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Deeper Commentary

Isaiah 9:1 But there shall be no more gloom for her who was in anguish- The allusion is to the anguish of childbirth. A new people and kingdom was to be brought forth from the suffering at the hand of the Assyrians. This was perceived by Hezekiah in Is. 37:3: "the children have come to the birth, and there is no strength to bring forth". The LXX implies that for the ten tribes (Zebulun and Naphtali) as well as Judah, the drinking of the cup of Assyrian judgment would bring forth a Messianic kingdom, if they now quickly repented: :Drink this first. Act quickly, O land of Zabulon, land of Nephthalim, and the rest inhabiting the sea-coast, and the land beyond Jordan, Galilee of the Gentiles". But Hezekiah let the baton drop and did not establish the restored Kingdom of God in Judah which was potentially possible.

In the former time, He brought into contempt the land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali; but in the latter time He has made it glorious, by the way of the sea, beyond the Jordan, Galilee of the nations- The present tense is used of what God was certainly going to do. The northernmost areas of the ten tribes, who had suffered most from the Assyrian invasion (2 Kings 15:29), were to be made glorious in the restored kingdom of Judah. Isaiah writes primarily about "Judah and Jerusalem", but all the major prophets envisage a repentant Israel and Judah united together in the new, restored Kingdom of God. This didn't happen as was prophetically possible at Isaiah's time. But there is the purposefully enigmatic suggestion here that this revival of Zebulun and Naphtali will be something to do with Galilee- the home area of the Lord Jesus, who would bring about the fulfilment. "The way of the sea" has been understood as referring to the region along the west side of the lake of Galilee, where the Lord did much work. It was in this very area that the Lord Jesus first proclaimed the Gospel, in fulfilment of this prophecy (Mt. 4:13).

Because God is beyond time, His prophecies appear to jump around in time; and that is also reflective of the conditional nature of prophecy, with various possible applications at different times, depending upon the potential realized amongst God's people. They only appear disjointed to us who read them with a background insistence that everything must be chronological. Thus the tenses change freely throughout Isaiah 53. And throughout Isaiah, prophecies of the Kingdom are often introduced by the rubric "in that day"; and yet the preceding context is often quite different (e.g. Is. 3:7,18; 4:1; 5:30; 7:18,21; 10:20,22; 11:10; 12:1; 17:9; 19:6; 22:20,25; 25:9; 27:13; 28:5; 29:18). It makes an interesting exercise to go through Isaiah 9 and decide to which time each verse applies. Some of the verses are quoted in the NT and given specific fulfillments. They refer to Isaiah's day, the Assyrian invasion, the birth of Jesus, the beginning of His ministry at age 30, and to His future Kingdom. And yet the verses aren't presented in this order; they move from one to the other at ease, with no linking rubric or explanation. Likewise Daniel's prophecies seem to have a big hiatus in their fulfillment (Dan. 2:34; 8:23; 9:24; 11:39); and Zechariah is another good example. Many attempts to understand prophecy, not least the book of Revelation, have fallen into problems because of an insistent desire to see everything fulfilling in a chronological progression, whereas God's prophecies (Isaiah is the classic example) 'jump around' all over the place as far as chronological fulfillment is concerned. And this principle is not only seen in Bible prophecy. The historical records in the Old Testament tend to be thematically presented rather than chronologically (Joshua is a good example of this); and the Gospel records likewise. It especially needs to be recognized that in line with so much OT prophecy, neither the Olivet prophecy nor its extension in the Apocalypse can be read as strictly chronological. Thus Lk. 21:8-11 gives a catalogue of signs, and then :12 jumps back to the situation before them: "but before all these things..." (Lk. 21:27,28; Mk. 13:10 are other examples).

Isaiah 9:2 The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light, those who lived in the land of the shadow of death, on them the light has shined-
This could be seen as an invitation to perceive that light, hence LXX "O people walking in darkness, behold a great light". But they didn't. And so the returned exiles, "Zion", are asked at a later stage to arise and shine because their light had come (Is. 60:1). But again they didn't, and so these prophecies of a light coming are reapplied to the Lord Jesus, who was perceived by a new Zion as the light of the world.

The darkness of the context is that of Is. 8:22- the darkness of condemnation, for the rejected for whom there was 'no dawn' (Is. 8:20 Heb.). We can be condemned in this life and yet still change that verdict- by coming to the light of Christ. Chapter 8 concluded by speaking of the wicked being sent into the darkness of condemnation (a common figure in Isaiah, e.g. Is. 5:30; 9:19). Those who dwell in the dark shadow of death are therefore those who have been condemned- but for them, the light of Christ arose from despised Galilee and the area around the sea of Galilee (:1- "the sea" surely refers in the context to the sea of Galilee, not the Mediterranean).

The "great light" could initially have been a reference to the 'great' son of Isaiah who was to be the saving king of Judah (:6). The holy one of Israel within Zion was to be "great" in distinction from the "great" [s.w.] king of Assyria who was as it were the anti-Christ, the opposite number of the "great" one within Zion, with his offers of a fake Kingdom of God (Is. 36:4,13).

Isaiah 9:3 You have multiplied the nation, but You have not increased their joy. They will rejoice before You according to the joy in harvest, as men rejoice when they divide the spoil-
Their joy not being increased is hard to square with the reference to their joy which follows. The idea may be that their prosperity at the time of Uzziah and Ahaz did not bring joy. But there was going to be great joy- because the Assyrian yoke would be lifted miraculously if they repented (:4). Keil & Delitsch render: “Thou multipliest the nation, preparest it great joy; they rejoice before Thee like the joy in harvest, as men rejoice when they share the spoil". There was not such joy at the time because Judah and Israel didn't repent. And so "the joy of harvest" could have happened at the restoration from Babylon (Ps. 126:5,6). But again it didn't, and we read of the miserable restored exiles suffering famine and poor harvests because they refused to repent.

And so the prophecies were reapplied to the spiritual restoration of God's people in the Lord Jesus, the one from Galilee hinted at in :1. But there was not universal joy in Israel at Jesus of Nazareth- the prophecy was a potential possibility, but Israel chose not to fulfill it. Both Israel and Judah could have spoiled the Assyrians, but that didn't happen as it could have done; it had a limited fulfilment in the people of Jerusalem spoiling the tents of the dead Assyrians. And so the figure of spoil being divided was re-applied by the Lord Jesus to describe His victory over sin and sharing it with those who believe in Him (Mt. 12:29; Col. 2:15; 3:9 Gk.). Again, Israel should have rejoiced in this- but they generally did not.

Isaiah 9:4 For the yoke of his burden and the staff of his shoulder, the rod of his oppressor, You have broken as in the day of Midian-
This was to be the reason for their joy and spoiling of the Assyrians (:3), with the burden of heavy taxation now lifted (Is. 10:27; 14:25). 

The idea of breaking the yoke and destroying the oppressive burdens recalls Israel's suffering in Egypt (Ex. 2:11; Lev. 26:13), who were Israel's "oppressors" (s.w. Ex. 3:7 "taskmasters"). The reference to Midian's destruction (repeated in Is. 10:26,27) suggests that a small remnant, akin to Gideon's three hundred men, would destroy a far greater military and political power which was dominating Israel. It calls for a military fulfilment, and this surely was the possibility in Isaiah's day. The righteous remnant were to release Judah from domination by the overpowering Assyria. But they did not fully achieve this, nor did they accept God's new covenant which was to be the basis for them never again being under yoke (Jer. 30:8; Ez. 34:27), and so the prophecy was rescheduled and reapplied to the victory of the Lord Jesus over sin (see on :4). His offer of His yoke in place of the heavy yoke carried by God's people surely alludes here (Mt. 11:29). And His spiritual victory will have its political and 'military' manifestation at Christ's return and His final liberation of Israel from their Arab oppressors.

Isaiah 9:5 For all the armour of the armed man in the noisy battle and the garments rolled in blood will be for burning, fuel for the fire-
This is the scene of Ez. 39, when the weapons of Israel's invaders are burnt. Their bloodstained battle clothes will be burnt to cleanse the land. The language is reapplied to the last days. "The noisy battle" is the word for "earthquake". There was no earthquake recorded when the Assyrian army was destroyed outside Jerusalem; this is the language of the last days. "Fuel for the fire" is the same phrase found in :19, where this is to be the judgment upon Israel and Judah. The judgment that could then have come upon their enemies was to come upon them, because they refused to repent and thus precluded the prophetic potential of :5 from coming about.

Isaiah 9:6 For to us a child is born, to us a son is given-
This sounds like the exaltation of parents at the birth of their child, and the initial application was to the joy of Isaiah and his wife at the birth of the promised child who could have been the saviour Messiah figure. But he was not (see on Is. 7:14; 8:1), and so the prophecy came to be fulfilled in the Lord Jesus. See on Is. 8:18. This is surely Isaiah's proclamation concerning his fourth son of sign, born to him and his prophetess wife (Is. 8:3). The son may be the same as 'Emmanuel'. Potentially, this son could've been the saving king of Judah. But that child didn't rise up to it, and so the prophecy will have a deferred fulfilment in the Lord Jesus. If Isaiah's disciples are understood as his spiritual children (Is. 8:16 cp. 18), then this spiritual child of Isaiah could refer to Hezekiah. But the child is not named because it failed to fulfill the prophecy.

And the government will be on his shoulders- Every step of the way along the Via Dolorosa, Yahweh's enemies reproached every stumbling footstep of His anointed (Ps. 89:51). It was all this that made Him a true King and our unquestioned leader- for on His shoulders is to rest the authority of the Kingdom, because He bore His cross upon the same shoulders.

Micah 5 speaks of Messiah being born and being smitten upon the cheek at the same time as Jerusalem is besieged and Judah has been invaded by the Assyrians. Whatever minor fulfilment this may have had in Hezekiah, it was pathetically incomplete- he wasn’t born in Bethlehem, and he wasn’t smitten upon the cheek with a rod. I read all this as meaning that Messiah could have been born and then suffered in such circumstances- but it didn’t happen. The prophecy was fulfilled in essence, although in a different context and in a different way, in the Lord Jesus. Likewise Is. 9:6 speaks as if the birth of Messiah would be at a time of deliverance from Israel’s invaders; yet Is. 9:13 RV implies this would only happen if they were obedient: “Yet the people hath not turned / repented”.  

His name will be called- All the exalted language about the child could therefore have been applied to Isaiah's newborn son; and Trinitarians should note that. "His name will be called..." all these things. This is not to say that He Himself by nature is all these things; they are titles. The titles are all relevant to a Divine deliverer who would arise to save Judah from their enemies and reestablish God's Kingdom in Judah.

At the judgment Jesus will give us God’s name (Rev. 3:12); we then will fully carry the name of God. He calls this name, “My new name”. Remember, Jesus gave the book of Revelation some years after his ascension into heaven and after he had been given God’s name, as explained in Phil. 2:9. So he can call God’s name “My new name”; the name he had recently been given. We can now properly understand Is. 9:6, where concerning Jesus we are told, “His name (note that) shall be called, Wonderful, Counsellor, the mighty God, the everlasting Father...”. This is a prophecy that Jesus would carry all the name of God - that he would be the total manifestation or revelation of God to us. It was in this sense that he was called ‘Emmanuel’, meaning, ‘God is with us’, although He personally was not God. Thus the prophecy of Joel 2 that men would call on the name of Yahweh was fulfilled by people being baptized into the name of Jesus Christ (Acts 2:21 cf. 38). This also explains why the command to baptize into the name of the Father was fulfilled, as detailed in the Acts record, by baptism into the name of Jesus.

Wonderful- "Wonderful" uses the word usually used for miracles, "wonders", especially of Divine deliverance from enemies. And that is the context here (Is. 25:1).

Counsellor- He was to be the "counsellor" who would be the Divine answer to the wicked "counsel" of Syria and Israel against Judah (s.w. Is. 7:5).

Divine Warrior- The "warrior" (:5 AV) of their enemies could have been matched by a "Divine Warrior", a Messiah figure who could have saved Israel and Judah from this invasion. This shall come true in the last days in the person of the Lord Jesus. For "mighty God" (AV), see on Is. 10:21. Even if this translation is accepted, men are called "God" in the Bible, e.g. Moses.

This phrase is the same as 'Gabriel'. So can we conclude that at His ascension, Jesus took over the role of the Angel Gabriel?  Thus until then the Angel Gabriel would have been a type of Jesus, and perhaps His guardian Angel. Maybe this implies that we will take over the role of our guardian Angel when we are glorified. Is. 9:6 also gives Jesus the title 'Wonderful'- which  is  the  name of another Angel (Judges 13:18 mg.; or is this just another title of the Angel Gabriel?). Thus when Jesus was exalted above the Angels as explained in Heb. 1, Jesus took the names of the Angels as He took those of God Himself.

Father of the Eternal Age- The "eternal age" of the Kingdom of peace could have come at that time, with the Messianic son of Isaiah as the father of that eternal age. But it didn't. It was reapplied to the Lord Jesus, who because He never sought equality with God was given the Name above every Name, all the titles of the Father, in order to give glory to the Father (Phil. 2:8-11; the whole reasoning contradicts the Trinitarian dogma). To be a "father" of something means being the source of something; it doesn't mean that the person in view is therefore 'God the Father'. An eternal Messianic kingdom could then have been established; Judah were urged to repent and allow it to happen in Is. 26:4. And the same potential was there for the exiles who returned from Babylon (Is. 45:17; 65:18). And the "father" of that could have been a Messianic figure who arose in Jerusalem. But these potentials have been reapplied and rescheduled to the Kingdom of the Lord Jesus to be established in Zion in the last days. The titles here, including "father", are applied to Eliakim in Is. 22:21; as noted there, Eliakim could have become a Messiah figure at the time, but he failed (Is. 22:25). So the prophecies were reapplied to the Lord Jesus.

Prince of Peace- "Prince" is also a military term, used of the Assyrian generals in Is. 10:8; 31:9 (also s.w. Jer. 40:7 "the captains of the forces"). The Messianic prince of peace could have been the answer to them; but instead Judah preferred to trust in the princes of Egypt (Is. 19:11). And so the Prince who would bring eternal peace from the surrounding enemies was a prophecy reapplied to the Lord Jesus.

Is. 9:6 states that the Lord Jesus personally is "called" or "proclaimed" as peace. This is the same Hebrew word as in Dt. 20:10- Israel were to "proclaim peace" to cities they attacked, demanding either their submission or destruction. And yet we are the ones who "proclaim [the] peace" of Christ to men (Is. 52:7). Insofar as we represent Him in our witness, our hearers are faced with a radical choice- to submit to Him or eternally perish. It's easy to forget that this is how God sees it, as we witness to people. We're so used to the rejection of our message that we perhaps fail to see the eternal importance of the choice we lay before people; and this should impart a verve and urgency of appeal to our preaching, rather than an indifferent inviting of people to meetings, discussion, etc.

LXX has "and his name is called the Messenger of the great council". The members of this court of Heaven have various names- Holy ones (Hos. 12:1; Zech.  14:5); spirits (1 Kings 22:21-23; Ps 104:4); messengers/angels (Ps 91:11; 103:20); ministers (Ps 103:21; 104:4); servants (Job 4:18); those on high (Job 21:22); princes (Josh. 5:14; Dan 10:13). Supremely, Is. 9:5 LXX speaks of Messiah as "the Messenger of the Great Council" [megales boules angelos]. He was to be the vehicle through which Yahweh of Hosts of Angelic armies operated on earth to Israel's salvation.

Isaiah is full of allusions to Zoroastrian ideas (see on Is. 45:6), seeking to teach Judah the true position on these things. Thus it was taught that “Saviours will come from the seed of Zoroaster, and in the end, the great Saviour”, who would be born of a virgin, resurrect the dead and give immortality. These ideas are picked up in Is. 9:6 and applied prophetically to the ultimate Saviour, Jesus – as if to warn the Jews not to accept the prevalent Persian ideas in this area. Indeed as suggested on Is. 1:1, it appears that [under Divine inspiration] much of the Hebrew Bible was rewritten in Babylon, in order to deconstruct the ideas which Israel were meeting in Babylon.


The verse could be rendered: “And the wonderful Counsellor, the mighty God, calls his name Eternal-Father, Prince of Peace..."- as if God gives His own titles to this son, which would fit admirably with what God gave to Jesus on His ascension (Phil. 2:7-11). If it is accepted that in the first instance, the child in view was the child of Isaiah and his wife, then we need not conclude that the titles and Divine name given to the child imply that he was to be God Himself in person. The failure of the unnamed son of Isaiah to fulfill the intended role meant that the prophecy had fulfilment in Christ- which is in harmony with the interpretation I have offered for the preceding verses of the chapter.


Isaiah 9:7 Of the increase of his government and of peace there shall be no end, on the throne of David, and on his kingdom, to establish it, and to uphold it with justice and with righteousness-
As explained on :6, this was the Messianic kingdom which could have come in Isaiah's time. But the people of Judah preferred to continue in injustice and unrighteousness- two of the frequent complaints Isaiah makes about their behaviour. David did "judgment and justice" (2 Sam. 8:15; 1 Chron. 18:14), and yet David said that it was God who executed judgment and justice (Ps. 99:4; 103:6).

 The idea is that the throne of David, i.e. the Davidic Kingdom, was to be restored- with God reigning through and manifested in the Messianic King, just as He had been in and through David in the past. The Kingdom of God will eternally increase, just as the little stone of Daniel 2 keeps expanding over the earth. It may imply that God's rulership over us will eternally increase, or that we will eternally be involved in expanding and increasing His Kingship [or Kingdom] over other entities, perhaps in the natural creation, or further throughout the infinite cosmos. Whatever, the essence of wanting to extend His Kingdom / Kingship should be programmatic for our lives now, in pastoral care, exhortation, encouragement and preaching work- as well as progressively submitting ourselves to His rulership. For this extension of His Kingship is what we shall spend eternity doing.

From that time on, even forever- AV "From henceforth even for ever". This eternal Kingdom was intended to start in Isaiah's time, through the work of his son (either his literal son, or his spiritual son / disciple Hezekiah). But it didn't- although the possibility and intention was there. Again, we conclude that the establishment of the eternal Kingdom was rescheduled for fulfilment in the Lord Jesus, the One who lived up to all God's hopes and prophetic expectations.


The zeal of Yahweh of Armies will perform this- "The zeal" is s.w. jealousy, envy. God's motivation was not because Judah were righteous but because He was jealous for His beloved but wayward people. The Hebrew word translated " zeal" in the context of God's zeal for us (Is. 9:8) really means the jealousy which flares up in a man for a woman (the same word is in Num. 5:14,15; Prov. 6:34; Song 8:6 etc.). That jealousy burning like fire (Ps. 79:5) is His passion for us His people. He is a jealous God in His zeal for us; and therefore any other relationships with the things of this world cannot be contemplated by us. That zeal of God will be poured out upon us at the second coming, resulting in a consummation with Him as the wife of His covenant (Is. 42:13,14; 64:1). This is a figure which would be unseemly for a man to devise. But this is His passion for us, which the humility of God drives Him to use; and surely it will one day be revealed. To use this very figure of a man in love and consummating his relationship in marriage is so apparently inappropriate that it reflects the humility of God in even considering the use of it. We are God's heritage, His reward / wages (Heb.), His recompense for all His labour for us (Ps. 127:3 Heb.).

Isaiah 9:8 The Lord sent a word into Jacob, and it falls upon Israel-
The sending forth of Isaiah (s.w. Is. 6:8) was the sending forth of God's word to His people. Isaiah like the Lord Jesus and like us, was the word made flesh. The man became his message; there was a congruence between him personally and the word preached.

Isaiah 9:9 All the people will know, including Ephraim and the inhabitants of Samaria, who say in pride and in arrogance of heart-
Israel had lost their hold on true doctrine, many scarcely knew the Law (Is. 57:4,5; 59:3). They got drunk at the temple feasts (Is. 36:10-12; 58:3,4), like Corinth they had an "eat, drink, for tomorrow we die" mentality (Is. 22:12,13); they committed all manner of sexual perversions, along with almost every other form of doctrinal and moral apostasy (Is. 5:11-13,24; 8:19; 9:15; 22:12,13; 24:5; 27:11; 28:7; 30:10; 31:6; 44:8-20; consider the similarities with Corinth). This list is worth reading through. And consider the terrible implications of their perversion in Is. 66:17. But the early chapters of Isaiah sternly rebuke Israel for their pride- there is not a whisper of all these other things until later (Is. 2:11-22; 3:16-20; 5:15; 9:9). And even throughout the later rebukes, there is the repeated criticism of their pride (Is. 13:11; 16:6; 23:9; 24:4; 25:11; 26:5; 28:1,3,14; 29:4; 30:25; 50:33; 57:15). This is why Isaiah's prophecies of Christ stress His humility (Acts 8:33), and the "lofty", "high", "exaltation" of God. These words, common in Isaiah, are those translated “pride" in Isaiah's condemnations of Israel's arrogance; as if to say that God was the only one who could be 'proud'.

The only other occurence of the phrase "proud heart" is in Is. 10:12, where this is said of the king of Assyria. Their hearts were no better than that of Sennacherib, and so they were punished as he was. In their hearts they were Gentiles.

Isaiah 9:10 The bricks have fallen, but we will rebuild with cut stone. The sycamore fig trees have been cut down, but we will put cedars in their place-
Israel were determined to overcome the effects of Divine judgment in their own strength; just as today men vainly battle every way they can to resist the effects of Divine judgment. LXX "and let us build for ourselves a tower" equates them with the builders of Babel / Babylon. And so an even greater judgment was to come upon them, at the hands of Babylon - Assyria.

Isaiah 9:11 Therefore Yahweh will set up on high against him the adversaries of Rezin, and will stir up his enemies-
This suggests that the Rezin, the king of Syria, would have enemies who would unite against him (perhaps a reference to the latter day uniting of rebel factions against the Syrian regime), and yet at the same time would join with the Philistines (Palestinians) to be as the jaw of a beast closing upon Israel (:12). "Stir up" is really "join together", as AV. The enemies of Syria were going to join with Syria in devouring Israel (:12). We get a sense of politics and temporary alliances between groups which soon turned against each other, despite having Israel as their common enemy. This is precisely the situation we see in the eretz or land promised to Abraham today; these prophecies are coming to their latter day fulfilment. See on :19.

Isaiah 9:12 the Syrians in front and the Philistines behind; and they will devour Israel with open mouth-
Again the image of a devouring beast represents the neighbours of Israel, acting as a wild beast towards her. And that continues throughout Daniel and Revelation. These ancient prophecies are beginning to be fulfilled in the last days, with Syria and the Palestinians / Philistines of the sea coast likely to crush an impenitent Israel.

For all this, His anger is not turned away, but His hand is stretched out still- Isaiah later uses this figure of His hand being stretched out still to describe how God stretches out His hand in appeal for repentance (Is. 65:2). As Emil Brunner observed, "the wrath of God is the love of God". His anger did not turn away exactly because it was His arm stretched out in appeal for Israel's repentance. The smiting of Israel by God's hand was in order that they might turn to Him (:13)- it was not any kind of vindictive anger. Our actions typically have only one or two functions, whereas God is the God of boundless function. His words and actions therefore have multiple intentions and fulfillments- a feature often hard for us to comprehend.

Isaiah 9:13 Yet the people have not turned to Him who struck them, neither have they sought Yahweh of Armies-
See on :6. God was the one behind all the enemies of His people. His hand was and still is stretched out against Israel until they turn to Him, which is why the end of Judah's final woes at the hand of her neighbouring enemies will be only when they turn to God in accepting His Son. His hand is stretched out against them for they do not turn unto Him (God) who smites them.

Isaiah 9:14 Therefore Yahweh will cut off from Israel head and tail, palm branch and reed, in one day-
Both the leadership ("the elder... is the head", :15) and the ordinary people were equally guilty, as 9:16 says in so many words, and as Isaiah opened his prophecy in chapter 1 by declaring, in his appeal to both the heavens and the earth. Following bad leadership is not, therefore, any mitigation for the sins committed by ordinary, mislead people. Verse 17 is chilling in this connection- widows and young orphans were all counted as equally guilty and were not spared. Even though God in other contexts is very much the defender of the widows and orphans. The intended judgment was to be "in one day"; suddenly, in moments, every sector of Israelite society was to be destroyed. But this isn't what happened. The various prophetic scenarios at the time didn't all happen; but they are reapplied to the last days.

Isaiah 9:15 The elder and the honourable man is the head, and the prophet who teaches lies is the tail-
The false prophets of the last days in Israel were around in Isaiah's time, and according to Jewish tradition, they sawed Isaiah in half after Hezekiah died. His ministry was not without serious opposition from amongst his own people.

Isaiah 9:16 For those who lead this people lead them astray; and those who are led by them are destroyed-
But in moral, ethical terms, those led astray were destroyed because they had been willing to be led astray. After all, Isaiah and his school of the prophets were giving them true teaching, and they chose to ignore that. "Destroyed" is better 'to devour'; the devouring of Israel by the beast of :12 was because they willfully followed their false prophets. 'Lead astray' is the same word as in Is. 53:6: "All we like sheep have gone astray, we have turned every one to his own way". So although they were led astray, they had chosen this path, making the way of the false prophets their "own way". So they were not simply punished because of being naive, or listening to wrong information. There was more election in it than that.

Isaiah 9:17 Therefore the Lord will not rejoice over their young men, neither will He have compassion on their fatherless and widows; for each one is profane and an evildoer-
See on :14. Their 'evil doing' was likely in not saying anything. As has been so often observed by those who have suffered from oppressive regimes, it is the silent majority who quietly tut-tut but do not oppose and thereby enable evil, who are in fact the most guilty.

And every mouth speaks folly- Isaiah and Hezekiah were alone in their faithfulness to Yahweh. The salvation of Jerusalem is explained in Isaiah 1 as only because of the existence of a faithful remnant, and that remnant was basically just Isaiah's family. Isaiah 1 and other chapters emphasize the total apostasy of Judah at this time. We note that it was because of their words that they were condemned; and that sensitivity to our language continues to this day (Mt. 12:37).

For all this His anger is not turned away, but His hand is stretched out still- See on :12.

Isaiah 9:18 For wickedness burns like a fire, it devours the briers and thorns-
Briers and thorns is an allusion to the curse upon the garden of Eden- another reason for understanding Eden as eretz Israel, from whom likewise Israel were to be exiled to the east. Yet "briers and thorns" is a term used by Isaiah about the aggressive, thorny nature of Judah (here and Is. 10:17). Their whole land was to become like them (Is. 5:6; 7:23-25); and so their judgment was but an extension of their own behaviour.

Yes, it kindles in the thickets of the forest, and they roll upward in a column of smoke- The smoke columns caused by the invaders were actually kindled by the wickedness of God's people. The idea is that the fire spreads from individual thorn bushes and brambles to consume whole thickets of trees. Perhaps the idea is that individual apostasy called for individual judgment, but this spread to the whole nation. Not by any 'guilt by association', but insofar as personal example comes to influence the whole group.

Wickedness burns- The actual sin of the people is spoken of as the fire of judgment. Sin is condemnation. To choose to sin is to choose to live out condemnation and apply it to ourselves. The essence of final judgment is therefore going on right now in our behaviour.


Isaiah 9:19 Through the wrath of Yahweh of Armies, the land is burnt up; and the people are the fuel for the fire. No one spares his brother- "Fuel for the fire" is the same phrase found in :5, where this is to be the judgment upon the enemies of Israel and Judah. The judgment that could then have come upon their enemies was to come upon them, because they refused to repent and thus precluded the prophetic potential of :5 from coming about. As explained on :18, the people were both the fire and the fuel for the fire. What is envisaged here is a complete meltdown of relationships, with both Israel and Judah under attack by a group of neighbours who were enemies with each other but united against God's people (see on :11); and at the same time, Israel and Judah warring with each other. This didn't happen in Isaiah's time, and so the prophetic scenario has been recalculated and reapplied to other times and especially to the last days.

Isaiah 9:20 One will devour on the right hand, and be hungry; and he will eat on the left hand, and they will not be satisfied. Everyone will eat the flesh of his own arm-
As explained on :19, the devouring of God's people by the mouth of the beast of her neighbours (:12) was to also involve God's people devouring each other. And finally, they would eat themselves. The LXX here appears to be alluded to in the New Testament, because the precise scenario here envisaged didn't quite come true in Isaiah's time: we can bite and devour one another (Gal. 5:15), as the Jews did in their day of condemnation in the Babylonian invasion (quoting Is. 9:19,20 LXX; Jer. 13:14). By doing so we are acting out our own condemnation.

Isaiah 9:21 Manasseh, Ephraim; and Ephraim, Manasseh; and they together shall be against Judah-
This appears to be saying that Israel would be divided against itself, and also Israel would be against Judah.

For all this His anger is not turned away, but His hand is stretched out still- See on :12. What is envisaged here is a complete meltdown of relationships, with both Israel and Judah under attack by a group of neighbours who were enemies with each other but united against God's people (see on :11); and at the same time, Israel and Judah warring with each other. This didn't happen in Isaiah's time, and so the prophetic scenario has been recalculated and reapplied to other times and especially to the last days.