Dec 9, 2013

Who was Isaiah’s Messiah?: Part I

In biblical exegesis, the most dangerous of the exegetical tools is lexical analysis, also known as word study.  This is because there are a variety of factors that must be taken into consideration in order for the study to produce accurate results, and Bible students often fail in accounting for the most relevant of these considerations.  One area where this tool is most valuable, however, is in connection to Hebrew names, especially when clear emphasis is placed on this in the context.
Hebrew names are typically assigned because of the combined meaning of their constituent parts.  

They are assigned based on some physical reality (Adam was so named because he came from the adamah, ground), spiritual reality (Noah was so named because his name means “rest”), or an abstract concept such as the perceived circumstances of the child’s conception/birth, values of the parent, occasions, locations, perceived character, etc.  Because of this, Hebrew names carry special significance in the Bible.  In Gen. 2:19, Adam was given the task of naming the animals, apparently based on his perception of their characteristics, and God remained nearby to watch and enjoy this process. 

In Isaiah 9:6 (9:5 in Hebrew), we have one of the most dramatic occasions of name giving in the Bible.  Here, Isaiah associates the names and titles of the future Messiah with the characteristics of Messiah and his reign.  I have pasted in the Hebrew verse and tagged the names so that you can see the correspondence of Hebrew and English.  Here’s what we know:
a  כִּי־יֶ֣לֶד יֻלַּד־לָ֗נוּ בֵּ֚ן נִתַּן־לָ֔נוּa bוַתְּהִ֥י הַמִּשְׂרָ֖ה עַל־שִׁכְמ֑וֹb וַיִּקְרָ֙א שְׁמ֜וֹ cפֶּ֠לֶא יוֹעֵץ֙c dאֵ֣ל גִּבּ֔וֹרd eאֲבִיעַ֖דe fשַׂר־שָׁלֽוֹםf׃

           a-a A special child will be given at some point yet future
b-b He will singularly bear the load of governmental rule

Even more, He will possess extraordinary, descriptive names, which are:
c-c Wonderful Counselor (פֶּ֠לֶא יוֹעֵץ֙ = pe’la yo-ates).  The term translated “wonderful” is the term word used for supernatural wonders as in the miracles produced by God’s prophets. The term “counselor” likely points to His kingly role, i.e. as the appointed ruler who dispenses counsel to the nation.  E.g. He will be a counselor with supernatural capacity to dispense counsel. (Note: the KJV strays from the Hebrew accents here and divides this name into two.)

d-d Mighty God (אֵ֣ל גִּבּ֔וֹר  = el gibor).  This name/title is remarkable, because it: 1.) ascribes strength to God, but then, 2.) assigns the title of God to a man!  This is highly exceptional because of the great emphasis the OT places on distinguishing God from all others, particularly humans.  

            e-e Everlasting Father (אֲבִיעַ֖ד  = avi-ad). This name is also remarkable because it identifies Messiah as a Father (av = father), who is immortal (ad = everlasting), though possesses or has possessed mortality (cf. a-a above).

            f-f Prince of Peace (שַׂר־שָׁלֽוֹם = Sar-shalom).  This name points to: 1.) the royal lineage of Messiah, i.e. He is a prince (שַׂר = Sar) , as well as, 2.) the character of His rule, i.e. He effectively establishes  peace (שָׁלֽוֹם = shalom).

Furthermore, according to v. 9:7, 1.) His government will increase (succeed in size, scope, extent?), without end, and will be characterized by peace; 2.) will be in the Messianic line fulfilling the Davidic covenant; 3.) will be a permanently established Messianic reign; 4.) will eternally be characterized by godly virtues, and 5.) will have been directly established by God.

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