A Child is Born
This passage falls within a section that runs from 8:1-9:7. The section begins with a discussion about the relationship between the lack of belief in Judah and the resulting invasion of the Assyrians. (8:1-10) It affirms that God will not allow His people to be entirely wiped out, and moves on to tell those who remain faithful not to join in disbelief (8:11-22) presenting a very dark picture of anguish for those who are not faithful to God. 9:1-7 tells of hope; that just as God brought light out of darkness at the creation, so will He bring light to a world darkened by unbelief.
Our passage begins by telling the people that deliverance will come first in the North; “Galilee of the Gentiles”. This area was the first to be invaded by foes from the North, and would also be first to see deliverance. It is “of the Gentiles” because at the time of writing, the Israelites had been taken into captivity from this area, and the resultant inhabitants were Gentiles. The two tribes mentioned in the text, Zebulun and Naphtali were representative of those “lost” tribes. The reference, in verse 4, to the defeat of Midian is noteworthy, as it reminds the people of what God has done for them in the past. In addition, it was a deliverance that had particular effect on Zebulun and Naphtali. (Judges 7) Of course, after God’s deliverance the people again fell into disobedience and were re-conquered. This was a cycle that Isaiah’s readers should have been well aware of. Yet this time, the deliverer would be far greater than before!
Deliverance would come through a child of the House of David; but not a ruler like any they have seen before. Verse six contains a series of names for this coming ruler which reveal beyond dispute that the child will be no mere mortal: “Mighty God” for example is hardly a term that Jews would apply to a mortal man. “Everlasting Father” is most definitely another one that is beyond debate: the child would be God! Verse 7 indicates that his rule will last from that time on forever, and that all of this would be accomplished through the “zeal of Lord Almighty”.
In short, Isaiah is telling the people that they have grave trouble with God, and bad times ahead. This is all brought on by their own disbelief and rebellion against God, yet in the end, God will replace their disbelief with deliverance when He Himself will rule over His people.
It would be unthinkable for a Christian not to see Jesus Christ as the fulfillment for this prophecy in light of Matthew 4:13-17 in which Matthew specifically states that Jesus went back to Galilee to fulfill it. Note also that in verse 17 what is Jesus telling the people? “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is near.” Jesus was bringing the kingdom of heaven to Galilee. He established this kingdom by bringing deliverance to those who would remain faithful to God through His work on the cross. This was deliverance not by the sword, but by forgiveness; and the Kingdom of Heaven came into being. This Kingdom makes war obsolete, for it is not of this world. (Isaiah 9:5; cf. John 18:36)