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Jesus is known to have said, He who has seen Me has seen the Father! An emphatic assertion of Divinity, if there ever was one! But was it backed up with a supernatural prophecy given hundreds of year earlier? Does the use of el gibbor (Mighty God) in the Isaiah prophecy prove Jesus was God, according to Jewish scriptures, and that His claim was justified?

For unto us is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be upon His shoulders. And He will be called Wonderful counselor, Mighty God (el gibbor), Everlasting Father, Ruler over Peace. Of the increase of His government and peace there will be no end.

He will reign on David's throne and over his kingdom, establishing it and upholding it with justice and righteousness from that time and forever. (Isaiah 9:6-7)

Some interpret el gibbor as simply "a mighty god," (lower case) and that it does not substantiate Jesus deity. Was this a known, or common, term for Jehovah God, or not? And can we, for certain, apply this prophecy to Jesus? Does the context of chapter 9 help decide?

{Another question was posted "9 years ago" (#8349), but there were only three brief answers, two of which didn't deal with a definitive answer and showed no research. That posting left no satisfactory conclusion and was void of scholarly research. The answers given so far to the present posting show much more depth in scholarship and deserve a presentation to SE inquirers.}

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  • Does this answer your question? Is El Gibbor in Isaiah 9 refer means the child is divine?
    – Michael16
    Commented Jul 1, 2023 at 13:09
  • search for el gibbor to see various existing topics
    – Michael16
    Commented Jul 1, 2023 at 13:09
  • 2
    Isa. 9:6 & 10:21 never say "A Mighty God". When we see 10:21 applying the title to Yahweh, we know that he is the only true God, not just one of many, so that when the title also applies to the Son to be born in the future, the verse correctly says "Mighty God", with no 'A' before it. I would suggest your bracketed bit of the question dropping the 'a'! Let it read, (The Incarnation of God). A good question, though, so upvoted.
    – Anne
    Commented Jul 1, 2023 at 13:35
  • @Anne-So observed, so ordered, so done! I am humbled by the continual recognition of my mortal imperfections, but am encouraged by my willingness to arise above my failures...with the aid of observant Christian family members.
    – ray grant
    Commented Jul 1, 2023 at 20:57

5 Answers 5

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The phrase אֵ֖ל גִּבֹּֽור (el gibbor), or similar, is applied to YHWH in the following places:

  • Isa 10:21 - A remnant will return, the remnant of Jacob, to the mighty God.
  • Jer 32:18 - You show loving devotion to thousands but lay the iniquity of the fathers into the laps of their children after them, O great and mighty God whose name is the LORD of Hosts

Thus, the title, אֵ֖ל גִּבֹּֽור (el gibbor), is far from common but is still applied to YHWH, Jehovah God.

However, while most Christian commentators understand Isa 9:6 (quite correctly I believe) as messianic, it is never confirmed as such in the NT.

However, we have compelling evidence that Isa 9:1-7 is a messianic prophecy because:

  • Isa 9:1, 2 which is quoted by Matt 4:14 as applying to Jesus.
  • Isa 9:7 is alluded to by Luke 1:32, 33, Rom 1:3, John 1:49, Matt 27:37, Heb 1:8, 9 as applying to Jesus as king of His spiritual kingdom of heaven, and thus Isa 9:7 is messianic.

Thus, it appears that Isa 9:6 is definitely messianic and applies to Jesus Christ/Messiah. This would include the title, "Mighty God".

If one wishes to find support for the divinity of Jesus in the NT, one should consult texts like Matt 1:23, Matt 26:63-65, Mark 14:61-63 (cf Dan 7:13), John 1:1, 18, 5:17, 18, 23, 10:30, 20:28, Heb 1:8, 9, etc.

If one seeks confirmation of Jesus' divinity from the OT, then see the appendix below.

APPENDIX - Jesus and Jehovah

One of the constant and consistent themes of the NT is the number of times it applies unique attributes of Jehovah in the OT to Jesus in the NT.

Unique Attribute OT Jehovah NT Jesus
God Deut 4:35, 6:4, 32:39, Isa 44:6, 45:5, 6 Matt 1:22, 23; John 1:1, 18, 20:28, Col 2:9, Rom 9:5, Heb 1:8, 9, Tit 2:13, 2 Peter 1:1, 1 Tim 3:16, Phil 2:5-8
"My Lord" Ps 35:23 (LXX: κύριός μου) John 20:13, 28, Luke 1:43, Phil 3:8, Matt 22:44, Mark 12:36, Luke 20:42, Acts 2:34
"I AM" Ex 3:13-15; Deut 32:39, Isa 41:4, 43:10, 13, 25, 45:19, 46:4, 48:12, 51:12, 52:6 (LXX) Matt 14:27, Mark 6:50, Mark 13:6, Luke 21:8, Mark 14:62, Luke 22:70, John 4:26, 6:20, 8:24, 28, 58, 13:9, 18:5-8
Creator Isa 44:24, 45:18 John 1:3, 10, Col 1:16, 17, Heb 1:2
Savior Isa 43:3, 11, 45:17, 21 Matt 1:21; Acts 4:12; 2 Tim 1:10; Tit 1:4, 2:13, 3:6; 2 Pet 1:1, 11
Glory Isa 42:8, 48:11 John 17:5, 24
Rock Isa 44:8; Deut 32:3,4,15; Ps 92:15 1 Cor 10:4; Matt 16:18
Shepherd Psalm 23:1; Eze 34:11ff John 10:11-16; Heb 13:20, 1 Peter 2:25, 5:4; Rev 7:17
Bridegroom Isa 49, 54, Jer 2, Hosea Mark 2:19, Matt 9:15, Luke 5:34, 35
First and Last Isa 41:4, 44:6, 48:12 Rev 1:17, 18, 2:8, 22:13
Venerable Ex 20:3, 34:14; Deut 8:19; 2 Kings 17:35-38 Matt 2:11, 14:33, 28:9, 17; Luke 4:8; 24:52; John 9:38; Rom 10:9, Heb 1:5, 6, Phil 2:10; Rev 5:6-12.
"Lord of Lords" Deut 10:17, Ps 136:3, 26 Rev 17:14, 19:16
Lord of All Deut 10:17, Josh 3:11, 13, Ps 97:5, Zech 4:14, 6:5, Mic 4:13 Acts 10:36, Rom 10:12, Col 1:15
Seven eyes of the LORD Zech 4:10 (& Zech 3:9) Rev 5:6 (Lamb)

The above is not an exhaustive list but shows how much trouble the NT writers went to in order to affirm that Jesus is Jehovah.

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"If you have seen me, you have seen the Father."

No scripture indicates that Jesus is the Father. In fact, Jesus clearly cannot have been the Father, because Jesus himself says plainly:

And the Father himself, which hath sent me, hath borne witness of me. Ye have neither heard his voice at any time, nor seen his shape. (John 5:37, KJV)

The Bible is clear that the Father and the Son are distinct from each other. In that context, therefore, the words of Jesus regarding "seeing" the Father must be understood to have a spiritual application, not a literal one.

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. (Isaiah 9:6, KJV)

We can save ourselves a lot of time with answering questions of this nature by looking carefully at context. Notice that this verse in Isaiah does not call the child son the Father, nor God. What it says is that his name will be called such.

And this should not be surprising to anyone who has read the New Testament carefully. Jesus said:

I am come in my Father's name, and ye receive me not: if another shall come in his own name, him ye will receive. (John 5:43, KJV)

Jesus said the Father had sent him and that he had come in his Father's name. This fulfills the prophecy of Isaiah 9:6.

For deeper Bible students, there is some value in studying the significance of "name" in the scriptures. It has much to do with one's honor, reputation, and character. Jesus came to show us the Father's character, not the Father's shape.

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  • Everlasting Father is a title, not a name. Commented Jul 1, 2023 at 4:02
  • 1
    @RevelationLad By your definitions, perhaps it is a title. But Isaiah does not use the word "title"--he uses the word "שֵׁם/shem" which literally means "name."
    – Biblasia
    Commented Jul 1, 2023 at 5:19
  • 2
    No trinitarian Christians think that the Son is the Father. Jesus was not suggesting that to literally see him was to also see the Father (who is Spirit, Jesus said in Jn.4:23-24).) Indeed, he came to reveal who the Father is, because he is the only-begotten of the Father and relates to the Father in that unique way.
    – Anne
    Commented Jul 1, 2023 at 13:45
  • You suggest that "seeing" the Father must be understood to have a spiritual application, not a literal one. But you do not tell us what that 'spiritual application' is. The real issue is : What is it, to truly see Jesus Christ ? And how is that, the same as - 'seeing the Father' ?
    – Nigel J
    Commented Jul 1, 2023 at 22:21
  • @NigelJ I suggest you reread the last paragraph of the answer, then look up 2 Corinthians 3:18 for further confirmation of it.
    – Biblasia
    Commented Jul 2, 2023 at 1:19
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El-gibbor is not a common term. That much is clear. Almost all of the rest of the OP is a matter of opinion, starting with the statement that "when you see me you have seen the Father" is a claim of divinity on Jesus' part.

The word gibbor (Strong’s H1368) itself means powerful, strong or mighty. The Bible uses it to describe the "mighty men" such as the giants of Gen. 6 or powerful leaders like David and Joshua, as well as their strongest warriors. The word itself describes the God of Israel several times in the Psalms, but not with the appellation "el-gibbor." On the other hand, both Isaiah (10:21) and Jeremiah (32:18) use the term "gibbor el" speaking of Israel's deity as a "mighty god."

Scholars--Christian, Jewish and agnostic--are of many different opinions as to whether El-gibbor refers to Jesus and whether it means Mighty God, God's Mighty Hero, or any number of other translations. No less an authority than Martin Luther translated "El gibbor" simply as "hero." The Jewish sage Rashi and others believed that Isaiah was speaking of Hezekiah, in whom the prophet had great hope, but not in the messianic sense as understood by Jews and Christians today.

So no, it is not a common term for YHWH by any means. Moreover it is not certain that the prophet was thinking of the Messiah when he used this term. While it does not certainly substantiate the deity of the Christ, it certainly CAN substantiate the faith of Christians in Jesus' deity. But that is a matter of belief, not certainty.

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Context Upon reflection, it is noticed that chapter 9 began with the a prophetic word which was quoted in the N.T. as referring to Jesus:

Leaving Nazareth He went and lived in Capernaum which was by the lake in the area of Zebulon and Naphtali, to fulfil what was said thru the prophet Isaiah: Land of Zebulun and land of Naphtali, the way to the sea...the people living in darkness have seen a great light, on those living in the land of the shadow of death, a light has dawned. (Matthew 4:13-16; Isaiah 9:1-2)

And then reference is later made to the unique Incarnation of Jesus. The baby was "born to Mary," and the son "was given to Joseph."

For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given. (9:6)

And then He is "named." (9:6b, shem). Whether this simply means, He has titles, instead of actual 'name' is the crux of the matter. This must be compared with el gibbor in Deuteronomy 10:17, and Jeremiah 32:18. where the Almighty God is definitely referenced No doubt about it. There are also scriptural references in the O.T. to the "might" of God. (Zephaniah 3:17, Nehemiah 9:32, Psalm 24:8, Isaiah 10:21, Deuteronomy 7:21) Notice the combination of names given unmistakably to God in Isaiah 1:24:

Therefore the Lord, the LORD Almighty, the Mighty One of Israel, declares, "Ah, I will get relief from My foes..."

The concluding verses of this paragraph could be an accurate description of Jesus's earthly ministry since the opening announcement He gave was that The Kingdom is at hand. (Matthew 4:17), And Jesus concluded His ministry by spending 40 days teaching about The Kingdom of God just before His Ascension. (Acts 1:3)

He will reign on David's throne and over his kingdom, establishing and upholding it with justice and righteousness from that time and forever. (9:7b)

Considering the Context, and the other occasions where God is "The Mighty God," this tends to lead to a conclusion that Jesus can be called the Mighty God, as well. The Son is the the radiance of God's glory and the exact representation of His being, sustaining all thing by His powerful word. (Hebrew 1:3)

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The Hebrew is difficult and may be understood differently:

For a child has been born to us, a son has been given to us. And authority has settled on his shoulders. He has been named "The Mighty God is planning grace;[c] The Eternal Father, a peaceable ruler" (Isaiah 9:5 NJPS)
[c] As in Isaiah 25.1. "O LORD, You are my God; I will extol You, I will praise Your name. For you planned graciousness of old, counsels of steadfast faithfulness."

The child is not named Mighty God...; their name means The Mighty God is planning grace and the Eternal Father is a peaceable ruler. The NJPS translation shifts the focus from naming the child to identifying what God is planning and who the Father is.

Benjamin D. Sommer gives this explanation:

5: "The Mighty God...ruler: This long sentence is the throne name of the royal child. Semitic names often consist of sentences that describe God; thus the name of Isaiah in Hebrew means "The LORD saves": Hezekiah, "The LORD strengthens"; in Akkadian, the name of the Babylonian king Merodach-baladan (Isaiah 39.1)means "the god Marduk has provided an heir." These names do not describe the person who holds them but the god whom the parents worship. Similarly, the name given to the child in this v. does not describe the child of attribute divinity to him, contrary to classical Christian readings of this messianic verse.1

Sommer's addresses the theological conflict inherent in a name Mighty God in terms of Semitic cultural practice. Those who translated the Septuagint chose a different solution:

For a child is born to us, a son also is given unto us, upon whose shoulder was the government; and he shall call his name Messenger of great counsel [Wonderful Counsellor, Mighty, Powerful, Prince of Peace, Father of the Age to come]: for I will bring peace upon the rulers, peace and health to him.2

Somewhat in agreement with what Sommer describes, the LXX goes one step further by removing the term "God" and expunging any potential issue over the divinity in the name or its meaning.

The fact pre-Christian Second Temple monotheistic Judaism understood the original Hebrew as meaning the child would be given a name stating divinity so strongly they needed to eliminate that understanding by removing "God," is good reason to recognize that is exactly how the passage could be taken. Additionally, Sommer's explanation of parental naming sidesteps the issue the name(s) did not originate with the parents.

However, the NJPS translation and Sommer's explanation provide a reasonable place to start:

  1. There are only two attributes in the name. One is Mighty God planning grace. The other is Eternal Father who is a peaceable ruler.
  2. The names are from the parents and these names recognize the God they worship.

Mary and Joseph were given the name for the child, and since they did not choose it nothing should be inferred about Jesus being the God they worshipped at the time. On the other hand, like Isaiah, the name was of divine origin, and if it is a reflection of the God who is worshipped, it follows Jesus was worshipped by angels:

But when He again brings the firstborn into the world, He says: “Let all the angels of God worship Him.” (Hebrews 1:6 NKJV)

However, one could object that the angels were not the parents; they simply acted as a messenger, the meaning of ἄγγελος. In this case, the name must be attributed to The Father and so indicates who the Father worshipped:

8 But to the Son He says: “Your throne, O God, is forever and ever; A scepter of righteousness is the scepter of Your kingdom. 9 You have loved righteousness and hated lawlessness; Therefore God, Your God, has anointed You With the oil of gladness more than Your companions.” (Hebrews 1:8-9)

Anthropomorphically we could say just as human parents live vicariously in the achievements of an exceptionally gifted child, the Father also experienced the indescribable work of His Son who saved all creation from destruction and so joined with the angels in acknowledging something no other, including Himself, had accomplished.

Therefore, as the NJPS understanding shows there are two divine entities:

  1. The Mighty God, Jesus Christ, who is planning grace
  2. The Everlasting Father who is a peaceable Ruler
Notes:
1.Benjamin D. Sommer, The Jewish Study Bible, Edited by Adele Berlin and Marc Zvi Brettler, Oxford University Press, 2004, p. 802
2.Translation from R.R. Ottley, The Book of Isaiah According to the Septuagint (Codex Alexandrinus), Cambridge University Press, 1909, p. 97

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