Trinitarians claim the name given to the child-son Messiah in this verse is also descriptive of that child and therefore this verse is prophetically identifying Jesus as "Mighty God."
Examination of the Claim
1. Many Issues
There are several issues in this verse, most of them related to the Hebrew grammar, which are debated between Christians and also between Jews and sometimes between Jew and Christians. The following list shows some of the issues which are discussed.
- The tense of the Hebrew verbs (sometimes an issue among Christians)
- The lack of a definite article before the name (sometimes an issue among Christians)
- How the entire name should be understood and translated (usually not an issue among Christians)
- The translation of the Hebrew word Gibbor (sometimes an issue but only among Christians)
- The translation of the Hebrew word EL (an issue mainly among Christians)
- How the Jewish Septuagint (LXX) translation bears upon the intended meaning of this verse.
- How the ancient Jews understood this verse (i.e. Targums).
- Whether this verse is only about Hezekiah, only about Jesus, or whether it should apply to Hezekiah as well as Jesus.
- This verse is not mentioned anywhere in the New Testament although Matthew quotes the verses immediately preceding Isaiah 9:6 and he also quoted Isaiah 7:14.
- Who does the name describe? (1) God (not the child-son Messiah), or (2) the child-son Messiah? (an issue among Christians as well as between Christians and Jews).
2. The Trinitarian Interpretation
Trinitarians presume that since the name, "Wonderful, Counsellor, Mighty God, Eternal Father, Prince of Peace," is the name by which the Messiah will be called, this name is describing who the Messiah is and therefore the Messiah is a Wonderful Counsellor, the Mighty God, an Eternal Father, the Prince of Peace.
3. Trinitarian Observation
The English words, "Mighty God," translate the Hebrews words EL GIBBOR. This term is used two chapters later in Isaiah:
A remnant will return, the remnant of Jacob, to the mighty God. Isaiah 10:21.
While other Old Testament writers use the Hebrew word EL to refer to persons and things other than the God of Israel, Isaiah does not. While it is possible that Isaiah 9:6 is an exception, Isaiah's use of the word should first lead us to presume he is using it to refer to the God of Israel.
4. Eternal Father
The name at Isaiah 9:6 contains the term "Eternal Father." Trinitarians insist that Jesus is being called the Eternal Father or "Father of Eternity" along with various justifications.
I was a father to the needy. Job 29:16.
Then it will come about in that day, That I will summon My servant Eliakim the son of Hilkiah, 21 And I will clothe him with your tunic And tie your sash securely about him. I will entrust him with your authority, And he will become a father to the inhabitants of Jerusalem and to the house of Judah. 22:20-21.
But one must also carefully regard the fact that referring to YAHWEH, the God of Israel, as "Father" is not unusual for Isaiah.
For You are our Father, though Abraham does not know us And Israel does not recognize us. You, O LORD, are our Father, Our Redeemer from of old is Your name. 63:16.
But now, O LORD, You are our Father, We are the clay, and You our potter; And all of us are the work of Your hand. 64:8.
5. Isaiah's God
A major problem with the Trinitarian translation is that it would have Isaiah, an ancient Israelite, referring to a future human child as his God.
6. Trinitarian Scholars
Trinitarians make their apologetic claims for this passage without mentioning the opinions of some of Trinitarian scholars. Many of them do not interpret this passage as describing the Messiah as the God of Israel but as God's representative who is empowered by God.
7. "Eternal Father" vs. "Child/Son"
Isaiah said, "a child will be born, a son will be given." It is quite clear that he is referring to the future birth of a human child. Trinitarians would have it that Isaiah is then describing this human child as "Eternal Father." But to attempt to describe a human child-son as "Eternal Father" is extremely unlikely since it necessarily involves anachronistically reading future Trinitarian doctrine back into this passage, especially given the fact that we already know God the Father is the one who begets this human child-son and the Father promises to give this human son the throne of his father David which is what Isaiah 9:6-7 is all about.
And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall name Him Jesus. He will be great and will be called son of the Most High and the Lord God will give him the throne of His father David and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and his kingdom will have no end.... The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; and for that reason the holy one begotten shall be called son of God. Luke 1:31-35.
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 forever. Isaiah 9:6
Analysis of the Evidence
1. Isaiah 9:7
The next verse says, "the zeal of the LORD of hosts will accomplish this." In context, this obviously means that the LORD, the God of Israel, will accomplish the establishment of this child-son on the throne of David. That this passage is about what YAHWEH will accomplish becomes very significant when we explore all the other facts pertaining to this passage.
2. Names in the Book of Isaiah
The next question at hand is whether or not Trinitarians are making a mistaken assumption. Since the name is given to this child-son, Trinitarians simply assume that the words in this name are describing who and what he is. But is that the case? It is to this question we must turn.
In the book of Isaiah, names are given to Isaiahs sons as prophetic signs concerning what the God of Israel is doing.
Behold, I and the children whom the LORD has given me are for signs and wonders in Israel from the LORD of hosts, who dwells on Mount Zion. (Isaiah 8:18).
The name of Isaiah's son at Isaiah 7:3 is "A remnant shall return."
Then the LORD said to Isaiah, "Go out now to meet Ahaz, you and your son Shear-jashub. (Isaiah 7:3). This name is literally "a remnant shall return." Notice, how the fulfillment is described in Isaiah 10.
Now in that day the remnant of Israel, and those of the house of Jacob who have escaped, will never again rely on the one who struck them, but will truly rely on the LORD, the Holy One of Israel. A remnant shall return, the remnant of Jacob, to the mighty God. (Isaiah 10:21-22; see 2 Chronicles 30:1,6; 10-11; 31:1).
Here the name given is obviously not intended to describe the child but given as a sign concerning what the Mighty God of Israel is accomplishing.
The name of Isaiah's son at Isaiah 8:3 is "swifty booty speedy plunder."
So I approached the prophetess, and she conceived and gave birth to a son. Then the LORD said to me, "Name him Maher-shalal-hash-baz (Isaiah 8:3).
So as to deprive the needy of justice And rob the poor of My people of their rights, So that widows may be their booty And that they may plunder the orphans...I send it against a godless nation And commission it against the people of My fury To capture booty and to seize plunder (Isaiah 10:2-6; see 2 Kings 15:29; 17:3-6.).
Here also the name given is obviously not intended to describe the child but given as a sign concerning what the Mighty God of Israel is accomplishing.
The name given at Isaiah 7:14 is Immanuel or "God (El) with us."
Therefore the Lord Himself will give you a sign: Behold, a virgin will be with child and bear a son, and she will call His name Immanuel. He will eat curds and honey at the time He knows enough to refuse evil and choose good. For before the boy will know enough to refuse evil and choose good, the land whose two kings you dread will be forsaken.
Therefore the Lord Himself will give you a sign: Behold, a virgin will be with child and bear a son, and she will call His name God with us. He will eat curds and honey at the time He knows enough to refuse evil and choose good. For before the boy will know enough to refuse evil and choose good, the land whose two kings you dread will be forsaken. (Isaiah 7:14).
Then it will sweep on into Judah, it will overflow and pass through, It will reach even to the neck; And the spread of its wings will fill the breadth of your land, O Immanuel. Be broken, O peoples, and be shattered; And give ear, all remote places of the earth. Gird yourselves, yet be shattered; Gird yourselves, yet be shattered. Devise a plan, but it will be thwarted; State a proposal, but it will not stand, For Immanuel."
Then it will sweep on into Judah, it will overflow and pass through, It will reach even to the neck; And the spread of its wings will fill the breadth of your land, O God with us. Be broken, O peoples, and be shattered; And give ear, all remote places of the earth. Gird yourselves, yet be shattered; Gird yourselves, yet be shattered. Devise a plan, but it will be thwarted; State a proposal, but it will not stand, For God is with us. (Isaiah 8:8-10).
Here again the name given is obviously not intended to describe the child but given as a sign concerning what the Mighty God of Israel is accomplishing Even further, we find that the words "God with us" do not mean "God with us in the same space as us" but "God with us in plan and purpose" as opposed to "God against us."
In the book of Isaiah, names prophetically refer to what the Mighty God of Israel will accomplish. When we consider verse 7, "the zeal of the LORD of Hosts will accomplish this," these facts become vitally significant to a correct understanding of Isaiah 9:6.
3. Names of People and Places in Ancient Israel
In ancient Israel, children were commonly given theophoric names which had nothing to do with describing the child but were names which honored, glorified, and described their God in some manner. For example, the name Isaac, means "He laughs" meaning "God laughs."
Lemuel - belongs to God (EL)
Elijah - Yah is my God (EL)
Elisha - God (EL) is salvation
Joshua - God (Yah) saves.
Yeshua (Jesus) - God (Yah) saves. see Luke 2:30.
Samuel - God (EL) has heard.
(Angel) Gabriel - Strength of God (EL).
(Angel) Michael - Who is like God (EL).
Notice that none of these names describe the child but to the God of Israel, especially to the power or accomplishments of the God of Israel.
The same thing occurs with respect to place names.
22:14 Abraham called the name of that place 'YAHWEH Will Provide," as it is said to this day, "In the mount of YAHWEH it will be provided. (Genesis 22:14).
Moses built an altar and named it 'YAHWEH is My Banner."(Exodus 17:15).
In those days Judah will be saved and Jerusalem will dwell in safety; and this is the name by which she will be called: YAHWEH is our righteousness. (Jeremiah 33:16).
Nobody would assume that because the above places are called by these names that these places are God. Rather, we understand that such names either signifying what the Mighty God accomplishes.
YAHWEH Our Righteousness: Jeremiah 23:6 & 33:16
Behold, the days are coming," declares YAHWEH, "When I will raise up for David a righteous Branch; And He will reign as king and act wisely and do justice and righteousness in the land. In His days Judah will be saved, And Israel will dwell securely and this is His name by which He will be called, 'YAHWEH our righteousness.'" (Jeremiah 23:5-6.
Behold, days are coming,' declares YAHWEH, "when I will fulfill the good word which I have spoken concerning the house of Israel and the house of Judah. In those days and at that time I will cause a righteous Branch of David to spring forth and He shall execute justice and righteousness on the earth. In those days Judah will be saved and Jerusalem will dwell in safety and this is the name by which she will be called: 'YAHWEH our righteousness.'" (Jeremiah 33:16).
Carefully observe how Jeremiah 23:6 is the type of verse that would have been construed as identifying Jesus as "Yahweh" if it had not been for Jeremiah 33:16 where the city of Jerusalem is given the very same name. Jerusalem is not God. Hence, by the same token, one cannot claim the Messiah is God either at Jeremiah 23:6 because it is virtually the very same language being used.
We must therefore adopt a serious inquiry into Isaiah 9:6 and ask whether this name is intended to describe the Messiah at all or whether it is a name which is intended to descriptively honor and glorify the God of Israel.
3. God's Christ: God's Messiah
In verse 7 we are told YHWH, the Mighty God, the God of Israel, will accomplish all this. And indeed, we read in the New Testament that the Messiah is in fact God's Messiah, God's Christ:
For a child will be born to us, a son will be given to us.... the zeal of YHWH will accomplish this. Isaiah 9:6-7.
And it had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he should not see death before he had seen the Lord's Messiah. And inspired by the Spirit he came into the temple and when the parents brought in the child Jesus, to do for him according to the custom of the law, he took him up in his arms and blessed God and said, "Lord, now let your servant depart in peace, according to your word for mine eyes have seen Your salvation. (Luke 2:26-30).
The God of our fathers raised up Jesus, whom you had put to death by hanging him on a cross. He is the one whom God exalted to His right hand as Prince and Savior. Acts 5:31-32.
This Jesus God raised up again, to which we are all witnesses. Therefore having been exalted to the right hand of God, and having received from the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit, he has poured forth this which you both see and hear. For it was not David who ascended into heaven, but he himself says: "The Lord said to my Lord, "Sit at my right hand until I make your enemies a footstool for your feet.'" Therefore let all the house of Israel know for certain that God has made him both Lord and Messiah, this Jesus whom you crucified. Acts 2:33-36.
And He said to them, "But who do you say that I am?" And Peter answered and said, "God's Messiah." (Luke 9:29).
And the people stood by, looking on. And even the rulers were sneering at Him, saying, "He saved others; let Him save Himself if this is God's Messiah, His Chosen One. (Luke 23:35).
Therefore let all the house of Israel know for certain that God has made Him both Lord and Christ--this Jesus whom you crucified. (Acts 2:36).
But the things which God announced beforehand by the mouth of all the prophets, that His Messiah would ssuffer, He has thus fulfilled. (Acts 3:18).
Therefore repent and return, so that your sins may be wiped away, in order that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord; and that He may send Jesus, the Messiah appointed for you. (Acts 3:19-20).
The kings of the earth took their stand, And the rulers were gathered together against YAHWEH and against His Messiah.'(Acts 4:26).
Then the seventh angel sounded; and there were loud voices in heaven, saying, "The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and His Messiah and He will reign forever and ever." (Revelation 11:15.
Then I heard a loud voice in heaven, saying, "Now the salvation, and the power, and the kingdom of our God and the authority of His Messiah have come, for the accuser of our brethren has been thrown down, he who accuses them before our God day and night. (Revelation 12:10).
For a child will be born to us, a son will be given to us.... the government will be on his shoulders... the zeal of YHWH will accomplish this. Isaiah 9:6-7.
We must also bear in mind that "Christ" or "Messiah" literally means "Anointed One." This is often overlooked because the term "Jesus Christ" appears like a first and last name and not a name with a title. But it literally means "Jesus the Anointed One." It is God the Father who anointed Jesus to be the Messiah, the Anointed One. Remembering that the Messiah, the Anointed One, is God's Anointed One, God's Christ, God's Messiah, carefully also regard the following:
The Spirit of [YHWH] is upon me for He has anointed me. Luke 4:18; see Isaiah 61:1.
You know of Jesus of Nazareth, how God anointed him with the Holy Spirit and with power, and how he went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, for God was with him. Acts 10:38; see Acts 2:22.
You have loved righteousness and hated lawlessness; therefore God, your God, has anointed you with the oil of gladness beyond [the angels]. Hebrews 1:9; see v. 4.
God's Messiah, God's Christ, His Anointed, is the place, where the Wonderful Counsellor, Mighty God, and Eternal Father, does his works:
Men of Israel, hear these words: Jesus of Nazareth, a man attested to you by God with mighty works and wonders and signs which God did through him in your midst, as you yourselves know. Acts 2:22.
Do you not believe that I am in the Father and the Father in me? The words that I say to you I do not speak on my own but the Father abiding in me does His works. John 14:10.
It is quite clear that God the Father did HIS works through HIS Christ, HIS Messiah, HIS Anointed One, who was HIS salvation. Given these facts, we need to ask ourselves if the reason this human child-son bears the names "Wonderful Counsellor, Mighty God, Eternal Father" is because God the Father is accomplishing His mighty works through this human child-son whom He anointed to do HIS works in HIS name.
4. The Context: A Name which is describing what YAHWEH will accomplish through this child-son.
Let us carefully regard the context:
The people who walk in darkness will see a great light, those who live in a dark land, the light will shine on them. You shall multiply the nation, You shall increase their gladness; They will be glad in Your presence As with the gladness of harvest, As men rejoice when they divide the spoil. For You shall break the yoke of their burden and the staff on their shoulders, the rod of their oppressor, as at the battle of Midian. For every boot of the booted warrior in the battle tumult, and cloak rolled in blood, will be for burning, fuel for the fire. 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 YAHWEH of hosts will accomplish this.
The context is all about what YAHWEH will accomplish. And within this context, we discover that YAHWEH will cause a child to be born, a son to be given, and this son will sit on the throne of David forever.
Given the facts concerning the purpose of ancient Israelite names, and that names given to children commonly and customarily do not describe the child, but descriptively honor and glorify the God of Israel, we must inquire into Isaiah's true intentions at Isaiah 9:6. Did he intend to describe the child or intend to describe the God and Father of this child-son Messiah and what the Mighty God of Israel will accomplish through this child-son?
Since God will do His works through His Anointed, the Christ, the name in question is not intended to describe who the Messiah is but what the Mighty God will be ccomplishing through His Messiah, His Christ. By giving Israel this child-son, YAHWEH the God of Israel,is a Wonderful in Counsel, Mighty God, Eternal Father. The name represents what God will accomplish through HIS Messiah. Indeed, this is exactly what we read in the New Testament. Just as Jerusalem is called "YAHWEH our Righteousness," and we understand this to mean that Jerusalem iis the place where the Mighty God of Israel will accomplish His works, in the very same way, we must understand tthat God's Messiah is called "Wonderful Counsellor, Mighty God, Eternal Father," not because Christ is the Mighty God and Eternal Father but because God's Christ is where the Mighty God and Eternal Father, God the Father, accomplishes HIS works. Jesus will bear the name of His Father because he came in the name of his Father and the Father did HIS works through Jesus HIS anointed one. In other words, since God worked in and through Jesus, Jesus bears the name of his God and Father, "Wonderful Counsel, Mighty God, Eternal Father." This does not mean the name does not apply to Jesus. Jesus is indeed called by this name. But we must understand WHY he is called this name and it is not for the reason Trinitarians suggest. The reason he is called this name is not because he is the Mighty God or the Eternal Father, but because he is the place where the Mighty God and Eternal Father will accomplish what is being discussed in the contex of Isaiah 9:6. In the very same way, Jesus is called "Immanuel" not because Jesus is himself "God with us" but because Jesus is rather how God the Father was with us (Israel) in HIS plan and purpose. For the same reason, we can see that Jerusalem is called "YHWH our Righteousness not because Jerusalem is YHWH but because Jerusalem is the place where God's plan and purpose is accomplished. In short, Jesus is called the name, "Wonderful Counsellor, Mighty God, Eternal Father" because he, the Christ, is how God the Father functionally accomplishes His works.
The title "Prince of Peace" tells us that the Christ/Messiah will be given this title. This is because the authority, the "government" God will place on his shoulders will be a peace without end as stated in verse 7, "there will be no end to the increase of His government or of peace."
He is the one whom God exalted to His right hand as Prince and Savior. Acts 5:32.
The zeal of YHWH of Hosts will accomplish this. Isaiah 9:7.
The Christ will be called this name because it is through God's Christ that YAHWEH, the Mighty God and Eternal Father, will demonstrate his Wondeful Counsel and will accomplish HIS works as described in the immediate context of Isaiah 9:6.
For those interested in a discussion of the translation of this verse, and the definition/meaning of the Hebrew word EL and the term EL GIBBOR, please click on the following link:
Isaiah 9:6 - Translation
Last Updated: June 15, 2012