Mi Yodeya is a question and answer site for those who base their lives on Jewish law and tradition and anyone interested in learning more. It's 100% free, no registration required.

Sign up
Here's how it works:
  1. Anybody can ask a question
  2. Anybody can answer
  3. The best answers are voted up and rise to the top

Isaiah 9:5 is a famous verse used by Christians. A Christian translation is:

For to us a child is born. To us a son is given; and the government will be on his shoulders. His name will be called Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.

The English translation uses present tense. So I do not know whether this child is something that has been born or is being born.

The curious fact is that two of the names for the child seems to imply divinity.

Of course this is not the only time Tanakh have references to "Bene Elohim" or son of god and it could mean many things. In this passage, what does it mean? Why would a born child be called mighty God, everlasting father?


Note: I cross-asked this in http://hermeneutics.stackexchange.com/questions/7788

share|improve this question
    
The verse quoted is Isaiah 9:5. Christian versions of the Bible appear to include 9:1 in chapter 8 and begin the ninth chapter with 9:2. Looking it up in a Jewish source would also have been more likely to give you the correct translation, as seen in @MoshePeston's answer. – WAF Dec 29 '13 at 0:11
    
Okay I am quite annoyed with this various differing translation. So I pick a site where various translations are given. You mean ALL those translations are wrong? – Jim Thio Dec 29 '13 at 1:11
2  
In fact, that site, Christian as it is, includes the JPS (Jewish Publication Society) version of the Bible, although not apparently in parallel view, which is not surprising since in a number of places the verses are not parallel. . . and because it is a Christian site. – WAF Dec 29 '13 at 1:30
1  
the Cantillation Marks in the verse indicate that Wonderful and Counselor should come together as one phrase. Not crucial to the question, but I thought I'd mention it. The mistake is present over at BH too. – Baby Seal Dec 31 '13 at 0:07
1  
To be a bit blunt, why do we care how the Christians translate it? Why do you not use a Jewish translation? (I am blunt because this is not the first time you've been asked this.) – HodofHod Dec 31 '13 at 1:21

Rashi (and similarly other Jewish commentaries) explains the meaning of this verse very differently from the Christian translation from which you ask your question, and hence your question does not begin:

and… called his name: The Holy One, blessed be He, Who gives wondrous counsel, is a mighty God and an everlasting Father, called Hezekiah’s name, “the prince of peace,” since peace and truth will be in his days.

Thus according to Rashi and others, the correct translation of the verse is:

For a child has been born to us, a son given to us, and the authority is upon his shoulder, and the wondrous adviser, the mighty God, the everlasting Father, called his name, "the prince of peace."

Translation of the verse and Rashi are quoted from here.

share|improve this answer
    
I think these translations may have been transposed. – Clint Eastwood Dec 29 '13 at 1:01
    
Ah I see... The comma are different. Who is this prince of peace, hezekiah? Is he warlike king or leftist liberal king? – Jim Thio Dec 29 '13 at 1:12
    
hermeneutics.stackexchange.com/questions/7788/… shows differently. Care to explain how the comma got in the way? How do I know that God is calling the child prince of peace rather than mighty God as one of the child's name? – Jim Thio Dec 29 '13 at 6:06
1  
@JimThio Because only Gd is called Mighty Gd, and not any of Gd's creations. – avi Dec 29 '13 at 8:25
    
Ah so theology rather than plain reading is inserted into the meaning. However, the point 12 in hermeneutics does show something though. – Jim Thio Dec 29 '13 at 14:35

None of the words in the verse that imply divinity imply so absolutely.

Thus, using the structure of the verse in your question is perfectly compatible with Jewish beliefs.

ויקרא שמו פלא יועץ אל גבור אבי עד שר שלום...

Concerning אל: see Gen 31:29 where אל means power, (See Onkelos the Convert's aramaic translation, חילא‏, power or strength, see also Rashi). See also Ezek 23:21 where אלי גבורים‏, a plural form of our phrase, means mighty heroes, (see Jonathan Ben Uziel's aramaic translation, תקיפי גבריא‏ mighty amongst the strong, and even the King James Bible that translates this way).

Concerning אב/אבי‏: see Gen 45:8, where, based on context it is clear that אב‏ does not mean father literally, rather it means friend or patron, (see Rashi ibid). Also see Gen 4:20-21 where again אבי‏, father of is non-literal, meaning founder of or head of, (see Rashi ibid).

Thus the translation of the verse would be:

... And his name was called, wonderous counselor, mighty power/hero/strong one, friend/patron/founder of eternity, prince of peace.

So even according to this verse structure, the subject remains human, namely King Hezekiah, (see Rashi Isa 9:5, Ibn Ezra ibid).

This article goes in to more detail about this verse. See page 15, specifically, which brings Abraham Ibn Ezra's interpretation of the verse, consistent with this answer, which expounds upon Hezekiah's given names, based on events that occurred during his reign:

פלא יועץ‏ - “Wondrous” alludes to wonders God performed in his day, such as the wonder of the sun going backwards when Hezekiah was miraculously cured of his illness (Isaiah 38:8). In fact, Hezekiah's recovery, in itself, was considered a wonder. “Adviser” refers to the root word יעץ‏ is used when Hezekiah decided to celebrate the Passover in Jerusalem and invite the people of the Northern Kingdom to join in the celebration, (ChronII 30:2). As the siege of Jerusalem by Sanheriv drew near, the text describes how Hezekiah and his staff came up with a plan of defense, (ChronII 32:3).

אל גבור‏ - “Mighty Hero” alludes to the fact that, even though Sanheriv approached Hezekiah with a large army, Hezekiah did not surrender in defeat. Instead, he defied Sanheriv's threats and blasphemy, and he (and Isaiah) prayed for God's intervention and help, and God’s mighty hand destroyed the threat, (ChronII 32:20-22).

אבי עד‏ - “Eternal Patron” alludes to the fact that, in Hezekiah’s merit, the Davidic dynasty was prolonged, and has been preserved for the eternal future. King Hezekiah was one of the most extraordinary personalities among the Jewish kings, about whom some Sages said that he was worthy to be the Messiah, (Sanh 94a, 98b, 99a).

שר שלום‏ - “Ruler of Peace” alludes to the fact that there was a prolonged period of peace in the Land of Israel during the reign of King Hezekiah. This peaceful span was highlighted by his invitation to the remnant of the Jews who lived in the Northern Kingdom of Israel to participate in the celebration of the Passover (ChronII 30).

share|improve this answer
    
So your interpretation is like Christian interpretation except that El here means power instead of God and father of eternity means patron of eternity. – Jim Thio Dec 31 '13 at 6:50
    
I think your answer is good. I have christian/atheistic background and I often wonder why the same scripture produces two very different opinion. Turns out, many verses are indeed very ambiguous and vague. – Jim Thio Dec 31 '13 at 10:23
    
But how come the child is called friend/patron/founder/father of eternity if his reign is not eternal at all? – Jim Thio Jan 1 '14 at 5:47
    
@JimThio edited in explanatory comments from cited article. – Baby Seal Jan 20 '14 at 3:44

I have some research on this and made some observations that might be helpful toward formulating an answer. IT was just too much to share in comments.

Observations: Hebrews often name their babies in praise to some attribute of God at work in their life. Thus, names contain El, or Yah.

Some seem to indicate relationship to God, like, Elichai, meaning my God alive.

Others do not indicate relationship, like Elead, meaning, God eternal.

Doubtless, neither Elead's mom nor anyone else thought that she was saying this baby was God eternal or we would have heard a lot more about it!

Similarly, the prophecy given by Isaiah earlier in chapter 7, that a young woman would conceive and bear a child and his name would be called Immanuel, meaning God with us does not mean the child was God with them. We know that God told Israel, when a prophet spoke, the way they would know if a thing were from God, or if a prophet spoke presumptuously, was if that thing came to pass (Deuteronomy 18:22). Isaiah is telling Israel they will be invaded and overtaken by the Assyrians; but, he also offers words of hope that a government will arise. The only way people would know if what he said was certainly from God, is if what he fortold came true. What comfort is hope if one is not certain it is true or from God. The only way that Israel would know if these words of hope were certain and true, was if something he spoke already transpired as he said. He prophecies that a child will be born, his name will be called Immanuel, and before he is old enough to discern between good and evil, the Assyrians will invade and remove them from their land. While, to my knowledge, we do not hear anything more about the child, Immanuel, we do know the Assyrians did indeed invade as foretold, and logically we assume the baby was born first as prophesied and all this happened before he was old enough to discer between good or evil. (IF it did not come true then Isaiah would not be regarded to this day as a prophet) Israel would have known from these events that also the promised hope would come just as surely. It is not illogical to assume that in that day, no one thought that baby Emmanuel was actually God with them. The child's name was only prophetic to assure Israel God was with them though things looked bleak and that the rest of the prophecy spoken of in chapter 9 would also occur, that a Governor would come.

So, it seems that we cannot always take a Hebrew name and say it says the child himself is those things the name says; sometimes the child's name serves as a memorial of Gods attributes and even promise, in the community.

Now, looking at this long name in chapter 9, Its elements are not logically congruous. One element is Almighty God and another is Prince of Peace. One cannot be Almighty and Prince simultaneously for a prince would be, by definition, subordinate to the Almighty. Could it be that this name, like the Hebrew name, Elichai, show a relationship between two people?

Observe now that one of the words, translated by some "comforter" is actually a verb. I am no Hebrew scholar, just relying on libronx ESV interlinear which shows "counselor" to be "verb, qal, active, pure noun participle, singular, masculine, normal." If I understand correctly, a noun participle acts like an adjective, in this case the verb is to advise/counsel. Could it be that this name shows the activity of God in relationship to the other.

It is not illogical that this prophecy speaks of a hope that there would be a Prince of Peace who would come in the wonderful counsel of Almighty God and Everlasting Father.

Isaac Leeser translates it accordingly:

Wonderful, counsellor of the mighty God, of the everlasting Father, the prince of peace.*"

share|improve this answer

Your Answer

 
discard

By posting your answer, you agree to the privacy policy and terms of service.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.