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Isaiah 9:6

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, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace. 7 Of the increase of his government and peace there shall be no end, upon the throne of David, and upon his kingdom, to order it, and to establish it with judgment and with justice from henceforth even for ever. The zeal of the LORD of hosts will perform this.

Mic 5:2

But thou, Bethlehem Ephratah, though thou be little among the thousands of Judah, yet out of thee shall he come forth unto me that is to be ruler in Israel; whose goings forth have been from of old, from everlasting.

In Christianity, Isaiah 9:6 and Micah 5:2 are foundational writings that foretell Messiah's coming and when He was born in Bethlehem 2000 years ago as the gospels record, then these two scriptures were fulfilled.

My question is, how could that child clearly said to be ''unto us a child is born'' and that in time of Zebulun in Galilee in Ephraim in Isaiah 9:6, which wasn't a people (Isaiah 7:8), be the same child in Bethlehem Judah in the south, that is, the Messiah son of Mary born according to Micah 5:2.

Isaiah 7:7-8

saith the Lord GOD, It shall not stand, neither shall it come to pass. For the head of Syria is Damascus, and the head of Damascus is Rezin; and within threescore and five years shall Ephraim be broken, that it be not a people.

How could that birth in Isaiah 9:6, be the same birth of a child in Bethlehem Judah which wasn't a land walking in darkness? Because Ephraim wasn't a people according to Isaiah 7:8, as the king of Assyria 'diluted' it, and so Messiah coming from Galilee would be rejected..John 1:46 or 7:52.

Or does it mean He takes a trip to the people of Zebulun to discover Himself to them as the great light? If so, how can we account for how significant this instance is, as opposed to other occasions on which He showed Himself to other people which were similarly in ‘darkness, and therefore this particular occasion deserving scriptural recognition?’ (This last however isn't what I am asking for an answer to.)

  • Welcome to Biblical Hermeneutics Stack Exchange Paul, thanks for contributing! Be sure to take our site tour to learn more about us. We're a little different from other sites. – Steve Taylor Feb 1 '17 at 15:52
  • Thank you, when does the answer come ? – Paul Feb 1 '17 at 15:56
  • Okk let me try to clarify, hopefully that will make more sense, though to me it's obvious as it is. – Paul Feb 1 '17 at 15:59
  • Your sentence "but how could..." doesn't actually end in a question, and then you pose about three other questions, so it becomes unclear what you want to know. I'm not sure whether this should all be one question or whether it's two or more. Because this is a hermeneutics Q&A, it's sometimes best to split complex questions into their basic units, e.g. perhaps your questions are... Is there a contradiction between Isaiah 9:6 and Micah 5:2", "what does 'he in flesh walks up to the people of Zebulun' mean?", "How is this account of God showing himself to people particularly significant?" – Steve Taylor Feb 1 '17 at 16:26
  • I have made further editing, I hope it's more clear now.# – Paul Feb 1 '17 at 17:54
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No mention of the birth of Messiah in the north in Isaiah 9:6

Isaiah is prophesying to Judah (Isaiah 1:1, NKJV):

The vision of Isaiah the son of Amoz, which he saw concerning Judah and Jerusalem in the days of Uzziah, Jotham, Ahaz, and Hezekiah, kings of Judah

And though he mentions aspects of the Northern Kingdom, his prophecy is directed to the Southern kingdom.

So in Isaiah 7, he speaks to Ahaz, king of Judah, about the Northern Kingdom (7:1). In Isaiah 8, Isaiah is working with the priest in Jerusalem as a witness (8:2).

In the context, Isaiah mentions that Immanuel's land is Judah (Isa 8:8; bold added):

He [the King of Assyria, v.7] will pass through Judah,
He will overflow and pass over,
He will reach up to the neck;
And the stretching out of his wings
Will fill the breadth of Your land, O Immanuel.

But also, Isaiah well recognizes that Israel is divided (Isa 8:14):

He [the Lord of Hosts, v.13] will be as a sanctuary,
But a stone of stumbling and a rock of offense
To both the houses of Israel,
As a trap and a snare to the inhabitants of Jerusalem.

So in Isa 9:6, the "us" Isaiah refers to is Israel united, the ethnic people of Israel that in his day were split into the northern and southern kingdoms, but will be the single Davidic kingdom again in Messiah's day (hence Isa 9:6 referring to "throne of David and over His kingdom"; David's throne was over the whole of Israel). But further, it is still a prophecy given to the southern kingdom of Judah.

The Northern Reference

The reference to the North in Isa 9:1 is not to Messiah's birth, but simply His presence and spreading of light to that region. This matches Matthew's statement of when that was fulfilled (Mat 4:12-13):

12 Now when Jesus heard that John had been put in prison, He departed to Galilee. 13 And leaving Nazareth, He came and dwelt in Capernaum, which is by the sea, in the regions of Zebulun and Naphtali.

Mat 4:14-15 goes on to "quote" Isa 9:1-2. The fact that Ephraim would be "not a people" (Isa 7:8) at the time of Messiah is not an issue, for "people" (עַם; ʿǎm) is a broad term with a semantic range that very much can mean politically rather than ethnically, a "national and cultic community" (HALOT), a "fellow-countrymen" (BDB). This was the point of Isaiah's prophecy in chapter 7, that the Northern kingdom would be no more a kingdom in the near future. But the region where Zebulun and Naphtali had settled would still exist, and that is what Isaiah is prophesying about (as Matthew makes clear).

Conclusion

So there is no contradiction regarding the prophecy of a birth in the south, in Bethlehem in Micah 5:2, and the prophecy of the birth noted in Isa 9:6 that follows after a prophecy of Messiah's work in the north in the verses just preceding, for the Isa 9:6 prophecy was given to the south.

  • ''The reference to the North in Isa 9:1 is not to Messiah's birth''? Study it again. From chap 7 to 9 it's about evil done in the north. The 'way' of the Galileans, refers to ways of death, a way also denotes a people, as Messiah is a way. This way is of the sea, b'se the sea denotes the profane multitudes in their ways, the 'shadow of death,' such that the light they see is the light qualified in Isaiah 49:6 in salvation terms, so it is messianic, and that for all people which ppl rarely means Israel but all the ungodly.. – Paul Feb 2 '17 at 13:46
  • In 'bringing honour upon this 'way of the sea' (as the original says) means an abiding recognition upon that 'Galilee' contrasted to other places, and which honour is because of the great light. Just as Micah 5:2 says of Bethlehem concerning that ruler out of it having the same effect of recognition upon it. So a mere visit to preach to them, similarly done in numerous places doesn't explain the reference to the honour mentioned in the language of verse 1 as given in original, an abiding aspect as it is upon Judah today concerning Messiah.. Mind you, there are no renduncies in prophecy. – Paul Feb 2 '17 at 13:46
  • The sea denotes the entirety of gentiles. This honour refers to the same aspects why Cyrus a gentile is written about as 'the anointed of the LORD'', a peculiar reference to Messiah, b'se of the implications of ''a child is born and a son is given,'' the same figure of 'sent a word in Jacob, it alighted in Israel,'' and many more cases alongside why Joshua the army leader whose name was deliberately altered to reflect his symbolic messianic role, but his tribe was not Judah, but ''Ephraim,'' and no, it isnt that there wasn't another man able in all Judah's save him. – Paul Feb 2 '17 at 13:46
  • So throughout all these cases, their signification indicates singularities in Messiah's nature and duties that transcend national and generational interests and limitations. I live you to reflect on Isaiah 11:11 & Isaiah 66:21, keeping in mind that being born in a foreign land doesn't strip a Levite of his priesthood. Space and rules of the site limit me to this much said concerning this side of Him. – Paul Feb 2 '17 at 13:47
  • I agree chap 7-9 prophesy much about the "evil done in the north" (I affirmed that in my answer). But the prophecy is still given to the south. Also, I affirmed it is messianic, just not a reference to his birth in 9:1-2 (not until v.6, which gives no "place" noted, other than Isaiah's "us" in reference to Israel, specifically where he was prophesying, in Judah). The Messiah is born in the south (so Micah 5:2), but goes to the north (so Isa 9:1-2 and Mat 4). Ephraim's evil brought judgment upon them, so the term "people" (עַם) used of them refers to "the ungodly" of Israel in Isaiah's day. – ScottS Feb 2 '17 at 16:22
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In my view the question has to be answered by separate reference to historical exegesis and Christian belief.

Isaiah mentions Zebulun in Isaiah 9:1 as having been humbled, meaning that the Assyrians had conquered the district, but (as we know) not yet the Israelite capital of Samaria. At the same time Isaiah expresses the hope that in the future Zebulun will be free. By the time Isaiah had written and published his book, the Assyrian conquest of Israel mean that there was no longer a king in Israel, as his readers now knew, nor would there ever again be a king in Samaria.

Isaiah was a Judahite prophet and wrote around the time of the Assyrian conquest of Israel, completing his book after the destruction of the northern kingdom. When he talks about a child born "to us", you can be sure that by "us" he meant the people of Judah, who were now under threat from Assyria. When he says "the government shall be upon his shoulder" he can only have been writing of a future king of Judah, and again you can be sure his readers recognised this as a geopolitical reality. Isaiah 9:6 is in the perfect tense, indicating that the child is already born, and the context show that he was the future King Hezekia of Judah, in the south. He will be on the throne of David, which is always associated with Jerusalem in the south. The text does not really say that this child will be a light to Zebulun, but focuses on the future of Judah.

The Book of Micah was written at about the same time as Isaiah 9:6, but refers to a leader not yet born and therefore belonging to a somewhat later period than King Hezekia, but also in the south (Bethlehem). These were turbulent times, and the people of Judah hoped for a ruler like King David, who was born in Bethlehem, to deliver them from the threat of the Assyrians.

In Christianity, Isaiah 9:6 and Micah 5:2 are foundational writings that foretell Messiah's coming. This was not intended by Isaiah and Micah respectively, but when Jesus was born in Bethlehem, these two scriptures were fulfilled in a spiritual sense.

  • thank you for the attempt, however I fail to see how king Hezekiah could be a 'light' to the people of Zebulun in the north, which is an express reference to Messiah and which inference is affirmed in Isaiah 9:6 by the distinctive names that are ascribed to this child, and therefore making king Hezekiah unfit as the character depicted here. Even further, the peculiar description of the nature of his government in verse 7indicates having no precedent to it, be it David's reign his predecessor. So try another character but not Hezekiah because he comes far too short! – Paul Feb 1 '17 at 22:28
  • @Paul If Isaiah himself wrote this I can not try another character (although there is a minority opinion that 9:6 is a later interpolation that refers to a later king of Judah). In any case, there is no way using exegesis or by reference to biblical scholars that I can come up with a child in the north (Israel). It just does not work. However, I have expanded my answer to clarify some of my reasoning, which I hope helps. – Dick Harfield Feb 2 '17 at 2:05
  • I have seen the amendments, it makes more sense as to the expectations from the people of the day of Isaiah. However, save for David, Solomon and Josiah, no king of Judah was 'special case' for prophecy, they all came the sameway. So did Hezekiah. Also Vs 1 highlights a messianic reference we can't ignore in their seeing ''a great light and dwelling in the shadow of death''. These are ever terms in the context of God reproving people for wickedness and from which wrongs or dwelling in darkness, that ''light'' comes as their salvation, which God qualifies as a light in Isaiah 49:6, Messiah. – Paul Feb 2 '17 at 9:24
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    @DickHarfield - "the context show that he was the future King Hezekia of Judah, in the south." I must disagree with you here, since the very next verse, Isaiah 9:7, shows that this is most definitely not talking about Hezekiah: Of the increase of His government and peace there will be no end, upon the throne of David and over His kingdom, to order it and establish it with judgment and justice from that time forward, even forever. The zeal of the Lord of hosts will perform this (NKJV). Hezekiah's government came to an end, and he did not experience perpetual increase. – Bʀɪᴀɴ Feb 2 '17 at 17:02
  • @BrianWeigand You are welcome to write your own answer to this question, rather than answering it in comments. Hezekia actually ruled Judah for 29 years and his son, Manasseh, ruled for a further 55 years. Isaiah died during the lifetime of Hezekiah, so of course he knew nothing of this. Most importantly for your answer/comment, Hezekiah's government only came to an end with his eventual death. – Dick Harfield Feb 2 '17 at 20:22

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