The Son who was given us.

Isaiah 9.6-7.

Isaiah ben Amoch (KJV “Amoz”) was a prophet all his life. His book contains prophecies spanning the 60-plus years of his ministry in the second half of the 700s BC. And it was during this time, in 722, that the Assyrian Empire conquered and scattered northern Israel.

Isaiah lived in southern Israel, also called Judah or Judea. The Judeans worried greatly about the threat of Assyrian invasion. A number of Judeans were convinced the LORD would never let any dirty foreigners conquer their great land; after all, God’s temple was there, and he’d never let ’em destroy his temple. And a number recognized, same as Isaiah, their covenant with God dictated he’d totally let the land get taken if his people defied him. If you didn’t believe this, just look at what happened to northern Israel.

But even when we think the End has come, that everything’s been destroyed and is over and done with, God knows better. He had Isaiah say this to all Israelis—both the defeated, discouraged northerners scattered all over Assyria; and the southerners fearfully getting their End Times bunkers ready in Judea:

Isaiah 9.6-7 KWL
6 For a child was begotten by us. A son was given to us. The empire is on his shoulder.
His name is called Wondrously Helped by God, Great God, Eternal Father, Peace Chief.
7 There is no end to the abundance and peace of his empire, over his kingdom, David’s throne.
It establishes it, upholds it with justice and rightness, from now to forever.
The zeal of the LORD of War does this.

It’s another messianic prophecy, a prediction of a messiah, “anointed king,” like David ben Jesse—but a greater messiah, the Messiah, who’d rule Israel forever. More; he’d conquer the world.

Christians have definitely adopted this passage as applying to Jesus. We regularly refer to him by these titles.

  • WONDERFUL (as in KJV; פֶּ֠לֶא/pelé, “unique, great, difficult, miraculous”). Properly this describes the next word—it tells us which sort of counselor this Messiah is—but Christians frequently interpret it on its own, and describe Jesus as wonderful. Which he is; I’m not saying otherwise.
  • COUNSELOR (as in KJV; (יוֹעֵץ֙/yohéch, “YHWH-aided”). Because people insist on word-for-word translation, they convert this idea into too few words. In the 1600s a counselor was what you called an aide or assistant, meaning someone who helps you, and not just with useful advice. Yohéch means the LORD’s the one providing the aid. This Messiah’s gonna be miraculously helped by God. But, y’know, Christians prefer the idea of Jesus being our counselor—which, again, he is. 1Jn 2.1
  • MIGHTY GOD (אֵ֣ל גִּבּ֔וֹר/El-Gibbór, “God the powerful warrior”). The word El means “God,” but same as in our culture, it can refer to a lowercase-G “god” who’s not so much a divine being as just a really powerful person, like a superhero. So the folks who initially read Isaiah might not’ve taken this literally and imagined Messiah would be God incarnate; he’d just be a really mighty king. Thing is, Jesus is God incarnate. So, y’know, take it literally.
  • ETERNAL FATHER (אֲבִיעַ֖ד/aviád, “perpetual father,” KJV “everlasting Father”). Occasionally we get modalists who insist this means Jesus is the Father, and use it to confound how trinity is described. Properly, this refers to how the ancients tended to call their spiritual leaders “father” (something Jesus discouraged Mt 23.9), and this Messiah would likewise be their spiritual father—but not merely for a short time. He’d perpetually be their father. He’d be their go-to guy about God.
  • PEACE CHIEF (שַׂר־שָׁלֽוֹם/sar-shalóm, KJV “Prince of Peace”). A sar refers to any leader, and Hebrews used it to describe nobles, generals, civic leaders, or anyone else in charge. Messiah’s gonna be in charge of peace: He’s gonna get it, and grant it to his people.

So if you’re worried about the specter of chaos and war looming over your land, if you’re one of those dark Christians worried the End is nigh ’cause things are worse than they’ve ever been, this Messiah’s gonna put everything right. He’s gonna take over and fix the world.

A prophecy of the first coming, or second?

When Isaiah wrote about Messiah, he didn’t get specific about whether he meant when Jesus first came to earth in the first century, or when Jesus later comes to earth to rule the world. This is why the Pharisees concluded everything would happen in one coming, and created End Times timelines which mixed ’em all together. It’s why Jesus greatly confused and outraged them: He wasn’t following the plan! It’s like he has his own ideas about how he’s gonna rule the world.

Naturally, Pharisees invented a timeline which’d suit them best. They didn’t like the Romans ruling over them, so they imagined Messiah would overthrow the Romans. They didn’t like all the sin going on in the world, so they imagined Messiah would smite all the sinners… not have lunch with them and invite them to join his kingdom. They looked at all the conquering hero prophecies and imagined Messiah conquering the world with might, not love. Kinda like various Christians still do.

So in this prophecy, Messiah “is begotten by us,” and “a son was given to us,” and he’s straightaway described as a mighty emperor of an eternal kingdom. But Jesus was born in his first coming, and doesn’t take possession of his kingdom till his second coming. This prophecy speaks of both comings—at once. You can see why the Pharisees got confused: You can easily be confused by such a prophecy.

But don’t be. Jesus is all these things already, to those who follow him as our king now. And he’ll be all these things to the world when he takes it over. He’s not coming to create chaos, but end it. He’s coming to bring peace to the world. “Peace upon the earth to the people he’s pleased with!” declared the angels when Jesus was born, Lk 2.14 because that’s always been the goal: We’d be his people, he’d be our God, and we’d live in peace.

Scriptures for Advent.