Isaiah 9:6-7 – Titles of the Messiah

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POSTED 03 NOVEMBER, 2017

“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. There will be no end to the increase of His government or of peace, on the throne of David and over his kingdom, to establish it and to uphold it with justice and righteousness from then on and forevermore. The zeal of the LORD of hosts will accomplish this.”

reproduced from Salvation on the Line, Volume I

Those who believe in either a high Christology of Yeshua the Messiah being God, or a low Christology of Yeshua the Messiah as a created entity, are both going to read Isaiah 9:6-7 in a Messianic context, referring to Yeshua of Nazareth (cf. Luke 1:32-33). How one reckons with the titles of Isaiah 9:6-7, which both should agree are applied to this Messiah King, will force one to consider some significant things about His nature. The Hebrew source text of Isaiah 9:6[5] states, v’yiqra sh’mo pele yo’eitz El gibbor avi’ad sar-shalom, “and-he-will-call name-of-him Wonder-of One-Counseling God-of Might Father-of Everlasting Prince-of Peace” (Kohlenberger).[1]

That the Messiah will be a “Wonderful Counselor” (pele yo’eitz), taken by the NET Bible to be “Extraordinary Strategist,” makes light of His great wisdom and abilities.

The second title the Messiah is to have, asks some immediate questions about His nature, as it is El gibor or “Mighty God.” This is a title used of God proper in Isaiah 10:21: “A remnant will return, the remnant of Jacob, to the mighty God [el-El gibbor].” In the estimation of John N. Oswalt, “Wherever ʼēl gibbôr occurs elsewhere in the Bible there is no doubt that the term refers to God (10:21; cf. also Deut. 10:17[2]; Jer. 32:18[3]).”[4]

There were, in the Ancient Near East and classical Greco-Roman worlds, likely many kings and aristocrats who identified along the lines of being considered deified as “gods,” even though they were only mortal. When it comes to the Messiah, however, whose origins are certainly something beyond corporeal (Micah 5:2)—and with the spiritual and religious culture of Ancient Israel and Second Temple Judaism being decisively subversive to paganism—would the Messiah’s being titled as El Gibbor or “Mighty God” imply His being anything other than God? Isaiah 9:6 could have just said that the Messiah would be gibbor, “strong, mighty” (BDB),[5] akin to “mighty one,” and thusly one simply empowered by God or who had a special relationship with God. But when the title El gibbor, actually used of God proper, is a title possessed by the Messiah, then it is something which suggests something more than a supernatural yet created origin of Him; it suggests that the Messiah is, Himself, integrated into the Divine Identity.

The fourth of the four titles, sar-shalom or “Prince of Peace,” conveys the nature of the rule that the Messiah will be overseeing. Motyer’s remark on this title is something all should be able to agree with: “The Prince of Peace is himself the whole man, the perfectly integrated, rounded personality, at one with God and humankind, but also as a Prince, these are the benefits he administers to his people.”[6]

The third of the four titles of the Messiah is avi’ad, a compound noun which can admittedly confuse many who hold to a high Christology of Yeshua the Messiah being God. This term is composed of the noun av, typically meaning “father,” and ‘ad, often involving “continuing future, always” (CHALOT).[7] What can cause many to be perplexed is how Yeshua the Son is actually designated as “the Father” here. While there are later debates to be explored in the Apostolic Writings, as to whether or not the Son is functionally subordinate or eternally subordinate or only subordinate in His human Incarnation to the Father—it is fair to recognize that for Isaiah 9:6, av needs to be approached from its larger array of applications, noted by HALOT to include “progenitor, first of a class or profession,” and “chief magistrate of a place.”[8] This would be akin to Yeshua being “Eternal Father” in the sense of Him being labeled along the lines of how many towns today have had various “city fathers.”

While there is certainly more to be evaluated, from both the Tanach and Apostolic Scriptures, about the nature and origins of the Messiah, the titles Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Eternal Father, Prince of Peace” provide adequate witness to a Divine Messiah. Oswalt asserts, “The titles underscore the ultimate deity of this child-deliverer.”[9] Barry G. Webb also forthrightly concludes, “In the final analysis the language of verse 6 can apply only to one who is God incarnate.”[10]


NOTES

[1] Kohlenberger, 4:19.

“and he will be given the name Pele-Yo’etz El Gibbor Avi-‘Ad Sar-Shalom [Wonder of a Counselor, Mighty God, Father of Eternity, Prince of Peace]” (CJB).

[2] “For the LORD your God is the God of gods and the Lord of lords, the great, the mighty [ha’gibbor], and the awesome God who does not show partiality nor take a bribe” (Deuteronomy 10:17).

[3] “who shows lovingkindness to thousands, but repays the iniquity of fathers into the bosom of their children after them, O great and mighty God [ha’El ha’gadol ha’gibbor]. The LORD of hosts is His name” (Jeremiah 32:18).

[4] Oswalt, Isaiah 1-39, 247.

[5] BDB, 150.

[6] Motyer, Isaiah, 103.

[7] CHALOT, 264.

[8] HALOT, 1:1.

[9] Oswalt, Isaiah 1-39, 246.

[10] Barry G. Webb, The Message of Isaiah (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity, 1996), 69.


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