Advent Devotional Day 15: Isaiah 9.6
His Name Shall Be Called: Part 3- Everlasting Father
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. (Isaiah 9.6)
In the previous two installments of this “series within a series” where we have been looking at the Names given to the coming King, we looked at the first two Names “Wonderful Counselor” and “Mighty God.” We noticed that both of these Names have divine connotations, the first more implicitly, the second more explicitly, and that both of these Names describe attributes of the coming King, giving us just a glimpse of His brilliance and glory. The next Name that we will look at is no different. The third Name of the coming King of Israel in this verse is “Everlasting Father.”
People debate how this term is to be translated. Many translation committees look at this Name and render it as you see it above. Still, others think that it should be translated “Father of Eternity.” The differences between the two Names in English are subtle, and even though I do not stake my claim on either position, I think each name brings out different nuances that may be lying beneath in the original language. “Father” is the common denominator between the two positions so we can start here. Some might look at this Name “Father” and say to themselves “I thought the Son was the Person taking on flesh in the incarnation. How can the Son be called ‘Father?’” Well, this text doesn’t intend to parse out the distinctions in Trinitarian relationships within the Godhead. Rather, this term “Father” is a functional one, not a Personal title of the Son who takes on flesh. This is a prophecy about a son to be born to Israel who would be their King. The true and better David sitting on David’s throne forever. The fulfillment of the Davidic Covenant. Ancient kings often referred to themselves as the “fathers” of their subjects that they ruled over. The title “father” was used of these kings to describe the paternal affection that he had toward those he ruled over. (if he was a righteous king) The Name “Father” in this verse does not describe the Son in His Eternal Divine Person, rather, it describes Him in the discharge of His office, ruling over His people as their King.
What are we to do with the discrepancy of translation between “Everlasting Father” and Father of Eternity?” The Names are incredibly similar, and either could be accurate in conveying in English certain aspects of the Name in the original language. My answer is “why not both?” Lets glean what we can from each of these Names because their subtle differences emphasize different aspects of this King who will rule over His people. “Everlasting Father” describes a Ruler whose reign will never end. It describes a King who will not cease to be King through death, like David and his ancestors did. (Psalm 16) If you read the books of 1 and 2 Kings, you will read about an entire race of Kings that come from David’s line through Solomon, each of them is either more wicked or more righteous than the One before, and through this never ending (seemingly) succession of kings, we start to ask ourselves: “Isn’t something better coming?” “Isn’t something coming that will not be brought to an end by death?” After all, that is what was promised in the Davidic Covenant. A throne that never ended was promised to David’s Ancestor. (2 Sam. 7) That is exactly what is being promised through this Name that is given to the coming King! This is the throne (Father) that will be instituted and never end! This is the fulfillment of God’s promises to Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Judah, and David. This is the marvelous faithfulness of Yahweh.
“Father of Eternity” on the other hand pictures something more than a throne that endures forever and never ceases through death. It not only pictures this King as the One who will reign forever, but the One who reigns because He Himself transcends time. “Everlasting” means that forever into the future the life of the subject will be a never-ending succession of moments. This is a thrilling reality. “Eternity” refers to that attribute of God whereby He transcends time altogether and is not bound by it. Calling the Messiah the “Father of Eternity” means that He is the King who is coming in the form of a Child to reign on David’s throne, and He is doing so because He was always the King of Israel, the Holy One of Israel who transcended time completely! Time was His creation! In His Divine nature He is not bound by a never ending succession of moments in time, but has ALL life, ALL at once, in His very Being. This is a transcendent King that is coming to rule the nations.
We can add to this picture if we take into account that God has always been King over Israel. “Lift up your heads, O gates! And be lifted up, O ancient doors, that the King of glory my come in! Who is this King of glory? Yahweh, strong and mighty, Yahweh, mighty in battle. (Psalm 24.7-8) Even the thrones of David and Solomon were a mediated rule through which Yahweh Himself ruled over His people. Yahweh ruled through David. So we see in the Old Testament this combined reality of the Divine King ruling Sovereignly and a human king ruling as well. The reason we need to pay attention to these Names of Christ in Isaiah 9.6 is because in Him these two realities are united. He is both the Divine King who inhabits eternity, transcending time itself and He is the earthly King who came as a Child born into the nation of Israel. He is both mighty and meek, lofty and lowly, truly God and truly Man. He transcends time in His divine nature and rules over His people in an everlasting succession of moments in His human nature. He is the One who was promised and the One who came to us, born of a virgin. He came to crush death and rule forever, and so He does.