Here the prophet renews the messianic promise that God will rule Judah through a righteous offspring of David (see "The Messianic Kingdom" in Introductory Issues).
This text does not speak of the "days to come," but seems to look forward to the birth now of a new king who will do great things--perhaps originally Hezekiah (one of the very few rulers who "did what was right in the sight of the LORD just as his ancestor David had done" [2 Kings 18:3]).
Just as the prophet gave his own sons names that told of what God would do through them or in their time (Isaiah 7:3; 8:3), so also this new king will be given throne names that describe the nature of God's intended rule.
The promise begins with the somewhat jarring note that the people's joy will be like the rejoicing over plunder taken in war, though the prophet is careful to make sure that the hearer understands this to be victory in a war of liberation from oppression, not war waged at will for secular gain. Finally, the text announces that the kingdom and the world God intends will enjoy "endless peace." As in the promise of "swords into plowshares" of 2:2-4, this passage, too, makes clear that only "the zeal of the LORD of hosts will do this." Indeed, earthly measures to establish utopian kingdoms through human means seem always to end in more violence. Still, having been given these many pictures of the peaceful world God intends, God's people will be encouraged to practice peace with humility in whatever ways they are able.
have seen a great light;
those who lived in a land of deep darkness
on them light has shined.
3 You have multiplied the nation,
you have increased its joy;
they rejoice before you
as with joy at the harvest,
as people exult when dividing plunder.
4 For the yoke of their burden,
and the bar across their shoulders,
the rod of their oppressor,
you have broken as on the day of Midian.
5 For all the boots of the tramping warriors
and all the garments rolled in blood
shall be burned as fuel for the fire.
6 For a child has been born for us,
a son given to us;
authority rests upon his shoulders;
and he is named
Wonderful Counsellor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
7 His authority shall grow continually,
and there shall be endless peace
for the throne of David and his kingdom.
He will establish and uphold it
with justice and with righteousness
from this time onwards and for evermore.
The zeal of the Lord of hosts will do this.
New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicized Edition, copyright © 1989, 1995 National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide. http://nrsvbibles.org
10 February 2011