Isaiah 9:2-7 is part of the prophecies in the context of the Syro-Ephraimite war. An ideal monarch will come who will bring an end to the war and usher in universal peace. The light that will replace the darkness of Assyrian oppression will be a child, God incarnate. (7:14). His four compounded throne names depict His divine-human nature as well as His universal program of salvation. So what Isaiah prophecies is that beyond destruction there is hope. In the Messiah’s kingdom, the darkness would give way to great light, which was to dawn in Galilee and reach the whole nation, and then the whole world. The Messiah’s rule would be marked by the vindication of the oppressed and the end of all oppression. He would bring justice and righteousness forever in a kingdom of peace. Isaiah begins with the mention of both Zebulun and Naphtali. They were northern tribes in Israel, humbled by the Assyrian invaders in 734 and 732 B.C. Galilee was included in these tribal allotments. Galilee of the Gentiles was the region of Israel between the Sea of Galilee and the Mediterranean Sea. It was an area heavily influenced culturally, religiously, and politically by the surrounding Gentile nations.
Isaiah prophesied “the people who walked in darkness HAVE SEEN a great light.” This is a future event, described by the prophet as having already occurred. Light stands for God’s blessings, presence, and revelation that is incarnate in Jesus. And the land of deep darkness means life without the presence of God. The people of the northern kingdom had been in the darkness of Assyrian rule but God would send relief and there would no longer be darkness. When this happens there will be great joy and rejoicing. Isaiah compares this to bringing in a bountiful harvest. God’s people had experienced the rule of other nations; the yoke of slavery, the rod of the Lord’s anger carried out by the Assyrians. But the time will come when the Assyrians will be defeated and God’s people will no longer endure oppression and wrath. The references to the boots and garments rolled in blood were deliberate scare tactics used by the Assyrians. Their footwear was intentionally noisy so people would hear them coming and know fear. And the garments rolled in blood were intended to intimidate people, showing what the Assyrians had done to others and now would do to these next people. But Isaiah prophecies that all this would be burned in the fire, marking the end of the war.
Verse six brings the good news. Isaiah uses both the words born and given. Born speaks of Jesus humanity and given speaks to His divinity. This child would be David’s descendant, the Messiah. The four names are throne names, signifying the nature of this child’s rule. Wonderful counselor conforms to God’s wisdom, unlike the counselors of Judah. That this One will also be Mighty God is an affirmation of the Messiah’s divine nature. It means He is a powerful warrior. He cares for His children as the Everlasting Father, the Father whose loving care continues forever. This describes a King and Father who provides for and protects His people forever. The word Father here is used of the Savior’s role as the ideal king. Prince of Peace is the climactic title. The child is the true prince, the one who has the right to reign and who will usher in peace. This is the leader who will bring peace. These four double names combine aspects of Jesus’ deity and His humanity. Together these four double names assert the dual nature of the Savior. He is indeed God become man. Like Ahaz he will be a descendant of David but unlike Ahaz and the rulers of Jerusalem He would trust God and rule with justice and righteousness. Jesus the Messiah reigns for all eternity.
This good news is followed by a judgement on the northern kingdom of Israel. This goes from 9:8-10:4. The Lord will destroy it and its capital, Samaria. The accusations and judicial sentences in this section indicate that the Lord is both Judge and Punisher. It is interesting that despite God’s message that the Assyrians would crush them, the people of the northern kingdom were foolishly confident they could withstand the siege. Four times in this section we read of God’s punishments on Israel and four times we see that with all this punishment, God’s anger is not yet turned away and His hand is still upraised. But we also see that although God chose Assyria to be the rod of discipline for the northern kingdom, they go way too far. God wants discipline but the Assyrians are after one thing…total destruction. Eventually God will use the Babylonians to destroy the Assyrians. In 10:12 Isaiah tells us that when the Lord has finished all of his work, i.e. punishment, of Mount Zion and Jerusalem, He will punish the king of Assyria for the willful pride of his heart and the haughty look in his eyes. God speaks and reminds people that He alone is all powerful and wise. The references to the ax, rod, saw, and wooden cane tell us that such instruments are only as good as the people who use them. Assyria had considered itself independent of the hand of God but their conquests were made possible only because of His permission and to serve His purposes.
The Lord is called the Light of Israel. It is an amazing title for the Lord. Jesus is also described as light…the Light of the World. In the midst of Assyrian oppression there was a glimmer of hope. There would be a remnant. Not everyone would be destroyed. Hopefully all the wars would teach the Israelite remnant to no longer depend on allies such as Assyria. Instead they would learn to fully trust the Lord. Some of the Israelites made their way to Judah and became part of the southern kingdom. These people and their descendants would act as a remnant by preserving the names of the northern tribes among the people of God. Verse 10:22 is reminiscent of God’s promise to Abraham about descendants as numerous as the grains of sand. The people were numerous but not after the Assyrians arrived. God’s decision was a just response to the people’s persistent wickedness. And when Isaiah prophecies that He will lop off the bough with terror, the bough is a reference to the king of Assyria and the thickets are his army.
While chapter 10 speaks of the remnant of Israel chapter 11 speaks of the reign of Jesse’s offspring. The new growth refers to the continuity of David’s royal family line despite its stopping during the exile. The new growth from the old roots would not be like the former frail and unjust descendants of David. Jesus the Messiah is the final fulfillment. Verses 1-9 celebrate a salvation Oracle about the King of Peace. There are three sections: His endowment, His righteous rule, and His kingdom of peace. The words Rod and Branch are Messianic terms. They are figurative words for the great descendant of the household of David, the Seed of the woman promised in Genesis 3:15, Jesus Christ Himself. As in the case of David, the Messiah would be empowered by the Holy Spirit, the agent for establishing God’s kingdom. The succession of David’s line is guaranteed by the Spirit. The Messiah’s coming would bring justice and righteousness, peace, and the extension of the Kingdom to the nations. The promised Messiah would have great wisdom and understanding , like Solomon. Solomon prayed for the administrative skill to govern the people according to the principles of justice and righteousness. The Messiah will embody all this and He will be the ideal king. The Holy Spirit’s counsel is not advice, but rather active plans and decisions. Messiah will have fear of the Lord, meaning He would demonstrate in all His life the correct response to God. He would honor and obey Him.
The poor and exploited would receive the justice due to them which the wicked leaders of Judah had kept from them. And He would accomplish this with the rod of His mouth. That means He will conquer by His speech. That the cruel beasts will miraculously coexist with those who are normally prey is truly amazing. This will only happen when the Messiah returns to establish His Kingdom. Using a child to lead them demonstrates the end of the reign of terror, fright and danger. There will be no evildoers, corruption, or sin on God’s holy mountain. The Messiah will bring salvation to all the world. Members of other nations will even serve as priests and Levites, but only if they repent and truly believe in the one true God. Banners were rallying symbols and Jesus the Messiah is the banner for the gathering of people’s from all over the earth. Verses 11-16 is a prophecy concerning the second Exodus, the gathering of exiles from all over the place, their unity in opposition to God’s enemies, and an allusion to the first Exodus to show how much greater the second one is. This is a gathering of the Lord’s people and the Gentiles by the Lord. In this time God’s people will be at peace with each other and their enemies will be vanquished. Using imagery from Israel’s past Exodus, Isaiah encouraged his listeners by promising that God would bring his people out of Assyria the way He brought them out of Egypt. The mighty wind is an allusion to the wind that separated the Red Sea. In other words, there will be no physical barriers for God’s people who are returning.
Chapter 12 is Isaiah’s personal song of praise for God’s salvation. The anger of God had caused the people to be dispersed among the nations and His grace would lead to their regathering. God would prove Himself trustworthy in His promises to rescue His people even though they initially refused to trust Him. This song anticipates chapters 40-66 with their themes of salvation, forgiveness, praise, joy, and the nations. The final verse of Isaiah’s song of praise is a call to shout aloud in great joy. This is the call for those returning to Zion.
In His Grip
Pastor Matt W