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Yeshayahu (Isaiah) 9:6 is debated with regards to the subject being described i.e. Hizqiyah or Mashiach and that is not something I'm looking to get an answer/opinion on. I have heard that the term; "Prince of peace" is an idiom which doesn't necessarily change the meaning conveyed but does have a more specific meaning than the translations provide. Does anyone have insights they would like to share?

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  • 2
    Messianic prophecies are often with dual meaning. Immediate context and Greater messianic context.
    – Michael16
    Jul 13, 2022 at 2:47
  • @Torah Observant servant. Are you talking about peace where conditions mentioned in Isaiah 2:4 and Isaiah 11:6-9 are present? Jul 13, 2022 at 4:01
  • The prince of peace would be the son of the king of peace (Melchizedek)
    – R. Emery
    Jul 13, 2022 at 4:08
  • @Torah Observant Servant. Are you referring to king Hezekiah. A ruler of peace instead of prince of peace? Aug 13, 2022 at 4:15

3 Answers 3

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I'm afraid the question is asking for information that doesn't exist, and so no answer is going to satisfy the questioner.

"Prince of peace" can only be called a "Hebrew idiom" in the sense that it's an idiom that happens in this case to be written in Hebrew. But the literary style was common throughout the ancient near east, and the specific idiom here is likely Egyptian in origin.

Exaltations

The idiom "Prince of Peace" is an exaltation given to a ruler. In this case, it means someone whose reign is characterized by peace/completeness, which is to say the reign is not going to be interrupted with war and will have good bounty.

Here is an exaltation of Harmhab found in a Cairo doorpost:

1 Privy councilor of the palace (pr-stny), 
  great in love with his lord,
  chief prophet of Horus, 
  lord of Sebi (Sby); 
  for the ka of the general in chief, Harmhab. 

2 Prince of the greatest of the companions, 
  confidant of especial confidants (same conclusion as in l. 1); 

3 king’s-follower on his expeditions in the south and north country 
  (same conclusion as in l. 1). 

4 Greatest of the great, 
  mightiest of the mighty; 
  great lord of the people (conclusion as in l. 1). 

5 King’s-messenger at the head of his army, 
  to the south and north country (conclusion as in l. 1). [1]

Notice that each line contains exaltations ending with the name of the person being exalted (the identical ending is only included in the first paragraph).

Understanding this literary type helps in exegesis. Here is another exaltation in the Bible, which contains 4 exaltations followed by "Be still and know that I am God" and then 4 more exaltations with the naming of God (YHWH appears) at the end.

  Psalm 46:8–11 (KJV 1900):

  8       Come, behold the works of the LORD,
  What desolations he hath made in the earth.
  9       He maketh wars to cease unto the end of the earth;
  He breaketh the bow, and cutteth the spear in sunder;
  He burneth the chariot in the fire.
  10       Be still, and know that I am God:
  11 I will be exalted among the heathen, I will be exalted in the earth.
     Yahweh of Hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our high stronghold. Selah

Shalom includes completeness -- no lack. So it would include good harvests, friendly relations with neighbors, grandkids - whatever you see as lack. Solomon would be the best type in Israel for this, but of course other nations had even better types (Augustus and Pax Romana) and no earthly king could bring true completeness.

Here is an exaltation from Egypt

 1 Year 5, third month of the first season (third month), day 2, 
 the coronation (day)d under the majesty of
 Horus: Mighty Bull, Shining in Truth;
 Favorite of the Two Goddesses: Establisher of Laws,
  
 2 Quieter of the Two Lands;
 Golden Horus: Great in Strength, Smiter of the Asiatics, 
 Good God, Ruler of Thebes, Lord of Strength, Mighty of Valor;[3]

Coronation Liturgy examples

Exaltations were a key component of a coronation liturgy, which the larger passage in Isaiah is an example of.

In the Code of Hammurabi we have a reference to the Hammurabi's coronation (or rather, being "named" by Anum and Enlil). There are five exaltations and a closing identification:

at that time Anum and Enlil named me [introduction]

to promote the welfare of the people, me, Hammurabi, the devout, god-fearing prince [exaltation]

to cause justice to prevail in the land, [exaltation]

to destroy the wicked and the evil, that the strong might not oppress the weak, [exaltation]

to rise like the sun over the black-headed (people), [exaltation]

and to light up the land. [exaltation]

Hammurabi, the shepherd, called by Enlil, am I; [Identification] [2]

Again, Hammurabi's name ends the sequence of exaltations.

From Hermeneia's commentary on Isaiah:

In the Egyptian coronation service, the divine birth of the new pharaoh was also proclaimed. In Egypt the birth actually referred to the physical birth of the king, which took place long before the coronation, but it was announced at the king’s coronation, as the enthronement texts concerning Hatshepsut, Amenhotep III, and Haremhab demonstrate.23 In a Memphis text, the god Amon says to Haremhab, just prior to taking him into the divine assembly to be acclaimed king, “You are my son and my heir, who has come out of my members.” The Egyptian coronation ritual, however, does not only have Amon making the proclamation of the king’s divine sonship directly to the new pharaoh. Amon or Thoth speaking for him also addresses the divine council, using third person pronouns to present the human king to them as Amon’s son, and the assembly of the gods responds to the presentation, in turn, by referring to the king in the third person.[4]

The switch to third person is especially important as most of Isaiah is written in the first person. This may well have been inspired by an existing exaltation based on the Egyptian liturgy (e.g. Hezekiah's), but the omission of the name is crucial to understanding that this is not an actual coronation but is written to make the reader think of a coronation by adopting the same idiom.

The climax of the coronation liturgy is the naming of the King. That's what all the exaltations lead up to[5].

  1. For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given:

  2. And the government shall be upon his shoulder:

  3. And his name shall be called Wonderful, Counseller, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace.

  4. Of the increase of his government and peace there shall be no end,

  5. 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.

  6. The zeal of the LORD of hosts will perform this.

[KJV Is. 9.6-7]

Where the name of the king would appear, what we see instead is:

The zeal of the LORD of hosts will perform this.

So the idiom used is not Hebrew but Egyptian, which Judah adopted, but it's not exactly a coronation ritual, because the name is omitted and replaced with a promise for future provision.

Another difference is the generosity of the titles. That is, there is no "Smiter of Asiatics" or "Vanquisher of foes". The entire passage is one of incredible majesty and grace without a hint of terror. It's hard to read this passage without being deeply moved and put in awe of its beauty.

But reading the other old testament prophets, I would not call this a Hebrew idiom. Rather, it's a bright light shining in Isaiah, a promise of messiah, the climax of the first half of the book.


[1] James Henry Breasted, ed., Ancient Records of Egypt: The Nineteenth Dynasty, vol. 3 (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1906), 11–12.

[2] James Bennett Pritchard, ed., The Ancient Near Eastern Texts Relating to the Old Testament , 3rd ed. with Supplement. (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1969), 164.

[3] James Henry Breasted, ed., Ancient Records of Egypt: The Eighteenth Dynasty, vol. 2 (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1906), 335.

[4] J. J. M. Roberts, First Isaiah: A Commentary, ed. Peter Machinist, Hermeneia (Minneapolis, MN: Fortress Press, 2015), 150–151.

[5] I was reminded of famous boxing announcements.

The professional record, a perfect one.
With seven world titles in five divisions
Former featherweight world chamption
Former lightweight world champion
Three time walter weight world champion
                  Floyd Merriiwhether!

Check out https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JOzdm-lwLCg to get a sense of what these liturgies look like in the modern world.

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The word "Prince" in Bible represent someone who had the authority on something. The Prince of a state usually mean the King. The word "Peace" in Bible is rarely meant the opposite of "War", in many occasions, it describes a state of mind.

In Old Testament, there are numerous verses tell "Peace" was delivered by God. For example;

  • Psalm 29:11 (NIV) - The Lord gives strength to his people; the Lord blesses his people with peace.

In New Testament, the ending of many letters often quote the same blessing. For example;

  • Roman 15:33 (NIV) - The God of peace be with you all. Amen.

It is obvious "Peace", or in its elaborated form "Peace of mind", is a blessing from God, it is a grace to us when we believe. God send Jesus to the world, delivered His message, and therefore Jesus is the "Prince of Peace" (quoted in Isiah 9:6), who has the authority to bless the people with peace to those who believe in Him and His Father, giving them strength to endure all kinds of difficulties with a "Peace of mind". Just as Jesus said “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33 NIV)

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  • Thank you brother. I appreciate your response. However, I am looking for the meaning of the phrase; 'Prince of peace' used in the context of a Hebraic idiom. Jun 12, 2022 at 17:28
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Isa 9:6 should not be divorced from the next verse, which together, form a very well-known Messianic prophecy. Let me set this out as follows:

For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given, and the government will be upon His shoulders. And He will be called:

  • Wonderful Counselor,
  • Mighty God,
  • Everlasting Father,
  • Prince of Peace.

Of the increase of His government and peace there will be no end. He will reign on the throne of David and over his kingdom, to establish and sustain it with justice and righteousness from that time and forevermore.

The zeal of the LORD of Hosts will accomplish this.

I will resist the temptation to provide a detailed exposition and exegesis of this passage and its fulfillment, and concentrate only on the "Prince of Peace". We observe several things about this Messianic prophecy:

  1. It is a prophecy about the (then future) prince/king who would fulfill the promises in the Davidic covenant - see appendix below
  2. The Davidic covenant was originally designed as covenant of peace, 2 Sam 7:9. Thus, the prophesied "Prince of Peace" was to reign over the Kingdom of peace.
  3. David's son Solomon (a name meaning "peace") was originally intended to partly fulfill this covenant of peace. Indeed, Solomon, unlike his father David, did not fight wars. 1 Kings 4:24, 1 Chron 22:9, etc.
  4. The NT regularly refers to Jesus as the fulfillment of this promise (see appendix below) and refers to the "God of peace" often, Heb 13:20, 1 Thess 5:23, 1 Cor 14:33, 2 Peter 1:2, Phil 4:7, 2 John 3, Rom 15:33, 2 Cor 13:11, etc.
  5. By comparison with the references below (see also Isa 2:2-4) we note that peace is only possible with accompanying justice and righteousness.
  • Zech 9:9, 10 - Rejoice greatly, O Daughter of Zion! Shout in triumph, O Daughter of Jerusalem! See, your King comes to you, righteous and victorious, humble and riding on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey. And I will cut off the chariot from Ephraim and the horse from Jerusalem, and the bow of war will be broken. Then He will proclaim peace to the nations. His dominion will extend from sea to sea, and from the Euphrates to the ends of the earth.
  • Isa 32:17, 18 - The work of righteousness will be peace; the service of righteousness will be quiet confidence forever. Then my people will dwell in a peaceful place, in safe and secure places of rest.
  • Jer 23:5, 6 - Behold, the days are coming, declares the LORD, when I will raise up for David a righteous Branch, and He will reign wisely as King and will administer justice and righteousness in the land. In His days Judah will be saved, and Israel will dwell securely. And this is His name by which He will be called: The LORD Our Righteousness. [See also Jer 33:15, 16, Luke 1:31-33, John 1:49, 50, 12:13.]
  • Phil 4:7 - And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

This whole idea was anticipated by the reference to Melchizedek, the "King of Salem" (= King of Peace") in places like gen 14:18, Heb 7:1-3.

The Pulpit commentary observes this:

The Prince of Peace; literally, Prince of Peace. A "Prince of Peace" had been long shadowed forth, as in Melchizedek, "King of Salem," i.e. "of Peace;" and again in Solomon, "the peaceful one;" and Isaiah himself had already prophesied the peacefulness of the Messiah's kingdom (Isaiah 2:4). Compare the song of the angels at our Lord's birth (Luke 2:14). If the peacefulness has not vet very clearly shown itself, the reason would seem to be that our Lord's kingdom has yet to come into the hearts of most men. Isaiah 9:6

APPENDIX - Davidic (or Regal, or Royal) Covenant: 2 Sam 7, 23:5, 1 Kings 6:11, 12, 8:25, 1 Chron 17:11-14, 2 Chron 6:14-16, 7:17, 18, 13:5, Ps 89:4, 29, 34, 39, 132:11, 12, Jer 33:21, Eze 37:15-28. This is an eternal covenant.

The provisions of the Davidic Covenant were as follows.

  • God promised to make David, a shepherd king over Israel. 2 Sam 7:9, 1 Kings 8:25, 2 Chron 21:7.
  • God promised to defeat all David’s enemies and give him peace on all sides, 2 Sam 7:9
  • David’s name would be great, 2 Sam 7:9-11
  • God promised there would always be a blood descendant of David on his throne, by an eternal “covenant of salt” (ie very solemn), 2 Chron 13:5, forever, 2 Sam 7:13, 15, 16, Eze 37:26, (2 Sam 23:5).
  • God promised that the descendant of David would have God as his Father and he would be His son, 2 Sam 7:14.
  • David’s son, Solomon ["peace"], was the person to build the temple, 2 Sam 7:12, 13.
  • David and his descendants must remain faithful to God and keep all that is written in the Book of the Law (Deuteronomy), Deut 17:18, 31:26.

Note that the Davidic Covenant was distinct from the Israelite and Levitical Covenants – David became a type of the eternal reign of Messiah to come.

While David and his successors were earthly kings, they were to recognise that the real king of Israel was God. 1 Sam 8:7, 8, 24:6, 2 Sam 19:21, 1 Chron 28:5, 29:23, 2 Chron 9:8, 13:8, Ps 5:2, 44:4. See also 1 Sam 12:14.

It is a simple matter of history that David’s descendants were not always faithful and the earthly Davidic dynasty ended in 586 BC with the final capture of Jerusalem by Nebuchadnezzar. However, the New Testament calls Jesus Christ, Messiah, “the Son of David” as a direct fulfilment of the (ultimately) eternal throne of David which Jesus inherited. Matt 1:1, 20, 9:27, 12:23, 15:22, 20:30, 15, 21:9, 15, Mark 10:35, Luke 1:32, 33, 18:38, 39, John 1:49, Acts 13:32-37, Heb 1:8. See also Rev 11:15, 19:16. Such a Messiah was prophesied long ago: Ex 15:18, Ps 10:16, 61:7, 68:16, 92:8, 93:5, 146:10, Isa 9:7, 47:7, Lam 5:19, Micah 4:7, etc. Compare Isa 55:3 with Acts 13:34 and John 1:49.

Note especially, what the angel said to Mary before Jesus’ birth in Luke 1:32, 33 –

He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give Him the throne of His father David, and He will reign over the house of Jacob forever. His kingdom will never end!”

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  • Thank you for taking the time to give such a thorough answer. I appreciate that yourself and @Vincent Wong made a point to assert that the prophecy is Messianic. I didn't mean to be cryptic, I guess I should have disclosed that I do believe this to be a Messianic prophecy. What I am trying to learn is how the phrase; "Prince of peace" was used as a Hebrew idiom such as the idioms "thief in the night", "cock crowed", "eye of a needle". In my research I've understood it to mean keeper of peace i.e. ruling with a rod of iron. Just looking to confirm or gain a deeper insight. Jun 17, 2022 at 15:00
  • @TorahObservantServant - I am not sure what question you are asking as I have identified "God" of peace" as part of the Davidic royal covenant which is central to the OT idiom.
    – Dottard
    Jun 17, 2022 at 21:12
  • @TorahObservantServant - so what sort of answer do you want? Isa 9:6, 7 has been recognized as a Messianic prophecy by the Rabbis for centuries.
    – Dottard
    Feb 5, 2023 at 21:04

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