Isaiah 8:21–9:7. The Sign of the Child. Pt.ii.
Key Notes: A time for Galilee. The name of the Child. Erroneous views of the Incarnation.
Some commentators think of this passage as the completion of the previous text starting at chapter 7, regarding Ahaz and the prophecy of Immanuel. It contains our two most important OT announcements of the Incarnation.
8:21–22 The people who have rejected God and gone to mediums will go into exile cursing God and their king, and facing the ground in despair.
9:1–5 But light would dawn later in the place where the tribes of Naphtali and Zebulun lived, Galilee of the Gentiles. This territory was near Tyre and Sidon of Phoenicia on the West, with Hittites and Syrians to the North, Bashan and Ammon to the East. It was a mixed population probably throughout its history. It was first captured by the Assyrians in 732BC, its people deported, and it essentially became a district of Assyria. After the Assyrians, it was again invaded and depopulated by the Babylonians. It survived the succeeding conquests by Persians, Greeks, and Romans before the time of Christ.
Jesus spent the large majority of his time in this territory, now called Galilee, fulfilling the prophecy of Isaiah:
"...leaving Nazareth he went and lived in Capernaum by the sea, in the territory of Zebulun and Naphtali, that what was spoke by the prophet Isaiah might be fulfilled: 'The land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali toward the sea, across the Jordan, Galilee of the Gentiles--the people who sat in darkness have seen a great light, and for those who sat in the region and shadow of death, light has dawned.' From that time Jesus began to preach, saying 'Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.'" (Matt.4:13–17)
It was not a highly regarded district.
"Can any good thing come out of Nazareth?" (Jn.1:46). No spiritual leadership could be expected there.
"Is the Christ to come from Galilee? ...the Christ comes from Bethlehem, the village where David was." (Jn.7:41).
"Search and you will see that no prophet is to rise from Galilee." (Jn.7:52)
But it would be a great time for Galilee. The nation multiplied, the joy increased as at harvest or the conclusion of war. The bondage of spiritual captivity was broken.
"...and a great multitude from Galilee followed...and from beyond the Jordan and from about Tyre and Sidon, a great multitude, hearing all that He did, came to Him." (Mk.3:7).
" ...and the crowd came together again, so that they could not even eat." (Mk.3:20).
"And He began to teach beside the sea and a very large crowd gathered about Him, so that He got into a boat and sat in it on the sea, and the whole crowd beside the sea on the land."(Mk.4:1).
"...a great crowd gathered about him...." (Mk.5:21,24)
Sadly, the joy in Galilee did not last long. Popularity was not followed by repentance and conversion.
"He began to upbraid the cities where most of his mighty works had been done, because they did not repent"--Chorazin, Bethsaida and Capernaum. 'And you, Capernaum, will you be exalted to heaven? You shall be brought down to Hades. For if the mighty works done in you had been done in Sodom, it would have remained until this day.' But I tell you that it shall be more tolerable on the day of judgment for the land of Sodom than for you." (Matt.11:20–24).
We must beware of pseudo-revivals. Crowds and enthusiasm are not enough. Saying "Lord, Lord" does not admit us to the Kingdom. Matt.7:21
9:5–7 The prophecy is complex. It is written as if already fulfilled, although the outcome was 700 years away. Part of the fulfillment came during Christ's first advent: "For to us child is born, to us a son is given." The end of war suggested by the burning of military garments is expected at Christ's second advent. The increase of His government and peace (His Kingdom) began in the hearts of the disciples, and continues to this day but will be completed with justice and righteousness at His second advent.
9:5–7 The name (singular) of The Child is
Mighty God, or God the Warrior / Hero
Everlasting Father, or Father of Eternity
Prince of Peace.
The first and last names suggest humanity; the second and third, deity--Deity contained in humanity! The Trinity is suggested since the Holy Spirit is also called the Counselor. (Jn.14:16). God is usually called Father in NT. We associate Christ with peace. (Isa.9:7; Lk.1:79; Jn.14:27; Acts 10:36). On the other hand, we are not used to thinking of Jesus as Father (except Jn.14:9), or as warrior. It appears that all aspects of the Trinity reside in Him. However, He is not all of the Trinity but one Person in It.
The incarnation is laid out plainly here: a child is born to us---a human being. A son is given---Son of David. Yet He is Mighty God, Everlasting Father. How are we to understand the incarnation? Does Scripture explain it? Only this: "The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be called holy, the Son of God." (Lk.1:35)
But what is the nature of the relationship between the divine and the human? The early Church struggled with as many as seven explanations of the incarnation, which is closely linked to the Trinity. The problem of the Trinity is the God-Man. Other religions do not struggle with the Holy Spirit--a mere emanation from God. It is Christ as a human being that is the stumbling block in Christianity.
There have been various attempts to solve the mystery of the incarnation. The first four of the errors deny Jesus' deity in an attempt to protect the oneness of God.
•Sabellius (250AD) said Jesus is one of the masks God wears. The Trinity is modal, as ice, water and steam are all water (H20).
But the Word was with God (Jn.1:1). "With" indicates personalities in fellowship.
•The Ebionites (107AD) were a Jewish off-shoot of the early Church that believed Jesus was only a man, a good moral teacher.
But in Jn.14:9, Jesus says "He who has seen Me has seen the Father."
•Arius (325AD) taught that Christ was a created being, next in rank to God, but that "there was a time when He was not".
But "In the beginning was the Word" (Jn.1:1) . He is "...Everlasting Father" (Isa.9:6).
•Nestorius (431AD) taught the Christ was a man very near to God, a temple of God, uniquely filled with the Holy Spirit.
But Jn.1:1 says "The Word was God".
The following three positions deny Jesus' humanity to protect His deity.
•Docetae (100AD) were a group that denied the reality of Christ's body. He only appeared to be a man; matter is evil and cannot support the good.
But "...every spirit which confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is of God." (I Jn.4:2)
•Apollinarius (381AD) taught that Christ had a human body and a divine mind in place of his human mind. But "He was tempted in all points as we are, yet without sin. " (Heb. 4:15)
•Monophysites (451AD) taught that the divine and human natures mixed to make a unique third nature. But then He is not truly human.
The Chalcedonian Creed (451AD) said that Christ's two natures were , unchangeable, undivided and inseparable.
The best answer to the question of the incarnation is that it is a paradox, a problem that cannot be solved, a mystery hidden in God, and it is at the core of who Jesus Christ is. And for us, the Incarnation, Immanuel, God with us, is our joy and rejoicing.