Read Isaiah 9:1-7. What stood out to you in this reading of the text?
In the notes of my Harper Collins study Bible it says that "this passage served originally as an oracle for the coronation of a Judean king, probably Hezekiah. It celebrates the accession of the new king with the traditional ideals of Davidic kingship." The word light stands for royal relief from oppression. It also says that the divine birth or adoption of the king was announced on his coronation day (9:6) and the wonderful, counselor, etc. words were names given Egyptian kings at their accession. So this makes it seem like Isaiah's words were more of an announcement and less of a prophecy - especially one for the distant future. We need a Bible scholar! Where is Chris Bucher when we need her?
What interests me are these words of the author "With God there is always space for hope and room for joy. If we could truly, somehow, absorb God's steadfast promises and presence, wouldn't we, too, be breathless with joy?" As a young parent, it was easy to see joy and experience it in the lives and actions of our children. One of the reasons I worked in the early childhood field was the opportunity to witness and experience the abundant joy displayed by young children, no matter what. As an older adult, with few children around, moments of joy are less frequent. I sometimes still feel it when listening to a particularly beautiful piece of music. At Christmas time, I experience joy every time I listen to Ralph Vaughn Williams, "Hodie." I feel it when I have the opportunity to give to others. Or sometimes I feel it when I see a beautiful sunset or other magnificent parts of nature, whether big or small. Where do you experience joy?
Thanks, Gina! I would appreciate input from a Biblical scholar, as well. If these verses are about King Hezekiah, then why do we use them in reference to Jesus? Your study Bible notes sound helpful, too.
Being with people often brings me joy, and so does listening to quality music. I like your reminder that seeing life through the eyes of children can often re-instill a sense of wonder in us. When I S.L.O.W. down and take the time to appreciate the moment, I always feel more fulfilled than when I am rushing onto the next thing on my all-important to-do list.
It's interesting that the notes in one of my Bibles (published in 1994) say that this passage in Isaiah may refer to King Hezekiah, but his description is "borrowed from earlier references to King David". And we now treasure the descriptions of Jesus that New Testament writers borrowed from the Hebrew Scriptures. This longing for a King has been in human DNA for a long time. How fortunate we are to now know who the true Messiah is.
That's a helpful footnote, Amy! If I recall correctly, King Hezekiah is one of the Bible's good guys, a wise king. May I ask which Bible you have?
@Ellen Flury The note I referred to is in The New Oxford Bible (NRSV). I own this version because a pastor where I used to live made it required reading.
An organization I once belonged to had an annual used book sale, and one of the sale co-chairs priced the used Bibles at 25 cents each. When I saw a different version, it was hard to resist adding it to the collection. When we moved, I downsized my Bible collection to just a handful. But The New Oxford is a familiar friend.
It could be that there is a more up-to-date annotated Bible available now (although it would probably set me back more than a quarter). Suggestions, anyone?
@amy carroll Thanks for sharing that Bible edition with us. From what I'm hearing, it's the NRSV translation for the win!
I had asked Chris Bucher last year what Bible she often likes to use, and I know several of the Women's Bible Study members have the one she told me about. It's the one Gina mentions below, the Harper Collins Study Bible New Revised Standard Version (NRSV). I asked Chris about the Bible I already had, and from our chat I thought it would serve my purposes, and it seemed to . . . until now. Just before I hopped on here, I had been thinking to add the Harper Collins Study Bible to my Christmas list. Then, I thought about this discussion platform for all of December, weeks before Christmas, and how those footnotes might help me, so I ordered one. More than a quarter, yes, but not an extravagant "textbook" price, either.
So far with this devotional, I have been using The New English Bible: Oxford Study Edition (1976). It has a lot of helpful footnotes, but it didn't mention Hezekiah for those verses in Isaiah. I'm pretty sure I bought that Bible for some classes when I was in college. While that was after Hezekiah's rein, there have been (ahem) several years of opportunity for additional research and updates since then. I have other Bibles, but this one from my collection had the most extensive footnotes. I guess I'm ready for an updated upgrade.
I also have been checking in with The Message, which I love reading as a narrative, but which lacks in footnotes and references. I find its wording often clarifies dense material and makes situations seem "real," as if I am living them. So, it is wonderfully helpful in that way, but it is not a study Bible.
I want to soar on the music mentioned in this entry! It certainly does bring me joy! For years I've enjoyed hearing (and singing) "For Unto Us a Child Is Born," feeling wonderful that such glorious music accompanies such a glorious--and Biblical-- occasion. I never questioned, I just enjoyed and accepted that these verses from Isaiah applied to Jesus.
Now, I have questions. The author of the devotional is following the traditionally accepted connections with Isaiah's words and the birth of Jesus. I am the one with the questions.
Question 1--How can these verses in Isaiah's context apply to Jesus's birth? In Isaiah's time, the Israelites were being threatened by attacking armies, and Isaiah's words were supposed to bring comfort because they told of someone who was going to swoop in to save the day for the Israelites so that their country would not be destroyed. Jesus's time came 800 years later. As another responder mentioned on a previous post about Immanuel, could these verses apply to someone else in Isaiah's time . . . and maybe also to Jesus in a more symbolic way?
Question 2--What's up with the verb tense in Isaiah 9:6? Both translations I am looking at use the same verb tense in reference to this child who is to save Israel and rule with justice and righteousness. Isaiah says the child "has been born." That's the present perfect tense, which indicates an action occurring in the past and CONTINUING to occur in the present. My reading of the verse in this past perfect tense tells me that the birth of this child had been occurring and was continuing to occur in the present day of Isaiah's time. The baby was there.
Questions 3+ Is there someone else in Isaiah's time who was supposed to be Immanuel, God with Us, the save-the-day hero to rule Israel justly? Do the verses in Isaiah apply to that baby AND to Jesus in a "God's Heavenly Kingdom" kind of way? If the verses apply only to Jesus, then where is the comfort for the frightened Israelites of Isaiah's time?
Question 4--I realize that Matthew, the Gospel author, wanted to bring legitimacy to the claims of Jesus being the Messiah. In Matthew 1:23, he references the verses from Isaiah 7:14 about Jesus being Immanuel as the prophets foretold. At least musically, we've added the "For unto us a child is born" verses to refer to Jesus, also. Why have I/we accepted that without needing any explanation?
Maybe my process of questioning is more important than the answers to my questions, as another responder has commented. Still, I'm getting a bit frustrated with myself. Why couldn't I simply enjoy the fulfillment of the prophecy as the devotional mentioned? Will I ever be able to listen to Handel's Messiah the same way again?
I've always thought in terms of a duality--the individual Jesus presumably born at a specific time and the universal Christ, present before, now, and still to come. I've always liked the United Church of Christ tagline that God is Still Speaking and the Quaker view that Jesus is not an historical figure as much as a living presence accessible to us today.
As a big Messiah fan, I also believe that questions help us to understand art and there will always be great joy and peace in listening to Handel's work.
@John Hope (he/him/his) I so appreciate your comments! They make me feel much better about all my . . . questions! Thank you!