First Isaiah – “For unto us a child is born”

Isaiah himself could only have authored chapters 1 to 39, called First Isaiah

Biblical scholars mostly agree that the book of Isaiah contains distinct works of at least three men from three separate periods. Isaiah himself could only have authored chapters 1 to 39, called First Isaiah, Proto-Isaiah, and the historical Isaiah. Chapters 40 to 55, called Second Isaiah and Deutero-Isaiah, were written by a person living in Babylonia during late exilic times. Chapters 56 to 66, called Third Isaiah and Trito-Isaiah, were written by an individual living in postexilic Jerusalem. The identities of Second and Third Isaiah are not known.

First Isaiah

First Isaiah had an unusually long ministry that reportedly started in the last year of the reign of Uzziah of Judah, which would have been about 739 BCE, and lasted through three additional Judean kings, traditionally until 687, the last year of the reign of Hezekiah.

The vision of Isaiah the son of Amoz, which he saw concerning Judah and Jerusalem in the days of Uzziah, Jotham, Ahaz, and Hezekiah, kings of Judah

Isaiah 1:1

He counseled and castigated the kings, priests, and people for their sins, usually to no avail. First Isaiah gave prophecies that were sometimes straightforward but oftentimes complex with deep theological perplexities.

Consider the statement

For unto us a child is born

Isaiah 9:6

It has been traditionally believed that Jesus was that child and the prophecies associated with the child would be fulfilled by Him. It was not until recently in religious history, though, with the benefit of hindsight, that it became apparent that Isaiah 9:6‒7 was mostly fulfilled by the Bahá’í Dispensation.

The phrase “For unto us a child is born” introduces one of the best known, most quoted, passages from First Isaiah. They are commemorated in George Frederick Handel’s oratorio masterpiece, Messiah. An eventual future will dissipate the gloom because then God

will honor the Galilee of the nations, by Way of the Sea, beyond the Jordan

9:1, NIV

War will be no more because

Every warrior’s boot used in battle and every garment rolled in blood will be destined for burning, will be fuel for the fire

9:5, NIV

How and why will this happen?

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

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

Isaiah 9:6‒7, emphasis added

Partial fulfillment and greater fulfillment of biblical prophecy

We now come to the interesting concept of partial fulfillment and greater fulfillment of biblical prophecy. The two verses of Isaiah 9:6–7 were partially fulfilled through Jesus, who was a descendant of David and sat on the spiritual throne of David. ‘Abdu’l-Bahá said in an address given during His tour in the United States in 1912:

He was seated upon the throne of David, but His sovereignty was neither Napoleonic sovereignty nor the vanishing dominion of a Pharaoh. The Christ Kingdom was everlasting, eternal in the heaven of the divine Will.

‘Abdu’l-Bahá, The Promulgation of Universal Peace, 199–200.

Jesus denied any claim to temporal authority when He said,

My kingdom is not of this world

John 18:36, NIV

His name was not the everlasting Father; He referred to Himself as the Son. Rather than being known as Counsellor, Jesus was often called Rabbi, or teacher. Jesus made no claim to be the Prince of Peace, saying instead,

Think not that I am come to send peace on earth: I came not to send peace, but a sword

Matt. 10:34

Jesus also never undertook the burden of government but deflected questions about the Roman government with the response,

Render therefore unto Caesar the things that are Caesar’s; and unto God the things that are God’s

Matt: 22:21

There is a greater fulfillment of the above two verses through Bahá’u’lláh for many reasons. ‘Abdu’l-Bahá referred to Isaiah 9:7 and the Lord of Hosts when He wrote about Bahá’u’lláh’s arrival to the prison in Akka.

When Bahá’u’lláh arrived at this prison in the Holy Land, discerning souls were awakened to the fact that the prophecies which God had voiced through the tongue of His Prophets two or three thousand years before had been realized and that His promises had been fulfilled, for He had revealed unto certain prophets and announced unto the Holy Land that the Lord of Hosts would be manifested therein.

‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Some Answered Questions, no. 9.15, 37, emphasis added

Bahá’u’lláh wrote a tablet to Pope Pius IX in which first He touched upon the missions of John the Baptist and Jesus. Then He focused on these Days of cleansing with the water of life at the hands of His loving providenceand identified Himself as the Father and the Comforter as follows:

We sent forth him who was named John to baptize you with water, that your bodies might be cleansed for the appearance of the Messiah. He, in turn, purified you with the fire of love and the water of the spirit in anticipation of these Days whereon the All-Merciful hath purposed to cleanse you with the water of life at the hands of His loving providence. This is the Father foretold by Isaiah, and the Comforter concerning Whom the Spirit [Jesus] had covenanted with you. Open your eyes, O concourse of bishops, that ye may behold your Lord seated upon the Throne of might and glory.

Bahá’u’lláh, Suríh of the Temple (Pope Pius IX), The Summons of the Lord of Hosts, no. 122, 63, emphasis added

In addition, ‘Abdu’l-Bahá referred to Bahá’u’lláh as the Prince of Peace when He wrote about the eventuality and inevitability of universal peace:

The Sun of Truth hath risen above the horizon of this world and cast down its bounty of guidance. Eternal grace is never interrupted, and a fruit of that everlasting grace is universal peace. Rest thou assured that in this era of the spirit, the Kingdom of Peace will raise up its tabernacle on the summits of the world, and the commandments of the Prince of Peace will so dominate the arteries and nerves of every people as to draw into His sheltering shade all the nations on earth. From springs of love and truth and unity will the true Shepherd give His sheep to drink.

‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Selections from the Writings of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, no. 201, 257–58, emphasis added

The renowned scholar William Sears pondered Isaiah 9:6–7 and came to the following conclusions:

1. The government was upon the shoulder of Bahá’u’lláh. His Writings established local, national, and international institutions to preserve His faith, and to protect the human rights of mankind.

2. His name could be called the Counsellor, for his laws established the principle of “consultation” for each of these governing institutions.

3. As Christ was called the Son, in like manner, I found that Bahá’u’lláh was called the Father. His mission was that of a Father: to gather together the human family into one household, the planet. To unite the nations, races, and religions was the purpose of his coming, Bahá’u’lláh declared. He was the Father of all religions, races, and peoples, with complete equality.

4. Unlike Christ, Bahá’u’lláh’s mission was to bring peace. His whole purpose was to establish universal peace. He was a Prince of Peace.

5. There was indeed an increase in the kingdom of Bahá’u’lláh. It has spread from the day of its birth … to all parts of the world.

William Sears, Thief in the Night, 150–51.

First Isaiah also said,

A little child shall lead them?

Isaiah 11:6

Who was the little child?

Keep reading the First Isaiah series!

First Isaiah – “For unto us a child is born” — Article No. 1 of 5 in a series. Additonal articles to be posted.

To learn all about the preexilic prophets, read volume 2 of The Coming of the Glory.

Biblical quotations are from the King James Version unless otherwise noted. The initials NIV stand for the New International Version.