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GOD THE SON IN THE OLD TESTAMENT

The following is taken from the late Dr. Robert A. Morey’s book, The Trinity: Evidence & Issues, Part II: The Old Testament Evidence, Chapter Eleven. God the Son [Christian Scholar’s Press, Las Vegas, Nevada], pp. 174-187.

Chapter Eleven

God The Son

The next Person in the doctrine of the Trinity is God the Son. Just as we found references in the Old Testament to the Father which revealed that He is a Person and is God, it will not surprise us if we find the same things true concerning the second member of the Holy Trinity.

The Deity of the Son

If the Son is divine in the same way as the Father, then we would expect to find that the authors of the Old Testament give divine names, titles, and attributes to the Son. We also expect to find that He is described as doing divine works and that He is the object of divine worship. Thus, the deity of the Son will be based on exactly the same kind of evidence that demonstrates the deity of the Father. If we deny the validity of the evidence for the deity of the Son, then, we must logically denied [sic] the validity of the evidence for the deity of the Father. What is valid for One is equally valid for the Other.

We point this out because Unitarians will accept the validity of such evidence as divine names and titles only when such things are used to prove the deity of the Father. But, when the exact same evidence is used to prove the deity of the Son, they will claim that it is not acceptable. The inconsistency of the Unitarians on this point is indicative of a lack of willingness to let the evidence lead you where it will.

Is the Son Mentioned?

Does the Old Testament speak of a Person who is called the “Son” of God? The prophet Agur answered this question in the affirmative in Proverbs 30:4:

Who ascended into heaven and descended? Who has gathered the wind in His fists? Who has wrapped the waters in His garment? Who has established all the ends of the earth? What is His name or His son’s name? Surely you know!

mi ‘alah shamayim wayyerad mi ‘asap ruach bahapana mi sarar mayim bassimlah mi heqaim kal ‘apse ‘ares mah shemo umah shem bano ki teda

First of all, it is clear that God is described not only as the Sovereign of the universe, but also as having a Son. This is so clear that no commentator, Jew or Christian, Trinitarian or Unitarian, denies this to be the case. Where they disagree is the identity of the “Son” of God.

Second, the Son is clearly a Person and not just a metaphor or an impersonal force or power.

Third, the parallelism in the Hebrew text reveals that what is true of the Father is equally true of His Son. Agur first asks mah shemo “What His name [i.e., the Father’s]?” Then he asks umah shem bano “And what is the name of His Son?”

Notice that Agur asks the same question twice mah shem “What is the name of? …” To lead his reader to the right answer, Agur then issues a rhetorical question… “Surely you know, don’t you?” The obvious answer is, “No, I do not comprehend the nature of the Father or His Son.”

The Father and the Son are both described as incomprehensible in their natures because in Hebrew idiom, to know the name of someone is to know their nature. But Agur declares that we cannot know the divine, inscrutable name of God or His Son. Thus, the deity of the Son of God is established in this text. He is just as incomprehensible as His divine Father.

Fourth, the Hebrew parallelism in the text also refutes the attempt to understand the Son as the nation of Israel or one of its earthly kings, which are never said to be incomprehensible. To deny the deity of the Son, in this text, would require one to deny the deity of the Father.

Fifth, Agur could not have uttered these words unless he understood the multi-personal nature of God. R. Payne Smith comments on this verse:

The concluding clauses of this energetic passage are rationally and easily interpreted, if we admit that the ancient Jews had some obscure ideas of plurality in the divine nature.1

Keil agrees that this is the underlying assumption of Agur:

But he would not have ventured this question if he had not supposed that God was not a monas [unity] who was without manifoldness in Himself.2

In the Psalms

The “Son” of God is mentioned in the Old Testament and He is clearly divine in His nature. For example, in his second Psalm, David said:

Ps. 2:1 Why are the [a]nations in an uproar And the peoples devising a vain thing? The kings of the earth take their stand And the rulers take counsel together Against the Lord and against His Anointed, saying,

3 “Let us tear their fetters apart And cast away their cords from us!”

He who sits in the heavens laughs, The Lord scoffs at them.

5 Then He will speak to them in His anger And terrify them in His fury, saying,

6 “But as for Me, I have installed My King Upon Zion, My holy mountain.”

7 “I will surely tell of the decree of the Lord: He said to Me, ‘You are My Son, Today I have begotten You.

8 ‘Ask of Me, and I will surely give the nations as Your inheritance, And the very ends of the earth as Your possession.

9 ‘You shall break them with a rod of iron, You shall shatter them like earthenware.’”

10 Now therefore, O kings, show discernment; Take warning, O judges of the earth.

11 Worship the Lord with reverence And rejoice with trembling.

12 [Kiss the Son], lest He become angry, and you perish in the way, For His wrath may soon be kindled. How blessed are all who take refuge in Him!

The Mashicho “His Anointed One” mentioned in verse 2 is clearly the Messiah. The Septuagint reads, kata tou christou autou “and against His Christ.”

The ancient Jews and the early Christians were unanimous in this interpretation. As Princeton’s A. J. Alexander puts it:

The only subject, who can be assured and carried through without absurdity, is the Messiah.3

Since King Messiah is addressed as bani “My Son” in verse 7, He is the “Son of God.” In the next few verses the deity of the Son of God is revealed by His divine attributes and what He is given.

The One Who Breaks the Nations

The One to whom belongs all the nations of the world is God (Ps. 24:1-2). The One who will taro’em “break” the nations is God (Job 34:24). The One who will tanappasem “shatter” the nations is God (Jer. 51:19-23). All of these divine works are now applied to the Son of God.

The nations are told in verse 12 nashshaqu bar “Kiss the Son.” The verb nashshaq always means “to kiss,” i.e., pay homage.4 For example, in Psalm 85:10:

Lovingkindness and truth have met together; Righteousness and peace have kissed each other.

chesed we’emet nipgashu sedeq washalom nashaqu

Delitzch comments, nashshaqu:

The Piel נשּׁק means to kiss, and never anything else; and while בּר in Hebrew means purity and nothing more, and בּר as an adverb, pure, cannot be supported, nothing is more natural here, after Jahve has acknowledged His Anointed One as His Son, than that בּר (Proverbs 31:2, even בּרי equals בּני) – which has nothing strange about it when found in solemn discourse, and here helps one over the dissonance of פּן בּן – should, in a like absolute manner to חק, denote the unique son, and in fact the Son of God.https://biblehub.com/commentaries/kad/psalms/2.htm

In the 19th century, Unitarians attempted to replace “Kiss the Son” with “do homage to Him,” i.e., Yahweh, in order to get rid of the Messianic reference. They argued this on the basis that the word “Son” is Aramaic and not Hebrew and it lacks the definite article. But as Moll pointed out:

The Aramaic bar for ben is also found, Pro. xxxi. 2, and the absence of the article suits entirely the Messianic interpretation. The word then stands in the transition to a proper noun.

The Revealing Pronouns

In terms of Hebrew grammar, the pronouns “He,” “His,” and “Him” in verse 12 must refer back to the word bar “Son” in the first part of the verse:

Kiss the Son, lest He [i.e., the Son] become angry, and you perish in the way, For His [i.e. the Son’s wrath] wrath may soon be kindled. How blessed are all who take refuge in Him [i.e., the Son]!

The blessedness of taking refuge in the Son in order to escape His wrath is a clear indication of His true deity because God alone is our Savior (Isa. 45:22). That such language would be attributed to a mere creature would be blasphemous.

The force of this argument is verified by the desperate attempt of the 19th century Unitarians to jump over the word bar “Son” and to go back to the word YHWH “Yahweh” in verse 11 and make it the referent for the pronouns in verse 12. This attempt is a clear violation of the rules of Hebrew grammar. But such desperate measures on their part reveal that they fully understand that, if the pronouns in verse 12 refer to the Son of God, then it is clear that He is true deity.

The Psalmist warns that, if the nations do not “kiss” the Son in submission and reverence, His anger will destroy them on the Day of His wrath. This is significant because the language used of the Son is speaking of His anger and wrath, is only used in the Psalms to speak of the anger and wrath of God. Thus a divine work is ascribed to the Son. For example, in Psalms 110, we read:

Ps. 110:5 The Lord is at Thy right hand; He will shatter kings in the day of His wrath.

He will judge among the nations, He will fill them with corpses, He will shatter the chief men over a broad country.

Trusting the Son

In Psalms 2:12, we are told:

‘ashre kal chose bo

“blessed are all those who are trusting in Him!” (literal Hebrew)

The verb chose “are trusting” is a participle and throughout the Psalms always means to out your personal faith and trust in God as your ultimate hope in this life and in the life to come.7 The use of this Hebrew verb in reference to the Son is very significant.

Every time, without single exception, when the word chose is found in the Psalms, it means to put your personal faith and trust in God.8 It is never used to speak of trusting men or angels. It always has God as the focus of one’s ultimate faith and trust. Therefore, to “trust” the Son can only mean to trust Him as God.

As such, chose is an aspect of divine worship and is here given to the Son. Nowhere in the Bible are we ever told to place our ultimate faith, hope or love in men or angels. Once again, the Person called the “Son” of God is revealed to be true deity.

The Only Begotten Son

We are also introduced for the first time to the prophecy that the Messiah would be “begotten” by the Father at some future time. We are not told exactly how and when this will take place. The language itself does not imply that the Messiah is a created being as some Unitarians have suggested. Alexander correctly pointed out:

The essential meaning of the phrase I have begotten thee is simply, I am thy father. The antithesis is perfectly identical with that in 2 Sam. 7:14, “I will be his father, and he shall be my son.”9

The Apostle Paul in Acts 13:33 interprets this verse as a reference to the coronation process initiated by the resurrection of Christ when He was “begotten” by the Father in the sense of giving Him life from the dead.

The resurrection of Christ was God the Father’s public declaration that Jesus was indeed His Son (Rom. 1:4). The process then led to the ascension and the session of Christ at the right hand of the Father in heaven where Jesus was crowned Lord of all (Acts 2:36; Phil. 2:5-11).

Beyond the New Testament’s inspired commentary on this verse, the great British preacher Charles Spurgeon warns us:

The dispute concerning the eternal filiation of our Lord betrays more of presumptuous curiosity than of reverent faith. It is an attempt to explain where it is far better to adore. We could give rival expositions of this verse, but we forbear. The controversy is one of the most unprofitable which ever engaged the pens of theologians.10

The Messiah was not “begotten” as the “first act of Jehovah’s creation” as the Jehovah’s Witnesses and other Arians claim. The attempt to pretend that the word “begotten” means “created” is clearly contradicted by the New Testament’s inspired interpretation of the text. Jesus was “begotten” of the Father in space/time history when He raised from the dead.

Isaiah the Prophet

From the Writings, we now turn to the Prophets for our next reference to the Son of God, the Messiah. The Prophet Isaiah tells us of a Child who will be born who is identified as the Son who would be given by God:

For a child will be born to us, a son will be given to us; And the government will rest on His shoulders; And His name will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Eternal Father, Prince of Peace. (Isa. 9:6)

ki yeled yulad lanu ben nittan lanu wattahi hammishrah ‘al shikmo wayyiqra shamo pele yoetz ‘el gibbor ‘abi ‘ad sar shalom

Who is this “Son” who will [sic] born a Child? The ancient Jewish Targum of Isaiah inserts the word “Messiah” into the verse to make the identity of the “Son” clear to everyone:

For to us a child is born, to us a son is given;…and his name will be called the Wonderful Counselor, the Mighty God, existing forever, “The Messiah in whose days peace shall increase upon us.”12

  1. J. Young comments:

Hengstenberg points out that the Messiah early became known not only as the Son of David but also the Son of God. “Thou art my Son, this day I have begotten thee” (Ps. 2:7b), and the designation of the Messiah as “mighty God” in this present passage should also be connected with the thought of the second Psalm.12

The “Son” in Isaiah 9:6 is the same “Son” referred to in Proverbs 30:4 and Psalms 2. He is the Messiah who would come to set His people free.

By way of Hebrew parallelism, we are told that the Child who will be born is also the Son who will be given. Thus, the Son is viewed in two different ways. On the one hand, as a Child He is born the son of David. On the other hand, as a Son He is given by the Father. This is the kind of language which led to the development of the doctrine of the two natures of Christ.

This Son is now given divine names and titles which reveal His absolute deity. The divine names and titles indicate that people will recognize His true identity. Young comments:

Who is this Child? In chapter 7 the mother named Him Immanuel. Here, the subject is impersonal and the verb will be rendered in English by the passive, “and his name will be called.” The thought is that the Child is worthy to bear these names, and that they are accurate descriptions and designations of His being and character. In the Bible the name indicates the character, essence or nature of a person or object. When, therefore, it is stated that He shall be called, we are to understand that the following names are descriptive of the Child and deserve to be borne by Him.13

We will now examine the divine names and titles in the order in which they are found in the Hebrew text. They are given in four couplets.

Wonderful Counselor

The Son is called pele yoetz “Wonderful Counselor.” The first word is pele which we have already noted in Judges 13:17-18 as the name of the Messenger of Yahweh who appeared to Manoah and his wife14:

And Manoah said to the Messenger of Yahweh, “What is your name, so that when your words come to pass, we may honor you?” But the Messenger of Yahweh said to him, “Why do you ask my name, seeing it is Wonderful (paliy)?”

We have pointed out in our discussion of that passage that the word paliy means the wonderful incomprehensible nature of God. The fact that Isaiah now uses the divine title paliy from the book of Judges, as a title for the Son can only mean one thing – The Son who is to be born is the same divine Person who appeared to Manoah and his wife as the Messenger of Yahweh.

The God/Child

Isaiah’s prophecy is remarkable because it concerns not a God/Man as in the older theophanies, but a God/Child who will be born on earth. That God in the future would come to earth as a child should not be anymore amazing than His coming to earth as an adult male.

The Virgin Shall Conceive

The reason that Isaiah could handle such a concept was that he himself saw Yahweh in human form sitting on a throne (Isa. 6:1-5). This definite experience of Isaiah forms the context for all his prophetic visions of God coming to earth in human form. For example, after Isaiah sees Yahweh in chapter 6, in chapter 7 we read:

Therefore the Lord Himself will give you a sign: Behold, a virgin will be with child and bear a son, and she will call His name Immanuel. (Isa. 7:14)

laken yitten ‘adonay hu lakem ‘ot hinneh ha’almah harah wayoledet ben waqrat shamo ‘immanu ‘el

The name of the Son shall be immanuel and is translated in the Septuagint as Emmanuel, which means “God with us.” How are we to interpret this passage? However we interpret it, it must meet several important points:

The birth must be so unusual that it is a sign, i.e., a miracle. A normal birth will not do.

The child must be born to a young virgin and not to a married woman. The wife of the prophet or some other married woman will not do.

The child must be viewed by His mother as Immanuel, “God with us.” A normal baby will not do.

The name “Immanuel” natural implies the deity of the Child. E. J. Young comments:

The very presence of the Child brings God to His people. Calvin rightly maintains that the name cannot be applied to anyone who is not God. No one else in the Old Testament bears this name.15

The only reason Unitarians refuse to interpret the word “Immanuel” to mean that “God is now with us in this Child” is that they have already decided on a priori grounds that the deity of the child is not possible. Thus, the failure to take the words of Scripture in their natural meaning is due to pre-conceived ideas of who and what God can and cannot be. Delitzch faced the same prejudice in his day:

But the further question arises here, What constituted the extraordinary character of the fact here announced? It consisted in the fact, that, according to Isaiah 9:5, Immanuel Himself was to be a פּלא (wonder or wonderful). He would be God in corporeal self-manifestation, and therefore a “wonder” as being a superhuman person. We should not venture to assert this if it went beyond the line of Old Testament revelation, but the prophet asserts it himself in Isaiah 9:5 (cf., Isaiah 10:21): his words are as clear as possible; and we must not make them obscure, to favour any preconceived notions as to the development of history.16 https://biblehub.com/commentaries/kad/isaiah/7.htm

The Messiah’s name is not only “Wonderful” but to this is added yoetz “Counselor.” He is the One who gives wisdom to those who seek it. This was interpreted by the ancient Jews as the divine Wisdom of God, the heavenly Logos.

The Mighty God

The Son is next called ‘el gibbor “Mighty God.” The divine name “El” is used of Yahweh on so many occasions that the attempt of some illustration of some Unitarians to say that the use of this particular name means that the Son is less than true deity is ridiculous. This is obvious, particularly its use in Isaiah 45:22. Even more to the point is the fact that the divine name ‘el is always used by Isaiah as a name for God and is never used for created beings.17 Plumptre comments:

It is significant that the word for “God” is not Elohim, which may be used in a lower sense of those who are representatives of God, as in Exod. 7:2 [sic], 22:28, 1 Sam. 28:13, but El, which is never used by Isaiah, or any other Old Testament writer, in any lower sense than that of absolute Deity, and which, we may note, had been specifically brought before the prophet’s thought in the name Immanuel.18

The same is true of the argument that because there is no definite article before the word ‘el, therefore it only means “a mighty god” and not “Mighty God.” But Isaiah did not place a definite article before ‘el gibbor “Mighty God” in Isaiah 10:21 either.

Since Isaiah 10:21 clearly refers to Yahweh as ‘el gibbor without the definite article, who in their right mind would reduce Yahweh to “a mighty god”? If the absence of the article in Isaiah 9:6 means that the Son is less than true deity then the absence of the article in Isaiah 10:21 means that Yahweh is less than true deity as well.

Father of Eternal Life

The next divine title of the Son is ‘abi ‘ad. The word order is different in the Hebrew from the King James Version. In the Hebrew the word “Father” is the first and then follows the word “eternal.” How to translate these words is difficult. Some translations are:

“Father of eternity” Rotherham

“Father of the world to come” Knox

“Father of eternity” Hengstenberg, Plumptre, Young

“the Father of the age” Calvin

“Eternal Father” Hengstenberg

“The Giver of eternal life” Alexander

After a great deal of research on the many issues involved, we have translated ‘abi ‘ad as “Father of eternal life.” Calvin correctly pointed out, “The name Father is put for Author.”19

The word ‘abi “father” thus does not mean the One who possesses eternity but the One who gives it to others.20 The word ‘ad “eternal” is not the normal word for absolute eternity.21 Thus, we conclude that it means that the Son of God will be the author of eternal life for those who believe in Him.

The Prince of Peace

The words sar shalom “Prince of Peace” are quite straightforward and simply mean that the Son is the divine Ruler who will bring peace to this world of sin and woe.

The description of His kingdom in verse 7 reveals the deity of this Prince. His kingdom is the fulfillment of all the covenants which were made to the Fathers. He shall sit on David’s throne ruling over a universal kingdom which is eternal and shall know no end.

He shall also fulfill all those prophecies in Isaiah which predict a new heavens and a new earth where the lion and the lamb will lie together and man shall go to war no more (Isa. 2:4; 11:1-9; 65:17-25). He is thus the great God of peace as well as the Mighty God of war.

Conclusion

The Son of God revealed in the Old Testament is a Person and not an impersonal force. He is God and not a mere creature. This is the kind of biblical evidence which Trinitarians expected to find and which Unitarians cannot legitimately explain away.

NOTES

Lange’s Commentary, Proverbs, 5:248.

Keil and Delitzsch, Proverbs, 2:276. See also Charles Bridges, An Exposition of Proverbs (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1959), 591-592.

Joseph Addison Alexander, The Psalms (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, n. d.), 17.

BDB, p. 676.

Keil and Delitzsch, The Psalms, 1:98.

Lange’s Commentary, 5:58

Ibid., 340.

See Pss. 5:11; 7:1; 11:1; 17:7; 18:2,30; 26:20; 31:1, 19; 34:8,22; 36:7; 37:40; 57:1; 61:4; 64:10; 71:1; 91:4; 118:8,9; 141:8; 144:2.

Joseph Addison Alexander, The Psalms (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, n. d.), 16.

Charles Spurgeon, The Treasury of David (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1969), 1:17.

The Isaiah Targum (Wilmington: Glazier, 1988), 21.

Young, 330.

Ibid., p. 331.

This is pointed out by commentators such as Hengstenberg, Delitzsch, Young, etc.

Young, 291. For an in-depth survey of liberal interpretations of Isaiah 7:14 and 9:6, see Isaiah’s Immanuel, by Edward E. Hindson (Phillipsburg, NJ: P & R, 1978).

Keil and Delitzsch, Isaiah, 1:220.

Ibid., 252.

Ellicott, 4:445.

Calvin, 311.

Keil and Delitzsch, 253.

See my discussion of this word in Death and the Afterlife (Minneapolis: Bethany 1983).

FURTHER READING

The Old Testament Evidence: A Multi-Personal God https://answeringislam.net/Trinity/morey7.html

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