Because a Child is Born to Us, His Name will be the Prince of Peace

Posted by on Jun 24, 2017

There is a verse in Isa 9 that deeply divides Jews and Christians, because a child is born to us, Emmanuel, whose name is called Prince of Peace. But should they be? And who is that child concerning whom the prophet says “a child is born to us”.

We read in Isa 9:6 KJV thus,

For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder:

and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counselor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace. (Isa 9:6 KJV)

In the KJV translation of Isa 9:6 (in the Hebrew Tanak it is Isa 9:5) the child foretold in chapter 7, where he is called Emmanuel, is called Wonderful, Counselor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace. In the Christian tradition, thus translated, this verse is seen as a validation of the divinity of Christ and more particularly being God Himself in a human body. This difference in the theologies has divided the Jews and the Christians over the centuries.

To start our study of this controversial for many matter, we should notice that while in Isaiah 7, the same child is named by his mother, here in Isa 9:6 (9:5) no subject of the sentence is given and simply we do not know who named the child: the child born to us. We are simply told that the child’s name will have all the heavenly attributes associated with the Mighty Elohim, God Himself.

The Christian commentators and theologians go even further to blame the Jews of twisting the original Hebrew text for the purpose of eliminating the Messianic sense of the passage. They say that Jewish commentators such as Rashi, Kimchi, Malbim, and others follow the Targum (Aramaic interpretation of the Hebrew scripture) in order to alter the Messianic prophecy of Isa 9:6: a child is born to us whose name shall be called Wonderful, Counselor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace

While it is true that Rashi did change the original Messianic meaning of Isaiah 53 (for more on this the reader may refer to the articles Who is the Suffering Servant in Isaiah 53? Part I and Part II), below we will see that the accusations of altering Isa 9:5 (9:6) are not quite true. More over the Jewish translation of Isa 9:6 follows theologically the Christian, or more properly it is the other way around. 

In order to solve the theological dispute, we will read below from the Hebrew text of the Leningrad Codex (WLC) which is one of the authoritative text of the Hebrew Scripture along with the Aleppo Codex and the Dead Sea scroll. It is up to the reader to decide on who changed what concerning the child in Isa 9:6 (9:5): “a child is born to us”; the present author’s intention is to give information on what the Hebrew text actually says, as it appears in the original Hebrew. We read,

(Isa 9:5 WLC) כִּי־יֶלֶד יֻלַּד־לָ֗נוּ בֵּן נִתַּנ־לָנוּ וַתְּהִי הַמִּשְׂרָה עַל־שִׁכְמֹו

וַיִּקְרָא and he called שְׁמֹו his name פֶּלֶא Wonder יֹועֵץ Counselor אֵל El גִּבֹּ֔ור Mighty אֲבִיעַד everlasting father שַׂר־שָׁלֹום ruler of completeness

The first word which is also the key word in our passage is וַיִּקְרָא vaikra. We should notice that this word is used very often to start a sentence in Hebrew, because its simple meaning is “and he called.” The three-letter root is קָרָא kara, and means to call out to and more properly to address by name; it is used in a wide variety of applications. The third person singular, imperfect tense, will be יִּקְרָא he calls or he will call and the prefix vav changes the tense to perfect which usually is translated into English in past tense, “he called.”

We should also know that in Hebrew unlike English, for instance, there are no tenses as we know them. What is known in Hebrew as imperfect form of the verb denotes unfinished action and is very often translated as present, present continuance, or future tense. On the other hand, the perfect form of the Hebrew verb denotes a finished action whose results can be seen, hence it is translated as past tense.

We should also notice that וַיִּקְרָא vaikra, as this word appears vocalized in the Masoretic text, is in active voice, meaning “and he called”, while in the KJV translation and all other Christian translation in English we find “and he is called” (passive voice). In Hebrew that would be the verb וַיִּקָּרֵא vaikrey (passive voice), “and he is called.” The only difference between these two words is in the vocalization provided by the Masoretes.

A Masorete is a scholar who is expert on the Masorah commonly known as the Jewish scribe learned to copy the Hebrew text of the Tanak (the Hebrew Scripture). We have the Hebrew Scripture because of the painstaking work of these people who dedicated their lives to preserve the original text of the Word of YHVH for us. It suffices to say, for the purpose of our study, that according to the Torah and in the Hebraic mind of the scribes, the change of one letter is considered a sin.

Sadly, the vocalization of this word has led to so diametrically different translations and interpretations of otherwise Messianic prophecy of Isa 9:6: “a child is born to us whose name shall be called Wonderful, Counselor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace”.

And, ironically, no one denies that Isa 9:5 is about the Messiah of YHVH; neither the Jewish, nor the Christian commentators.

For instance, this is what the sages say concerning the child in the ancient Aramaic paraphrase Targum Yonathan of Isa 9:5 (9:6). 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, whose peace shall be great upon us in His days.

And Targum Yonathan continues to the next verse:

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 Jonathan Ben Uziel: The Chaldee Paraphrase on the Prophet Isaiah, translated by Rev. C. W. H. Pauli 1871.

We should not have been objective, if we do not see how the Jewish translators have rendered Isa 9:6 (9:5).

Below is the Jewish Publication Society translation (JPS) edition 1917 in which the JPS translators chose to transliterate, not to translated “the names” of the child as one name: Pele- joez-el-gibbor-Abi-ad-sar-shalom. We read,

For a child is born unto us, a son is given unto us; and the government is upon his shoulder;

and his name is called Pele- joez-el-gibbor-Abi-ad-sar-shalom (Isa 9:6 JPS 1917)

Why the JPS translators have decided to render the word in question וַיִּקְרָא vaikra, in passive voice, not in active voice as in the Hebrew text, the present author has no explanation. However, even this translation does not change the Messianic character of the verse, as we saw in their commentaries of Isa 9:6 (9:5).

Therefore, we see that regardless of how Isa 9:5 (9:6) is translated, “a child is born to us whose name shall be called Wonderful, Counselor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace” remains Messianic and how the reader will read the verse is a matter of personal choice, as long as he or she is aware of what the Hebrew text actually says: vaikra, “and he called” because the desire of the present author is to present the Hebrew text to the reader and most importantly the Messianic meaning of the prophecy.

With that being said, let us read a translation of the Hebrew text of verse 5, which the present author believes is faithful to the Hebrew text by simply following basic Hebrew grammar rules. And these basic Hebrew grammar rules are as follows.

We should know that in the Biblical Hebrew the verb usually precedes the subject of the sentence in a verb-subject-object manner, unlike in English and other languages where we usually find subject-verb-object syntaxes. But it is not uncommon to find in Hebrew the syntaxes other than verb-subject-object, which is very common in the Hebraic poetry in Psalms and Proverbs.

Moreover, we find this verb-subject-object syntaxes and the very same word (vaikra, meaning “and he called”) in the third book of the Torah named in Hebrew Vaikra (but in English “Leviticus”) “and He called” as we read in the first verse:

And called Yehovah to Mosheh, and spoke to him from the Tent of Appointment, saying, (Lev 1:1)

This is the same Hebrew vaikra we find in our verse in Isa 9:6 (9:5).

So, in Lev 1:1 we find the same pattern in the phrase in question the verb-subject-object syntaxes where the first word is the verb וַיִּקְרָא vaikra, “and he called”. Then, after the verb, the subject of the sentence follows, that is the everlasting Father, wonderful Counselor, El the Mighty. And at the end of the sentence: the object, Ruler of completeness:

וַיִּקְרָא and he called שְׁמֹו his name פֶּלֶא Wonder יֹועֵץ Counselor אֵל El גִּבֹּ֔ור Mighty אֲבִיעַד everlasting father שַׂר־שָׁלֹום ruler of completeness

In the phrase שַׂר־שָׁלֹום sar shalom, the word שר (sar) means “ruler” and שלום (shalom), commonly translated as “peace”, but more literally it means wholeness, completeness, or well-being. For more on the deep meaning of the word shalom, the reader may refer to the article The Blessing of Psalm 122:6.

Therefore, we see that the everlasting Father, the wonderful Counselor, El the Mighty called the child born to us in Isa 9:6 by the name “Ruler of completeness” or “Prince of peace”.

And since no one will object without finding himself in a theological error that the everlasting Father, the wonderful Counselor, El the Mighty is the Creator Himself, then the subject of the Hebrew sentence is YHVH. And rightly so, since it will be His Son the Messiah who will bring the completeness (peace) of Jerusalem, the Promised Land, His people Israel, and of the whole world, by the authority given upon His shoulders, as we read further in Shaul’s (Paul) writings,

And when all are made subject to Him, then the Son Himself shall also be subject to Him who put all under Him, in order that Elohim be all in all. (1Co 15:28)

For more prophetic insight on what this obscured verse, the reader is encouraged to refer to the article “The Time when the Messiah will be Subject to the Father“.

which He wrought in the Messiah when He raised Him from the dead and seated Him at His right hand in the heavenlies, far above all rule and authority and power and mastery, and every name that is named, not only in this age but also in that which is to come. And He put all under His feet, and gave Him to be head over all, to the assembly, which is His body, the completeness of Him who fills all in all. (Eph 1:20-23)

With this knowledge we read Isa 9:5 (9:6) anew:

Because a child is born to us, a son is given to us, and the authority is on his shoulder, and the everlasting Father, wonderful Counselor, El the Mighty called his name “Ruler of completeness.”

May we merit seeing the coming of our Mashiach speedily in our days.