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Isaiah 9


Birth and Reign of the Prince of Peace The Government of the Promised Son Transitional Verse A Time of Trouble
9:1-7 9:1-7
9:1 9:1a 9:1-2
    The Messianic King The Future King  
(2-7)   9:2-7
  (3-5)     9:3
  (6-7)   The LORD Will Punish Israel The Orders of the Northern Kingdom
God's Anger with Israel's Arrogance The Punishment of Samaria Ephraim's Judgment, An Object Lesson for Judah


READING CYCLE THREE (see introduction)


This is a study guide commentary, which means that you are responsible for your own interpretation of the Bible. Each of us must walk in the light we have. You, the Bible, and the Holy Spirit are priority in interpretation. You must not relinquish this to a commentator.

Read the chapter in one sitting. Identify the subjects (reading cycle #3). Compare your subject divisions with the five translations above. Paragraphing is not inspired, but it is the key to following the original author's intent, which is the heart of interpretation. Every paragraph has one and only one subject.

1. First paragraph

2. Second paragraph

3. Third paragraph

4. Etc.



A.Chapter 9 is in strong contrast, but linked to chapter 8:19-22 by word plays (i.e., darkness, gloom vs. light).


B.  Notice the play on the words

1. darkness (BDB 365), 5:20; 8:22; 9:2; 29:18; 42:7; 45:3,7,19; 47:5; 49:9; 58:10; 59:9; 60:2

2. gloom (BDB 734), 8:22; 9:1

3. thick darkness (BDB 66), 8:22; 58:10; 59:9

4. He will make glorious (BDB 457, KB 455, Hiphil perfect), 9:1

5. "a great light" (BDB 21, adjective, 152), 9:2 (twice)

6. "deep darkness" (BDB 853), 9:2; Job often; Ps. 23:4; 44:19; 107:10,14; Jer.2:6; 13:16; Amos 5:8

7. light will shine on them (BDB 618, KB 667, Qal perfect), 9:2

These are powerful metaphors of judgment and restoration. God is light (cf. I John 1:5,7; 2:8,9,10; Rev. 21:22-25)!


C. This chapter contains many perfect verbs which denote completed action. It can refer to a past event or a future certainty. The purposeful ambiguity fits the multiple fulfillment prophecies. This was a current crisis and a future crisis; a current prophetic focus and a future prophetic focus (i.e., 7:14).


D. It is common in prophetic literature for the strophes to swing from

1. judgment to hope

2. darkness to light

God's word has benefits and consequences. Be careful of just focusing on one!


1But there will be no more gloom for her who was in anguish; in earlier times He treated the land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali with contempt, but later on He shall make it glorious, by the way of the sea, on the other side of Jordan, Galilee of the Gentiles.
2The people who walk in darkness
Will see a great light;
Those who live in a dark land,
The light will shine on them.
3You 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.
4For 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.
5For every boot of the booted warrior in the battle tumult,
And cloak rolled in blood, will be for burning, fuel for the fire.
6For 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.
7There 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 the Lord of hosts will accomplish this.

9:1 "no more gloom" The MT has twenty three verses in chapter 8, but the LXX makes v. 23 chapter 9 verse 1.

The term "gloom" (BDB 734) appears in 8:22 and 8:23 (9:1) only. It links these contexts together. It is hard to know where prophecies start and stop. Be careful of letting modern chapter, verse, capitalization, and paragraphing cause you to miss related themes. An editor (or Isaiah himself or one of his disciples) complied his sermons, oracles, and poems into an anthology. Often the only connections are word plays, historical setting, or eschatological contexts.

The term "no" can be understood (1) in a negative sense (if so, this verse concludes the previous context) or (2) if one adds "more" (NASB), then it is positive and starts the next context.

▣ "for her who was in anguish" The pronoun "her" probably refers to "land" (BDB 75, ץרא). Because two of the northern tribes of Israel are mentioned specifically, this must refer to (1) the northern tribes or (2) the covenant people as a whole.

9:1,3 "He. . .He. . .You. . .You" The translators of the NASB capitalize these pronouns because they see them as referring to God's activity.

▣ "the land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali" There is a strong contrast between 8:19-22 and 9:1ff. Apparently, these northern two tribal allocations had suffered greatly in 732 b.c. under Tiglath-Pileser III (i.e., Pul, cf. II Kings 15:29). No one thought that anything good could come out of this region. This sets the stage for the fulfillment in Jesus' day of His Galilean ministry ("but later He shall make it glorious," cf. Matt. 4:12-17).

Because of the desert between Mesopotamia and Canaan, the armies had to follow the Euphrates River to its source and then drop down the coastal plain. That means they invaded from the north. Zebulun and Naphtali (along with the city of Dan) would be the first to suffer.

▣ "Galilee of the Gentiles" This literally means "circle of the nations" (BDB 165 II construct BDB 156). Assyria resettled many conquered people in this area. The term for Gentiles here is the normal term for the nations, goy (BDB 156, cf. 9:3). Sometimes it is used of Israel herself (cf. Gen. 12:2; 18:18; Exod. 19:6; Isa. 1:4).

In Jesus' day this refers to (1) Galilean Jewry or (2) the Gentiles, which shows the universal nature of the coming ministry of the Messiah, which fits Isaiah's emphasis on the inclusion of the nations.

9:2 "Will see a great light" Light is metaphorical for YHWH's presence (cf. Deut. 33:2; Hab. 3:3; Rev. 21:22-24). Here, light (BDB 21) is metaphorical of the gospel (cf. Isa. 42:6; 49:6; 51:4; 60:1,3). No one expected the Messiah to minister to the "not-so-kosher" Galileans. This verse is a surprising prophecy of the specific area of Jesus' ministry! No one expected "Galilee of the Gentiles" to become the initial out-bursting of "good news"!

9:3 "You shall multiply the nation" This (verb, BDB 915, KB 1176, Hiphil perfect) may refer to YHWH's original promise to the Patriarchs to increase Abraham's seed.

1. stars of the sky (cf. Gen. 15:5; 26:4; Deut. 10:22; 28:62)

2. sand of the seashore (cf. Gen. 22:17; 32:12)

3. dust of the earth (cf. Gen. 13:16; 28:14; Num. 23:10)


▣ "You shall increase their gladness" The Hebrew MT (Kethiv) has the word "not" (BDB 518), but NASB translates it as "their." The MT editors suggested in the margin (Qere) it be changed to "him" (they do this fourteen other places also). The LXX also has "him."

The noun "gladness" (BDB 970) appears twice in the verse (also possibly in v. 17), as does the related verb "rejoice" (BDB 162, KB 189, Qal imperfect). The verb form of "gladness" (BDB 970, KB 1333, Qal perfect) occurs in the verse. Obviously Isaiah is emphasizing this concept!

They are glad because of YHWH's presence. The covenant God is with His people (i.e., Immanuel). Their gladness is described in two metaphorical expressions.

1. the harvest

2. dividing spoil


9:4-5 Because YHWH is present (v. 3), He fights on their behalf (i.e., Holy War).

1. break the yoke of their burden (i.e., release from foreign domination, cf. Jer. 28:2; Ezek. 34:27)

2. break the staff on their shoulders

3. break the rod of their oppressor (staff and rod are symbols of foreign kings and their control, cf. 10:27)

The same verb, "break," is to be applied to all three, BDB 369, KB 365, Hiphil perfect, cf. 7:8; 8:9 (thrice).

As a God-empowered representative (i.e., Gideon) defeated the Midianites, so now God's chosen instrument, Babylon, will destroy the Assyrian domination of Canaan. God is in control of world history and is particularly conscious of Canaan because of the seed of Abraham (i.e., the coming Messiah).

▣ "as at the battle of Midian" See 10:26 and Judges 6-8.

9:5 The covenant people's enemies will be defeated and their clothing (i.e., shoes and cloaks) used for fuel for the fire. This is metaphorical of a complete and total victory. Several texts speak of the destruction of the military weaponry of the foreign armies because His people's trust and security must be in Him and His covenant promises, not their captured military weaponry (cf. Ps. 46:9; 76:3; Hos. 2:18).

The Divine Warrior of the conquest is again fighting for His people. Verse 4 is the perfect example!

9:6-7 The NKJV marks these two verses off as a separate paragraph.

Verse 6 describes the special child, Immanuel.

1. government will rest on His shoulders; the special child, the hope of a righteous Davidic seed (cf. II Sam. 7) returns into view

2. His name (the character of His God)

a. Wonderful Counselor, this denotes a divine plan, cf. 14:26,27; 19:17

b. Mighty God, cf. 10:21

c. Eternal Father

d. Prince of Peace, Mic. 5:5

The first name could be two separate titles, but the other three are two word combinations. The fivefold names may reflect current practice in Egypt, where the new Pharaoh was given five new throne names at his coronation.

There are four compound titles. These are probably the child's new names when coronated king. The term Immanuel in 7:14 and 8:8-10, as well as the term "Mighty God" in 9:6, does not automatically imply Deity, but reflects the ideal king. The names reflect God's character which hopefully characterized the Davidic King. It must be remembered that these titles deal with (1) the area of administration, (2) military power, (3) pastoral care, and (4) the quality of the reign. The Deity of the Messiah is also implied, though not specifically, in Dan. 7:14; Jer. 32:18. It must be remembered that the Jews were not expecting the Messiah to be the physical incarnation of YHWH because of Israel's unique emphasis on monotheism! The Deity of Jesus and the personality of the Spirit are real problems for monotheism (i.e., Exod. 8:10; 9:14; Deut. 4:35,39; Isa. 40:18,25; 46:5). Only "Progressive Revelation" teaches this truth (cf. John 1:1-14; Phil. 2:6; Heb. 1:2-3). If the NT is true then OT monotheism must be nuanced (i.e., one divine essence with three eternal personal manifestations). The hyperbolic OT language has become literal! But the literal fulfillment of OT prophecies about geographical and national Israel have been universalized to include "the nations." See Special Topic at 1:3. Genesis 3:15 is realized and summarized in John 3:16; 4:42; I Tim. 2:4; Titus 2:11; II Pet. 3:9; I John 2:1; 4:14).

Verse 7 describes His reign. 

1. eternal and universal government (cf. Mic. 5:4)

2. eternal and universal peace (cf. Mic. 5:5a)

3. reigns on Davidic throne (cf. 16:5; II Samuel 7)

4. establishes justice and righteousness forever (these two nouns often used together, cf. 32:16; 33:5; 59:14)

5. the zeal of YHWH is the guarantee of its reality

Verse 7 certainly sounds like an eternal reign (cf. Dan. 2:44; 4:3,34; 6:26; 7:13-14,27; Ezek. 37:25; Mic. 4:7; 5:4; II Pet. 1:11), not a limited millennial reign (see my notes in the Revelation Commentary, "Crucial Introduction" and Introduction to chapter 20 at ). This promise is the essence of the concept of a new age of the Spirit! The total and complete reversal of the Fall. The reinstatement of God' ideal (i.e., the fellowship of the Garden of Eden).

8The Lord sends a message against Jacob,
And it falls on Israel.
9And all the people know it,
That is, Ephraim and the inhabitants of Samaria,
Asserting in pride and in arrogance of heart:
10"The bricks have fallen down, But we will rebuild with smooth stones;
The sycamores have been cut down,
But we will replace them with cedars."
11Therefore the Lord raises against them adversaries from Rezin
And spurs their enemies on,
12The Arameans on the east and the Philistines on the west;
And they devour Israel with gaping jaws.
In spite of all this, His anger does not turn away
And His hand is still stretched out.

9:8-12 God has sent a clear message to the Northern Tribes. They have heard it and understood it (cf. v. 9a), yet their response is unacceptable.

1. They assert in pride (BDB 144) and arrogance (BDB 152)

a. they will rebuild after God's judgment, even better, v. 10

b. they will replant after God's judgment, even better, v. 10

2. YHWH raises (BDB 960, KB 1305, Piel imperfect) and stirs up (BDB 1127, Pilpel imperfect, only here and possibly 19:2)

a. Syria

b. Philistines

3. Yet still YHWH is agitated (cf. vv. 12,17,21)

a. His anger does not turn away

b. His hand is still stretched out


9:8-9 "Israel. . .Ephraim. . .Samaria" These three names designate the Northern Ten Tribes after the split in 922 b.c.

13Yet the people do not turn back to Him who struck them,
Nor do they seek the Lord of hosts.
14So the Lord cuts off head and tail from Israel,
Both palm branch and bulrush in a single day.
15The head is the elder and honorable man,
And the prophet who teaches falsehood is the tail.
16For those who guide this people are leading them astray;
And those who are guided by them are brought to confusion.
17Therefore the Lord does not take pleasure in their young men,
Nor does He have pity on their orphans or their widows;
For every one of them is godless and an evildoer,
And every mouth is speaking foolishness.
In spite of all this, His anger does not turn away
And His hand is still stretched out.

9:13-17 The reason for YHWH's continued anger is the lack of Israel's response.

1. They do not turn back (i.e., repent, lit. "turn," BDB 996, KB 1427, Qal perfect)

2. They do not seek (BDB 205, KB 233, Qal perfect) the Lord of hosts

Therefore, they are completely (head ["the elders"] and tail [prophets] cut off) destroyed! They are leading the people astray (BDB 1073, KB 1766, Hiphil participle) so they will be confused (lit. "shallowed up," BDB 118, KB 134, Pual participle). Jesus refers to this kind of leader in Matt. 15:14; 23:16,24. When your light has become darkness, how great is the darkness! He has no pity on (NRSV, MT, "rejoice over")

1. young men (v. 17)

2. orphans (v. 17)

3. widows (v. 17)

Usually YHWH defends these (i.e., Deut. 10:18), but here they are judged along with the rest of the rebellious people of God!

Because they are all

1. godless (BDB 338)

2. evil doers (BDB 949, KB 1269, Hiphil participle)

3. speaking foolishness (BDB 615)

Verses 8-12 are unified by the recurrent phrase ("His hand is still stretched out") at 12c,d; 17e,f; and 21c,d. Also notice the context probably runs through 10:4, where the phrase is repeated again. Be careful of relying too much on chapter and verse divisions. They are not original, not inspired!


NASB"brought to confusion"
NKJV"are destroyed"
NRSV"were left in confusion"
TEV"totally confused them"
NJB"are swallowed up"
LXX"devour them"
Peshitta"to sink low"
REB"are engulfed"

The Hebrew root (BDB 118, KB 134) basically means "to swallow down," "to swallow up" (cf. 25:7,8; 28:4; 49:19), but there are possibly other roots

1. to announce (KB 135 II, cf. Pro. 19:28)

2. to confuse (KB 135 III, cf. 3:12; 19:3; 28:7) with too much wine (NASB)

"Confused" fits the parallelism best! Remember, context, context, context determines meaning, not a lexicon!

9:17 "nor does He have pity on their orphans or their widows" This is the ultimate symbol of God's turning away. It is exactly the opposite of God's promises in Deuteronomy.

18For wickedness burns like a fire;
It consumes briars and thorns;
It even sets the thickets of the forest aflame
And they roll upward in a column of smoke.
19By the fury of the Lord of hosts the land is burned up,
And the people are like fuel for the fire;
No man spares his brother.
20They slice off what is on the right hand but still are hungry,
And they eat what is on the left hand but they are not satisfied;
Each of them eats the flesh of his own arm.
21Manasseh devours Ephraim, and Ephraim Manasseh,
And together they are against Judah.
In spite of all this, His anger does not turn away
And His hand is still stretched out.

9:18-21 These verses describe the judgment of God on the Northern Tribes. The judgment is characterized as a fire that consumes the land. See SPECIAL TOPIC: FIRE at 1:31. Even the people are fuel for the fire!

The evil of the people is described as

1. no man spares his brother

2. steal but are still hungry

3. eat but are not satisfied (even their own bodies, cf. Jer. 19:9; the Targums translate it as "fellow" and thereby JPSOA "his own kindred")

God's covenant people are against each other!

9:18 "wickedness burns like a fire" It is interesting that fire can be positive or negative.

1. here, negative (wickedness)

2. 62:1, positive (salvation)

Context, context, context determines meaning. Be careful of a preset definition of biblical words!


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