The Promise of a Prince of Peace
1. What has mankind experienced since the time of Cain?
SOME six thousand years ago, the first human baby was born. His name was Cain, and his birth was very special. Neither his parents, nor the angels, nor even the Creator had seen a human baby before. This newborn infant could have brought hope to a condemned human race. How disappointing it was when, after he grew up, he became a murderer! (1 John 3:12) Since then mankind has witnessed countless other murders. Humans, inclined as they are to do bad, are not at peace with one another or with God.—Genesis 6:5; Isaiah 48:22.
2, 3. What prospects were opened up by Jesus Christ, and what must we do to receive such blessings?
2 Some four millenniums after the birth of Cain, another baby was born. His name was Jesus, and his birth too was very special. He was born of a virgin, by the power of holy spirit—the only such birth in history. At the time of his birth, a multitude of joyful angels sang praises to God, saying: “Glory in the heights above to God, and upon earth peace among men of goodwill.” (Luke 2:13, 14) Far from being a murderer, Jesus opened the way for humans to be at peace with God and to gain everlasting life.—John 3:16; 1 Corinthians 15:55.
3 Isaiah prophesied that Jesus would be called “Prince of Peace.” (Isaiah 9:6) He would offer his own life in behalf of mankind, thus making possible the forgiveness of sins. (Isaiah 53:11) Today, peace with God and the forgiveness of sins can be attained on the basis of faith in Jesus Christ. But such blessings are not automatic. (Colossians 1:21-23) Those who want them must learn to obey Jehovah God. (1 Peter 3:11; compare Hebrews 5:8, 9.) In Isaiah’s day, Israel and Judah do exactly the opposite.
Turning to the Demons
4, 5. What is the state of affairs in Isaiah’s day, and to whom do some turn?
4 Because of their disobedience, Isaiah’s contemporaries are in a deplorable moral state, a veritable pit of spiritual darkness. Even the southern kingdom of Judah, the location of God’s temple, has no peace. As a result of their unfaithfulness, the people of Judah are threatened with invasion by the Assyrians, and hard times lie ahead. To whom do they turn for help? Sadly, many turn to Satan, not to Jehovah. No, they do not invoke Satan by name. Rather, like King Saul of old, they engage in spiritism, looking for answers to their problems by trying to communicate with the dead.—1 Samuel 28:1-20.
5 Some are even promoting this practice. Isaiah points to such apostasy when he says: “In case they should say to you people: ‘Apply to the spiritistic mediums or to those having a spirit of prediction who are chirping and making utterances in low tones,’ is it not to its God that any people should apply? Should there be application to dead persons in behalf of living persons?” (Isaiah 8:19) Spirit mediums can trick people, “chirping and making utterances in low tones.” Such sound effects, attributed to the spirits of dead ones, can be worked through ventriloquism by a living medium. At times, though, the demons may get directly involved and impersonate the dead, as apparently happened when Saul inquired of the witch of Endor.—1 Samuel 28:8-19.
6. Why are the Israelites who have resorted to spiritism especially blameworthy?
6 All of this is going on in Judah despite the fact that Jehovah has forbidden the practice of spiritism. Under the Mosaic Law, it is a capital offense. (Leviticus 19:31; 20:6, 27; Deuteronomy 18:9-12) Why do a people who are Jehovah’s special possession commit such a grave transgression? Because they have turned their backs on Jehovah’s Law and counsel and have become “hardened by the deceptive power of sin.” (Hebrews 3:13) “Their heart has become unfeeling just like fat,” and they have become alienated from their God.—Psalm 119:70.a
7. How do many today imitate the Israelites of Isaiah’s day, and what will be the future of such ones if they do not repent?
7 Likely they reason, ‘Of what good is the Law of Jehovah when we are faced with an imminent attack by the Assyrians?’ They want a quick and easy solution to their predicament and are not about to wait for Jehovah to work out his will. In our day too, many ignore Jehovah’s law and search out spirit mediums, consult horoscopes, and resort to other forms of occultism to solve their problems. However, for the living to seek answers from the dead is just as ridiculous today as it was back then. The future of any who unrepentantly practice such things will be with the “murderers and fornicators and . . . idolaters and all the liars.” They have no future prospects of life.—Revelation 21:8.
God’s ‘Law and Attestation’
8. What is “the law” and “the attestation” to which we today should be going for direction?
8 Jehovah’s law banning spiritism, together with his other commands, is not hidden in Judah. It is preserved in writing. Today his Word is available in its completed form in writing. It is the Bible, which includes not only a compilation of divine laws and regulations but also an account of God’s dealings with his people. This Bible account of Jehovah’s dealings forms an attestation, or testimony, teaching us about Jehovah’s nature and qualities. Instead of consulting with the dead, where should the Israelites be going for direction? Isaiah answers: “To the law and to the attestation!” (Isaiah 8:20a) Yes, those seeking true enlightenment should go to God’s written Word.
9. Is quoting the Bible from time to time of any value to unrepentant sinners?
9 Some Israelites dabbling in spiritism may profess respect for the written Word of God. But such claims are empty and hypocritical. Isaiah says: “Surely they will keep saying what is according to this statement that will have no light of dawn.” (Isaiah 8:20b) To what statement is Isaiah here referring? Perhaps to the statement: “To the law and to the attestation!” It may be that some apostate Israelites refer to the Word of God, just as apostates and others today may quote Scripture. But these are mere words. Quoting Scripture will not lead to any “light of dawn,” or enlightenment from Jehovah, if it is not accompanied by a doing of Jehovah’s will and a shunning of unclean practices.b
“A Famine, Not for Bread”
10. How are the people of Judah suffering because of rejecting Jehovah?
10 Disobedience to Jehovah results in mental darkness. (Ephesians 4:17, 18) In a spiritual sense, the people of Judah have become blind, without understanding. (1 Corinthians 2:14) Isaiah describes their condition: “Each one will certainly pass through the land hard pressed and hungry.” (Isaiah 8:21a) Because of the nation’s unfaithfulness—particularly during the reign of King Ahaz—the survival of Judah as an independent kingdom is threatened. The nation is surrounded by enemies. The Assyrian army assaults one Judean city after another. The enemy desolates the productive land, making food scarce. Many are “hard pressed and hungry.” But another kind of hunger also afflicts the land. Some decades earlier Amos prophesied: “‘Look! There are days coming,’ is the utterance of the Sovereign Lord Jehovah, ‘and I will send a famine into the land, a famine, not for bread, and a thirst, not for water, but for hearing the words of Jehovah.’” (Amos 8:11) Judah is now in the throes of just such a spiritual famine!
11. Will Judah learn a lesson from the discipline she receives?
11 Will Judah learn her lesson and return to Jehovah? Will her people turn away from spiritism and idolatry and return “to the law and to the attestation”? Jehovah foresees their reaction: “It must occur that because he is hungry and has made himself feel indignant, he will actually call down evil upon his king and upon his God and will certainly peer upward.” (Isaiah 8:21b) Yes, many will blame their human king for leading them into this situation. Some will even foolishly blame Jehovah for their calamities! (Compare Jeremiah 44:15-18.) Today, many respond in a similar way, blaming God for tragedies caused by human wickedness.
12. (a) To what has turning away from God led Judah? (b) What important questions are raised?
12 Will calling down evil upon God bring peace to the inhabitants of Judah? No. Isaiah foretells: “To the earth he will look, and, lo! distress and darkness, obscurity, hard times and gloominess with no brightness.” (Isaiah 8:22) After raising their eyes to heaven to blame God, they look back to the earth, back to their hopeless prospects. Their turning away from God has led to calamity. (Proverbs 19:3) What, though, of the promises that God made to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob? (Genesis 22:15-18; 28:14, 15) Will Jehovah default? Will the Assyrians or some other military power bring to an end the royal line promised to Judah and David? (Genesis 49:8-10; 2 Samuel 7:11-16) Will the Israelites be forever condemned to darkness?
A Land “Treated With Contempt”
13. What is “Galilee of the nations,” and how does it come to be “treated with contempt”?
13 Isaiah now alludes to one of the worst of the cataclysmic events that come upon the descendants of Abraham: “The obscureness will not be as when the land had stress, as at the former time when one treated with contempt the land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali and when at the later time one caused it to be honored—the way by the sea, in the region of the Jordan, Galilee of the nations.” (Isaiah 9:1) Galilee is a territory in the northern kingdom of Israel. In Isaiah’s prophecy it includes “the land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali” and also “the way by the sea,” an ancient road that ran by the Sea of Galilee and led to the Mediterranean Sea. In Isaiah’s day, the region is called “Galilee of the nations,” likely because many of its cities are inhabited by non-Israelites.c How is this land “treated with contempt”? The pagan Assyrians conquer it, take the Israelites into exile, and resettle the whole region with pagans, who are not descendants of Abraham. Thus the ten-tribe northern kingdom disappears from history as a distinct nation!—2 Kings 17:5, 6, 18, 23, 24.
14. In what sense will Judah’s “obscureness” be less than that of the ten-tribe kingdom?
14 Judah too is under pressure from the Assyrians. Will it sink into a permanent “obscureness” as did the ten-tribe kingdom represented by Zebulun and Naphtali? No. At a “later time,” Jehovah will bring blessings to the region of the southern kingdom of Judah and even to the land formerly ruled by the northern kingdom. How?
15, 16. (a) At what “later time” will the situation change for “the districts of Zebulun and Naphtali”? (b) How does the land that was treated with contempt come to be honored?
15 The apostle Matthew answers this question in his inspired record of the earthly ministry of Jesus. Describing the early days of that ministry, Matthew says: “After leaving Nazareth, [Jesus] came and took up residence in Capernaum beside the sea in the districts of Zebulun and Naphtali, that there might be fulfilled what was spoken through Isaiah the prophet, saying: ‘O land of Zebulun and land of Naphtali, along the road of the sea, on the other side of the Jordan, Galilee of the nations! the people sitting in darkness saw a great light, and as for those sitting in a region of deathly shadow, light rose upon them.’”—Matthew 4:13-16.
16 Yes, “the later time” foretold by Isaiah is the time of Christ’s earthly ministry. Most of Jesus’ earthly life was spent in Galilee. It was in the district of Galilee that he began his ministry and started to announce: “The kingdom of the heavens has drawn near.” (Matthew 4:17) In Galilee, he delivered his famous Sermon on the Mount, chose his apostles, performed his first miracle, and appeared to some 500 followers after his resurrection. (Matthew 5:1–7:27; 28:16-20; Mark 3:13, 14; John 2:8-11; 1 Corinthians 15:6) In this way Jesus fulfilled Isaiah’s prophecy by honoring “the land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali.” Of course, Jesus did not restrict his ministry to the people of Galilee. By preaching the good news throughout the land, Jesus ‘caused to be honored’ the entire nation of Israel, including Judah.
The “Great Light”
17. How does “a great light” shine in Galilee?
17 What, though, of Matthew’s mention of “a great light” in Galilee? This too was a quotation from Isaiah’s prophecy. Isaiah wrote: “The people that were walking in the darkness have seen a great light. As for those dwelling in the land of deep shadow, light itself has shone upon them.” (Isaiah 9:2) By the first century C.E., the light of truth had been hidden by pagan falsehoods. Jewish religious leaders had compounded the problem by holding to their religious tradition with which they had “made the word of God invalid.” (Matthew 15:6) Humble ones were oppressed and bewildered, following “blind guides.” (Matthew 23:2-4, 16) When Jesus the Messiah appeared, the eyes of many humble people were opened in a wondrous way. (John 1:9, 12) Jesus’ work while on earth and the blessings resulting from his sacrifice are aptly characterized in Isaiah’s prophecy as “a great light.”—John 8:12.
18, 19. What reason did those who responded to the light have for great rejoicing?
18 Those who responded to the light had much reason for rejoicing. Isaiah continued: “You have made the nation populous; for it you have made the rejoicing great. They have rejoiced before you as with the rejoicing in the harvesttime, as those who are joyful when they divide up the spoil.” (Isaiah 9:3) As a result of the preaching activity of Jesus and his followers, honesthearted ones came forward, showing themselves desirous of worshiping Jehovah with spirit and truth. (John 4:24) In less than four years, multitudes embraced Christianity. Three thousand were baptized on the day of Pentecost 33 C.E. Shortly afterward, “the number of the men became about five thousand.” (Acts 2:41; 4:4) As the disciples zealously reflected the light, “the number of the disciples kept multiplying in Jerusalem very much; and a great crowd of priests began to be obedient to the faith.”—Acts 6:7.
19 Like those who rejoice in a bounteous harvest or who delight over the division of valuable spoil after a great military victory, Jesus’ followers rejoiced over the increase. (Acts 2:46, 47) In time, Jehovah caused the light to shine among the nations. (Acts 14:27) So people of all races rejoiced that the way of approach to Jehovah had been opened to them.—Acts 13:48.
“As in the Day of Midian”
20. (a) In what ways did the Midianites prove to be enemies of Israel, and how did Jehovah bring an end to the threat they posed? (b) How on a future “day of Midian” will Jesus bring an end to the threat posed by enemies of God’s people?
20 The effects of the activity of the Messiah are permanent, as we see from Isaiah’s next words: “The yoke of their load and the rod upon their shoulders, the staff of the one driving them to work, you have shattered to pieces as in the day of Midian.” (Isaiah 9:4) Centuries before Isaiah’s day, the Midianites conspired with the Moabites to lure Israel into sin. (Numbers 25:1-9, 14-18; 31:15, 16) Later, Midianites terrorized the Israelites by raiding and plundering their villages and farms for seven years. (Judges 6:1-6) But then Jehovah, through his servant Gideon, routed Midian’s armies. After that “day of Midian,” there is no evidence that Jehovah’s people ever again suffered at the hands of the Midianites. (Judges 6:7-16; 8:28) In the near future, Jesus Christ, the greater Gideon, will deliver a deathblow to modern-day enemies of Jehovah’s people. (Revelation 17:14; 19:11-21) Then, “as in the day of Midian,” a complete and lasting victory will be gained, not by human prowess, but by Jehovah’s power. (Judges 7:2-22) God’s people will never again suffer under the yoke of oppression!
21. What does Isaiah’s prophecy indicate as to the future of warfare?
21 Displays of divine power are not a glorification of warfare. The resurrected Jesus is the Prince of Peace, and by annihilating his enemies, he will usher in eternal peace. Isaiah now speaks of military paraphernalia as being totally destroyed by fire: “Every boot of the one tramping with tremors and the mantle rolled in blood have even come to be for burning as food for fire.” (Isaiah 9:5) The tremors caused by the tramping of the boots of marching soldiers will never again be felt. The bloody uniforms of combat-hardened warriors will no longer be seen. War will be no more!—Psalm 46:9.
22. What multiple prophetic name is Jesus given in the book of Isaiah?
22 At the time of his miraculous birth, the one born to be the Messiah received the name Jesus, meaning “Jehovah Is Salvation.” But he has other names, prophetic names that outline his key role and his elevated position. One such name is Immanuel, meaning “With Us Is God.” (Isaiah 7:14, footnote) Isaiah now describes another prophetic name: “There has been a child born to us, there has been a son given to us; and the princely rule will come to be upon his shoulder. And his name will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Eternal Father, Prince of Peace.” (Isaiah 9:6) Consider the rich meaning of this multiple prophetic name.
23, 24. (a) In what way is Jesus a “Wonderful Counselor”? (b) How can Christian counselors today imitate Jesus’ example?
23 A counselor is one who gives counsel, or advice. When on earth Jesus Christ provided wonderful counsel. In the Bible we read that “crowds were astounded at his way of teaching.” (Matthew 7:28) He is a wise and empathetic Counselor, with an extraordinary understanding of human nature. His counsel is not restricted to reprimands or chastisement. More often, it is in the form of instruction and loving advice. Jesus’ counsel is wonderful because it is always wise, perfect, and infallible. When followed, it leads to everlasting life.—John 6:68.
24 Jesus’ counsel is not simply the product of his brilliant mind. Rather, he says: “What I teach is not mine, but belongs to him that sent me.” (John 7:16) As was the case with Solomon, Jehovah God is the Source of Jesus’ wisdom. (1 Kings 3:7-14; Matthew 12:42) Jesus’ example should motivate teachers and counselors in the Christian congregation always to base their instruction on God’s Word.—Proverbs 21:30.
“Mighty God” and “Eternal Father”
25. What does the name “Mighty God” tell us about the heavenly Jesus?
25 Jesus is also “Mighty God” and “Eternal Father.” This does not mean that he usurps the authority and position of Jehovah, who is “God our Father.” (2 Corinthians 1:2) “He [Jesus] . . . gave no consideration to a seizure, namely, that he should be equal to God.” (Philippians 2:6) He is called Mighty God, not Almighty God. Jesus never thought of himself as God Almighty, for he spoke of his Father as “the only true God,” that is, the only God who should be worshiped. (John 17:3; Revelation 4:11) In the Scriptures, the word “god” can mean “mighty one” or “strong one.” (Exodus 12:12; Psalm 8:5; 2 Corinthians 4:4) Before Jesus came to earth, he was “a god,” “existing in God’s form.” After his resurrection, he returned to an even higher position in the heavens. (John 1:1; Philippians 2:6-11) Further, the designation “god” carries an additional implication. Judges in Israel were called “gods”—once by Jesus himself. (Psalm 82:6; John 10:35) Jesus is Jehovah’s appointed Judge, “destined to judge the living and the dead.” (2 Timothy 4:1; John 5:30) Clearly, he is well named Mighty God.
26. Why can Jesus be called “Eternal Father”?
26 The title “Eternal Father” refers to the Messianic King’s power and authority to give humans the prospect of eternal life on earth. (John 11:25, 26) The legacy of our first parent, Adam, was death. Jesus, the last Adam, “became a life-giving spirit.” (1 Corinthians 15:22, 45; Romans 5:12, 18) Just as Jesus, the Eternal Father, will live forever, so obedient mankind will enjoy the benefits of his fatherhood eternally.—Romans 6:9.
“Prince of Peace”
27, 28. What wonderful benefits come both now and in the future to subjects of the “Prince of Peace”?
27 Besides everlasting life, man also needs peace, both with God and with his fellowman. Even today, those subjecting themselves to the rule of the “Prince of Peace” have ‘beaten their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning shears.’ (Isaiah 2:2-4) They do not nurse hatreds because of political, territorial, racial, or economic differences. They are united in the worship of the one true God, Jehovah, and they work to maintain peaceful relations with their neighbors, both inside and outside the congregation.—Galatians 6:10; Ephesians 4:2, 3; 2 Timothy 2:24.
28 In God’s due time, Christ will establish on earth a peace that will be global, firmly established, permanent. (Acts 1:7) “To the abundance of the princely rule and to peace there will be no end, upon the throne of David and upon his kingdom in order to establish it firmly and to sustain it by means of justice and by means of righteousness, from now on and to time indefinite.” (Isaiah 9:7a) In exercising his authority as the Prince of Peace, Jesus will not resort to tyrannical means. His subjects will not be stripped of their free will and subjugated by force. Rather, all that he will accomplish will be “by means of justice and by means of righteousness.” What a refreshing change!
29. What should we do if we wish to enjoy the blessing of everlasting peace?
29 In view of the wonderful implications of Jesus’ prophetic name, Isaiah’s conclusion to this part of his prophecy is truly thrilling. He writes: “The very zeal of Jehovah of armies will do this.” (Isaiah 9:7b) Yes, Jehovah acts with zeal. He does nothing in a halfhearted way. We can be sure that whatever he promises, he will fully accomplish. If anyone, then, longs to enjoy everlasting peace, let him serve Jehovah wholeheartedly. Like Jehovah God and Jesus, the Prince of Peace, may all servants of God be “zealous for fine works.”—Titus 2:14.
b The phrase “this statement” at Isaiah 8:20 may refer to the statement regarding spiritism, quoted at Isaiah 8:19. If that is the case, Isaiah is saying that the promoters of spiritism in Judah will continue to urge others to apply to spirit mediums and thus will receive no enlightenment from Jehovah.
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Plain of Gennesaret
Sea of Galilee
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The births of Cain and Jesus were both very special. Only that of Jesus had a happy outcome
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There will be a famine far worse than a hunger for bread and a thirst for water
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Jesus was a light in the land