Isaiah 9:6-7 NRSV 6 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. 7 His authority shall grow continually, and there shall be endless peace for the throne of David and his kingdom. He will establish and uphold it with justice and with righteousness from this time onward and forevermore. The zeal of the LORD of hosts will do this.
Throughout the centuries, this passage has been a matter of dispute between Jews and Christians. It is also in dispute between Trinitarian and some Unitarian Christians. Most Christians affirm that verse 6 is a prophecy about the virgin birth of Jesus Christ, and verse 7 is a prophecy of His future reign. The common Jewish interpretation is that both verses refer to king Hezekiah. Some Unitarians also take this position.
Favoring the Jewish interpretation that it refers to king Hezekiah, are four weighty points:
1. The context of verses 1-5 refers to a prophesied great deliverance for Judah from an oppressor to the north which had formerly oppressed the areas of Zebulun and Naphtali. The former oppression was the conquering of the northern kingdom of Israel by Shalmaneser, king of Assyria as described in 2 Kings 18:9-12. This took place in the sixth year of Hezekiah, king of Judah. Then in Hezekiah’s 14th year Sennacherib, king of Assyria, attempted to conquer the southern kingdom of Judah ruled by Hezekiah. This is described in detail in 2 Kings 18:13 – 19:37, but also in Isaiah 36-37. But due to Hezekiah’s diligent pleading with Yahweh, a supernatural deliverance occurred.
2. Both the Hebrew text and the Greek LXX have past tense verbs in verse 6 (wrongly translated in most English Bibles). This indicates that the “child” (lit. youth) was already begotten, the “Son” was already given to Israel when Isaiah made this prophecy.
3. The word “name” is singular indicating a single name consisting of a phrase, not a series of names as in most English translations. The Jewish Publication Society translates this as “his name is called Pele- joez-el-gibbor-Abi-ad-sar-shalom,” which is a complete sentence rather than a list of names. As such, it means something like “Wonderful Counsellor [to] the mighty God, Everlasting Father [of] the Prince of Peace.” Thus the name given to this person is a statement of His subordinate role to God, rather than defining Him as “the mighty God” and “Everlasting Father.” This follows the pattern of names as declarative statements in Isaiah 7-9.
4. The New Testament writers did not cite verse 6 and apply it to Jesus’ Virgin birth. Isaiah 7:14 was quoted by Matthew in this way in Matthew 1:23. Given Matthew’s tendency to quote Old Testament prophecies to prove the legitimacy of Jesus’ claim to be the Messiah, this omission is striking.
Favoring the Christian interpretation, that Isaiah 9:6-7 refers to the virgin birth of Jesus Christ and His subsequent reign, are the following five points:
1. The verbs in verse 7 (regarding His reigning on the Throne of David) are future tense.
2. The language of verse 7 indicates that His kingdom would continue in peace from the time specified into perpetuity. Yet Hezekiah only lived fifteen more years after the great deliverance in Hezekiah’s day, and the throne of David fell into the hands of his wicked son, Manasseh. Neither Hezekiah’s reign nor peace continued into perpetuity.
3. Verse 7 clearly refers to the promise of the Davidic Covenant, the “Messiah” who would reign permanently and whose Kingdom would not end.
4. When the messenger Gabriel appeared to Mary and prophesied the birth of Jesus, he applied verse 7 to Jesus.
5. In Matthew 4:12-16 the writer quoted Isaiah 6:1-2 as having some kind of fulfillment (or at least a parallel) during Jesus’ ministry, proving His connection to the context of Isaiah 9.
The alleged name(s) given in verse 6 of the Hebrew text (taken as a series of individual names) are claimed by Trinitarians to prove the divinity of Jesus Christ, especially the term “Mighty God.” However, it should be noted that “Everlasting Father” argues strongly against this view because Trinitarianism requires that the Son is distinct from the Father. Some have interpreted this clause to say “Father of the coming age,” but this statement is problematic on theological grounds because it makes the Son the source of the coming Kingdom rather than the delegated ruler.
The Septuagint, translated from very ancient Hebrew into Greek more than two centuries before Jesus’ birth, differs significantly regarding the name(s) in verse 6. The LXX reads: “His name is called the ‘Angel/Messenger of Great Counsel’.” While this does not exactly fit with any known Hebrew copies, it does support the Jewish claim that a single name consisting of a phrase was meant rather than a series of descriptive names or titles.
One of the great benefits of comparing the LXX with the Hebrew text is that it often adds interpretive elements held in the thinking of the Jewish scribes who translated it before the time of Christ. It seems evident that the Jewish scribes responsible for the LXX were not translating verbatim but were offering something of a paraphrase shaped by their own understanding of who this passage referred to. Below is my very literal translation of Isaiah 9:6-7 from the Septuagint.
Isaiah 9:6-7 LXX 6 Because a Youth was begotten for us; a Son was also given to us, of whom the Beginning originated on His shoulder, and His name is called the ‘Angel/Messenger of Great Counsel,’ for I will bring peace over the rulers, peace and strength with Him. 7 Great is His Beginning, and of His peace is no boundary. Upon the throne of David, and his kingdom, to establish it and to uphold it in righteousness and in judgment from that time onward and forevermore. The zeal of the Lord Sabaoth will do these things.
I would like to propose an explanation for how the name of the “begotten youth,” who is the “Son given” in verse 6, transitioned from the Hebrew compound name, “Wonderful Counsellor [to] the mighty God, Everlasting Father [of] the Prince of Peace” to the Greek compound name, “Angel/Messenger of Great Counsel.”
For the sake of argument, let us first acknowledge that the past tense verbs in verse 6 (in both the Hebrew and LXX) require that the “youth” was already “begotten” in the past, the “son” had already been given to Israel, when Isaiah made this prophecy. Let us also acknowledge that the Jewish translation is correct, that there is a single name which gives praise to God rather than a series of distinct titles. Let us also acknowledge that the historical context is of a great military deliverance in the time of Hezekiah when Sennacherib, king of Assyria, besieged Jerusalem. Consider the following account of how God delivered Hezekiah’s kingdom of Judah after Hezekiah’s prayer.
Isaiah 37:15-20 (ESV) 15 And Hezekiah prayed to the LORD: 16 “O LORD of hosts, God of Israel, enthroned above the cherubim, you are the God, you alone, of all the kingdoms of the earth; you have made heaven and earth. 17 Incline your ear, O LORD, and hear; open your eyes, O LORD, and see; and hear all the words of Sennacherib, which he has sent to mock the living God. 18 Truly, O LORD, the kings of Assyria have laid waste all the nations and their lands, 19 and have cast their gods into the fire. For they were no gods, but the work of men’s hands, wood and stone. Therefore they were destroyed. 20 So now, O LORD our God, save us from his hand, that all the kingdoms of the earth may know that you alone are the LORD.”
God heard Hezekiah’s prayer and commanded Isaiah to prophecy to Hezekiah as follows:
Isaiah 37:32-38 (ESV) 32 “For out of Jerusalem shall go a remnant, and out of Mount Zion a band of survivors. The zeal of the LORD of hosts will do this. 33 “Therefore thus says the LORD concerning the king of Assyria: He shall not come into this city or shoot an arrow there or come before it with a shield or cast up a siege mound against it. 34 By the way that he came, by the same he shall return, and he shall not come into this city, declares the LORD. 35 For I will defend this city to save it, for my own sake and for the sake of my servant David.”
In the verses which follow we are then told exactly how God delivered Hezekiah’s kingdom by His “zeal” (lit. boiling).
36 And the Angel [Messenger] of the LORD went out and struck down 185,000 in the camp of the Assyrians. And when people arose early in the morning, behold, these were all dead bodies. 37 Then Sennacherib king of Assyria departed and returned home and lived at Nineveh. 38 And as he was worshiping in the house of Nisroch his god, Adrammelech and Sharezer, his sons, struck him down with the sword. And after they escaped into the land of Ararat, Esarhaddon his son reigned in his place.
Now lets compare the LXX literal translation of Isaiah 9:6-7:
Isaiah 9:6-7 LXX (My literal translation) 6 Because a Youth was begotten for us; a Son was also given to us, of whom the Beginning originated on His shoulder, and His name is called the ‘Angel/Messenger of Great Counsel,’ for I will bring peace over the rulers, peace and strength with Him. 7 Great is His Beginning, and of His peace is no boundary. Upon the throne of David, and his kingdom, to establish it and to uphold it in righteousness and in judgment from that time onward and forevermore. The zeal of the Lord Sabaoth will do these things.
Notice that the clause, “The zeal of the LORD of hosts will do this” appears in Isaiah 9:6-7 and again in Isaiah 37:32, the only times this statement appears in the Bible, thus linking the prophecy of the “begotten youth, the given Son” with the deliverance of Judah by the “Angel/Messenger of Yahweh.”
The Septuagint reading is the result of Jewish scribes’ familiarity with the history of these events. Since their translation of the name given to the son begotten and given to Israel is a bit loose, it is reasonable to suppose that the name “Angel/Messenger of Great Counsel” is a contracted reference to the “Angel/Messenger of Yahweh” in Isaiah 37:36 who killed off 185,000 men of the Assyrian army in a single night, bringing the promised deliverance to Judah and the Throne of David. That is, the LXX translators understood the name in the Hebrew text, “Wonderful Counsellor [to] God the mighty, Everlasting Father [of] the Ruler of Peace,” which was assigned to the begotten “Son” given to Israel, as referring specifically to the “Angel/Messenger of Yahweh” through whom God delivered the kingdom of Judah. It is also important that on one of the occasions where the Messenger of Yahweh was asked His name, He said it was “Wonderful.”
In the LXX, the word “Beginning” is twice applied to this person. “Because a Youth was begotten for us; a Son was also given to us, of whom the Beginning originated on His shoulder … Great is His Beginning….” The Greek is ἀρχὴ (arche) which means first in sequence and sometimes rank. Here it is usually understood as first in rank, but that is by no means the required meaning. It is certainly possible that it means first in sequence which is its more common meaning. If so, it would be a reference to Proverbs 8:22-25 where Solomon, the first of David’s seed to sit upon his throne, spoke of one previously “begotten” who is also called “the Beginning.”
Prov. 8:22-25 (LXX-Brenton) 22 The Lord made me the beginning of his ways for his works. 23 He established me before time was in the beginning, before he made the earth: 24 even before he made the depths; before the fountains of water came forth: 25 before the mountains were settled, and before all hills, he begets me.
The New Testament identifies this Person as Jesus Christ in the following passages:
John 8:23-25 (LGV) 23 And He said to them, “You are from below; I am from above. You are from this world; I am not from this world. 24 Therefore I said to you that you will die in your sins. For unless you should believe that I am [this], you will die in your sins.” 25 Then they said to Him, “Who are you?” And Jesus said to them, “The ‘Beginning!’ and that which I am saying to you.
Colossians 1:15 (ESV) 15 He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. … 18 He is the beginning, …
Rev. 3:14 (ESV) 14 “And to the angel of the church in Laodicea write: ‘The words of the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the beginning of God’s creation.
Let us put ourselves in the shoes of the translators of the Septuagint:
1. understanding Isaiah 9:1-7 in its historical context as a reference to the great deliverance of Judah from the Assyrian army
2. that deliverance was through “The Angel/Messenger of Yahweh” who slaughtered 185,000 enemy soldiers in one night
3. making the connection between the “Messenger of Yahweh” and God’s Agent in creation who was called “the Beginning,” and whom God had “begotten,” and who Solomon claimed had previously “ascended and descended” and was called Yahweh’s “Son” in Prov. 30:1-4.
Finally, we need to consider the fact that when Gabriel appeared to Mary to announce the birth of Jesus, he referenced Isaiah 9:6-7, but not in the way it is usually translated.
Luke 1:26-35 (LGV) 26 Yet in the sixth month the messenger Gabriel was sent by God to a city of Galilee which [is] called Nazareth 27 to a virgin, having been betrothed to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David, and the virgin’s name was Mary. 28 And having entered toward her, he said, “Rejoice, one having been favored! The Master is with you! You have been blessed among women!” 29 But having seen [him], she was perplexed at his word and was wondering what kind of greeting this might be. 30 And the messenger said to her, “Do not fear, Mary, for you found grace with God. And look, you will receive in the womb and you will deliver a Son, and you will call His name Jesus. This one will be great and will be called Son of the Highest, and the Master God will give Him the throne of David His father, 33 and He will reign over the house of Jacob unto the ages, and of His Kingdom there will be no end.” 34 But Mary said to the messenger, “How will this be since I do not know a man?” 35 And the messenger answering said to her, “A holy Breath will come to you, and a Power of the Highest will envelop you, by which even the already begotten holy Thing will be called  ‘Son of God.’
Compare this to Isaiah 9:6-7 (LXX)
Isaiah 9:6-7 LXX (My literal translation) 6 Because a Youth was begotten for us; a Son was also given to us, of whom the Beginning originated on His shoulder, and His name is called the ‘Angel/Messenger of Great Purpose,’ for I will bring peace over the rulers, peace and strength with Him. 7 Great is His Beginning, and of His peace is no boundary. Upon the throne of David, and his kingdom, to establish it and to uphold it in righteousness and in judgment from that time onward and forevermore. The zeal of the Lord Sabaoth will do these things.
The main difference between the above LGV translation of Luke 1:35 and other English translations concerns the following clause, τὸ γεννώμενον ἅγιον, “the already begotten holy thing.” The expression τὸ γεννώμενον is the articular, present, passive, neuter participle form of the verb γενναω – to beget. The articular participle is a substantive, acting like a noun, but with the addition of the verbal tense (present). This is a unique expression appearing only here in the NT. Note that the present tense and passive voice of the participle indicates that the Son of God already existed as the “already begotten holy thing” when Gabriel made the announcement to Mary prior to her conception. Compare the same present, passive, participle of γενναω in the LXX: Jer. 16:3; 4 Macc. 13:19; 4 Macc. 14:14; Wis. 4:6. In all cases the present, passive, participle of γενναω refers to those already begotten, never to those yet to be begotten. The “already begotten holy Thing” is therefore the “Youth” of Isaiah 9:6 (LXX). Notice also that in Gabriel’s statement there is a neuter reference to this person as “holy Thing” which corresponds with the neuter “Youth” in Isaiah 9:6 (LXX).
While God’s Son appeared many times in the Old Testament, being called “Wisdom” and Yahweh’s “Messenger,” His real identity as God’s only-begotten Son was not made publicly known until after His human birth. The true identity of Yahweh’s “Messenger,” and “Wisdom,” as “the Son of God,” was intentionally concealed (Gen. 32:24-30; Judg. 13:17-18, cf. 1 Cor. 2:6-10). He was later proven to be the “Son of God” by means of His resurrection (Rom. 1:3-4). But He was already the “First-produced” of God when He came into the world according to Hebrews 1:6, and God called Him “My beloved Son” at His baptism, before His resurrection.
The one to be born in Bethlehem existed prior to His human birth as stated plainly in Micah 5:2 (LXX) “And you, Bethlehem, house of Ephratha, are few in number to be reckoned among the thousands of Judah; yet out of you shall One come forth for Me to be a ruler of Israel; and His expeditions were from the beginning, from days of the age.” His “expeditions” (ἔξοδοι – plural of “exodus”) refers to His frequent appearances on earth as the “Messenger of Yahweh.” (cf. Exod. 23:20-23; Judg. 2:1-4; Prov. 30:4; John 3:13). Both Micah 5:2 and Isaiah 9:6-7 link the one who has appeared many times in Israel’s history with the coming Messiah as being the same Person.
Finally, we should consider the early Christian understanding of Luke 1:35 which is in agreement with our treatment. The following writers believed that this passage referred to a preexisting Person entering Mary’s womb, no doubt because the Greek articular participle τὸ γεννώμενον ἅγιον literaly means “the already begotten holy Thing.” Consequently they identified the “spirit” and “power” which came upon Mary as the pre-human Logos and Wisdom of Proverbs 8.
Justin Martyr (AD 100-165) wrote concerning this verse: “It is wrong, therefore, to understand the Spirit and the Power of God as anything else than the Word, who is also the first-born of God.” Theophilus of Antioch (AD ?-185) wrote: “but His Word, through whom He made all things, being His Power and His Wisdom, …” Tertullian of Carthage (AD 155-220) wrote: “Pray, tell me, why the Spirit of God descended into a woman’s womb at all, if He did not do so for the purpose of partaking of flesh from the womb.” Hippolytus of Rome (AD 170-235) wrote: “Who, then, was in heaven but the Word unincarnate, who was dispatched to show that He was upon earth and was also in heaven? For He was Word, He was Spirit, He was Power. … Rightly, then, did he say that He who was in heaven was called from the beginning by this name, the Word of God, as being that from the beginning.” Lactantius (AD 250-325) wrote: “Therefore the Holy Spirit of God, descending from heaven, chose the holy Virgin, that He might enter into her womb. But she, being filled by the possession of the Divine Spirit, conceived; and without any intercourse with a man, her virgin womb was suddenly impregned.”
In conclusion, the difficulties present with the usual interpretation of Isaiah 9:6 (past tense verbs and historical setting of the deliverance of Hezekiah’s kingdom), the name given to this person, and the difficulty with translating Luke 1:35 as a future begetting (when in fact the grammar requires a past begetting event) are simultaneously solved by understanding that the “Youth” begotten by God, the “Son” given to Israel, already existed as both the “Messenger of Yahweh” and the one spoken of in Proverbs 8:22-31 who was God’s Agent in creation.
 Isa. 9:1
 Compare the similar compound name in Isaiah 8:1-4 “Maher-shalal-hash-baz” which means “Spoil quickly, plunder speedily.
 Isa. 7:14; Isa. 8:1,3
 2 Kings 18:2,13; 2 Kings 20; Isa. 39
 1 Chron. 22:8-10
 Judges 13:18
 The Hebrew word is unique to this passage, appearing only in Isaiah 9:6 & 7 but nowhere else in Scripture. English translations render the Hebrew as government, authority, dominion, a concept common in the Hebrew Bible, yet portrayed with different Hebrew words everywhere else.
 Most English translations incorrectly render this as “That which I have said from the beginning.” But the literal sense (without adding words or ideas not found in the Greek) is as I have it above. The Douay-Rheims Version also has this correct reading: “They said therefore to him: Who art thou? Jesus said to them: The beginning, who also speak unto you.” (Jn. 8:25 DRV).
 While God’s Son appeared many times in the Old Testament, being called “Wisdom” and Yahweh’s “Messenger,” His real identity as God’s only-begotten Son was not made publicly known until after His birth. The true identity of Yahweh’s “Messenger” and “Wisdom,” as “the Son of God,” was intentionally concealed (Gen. 32:24-30; Judg. 13:17-18, cf. 1 Cor. 2:6-10). He was also declared to be the “Son of God” by means of His resurrection (Rom. 1:3-4).
 The Textus Receptus adds “out of you,” implying that the “begetting” applied to Jesus’ birth from Mary. But the vast majority of manuscripts and all of the ancient manuscripts do not have this clause showing it was a late addition.
 Matt. 3:17 has, “This is My Son, the beloved one, in whom I delighted.” The verb εὐδόκησα (delighted) is aorist, active indicative, meaning it refers to a past event not to a present situation. Compare this with Prov. 8:30 “then I was beside him, like a master workman, and I was daily his delight, rejoicing before him always,” (ESV). Thus God’s statement at Jesus’ baptism identifies Him with Prov. 8 and the one whom God beget as “the Beginning” (vss. 22-25) through whom God created all things (vs. 30).
 Justin, First Apology, ch. xxxiii
 Theophilus, To Autolycus, Bk. II, ch. xxii
 On the Flesh of Christ, XIX
 Against Noetus, ch. iv
 Lactantius, Divine Institutes, Bk. IV, ch. xii