6 For to us a child is born,
to us a son is given;
and the government shall be upon his shoulder,
and his name shall be called
Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
7 Of the increase of his government and of peace
there will be no end,
on the throne of David and over his kingdom,
to establish it and to uphold it
with justice and with righteousness
from this time forth and forevermore.
The zeal of the LORD of hosts will do this.
The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (Is 9:6–7). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.
6–7 The introductory conjunction “for” is important here. All these wonderful events must have an adequate cause. The word “child” is in a position of emphasis. The first person plural “us” suggests a link with 7:14 (see mg. there), and the reader is probably meant to see the connection, for as far as the reader is concerned, Isaiah is acting as a teacher. Just as his theme of the Branch of the Lord (see comment on 4:2) becomes more and more explicitly messianic, so it is with the motif of the child. If the child of 7:14–16 (see extended comment there) typifies the ultimate divine Christ, the child of these verses is that Christ.
It is true that monarchs of the Near East often received exaggerated adulation from their subjects, especially at their enthronement and at subsequent kingdom renewal ceremonies. This is not Mesopotamia, however, but Judah, and Hebrew prophecy was founded on truth, not on flattery. The OT prophets did not hesitate to speak stern words of judgment to their political overlords (cf., e.g., 1 Sa 12:7–12; 1 Ki 21:20–24). To speak to monarchs words that could not be taken at their face value was hardly consistent with their calling.
The passage does not necessarily imply that the child is to be a boy-king. In fact, Isaiah may not have regarded that as a blessing (cf. 3:4, 12). The context says much about children, so the child is spoken of in terms of his birth. The tenderness of the child also suggests a comparison with the defeat of Midian’s army by Gideon’s small band of men (Jdg 6–7), a comparison reinforced by the dual reference to the shoulder (cf. v. 4).
It seems likely that the prophet intends us to understand that the child has four names, not five (cf. v. 6, text and mg.). The first two suggest divine wisdom and power (cf. 11:2; 1 Co 1:24), for the word translated “wonderful” has overtones of deity and the phrase “Mighty God” must be given its “plain meaning” (Widyapranawa, in loc.) because of its unambiguous application to Israel’s Lord in 10:21. Incidentally, as Murray Harris (Jesus as God: The New Testament Use of Theos in Reference to Jesus [Grand Rapids: Baker 1992], 257, n. 7) points out, this could affect our understanding of 7:14, making “God with us” the most likely translation of Immanuel: “If Isaiah 7:1–9:7 is considered a closely integrated unit containing the prophetic message to Judah … Isaiah 7:14 could be interpreted in the light of 9:6.”
The last two names set forth the ends this child accomplishes by the exercise of these attributes—his fatherly care of his people and the bringing of peace with all of its attendant blessings. In context this quartet of names comes to its climax with “Prince of Peace,” as a glance at vv. 4–5 makes clear. Its implications are spelled out in v. 7.
P. D. Wegner, 140–215, deals at some length with the interpretation of the names within the context of his study of the passage as a whole, and he concludes that the names describe Yahweh rather than the child and that they are designed, like Isaiah’s own name (“Yahweh is salvation”) to point beyond the child to God. But the possession of four (or five) names of this type by one child is unique in the Old Testament. Maher-Shalal-Hash-Baz is only a partial parallel, for none of the four elements of the name is a designation of God. These names, therefore, suggest the uniqueness of the person who bears them.
It is important to note that although the first three names can certainly designate God himself, this is hardly true of the last of them. In fact, as Wegner notes, the noun translated “prince” is always used of human leaders (1 Sa 2:8; 1 Ki 1:19; Jer 26:11). If this name applies to the king, then surely the other three also must, so that the four names taken together point to one who is both fully divine and truly human. The New Testament surely tells us who he is!
The word “increase” combined with the phrase “his [i.e., David’s] kingdom” suggest that the prophecy has in view much more than a particularly great king of Judah (cf. 1 Sa 7:12–16). David’s kingdom went well beyond this; its boundary extended far beyond the traditional “Dan to Beersheba” limits of Canaan proper (1 Sa 8). The language of this verse—with its picture of peace with righteousness—is reminiscent of a pre-Davidic ruler of Jerusalem: Melchizedek (Ge 14:18; cf. Heb 7:2). The harmonious linking of peace and righteousness occurs again, with more detailed exposition, in Isaiah 11:1–9.
Since the beginning of ch. 7, the prophet has made amazing disclosures in the name of the Lord. These come to a great climax here. The reader is likely to echo the wondering awe of the mother of this child and cry out, “How will this be?” (Lk 1:34). The prophet anticipated such a question in the closing sentence of this oracle. In fact, both the advent of the Messiah and the blessing of his people, the remnant of Israel, are guaranteed by “the zeal of the Lord Almighty” (cf. 37:32).
9:6–7. The joys described in vv. 1–5 are grounded in the birth of a child within the Davidic line. The child’s birth will bring deliverance, and the titles bestowed upon him are impressive. The first given is that of Wonderful Counselor. The word Wonderful (extraordinary to the point of being miraculous) is not meant in the colloquial usage of contemporary society. Rather it refers to the supernatural work of God. A good example is its usage in Jdg 13:15–21, wherein the angel of the Lord does a “wonderful” thing (v. 18) and ascends to heaven in the flame of Manoah’s sacrifice (v. 20).
The title of Counselor does not carry the same sense as the modern English word, which is often associated with a therapist or social worker. Instead, the word means “one who advises, who serves as a consultant to help and lead others.” The title here must be construed as denoting this child’s capacity to guide the people of the nation, particularly with reference to military endeavors. Though the child’s guidance of the nation would not be limited to warfare, it does suggest that his skill in making decisions for the nation exhibits a divine or miraculous character that would not be possible through simply human devices (Smith, Isaiah 1–39, 240). The word “wonderful” stands in epexegetical construct to “counselor,” and could be translated “a wonder of a counselor” or “a wonder-counselor.”
The second title, Mighty God, is repeated in Is 10:21 and applied to God Himself. Although the Hebrew word for Mighty can refer to a valiant warrior, this close usage to 10:21 seems to indicate a reference to deity. The word means “valiant military hero” or “champion.” Similar phrases are also used in Dt 10:17 and Jr 32:18 with reference to God. Oswalt notes, “This king will have God’s true might about him,” being so powerful so as to be able to absorb all evil and defeat it (Oswalt, The Book of Isaiah, Chapters 1–39, 247).
The child is also called Eternal Father. Filial relationships, such as father and son, were emphasized in the ancient Near East. The king was generally the son in such relationships and the deity the father (John H. Walton, et al., IVP Bible Background Commentary: Old Testament [Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity, 2000], 518). Kings, however, also claimed to be the “father” of those they ruled (Oswalt, Isaiah 1–39, 247). The notion of a human king as father of his people is not foreign to the OT. Note, for instance, 1Sm 24:12 in which David calls Saul his father. But this one is not merely the royal father of His people. The adjective Eternal speaks to the idea of one who is forever or eternal. He is the “Father of eternity,” indicating that He is the author or creator of time. The child born here is not to be confused with the Father in the triune Godhead. Rather, the Son of God is the creator of time, the author of eternity.
The final title given to the child is Prince of Peace. This child will have a reign characterized by peace. There will be no more war under this king. Instead, the child will usher in an era of rest from conflict that is noted in 2Sm 7:10–11.
Some have suggested that these titles are merely a theophoric name, a name that embeds God’s name in a human name. Hence, “Isaiah” (“The Lord saves”) is theophoric, but does not indicate that Isaiah is deity. If this is so here, then the child is not necessarily deity, but rather a royal human figure with a long name, similar to Maher-shalal-hash-baz (“Swift is the booty, fast is the prey,” Is 8:1), containing names of deity. They translate this as “A wonderful counselor is the Mighty God, the eternal Father is the Prince of Peace.”
This explanation is unlikely for three reasons. (1) The name in 8:3 is dependent on 8:1 and is not parallel syntactically to 9:6. All the words in 9:6 are substantives that do not have subjects and predicates. (2) Titles such as this one frequently reflect the nature of the person (cf. 2Sm 12:24–25; Is 1:26; Hs 1:10). (3) Frequently, the verb “call” with a name indicates the nature of the one named, either by a play on words (cf. Gn 5:29) or direct meaning (cf. Is 1:26). Hence, this usage in v. 6 indicates that the names are related to the nature of the child born. Robert Reymond is correct in stating that there is no reason, “except dogmatic prejudice,” to prohibit the conclusion that Isaiah meant nothing other than unabridged deity here (Robert L. Reymond, Jesus, Divine Messiah: The OT Witness [Fearn, Ross-shire, Scotland: Christian Focus Publications. 1990], 51).
The child will fulfill the promise of the Davidic covenant (cf. 2Sm 7:12–16), and establish the messianic kingdom through justice and righteousness. This kingdom will not be the outworking of a king with human wisdom and power. The child will rule with the wisdom, power, and peace of God. The final statement in v. 7 notes that the Lord will accomplish all that has been described. Isaiah again underscores that trust in the Lord is the key to receiving the promised blessing.
6. For unto us a child is born. Isaiah now argues from the design, to show why this deliverance ought to be preferred to the rest of God’s benefits, namely, because not only will God bring back the people from captivity, but he will place Christ on his royal throne, that under him supreme and everlasting happiness may be enjoyed. Thus he affirms that the kindness of God will not be temporary, for it includes the whole of that intermediate period during which the Church was preserved till the coming of Christ. Nor is it wonderful if the Prophet makes a sudden transition from the return of the ancient people to the full restoration of the Church, which took place many centuries afterwards; for in our observations on chapter 7:14, we have remarked, that there being no other way that God is reconciled to us than through the Mediator, all the promises are founded on him; and that on this account it is customary with the Prophets, whenever they wish to encourage the hearts of believers by good hope, to bring this forward as a pledge or earnest. To this must be added, that the return from the captivity in Babylon was the commencement of the renovation of the Church, which was completed when Christ appeared; and consequently there is no absurdity in an uninterrupted succession. Justly, therefore, does Isaiah teach that they ought not to confine their attention to the present benefit, but should consider the end, and refer everything to it. “This is your highest happiness, that you have been rescued from death, not only that you may live in the land of Canaan, but that you may arrive at the kingdom of God.”
Hence we learn that we ought not to swallow up the benefits which we receive from God, so as instantly to forget them, but should raise our minds to Christ, otherwise the advantage will be small, and the joy will be transitory; because they will not lead us to taste the sweetness of a Father’s love, unless we keep in remembrance the free election of God, which is ratified in Christ. In short, the Prophet does not wish that this people should be wholly occupied with the joy occasioned by the outward and short-lived freedom which they had obtained, but that they should look at the end, that is, at the preservation of the Church, till Christ, the only Redeemer, should appear; for he ought to be the ground and perfection of all our joy.
A child is born. The Jews impudently torture this passage, for they interpret it as relating to Hezekiah, though he had been born before this prediction was uttered. But he speaks of it as something new and unexpected; and it is even a promise, intended to arouse believers to the expectation of a future event; and therefore there can be no hesitation in concluding that he describes a child that was afterwards to be born.
He is called the Son of God. Although in the Hebrew language the word son, I admit, has a wide acceptation, yet that is when something is added to it. Every man is the son of his father: those who are a hundred years old are called (Is. 65:20) the sons of a hundred years; wicked men are called the sons of wickedness; those who are blessed are called the sons of blessing; and Isaiah called a fruitful hill the son of fatness. (Is. 5:1.) But son, without any addition, can mean none else than the Son of God; and it is now ascribed to Christ, by way of eminence, (κατʼ ἐξοχὴν,) in order to inform us, that by this striking mark he is distinguished from the rest of mankind. Nor can it be doubted that Isaiah referred to that well-known prediction, which was in the mouth of every person, I will be his Father, and he shall be my Son, (2 Sam. 7:14,) as it is afterwards repeated, Thou art my Son; this day have I begotten thee. (Ps. 2:7.) Had it not been commonly and generally known that the Messiah would be the Son of God, it would have been foolish and unmeaning for Isaiah simply to call him the Son. Accordingly, this title is derived from the former prediction, from which the Apostle reasons, that the excellence of Christ exalts him above all the angels. (Heb. 1:5.)
Now, though in the person of a child Christ might have a mean appearance, still the designation of Son points out his high rank. Yet I do not deny that he might have been called the Son of David, but it is more natural to apply it to him as God. The titles which follow are still less applicable to Hezekiah. I shall soon give an ample refutation of the sophistry by which the Jews attempt to evade this passage. Let them slander as they may, the matter is sufficient plain to all who will calmly and soberly examine it.
A Son hath been given to us. There is weight in what he now adds, that this Son was given to the people, in order to inform the Jews that their salvation and that of the whole Church is contained in the person of Christ. And this giving is one of the chief articles of our faith; for it would have been of little avail to us, that Christ was born, if he had not likewise been our own. What this child will be, and what is his rank, he declares in the following statements.
And the government hath been laid upon his shoulder. To suppose, as some do, that this is an allusion to the cross of Christ is manifestly childish. Christ carried the cross on his shoulders, (John 19:17,) and by the cross he gained a splendid triumph over the prince of this world. (John 14:30.) But as the government is here said to have been laid on his shoulders in the same sense in which we shall see that the key of the house of David was laid on the shoulders of Eliakim, (Is. 22:22,) we need not go far to seek ingenious expositions. Yet I agree with those who think that there is an indirect contrast between the government which the Redeemer bore on his shoulders and the staff of the shoulder which was just now mentioned; for it agrees well, and is not liable to any objections. He therefore shows that the Messiah will be different from indolent kings, who leave off business and cares, and live at their ease; for he will be able to bear the burden. Thus he asserts the superiority and grandeur of his government, because by his own power Christ will obtain homage to himself, and he will discharge his office, not only with the tips of his fingers, but with his full strength.
And his name shall be called. Though יקרא, (yĭkrā,) he shall call, be an active verb, I have not hesitated to translate it in a passive sense; for the meaning is the same as if he had made use of the plural number, they shall call. We have a French idiom that resembles it, on appellera, literally, one shall call, that is, he shall be called. The Jews apply it to God, and read it continously, he shall call his name Wonderful, Counsellor, the mighty God, the everlasting Father, the Prince of Peace. But it is very evident that this proceeds from a desire, or rather from a licentious eagerness, to obscure the glory of Christ; for if they had not laboured with excessive keenness to rob him of his Godhead, the passage would run on very smoothly as interpreted by our divines. Besides, what necessity was there for ascribing to God those attributes, if the Prophet meant nothing more than that God gave a name to Messiah? For the attributes which are usually ascribed to God are either perpetual or accommodated to the case in hand, neither of which suppositions can here be admitted. Again, it would have been an interruption of the regular order to insert the name of God in the midst of various titles, but it ought to have run thus, the mighty God, Wonderful, Counsellor, shall call. Now, I do not see how the name יועצ (yōgnētz) can be applied absolutely to God, for it belongs to counsellors who attend kings or other persons. If any obstinate wrangler shall contend for the notion of the Rabbins, he will show nothing but his own impudence. Let us follow the plain and natural meaning.
Wonderful. It ought to be observed that those titles are not foreign to the subject, but are adapted to the case in hand, for the Prophet describes what Christ will show himself to be towards believers. He does not speak of Christ’s mysterious essence, but applauds his excellencies, which we perceive and experience by faith. This ought to be the more carefully considered, because the greater part of men are satisfied with his mere name, and do not observe his power and energy, though that ought to be chiefly regarded.
By the first title he arouses the minds of the godly to earnest attention, that they may expect from Christ something more excellent than what we see in the ordinary course of God’s works, as if he had said, that in Christ are hidden the invaluable treasures of wonderful things. (Col. 2:3.) And, indeed, the redemption which he has brought surpasses even the creation of the world. It amounts to this, that the grace of God, which will be exhibited in Christ, exceeds all miracles.
Counsellor. The reason of this second title is, that the Redeemer will come endowed with absolute wisdom. Now, let us remember what I have just noticed, that the Prophet does not here reason about the hidden essence of Christ, but about the power which he displays towards us. It is not, therefore, because he knows all his Father’s secrets that the Prophet calls him Counsellor, but rather because, proceeding from the bosom of the Father, (John 1:18,) he is in every respect the highest and most perfect teacher. In like manner we are not permitted to get wisdom but from his Gospel, and this contributes also to the praise of the Gospel, for it contains the perfect wisdom of God, as Paul frequently shows. (1 Cor. 1:24, 30; Eph. 1:17; Col. 1:9.) All that is necessary for salvation is opened up by Christ in such a manner, and explained with such familiarity, that he addresses the disciples no longer as servants but as friends. (John 15:14, 15.)
The mighty God. אל (El) is one of the names of God, though derived from strength, so that it is sometimes added as an attribute. But here it is evidently a proper name, because Isaiah is not satisfied with it, and in addition to it employs the adjective גבור, (gibbōr,) which means strong. And indeed if Christ had not been God, it would have been unlawful to glory in him; for it is written, Cursed be he that trusteth in man. (Jer. 17:5.) We must, therefore, meet with the majesty of God in him, so that there truly dwells in him that which cannot without sacrilege be attributed to a creature.
He is, therefore, called the mighty God, for the same reason that he was formerly called Immanuel. (Isa. 7:14.) For if we find in Christ nothing but the flesh and nature of man, our glorying will be foolish and vain, and our hope will rest on an uncertain and insecure foundation; but if he shows himself to be to us God and the mighty God, we may now rely on him with safety. With good reason does he call him strong or mighty, because our contest is with the devil, death, and sin, (Eph. 6:12,) enemies too powerful and strong, by whom we would be immediately vanquished, if the strength of Christ had not rendered us invincible. Thus we learn from this title that there is in Christ abundance of protection for defending our salvation, so that we desire nothing beyond him; for he is God, who is pleased to show himself strong on our behalf. This application may be regarded as the key to this and similar passages, leading us to distinguish between Christ’s mysterious essence and the power by which he hath revealed himself to us.
The father of the age. The Greek translator has added μέλλοντος, future; and, in my opinion, the translation is correct, for it denotes eternity, unless it be thought better to view it as denoting “perpetual duration,” or “an endless succession of ages,” lest any one should improperly limit it to the heavenly life, which is still hidden from us. (Col. 3:3) True, the Prophet includes it, and even declares that Christ will come, in order to bestow immortality on his people; but as believers, even in this world, pass from death to life, (John 5:24; 1 John 3:14,) this world is embraced by the eternal condition of the Church.
The name Father is put for Author, because Christ preserves the existence of his Church through all ages, and bestows immortality on the body and on the individual members. Hence we conclude how transitory our condition is, apart from him; for, granting that we were to live for a very long period after the ordinary manner of men, what after all will be the value of our long life? We ought, therefore, to elevate our minds to that blessed and everlasting life, which as yet we see not, but which we possess by hope and faith. (Rom. 8:25)
The Prince of Peace. This is the last title, and the Prophet declares by it that the coming of Christ will be the cause of full and perfect happiness, or, at least, of calm and blessed safety. In the Hebrew language peace often signifies prosperity, for of all blessings not one is better or more desirable than peace. The general meaning is, that all who submit to the dominion of Christ will lead a quiet and blessed life in obedience to him. Hence it follows that life, without this King, is restless and miserable.
But we must also take into consideration the nature of this peace. It is the same with that of the kingdom, for it resides chiefly in the consciences; otherwise we must be engaged in incessant conflicts and liable to daily attacks. Not only, therefore, does he promise outward peace, but that peace by which we return to a state of favour with God, who were formerly at enmity with him. Justified by faith, says Paul, we have peace with God. (Rom. 5:1) Now, when Christ shall have brought composure to our minds, the same spiritual peace will hold the highest place in our hearts, (Philip. 4:7; Col. 3:15,) so that we will patiently endure every kind of adversity, and from the same fountain will likewise flow outward prosperity, which is nothing else than the effect of the blessing of God.
Now, to apply this for our own instruction, whenever any distrust arises, and all means of escape are taken away from us, whenever, in short, it appears to us that everything is in a ruinous condition, let us recall to our remembrance that Christ is called Wonderful, because he has inconceivable methods of assisting us, and because his power is far beyond what we are able to conceive. When we need counsel, let us remember that he is the Counsellor. When we need strength, let us remember that he is Mighty and Strong. When new terrors spring up suddenly every instant, and when many deaths threaten us from various quarters, let us rely on that eternity of which he is with good reason called the Father, and by the same comfort let us learn to soothe all temporal distresses. When we are inwardly tossed by various tempests, and when Satan attempts to disturb our consciences, let us remember that Christ is The Prince of Peace, and that it is easy for him quickly to allay all our uneasy feelings. Thus will these titles confirm us more and more in the faith of Christ, and fortify us against Satan and against hell itself.
7. To the increase of the government there will be no end. He begins to explain and confirm what he had formerly said, that Christ is The Prince of Peace, by saying that his government is extended to every age, and is perpetual; that there will be no end to the government or to peace. This was also repeated by Daniel, who predicts that his kingdom is an everlasting kingdom. (Dan. 7:27) Gabriel also alluded to it when he carried the message to the virgin; and he gave the true exposition of this passage, for it cannot be understood to refer to any other than to Christ. He shall reign, says he, over the house of Jacob for ever, and of his kingdom there shall be no end. (Luke 1:33) We see that the mightiest governments of this world, as if they had been built on a slippery foundation, (Ps. 73:18,) are unexpectedly overturned and suddenly fall. How fickle and changeable all the kingdoms under heaven are, we learn from history and from daily examples. This government alone is unchangeable and eternal.
Now, this continuance, of which Isaiah now speaks, consists of two parts. It belongs both to time and to quality. Though the kingdom of Christ is in such a condition that it appears as if it were about to perish at every moment, yet God not only protects and defends it, but also extends its boundaries far and wide, and then preserves and carries it forward in uninterrupted progression to eternity. We ought firmly to believe this, that the frequency of those shocks by which the Church is shaken may not weaken our faith, when we learn that, amidst the mad outcry and violent attacks of enemies, the kingdom of Christ stands firm through the invincible power of God, so that, though the whole world should oppose and resist, it will remain through all ages. We must not judge of its stability from the present appearances of things, but from the promise, which assures us of its continuance and of its constant increase.
And to the peace. To the government he adds the eternity of the peace, for the one cannot be separated from the other. It is impossible that Christ should be King without also keeping his people in calm and blessed peace, and enriching them with every blessing. But as they are daily exposed to innumerable vexations, endure fierce attacks, and are tossed and perplexed by fears and anxieties, they ought to cultivate that peace of Christ, which holds the highest place in their hearts, (Phil. 4:7; Col. 3:15,) that they may remain unhurt, and may even retain their composure amidst the destruction of the whole world.
In the word לסרבה, (lĕmarbēh,) contrary to the usual manner of writing, there is the close form of ם (mem). Some think that it denotes the slavery by which the Jewish people should be oppressed till the coming of Christ. Others think that that nation, on account of its treachery, was excluded by this mark from having any share in this kingdom. I do not find fault with these views. Indeed, we can hardly assert that the Prophet wrote it in this manner; but yet, since this is the form in which it has come into our hands, and since the Rabbins were so close observers of the minutest portion of a letter, we cannot avoid thinking that this was not rashly done. And if we admit that the Prophet intentionally wrote it in this manner, I think that it conveyed this useful instruction, that believers should not imagine that the splendour of Christ’s kingdom would consist in outward pomp, or cherish vain hopes of worldly triumphs, but should only expect, amidst various calamities, an unseen extension of the kingdom, because it had been promised.
Upon the throne of David. A promise having been made to David that the Redeemer would spring from his seed, (2 Sam. 7:12, 13,) and his kingdom having been nothing else than an imago or faint shadow of that more perfect and truly blessed state which God had determined to establish by the hand of his Son, the Prophets, in order to remind the people of that remarkable miracle, usually call Christ the Son of David. (Jer. 23:5, and 33:15) Though the name of such a holy and upright king was justly beloved and revered, yet believers esteemed more highly the promised restoration to full salvation, and even among the most ignorant persons that prediction was universally remembered, and its truth and authenticity were considered to be clear and undoubted. I shall collect but a few of the passages in which the Prophets promise to an afflicted people restoration in the person of David or of his Son. (Jer. 30:9; Ezek. 34:23; 37:24; Hos. 3:5) Sometimes they foretell that David, who was already dead, would be king. In like manner Isaiah, in this passage, intimates that he brings forward nothing that is new, but only reminds them of that which God had formerly promised about the perpetuity of the kingdom. Indirectly also he insinuates what Amoz more plainly states, that Christ will again raise up the throne which for some time had been fallen. (Amos 9:11)
To order it, and to establish it with judgment and with righteousness. He describes the quality of the kingdom, but by a comparison drawn from earthly governments; for he says that Christ will be a King, to order and establish his kingdom with judgment and with righteousness. These are the means by which earthly governments prosper and take deep roots; but those which are only administered by fear and violence cannot be lasting. Since, therefore, justice is the best guardian of kingdoms and governments, and since the happiness of the whole of the people depends on it, by this clause Isaiah shows that the kingdom of Christ will be the model of the best kind of government.
Judgment and righteousness do not here relate to outward affairs of state. We must observe the analogy between the kingdom of Christ and its qualities; for, being spiritual, it is established by the power of the Holy Spirit. In a word, all these things must be viewed as referring to the inner man, that is, when we are regenerated by God to true righteousness. Outward righteousness indeed follows afterwards, but it must be preceded by that renovation of the mind and heart. We are not Christ’s, therefore, unless we follow what is good and just, and bear on our hearts the impress of that righteousness which hath been sealed by the Holy Spirit.
Henceforth even for ever. This must be understood, I think, to refer to the perpetuity of righteousness and doctrine rather than of the kingdom, lest we should imagine that his laws resemble the statutes of kings and princes, which are in force for three days, or for a short period, and are continually renewed, and soon become old again, but that we may know that their obligation is everlasting; for they have been established, as Zecharias says, that we may serve him in holiness and righteousness all the days of our life. (Luke 1:74, 75) As Christ’s kingdom is everlasting, because he dieth no more, (Rom. 6:9,) so it follows that righteousness and judgment will be everlasting, for they cannot be changed by any length of time.
The zeal of the Lord of hosts will perform this. By zeal I understand that ardent desire which God will display in preserving his Church, by removing all difficulties and obstructions which might otherwise have hindered its redemption. When we engage in any difficult undertaking, our earnestness, and the warmth of our feelings, overcome the difficulties which present themselves to baffle or retard our attempts. In like manner Isaiah shows that God is inflamed with an uncommon and extraordinary desire to promote the salvation of the Church, so that if believers cannot measure by their own capacity what he has just now promised, still they ought not to cease to entertain confident hope, for the manner of it is wonderful and inconceivable. In short, he intimates that God will come with no light or slow arm to redeem his Church, for he will be all on flame with amazing love of believers, and anxiety about their salvation.