Isaiah 9:6

Some Muslims try to pick up on some Jewish denial of the deity of the Messiah as it is expressed in the book of the Prophet Isaiah, chapter 9:

[6] For to us a child is born, to us a son is given,
and the government will be on his shoulders.
And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
[7] Of the increase of his government and peace there will be no end.
He will reign on David's throne and over his kingdom,
establishing and upholding it with justice and righteousness
from that time on and forever.
The zeal of the LORD Almighty will accomplish this.

Even if the below response were to be right, which purely human figure could possibly "reign forever"? Verse 7 also is important, not only verse 6.

But, for example, the following was claimed on the Islamic newsgroup soc.religion.islam:

a closer examination of isaiah 9:6 shows that actually the jewish interpretation is correct (not surprising; they should know their own language after all).. "vayikro" is never a passive verb. it never means "will be called"; it means simply "will call" hence "for unto us a son is born, a child is given, and the mighty god ... shall call his name 'Prince of Peace'..." think of it as "Gott wird ihn ... nennen" and not "er wird Gott genannt werden" (put simply).. i thought that because the particle "es-" was omitted, it made the meaning vague and opened up the possibility of the christian interpretation. however, the "es-" (which designates a direct object and is used when the subject and object of a verb are not clear) is unnecessary because "shmoi" is obviously the object of the sentence, not the object because "vayikro" is an active (not passive) verb and otherwise it means that "shmoi" ("his name") is doing the calling?!! "vayikro shmoi" means "will call his name".. not "his name will be called" as the christians assert. (for instance: vayikro yohuh el-moisheh.. "and yohuh called moses.."; see the first verse of the book of leviticus, which is actually named "vayikro" by the jews because it's the first word of the book)

The following is the response of Dr. James D. Price, professor of Hebraic Studies.


Your friend is mistaken about Isaiah 9:6 [vs. 5 in Hebrew] for several

(1) Not all Jews translate the verse as he has been led to believe. For 
example, the Greek translation of the OT known as the Septuagint (LXX) 
translated the expression as "his name is called." The LXX was translated
by Jews in the 3rd century BC, and thus not affected by the Christian-
Jewish debates over this issue. It is true that the LXX paraphrased the 
translation of the names in that verse, but the translation of the verb 
is the important thing here. The Jewish Tanach that I have translates 
the verse as follows: "For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; 
and the government is upon his shoulder; and his name shall be called 
"Wonderful counsellor of the mighty God, of the everlasting Father, 
of the Prince of peace". Obviously these Jewish translators had no 
problem rendering the verb as a passive. However, their insertion of 
the word "of" in several places is not justified by any rule of Hebrew
grammar that I know, nor by the rendering of the verse in the Talmud 
(see below).

(2) In the Talmud the verse is translated as follows: "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, Counsellor, Mighty, Judge, 
Everlasting, Father, Prince, and Peace. [Sanhedrin 94a]. Obviously this 
is an authentic Jewish translation. Therefore, those who have persuaded 
your friend otherwise have misled him.

(3) Your friend seems to be unaware of the well-known grammatical 
construction referred to as the indefinite personal subject. See the 
discussion of this in the Gesenius-Kautzsch-Cowley Hebrew Grammar
(Oxford, 1910)  144d (p. 460). Literally the Hebrew would be translated 
as "One will call his name XXX," but most often translators render the verb
as a passive instead. The Gesenius-Kautzsch-Cowley  grammar lists 
Isa. 9:6 [5] as one such case. So your friend is wrong in stating that the 
active stem [Qal] of the verb "qara'" never is translated as a passive.

Here are some examples of where the Qal stem of the verb "qara'" [call] 
is properly translated as though it were passive when it governs the word 
"shem" [name] as its object, and has an indefinite personal subject.

Genesis 11:9 Therefore its name is called Babel, 
'al ken qara' shemah babel

Genesis 19:22 Therefore the name of the city was called Zoar.
'al ken qara' shen-ha'ir zo'ar

Genesis 25:26 and his name was called Jacob. 
wayyiqra' shemo ya'aqob

Genesis 25:30 Therefore his name was called Edom.
'al ken qara' shemo 'edom

Genesis 29:34 Therefore his name was called Levi.
'al ken qara' shemo lewi

Genesis 31:48 Therefore its name was called Galeed,
'al ken qara' shemo gal'ed

Genesis 33:17 Therefore the name of the place is called Succoth.
'al ken qara' shem-hammaqom sukkoth

Genesis 35:8 So the name of it was called Allon Bachuth.
wayyiqra' shemo 'allon bakkuth

Genesis 38:29 Therefore his name was called Perez.
wayyiqra' shemo parets

Genesis 38:30 And his name was called Zerah.
wayyiqra' shemo zerah

Genesis 50:11 Therefore its name was called Abel Mizraim,
'al ken qara' shemah 'abel mitsrayim

Exodus 15:23 Therefore the name of it was called Marah.
'al ken qara' shemah marah

Numbers 21:3 So the name of that place was called Hormah.
wayyiqra' shem-hammaqom hormah

Joshua 5:9 Therefore the name of the place is called Gilgal 
wayyiqra' shem-hammaqom hahu' gilgal

Joshua 7:26 Therefore the name of that place has been called the 
Valley of Achor 
'al ken qara' shem-hammaqom hahu' 'emeq 'akor

Hello Jochen:

Your friend, needs to study the syntax 
of the Hebrew expression "X called the name of Y Z," 
where X is the person who gives the name, Y is the person 
or thing receiving the name, and Z is the name given. 
An exhaustive study of these expressions in the Tenach 
indicates the following:

(1) When waw-consecutive is used, the syntax is:
	wayyiqra' X ('et) shem Y Z [where Y may be a pronoun]

(2) When waw-conjunctive is used, the syntax is:
	we-X qara' ('et) shem Y Z [where Y may be a pronoun]

(3) When no conjunction is used, the syntax is:
	qara' X ('et) shem Y Z

(4) When Z receives special emphasis, the syntax is:
	Z qara' X ('et) shem Y

(5) When X is a pronoun implied in the conjugate form of the verb,
the syntax is:
	qara'/yiqra' ('et) shem Y Z [where Y may be a pronoun]

I gave many examples of (5) in my previous post.

The following are all the instances of (1) in the Tenach:

Genesis 3:20 And Adam called his wife's name Eve,
wayyiqra' ha'adam shem-'ishto chawwah

Genesis 16:15 and Abram named his son, whom Hagar bore, Ishmael.
wayyiqra' 'abram shem-beno 'asher yaledah hagar yisma''el

Genesis 21:3 And Abraham called the name of his son who was born to him --
whom Sarah bore to him -- Isaac.
wayyiqra' 'abraham 'et-shem-beno . . . yitschaq

Genesis 22:14 And Abraham called the name of that place, 
wayyiqra' 'abraham shem-hammaqom hahu' YHWH-yir'eh

Genesis 32:30 And Jacob called the name of the place Peniel
wayyiqra' ya'aqob shem-hammaqom peniy'el

Genesis 35:15 And Jacob called the name of the place 
where God spoke with him,Bethel.
wayyiqra' ya'aqob 'et-shem-hammaqom . . . beyt-'el

Genesis 41:45 And Pharaoh called Joseph's name Zaphnath-Paaneah.
wayyiqra' par'oh shem-yosep tsapnat pa'neach

Genesis 41:51 Joseph called the name of the firstborn Manasseh:
wayyiqra' yosep 'et-shem-habbekor menashsheh

Exodus 16:31 And the house of Israel called its name Manna.
wayyiqra' beyt-yisra'el 'et-shemo man

Numbers 13:16 And Moses called Hoshea the son of Nun, Joshua.
wayyiqra' moshe' lehoshea' ben-nun yehoshua'

The following is the sole instance of (2) in the Tenach:

1 Chronicles 4:9 and his mother called his name Jabez,
we'immo qar'ah shemo ya'bets

The following is the sole instance of (3) in the Tenach:

Exodus 35:30 the LORD has called by name Bezalel the son of Uri, 
qara' YHWH beshem betsal'el ben 'uri

There are two instances of (4) in the Tenach:

Jeremiah 11:16 The LORD called your name, Green Olive Tree, 
Lovely and of Good Fruit. 
zayit ra'anan yep'eh perit-to'ar qara' YHWH shemek

Jeremiah 20:3 The LORD has not called your name Pashhur,
lo' pashchur qara' HYWH shemek

For all instances of this expression in the Tenach (except Isa. 9:6[5]), 
when X is named in the clause, X either immediately precedes or follows 
the verb "qara'," and, when it follows, it intervenes between "qara'" 
and ('et) shem Y. Your friend's proposed syntax of Isa. 9:6[5] 
would be as follows:

wayyiqra' ('et) shem Y X Z

This is contrary to all other constructions of this expression in the 
Tenach. Therefore, it is only reasonable to conclude that the Artscroll 
Chumash and your friend are wrong (being motivated by theological bias, 
not good grammar), and that the syntax of Isa. 9:6[5] should be according 
to (5) as follows:

wayyiqra' ('et) shem Y Z [where Y is a pronoun suffix].

In this case, as in many similar cases, X, the subject of the verb, 
is the pronoun implied in the conjugate form of the verb, and Z 
is "Wonderful, Counselor, The Mighty God, The Father of Eternity, 
Prince of Peace."

James D. Price

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