The Davidic Servant | Prophecies of a Latter-Day David

Isaiah’s Prophecies of a Latter-Day David

(Excerpts from Endtime Prophecy, pp 125–189, by Avraham Gileadi Ph.D.)

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“From the days of Israel’s prophets, Jews have expected a latter-day David, a servant of God who will reestablish the political kingdom of God on the earth, much as it existed in Israel’s Golden Age in the days of Kings David and Solomon. Jews anticipate that this messianic figure will gather Israel’s twelve tribes from their dispersion throughout the earth and rebuild the temple in Jerusalem, ushering in Jehovah’s coming to reign on the earth. Those Jewish hopes are based not on tradition alone, nor on speculation, but on the predictions of prophets from Isaiah to Malachi that locate the mission of the Davidic servant in the endtime—at Israel’s spiritual and physical restoration. For holding fast to their beliefs, Jews down the ages have suffered grievous persecution by Christians, and we know from many scriptural examples that those who persecute aren’t in the right. Rather, a persistent trait of God’s covenant people who were exiled among the nations is that they have been evil spoken of and persecuted.

Christians, on the other hand, have traditionally assigned all messianic prophecies to Jesus of Nazareth, regardless of whether they match his earthly mission at his first or second comings and in spite of the endtime context of Israel’s restoration in which almost all such prophecies occur. When asked to provide scriptural evidence for their anomalous interpretations, the most Christians can offer is that it is “tradition,” or that “everybody knows they refer to Jesus.” Well, the Jews don’t know that, and, according to the Book of Mormon, “The Jews do understand the things of the prophets, and there is none other people that understand the things which were spoken unto the Jews like unto them, save it be that they are taught after the manner of the things of the Jews” (2 Nephi 25:5). That being the case, what prevents Christians from considering that there might be more to messianic prophecies than meets the eye? Have they actually examined and compared them or merely glossed over portions of them?

Still, the Jewish rejection of Jesus has loomed so large in Christians’ minds that, although they may give lip service to the idea that the Jews understand some things, Christians need not pay them much attention because “the Jews got it wrong!” The Jews’ big mistake on that point (so goes many Christians’ thinking) absolves Christians of any obligation to acquaint themselves with Jewish methods for understanding the words of the prophets. Once one believes in Jesus as the Messiah, the Savior of the world, what else is there to know that is of any consequence? Never mind that Jesus was a Jew who taught within the Jewish prophetic tradition and defended its precepts. In short, even though God saw fit to bequeath so many sacred scriptures to the Jews (continuing such thinking), the Jews hardly understand them. Rather, it is Christians, who are identified with the Gentiles, who understand the Bible better than the Jews! The Jews, in that case, should learn from the Christians, not the other way around!

That kind of hubris has so prevailed down the centuries that it has deprived Christians of many truths pertaining to the kingdom of God that are had among the Jews. The Book of Mormon touches on this point when it says, “What thank they the Jews for the Bible which they receive from them? Yea, what do the Gentiles mean? Do they remember the travails, and the labors, and the pains of the Jews, and their diligence unto me, in bringing forth salvation unto the Gentiles? O ye Gentiles, have ye remembered the Jews, mine ancient covenant people? Nay; but ye have cursed them, and have hated them, and have not sought to recover them. But behold, I will return all these things upon your own heads; for I the Lord have not forgotten my people” (2 Nephi 29:4–5). Didn’t Paul warn the Gentiles to “boast not against the [natural] branches” of the olive tree—the Jews—to “be not high-minded but fear,” because the Gentiles, being wild branches, stand to be “cut off” more than the Jews (Romans 11:17–25)? . . . 

As for the Christian approach that assigns all things messianic to Jesus, where did it originate? If it is at variance with the scriptures, shouldn’t Christians consider that all messianic prophecies aren’t equal, that some predict things of a temporal nature and others of a spiritual nature? Again, the Book of Mormon is helpful, stating that after the Bible and its prophecies “go forth from the Jews in purity unto the Gentiles, according to the truth which is in God,” the Gentiles remove “many parts which are plain and most precious and also many covenants of the Lord have they taken away” (1 Nephi 13:25–26). Small wonder that latter-day Mormon leaders predict that the Gentiles will be just as mistaken about Jesus’ second coming as the Jews were about his first (Brigham Young, Journal of Discourses, 8:115). Jesus, on the other hand, declares that the Jews and other natural lineages of Israel will accept his gospel at the time the Gentiles reject it after first having received it (3 Nephi 16:10–11; 20:27–31).

The parallel mention of “plain and precious parts” and “covenants of the Lord”—both of which the Gentiles have removed from the Bible (1 Nephi 13:26)—indeed holds the key to what is missing from Christians’ understanding of messianic prophecies. That is because from the beginning the Bible’s covenant theology has been central to understanding the nature of temporal as well as spiritual messianic roles. Those covenants reappear in the Book of Mormon, but in its case, too, only a knowledge of the terms of the covenants brings them to light because of the false Christian tradition that assigns all messianic prophecies solely to Jesus. Chief among those covenants is the Davidic Covenant and its operating principle of proxy salvation through which a righteous king obtains God’s deliverance of his people from a mortal threat. Such covenants, however, have antecedents in emperor–vassal covenants of the ancient Near East, which have served as models of covenants with Israel’s God through the ages.

On the model of ancient Near Eastern covenants, for example, Israel’s God assumes the role of emperor and King David and his heirs the role of vassals. Israelite kings were known as Jehovah’s “anointed” or “messiah” (masiah) (1 Samuel 24:6, 10; 2 Samuel 19:21; 2 Chronicles 6:42; Psalm 89:51) because of the temporal salvation they obtained on behalf of their peoples. In that context, the Book of Mormon correctly identifies a king’s role as “a protector . . . on whom ye depend for safety” (2 Nephi 6:2). Book of Mormon kingship follows the Davidic Covenant’s pattern of proxy salvation, in which the king keeps God’s law and the people keep the king’s law in order to obtain Jehovah’s protection. Ignorance of the workings of God’s covenants—upon which temporal and spiritual salvation are based—thus divides Jews and Christians even to this day. Of the endtime, therefore, Isaiah protests, “They have transgressed the laws, changed the ordinances, set at naught the ancient covenant” (Isaiah 24:5). . . .

Even while Jehovah/Jesus acts as emperor to his people Israel under the terms of the collective Sinai Covenant, he acts as a vassal king to an emperor—his Father, the Most High God—under the terms of the individual Davidic Covenant (cf. John 15:10; Luke 1:31–35; 8:28). His dual roles on the highest spiritual level—(1) of emperor to his people; and (2) of a vassal to an emperor—lay the groundwork for all salvation that follows. Because both the temporal and spiritual salvation of God’s people in any age of the world operates on the same emperor–vassal model, Jesus’ dual roles additionally establish the divine hierarchy that extends to vassal kings and their peoples ancient and endtime. King David, for example, who functions as a historical type or precedent of Jehovah/Jesus’ savior role, acts as vassal to Jehovah but as emperor to his people and to the kings of his empire. David’s endtime counterpart, the latter-day David, follows the same messianic pattern as his illustrious forebear.

Prophecies that predict Israel’s restoration before Jehovah/Jesus comes to reign on the earth, moreover, suggest that the dire conditions prevailing in those times will test his people’s loyalties to the utmost. That situation will once again require vassal kings—the latter-day David and other endtime servants of God—to act as surety for their people’s temporal salvation under the terms of the Davidic Covenant (Isaiah 37:35; 63:17; 65:8). Because many of God’s people Israel will in that day be renewing the covenant with Jehovah/Jesus, their spiritual state will be such that they will not as yet qualify for God’s protection under the terms of the collective Sinai Covenant, therefore requiring proxy saviors—vassal kings under the terms of the Davidic covenant—to answer for their disloyalties to the emperor. Without the foundation of spiritual salvation wrought by Jehovah/Jesus on which all salvation rests, however (cf. Isaiah 43:12, 24–25; 44:22; 53:5), no salvation, temporal or spiritual, can occur.

But by assuming that at his second coming Jesus will deviate from the patterns of the past and himself alone save people spiritually and temporally, Christians set at naught all instances of temporal salvation, past and future, and the theology behind them. A Mormon scripture answers such confusion with a classic prophetic perspective: “I will give unto you a pattern in all things, that ye may not be deceived; for Satan is abroad in the land, and he goeth forth deceiving the nations” (Doctrine & Covenants 52:14). God’s patterns of the past are indeed essential to understanding all that transpires in the future. Isaiah, for example, prophesies nothing new except he bases it on something old, predicting over thirty endtime events patterned after ancient events. (Gileadi, Book of Isaiah, 90–92.) To Nephite descendants of Joseph and Judah, Jesus reaffirmed Isaiah’s typological method of prophesying when he declared, “All things that he [Isaiah] spake have been and shall be” (3 Nephi 23:3; emphasis added).

Who would have us believe, therefore, that when so many events repeat themselves that precede his second coming, Jesus will personally take the lead in them all while his servants stand idly by? Do modern Bible interpreters really assume that by cherry picking the prophets they can perceive an accurate picture of endtime events? Rather, if the past provides a pattern of the future—if what shall be resembles what has been (Ecclesiastes 1:9; 3 Nephi 23:3)—then actors similar to those of the past, righteous and wicked, will fulfill those events. And if that is the case, surely we can identify at least some of those players by comparing the predictions of the prophets. Hasn’t God unfailingly provided scriptural clues for his people to piece together a coherent portrait of the endtime so they won’t be left entirely in ignorance? If much of ancient history as Isaiah presents it forms an allegory of the endtime, then his writings are as relevant today, and even more so, than they were in his day (cf. 2 Nephi 25:8). . . .

In short, central to distinguishing between two kinds of messianic roles—between the mission of Israel’s Messiah in redeeming his people from their sins and the endtime work of “restoring all things”—is differentiating between Jehovah and his servant or servants. Such distinctions are essential or the kind of confusion sets in that assigns all things messianic to Jesus. If one accepts that Jesus is Israel’s Messiah, that he fulfilled the redemptive mission of Israel’s God Jehovah—for which Isaiah’s literary features make a conclusive case—then if Jehovah/Jesus speaks of “my servant” he is evidently speaking of someone other than himself. Of course, another predictable response from devout defenders of the faith is that in that case it isn’t Jesus but the Father who is speaking through his Son. So convoluted, in fact, does such theological doublespeak become that some go to bizarre lengths to defend their errant ideas without ever examining the scriptures for what they say—as if there is no need to do so.

Israel’s prophets were wise to how people would interpret their words. Consequently, they embedded in their writings checks and balances such as literary devices by which readers could verify a prophet’s intent. Obtuseness, ambiguity, and multiple meanings all appear in prophecy for the express purpose that only those with eyes to see and ears to hear would comprehend. That all is not clear is by design. By making their own connections, as becomes saints—by “searching the scriptures daily whether those things were so” (Acts 17:11)—God’s elect would avoid being deceived. When Jesus predicted that in the time preceding his second coming “if it were possible” even the elect would be deceived (Matthew 24:24), he implied that the elect cannot be deceived or they would not be the elect. As “just men made perfect,” the elect have processed through the deceptions, distortions, distractions, ignorance, schemes, and machinations the world and devils have developed into an art form to subvert humanity.

The truth is that biblical scholarship has not been favorable to the Word of God. Instead of “expounding all the scriptures in one” (3 Nephi 23:14), it has torn them apart, isolating individual snippets from the whole. Doctors of the church have doctored holy writ from earliest times, their scriptural expositions becoming a means of self-promotion. Even from the days of the apostles, “there are some who trouble you, who would pervert the gospel of Messiah” (Galatians 1:7); “I know this, that after my departing shall grievous wolves enter in among you, not sparing the flock. Also of your own selves shall men arise, speaking perverse things to draw away disciples after them” (Acts 20:29–30). Noble men such as John Wycliffe and William Tyndale, who empowered the common people to read the Bible in their own language, were ostracized or burned at the stake. Many who sought to return to the pure gospel of Jesus were cruelly put to death—and all such tyranny from the shepherds of the people!

Modern professors of religion have similarly done immeasurable harm by misconstruing the truth of God. Liberal biblical scholarship, which has ruled in academia the past century, has essentially become a profession for nonbelievers. Only in recent years has scriptural exegesis begun taking into account underlying literary patterns, typologies, and rhetorical devices that are critical to interpreting prophetic texts. Without simultaneously applying the complete array of literary-analytical tools available, for example, the writings of Isaiah remain a sealed book. Ultra-conservative scholarship, on the other hand, can’t be called scholarship at all. Where it pontificates what this means or that, without carefully analyzing a text, it likewise diverts people from the truth. The answer to these two extremes has ever been the same—searching the scriptures to determine “whether those things are so.” Short of that, one cannot help but “practice hypocrisy and speak perverse things concerning Jehovah” (Isaiah 32:6). . . .

Just as Moses released Israel’s twelve tribes from bondage in Egypt and led them in an exodus to inherit the Promised Land, so God’s servant releases Israel’s twelve tribes from bondage and leads them in an exodus to inherit promised lands: “Thus says Jehovah: ‘At a favorable time I have answered you; in the day of salvation I have come to your aid: I have created you and appointed you to be a covenant of the people, to restore the Land and reapportion the desolate estates, to say to the captives, “Come forth!” and to those in darkness, “Show yourselves!” They shall feed along the way and find pasture on all barren heights; they shall not hunger or thirst, nor be smitten by the heatwave or the sun—he who has mercy on them will guide them; he will lead them by springs of water. All my mountain ranges I will appoint as roads; my highways shall be on high. See these, coming from afar, these, from the northwest, and these, from the land of Sinim’” (Isaiah 49:7–12; cf. Doctrine & Covenants 103:15–20).

Into this context of delivering God’s people in an exodus from their dispersed condition fall all passages that deal with the “servant” phase of God’s servant and with the “servant” phases of those who assist him. Still, the physical restoration of God’s people they accomplish is preceded by the spiritual conversion of those to whom they minister, who largely comprise Israel’s ethnic lineages, not its assimilated lineages. Called to become Jehovah’s collective “servant”—his covenant people under the terms of a collective covenant—these ethnic lineages exist in a state of spiritual blindness and of physical subjection to oppressive political powers. That is particularly the case when they fall prey to an endtime king of Assyria/Babylon, an archtyrant and his alliance of nations who, in the process of conquering the world, lay the earth waste (Isaiah 10:5–14; 13:4–5). From that spiritually blind and physically captive state God’s servant and his associates deliver them (Isaiah 10:24–27; 49:5–9, 24–25).

Meanwhile, Israel’s assimilated lineages—“who are identified with the Gentiles”—for the most part fall away from their allegiance to Israel’s God and apostatize. Yielding to a materialistic idolatry, they and many ecclesiastical leaders who have been Jehovah’s collective “servant” grow so worldly and spiritually blind that enemies invade their land and succeed in subjugating them—a covenant curse: “O you deaf, listen; O you blind, look and see! Who is blind but my own servant, or so deaf as the messenger I have sent? Who is blind like those I have commissioned, as uncomprehending as the servant of Jehovah—seeing much but not giving heed, with open ears hearing nothing? It is the will of Jehovah that, because of his righteousness, they magnify the law and become illustrious. Instead, they are a people plundered and sacked, all of them trapped in holes, hidden away in dungeons. They have become a prey, yet no one rescues them, a spoil, yet none demands restitution” (Isaiah 42:18–22).

In sum, Jehovah’s intervening in his people’s affairs through his servant and his associates results in the return home of Israel’s ethnic or natural lineages from throughout the earth in a time of trouble. Just as Moses released God’s people from bondage in Egypt and led them in an exodus to the Promised Land, so does God’s servant: “Do not fear, for I am with you. I will bring your offspring from the east and gather you from the west; I will say to the north, ‘Give up!’ to the south, ‘Withhold not!’ Bring my sons from afar and my daughters from the end of the earth—all who are called by my name, whom I have formed, molded and wrought for my own glory. Let go the people who are blind, yet have eyes, who are deaf, yet have ears!” (Isaiah 43:5–8); “Thus says Jehovah—who provides a way in the sea, a path through the mighty waters, who dispatches chariots and horses, armies of men in full strength; they lie down as one, to rise no more, they flicker and die, snuffed out like a wick” (Isaiah 43:16–17). . . . 

On the other hand, Jesus’ applying to himself Isaiah’s prophecy, “The Spirit of my Lord Jehovah is upon me, for Jehovah has anointed me to announce good tidings to the lowly; he has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives and the opening of the eyes to the bound, to herald the year of Jehovah’s favor” (Isaiah 61:1–2; Luke 4:18–19)—which combines the types of David and Moses (cf. 1 Samuel 16:13; Exodus 6:6–8)—is congruent with Jesus’ mission of serving as a Savior of his people. While in Jesus’ case, “good tidings” pertain to the spiritual salvation of God’s people—in which “liberty to the captives and the opening of the eyes to the bound” refers to their release from spiritual bondage to sin and ignorance—in the case of his endtime servant, “good tidings” pertain in large measure to their temporal salvation, to their release from physical bondage that resulted from their idolatrous lives and the spiritual blindness that ensued (cf. Isaiah 41:25–27; 45:13; 52:1–15).

That is why Jesus stops short of quoting the next line: “. . . and the day of vengeance of our God” (Isaiah 61:2) that refers to the “Day of Jehovah”—God’s Day of Judgment—which is an endtime event (Isaiah 34:8; 63:4). The context of this prophecy, moreover, deals with rebuilding the “desolate cities” and “waste places,” which follows the “day of vengeance of our God” (Isaiah 61:4; cf. 49:8; 54:3). In other words, although this prophecy in its entirety predicts the endtime mission of God’s servant—his deliverance of God’s people from physical bondage, his priestly endowment of certain “mourners in Zion,” and the rebuilding of ruins (Isaiah 61:1–4)—it applies in part to Jesus in a spiritual sense. Still, there are differences. Jesus doesn’t personally herald the “day of vengeance” that overtakes the world—his servant does. Nor does Jesus personally reverse the circumstances of his downtrodden people to “prepare the way” for his coming to reign on the earth (Isaiah 62:10–11)—his servant does.

In case one assumes that this passage applies solely to Jesus and not to his endtime servant, however, Isaiah has created a network of word links that interconnect with all other servant passages: “The Spirit of my Lord Jehovah is upon me” (Isaiah 61:1) parallels “My servant whom I sustain . . . him I have endowed with my Spirit” (Isaiah 42:1). “Jehovah has anointed me” (Isaiah 61:1) parallels “Thus says Jehovah to his anointed” (Isaiah 45:1). “To announce good tidings to the lowly” (Isaiah 61:1) matches “How comely upon the mountains are the feet of the messenger announcing peace, who brings good tidings” (Isaiah 52:7). “He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted” (Isaiah 61:1) matches “My Lord Jehovah has sent me; his Spirit [is in me]” (Isaiah 48:16). “To proclaim liberty to the captives and the opening of the eyes to the bound” (Isaiah 61:1) compares with “To open the eyes that are blind, to free captives from confinement, and from prison those who sit in darkness” (Isaiah 42:7). And so forth. . . .

In short, while religious Jews expect a new David—who, as Maimonides and other Jewish sages affirm, restores the political kingdom of Israel, gathers and reunites Israel’s twelve tribes, and rebuilds the temple in Jerusalem—Christians believe in a Messiah who saves his people from their sins: Jesus of Nazareth, a Jew. To get at the heart of this issue, let us suspend for a moment whichever view one accepts and move beyond where most people are willing to go to see what God’s revealed Word actually says. As both Jewish and Christian claims are ostensibly based on the writings of Israel’s prophets, let us permit the prophets to speak for themselves. If their words are difficult to interpret, or if we haven’t attempted that kind of thing before, let us accept it as a deliberate challenge devised by God. Then, in the day when we stand before his judgment bar and he requires of us an accounting of our actions, we won’t need to respond that we relied on others to interpret for us while God’s Word was in plain view.

During this process, let us discard problematic methods for interpreting prophecies, such as prooftexting, which first determines what one believes and then seeks scriptural support for it. That approach ignores the many textual interconnections that provide checks and balances for what the prophets attempt to convey. Prooftexting inevitably takes things out of context and emphasizes a few things at the expense of many. It leads to elaborate theological superstructures erected on shaky foundations. Putting aside pet theories, prejudices, traditions, fables, popular opinions, private interpretations, footnotes, and chapter headings, let us use the more honest analytical approach that gives credence to what the scriptures actually say, not what we or our ecclesiastical institution want them to say. Inevitably, that method at first yields many more questions than answers. But as we resolve these one by one, the results will be informative and liberating, far beyond what a dogmatic approach to God’s Word has to offer.

For analytical purposes, for example, renowned choral works such as Handel’s “Messiah,” with its text taken from the King James Version of Isaiah 9:6—“Wonderful, Counselor, the Mighty God, the Everlasting Father, the Prince of Peace”—can’t be relied on to offer definitive proof of Israel’s Messiah despite its long-standing popularity with worldwide audiences. While to many rapt congregations this musical masterpiece contains incontrovertible proof that Jesus of Nazareth is the Messiah—the prophesied “son” born to rule on David’s throne—it by no means provides textual evidence that can sustain such a belief. Even Matthew, who draws profusely on Hebrew prophecy in support of Jesus’ messianic persona, entirely passes over Isaiah 9:6. More to the point, a correct translation of any messianic prophecy should be considered an essential first step. Recognizing this, one of thirteen Mormon Articles of Faith states, “We believe the Bible to be the Word of God insofar as it is translated correctly.”

The above 1611 A.D. translation, in fact, is a mistranslation of four Hebrew couplets—pele’ yo‘es, ’el gibbor, ’abi ‘ad, and sar salom—which are more accurately rendered, “a wonderful counselor, one mighty in valor, a father forever, a prince of peace.” (As Hebrew uses no capital letters, these are elective when translating into another language depending on whether they are applicable. Because adding capital letters constitutes interpretation, caution is advised.) The complete passage containing the above four couplets reads, “For to us a child is born, a son appointed, who will shoulder the burden of government. He will be called a wonderful counselor, one mighty in valor, a father forever, a prince of peace—that sovereignty may be extended and peace have no end; that, on the throne of David and over his kingdom, [his rule] may be established and upheld by justice and righteousness from this time forth and forever. The zeal of Jehovah of Hosts will accomplish it” (Isaiah 9:6–7; emphasis added).

Although this passage is messianic, there is no certainty its subject is divine except perhaps in the sense of growing into the status of “gods . . . sons of the Most High [God]” (Psalm 82:6). The term ’el in the second couplet, without further qualification or scriptural support—such as ’el sadday (“Almighty God”)—can mean “God/god,” “mighty one,” or simply “hero,” as its twin term gibbor (“hero” or “valiant one”) suggests. This illustrates the need to disabuse our minds of what the scriptures do not say as well as the benefits of enlarging our minds with what they do say. Because God’s Word is ultimately fulfilled whether interpreted correctly or incorrectly, persons who perceive its true intent by the time those prophecies come to pass will have so much more the advantage over those who assume they know when in reality they don’t. As a case in point, at the end of the world people’s perception of the scriptures could impact not only their spiritual but also their temporal salvation—their very survival.

As with almost all messianic prophecies in the Bible, Isaiah 9:6 appears in a context of Israel’s release from bondage and return from exile (Isaiah 9:1–5), making it an integral part of Israel’s endtime restoration. (For interpretive purposes we should recognize that the context of a prophecy is as relevant to its meaning as are the actual words.) Isaiah 9:6, moreover, resembles events depicted in other messianic prophecies. As noted previously, Revelation 12:1–6 predicts the birth of a son in a classic endtime phenomenon known as the Birthpangs of the Messiah: a “Woman” (Jehovah’s wife or covenant people) gives birth to a “male child” (a savior), at which point she escapes into the wilderness as at Israel’s exodus out of Egypt under Moses. Isaiah offers a variation of this: the Woman Zion gives birth to a “male child” (a savior), which is followed by the birth of a new “nation” of God’s people (Isaiah 66:7–13). Its context is the time heralding Jehovah’s coming to reign on the earth (Isaiah 66:14–18).

Because in Isaiah’s theology birth implies rebirth on a higher spiritual level—just as creation implies re-creation—and because the word “son” defines a vassal’s covenant relationship with his “father” or emperor, the birth of a “son” in messianic terms (Isaiah 9:6) denotes a vassal’s covenant with the emperor transitioning from a conditional or “servant” phase to an unconditional or “son” phase. That transition takes place after the vassal proves loyal to the emperor under all conditions, at which point the emperor formally acknowledges him as a “father” to his people (ibid.). This did King Hezekiah when he served as his people’s proxy savior, pouring out his soul unto death and obtaining Jehovah’s protection of his people from the besieging Assyrians (Isaiah 37:35; 38:1–6, 9–20). As Hezekiah fulfilled the spiritual roles of “father” to his people and of “son” to Jehovah (who was his “father” under the terms of the Davidic Covenant), his covenant with Jehovah became unconditional or “forever” (Isaiah 9:6).

Hezekiah’s rebirth as Jehovah’s “son” thus forms the historical context of Isaiah 9:6. A victory over “the yoke that burdened them, the staff of submission, the rod of those who subjected them, as in the Day of Midian” (Isaiah 9:4; emphasis added), represents a victory over Assyria and its tyrannical king—the yoke, staff, and rod who oppressed Hezekiah’s people (Isaiah 10:5, 15, 24, 26–27; cf. 37:35–36). Still, even though the four couplets of Isaiah 9:6 are royal titles relevant to Hezekiah’s enthronement—confirming his “son” phase under the terms of the Davidic Covenant—Isaiah combines their historical context with the futuristic context of Israel’s victory over an endtime Assyria, in that way creating an entirely new, composite messianic prophecy. The themes of Israel’s release from bondage, new exodus, new wandering in the wilderness, and new conquest that round out the prophecy of Isaiah 9:1–7 are thus the same themes that form the context of all “servant” passages in the Book of Isaiah:

“It is I who rightfully raise him up, who facilitate his every step; he will rebuild my city and set free my exiles” (Isaiah 45:13); “Turn away, depart; touch nothing defiled as you leave [Babylon]. Come out of her and be pure, you who bear Jehovah’s vessels. But you shall not leave in haste or go in flight: Jehovah will go before you, the God of Israel behind you. My servant, being astute, shall be highly exalted; he shall become exceedingly eminent” (Isaiah 52:11–13); “Who has raised up Righteousness from the east, calling him to his foot? Who has delivered nations to him, toppled their rulers, rendering them as dust to his sword, as driven stubble to his bow?” (Isaiah 41:2; emphasis added). See also additional such instances of Israel’s release from bondage (Isaiah 42:7; 43:8; 49:9); new exodus (Isaiah 43:2, 5–8, 16; 44:27; 48:20; 49:12, 22; 51:10–11); new wandering in the wilderness (Isaiah 41:17–19; 43:19–20; 48:21; 49:9–11; 55:12–13); and new conquest (Isaiah 41:12–16, 25; 43:17; 45:1–2; 49:25–26).

A twin messianic prophecy to Isaiah 9:1–7—one that is similarly grounded in endtime events—appears in the same group of chapters comprising Part III of Isaiah’s Seven-Part Structure (Isaiah 9–12; 41–46): “A shoot will spring up from the stock of Jesse and a branch from its graft bear fruit. The Spirit of Jehovah will rest upon him—the spirit of wisdom and of understanding, the spirit of counsel and of valor, the spirit of knowledge and of the fear of Jehovah. His intuition will be [guided] by the fear of Jehovah; he will not judge by what his eyes see, nor establish proof by what his ears hear” (Isaiah 11:1–3; emphasis added). While on the one hand—within the same context—this descendant of Jesse follows the type of Moses (cf. Exodus 12:37–14:31) by delivering Israel in a new exodus from the four parts of the earth—out of all countries where it was scattered—on the other, he follows the type of David (cf. 2 Samuel 5:1–5), reuniting Judah and Ephraim, who then vanquish their enemies in a new conquest:

“In that day the sprig of Jesse, who stands for an ensign to the peoples, shall be sought by the nations, and his rest shall be glorious. In that day my Lord will again raise his hand to reclaim the remnant of his people—those who shall be left out of Assyria, Egypt, Pathros, Cush, Elam, Shinar, Hamath, and the islands of the sea. He will raise the ensign to the nations and assemble the exiled of Israel; he will gather the scattered of Judah from the four directions of the earth. Ephraim’s jealousy shall pass away and the hostile ones of Judah be cut off; Ephraim will not envy Judah, nor Judah resent Ephraim. But they will swoop on the Philistine flank toward the west, and together plunder those to the east. . . . He will extend his hand over the River and smite it into seven streams to provide a way on foot. And there shall be a pathway out of Assyria for the remnant of his people who shall be left, as there was for Israel when it came up from the land of Egypt” (Isaiah 11:10–16; emphasis added; cf. Isaiah 43:5–6).

God’s calling Moses to deliver Israel out of bondage, and the birth of Israel as a nation—after its exodus out of Egypt when it covenanted to keep God’s law—thus provide types and precedents of Israel’s endtime deliverance and rebirth. Only after Moses had ascended to a higher spiritual level, however—having escaped from Egypt and encountered God on Mount Horeb (cf. Exodus 3:1–22)—could he physically deliver God’s people. Israel’s endtime deliverance and rebirth follow the same pattern: when a descendant of David is “born” (Isaiah 9:6; 66:7)—when he ascends to a higher spiritual level—God empowers him to deliver his people in a new exodus to lands of inheritance. A new nation of God’s people is “born” (cf. Isaiah 9:3; 55:3–5; 66:8) when it renews God’s covenant and keeps his law. In short, one can’t isolate Isaiah 9:6 from its scriptural context, historical precedents, or prophecies of the same or connected events without “perverting the words of the living God” (Jeremiah 23:36). . . .”

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