My Conversation with my Former Jewish Biblical Hebrew Teacher about Isaiah 9:6

One of my early teachers in Biblical Hebrew is a Jewish and Grammatical Hebrew Coordinator and professor for all levels of Biblical and Modern Hebrew. I was the only Filipino when I was still studying Hebrew online but we never discussed the Catholic Church and Judaism or other religions. There was an instance when we talked about Isaiah 9:6  that Christians and Jews argued about. The Jews believed this “Child”  was Hezekiah while Christians said this was Jesus.

Later on, we discussed the verbs and grammar in Isaiah 9:6 and this was followed by numerous talks. Many Jewish people were in the forum where I used to study Hebrew. There were many Rabbis. I was interested to find out their views about this verse. I want to share this perspective that the verse did not refer to Hezekiah.

Here are our conversations:


Me:  Can we discuss again the grammar of Isaiah 9:6?

You discussed the Isaiah 9:6 and you said:

By looking at the Hebrew text to examine the “tenses” which you wish to do, is a very difficult thing to do, because Biblical Hebrew is not “tense” oriented. Nevertheless, we can look at the verbs altogether:

כִּי־יֶ֣לֶד יֻלַּד־לָ֗נוּ בֵּ֚ן נִתַּן־לָ֔נוּ וַתְּהִ֥י הַמִּשְׂרָ֖ה עַל־שִׁכְמ֑וֹ וַיִּקְרָ֙א שְׁמ֜וֹ פֶּ֠לֶא יוֹעֵץ֙ אֵ֣ל גִּבּ֔וֹר אֲבִיעַ֖ד שַׂר־שָׁלֽוֹם׃

there are 3 verbs:

יֻלַּד

וַתְּהִ֥י

וַיִּקְרָ֙א

all of them are past tense verbs . The two with the vav are Wayyiqtol – common narrative past tense verbs- and the first one – which you were asking about – and I understand why – is Qatal – a different nuance of a past tense.

Here’s my comment and please let me know if you do not agree.

Now, It is true that the suffixed conjugation (aka qatal or perfect) is normally (almost always) used to refer to past-time action when appearing in prose/narrative. However, when used in reported speech within narrative (that is, indirect speech) or in prophetic oracles (which are a form of direct speech) or in many forms of Hebrew poetry (which is a poetic version of direct speech), the suffixed conjugation is not restricted to past-time action?

Her: Here is Morauka dealing with the exact verse –

Qatal
In prophecies a future event is sometimes regarded as having already been accomplished, hence the use of qatal.

This prophetic perfect is not a special grammatical perfect, but a rhetorical device. Examples: Is 9.1 “the people who walked in darkness will see War” a great light”; 9.5 “a child will be born יֻלַּד for us, a son will be given !”; 10.28(24).

Duane, btw – you can download (for free) Gesenius.

Me: In Ruth 1:11-13a, Naomi addresses her two daughters-in-law and poses a series of hypothetical questions in order to dissuade them from returning to Judah with her. In her speech, she uses five (5) suffixed conjugation verbs—none of which refer to conventional past action. In fact, they are all used of hypothetical future action:

But Naomi replied, “Go back, my daughters! Why would you want to come with me? Am I still capable of having sons that they might become (וְהָי֥וּ) your husbands? Go back, my daughters! Go! For I am too old (זָקַ֖נְתִּי) to get married again. Suppose I were to say (אָמַ֙רְתִּי֙), ‘I have hope!’ Suppose I were to acquire (הָיִ֤יתִי) a husband this very night and gave birth (יָלַ֥דְתִּי) to sons—would you wait until they were grown? Would you remain unmarried all that time? No, my daughters, you must not come with me!” (NET Bible )

Let’s look at how the suffixed conjugation is sometimes used in Hebrew poetry. For example, in Psalm 3:7 [Heb 8], the psalmist pleas that Yahweh deliver him from his enemies (A and B lines), then expresses his confidence that God will indeed answer his prayer by destroying these very foes (C and D lines):

Rise up, LORD!
Deliver me, my God!
Yes, you will strike (הִכִּ֣יתָ) all my enemies on the jaw;
you will break (שִׁבַּֽרְתָּ) the teeth of the wicked. (Psalm 3:7, NET Bible )

Psalm 11:2 provides a nice example in which the prefixed conjugation (yiqtol, imperfect) and the suffixed conjugation (qatal-perfect) are used in synonymous parallelism, both conveying some kind of present progressive or customary gnomic sense:

Her:  This is great Duane, but I think here we are looking at conditional clauses, which again the Yiqtol would appear many times.

Me: All too often, introductory Hebrew grammars give the faulty impression that the suffix conjugation (perfect) is typically past time … because most introductory Hebrew grammars use narrative/prose for most of their examples.

However, once you get out of the genre of narrative (and by this, I mean reported action) and into the genre of indirect/direct speech (reported speech within narrative, direct speech in prophetic oracles, direct speech in Hebrew poetry), the suffixed conjugation can function in all sorts of ways.

(2) Since Isaiah 9:6 is direct speech in a prophetic oracle, we are not confined therefore to past-time action.

When we look carefully at Isaiah 9:6-7, we notice there is a verbal chain: (1) perfect יֶ֣לֶד (2) followed by waw + preterite וַתְּהִ֥י ” (3) followed by (3) waw + preterite ar:וַיִּקְ “. Since the waw + preterite verbs (as you know) continue the temporal aspect of the introductory verb in this chain, the question is what is the time-frame of the introductory verb יֶ֣לֶד?

But since that is the heart of this issue, anyone would beg the question either way. Therefore, we have to attack this question from the second verb (rather than the front-end) in this verbal chain since all three verbs carry the same temporal force due to the use of the waw consecutives. So the real question becomes, “What kind of time frame is conveyed by the second verbal expression: וַתְּהִי הַמִּשְׂרָה, עַל-שִׁכְמו?

My sense is that this must be a future-time hope and expectation since the following verse describes his reign as everlasting: “His dominion will be vast … He will rule on David’s throne … from this time forward and forevermore.” Granted, one could argue that the expression “from this time forward …” means that he has already taken the throne; however, this expression could also be part of the future oriented vision as a whole, in which Isaiah contemplates what will happen once this royal son takes the throne.

Her: There cannot be 100% certainty. Im bringing here some opinions. Isaiah describes liberation from some form of adversity (perhaps the Assyrian conquests of Israelite territory described in the previous vv., or Syro-Ephraimite pressures on Judah). The verbs are in the past tense. Some interpreters view them as examples of the “prophetic past,” which predicts future events using the past tense because they are as good as done. Thus it is not clear whether the Davidic king whose birth and rule are described (vv. 5-6) has already been born (if the verbs are a regular past tense) or will be born in the future (prophetic past). If the former, the v. probably refers to Ahaz’s son Hezekiah, as many modern and rabbinic commentators believe (though other possibilities exist depending on the date of the passage). Most later readers (both Jewish and Christian) understood the passage to describe an ideal future ruler, i.e., the Messiah. 

TNK Isaiah 9:5 For a child has been born to us, A son has been given us. And authority has settled on his shoulders. He has been named “The Mighty God is planning grace; The Eternal Father, a peaceable ruler” —

KJV Isaiah 9:6 For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace.

ESV Isaiah 9:6 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.

NAS Isaiah 9:6 For a child will be born to us, a son will be given to us; And the government will rest on His shoulders; And His name will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Eternal Father, Prince of Peace.

Some say that the verbs needs to be treated as a prophecies a future event which is sometimes regarded as having already been accomplished, hence the use of qatal: For a child a child will be born..so they see the Wayyiqtol which normally In the sphere of the future, wayyiqtol is rare, but here needs to be translated as future like the NAS
NAS Isaiah 9:6 For a child will be born to us, a son will be given to us; And the government will rest on His shoulders; And His name will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Eternal Father, Prince of Peace. (Isa. 9:6 NAS).

Some say that the verbs needs to be treated as a prophecies a future event which is sometimes regarded as having already been accomplished, hence the use of qatal: For a child a child will be born..so they see the Wayyiqtol which normally In the sphere of the future, wayyiqtol is rare, but here needs to be translated as future like the NAS. 

NAS Isaiah 9:6 For a child will be born to us, a son will be given to us; And the government will rest on His shoulders; And His name will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Eternal Father, Prince of Peace. (Isa. 9:6 NAS).

Me: Here’s my analysis, if that child was probably refers to Ahaz’s son Hezekiah, then how do you explain the following maam?

1. Isaiah 9:1-2 reflects the geo-political situation of the Galilee following its subjugation by Tiglath-pilieser III in 735 BC, but prior to the destruction of Samaria by Shalmaneser V in 722 BC. Therefore, the oracle of Isaiah in 9:1-7 was likely composed/delivered sometime between 735-722 BC.

2, The chronological information relating to Hezekiah is complicated, but he was likely born sometime shortly after 734 BC, but did not begin to reign until around 715 BC (cf. 2 Kings 18:13). This means that Isaiah composed 9:1-7 before (!) Hezekiah ascended the throne.

3. In any case, the failure of Hezekiah in his debacle with the Babylonian king Merodach-Baldan (Isa 39:1-8) would have disqualified Hezekiah from ever living up to the prophetic expectations of the ideal Davidic king described by Isaiah in 9:1-7.


Let us look at the hermeneutical/theological framework. This prologue is necessary due to many previous discussions about this very issue.

1.) One of the key features of these kinds of texts is the interplay between the divine and human authors. From certain New Testament texts, one gets the impression that God often had more in mind than the original human author (and his original audience) understood at the time. With the progress of revelation, later Hebrew prophets and writers understood more than the earlier Hebrew prophets and writers. There is also some indication that sometimes a human prophet/speaker/writer could have one thing in mind while God had something even greater in mind in the ultimate sense (e.g., see the Caiphas “prophecy” in John 11:49-52, which I think is instructive in this sense).

2.) Some interpreters suggest (and rightfully so, I think) that God can have something more ultimately in mind that goes beyond what the inspired prophet/writer might have understood, yet without comprising the stability of shared meaning. In this regard, linguists sometimes discuss the distinction/relationship between various levels/kinds of meaning: (1) sense and reference, (2) genus and differentia, (3) type and token, (4) etc etc. This kind of helpful insight into hermeneutics allows for “both/and” kind of meanings rather than more narrow “either/or” approaches to meaning.

3.) In the light of the progress of revelation (something that we as evangelicals affirm as the way to counter the non-conservative criticism that there is historical development in the theology of Scripture), we must also distinguish between (1) the original historical contextual meaning of an early Old Testament passage, (2) its later canonical meaning that gets teased out and developed throughout the progress of revelation throughout the Old Testament (note on this: often the themes in an earlier Old Testament passage will be developed more fully in a later OT passage—thus, in the same way we can talk about the use of the OT in the NT, we can also talk about the use of earlier Old Testament passages in later Old Testament passages), and (3) its ultimate Christological (or Christotelic, the Greek term “telos” can mean “goal”) meaning/sense that gets teased out in the New Testament. To be sure, the original historical contextual meaning is important, but that is not the end of the story. The rest of the biblical canon will develop and build upon earlier biblical passages, progressing building to a crescendo, if you will, as time goes on until that particular theme reaches its goal in Christ. But if we treat the original historical contextual meaning as the only meaning, we are in danger of making that sense static, rather than recognizing the dynamic of how progressive revelation can build upon that in later texts. In other words, it is not an “either/or” dichotomy between the original historical contextual meaning and the ultimate Messianic sense, but a “both/end” relationship.

4.) Another feature that comes into play is God’s use of typological templates and trajectories that draw upon the past as a way to prefigure and point to the future. So while there was an historical Moses, there would be an eschatological Moses. While there was a first exodus, there would be a greater Second Exodus. While there was an historical David, there would be a New David. While there was a first Solomon and a first Temple, there would be a greater eschatological Son of David and a greater eschatological Temple. While there was an old covenant, there would be a New Covenant. While there was a first heaven and earth, there would be a New Heaven and Earth. You get the point. Likewise, while there would be an historical Hezekiah, in whom the nation at the time was hoping would restore the former glories of David (but he clearly failed), there would be One to Come one day who would realize all that God had called Hezekiah to do (but he failed), but even more so.

5.) Even so, when God began to reveal these greater glories to come, it is not clear how much detail and specificity the original Hebrew prophets fully grasped. For example, God revealed to His inspired prophets that He would one day raise up an ideal New David who restore the throne of David and inaugurate an eternal kingdom; that God would one day inaugurate the New Covenant through a faithful Servant of Yahweh who would suffer; that God would one day raise up a New Solomon who would build a New Temple. But did all the Hebrew prophets realize that this New Moses, this New David, this New Solomon would be one and the same? Did they realize that the Suffering Servant of Isaiah 42, 49, 50, 52-53 would be one and the same as the Royal Davidic King of Isaiah 9 and 11? Added to this is the revelation of the “One Like A Son of Man” in Daniel 7:13-14, who was heavenly in origin but human in appearance, and to whom the Most High God would bestow the eternal kingdom. Who exactly would this mysterious figure be? This “One Like A Son of Man” in Daniel 7:13-14 was something of a sui generis (one of a kind) in the sense that he was described in a way that seemed completely different than the New David, for example. For instance, there is nothing in Daniel 7 that suggests that this mysterious figure was a Davidic descendant. So if the future kingdom was promised to the New David, how does this fit with the kingdom being given to this heavenly figure? Moreover, while Zechariah 3:10 promised that God would one day raise up the royal “Branch” (a patently Davidic term; cf. Jer 23:5-6; also Isaiah 11:1, 10), Zechariah 9-14 also promised Israel that “your King will come” in clearly Davidic terms (Zech 9:9), but then went on to proclaim that in the future kingdom it would be Yahweh alone who would be king (Zech 14:9, 16-17). Since God had promised to raise up the Davidic “Branch” to rule over the kingdom, who would that fit with Yahweh alone ruling as King? Of course, as Christians, we realize that all of these different eschatological expectations and figures were realized in Jesus the Son of God as the God-Man. But with the divinely revealed emphasis on absolute monotheism (One God), it was difficult for any orthodox Israelite in putting all these pieces together by concluding that God was one in essence, but two persons (if not three persons). Remember, while all the pieces were already there in Scripture, it even took the church fathers a bit of time to not only affirm that Jesus was not just the Son of God, but God Himself, as well as that the Spirit was God (as you know, the formal articulation of our orthodox doctrine of the Trinity did not fully come together until Nicea).

With this in mind, let’s think about Isaiah 9:

1. As you well note, Hebrew verbs are not primarily time-oriented, but aspect-oriented. The precise time-frame must be teased out of the context, which itself is not always completely clear. In the case of verse 6, כִּי־יֶ֣לֶד יֻלַּד־לָ֗נוּ בֵּ֚ן נִתַּן־לָ֔נוּ, one could legitimately understand this in several ways: (a) recent past: “A child has just been born to us, a son has just been given to us,” (b) present progressive: “A child is being born to us, a son is being given to us,” or (c) undefined future: “A child will be born to us, a son will be given to us.” To be sure, this kind of expression, when used elsewhere, is normally recent past (e.g., Ruth 4:17, “A son has been born to Naomi!”). However, this statement appears in a prophetic oracle. As you may know, the perfect conjugation is often used of future events to convey a sense of certain expectation or certain future fulfillment (e.g., Waltke-O’Connor, Introduction to Biblical Hebrew Syntax, §30.5.1.e = pp. 489-490) (e.g., Gen 17:20; 30:13; Num 24:17; Isa 8:23-9:1). By the way, the so-called “prophetic perfect” was originally recognized and described by medieval Jewish grammarians (e.g., David Kimchi: “The matter is as clear as though it had already passed”) and Jewish rabbis (e.g., Rabbi Isaac ben Yedaiah: “[The rabbis] of blessed memory followed, in these words of theirs, in the paths of the prophets who speak of something which will happen in the future in the language of the past. Since they saw in prophetic vision that which was to occur in the future, they spoke about it in the past tense and testified firmly that it had happened, to teach the certainty of his [God’s] words — may he be blessed — and his positive promise that can never change and his beneficent message that will not be altered.”). All this to say, all three options are legitimate options. The question, however, is which one fits best with the context? But now we have to ask the question: which context? The original historical context or the ultimate canonical and Christotelic context? If we are asking about the original historical context, Isaiah 9 would fit nicely against the historical background of the recent birth of Hezekiah and his later succession to the throne. However, if we are asking about the ultimate canonical/Christotelic context, then it would have to be someone beyond Hezekiah—the eschatological Messiah.

2. Note that the immediate literary context of Isaiah 9:1-7 [Heb 8:23-9:6] points to an historical background sometime after the Galilee had been subjugated by the Assyrians in 735 BC. The three geographical regions in 9:1 [Heb 8:23] indicate this. Since Hezekiah was born right around this time (Note: details in the biblical chronology related to Hezekiah make it very difficult to pin down the precise date of his birth, even if we adopt Edwin Thiele’s approach to the chronology of the kings of Judah), it is difficult to deny that Isaiah might have originally hoped that the birth of Hezekiah and his imminent ascent to the throne would reverse the dark days of the rule of his predecessor Ahaz (the wicked Davidic king in the background of Isaiah 7-8). So it is possible that Isaiah was quoting or giving voice to the hopes and expectations of the faithful Jerusalemites that the birth of Hezekiah (note the prophecy in Isaiah 7-8 about a royal birth that would precede the coming of the Assyrian king [Sennacherib] in 701 BC, 7:17). Perhaps the people and prophet as well hoped that Hezekiah would the Davidic king who would rescue Jerusalem/Judah from the oppressive yoke of the Assyrians. Indeed, Hezekiah did eventually deliver Jerusalem from the siege of Sennacherib in 701 BC, when he turned to Yahweh (see Isaiah 36-37). However, Hezekiah eventually failed to procure lasting deliverance from Assyria when he made a treaty with the Babylonian king Merodach-Baladan (ch. 39), which Isaiah condemned. In fact, Isaiah announced that Hezekiah’s sin of relying upon the Babylonians for protection from the Assyrians would be punished by God using the Babylonians to one day send Jerusalem/Judah into exile. So while Isaiah might have initially hoped that Hezekiah would be the Davidic son who would fulfill the expectations of the divine oracle of Isaiah 9:1-7, it certainly became clear to Isaiah by this point (the events with Merodach-Baladan) that Hezekiah would not in fact be that Davidic king to usher in the new age of lasting peace. So by the end of his prophetic career and at the time when all of his oracles were likely being assembled to form the Book of Isaiah, Isaiah himself would have realized that whatever had been his original hopes for Hezekiah, Hezekiah would not be the one to fulfill the oracle possibly uttered at the celebration of his birth. Understood in this sense (its final canonical sense rather than its original historical sense), the prophetic oracle of Isaiah 9:1-7 pointed to someone greater than Hezekiah. And not only greater than Hezekiah, but someone whom God would raise up to bring about the great Second Exodus that the return from Babylon in 539 BC would foreshadow. That points us to the New David of Isaiah 11:1-9, 10-20, who is pictured as an eschatological King who would lead the Second Exodus. And the theme of the Second Exodus takes us directly to Isaiah 40-55, where we find the Suffering Servant whom God would raise up to inaugurate the New Covenant and create the New People of God. This brings us back to the question about the interpretation of the verbs in v. 6a, by the way. When viewed historically, they could be taken as Hezekiah’s original celebration over the recent birth of Hezekiah and all the hopes bound up in that royal birth. However, by the time the Book of Isaiah was compiled, Isaiah would have understood that those words ultimately pointed to a future birth of someone greater than Hezekiah whom God would raise up in the future. Here is an example of divinely designed linguistic openness, which exploited the syntactical range of options for these verbs (Note: This kind of divinely designed linguistic openness characterizes lots of passages in the Old Testament that were originally referring to an historical Davidic king, but ultimately also have reference to the eschatological Messiah. Again, it is not a matter of “either/or” thinking, but “both/and” dynamics by divine design).

3. The words of praise concerning the royal birth in v. 6a (originally uttered at the birth of Hezekiah, but ultimately recalibrated to foreshadow the New David who would be greater than Hezekiah) led naturally into the prophetic declaration of the future enthronement of this Davidic king in vv. 6b-7. One of the important features of v. 6b is the fourfold throne name bestowed upon this Davidic king. In the ancient Near East, it was customary for a crown prince to be given a birth name that was later supplemented by a multiple throne name (e.g., whether a fourfold, fivefold, or sometime sixfold throne name, whether in Egypt, Ugarit, Hittite, or Mesopotamian royal protocol). However, in ancient Near Eastern royal enthronement ceremonies, the original birth name was always stated and then the multiple throne name was then announced. I find it telling that the royal throne name is given in v. 6b, but not the original birth name. If—for the sake of argument—Isaiah had hoped that Hezekiah would be the one in whom this divinely inspired oracle would be fulfilled, we would have expected to him both his original birth name (Hezekiah) as well as the fourfold throne name (which in that case would have been: “Extraordinary Strategist-Mighty Warrior-Perpetual Suzerain-Prince of [Political/Military] Peace”). This throne name would have been the equivalent of his divine calling to plan a brilliant strategy to conquer the Assyrians and drive them out of Judah to inaugurate a period of perpetual peace for Judah. However, rather than depending upon Yahweh to accomplish this (as v. 7 directs), Hezekiah depended upon his own human machinations by turning to Merodach-Baladan rather than depending upon Yahweh for deliverance (not unlike what Ahaz did in Isaiah 7 by turning to the Assyrians rather than depending upon Yahweh). As a result, Hezekiah failed to live up to his historical throne name and royal calling by God. Although Isaiah might have hoped in 735 BC that the youthful Hezekiah would one day become this royal deliverer, by the time of 700 BC (the time of his alliance with Merodach-Baladan), Isaiah would have realized that Hezekiah had failed to live up to his throne name and calling, which was originally epitomized by the fourfold name in v. 6b. So by the end of his career, when Isaiah would have begun to put his earlier oracles into the current canonical form of the Book of Isaiah, the prophet would have realized that God would one day raise up someone greater than Hezekiah and that this coming New David (or Second Hezekiah, if you will) would be the one who would ultimately fulfill this fourfold throne name and become the agent of Yahweh to establish the everlasting kingdom. Viewed canonically, this Second Hezekiah/New David must be none other than the eschatological Messiah. For the Christian, we not only see in Jesus this eschatological Messiah, but we also see the divinely designed full meaning of the fourfold throne name which we can legitimately translate as “Wonderful Counselor-Mighty God-Everlasting Father/Suzerain-Prince of Peace.” We also realize that the deliverance from “darkness” in 9:1 [Heb 8:23] is not just deliverance from the dark days of gloom brought on by subjugation by the Assyrians, but ultimately deliverance from the darkness of sin and rebellion which was what led to Judah’s discipline by God to begin with. Hence, Matthew legitimately saw in Jesus the inauguration of the kingship of Jesus when he ministered in the Galilee and provided the “light” for those sitting in “darkness,” not the darkness of mere political and military oppression under the Assyrians, but deliverance from the darkness and gloom of sin (Matt 4:12-17).

Some orthodox rabbinic interpreters acknowledge that Isaiah 9 is ultimately pointing to the eschatological Messiah. But due to their absolute monotheism, they reject the fourfold throne name in v. 6b as pointing to a divine Davidic king, and of course, they are not willing to see in Jesus the fulfillment of this oracle. But since we accept the resurrection and ascension of Jesus as historical, that means that God must have vindicated his claims and that Jesus must be central to God’s program of redemption.

Here is the Hebrew of Isaiah 9:5 (Masoretic Text) followed by transliteration:

isaiah9-5mt

Ki-yeled yoolad-lanoo ben nitan-lanoo vathi hamisra al-scichmo vayikra sh’mo Pele Yoetz El Gibor Avi-Ad Sar-Shalom

Here’s the location of Isaiah 9:6 of the Great Isaiah Scroll and how it is pronounced.

ISAIAH96-DSS-corrected

The Masoretic Text and the Isaiah scroll have a couple of minor spelling differences, but they are trivial and do not involve any change in meaning or translation.

The pronunciation of the main Isaiah scroll would be the same as the MT, except for one word: veqara in the scroll versus vayiqra in the Masoretic Text. The meaning is virtually the same.

“va-yiqra” is the copula plus the imperfect aspect (“yiqra”). This is what 4QIsa-c has also.

“ve-qara” is the copula plus the perfect aspect (“qara”). This is what 1QIsa-a has.

Hebrew had no vocalization marked until about the 4th or 5th century, so when we vocalize, it is based on the Masoretes’ vocalization (6th century or later) as seen in both Leningradensis and Aleppo (both have the same “vayiqra”).

All vocalization of DSS is based on the general system in Leningrad codex, not necessarily on the vocalization of a particular word in Leningrad.

The Hebrew part in the scroll can be called late Biblical Hebrew. The Hebrew in the Masoretic Text is Tiberian Hebrew (ca. 4th century, A.D.).

The question is why is the verse in Isaiah 9:5 for some bibles while others have it at Isaiah 9:6?

The difference between 9:6 and 9:5 is due to the paragraph division between the MT (which has “the people who walked in darkness” at chapter 9, verse 1) and the Septuagint (which numbers that verse as 9:2). Our English translations are numbered according to the Septuagint.

Why do we affirm that the “Child” mentioned in this verse is Messiah?

The Greek Septuagint (produced by Jewish translators) translates the fourfold name of the Davidic king in 9:5-6 in terms of a heavenly angel, most likely identifying him as the Angelic Melchizedek. The Aramaic Targums (produced by Aramaic speaking Jewish scholars) explicitly identify the Davidic king in 9:5-6 as the Messiah. Due to the link provided by the Greek Septuagint translation of this ideal Davidic king as an angelic figure, 1 Enoch identified him with the One Like A Son of Man in Daniel 7:13-14, due to his angelic like associations, but they identify him as the future eschatological Davidic king.

I just want to quote the comment of a highly respected Jewish Scholar, Rashi.
1And you Bethlehem Ephrathah . . . you should have been the lowest of the clans of Judah . . . from you shall emerge for Me the Messiah, son of David, and so Scripture says (Ps. 118: 22): “The stone the builders had rejected became a cornerstone.” and his origin is from of old –”Before the sun his name is Yinnon.” (Ps. 72:17)

How interesting! Rashi teaches that this verse points to the eternal origin of the Messiah, and he even quotes the same psalm verse Yeshua applies to himself!

Did they realize that the Suffering Servant of Isaiah 42, 49, 50, 52-53 would be one and the same as the Royal Davidic King of Isaiah 9 and 11? Added to this is the revelation of the “One Like A Son of Man” in Daniel 7:13-14, who was heavenly in origin but human in appearance, and to whom the Most High God would bestow the eternal kingdom. Who exactly would this mysterious figure be? This “One Like A Son of Man” in Daniel 7:13-14 was something of a sui generis (one of a kind) in the sense that he was described in a way that seemed completely different than the New David, for example. For instance, there is nothing in Daniel 7 that suggests that this mysterious figure was a Davidic descendant. So if the future kingdom was promised to the New David, how does this fit with the kingdom being given to this heavenly figure? Moreover, while Zechariah 3:10 promised that God would one day raise up the royal “Branch” (a patently Davidic term; cf. Jer 23:5-6; also Isaiah 11:1, 10), Zechariah 9-14 also promised Israel that “your King will come” in clearly Davidic terms (Zech 9:9), but then went on to proclaim that in the future kingdom it would be Yahweh alone who would be king (Zech 14:9, 16-17). Since God had promised to raise up the Davidic “Branch” to rule over the kingdom, who would that fit with Yahweh alone ruling as King? Of course, as Christians, we realize that all of these different eschatological expectations and figures were realized in Jesus the Son of God as the God-Man.

Let us find out what renowned Bible scholar say about Isaiah 9:6.

This is what Gleason L. Archer Jr. said in his book, the Encyclopedia of Bible Difficulties in page 268.

Isaiah 9:6 says of the coming Savior, the God-man Jesus Christ, “His name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. At least, this is the way it is usually translated. But the basis for so doing is very dubious, since the Hebrew reads avi ad, which literally means “Father of Eternity.” It is true that both ad and ‘olam are often used as constructs in an adjectival sense and might be so construed here, were it not for the context. The preceding potion of the verse stresses His sonship in terms suggestive of His incarnation, in such a way as to make an assertion of His paternity or paternal status within the Godhead seem quite incongruous. For this reason we should understand this phrase in the most literal way, that He is the father of (that is, the author of of) ‘ad, a term meaning “perpetuity,” used at least nineteen times in connection with ‘olam (“age,” “eternity”). It usually points to the indefinitely continuing future and I often used to imply “eternal” or “everlasting,” in much the same way as ‘olam is. In other words, ‘ad and ‘olam seem to be nearly synonymous and may even be substituted for each other without any change in meaning. In view of the above, it seems reasonable to understand the phrase avi ad as “Father of Eternity” in the sense of “Author of Eternity”—not in the sense beginningless and endless eternity (such as would be predicated of God), but in the sense of all the stretch of time between the beginning of creation and its ultimate termination. In other words, this title points to Christ as the Creator of the world—the world viewed as a time continuum—the fullest statement of which is found in John 1:1 (“All things came into being through Him….”).

Why do we insist that it is not Hezekiah being referred to in Isaiah 9:6?

1. Isaiah 9:1-2 reflects the geo-political situation of the Galilee following its subjugation by Tiglath-pilieser III in 735 BC, but prior to the destruction of Samaria by Shalmaneser V in 722 BC. Therefore, the oracle of Isaiah in 9:1-7 was likely composed/delivered sometime between 735-722 BC.

2. The chronological information relating to Hezekiah is complicated, but he was likely born sometime shortly after 734 BC, but did not begin to reign until around 715 BC (cf. 2 Kings 18:13). This means that Isaiah composed 9:1-7 before (!) Hezekiah ascended the throne.

3. Consequently, the description of the birth and ascension of the ideal Davidic king in 9:1-7 could not have been Hezekiah, since Isaiah describes the reign of this ideal king as something that would begin in the future.

4. In any case, the failure of Hezekiah in his debacle with the Babylonian king Merodach-Baldan (Isa 39:1-8) would have disqualified Hezekiah from ever living up to the prophetic expectations of the ideal Davidic king described by Isaiah in 9:1-7.

5. Without question, the ideal Davidic king in 9:1-7 must be identified with the ideal Davidic king in 11:1-9 and 11:10-16. Since the ideal Davidic king in 11:10-16 would function as the “banner” around whom the Jewish exiles would rally, following the great Second Exodus (cf. chs. 40-66), this could not have been Hezekiah.

6. While Isaiah announced that Hezekiah’s sin would lead to the future exile of Jerusalem to Babylon (Isa 39:1-8), Isaiah also predicted that a greater Davidic king to come would be the one who would restore the exiles from Babylon and bring them back to Jerusalem (11:10-16).

7. If Isaiah had intended that Hezekiah was the king in view in 9:5-6, it is remarkable that he did not provide his birth name: “Hezekiah.” The absence of the birth name of the ideal future Davidic king is a patent allusion to the fact that Isaiah himself did not know the precise identity of this future ideal Davidic king; therefore, he was not Hezekiah.


  1. New English Translation
  2. New Revised Standard Version
  3. An Introduction to Biblical Hebrew Syntax By Bruce K. Waltke and M. O’Connor
  4. New International Encyclopedia of Bible Difficulties By Gleason L. Archer Jr.

 

 

 

 

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