Nazarene Space

Unto Us a Child is Born- Is. 9:6-7 and the Prophetic Perfect

James Scott Trimm

We read in Isaiah 9:6-7:

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.

Of the increase of his government and peace there shall
be no end, upon the throne of David, and upon his kingdom,
to order it, and to establish it with judgment and with
justice from henceforth even for ever. The zeal of the LORD
of hosts will perform this.
(Is. 9:6-7 KJV)

Is. 9:6, 7 ... anti-missionaries including Tovia Singer LOVE to claim this must be past tense and refer to an event prior to Isaiah's writing.

In reality there is no such thing as tense in Hebrew grammar. In reality Hebrew verbs do not take past, present and future forms, but perfect (completed action) or imperfect (incomplete action).

In Hebrew thinking, an action is regarded as
being either completed or incomplete. Hebrew,
therefore, knows no past, present, or future tenses,
but has instead a Perfect and an Imperfect. ...
The Hebrew Perfect may be taken to represent
action in the past... the equivalent of the English
present tense is supplied by the participle.... and the
[equivalent of] the English future tense (with other
varieties) by the imperfect.
(A Practical Grammer for Classical Hebrew. 2nd Ed.
Clarendon Press; Oxford; 1959; J. A. Weingreen pp. 56-57)

To be strictly accurate we should speak of "forms" rather than "tenses" of the verb, since it is the completeness or otherwise of an action which is being expressed and not the time factor, as in English....

...Hebrew has no "tenses" in the normal sense of
the word. Instead there are two "states"...
(Teach Yourself Biblical Hebrew; R.K. Harrison;
1984; pages 68, 80)

Normally a verb in the perfect form would imply a past tense which is why Singer insists this must be past tense and that it therefore refers to Hezekiah.

In reality there is a special idiom in Hebrew called the "Prophetic Perfect" this is where prophet speaks of future events in the perfect form because he has seen them in the future where they have already happened.

Gesenius' mentions the Prophetic Perfect idiom and describes it this way:

...he [the prophetic writer] describes the future
event as if it had been already seen or heard by him.
(Gesenius' Hebrew Grammar. 2nd edition
Translated by A. E. Crowley; Clarendon Press;
Oxford; 1956; Edited by E. Klautzsch; pp. 312-313)

There are many examples of the Prophetic Perfect in the Tanak:

Isaiah 5:13 "Therefore My people are gone into captivity, for want of knowledge; and their honorable men are famished, and their multitude are parched with thirst" (JPS)

In this verse (Is. 5:13) this verb is in the perfect form but it is clearly a future event because the captivity spoken of did not occur in Isaiah's lifetime.

Other examples are:

Isaiah 10:28-32 "He is come to Aiath, he is passed through Migron; at Michmas he layeth up his baggage; They are gone over the pass; they have taken up their lodging at Geba; Ramah trembleth; Gibeath-shaul is fled. Cry thou with a shrill voice, O daughter of Gallim! Hearken, O Laish! O thou poor Anathoth! Madmenah is in mad flight; the inhabitants of Gebim flee to cover. This very day shall he halt at Nob, shaking his hand at the mount of the daughter of Zion, the hill of Jerusalem." (JPS)

Jeremiah 23:2 "Therefore thus saith the Lord, the God of Israel, against the shepherds that feed My people: Ye have scattered My flock, and driven them away, and have not taken care of them; behold, I will visit upon you the evil of your doings, saith the Lord." (JPS)

Amos 5:2 "The virgin of Israel is fallen, she shall no more rise; she is cast down upon her land, there is none to raise her up" (JPS)

In fact the Targum Jonathan to Isaiah 9:6-7 clearly identifies the figure spoken of in Is. 9:6-7 as the Messiah.

"The prophet says to the house of David, A child has been born to us, a son has been given to us; and he has taken the law upon himself to keep it, and his name has been called from of old, Wonderful counselor, Mighty God, he who lives forever, the Messiah, in whose days peace shall increase upon us"
(Targum Jonathan Is. 9:6)

And we read in the Midrash Rabbah:

Rabbi Jose the Galilean says: The name of the Messiah too is
"peace"; as it is written: "God the mighty, the everlasting Father,
the ruler of peace" (Quoting Is. 9:5-6 (6-7))

He said to him: ‘I have yet to raise up the Messiah,’ of whom it is written, For a child is born to us (Isa. IX, 5). Until I come unto my Lord unto Seir (Gen. XXXIII, I4). R. Samuel b. Nahman said: We have searched all the Scriptures and we have nowhere found [it stated] that Jacob ever came together with Esau at Seir. What then is the meaning of, 'Unto Seir’? Jacob [meant] to say to him: 'I have yet to raise up judges and saviours to exact punishment from you.’ Whence this? For it is said, And saviours shall come up on mount Zion to judge the mount of Esau (Obad. I, 21). Israel asked God: ‘Master of the Universe, how long shall we remain subjected to him?' He replied: 'Until the day comes of which it is written, There shall step forth a star out of Jacob and a sceptre shall rise out of Israel (Num. XXIV, 17); when a star shall step forth from Jacob and devour the stubble of Esau.’
(Midrash Rabbah - Deuteronomy I:20)

And we read in the Zohar:

"As for the expression El Gibbor, the whole verse in which this occurs in an epitome of the holy supernal faith. The word "Wonderful" alludes to the supernal Wisdom, which is wondrous and concealed beyond the reach of all; "Counsellor" is the supernal stream which issues forth perennially and counsels all and waters all; "El" refers to Abraham, "Gibbor" to Issac, and "Everlasting Father" to Jacob, who lays hold of both sides and attains perfection. The "Prince of Peace" is the Zaddik, who brings peace to the world, peace to the House, peace to the Matrona."
(Zohar 3:31a)

So even the ancient sages understood Isaiah 9:5-6 (6-7 in some editions) to refer to a FUTURE MESSIAH. Why would they do this if this passage supposedly obviously speaks of the past? Obviously it does NOT have to be in the past tense. Like Isaiah 5:13 it is written in the prophetic perfect.

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Views: 152

Comment by Dr Sarah Carrol on May 28, 2014 at 2:55pm

Yes of course, however one thing not much talked about or discussed, which seems to be "and the government shall be on His shoulder?" 

This may not be very popular, but should be some food for thought at least? His shoulders, if we are the body of Christ, then the shoulders is a part of the body, which of course is attached to the head? 

What works against the body more than what is happening on earth, but a thing called division. I do not speak of evil, but of truth in that He has already given us every spiritual blessing, but it is up to us to stand in that authority and to stand together as one body. In standing together by the same Spirit, there is no division and forget that concept of lets agree to disagree as it is impossible for the Spirit to have differing opinions? 

The question is what do we labor to do here on earth? Do we labor to come together to walk together as one body and deal with all things pertaining to man and mankind or do we remain divided missing the will of our Father, which is to represent His love and will to all people on earth, listening to His Spirit, speaking or writing only what He gives us to speak and write or are we on our own plan for which there is no salvation, but the desert and the desert was a place to go and die. 

We know His will and His ways, yet we find it so difficult to stand together to demonstrate His love, will and ways? By this we will be judged as to what is more important in our lives, His will, ways or our own, coming up with a multitude of excuses as to why we cannot use His will or ways? His will and ways are for us to understand our individual calling and purpose and the bodies calling and purpose, but it is a choice. He has given us a way out, which is love and unity in the body of Christ. 

Now, lets dwell on why this is happening the way it is in division. It is so that we are forced to stand by ourselves only with the armor we have been given, which works except if one is standing alone as it is easy to be surrounded and overcome by the enemy as there is no protection in the armor for our backs, that is for each of us to stand as one in Him and each other and the only way that happens is through the five fold gift ministry and through love, which comes from the Spirit. Do we think of ourselves as one with Him and each other? If not then we may not be as much a part of the body as we want to believe? Yes we may have a lot of smarts, but smarts are not heart. The Kingdom cannot be inherited by smarts but the heart to do things His way instead of our own way, which is to usually stand by ourselves?

Comment by James Trimm on May 28, 2014 at 3:03pm

Since we KNOW Messiah will reign for 1,000 years during the Millennial Kingdom, there is no real reason to look further for the answer to the phrase "the governments shall be upon his shoulders"


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