Isaiah 9:6 – A Child Is Born

The standard Christian interpretation of Isaiah 9:6 clearly foretells the coming of the Christ:

For a child has been born for us, a son given to us; authority rests upon his shoulders; and he is named Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.

Christendom commonly interprets the terms at the end of the verse as four names:

  1. Wonderful Counselor
  2. Mighty God
  3. Everlasting Father
  4. Prince of Peace

Some commentators go so far as to separate the first of these into two names, Wonderful and Counselor.

Of course, giving the Christ a name like Mighty God does tend to push us towards the divinity of Jesus!

This typical Christian interpretation, however, is not without its controversies. Leaving aside the point of whether this text refers at all to Jesus of Nazareth, let’s look at the names. The Jewish Publication Society (JPS) TANAKH translates that passage slightly differently:

For a child has been born to us, a son has been given us. And authority has settled on his shoulders. He has been named “The Mighty God is planning grace; The Eternal Father, a peacable ruler”

The JSB study notes go on to explain that the entire sentence is the name of the child, and that this was customary in ancient near-eastern cultures like Israel and Babylon. Isaiah means “The LORD saves”; Merodach-baladan means “the god Marduk has provided an heir”. The names were not intended to describe the child so much as to describe the God who gave the child to us.

The JPS TANAKH also references a similar Hebrew wording in Is. 12:1 where the translators take this form.

I am impressed with the JSB in that it sometimes points out passages that Christians find important, even though the authors and their audience, as Jews, would commonly find a different meaning in the passage.