“For a child.” Isaiah 9:6ff gives us the reason why “there will be no more gloom for those who were in anguish” (Isa. 9:1), and the people who walked in darkness will see great light (Isa. 9:2), and people will rejoice (Isa. 9:3), and the yoke of their burden and the rod of their oppressor will be broken (Isa. 9:4), and garments used in war will be burned (Isa. 9:5). It is because the Messiah will come and rule the earth in righteousness forever (Isa. 9:6-7).
“And he will call his name.” “he will call” (active voice verb) is the reading of the Massoretic Hebrew text and the Qumran texts of Isaiah. The Septuagint has the verb in the passive voice, “he will be called.” However, since we have multiple witnesses in the Hebrew text of the reading of Isaiah, there is no reason to assume the Greek translation is different. The most logical choice for who would name the child was Yahweh, his Father. Young’s Literal Translation has the verb in the active voice. Yahweh sent Gabriel to tell Joseph what to name the child in Matthew and Luke.
“a child will be born.” The Hebrew text reads, “a child has been born...a son has been given.” In English we would say, “a child will be born,” because the birth of Jesus Christ was still more than 700 years in the future. The Hebrew text is an example of the Hebrew idiom of the prophetic perfect, which occurs when a future event is spoken of as if it had already happened because it absolutely will happen. The prophetic perfect idiom was a way of letting people know a future event was not in doubt but would absolutely happen.
In the prophetic vision, the prophet is taken into the future such that the event he envisions has happened. By revelation, he sees the event as already having taken place, and writes that way. Isaiah 9 has a lot of prophetic perfect idioms in it (see commentary on Isa. 9:1). [For more on the idiom of the prophetic perfect see commentary on Ephesians 2:6, “seated”].
“and the government will be on his shoulders.” Isaiah 9:6-7 is one of the many verses in the Old Testament that portray the Messiah as being born and then growing up to destroy the wicked and rule the world in righteousness without saying anything about his death, resurrection, ascension, or the Great Tribulation and Battle of Armageddon. There are many Scriptures in the Old Testament that speak of the coming of Christ and God’s vengeance on the wicked as if they were going to happen at the same time (cp. Isa. 9:6-7; 11:1-9; 61:1-3; Micah 5:2; Zech. 9:9-10; Mal. 3:1-3; 4:1-3). Those many Scriptures, along with the fact that there are no clear Scriptures that portray the two comings of Christ, are the reason that at the time of Christ people did not think that Christ would die (cp. Matt. 16:21-22; Luke 18:31-34; 24:19-21, 44-46; John 12:34; 20:9). [For more on Scriptures that directly connect the coming of Christ with him conquering the earth, see commentary on Isa. 61:2].
“Mighty Hero.” The phrase is usually mistranslated as “Mighty God” in most English Bibles. Actually, “mighty god” would not be a bad translation if people realized that in the Hebrew language the word “god/God” (Elohim; also El) had a much wider range of application than it does in English. People familiar with the Semitic languages know that a man who is acting with God’s authority can be called “god.” Although English makes a clear distinction between “God” and “god,” the Hebrew language, which has only capital letters, cannot. Hebrew only would have GOD, no matter if it referred to the Father or a person acting with divine authority. Thus, a better translation of Isaiah 9:6 for the English reader would be “mighty hero,” or “divine hero.” Both Martin Luther and James Moffatt translated the phrase as “divine hero” in their Bibles. (For more on the flexible use of “God,” see the commentary on Heb. 1:8).
A clear example showing that the word translated “God” in Isaiah 9:6 can be used of powerful earthly rulers is Ezekiel 31:11, which refers to the Babylonian king. The Trinitarian bias of the translators of most English versions can be clearly seen by comparing Isaiah 9:6, where the Hebrew word el (#0410 אֵל) is translated “God” with Ezekiel 31:11, where el is usually translated as “ruler.” Whether the word el refers to God or a human ruler has to be decided by context, and the Messiah is not God. If simply calling the Messiah el made him God, then the Babylonian king would be God also. Isaiah is speaking of God’s Messiah and calling him a mighty ruler, which of course he will be.
The phrase in Isaiah 9:6 that most English versions translate as “Mighty God” is el gibbor in the Hebrew. That very phrase, in the plural form, is used Ezekiel 32:21 of “heroes” and mighty men. The NIV translates the phrase in Ezekiel as “mighty leaders,” and the KJV and NASB translate it as “the strong among the mighty.” The Hebrew phrase, when used in the singular, can refer to one “mighty leader” just as when used in the plural it can refer to many “mighty leaders.”
There is no justification in the context of Isaiah 9 for believing that this verse refers to the Messiah as part of the Trinity. It refers to God’s appointed ruler. The opening verse of the chapter foretells a time when “there will be no more gloom for those who were in anguish.” All war and death will cease, and “every boot of the tramping warrior…and the garments rolled in blood…will be fuel for the fire” (Isa. 9:5). How will this come to pass? The chapter goes on: “for to us a child is born” (Isa. 9:6). There is no hint that this child will be “God,” and reputable Trinitarian scholars will assert that the Jews of the Old Testament knew nothing of an “incarnation.” For them, the Messiah was going to be a man anointed by God. He would start as a child, which of course Yahweh, their eternal God, could never be. And what a great ruler this man would grow to be: “the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty Hero, Father of the Coming Age, Prince of Peace.” Furthermore, “he will reign on David’s throne (Isa. 9:7), which could never be said of God. God could never sit on David’s throne. But God’s Messiah, “the Son of David,” could (cp. Matt. 9:27). Thus, a study of the verse in its context reveals that it does not refer to the Trinity at all, but to the Messiah, the son of David and the Son of God.
[For more information on Jesus being the fully human Son of God and not being “God the Son,” see Appendix 10, “Jesus is the Son of God, Not God the Son.” For more on “the Holy Spirit” being one of the designations for God the Father and “the holy spirit” being the gift of God’s nature, see Appendix 11, “What is the Holy Spirit?”].
“Father of the Coming Age.” Almost every English Bible mistranslates Isaiah 9:6. Not understanding the prophecy combined with a bias to support the doctrine of the Trinity has influenced almost every English translation. A good place to have caught the mistranslation of Isaiah 9:6 was in this phrase, which almost all English Bibles translate as “Everlasting Father,” because Jesus is never called the “Everlasting Father” anywhere else in Scripture. Furthermore, Trinitarians correctly deny that Jesus is the “Everlasting Father.” It is a basic tenet of Trinitarian doctrine that Christians should “neither confound the Persons nor divide the Substance” (Athanasian Creed). So, if “Everlasting Father” is the correct translation of the Hebrew text, then Trinitarian Christians have a real problem. However, “Everlasting Father” is a mistranslation.
The Hebrew word translated “age” (or “everlasting” in most Bibles), is `ad (#05703 עַד), and refers to something that lasts a long time or forever, or something that endures for an age or ages, and that can be of the past or future. Thus, when Habakkuk 3:6 speaks of the mountains that will be shattered at some point in the future, they are called “the ancient mountains” in some translations (cp. NAB; NET), or by hyperbole, “the everlasting mountains” (cp. KJV). Of course, when it refers to God it means everlasting, and the coming Age is everlasting as well, although if this verse in Isaiah only had in mind the first phase of the future reign of Christ, then Age-long or even “long enduring” would be more accurate.
We believe that since the Word of God shows the two ages, the present evil age and the Messianic Age to come, an excellent translation is that Jesus will be called “father of the [coming] age.” In the culture of the Bible, anyone who began anything or was very important to something was called its “father.” For example, because Jabal was the first one to live in a tent and raise livestock, the Bible says, “he was the father of those who live in tents and raise livestock” (Gen. 4:20). Furthermore, because Jubal was the first inventor of musical instruments, he is called, “the father of all who play the harp and flute” (Gen. 4:21). Scripture is not using “father” in the sense of literal father or ancestor in these verses, because both these men were descendants of Cain, and all their descendants died in Noah’s flood. “Father” was being used in the cultural understanding of either one who was the first to do something or someone who was important in some way.
The Messiah will be the one to establish the age to come, raise the dead into it, and rule as king in it, so he is rightly called “the father of the coming age.” Adam Clarke, the noted Methodist minister and author of Clarke’s Commentary, has in his commentary for Isaiah 9:6 that what is usually translated “everlasting Father” should be “the Father of the everlasting age” which is also an excellent translation. [For more on the use of “father,” see commentary on Genesis 4:20].
The “Coming Age” is not generally understood by Christians because orthodox doctrine is that when a person dies his soul goes to heaven and lives there forever with Jesus. But the Bible says that Jesus will come back to earth, fight the Battle of Armageddon, conquer the earth, and reign on it as king. At that time the earth will be restored to a pristine condition like the Garden of Eden, and it will be called “Paradise.” That “age” is the Coming Age; the Messianic Age.
[For more on the Coming Age and Jesus’ kingdom on earth, see Appendix 3, “Christ’s Future Kingdom on Earth. For more on the earth becoming a “Paradise,” see commentary on Luke 23:43, Paradise].
Isaiah 9:6 - “For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.” John Schoenheit teaches on this verse from a Biblical Unitarian perspective.