Because the Bible is a book that is concerned with what the Lord has done in space and time, it makes sense that its prophecies of the future would have reference to specific historical periods. We find one of these chronologically specific prophecies in today’s passage, which is one of the best-known and most-beloved texts in the book of Isaiah.
In order to understand this passage, we need a little bit of context. We must first go back to the reign of King David, who was responsible for establishing the golden age of Israel under the old covenant (1 Chron. 18:4). In the sovereign providence of God, David, who started out as a humble shepherd, was able to unite the confederacy of Israel’s tribes and turn the nation into a major power in the ancient world (2 Sam. 5). This was no easy feat due to the constant threats the Israelites faced in the Promised Land. The Promised Land was a strategically important area in the ancient world, for it connected Asia, Europe, and Africa, and whoever controlled Israel’s God-given territory could exercise great economic and military power. David’s wisdom and skill in accomplishing this, as well as his godliness and ability to unify the people of God and usher in an era of peace and prosperity, was so great that the prophets foresaw the coming reign of the Messiah as a new Davidic era (Jer. 23:5; 33:14–15; Zech. 12:8).
Because of the sins of David’s line, the golden age of David and his son Solomon could not last. Idolatry was pervasive, the kingdom was split in two (1 Kings 12:16–20), and mighty empires such as Assyria, Babylon, and Persia conquered the people and ruled over them. But God promised that Israel’s suffering under these pagans would not be the last word for His people. Today’s passage reveals that at a specified time—after the Assyrian capture of Israel and invasion of Jerusalem—God would put a new leader on the throne, a son of David who would be even greater than his forefather.
Isaiah foresaw that this coming king would be an “Everlasting Father,” a title that conveys the king’s willingness to put the needs of his children first, just as a good father does. Also, this king would be a “Wonderful Counselor.” No longer would the king need trusted advisors, for by His wisdom He would always make the right decisions. Though Isaiah 9:6–7 has more to say about this figure, perhaps the most notable aspect of the prophecy is that this king would be “Mighty God.” The Lord would enter history and reign in human flesh.