Isaiah 9 – A Divine Child Israelites Only Hope & The Philistines

ThinkingIt sounds like Israel is going to get another king, is that right?

1 Nevertheless the dimness shall not be such as was in her vexation, when at the first he lightly afflicted the land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali, and afterward did more grievously afflict her by the way of the sea, beyond Jordan, in Galilee of the nations.

1 City of Gath
City of Gath
Gath or Gat (Hebrew: גַּת‬, wine press; Latin: Geth), often referred to as Gath of the Philistines, was one of the five Philistine city-states, established in northwestern Philistia. Gath is often mentioned in the Hebrew Bible and its existence is confirmed by Egyptian inscriptions.

Gath is mentioned in the El-Amarna letters as Gimti/Gintu, ruled by the two Shuwardata and ʿAbdi-Ashtarti. Another Gath, known as Ginti-kirmil (Gath of Carmel) also appears in the Amarna letters.

The site most favored as the location of Gath is the archaeological mound or tell known as Tell es-Safi in Arabic and Tel Zafit in Hebrew (sometimes written Tel Tzafit), located inside Tel Zafit National Park, but a stone inscription disclosing the name of the city has yet to be discovered.

Recent excavations at the site have produced dramatic evidence of a siege and subsequent destruction of the site in the late 9th century BCE, which can be related to the biblical verse that mentions its capture by Hazael of Aram Damascus. A Gittite is a person from Gath.

“Naphtali” – this tribe in northern Israel suffered greatly when the Assyrian Tiglath-pileser III attacked in 734 and 732 B.C. (2 kgs 15:29).

2 The people that walked in darkness have seen a great light: they that dwell in the land of the shadow of death, upon them hath the light shined.

“People that walked in darkness” – there would be a special blessing upon the people of Galilee who experiences such devastating judgment during the days of Isaiah.  This prophecy was fulfilled when Jesus lived and ministered in Galilee during his earthly ministry (cf Matt 4:13-15).

“Great light” – Jesus and His salvation would be a “light of/to the Gentiles” (42:6, 49:6).

3 Thou hast multiplied the nation, and not increased the joy: they joy before thee according to the joy in harvest, and as men rejoice when they divide the spoil.

4 For thou hast broken the yoke of his burden, and the staff of his shoulder, the rod of his oppressor, as in the day of Midian.

“Day of Midian” – Gideon defeated the hordes of Midian and broke their domination over Israel (Jud 7:22-25).

“Yoke…staff” – in 10:26-27 Isaiah predicts that God will destroy the Assyrian army and their oppressive yoke.  This was fulfilled in 701 B.C. (see 37:36-38).

2 Capernaum 1
This photo shows the center of the villaae of Capternaum, with the 4th c Ad synagogue on the left. On the right side are the Byzantine ruins of the villae in the center which were the same area of the early Roman houses from the time of Jesus.

5 For every battle of the warrior is with confused noise, and garments rolled in blood; but this shall be with burning and fuel of fire.

“Every battle…rolled in blood” – describes the violence that the enemy armies inflicted on Israel during the time of God’s punishment.

“But this shall be…burning and fuel of fire” – a promise of Israel’s deliverance from its enemies and a time of universal peace.  Even the uniforms used in warfare  (“garments rolled in blood”) will be burned because there will no longer be a need for military garb and equipment (see notes on 2:2-4).

6 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, Counselor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace.

“Son” – a royal son, a son of David (see v 7 and 2 Sam 7:14; Ps 2:7; Matt 1:1, 3:17; Lk 1:32).

“Wonderful, Counseller”  or “Wonderful counseller” with “wonderful” describing the kind of “Counseller” that Messiah will be.  Each of the four throne names of the Messiah would then consist of two elements. 

3 Cooking Pot
Cooking Pot
Cooking pot which was found in a room just next to the altar.

Unlike Immanuel (see note on 7:14), these titles were not like normal OT personal names.  “Counseller” points to the Messiah as a king (see Mic 4:9) who determines upon and carries out a program of action (see 14:27), “purposed”; Ps 20:4 “counsel”)

As Wonderful counseller, the coming Son of David will carry out a royal program that will cause all the world to marvel.  What that program will be is spelled out in ch 11, and more fully in chs 24-27 (see 25:1 – “done wonderful things, Thy counsels of old”).

“Mighty God” – see 10:21.  His divine power as a warrior is stressed.

“Everlasting Father” – He will be an everlasting, compassionate provider and protector (cf 40:9-11).

“Prince of Peace” – His rule will bring wholeness and well-being to individuals and to society (see 11:6-9).

7 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 forever. The zeal of the LORD of hosts will perform this.

“Throne of David…justice…forever” – in spite of the sins of kings like Ahaz, Christ will be a descendant of David who will rule in righteousness forever (see 11:3-5; 2 Sam 7:12-13, 16; Jer 33:15, 20-22).

“The zeal…this” – God is like a jealosu lover who will not abandon His people.

4 Goliath
Inscription from Tell es-SafiGath giving evidence of the giant Goliath. He stood 9’9” tall and was from Gath of the Philistines.

8  The Lord sent a word into Jacob, and it hath lighted upon Israel.

9 And all the people shall know, even Ephraim and the inhabitant of Samaria, that say in the pride and stoutness of heart,

10 The bricks are fallen down, but we will build with hewn stones: the sycamores are cut down, but we will change them into cedars.

“Bricks are fallen down” – bricks made of clay and dried by the sun crumbled easily.

“Hewn stones” – Amos denounces the stone mansions of the wicked (Amos 5:11).

11 Therefore the LORD shall set up the adversaries of Rezin against him, and join his enemies together;

12 The Syrians before, and the Philistines behind; and they shall devour Israel with open mouth. For all this his anger is not turned away, but his hand is stretched out still.

13  For the people turneth not unto him that smiteth them, neither do they seek the LORD of hosts.

5 Jordan River14 Therefore the LORD will cut off from Israel head and tail, branch and rush, in one day.

“Head and tail…branch and rush” – the leaders of Israel (see also 3:1-3).  These two pairs refer to Egyptian leaders in 19:15.

15 The ancient and honorable, he is the head; and the prophet that teacheth lies, he is the tail.

16 For the leaders of this people cause them to err; and they that are led of them are destroyed.

17 Therefore the Lord shall have no joy in their young men, neither shall have mercy on their fatherless and widows: for everyone is an hypocrite and an evildoer, and every mouth speaketh folly. For all this his anger is not turned away, but his hand is stretched out still.

18  For wickedness burneth as the fire: it shall devour the briers and thorns, and shall kindle in the thickets of the forest, and they shall mount up like the lifting up of smoke.

19 Through the wrath of the LORD of hosts is the land darkened, and the people shall be as the fuel of the fire: no man shall spare his brother.

6 Sea of Galilee
Lake of Galilee by Capernaum
Jesus was raised in Nazareth, but later relocated to Capernaum. Galilee is where He told His disciples to meet Him after his resurrection.

20 And he shall snatch on the right hand, and be hungry; and he shall eat on the left hand, and they shall not be satisfied: they shall eat every man the flesh of his own arm:

21 Manasseh, Ephraim; and Ephraim, Manasseh: and they together shall be against Judah. For all this his anger is not turned away, but his hand is stretched out still.

“Manasseh, Ephraim” – these two prominent tribes in the northern kingdom were descended from the two sons of Joseph (see Gen 46:20 and Gen 48:5-6).

The Philistines

The Philistines have a three-millennia-old reputation for being a society of warlike pagans, devoid of aesthetic or intellectual values.

7 Altar
This nearly 4-foot-tall, two-horned altar from the site of Tell es-Safi (Gath of the Phlistines) suggests the origins of the Philistines are to be sought in the Aegean world.

They are referred to as the descendants of the Casluchim in Genesis 10:14 and Exodus 13:17.  Known as a seafaring nation, the Philistines were a non-Semitic people who left Crete and arrived in Canaan at the beginning of the Iron Age (12th century B.C.E.).  They inhabited the Mediterranean coast of Canaan during the period of the Book of Judges.

According to the Bible, they ruled the five city-states (the “Philistine Pentapolis”) of Gaza, Ashkelon, Ashdod, Ekron and Gath, from Wadi Gaza in the south to the Yarqon River in the north, but with no fixed border to the east.  The Bible paints them as the Kingdom of Israel’s most dangerous enemy.

Originating somewhere in the Aegean, their population was around 25,000 in the 12th century BC, rising to a peak of 30,000 in the 11th century BC, of which the Aegean element was not more than half the total, and perhaps much less.

Nothing is known for certain about the original language or languages of the
Philistines, however they were not part of the Semitic Canaanite population.  There is some limited evidence in favor of the assumption that the Philistines were Indo-European-speakers either from Greece and/or Luwian speakers from the coast of Asia Minor.

Philistine-related words found in the Bible are not Semitic, and can in some cases, with reservations, be traced back to Proto-Indo-European roots.  By the beginning of the 1st Millennium BC they had adopted the general Canaanite language of the region.

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