria.
Yet with pride and an arrogant attitude, they said,
9:10 “The bricks have fallen,
but we will rebuild with chiseled stone;
the sycamore fig trees have been cut down,
but we will replace them with cedars.”

v8 Note in this verse the power of the word of the Lord, which seems almost to take on a life of its own.

Ephraim = Israel.

9:11 Then the LORD provoked their adversaries to attack them,
he stirred up their enemies—
9:12 Syria from the east,
and the Philistines from the west,
they gobbled up Israelite territory.
Despite all this, his anger does not subside,
and his hand is ready to strike again.
9:13 The people did not return to the one who struck them,
they did not seek reconciliation with the LORD who commands armies.
9:14 So the LORD cut off Israel’s head and tail,
both the shoots and stalk in one day.
9:15 The leaders and the highly respected people are the head,
the prophets who teach lies are the tail.
9:16 The leaders of this nation were misleading people,
and the people being led were destroyed.
9:17 So the sovereign master was not pleased with their young men,
he took no pity on their orphans and widows;
for the whole nation was godless and did wicked things,
every mouth was speaking disgraceful words.
Despite all this, his anger does not subside,
and his hand is ready to strike again.
9:18 For evil burned like a fire,
it consumed thorns and briers;
it burned up the thickets of the forest,
and they went up in smoke.
9:19 Because of the anger of the LORD who commands armies, the land was scorched,
and the people became fuel for the fire.
People had no compassion on one another.
9:20 They devoured on the right, but were still hungry,
they ate on the left, but were not satisfied.
People even ate the flesh of their own arm!
9:21 Manasseh fought against Ephraim,
and Ephraim against Manasseh;
together they fought against Judah.
Despite all this, his anger does not subside,
and his hand is ready to strike again.