What does Isaiah chapter 9 mean?This chapter begins with a verse some commentators see as the logical conclusion to the previous chapter, Isaiah 8. There Isaiah had described the constant, symbolic "night" experienced because Israel rejected the word of the Lord (Isaiah 8:20–22). They lived in self-inflicted frustration and darkness. They suffered under the judgment of the Lord.
Now Isaiah again pauses to show that Israel's story will not end with God's coming judgment. Eventually, the darkness will lift. The anguish of God's people will disappear when the Lord keeps His promises and returns Israel to glory. That glory will begin in the regions of northern Israel. This is where God's contempt struck the people and the land through the Assyrian invasion and occupation (Isaiah 9:1).
In the form of a poem written in the past tense, the prophet describes what that glorious future will be like. Those walking in darkness have seen "a great light". The Lord has increased the population. He has restored the harvest and the spoils of battle. All oppressors have been defeated, and all the garments of war have been burned as fuel. They are no longer needed. War is dead. Peace is permanent (Isaiah 9:2–5).
How does this happen? A child has been born, given by God. He will be the king of Israel. But He is shown to be so much more than a mere great leader. He is given the titles of Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, and Prince of Peace. As Isaiah's book continues to unfold, it will become clear this is the promised Messiah. The who will one day rule over the entire earth from His throne in Israel (Isaiah 9:6).
This king is not mortal, because His government and the peace it brings will never end. He will occupy David's throne with righteousness and justice forever. Believers understand clearly this is Jesus of Nazareth, the king of Israel and savior of the world (Isaiah 9:7).
Isaiah returns to his message of judgment, showing the sharp contrast with his present and Israel's grand future. He describes the word the Lord has sent against the northern ten tribes known in this time as Israel. They will soon know, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that the Lord is God. And that they are guilty of failing to follow Him (Isaiah 9:8).
For now, the people of Israel are so proud and arrogant that they are even unafraid of the coming attacks of the Assyrians. They boast that they will rebuild all that is torn down to be bigger and better and more luxurious. Instead, the Lord will send the enemies of the Syrians to "devour Israel" (Isaiah 9:9–12).
Even then, the people will not turn to God for help and salvation. In response, the Lord will wipe out all of Israel's leaders in a day. The least to the greatest, from the elders to the false prophets who advise them, none will escape. They have led the people astray, and God will bring His judgement. God will not have compassion on any of the people, however. The corruption reaches to every level of society, from the fatherless to the young men. All are guilty of sin and foolish talk (Isaiah 9:13–17.
Isaiah concludes the chapter by picturing unchecked human wickedness as a fire that consumes everything in its path. The land is scorched by sin's effects, as well as by God's wrath. Wickedness causes people to devour each other. They even devour themselves in a futile attempt to satisfy sin's endless appetite. Brothers and tribes destroy each other and the Lord's judgment will come on Israel (Isaiah 9:18–21).