Jews: For a child has been born to us, a son given to us, and the authority is upon his shoulder, and the wondrous adviser, the mighty God, the everlasting Father, called his name, "the prince of peace." https://judaism.stackexchange.com/questions/34228/what-does-isaiah-96-mean/34229#34229

So basically, according to jews, the mighty everlasting father is not the child but a divine being that called the child "the prince of peace"

Christian: For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. http://biblehub.com/isaiah/9-6.htm

Okay this quite different. The difference is definitely ideological rather than in grammar. But if we check the grammar, what would we think?


The Hebrew of the Masoretic text states,

כִּי יֶלֶד יֻלַּד לָנוּ בֵּן נִתַּן לָנוּ וַתְּהִי הַמִּשְׂרָה עַל שִׁכְמוֹ וַיִּקְרָא שְׁמוֹ פֶּלֶא יוֹעֵץ אֵל גִּבּוֹר אֲבִיעַד שַׂר שָׁלוֹם

  1. כִּי (ki) : a conjunction, meaning "for."

  2. יֶלֶד (yeled): a noun that can refer to "a child" (cp. Gen. 21:8; Exo. 1:17-18, 2:3, etc.) or even "a young man" (cp. Gen. 4:23). However, the following verb יֻלַּד ("was born") indicates that it is a "child," a newborn.

  3. יֻלַּד (yullad): a verb conjugated in binyan Pu'al, 3rd person, masculine gender, singular number, and perfect tense, meaning "was born." 1

  4. לָנוּ (lanu): The preposition -ל with a 1st person, plural number pronominal suffix, meaning "to/ for us."

  5. בֵּן (ben): a noun meaning "a son." Whereas a יֶלֶד is usually limited to a particular age range, a בֵּן is not.

  6. נִתַּן (nittan): a verb conjugated in binyan Nif'al, 3rd person, masculine gender, singular number, and perfect tense, meaning "was given." 1

  7. לָנוּ (lanu): see #4.

  8. וַתְּהִי (vatehi): a verb conjugated in binyan Pa'al, 3rd person, feminine gender, singular number, and imperfect tense, prefixed with vav ha-hipukh (conversive/ consecutive vav), meaning "and [subject] was." (The following word is the subject of the verb.) 1

  9. הַמִּשְׂרָה (ha-misrah): a definite noun, rare, only occurring twice, in Isa. 9:6-7. The LXX translates it as ἀρχὴ, perhaps in the sense of "rule." If this noun is derived from the root ש-ר-ר, then it is related to the verb שָׂרַר (sarar), meaning "to rule, govern," and the noun שַׂר (sar), meaning "ruler." Thus, הַמִּשְׂרָה would likely mean "rule" or "dominion."

  10. עַל (al): a preposition, meaning "upon."

  11. שִׁכְמוֹ (shikhmo): a noun with a 3rd person, masculine gender, singular number pronominal suffix, meaning "his shoulder."

  12. וַיִּקְרָא (vayikra): a verb conjugated in binyan Pa'al, 3rd person, masculine gender, singular number, and imperfect tense, prefixed with vav ha-hipukh (conversive/ consecutive vav), literally meaning "and [subject] called." But, understood as "and [his name] was called." 1 2

  13. שְׁמוֹ (shmo): a noun with a 3rd person, masculine gender, singular number pronominal suffix, meaning "his name."

  14. פֶּלֶא (pele): a noun, meaning "wonder" or "miracle" (cp. Exo. 15:11).

  15. יוֹעֵץ (yo'etz): an active participle, conjugated in binyan Pa'al, masculine gender, singular number, meaning "counselor."

  16. אֵל גִּבּוֹר (el gibbor): the noun אֵל meaning, "God," followed by the adjective גִּבּוֹר, meaning "mighty." Altogether, "mighty God" (cp. Isa. 10:21).

  17. אֲבִיעַד (aviad): a phrase consisting of the noun אֲבִי in the construct state, meaning "father of," and עַד, meaning "eternity." Altogether, literally meaning "father of eternity," but understood as "eternal father." (cp. Hab. 3:6: , i.e., "eternal mountains").

  18. שַׂר שָׁלוֹם (sar shalom): a phrase consisting of the noun שַׂר, meaning "ruler, prince," and שָׁלוֹם, meaning "peace." Altogether, meaning "prince/ ruler of peace."


For a child was born *to us, a son was given *to us, and the rule was upon his shoulder, and his name was called, "Wonder, Counselor, Mighty God, Eternal father, Prince of peace."

*or "for"


1 Because the verbs יֻלַּד ,נִתַּן, and וַתְּהִי are conjugaed in the perfect tense (and translated in English past tense), some object to the notion that this prophecy by Isaiah could apply to anyone who lived in the future (e.g., Jesus). However, note the words of the learned Jewish grammarian and commentator David Kimchi (the Radak) on this subject. In his Sefer Mikhlol, he wrote,

And you should know that it is a typical behavior of the past tense verbs in the holy language to use the past tense in place of the future tense (which is marked by the letters איתן), and this is mostly in prophecies because the matter is clear as if past, because it has already been decreed.

enter image description here

2 It should be noted that some verbs, although conjugated in binyan Pa'al, assume a meaning as though conjugated in a passive binyan (e.g., Nif'al), when there is no explicit mention of a subject. For example, קָרָא in Gen. 16:14, which is understood as "the well was called..." rather than "he called the well..." See also Gen. 11:9, 19:22; Exo. 15:23; etc.; Gesenius, Hebrew Grammar, §144d.

  • 1
    I'm pretty sure this isn't a fair characterization of your reasoning here, is it? Dec 29 '13 at 15:32
  • 1
    @Jim it's worth remembering that translation is as much art as science. All translation is done through an interpretive lens and the difficulties in correctly understanding any text are considerable (though not, I believe, insurmountably so). Dec 29 '13 at 15:34
  • 2
    @JimThio: There is nothing "telling" about my choice of "and his name was called" as opposed to "and he called his name." As it stands, there is NO subject for the verb וַיִּקְרָא. To say that "פֶּלֶא יוֹעֵץ אֵל גִּבּוֹר אֲבִיעַד" is the subject but then שַׂר שָׁלוֹם is the name of the object (i.e., his name), is quite arbitrary and "telling" in its own right. I noticed that another individual said that the child could not be called "mighty God"..."Because only God is called Mighty God, and not any of God's creations." Err...that's assuming the premise that the child is NOT God.
    – user862
    Dec 29 '13 at 19:40
  • 1
    קָרָא שְׁמָהּ בָּבֶל - (Gen. 11:9) who called its name Bavel? Is the subject of the verb referring to a singular, masculine-gender subject, as the noun קָרָא suggests (based on its conjugation)? No, it's not. The Hebrew is understood as "its name was called (passive) Bavel." Isa. 9:6 is no different. The only difference is just that the verb is a imperfect w/ vav ha-hipukh, which effectively makes it perfect. But, in Gen. 11:9, the verb is written perfect. וַיִּקְרָא = קָרָא. No difference. Same phenomenon.
    – user862
    Dec 29 '13 at 19:51
  • 1
    If the child was born, it can't refer to Jesus either. In fact perfect tenses mean it should read the child has been born to us. Not the child is born or the child was born.
    – user4951
    Dec 29 '13 at 23:22

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.