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Isaiah 9:1-7

Context
9:1 (8:23) 1  The gloom will be dispelled for those who were anxious. 2 

In earlier times he 3  humiliated

the land of Zebulun,

and the land of Naphtali; 4 

but now he brings honor 5 

to the way of the sea,

the region beyond the Jordan,

and Galilee of the nations. 6 

9:2 (9:1) The people walking in darkness

see a bright light; 7 

light shines

on those who live in a land of deep darkness. 8 

9:3 You 9  have enlarged the nation;

you give them great joy. 10 

They rejoice in your presence

as harvesters rejoice;

as warriors celebrate 11  when they divide up the plunder.

9:4 For their oppressive yoke

and the club that strikes their shoulders,

the cudgel the oppressor uses on them, 12 

you have shattered, as in the day of Midian’s defeat. 13 

9:5 Indeed every boot that marches and shakes the earth 14 

and every garment dragged through blood

is used as fuel for the fire.

9:6 For a child has been 15  born to us,

a son has been given to us.

He shoulders responsibility

and is called: 16 

Extraordinary Strategist, 17 

Mighty God, 18 

Everlasting Father, 19 

Prince of Peace. 20 

9:7 His dominion will be vast 21 

and he will bring immeasurable prosperity. 22 

He will rule on David’s throne

and over David’s kingdom, 23 

establishing it 24  and strengthening it

by promoting justice and fairness, 25 

from this time forward and forevermore.

The Lord’s intense devotion to his people 26  will accomplish this.

1 sn In the Hebrew text (BHS) the chapter division comes one verse later than in the English Bible; 9:1 (8:23 HT). Thus 9:2-21 in the English Bible = 9:1-20 in the Hebrew text. Beginning with 10:1 the verse numbers in the English Bible and the Hebrew Bible are again the same.

2 tn The Hebrew text reads, “Indeed there is no gloom for the one to whom there was anxiety for her.” The feminine singular pronominal suffix “her” must refer to the land (cf. vv. 22a, 23b). So one could translate, “Indeed there will be no gloom for the land which was anxious.” In this case the statement introduces the positive message to follow. Some assume an emendation of לֹא (lo’, “no”) to לוֹ (lo, “to him”) and of לָהּ (lah, “to her”) to לוֹ (lo, “to him”), yielding this literal reading: “indeed there is gloom for him, for the one to whom there was anxiety for him.” In this case the statement concludes the preceding description of judgment.

3 tn The Lord must be understood as the subject of the two verbs in this verse.

4 sn The statement probably alludes to the Assyrian conquest of Israel in ca. 734-733 b.c., when Tiglath-pileser III annexed much of Israel’s territory and reduced Samaria to a puppet state.

5 tn Heb Just as in earlier times he humiliated…, [in] the latter times he has brought honor.” The main verbs in vv. 1b-4 are Hebrew perfects. The prophet takes his rhetorical stance in the future age of restoration and describes future events as if they have already occurred. To capture the dramatic effect of the original text, the translation uses the English present or present perfect.

6 sn These three geographical designations may refer to provinces established by the Assyrians in 734-733 b.c. The “way of the sea” is the province of Dor, along the Mediterranean coast, the “region beyond the Jordan” is the province of Gilead in Transjordan, and “Galilee of the nations” (a title that alludes to how the territory had been overrun by foreigners) is the province of Megiddo located west of the Sea of Galilee. See Y. Aharoni, Land of the Bible, 374.

7 sn The darkness symbolizes judgment and its effects (see 8:22); the light represents deliverance and its effects, brought about by the emergence of a conquering Davidic king (see vv. 3-6).

8 tn Traditionally צַלְמָוֶת (tsalmavet) has been interpreted as a compound noun, meaning “shadow of death” (so KJV, ASV, NIV), but usage indicates that the word, though it sometimes refers to death, means “darkness.” The term should probably be repointed as an abstract noun צַלְמוּת (tsalmut). See the note at Ps 23:4.

9 sn The Lord is addressed directly in vv. 3-4.

10 tc The Hebrew consonantal text reads “You multiply the nation, you do not make great the joy.” The particle לֹא (lo’, “not”) is obviously incorrect; the marginal reading has לוֹ (lo, “to him”). In this case, one should translate, “You multiply the nation, you increase his (i.e., their) joy.” However, the parallelism is tighter if one emends הַגּוֹי לוֹ (hagoy lo, “the nation, to him”) to הַגִּילָה (haggilah, “the joy,” a noun attested in Isa 65:18), which corresponds to הַשִּׂמְחָה (hasimkhah, “the joy”) later in the verse (H. Wildberger, Isaiah, 1:386). As attractive as this reading is, it has not textual evidence supporting it. The MT reading (accepting the marginal reading “to him” for the negative particle “not”) affirms that Yahweh caused the nation to grow in population and increased their joy.

11 tn Heb “as they are happy.” The word “warriors” is supplied in the translation to clarify the word picture. This last simile comes close to reality, for vv. 4-5 indicate that the people have won a great military victory over their oppressors.

12 tn Heb “for the yoke of his burden, and the staff of his shoulder, the scepter of the oppressor against him.” The singular pronouns are collective, referring to the people. The oppressed nation is compared to an ox weighed down by a heavy yoke and an animal that is prodded and beaten.

13 sn This alludes to Gideon’s victory over Midian (Judg 7-8), when the Lord delivered Israel from an oppressive foreign invader.

14 tn Heb “Indeed every boot marching with shaking.” On the meaning of סְאוֹן (sÿon, “boot”) and the related denominative verb, both of which occur only here, see HALOT 738 s.v. סְאוֹן.

15 tn The Hebrew perfect (translated “has been born” and “has been given”) is used here as the prophet takes a rhetorical stance in the future. See the note at 9:1.

16 tn Or “and dominion was on his shoulders and he called his name.” The prefixed verbs with vav (ו) consecutive are used with the same rhetorical sense as the perfects in v. 6a. See the preceding note. There is great debate over the syntactical structure of the verse. No subject is indicated for the verb “he called.” If all the titles that follow are ones given to the king, then the subject of the verb must be indefinite, “one calls.” However, some have suggested that one to three of the titles that follow refer to God, not the king. For example, the traditional punctuation of the Hebrew text suggests the translation, “and the Extraordinary Strategist, the Mighty God calls his name, ‘Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.’”

17 tn Some have seen two titles here (“Wonderful” and “Counselor,” cf. KJV, ASV). However, the pattern of the following three titles (each contains two elements) and the use of the roots פָּלַא (pala’) and יָעַץ (yaats) together in Isa 25:1 (cf. כִּי עָשִׂיתָ פֶּלֶא עֵצוֹת מֵרָחוֹק אֱמוּנָה אֹמֶן) and 28:29 (cf. הִפְלִיא עֵצָה) suggest otherwise. The term יוֹעֵץ (yoets) could be taken as appositional (genitive or otherwise) of species (“a wonder, i.e., a wonder as a counselor,” cf. NAB “Wonder-Counselor”) or as a substantival participle for which פָּלַא provides the direct object (“one who counsels wonders”). יוֹעֵץ is used as a royal title elsewhere (cf. Mic 4:9). Here it probably refers to the king’s ability to devise military strategy, as suggested by the context (cf. vv. 3-4 and the following title אֵל גִּבּוֹר, ’el gibor). In Isa 11:2 (also a description of this king) עֵצָה (’etsah) is linked with גְּבוּרָה (gÿvurah, the latter being typically used of military might, cf. BDB 150 s.v.). Note also עֵצָה וּגְבוּרָה לַמִּלְחָמָה in Isa 36:5. פֶּלֶא (pele’) is typically used of God (cf. however Lam 1:9). Does this suggest the deity of the messianic ruler? The NT certainly teaches he is God, but did Isaiah necessarily have this in mind over 700 years before his birth? Since Isa 11:2 points out that this king will receive the spirit of the Lord, which will enable him to counsel, it is possible to argue that the king’s counsel is “extraordinary” because it finds its source in the divine spirit. Thus this title does not necessarily suggest that the ruler is deity.

18 tn גִּבּוֹר (gibbor) is probably an attributive adjective (“mighty God”), though one might translate “God is a warrior” or “God is mighty.” Scholars have interpreted this title is two ways. A number of them have argued that the title portrays the king as God’s representative on the battlefield, whom God empowers in a supernatural way (see J. H. Hayes and S. A. Irvine, Isaiah, 181-82). They contend that this sense seems more likely in the original context of the prophecy. They would suggest that having read the NT, we might in retrospect interpret this title as indicating the coming king’s deity, but it is unlikely that Isaiah or his audience would have understood the title in such a bold way. Ps 45:6 addresses the Davidic king as “God” because he ruled and fought as God’s representative on earth. Ancient Near Eastern art and literature picture gods training kings for battle, bestowing special weapons, and intervening in battle. According to Egyptian propaganda, the Hittites described Rameses II as follows: “No man is he who is among us, It is Seth great-of-strength, Baal in person; Not deeds of man are these his doings, They are of one who is unique” (See Miriam Lichtheim, Ancient Egyptian Literature, 2:67). According to proponents of this view, Isa 9:6 probably envisions a similar kind of response when friends and foes alike look at the Davidic king in full battle regalia. When the king’s enemies oppose him on the battlefield, they are, as it were, fighting against God himself. The other option is to regard this title as a reference to God, confronting Isaiah’s readers with the divinity of this promised “child.” The use of this same title that clearly refers to God in a later passage (Isa 10:21) supports this interpretation. Other passages depict Yahweh as the great God and great warrior (Deut 10:17; Jer. 32:18). Although this connection of a child who is born with deity is unparalleled in any earlier biblical texts, Isaiah’s use of this title to make this connection represents Isaiah’s attempt (at God’s behest) to advance Israel in their understanding of the ideal Davidic king for whom they long.

19 tn This title must not be taken in an anachronistic Trinitarian sense. (To do so would be theologically problematic, for the “Son” is the messianic king and is distinct in his person from God the “Father.”) Rather, in its original context the title pictures the king as the protector of his people. For a similar use of “father” see Isa 22:21 and Job 29:16. This figurative, idiomatic use of “father” is not limited to the Bible. In a Phoenician inscription (ca. 850-800 b.c.) the ruler Kilamuwa declares: “To some I was a father, to others I was a mother.” In another inscription (ca. 800 b.c.) the ruler Azitawadda boasts that the god Baal made him “a father and a mother” to his people. (See ANET 499-500.) The use of “everlasting” might suggest the deity of the king (as the one who has total control over eternity), but Isaiah and his audience may have understood the term as royal hyperbole emphasizing the king’s long reign or enduring dynasty (for examples of such hyperbolic language used of the Davidic king, see 1 Kgs 1:31; Pss 21:4-6; 61:6-7; 72:5, 17). The New Testament indicates that the hyperbolic language (as in the case of the title “Mighty God”) is literally realized in the ultimate fulfillment of the prophecy, for Jesus will rule eternally.

20 tn This title pictures the king as one who establishes a safe socio-economic environment for his people. It hardly depicts him as a meek individual, for he establishes peace through military strength (as the preceding context and the first two royal titles indicate). His people experience safety and prosperity because their invincible king destroys their enemies. See Pss 72 and 144 for parallels to these themes.

21 tc The Hebrew text has לְםַרְבֵּה (lÿmarbeh), which is a corrupt reading. לם is dittographic; note the preceding word, שָׁלוֹם (shalom). The corrected text reads literally, “great is the dominion.”

22 tn Heb “and to peace there will be no end” (KJV and ASV both similar). On the political and socio-economic sense of שָׁלוֹם (shalom) in this context, see the note at v. 6 on “Prince of Peace.”

23 tn Heb “over the throne of David, and over his kingdom.” The referent of the pronoun “his” (i.e., David) has been specified in the translation for clarity.

24 tn The feminine singular pronominal suffix on this form and the following one (translated “it” both times) refers back to the grammatically feminine noun “kingdom.”

25 tn Heb “with/by justice and fairness”; ASV “with justice and with righteousness.”

26 tn Heb “the zeal of the Lord.” In this context the Lord’s “zeal” refers to his intense devotion to and love for his people which prompts him to vindicate them and to fulfill his promises to David and the nation.



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