A Child was Born to Us Whose Name was “Sar Shalom”
It is unthinkable that because the Lord so much loves His people Israel that He should not give them a righteous king from the Davidic dynasty and deliver them from the cruel hands of their oppressors. Such a righteous king in the history of Israel was Chizkiyahu, the anointed one of YHVH, whom He called Sar Shalom, “Prince of Peace”. We will explore this controversial for some prophecy in the context of the story of the besiege of Jerusalem in the reign of King Chizkiyahu, a story that poses a challenge for the careful reader.
When great light is seen in darkness
After the prophecy has depicted the inhabitants of Jerusalem in gloom and doom, and any hope has been vanished by their fear of falling into the merciless hands of the Assyrians, it also provides hope for a restoration of light upon them. We read,
For there is no gloom to her that was distressed, when at first, he humbled the land of Zevulun and the land of Naphtali, and afterward more heavily oppressed her by the way of the sea, beyond the Yarden, in the district of the nations. (9:1) (8:23 JPS) The people that walked in darkness have seen a great light. They that dwelt in the land of the shadow of death, upon them has the light shined. (Isa 9:1-2)
The people were left without hope when the innumerous Assyrian army besieged Jerusalem knowing how they covered like locusts the land of Zevulun (the lower Galilee), the land of Naphtali (the upper Galilee), and “the district of the nations”, the northernmost borderland of the Land. Since the times of the Judges, all this land had been exposed to the oppression by heathens, first by the Syrians, and now by the Assyrians. At the time when Jerusalem was besieged, the northern kingdom Israel had already been taken captive by the Assyrians. That was the sixth year of Chizkiyahu’s reign (2Ki 18:10).
But the scope of vision of the prophecy extended to the time when the besieged inhabitants of Jerusalem would have their joy before the Lord when they would plunder their enemies. We go on to read,
You have multiplied the nation, You have increased their joy. They joy before You according to the joy in harvest, as men rejoice when they divide the spoil. (Isa 9:3) (9:2)
The prophecy in Isaiah 9 refers to King Chizkiyahu (Hezekiah) on account of the immediate context. We make this statement in accordance with what we have written about Isaiah 9 in the preceding article, A Child is Born to Us Whose Name is “Mighty God” of Time of Reckoning Ministry. The prophet Yeshayahu (Isaiah) handed the prophecy down to ages in awaiting its future fulfilment in Isaiah 36:1-39:8, when the Assyrians were miraculously destroyed by the messenger YHVH sent. To this near future we now turn.
“We believe in miracles, but we may not rely on them”. Jewish saying
Isaiah 36:1-39:8, 2 Kings 18-20, and 2 Chronicles 29-32 are three passages in the Scripture that all speak of the same historical events in the life of King Chizkiyahu: (1) the invasion of the Southern Kingdom of Judah by the Assyrian King Sennacheriv, (2) the prolongation of king’s life by fifteen years, and (3) the sudden and miraculous destruction of the Assyrian army.
Yeshayahu being implicit in the prophecy in Chapter 9 describes the miracle that would take place in Chapter 37. On the night of destruction of the Assyrian army, the messenger of YHVH (Isa 37:35-36) struck the camp of the Assyrians and one hundred and eighty-five thousand died that night.
“In those days” King Chizkiyahu became sick and near death (see Isa 38:1). The phrase “in those days” seems to indicate that this must have happened immediately after the destruction of the Assyrian army reported in the last verses of Chapter 37. Yeshayahu the prophet came to Chizkiyahu to deliver the message from YHVH that the king was about to die.
In devastating sorrow and despair, Chizkiyahu wept bitterly and prayed to YHVH. While the prophet was on his way out, the word of YHVH reached him, saying, “Go back”,
Go and say to Chizkiyahu, “Thus said Yehovah, the Elohim of David your father, I have heard your prayer, I have seen your tears. See, I am adding fifteen years to your days“. (Isa 38:5)
As a sign to the king that this promised would be fulfilled, the sundial his father Achaz built turned ten degrees backward. According to Jewish tradition, the victory over the Assyrians and Chizkiyahu’s restoration to health happened in the days of Passover. And in the early morning, the people arose and saw all of their enemies dead.
Two righteous kings
There are three periods of Yeshayahu’s ministry as a prophet of YHVH. The second period began from the commencement of the reign of King Achaz to that of King Chizkiyahu. As soon as Achaz ascended the throne, he open the door to idolatry in the kingdom in the most abominable way. If it was not the repentance of his grandson, King Menasheh, who continued in the steps of his grandfather, Achaz would have been called the second most wicked king of Judah.
The third period of Yeshayahu’s ministry began with the accession of Chizkiyahu to the fifteenth year of his reign. Chizkiyahu was one of the most prominent in righteousness kings of Judah. Chizkiyahu restored the kingdom at the same place at which it had previously declined under his father Achaz. He abandoned the idolatry his father introduced in Judah and restored the worship of YHVH.
Under Chizkiyahu the nation rose again and returned to YHVH in such a level of righteousness that it was said about the king, “after him was none like him among all the kings of Yehudah, nor who were before him” (2Ki 18:5). To him the next verses of the prophecy are addressed. For the sake of emphasis and further explanation we are returning to the translation the present author took the liberty to make in the foresaid article,
Because a child was born to us, a son was given to us, and the authority was on his shoulder, and the everlasting Father, wonderful Counselor, El the Mighty called his name “Ruler of completeness”. That the government may be increased, and peace there be no end upon the throne of David, and upon his kingdom, to establish it, and to uphold it through justice and through righteousness from now on, even forever. The zeal of Yehovah of hosts does this. (Isa 9:5-6)
As we explained, the active verb in past “he called”, not the passive “he is called”, and the Hebrew syntax require the above translation. Further we argued in the foresaid article, thus translated these verses convey the idea of a fulfilled prophecy of a child who had already been born at the time of writing, on account of the past tense.
The rabbis are in agreement that the prophecy is said about Chizkiyahu, the “child who was born to us”, according to the fact that in his reign the southern kingdom was saved by a supernatural act of the destruction of the Assyrian army. This is what Ibn Ezra comments on Yeshayahu 9:5. We read,
All this has come to pass through the merit of the child that is born unto us. We know that at the time of the invasion of Sennacheriv, Chizkiyahu was thirty-nine years old; at the time of this prophecy he is, therefore, called child.
The child of peace
With that said, what was the reason for this triumphal ode in Isaiah 9 with which the prophecy regarding the child called by YHVH Sar Shalom, “Ruler of peace”, ends?
According to the rabbis, the “child was born to us” refers to King Chizkiyahu. And indeed, Chizkiyahu was twenty-five years old when he began to reign, and he reigned twenty-nine years (2Ki 18:2, 2Ch 29:1). Since his life was extended with fifteen years (2Ki 20:6), the Assyrians had invaded the land in his fourteenth year of reign and their destruction occurred in the beginning of his fifteenth year, on Passover. Therefore, when the Assyrians invaded Judah and besieged Jerusalem, King Chizkiyahu was thirty-nine years old. He fell ill and was about to die at very young age: thirty-nine years.
But at the time the prophecy was given he was even younger. It was therefore natural for the prophet to call him “child” without being out of place. But should any argument arise as to the application of the word יֶלֶד yeled, “child”, to adults compare to Ki 12:8, 1Ki 12:10, and 1Ki 12:14, where this word has been used.
The careful reader should have notice by now how abruptly the prophecy in Isaiah 9 ends at verse 7 (verse 6 in JPS). The rabbis have noticed this unusual ending and commented accordingly. Bar-Kappara says in Sanhedrin 94a that God sought to designate King Chizkiyahu as the Messiah and Sennacheriv as Gog and Magog, so that the confrontation between them would culminate in the final redemption, but that Hezekiah was not found worthy of this. Why was he not found worthy?
Rashi gives the same comment on Isa 9:6, as he goes on to say that the Holy One wished to make Chizkiyahu the Messiah and Sennacheriv, Gog and Magog, but the angels objected before Him, saying, “Should the one who stripped the doors of the Temple and sent them to the king of Assyria, be made Messiah?” Rashi adds, “Immediately, Scripture closed it (the prophecy) up”.
What both sources are referring to is the following. At the siege of Jerusalem, to appease the king of Assyria Chizkiyahu gave him all the silver that was found in the Temple of YHVH. He cut off the doors of the Temple and the doorposts overlaid with gold and gave them to the Assyrian in addition to three hundred talents of silver and thirty talents of gold (2Ki 18:14-16). This is what the angels objected to.
And if that was not bad enough, King Chizkiyahu did more (the parallel text is in 2Ki 20:12-19 and 2Ch 32:24-31). The king of Babylon sent his son to Judah, because he heard that King Chizkiyahu had been sick but recovered. Touched by the unusual attention, Chizkiyahu showed him all the treasures he had, the silver and gold, everything under his dominion including the treasures of the Temple. As Yeshayahu describes it, “There was not an object in his house or in all his rule that Chizkiyahu did not show them” (Isa 39:1-2). Tragically, later in history, Babylon came to Jerusalem to claim what they had seen.
When we keep these considerations in mind, we will understand the reason why the prophet became very displeased with what the king had done. The reason is explained when he speaking prophetically declared to the king,
Hear the word of Yehovah of hosts: Behold, the days are coming when all that is in your house, and what your fathers have stored up until this day, shall be taken away to Babylon; not a matter shall be left, declares Yehovah. And they shall take some of your sons who are born to you, whom you bring forth. And they shall be eunuchs in the palace of the sovereign of Babylon. (Isa 39:5-7)
Returning to the prophecy, in the immediate context of Isa 9:1-7, the ode of the deliverance of Judah from the Assyrians must have been about King Chizkiyahu, unless the prophet had written these verses out of place, for the prophecy in its strict meaning points indeed to King Chizkiyahu. But we will explain that this is not the only way to interpret this prophecy, because the prophecy is capable of two interpretations.
Although the prophecy refers to Chizkiyahu, the prophecy also seems as relevant to Mashiach haMelech, Messiah the King, whom YHVH had found in Chizkiyahu despite the forementioned setbacks. In the following, we would like to posit another way to look at this.
Note: The Hebrew word mashiach means “anointed”. It is transliterated into English from Greek as “messiah” with the same meaning. Through series of long translations and transliterations from Greek and Latin to English (not in the scope of this work), in which its original meaning has been lost, the Hebrew mashiach has become “christ”. In the Tanach, anyone who has been anointed with olive oil (priests, kings, prophets, even a heathen like King Cyrus of Persia) is mashiach. It is peculiar that contrary to the expectations, in the undisputed and unchallenged messianic passages found in the Tanach, this Hebrew word is not present.
The prophecy regarding the child Yeshayahu spoke of seems relatively straightforward given the implicit language employed in it, but there are layers of meaning behind it.
The prophecy describes events as having layered background, in which it must be read not only in the immediate context, but also in the context of what had happened before or will happen after the narrative. Following this basic principle, we will make the case of Chizkiyahu, who was seen by the rabbis as the anointed one of YHVH and rightly so, but we will also look into it from the perspectives of what will happen in the future without leaving the prophecy.
And this is what the sages say concerning “the child who was born to us” in the ancient Aramaic paraphrase Targum Yonathan on Yeshayahu 9:5 (attributed to Yonathan ben Uzziel, a prime student of the great Talmudic sage Hillel). We read thus,
The prophet said to the house of David, For unto us a Child is born, unto us a Son is given, and He has taken the law upon Himself to keep it. His name is called from eternity, Wonderful, The Mighty God, who liveth to eternity, The Messiah מְשִׁיחָא (meshicha), whose peace shall be great upon us in His days. The greatness of those who do the law shall be magnified, and to those, that preserve peace. There shall be no end to the throne of David, and of his kingdom, to establish it and to build it in judgment and in righteousness from henceforth, even for ever. By the Word of the Lord of hosts this shall be done.
Targum (Aramaic for “interpretation, translation, version”) is the name of a category of texts that translate the Tanakh into Aramaic, originally transmitted orally later in writing between the 1st and 6th centuries CE. The word targum appears in Ezr 4:7 with the meaning of “to translate”.
Targum Yonatan is primary targum on the books of the Prophets, often quoted and read publicly in synagogues in Talmudic times and still today by the Yemenite Jews. Since Aramaic is a sister-language to Hebrew, Targum is considered a reliable source of information as to how the ancient had interpreted Hebrew passages in the Tanach.
We are obligated by objectivity to make the following statement though. Indeed, the prophecy of Isa 9:5-6 is regarding King Messiah, as we argued above. But the intelligent reader knows the Hebraic concept of Mashiach is diametrically opposed to the ecclesiastical concept of “Christ”, as we have explained in other works. The main objection that Isa 9:5-6 refers to such a messiah is best stated by Rashi, who (not without derogatory intent) comments on the verses,
And, in order to refute those who disagree [i.e., the Christians, who claim that this (Prince of Peace) is their deity], we can refute them by asking, What is the meaning of: “from now”? Is it not so that the “deity” did not come until after five hundred years and more? Yeshayahu 9:6 with Rashi
Let us read again the verses in question,
Because a child was born to us, a son was given to us, and authority was on his shoulder, and the everlasting Father, wonderful Counselor, El the Mighty called his name “Ruler of completeness”. That the government may be increased, and peace there be no end upon the throne of David, and upon his kingdom, to establish it, and to uphold it through justice and through righteousness from now on, even forever. The zeal of Yehovah of hosts does this. (Isa 9:5-6)
So, Rashi’s objection is found and expressed in the words “from now on, even forever”, namely, that neither had the “gentile deity” brought world peace, justice, and righteousness, nor did he fulfilled the everlasting reign on the throne of David. The argument, therefore, is that “from now on” suggests a commencement of fulfillment from the time of issuing the prophecy on. Although, this indeed is a strong argument, we should comment that King Chizkiyahu, being the anointed of YHVH, had not fulfilled them either.
How should we resolve the conflict? It is the present author’s view that the first part of the prophecy was fulfilled in the time of King Chizkiyahu. He was born to us, and the authority was placed on his shoulders, and the everlasting Father called him Sar shalom, “ruler or minister of completeness”, for he indeed restored Judah to complete righteousness and justice. But the ultimate fulfillment of the prophecy will commence with the coming of the Anointed of YHVH, when everything will be brought to completeness. Then, and only then, His government will be increased, and endless peace will be brought in by the sublime Anointed, when we will sit upon the throne of David and rule until the completeness of time. This we derived from the concept of “layered background”. No rabbi should object to this.
Yet, we are also obligated by truthfulness to make another statement, namely, that the ancient rabbis of blessed memory knew more than they had spoken of the Hebrew Mashiach. But have we not spoken out concerning what the rabbis had hidden about Mashiach?
Having now completed our exposition in detail and for further knowledge on the matter, the reader will do well to read what we have written in the suggested readings of Time of Reckoning Ministry:
Knowledge known to only a few will die out. If you feel blessed by these teachings of Time of Reckoning Ministry, help spread the word!
May we merit seeing the coming of our Mashiach speedily in our days!
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