Most readers familiar with the book of Isaiah are aware that the “Immanuel” prophecy in 7:14 and 8:8 has a short-term prophetic application to someone in the days of the prophet Isaiah, as well as secondary long-term application to Jesus in Matthew 1:23.
10 Again the Lord spoke to Ahaz, 11 “Ask the Lord your God for a sign, whether in the deepest depths or in the highest heights.” 12 But Ahaz said, “I will not ask; I will not put the Lord to the test.” 13 Then Isaiah said, “Hear now, you house of David! Is it not enough to try the patience of humans? Will you try the patience of my God also? 14 Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign: The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel. 15 He will be eating curds and honey when he knows enough to reject the wrong and choose the right, 16 for before the boy knows enough to reject the wrong and choose the right, the land of the two kings you dread will be laid waste. 17 The Lord will bring on you and on your people and on the house of your father a time unlike any since Ephraim broke away from Judah—he will bring the king of Assyria.” [Isa. 7:10-17]
This is fairly straightforward. The “two kings” whom Ahaz dreads are Rezin, king of Damascus, and his ally, Pekah son of Remaliah king of Samaria who besieged king Ahaz in Jerusalem in Isaiah 7:1 (see also 2 Kings 16:5). The two kings are named in Isaiah 7:1 and 7:4 and again in the second “Immanuel” prophecy. Isaiah 8:
5 The Lord spoke to me again: 6 “Because this people has rejected the gently flowing waters of Shiloah and rejoices over Rezinand the son of Remaliah, 7 therefore the Lord is about to bring against them the mighty floodwaters of the Euphrates — the king of Assyria with all his pomp. It will overflow all its channels, run over all its banks 8 and sweep on into Judah, swirling over it, passing through it and reaching up to the neck. Its outspread wings will cover the breadth of your land, Immanuel!”
Ahaz’ request to the king of Assyria, Tiglath Pileser, for rescue — and the consequent invasion of the northern kingdom of Israel and Aram by the Assyrian Empire — are recorded in 2 Kings 16:7-9. Rezin was assassinated in a coup; Pekah was killed by the Assyrian king around 732 BC.
So, according to the text, the first Immanuel was someone who was shortly to be born when Isaiah made the original “virgin will conceive” prophecy to Ahaz, and who was an infant when Assyria laid waste to the lands of the two northern kings, but who would be an adult at the full tide of Assyria’s power when Assyria will “sweep on into Judah”. There is general agreement among Jewish and Christian commentators that since Isaiah’s wife was not a “maiden” this could not be Isaiah’s own child, and the preferred identification of Immanuel is Ahaz’ own son to be born from his betrothed, Abijah, daughter of the High Priest, mother of Hezekiah in 2 Chronicles 29:1.
Isaiah 9:6 also related to Rezin and Pekah?
The question is whether the Isaiah 9:6 “Wonderful counselor” prophecy also has a first application in the days of Isaiah, or applies only to Jesus. Although 9:6’s “Unto us a child is born” is not quoted in the New Testament, Matthew 4:15-16 cites Isaiah 9:1-2: “The people walking in darknesshave seen a great light”.
The answer comes immediately after the “child is born” prophecy in Isaiah 9:11-13:
11 Therefore the LORD shall set up the adversaries of Rezin against him, and join his enemies together; 12 The Syrians before, and the Philistines behind; and they shall devour Israel with open mouth. For all this his anger is not turned away, but his hand is stretched out still.
“Israel” here means, again, “Israel, the northern kingdom” with Pekah reigning in Samaria, the enemy of Judah the southern kingdom with Ahaz reigning in Jerusalam. So the “child is born … Wonderful counselor” prophecy, like the “virgin will conceive … Immanuel” prophecy, is related to the destruction of Ahaz’ enemies Pekah and Rezin.
‘Wonderful counselor’ and ‘Immanuel’ are both the child Hezekiah
Comparing the three prophecies, Isaiah 7:14, 8:8 and 9:6, it should be clear that only one prophetic child is meant, not two. In this case the “He will reign on David’s throne” in Isaiah 9:7 makes explicit what is not explicit in 7:14 and only hinted at in Isaiah 8:8, that the prophetic child is to be king in Jerusalem at the time of the coming Assyrian invasion, which means that the child can only be Ahaz and his bethrothed Abijah’s son, Hezekiah.
The predicted invasion of Immanuel’s land took place in 2 Kings 18:17, and culminated in the Angel of the Lord destroying the besieging Assyrian army while they slept in 2 Kings 19:35.
The names “Wonderful counselor” and “Immanuel”
Despite the prophecy that the child would be “called” Immanuel and “his name will be called” Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace (in Hebrew Pele-joez-el-gibbor-abi-ad-sar-shalom), the king Ahaz and his betrothed Abijah did not give their son the prophetic name Immanuel (God with us) given by Isaiah. The name Hezekiah contains a reference to God in the ending -yah (literally, “Strength of Yah”, or “Yahweh has strengthened”) but is not equivalent to Immanuel.
This is perhaps because “his name will be called” in Hebrew does not have to imply an actual name; the Hebrew term name (shem) may only indicate a title. Pele-joez-el-gibbor-abi-ad-sar-shalom is so long as a name that understanding it as a series of four titles “Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace” is more common, and usually reflected in translation, although some older Jewish translations (such as the 1917 Jewish Publication Society version1) leave the four titles as one long Hebrew name out of concern for calling a man “Mighty God”.
Even Isaiah’s own children, given prophetic names Shear Jashub (“Only a remnant will return”) and Maher Shalal Hash Baz (“Quick to the plunder, swift to the spoil”), may not have carried these names throughout their lives after their prophetic role was fulfilled in 732 BC.
The four titles in Isaiah 9:6
Most readers of the Old Testament prophecies are familiar with how prophecies and, in particular, Messianic prophecies often have both a short-term fulfillment related to Israel and a long-term fulfillment related to Christ. Examples are the frequent use of Psalms originally about David in the Old Testament, applied in a deeper sense to Christ in the New Testament.
But with these names it is perhaps easier to understand how the four titles could apply in long-term prophetic fulfillment to Jesus than to understand how they could apply to Hezekiah. Some background of Hezekiah’s history is required:
• Wonderful Counselor (pele joez) — This relates to Isaiah 1:26 and the promise to restore Jerusalem’s counselors at the beginning. Making Jerusalem wise again. The application both to Hezekiah and Jesus is straightforward.
• Mighty God (el gibbor) — There is a difference between “Almighty God” (El Shaddai) and “Mighty God” in the Old Testament. This term is rendered “A mighty hero” in some sources (such as Gesenius’ Hebrew Lexicon) but occurs in Isaiah 10:21 as Mighty God, referring to God.
• Everlasting Father (abi ad) — This title is often misunderstood by Christian commentators to mean everlasting in the sense of preexisting, based on theological views that Jesus was “Father” prior to creation of Adam — although, in fact, the orthodox Trinitarian doctrine has Jesus preexisting as Son, not preexisting as father. In fact, the Hebrew (ad) here is forward-looking, so is translated “of the age to come” in the Septuagint, the Greek Old Testament used in Jesus’ day, and “of the age to come” in the Latin Vulgate. In this sense, then, Hezekiah could be called “Father of the age to come.”
• Prince of Peace (sar shalom) — This title applies to Hezekiah in that, after the destruction of the Assyrians, Hezekiah would rule over Judah in peace for the remaining fifteen years of his reign. These were notably fifteen extra years granted to Hezekiah after God had told Isaiah to tell Hezekiah he would die.
Application to God himself
The Theological Dictionary of the Old Testament edited by G. Johannes Botterweck, Helmer Ringgren, Heinz-Josef Fabry (1999) Volume 10, page 459 has this to say about the word ‘ad (everlasting) in the name:
It is worth noting, however, that Isa. 9:5(6) is referring not primarily to the savior himself but rather to Yahweh, whose rule the savior actually represents, and that in this context the word ‘ad refers to the consistent, irrevocable implications, from Yahweh’s perspective, of election as manifest even in God’s judgment on Israel, emphasizing God’s fatherly love, love revealed in this context in the forgiveness of sins (Isa. 63:16; 64:7 Hos. 11:1-9).
This is only an opinion of course, but is a reasonable opinion since it is backed up the contrast in the two “Mighty God” (el gibbor) passages, with the LORD Almighty as the actual power behind events:
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 (el gibbor), Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. 7 Of the greatness of his government and peace there will be no end. He will reign on David’s throne and over his kingdom, establishing and upholding it with justice and righteousness from that time on and forever. The zeal of the Lord Almighty (Yahweh Tsabaoth) will accomplish this. [Isa. 9:6-7]
21 A remnant will return, a remnant of Jacob will return to the Mighty God (el gibbor). 22 Though your people be like the sand by the sea, Israel, only a remnant will return. Destruction has been decreed, overwhelming and righteous. 23 The Lord, the Lord Almighty (Adonai Yahweh Tsabaoth) , will carry out the destruction decreed upon the whole land. [Isa. 10:21-23]
A comparison of these two “Mighty God (el gibbor) …. LORD Almighty (Yahweh Tsabaoth)” passages confirms the opinion above that the real actor in the Wonderful Counselor prophecy is the power behind the throne — God himself.
The above should demonstrate that the answer to the question is yes, the Isaiah 9:6 “Wonderful counselor” child prophecy is a continuation of the Isaiah 7:14, 8:18 “Immanuel” child prophecy. It is the same child, whether in first application to Hezekiah, or in second application to Jesus. But behind both stands Yahweh Tsabaoth, Almighty God himself. In this context it is also worth noting that Hezekiah’s mother’s name Abijah means “My father is Yahweh”.
1. The JPS 1917 translates Isa. 9:6 (v5 in the JPS 1917) like this:
For a child is born unto us, a son is given unto us; and the government is upon his shoulder; and his name is called Pele-joez-el-gibbor-Abi-ad-sar-shalom
See online here.