New English Translation
In earlier times he[c] humiliated
the land of Zebulun,
and the land of Naphtali;[d]
but now he brings honor[e]
to the way of the sea,
the region beyond the Jordan,
and Galilee of the nations.[f]
2 (9:1) The people walking in darkness
see a bright light;[g]
on those who live in a land of deep darkness.[h]
3 You[i] have enlarged the nation;
you give them great joy.[j]
They rejoice in your presence
as harvesters rejoice;
as warriors celebrate[k] when they divide up the plunder.
4 For their oppressive yoke
and the club that strikes their shoulders,
the cudgel the oppressor uses on them,[l]
you have shattered, as in the day of Midian’s defeat.[m]
5 Indeed every boot that marches and shakes the earth[n]
and every garment dragged through blood
is used as fuel for the fire.
6 For a child has been[o] born to us,
a son has been given to us.
He shoulders responsibility[p]
and is called[q]
Prince of Peace.[u]
7 His dominion will be vast,[v]
and he will bring immeasurable prosperity.[w]
He will rule on David’s throne
and over David’s kingdom,[x]
establishing it[y] and strengthening it
by promoting justice and fairness,[z]
from this time forward and forevermore.
The zeal of the Lord of Heaven’s Armies[aa] will accomplish this.
God’s Judgment Intensifies
8 [ab] The Lord[ac] decreed judgment[ad] on Jacob,
and it fell on Israel.[ae]
9 All the people were aware[af] of it,
the people of Ephraim and those living in Samaria.[ag]
Yet with pride and an arrogant attitude, they said,[ah]
10 “The bricks have fallen,
but we will rebuild with chiseled stone;
the sycamore fig trees have been cut down,
but we will replace them with cedars.”[ai]
11 Then the Lord provoked[aj] their adversaries to attack them,[ak]
he stirred up[al] their enemies—
12 Syria from the east,
and the Philistines from the west;
they gobbled up Israelite territory.[am]
Despite all this, his anger does not subside,
and his hand is ready to strike again.[an]
13 The people did not return to the one who struck them,
they did not seek reconciliation[ao] with the Lord of Heaven’s Armies.
14 So the Lord cut off Israel’s head and tail,
both the shoots and stalk[ap] in one day.
15 The leaders and the highly respected people[aq] are the head,
the prophets who teach lies are the tail.
16 The leaders of this nation were misleading people,
and the people being led were destroyed.[ar]
17 So the Lord was not pleased[as] with their young men,
he took no pity[at] on their orphans and widows;
for the whole nation was godless[au] and did wicked things,[av]
every mouth was speaking disgraceful words.[aw]
Despite all this, his anger does not subside,
and his hand is ready to strike again.[ax]
18 For[ay] evil burned like a fire,[az]
it consumed thorns and briers;
it burned up the thickets of the forest,
and they went up in smoke.[ba]
19 Because of the anger of the Lord of Heaven’s Armies, the land was scorched,[bb]
and the people became fuel for the fire.[bc]
People had no compassion on one another.[bd]
20 They devoured[be] on the right, but were still hungry;
they ate on the left, but were not satisfied.
People even ate[bf] the flesh of their own arm![bg]
21 Manasseh fought against[bh] Ephraim,
and Ephraim against Manasseh;
together they fought against Judah.
Despite all this, his anger does not subside,
and his hand is ready to strike again.[bi]
- Isaiah 9:1 sn In the Hebrew text (BHS) the chapter division comes one verse later than in the English Bible; 9:1 (8:23 HT). Thus 9:2-21 in the English Bible = 9:1-20 in the Hebrew text. Beginning with 10:1 the verse numbers in the English Bible and the Hebrew Bible are again the same.
- Isaiah 9:1 tn The Hebrew text reads, “Indeed there is no gloom for the one to whom there was anxiety for her.” The feminine singular pronominal suffix “her” must refer to the land (cf. vv. 22a, 23b). So one could translate, “Indeed there will be no gloom for the land which was anxious.” In this case the statement introduces the positive message to follow. Some assume an emendation of לֹא (loʾ, “no”) to לוֹ (lo, “to him”) and of לָהּ (lah, “to her”) to לוֹ (lo, “to him”), yielding this literal reading: “indeed there is gloom for him, for the one to whom there was anxiety for him.” In this case the statement concludes the preceding description of judgment.
- Isaiah 9:1 tn The Lord must be understood as the subject of the two verbs in this verse.
- Isaiah 9:1 sn The statement probably alludes to the Assyrian conquest of Israel in ca. 734-733 b.c., when Tiglath-Pileser III annexed much of Israel’s territory and reduced Samaria to a puppet state.
- Isaiah 9:1 tn Heb “Just as in earlier times he humiliated…, [in] the latter times he has brought honor.” The main verbs in vv. 1b-4 are Hebrew perfects. The prophet takes his rhetorical stance in the future age of restoration and describes future events as if they have already occurred. To capture the dramatic effect of the original text, the translation uses the English present or present perfect.
- Isaiah 9:1 sn These three geographical designations may refer to provinces established by the Assyrians in 734-733 b.c. The “way of the sea” is the province of Dor, along the Mediterranean coast, the “region beyond the Jordan” is the province of Gilead in Transjordan, and “Galilee of the nations” (a title that alludes to how the territory had been overrun by foreigners) is the province of Megiddo located west of the Sea of Galilee. See Y. Aharoni, Land of the Bible, 374.
- Isaiah 9:2 sn The darkness symbolizes judgment and its effects (see 8:22); the light represents deliverance and its effects, brought about by the emergence of a conquering Davidic king (see vv. 3-6).
- Isaiah 9:2 tn Traditionally צַלְמָוֶת (tsalmavet) has been interpreted as a compound noun, meaning “shadow of death” (so KJV, ASV, NIV), but usage indicates that the word, though it sometimes refers to death, means “darkness.” The term should probably be repointed as an abstract noun צַלְמוּת (tsalmut). See the note at Ps 23:4.
- Isaiah 9:3 sn The Lord is addressed directly in vv. 3-4.
- Isaiah 9:3 tc The Hebrew consonantal text reads “You multiply the nation, you do not make great the joy.” The particle לֹא (loʾ, “not”) is obviously incorrect; the marginal reading has לוֹ (lo, “to him”). In this case, one should translate, “You multiply the nation, you increase his (i.e., their) joy.” However, the parallelism is tighter if one emends הַגּוֹי לוֹ (haggoy lo, “the nation, to him”) to הַגִּילָה (haggilah, “the joy,” a noun attested in Isa 65:18), which corresponds to הַשִּׂמְחָה (hasimkhah, “the joy”) later in the verse (H. Wildberger, Isaiah, 1:386). As attractive as this reading is, it has no textual evidence supporting it. The MT reading (accepting the marginal reading “to him” for the negative particle “not”) affirms that Yahweh caused the nation to grow in population and increased their joy.
- Isaiah 9:3 tn Heb “as they are happy.” The word “warriors” is supplied in the translation to clarify the word picture. This last simile comes close to reality, for vv. 4-5 indicate that the people have won a great military victory over their oppressors.
- Isaiah 9:4 tn Heb “for the yoke of his burden, and the staff of his shoulder, the scepter of the oppressor against him.” The singular pronouns are collective, referring to the people. The oppressed nation is compared to an ox weighed down by a heavy yoke and an animal that is prodded and beaten.
- Isaiah 9:4 sn This alludes to Gideon’s victory over Midian (Judg 7-8), when the Lord delivered Israel from an oppressive foreign invader.
- Isaiah 9:5 tn Heb “Indeed every boot marching with shaking.” On the meaning of סְאוֹן (seʾon, “boot”) and the related denominative verb, both of which occur only here, see HALOT 738 s.v. סְאוֹן.
- Isaiah 9:6 tn The Hebrew perfect (translated “has been born” and “has been given”) is used here as the prophet takes a rhetorical stance in the future. See the note at 9:1.
- Isaiah 9:6 tn Heb “dominion has come to be on his shoulder.” In most occurrences, a burden is placed on the shoulder, but authority is also placed on the shoulder in Isa 22:22.
- Isaiah 9:6 tn Or “and dominion was on his shoulders, and he called his name.” The prefixed verbs with vav (ו) consecutive are used with the same rhetorical sense as the perfects in v. 6a. See the preceding note. There is great debate over the syntactical structure of the verse. No subject is indicated for the verb “he called.” If all the titles that follow are ones given to the king, then the subject of the verb must be indefinite, “one calls.” However, some have suggested that one to three of the titles that follow refer to God, not the king. For example, the traditional punctuation of the Hebrew text suggests the translation, “and the Wonderful Adviser, the Mighty God called his name, ‘Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.’”
- Isaiah 9:6 tn Or “Extraordinary Strategist,” “a wonder of a counselor,” or “one who plans a miraculous thing” (HALOT 928 s.v. פֶּלֶא). Some have seen two titles here (“Wonderful” and “Counselor,” cf. KJV, ASV). However, the pattern of the following three titles (each contains two elements) and the use of the roots פָּלַא (palaʾ) and יָעַץ (yaʿats) together in Isa 25:1 (cf. כִּי עָשִׂיתָ פֶּלֶא עֵצוֹת מֵרָחוֹק אֱמוּנָה אֹמֶן) and 28:29 (cf. הִפְלִיא עֵצָה) suggest otherwise. The term יוֹעֵץ (yoʿets) could be taken as appositional (genitive or otherwise) of species (“a wonder, i.e., a wonder as a counselor,” cf. NAB “Wonder-Counselor”) or as a substantival participle for which פָּלַא provides the direct object (“one who counsels wonders”). יוֹעֵץ is used as a royal title elsewhere (cf. Mic 4:9). Here it probably refers to the king’s ability to devise military strategy, as suggested by the context (cf. vv. 3-4 and the following title אֵל גִּבּוֹר, ʾel gibbor). In Isa 11:2 (also a description of this king) עֵצָה (ʿetsah) is linked with גְּבוּרָה (gevurah, the latter being typically used of military might, cf. BDB 150 s.v.). Note also עֵצָה וּגְבוּרָה לַמִּלְחָמָה in Isa 36:5. פֶּלֶא (peleʾ) is typically used of God (cf. however Lam 1:9). Does this suggest the deity of the messianic ruler? The NT certainly teaches he is God, but did Isaiah necessarily have this in mind over 700 years before his birth? Since Isa 11:2 points out that this king will receive the spirit of the Lord, which will enable him to counsel, it is possible to argue that the king’s counsel is “extraordinary” because it finds its source in the divine spirit.
- Isaiah 9:6 tn גִּבּוֹר (gibbor) is probably an attributive adjective (“mighty God”), though one might translate “God is a warrior” or “God is mighty.” Scholars have interpreted this title in two ways. A number of them have argued that the title portrays the king as God’s representative on the battlefield, whom God empowers in a supernatural way (see J. H. Hayes and S. A. Irvine, Isaiah, 181-82). They contend that this sense seems more likely in the original context of the prophecy. They would suggest that having read the NT, we might in retrospect interpret this title as indicating the coming king’s deity, but it is unlikely that Isaiah or his audience would have understood the title in such a bold way. Ps 45:6 addresses the Davidic king as “God” because he ruled and fought as God’s representative on earth. Ancient Near Eastern art and literature picture gods training kings for battle, bestowing special weapons, and intervening in battle. According to Egyptian propaganda, the Hittites described Rameses II as follows: “No man is he who is among us, It is Seth great-of-strength, Baal in person; Not deeds of man are these his doings, They are of one who is unique” (See Miriam Lichtheim, Ancient Egyptian Literature, 2:67). According to proponents of this view, Isa 9:6 probably envisions a similar kind of response when friends and foes alike look at the Davidic king in full battle regalia. When the king’s enemies oppose him on the battlefield, they are, as it were, fighting against God himself. The other option is to regard this title as a reference to God, confronting Isaiah’s readers with the divinity of this promised “child.” The use of this same title that clearly refers to God in a later passage (Isa 10:21) supports this interpretation. Other passages depict Yahweh as the great God and great warrior (Deut 10:17; Jer. 32:18). Although this connection of a child who is born with deity is unparalleled in any earlier biblical texts, Isaiah’s use of this title to make this connection represents Isaiah’s attempt (at God’s behest) to advance Israel in their understanding of the ideal Davidic king for whom they long.
- Isaiah 9:6 tn This title must not be taken in an anachronistic Trinitarian sense. (To do so would be theologically problematic, for the “Son” is the messianic king and is distinct in his person from God the “Father.”) Rather, in its original context the title pictures the king as the protector of his people. For a similar use of “father” see Isa 22:21 and Job 29:16. This figurative, idiomatic use of “father” is not limited to the Bible. In a Phoenician inscription (ca. 850-800 b.c.) the ruler Kilamuwa declares: “To some I was a father, to others I was a mother.” In another inscription (ca. 800 b.c.) the ruler Azitawadda boasts that the god Baal made him “a father and a mother” to his people. (See ANET 499-500.) The use of “everlasting” might suggest the deity of the king (as the one who has total control over eternity), but Isaiah and his audience may have understood the term as royal hyperbole emphasizing the king’s long reign or enduring dynasty (for examples of such hyperbolic language used of the Davidic king, see 1 Kgs 1:31; Pss 21:4-6; 61:6-7; 72:5, 17). The New Testament indicates that the hyperbolic language (as in the case of the title “Mighty God”) is literally realized in the ultimate fulfillment of the prophecy, for Jesus will rule eternally.
- Isaiah 9:6 tn This title pictures the king as one who establishes a safe socio-economic environment for his people. It hardly depicts him as a meek individual, for he establishes peace through military strength (as the preceding context and the first two royal titles indicate). His people experience safety and prosperity because their invincible king destroys their enemies. See Pss 72 and 144 for parallels to these themes.
- Isaiah 9:7 tc The MT has לְםַרְבֵּה (lemarbeh, “to the abundance of”), where the first two letters לם were incorrectly duplicated from the end of the previous word (שָׁלוֹם, shalom) ending v. 6. Notice that the mem is in the form for ending words, i.e., ם not the expected מ. A few Hebrew mss, the LXX, Targum, and Vulgate reflect a text with רבה, “great is the dominion.”
- Isaiah 9:7 tn Heb “and to peace there will be no end” (KJV and ASV both similar). On the political and socio-economic sense of שָׁלוֹם (shalom) in this context, see the note at v. 6 on “Prince of Peace.”
- Isaiah 9:7 tn Heb “over the throne of David, and over his kingdom.” The referent of the pronoun “his” (i.e., David) has been specified in the translation for clarity.
- Isaiah 9:7 tn The pronoun “it” (both times in this line) refers back to “kingdom;” the noun and pronoun are both feminine.
- Isaiah 9:7 tn Heb “with/by justice and fairness”; ASV “with justice and with righteousness.”
- Isaiah 9:7 sn In this context the Lord’s “zeal” refers to his intense devotion to and love for his people which prompts him to vindicate them and to fulfill his promises to David and the nation.
- Isaiah 9:8 sn The following speech (9:8-10:4) assumes that God has already sent judgment (see v. 9), but it also announces that further judgment is around the corner (10:1-4). The speech seems to describe a series of past judgments on the northern kingdom which is ready to intensify further in the devastation announced in 10:1-4. It may have been written prior to the Assyrian conquest of the northern kingdom in 734-733 b.c., or sometime between that invasion and the downfall of Samaria in 722 b.c. The structure of the speech displays four panels, each of which ends with the refrain, “Through all this, his anger did not subside; his hand remained outstretched” (9:12b; 17b; 21b; 10:4b): Panel I: (A) Description of past judgment (9:8); (B) Description of the people’s attitude toward past judgment (9:9-10); (C) Description of past judgment (9:11-12a); (D) Refrain (9:12b); Panel II: (A) Description of the people’s attitude toward past judgment (9:13); (B) Description of past judgment (9:14-17a); (C) Refrain (9:17b); Panel III: (A) Description of past judgment (9:18-21a); (B) Refrain (9:21b); Panel IV: (A) Woe oracle announcing future judgment (10:1-4a); (B) Refrain (10:4b).
- Isaiah 9:8 tn The Hebrew term translated “Lord” here and in v. 17 is אֲדֹנָי (ʾadonay).
- Isaiah 9:8 tn Heb “sent a word” (so KJV, ASV, NRSV); NASB “sends a message.”
- Isaiah 9:8 tn The present translation assumes that this verse refers to judgment that had already fallen. Both verbs (perfects) are taken as indicating simple past; the vav (ו) on the second verb is understood as a simple vav conjunctive. Another option is to understand the verse as describing a future judgment (see 10:1-4). In this case the first verb is a perfect of certitude; the vav on the second verb is a vav consecutive.
- Isaiah 9:9 tn The translation assumes that vv. 9-10 describe the people’s response to a past judgment (v. 8). The perfect is understood as indicating simple past and the vav (ו) is taken as conjunctive. Another option is to take the vav on the perfect as consecutive and translate, “all the people will know.”
- Isaiah 9:9 tn Heb “and the people, all of them, knew; Ephraim and the residents of Samaria.”
- Isaiah 9:9 tn Heb “with pride and arrogance of heart, saying.”
- Isaiah 9:10 sn Though judgment (see v. 8) had taken away the prosperity they did have (symbolized by the bricks and sycamore fig trees), they arrogantly expected the future to bring even greater prosperity (symbolized by the chiseled stone and cedars).
- Isaiah 9:11 tn The translation assumes that the prefixed verb with vav (ו) consecutive continues the narrative of past judgment.
- Isaiah 9:11 tc The Hebrew text reads literally, “adversaries of Rezin against him [i.e., them].” The next verse describes how the Syrians (over whom Rezin ruled, see 7:1, 8) and the Philistines encroached on Israel’s territory. Since the Syrians and Israelites were allies by 735 b.c. (see 7:1), the hostilities described probably occurred earlier, while Israel was still pro-Assyrian. In this case one might understand the phrase צָרֵי רְצִין (tsare retsin, “adversaries of Rezin”) as meaning “adversaries sent from Rezin.” However, another option, the one chosen in the translation above, is to emend the phrase to צָרָיו (tsarayv, “his [i.e., their] adversaries”). This creates tighter parallelism with the next line (note “his [i.e., their] enemies”). The phrase in the Hebrew text may be explained as virtually dittographic.
- Isaiah 9:11 tn The prefixed verbal form is understood as a preterite, used, as is often the case in poetry, without vav consecutive. Note that prefixed forms with vav consecutive both precede (וַיְשַׂגֵּב, vayesaggev, “he provoked”) and follow in v. 12 (וַיֹּאכְלוּ, vayyoʾkhelu, “and they devoured”) this verb.
- Isaiah 9:12 tn Heb “and they devoured Israel with all the mouth”; NIV “with open mouth”; TLB “With bared fangs.”
- Isaiah 9:12 tn Heb “in all this his anger is not turned, and still his hand is outstretched.” One could translate in the past tense here (and in 9:17b and 21b), but the appearance of the refrain in 10:4b, where it follows a woe oracle prophesying a future judgment, suggests it is a dramatic portrait of the judge which did not change throughout this period of past judgment and will remain unchanged in the future. The English present tense is chosen to best reflect this dramatic mood. (See also 5:25b, where the refrain appears following a dramatic description of coming judgment.)
- Isaiah 9:13 tn This verse describes the people’s response to the judgment described in vv. 11-12. The perfects are understood as indicating simple past.
- Isaiah 9:14 sn The metaphor in this line is that of a reed being cut down.
- Isaiah 9:15 tn Heb “the elder and the one lifted up with respect to the face.” For another example of the Hebrew idiom, see 2 Kgs 5:1.
- Isaiah 9:16 tn Heb “and the ones being led were swallowed up.” Instead of taking מְבֻלָּעִים (mebullaʿim) from בָּלַע (balaʿ, “to swallow”), HALOT 134 s.v. בלע proposes a rare homonymic root בלע (“confuse”) here.
- Isaiah 9:17 tn The Qumran scroll 1QIsaa has לא יחמול (“he did not spare”) which is an obvious attempt to tighten the parallelism (note “he took no pity” in the next line). Instead of taking שָׂמַח (samakh) in one of its well attested senses (“rejoice over, be pleased with”), some propose, with support from Arabic, a rare homonymic root meaning “be merciful.”
- Isaiah 9:17 tn The translation understands the prefixed verbs יִשְׂמַח (yismakh) and יְרַחֵם (yerakhem) as preterites without vav (ו) consecutive. (See v. 11 and the note on “he stirred up.”)
- Isaiah 9:17 tn Or “defiled”; cf. ASV “profane”; NAB “profaned”; NIV “ungodly.”
- Isaiah 9:17 tn מֵרַע (meraʿ) is a Hiphil participle from רָעַע (raʿaʿ, “be evil”). The intransitive Hiphil has an exhibitive force here, indicating that they exhibited outwardly the evidence of an inward condition by committing evil deeds.
- Isaiah 9:17 tn Or “foolishness” (NASB), here in a moral-ethical sense.
- Isaiah 9:17 tn Heb “in all this his anger is not turned, and still his hand is outstretched.”sn See the note at 9:12.
- Isaiah 9:18 tn Or “Indeed” (cf. NIV “Surely”). The verb that introduces this verse serves as a discourse particle and is untranslated; see note on “in the future” in 2:2.
- Isaiah 9:18 sn Evil was uncontrollable and destructive, and so can be compared to a forest fire.
- Isaiah 9:18 tn Heb “and they swirled [with] the rising of the smoke” (cf. NRSV).
- Isaiah 9:19 tn The precise meaning of the verb עְתַּם (ʿetam), which occurs only here, is uncertain, though the context strongly suggests that it means “burn, scorch.”
- Isaiah 9:19 sn The uncontrollable fire of the people’s wickedness (v. 18) is intensified by the fire of the Lord’s judgment (v. 19). God allows (or causes) their wickedness to become self-destructive as civil strife and civil war break out in the land.
- Isaiah 9:19 tn Heb “men were not showing compassion to their brothers.” The idiom “men to their brothers” is idiomatic for reciprocity. The prefixed verbal form is either a preterite without vav (ו) consecutive or an imperfect used in a customary sense, describing continual or repeated behavior in past time.
- Isaiah 9:20 tn Or “cut.” The verb גָּזַר (gazar) means “to cut.” If it is understood here, then one might paraphrase, “They slice off meat on the right.” However, HALOT 187 s.v. I גזר, proposes here a rare homonym meaning “to devour.”
- Isaiah 9:20 tn The prefixed verbal form is either a preterite without vav consecutive or an imperfect used in a customary sense, describing continual or repeated behavior in past time.
- Isaiah 9:20 tn Some suggest that זְרֹעוֹ (zeroʿo, “his arm”) be repointed זַרְעוֹ (zarʿo, “his offspring”). In either case, the metaphor is that of a desperately hungry man who resorts to an almost unthinkable act to satisfy his appetite. He eats everything he can find to his right, but still being unsatisfied, then turns to his left and eats everything he can find there. Still being desperate for food, he then resorts to eating his own flesh (or offspring, as this phrase is metaphorically understood by some English versions, e.g., NIV, NCV, TEV, NLT). The reality behind the metaphor is the political turmoil of the period, as the next verse explains. There was civil strife within the northern kingdom; even the descendants of Joseph were at each other’s throats. Then the northern kingdom turned on their southern brother, Judah.
- Isaiah 9:21 tn The words “fought against” are supplied in the translation both here and later in this verse for stylistic reasons.
- Isaiah 9:21 tn Heb “in all this his anger is not turned, and still his hand is outstretched” (KJV and ASV both similar); NIV “his hand is still upraised.”sn See the note at 9:12.