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Who is "the Mighty God"? (Isaiah 9:6) 
(Reflection - June 2008)

"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" (Isa 9:6).

Who is the child who bears this wonderful name, or names? There can be no real question for any Christian that the final and perfect fulfillment of this prophecy is the Lord Jesus Christ.

Furthermore, to most orthodox Christians, there is no real question that the names "Mighty God" and "Everlasting Father" can apply to the baby Jesus. Of course, those who know the truth of the Bible on this subject cannot accept such designations at face value. So there must be explanation and exposition, probably delving into the relevant Hebrew words and their usage elsewhere.

Hebrew scholars, who agree generally that the prophecy was (and still is) about a coming Messiah, do not believe:

  1. that Jesus was the child, or
  2. that the Messiah, if and when he does come, will be in any literal sense "Mighty God" and "Everlasting Father".

As Christadelphians, we would disagree with them on Point 1, but nevertheless — since we do agree with them on Point 2 — we can find some real help in their suggested explanations of this verse.

Following the Soncino Books of the Bible, it may be noted that the seeming series of names or titles may all be intended as simply one name or title. An earlier example of such an elongated name is found in the immediately preceding chapter of Isaiah: Maher-shalal-hashbaz (Isa 8:1).

The Soncino commentary suggests that the names or name in Isaiah 9:6 might be read all in one, and only a bit longer than Maher-shalal-hashbaz. A reasonable transliteration would be "Pele-ya’ats-gibbor-el-abi-ad-sar-shalom". Longer, no doubt, but if we split it between the "el" ("god") and the "abi" ("father") we just might manage, with practice, to say it all.

Furthermore, and still following the Soncino commentary, we may suggest that the name be translated:

"The wonderful counselor, the mighty God, IS the everlasting Father OF the prince of peace."

Some of these same "names" are combined elsewhere in Isaiah. For example, the LORD God is referred to as "Wonderful/marvelous (‘pele’) counselor/planner (‘etsah’, derived from ‘ya’ats’)" (Isa 25:1; 28:29).

Thus, when the whole "name" is read in reference to another person, it should not be inferred that the child — in this case, the Messiah — possesses all these attributes, but rather that he is understood to act for the Being, Yahweh Himself, who does possess these attributes.

In the same vein, the later Jewish Study Bible, published by the Jewish Publication Society, adds the following:

"Semitic names often consist of sentences that describe God; thus the name Isaiah in Hebrew means ‘The LORD saves’; Hezekiah, ‘The LORD strengthens’; in Akkadian, the name of the Babylonian king Merodachbaladan (Isa 39:1) means ‘the god Marduk has provided an heir.’ These names do not describe that person who holds them but the god whom the parents worship. Similarly, the name given to the child in this verse does not describe that child or attribute divinity to him, contrary to classical Christian readings of the messianic verse."

Something like this might be useful in understanding, and explaining, what can often be a "wrested Scripture", Isaiah 9:6.

George Booker

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