Is Christ Yahweh God In the Flesh?
Or Just One of Many Mighty gods?
There are passages in the Hebrew Scriptures which indicate that the Messiah is Yahweh God coming to redeem his people. One such passage is found in the book of Isaiah:
“But there will be no gloom for her who was in anguish. In the former time he brought into contempt the land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali, but in the latter time he has made glorious the way of the sea, the land beyond the Jordan, Galilee of the nations. The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who dwelt in a land of deep darkness, on them has light shined… For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder, and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the increase of his government and of peace there will be no end, on the throne of David and over his kingdom, to establish it and to uphold it with justice and with righteousness from this time forth and forevermore. The zeal of the LORD of hosts will do this. Isaiah 9:1:2, 6-7
Isaiah says that a child is born who is also a Son that shall be called the Mighty God. Many Jewish rabbis believed that this passage refers to the Messiah, interpreting it as a Messianic prophecy:
The prophet saith to the house of David, A child has been born to us, a son has been given to us; and he has taken the law upon himself to keep it, and his name has been called of old, Wonderful counselor, Mighty God, He who lives forever, the Anointed one (or Messiah), in whose days peace shall increase upon us. (The Targum of Isaiah, J.F. Stenning, editor and translator [Oxford: Clarendon, 1949], p. 32)
Another explanation: He said to him: ‘I have yet to raise up the Messiah,’ of whom it is written, For a child is born to us (Isa. IX, 5). (Midrash Rabbah Deuteronomy, Rabbi Dr. H. Freedman and Maurice Simon, editors: Rev. Dr. J. Rabbinowitz, translator [London: Socino Press], I.20, p. 22)
And why is he called Gabriel, a name made up of the words Gapri (“My means whereby I prevail”) and ‘El (“God”)? Because it is written of Judah For Judah prevailed (gabar) above his brethren (I Chron. 5:2), and it is also written of a scion of Judah And his name is called “Wonderful in counsel is God the Mighty (El Gibbor)” (Isa. 9:5). (Pesikta Rabbati, William G. Braude, translator [New Haven: Yale University, 1968], Volume II, Piska 46.3, p. 793)
The NT uses the language of Isaiah 9 in connection with the birth and mission of the Lord Jesus:
“Now when he heard that John had been arrested, he withdrew into Galilee. And leaving Nazareth he went and lived in Capernaum by the sea, in the territory of Zebulun and Naphtali, so that what was spoken by the prophet Isaiah might be fulfilled: ‘The land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali, the way of the sea, beyond the Jordan, Galilee of the Gentiles–the people dwelling in darkness have seen a great light, and for those dwelling in the region and shadow of death, on them a light has dawned.’ From that time Jesus began to preach, saying, ‘Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.’” Matthew 4:12-17
“And the angel said to her, ‘Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear A SON, and you shall call his name Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. And the Lord God will give to him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.’ And Mary said to the angel, ‘How will this be, since I am a virgin?’ And the angel answered her, ‘The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be called holy-the Son of God.’” Luke 1:30-35
Thus, Isaiah provides evidence both for God being a multi-personal Being and for the perfect Deity and humanity of the Messiah, that the Messiah would be both divine and human.
Not content with allowing the Scriptures to say what in fact it does say in regards to God’s Triunity and the Messiah’s perfect Deity, anti-Trinitarian groups try to find anything they can to refute these biblical doctrines.
These groups often appeal to the following passages to show that calling the Messiah the Mighty God doesn’t prove that he is Yahweh God in the flesh:
“The mighty chiefs (eley gibborim) shall speak of them, with their helpers, out of the midst of Sheol: ‘They have come down, they lie still, the uncircumcised, slain by the sword.’” Ezekiel 32:21
It is to be noted that the words “mighty chiefs” (eley gibborim) literally mean “gods of the mighty” or “mighty gods.” Some anti-Trinitarians assert that these men are in the very same category of “mighty ones” or “gods” that Messiah is. Another place where a person is called god is in the following passage:
“I will give it into the hand of a mighty one (el) of the nations. He shall surely deal with it as its wickedness deserves. I have cast it out.” Ezekiel 31:11
Here, again, is a passage that identifies someone as a mighty one or a god without this implying that the person is Yahweh God.
The anti-Trinitarians, in appealing to these passages, think that they have found a way of refuting the doctrine of the Trinity and the perfect Deity of the Lord Jesus.
The aim of this paper is to address these passages and demonstrate that they do nothing to undermine the perfect Deity of the Lord Jesus Christ, nor do they call into question the biblical basis for the Trinity.
In the first place, even if we take for granted that there are other so-called mighty gods, this in no way undermines the fact that the Messiah is Yahweh God. The assumption here is that if the anti-Trinitarian can show that there are beings that are called mighty gods then Jesus automatically falls within this same category. This is a non-sequitor since there can be individuals who are called mighty gods without this making them Yahweh and without this changing the fact that Jesus is Yahweh God.
Second, these so-called mighty gods are the gentile leaders and kings of the nations, as the surrounding context shows:
“In the twelfth year, in the twelfth month, on the fifteenth day of the month, the word of the LORD came to me: ‘Son of man, wail over the multitude of Egypt, and send them down, her and the daughters of majestic nations, to the world below, to those who have gone down to THE PIT: Whom do you surpass in beauty? Go down and be laid to rest with the uncircumcised.’ They shall fall amid those who are slain by the sword. Egypt is delivered to the sword; drag her away, and all her multitudes. The mighty chiefs shall speak of them, with their helpers, out of the midst of Sheol: ‘They have come down, they lie still, the uncircumcised, slain by the sword.’ Assyria is there, and all her company, its graves all around it, all of them slain, fallen by the sword, whose graves are set in the uttermost parts of THE PIT; and her company is all around her grave, all of them slain, fallen by the sword, who spread terror in the land of the living. Elam is there, and all her multitude around her grave; all of them slain, fallen by the sword, who went down uncircumcised into the world below, who spread their terror in the land of the living; and they bear their shame with those who go down to THE PIT. They have made her a bed among the slain with all her multitude, her graves all around it, all of them uncircumcised, slain by the sword; for terror of them was spread in the land of the living, and they bear their shame with those who go down to THE PIT; they are placed among the slain. Meshech-Tubal is there, and all her multitude, her graves all around it, all of them uncircumcised, slain by the sword; for they spread their terror in the land of the living. And they do not lie with THE MIGHTY (giborim), THE FALLEN FROM AMONG THE UNCIRCUMCISED, who went down to Sheol with their weapons of war, whose swords were laid under their heads, and whose iniquities are upon their bones; for the terror of the MIGHTY MEN (giborim) was in the land of the living. But as for you, you shall be broken and lie among the uncircumcised, with those who are slain by the sword. Edom is there, her kings and all her princes, who for all their might are laid with those who are killed by the sword; they lie with the uncircumcised, with those who go down to THE PIT. The princes of the north are there, all of them, and all the Sidonians, who have gone down in shame with the slain, for all the terror that they caused by their might; they lie uncircumcised with those who are slain by the sword, and bear their shame with those who go down to THE PIT. When Pharaoh sees them, he will be comforted for all his multitude, Pharaoh and all his army, slain by the sword, declares the Lord GOD. For I spread terror in the land of the living; and he shall be laid to rest among the uncircumcised, with those who are slain by the sword, Pharaoh and all his multitude, declares the Lord GOD.’” Ezekiel 32:17-32
From the preceding context we can see that this refers to the fall of Pharaoh to the grave where the dead heathen kings are.
The thing to remember is that the Scriptures speak out against viewing these heathen rulers as gods of any kind. For instance, Ezekiel is told to take up the following lament against the ruler of Tyre:
“The word of the LORD came to me: ‘Son of man, say to the prince of Tyre, Thus says the Lord GOD: “Because your heart is proud, and you have said, ‘I am a god (el), I sit in the seat of the gods (elohim), in the heart of the seas,’ yet you are but A MAN, and NO god (el), though you make your heart like the heart of a god– you are indeed wiser than Daniel; no secret is hidden from you; by your wisdom and your understanding you have made wealth for yourself, and have gathered gold and silver into your treasuries; by your great wisdom in your trade you have increased your wealth, and your heart has become proud in your wealth- therefore thus says the Lord GOD: Because you make your heart like the heart of a god (elohim), therefore, behold, I will bring foreigners upon you, the most ruthless of the nations; and they shall draw their swords against the beauty of your wisdom and defile your splendor. They shall thrust you down into THE PIT, and you shall die the death of the slain in the heart of the seas. Will you still say, ‘I am a god (elohim),’ in the presence of those who kill you, though you are but A MAN, and NO god (el), in the hands of those who slay you? You shall die the death of the uncircumcised by the hand of foreigners; for I have spoken, declares the Lord GOD.”’” Ezekiel 28:1-10
Yahweh rebukes a heathen ruler for thinking that he was a god when in fact he was nothing more than a mere man.
Isaiah speaks of the destruction of Babylon in a similar manner to Ezekiel 32:
“When the LORD has given you rest from your pain and turmoil and the hard service with which you were made to serve, you will take up this taunt against the king of Babylon: ‘How the oppressor has ceased, the insolent fury ceased! The LORD has broken the staff of the wicked, the scepter of rulers, that struck the peoples in wrath with unceasing blows, that ruled the nations in anger with unrelenting persecution. The whole earth is at rest and quiet; they break forth into singing. The cypresses rejoice at you, the cedars of Lebanon, saying, “Since you were laid low, no woodcutter comes up against us.” Sheol beneath is stirred up to meet you when you come; it rouses the shades to greet you, all who were LEADERS OF THE EARTH; it raises from their thrones all who were KINGS OF THE NATIONS. All of them will answer and say to you: “You too have become as weak as we! You have become like us!” Your pomp is brought down to Sheol, the sound of your harps; maggots are laid as a bed beneath you, and worms are your covers. How you are fallen from heaven, O Day Star, son of Dawn! How you are cut down to the ground, you who laid the nations low! You said in your heart, “I will ascend to heaven; above the stars of God I will set my throne on high; I will sit on the mount of assembly in the far reaches of the north; I will ascend above the heights of the clouds; I will make myself like the Most High.” But you are brought down to SHEOL, to the far reaches of the pit. Those who see you will stare at you and ponder over you: “Is this the man who made the earth tremble, who shook kingdoms, who made the world like a desert And overthrew its cities, who did not let his prisoners go home?” All the kings of the nations lie in glory, each in his own tomb;’” Isaiah 14:3-18
God destroys the King of Babylon for thinking that he could be like God, and brings him down to the pit to be where the other heathen kings are. Elsewhere in Isaiah, Babylon is rebuked for claiming the prerogatives of Yahweh:
“… Now therefore hear this, you lover of pleasures, who sit securely, Who say in your heart, ‘I am, and there is no one besides me; I shall not sit as a widow or know the loss of children’: These two things shall come to you in a moment, in one day; the loss of children and widowhood shall come upon you in full measure, in spite of your many sorceries and the great power of your enchantments. You felt secure in your wickedness, you said, ‘No one sees me’; Your wisdom and your knowledge led you astray, and you said in your heart, ‘I am, and there is no one besides me.’” Isaiah 47:8-10
Assyria was another nation which thought it was a god:
“And he will stretch out his hand against the north and destroy Assyria, and he will make Nineveh a desolation, a dry waste like the desert. Herds shall lie down in her midst, all kinds of beasts; even the owl and the hedgehog shall lodge in her capitals; a voice shall hoot in the window; devastation will be on the threshold; for her cedar work will be laid bare. This is the exultant city that lived securely, that said in her heart, ‘I am, and there is no one else.’ What a desolation she has become, a lair for wild beasts! Everyone who passes by her hisses and shakes his fist.” Zephaniah 2:13-15
“Then the Rabshakeh stood and called out in a loud voice in the language of Judah: ‘Hear the words of the great king, the king of Assyria! Thus says the king: “Do not let Hezekiah deceive you, for he will not be able to deliver you. Do not let Hezekiah make you trust in the LORD by saying, ‘The LORD will surely deliver us. This city will not be given into the hand of the king of Assyria.’ Do not listen to Hezekiah. For thus says the king of Assyria: Make your peace with me and come out to me. Then each one of you will eat of his own vine, and each one of his own fig tree, and each one of you will drink the water of his own cistern, until I come and take you away to a land like your own land, a land of grain and wine, a land of bread and vineyards. Beware lest Hezekiah mislead you by saying, ‘The LORD will deliver us.’ Has any of the gods of the nations DELIVERED his land OUT OF THE HAND of the king of Assyria? Where are the gods of Hamath and Arpad? Where are the gods of Sepharvaim? Have they delivered Samaria OUT OF MY HANDS? Who among all the gods of these lands have DELIVERED their lands OUT OF MY HAND, that the LORD should DELIVER Jerusalem OUT OF MY HAND?”’” Isaiah 36:13-20
“The Rabshakeh returned, and found the king of Assyria fighting against Libnah, for he had heard that the king had left Lachish. Now the king heard concerning Tirhakah king of Cush, ‘He has set out to fight against you.’ And when he heard it, he sent messengers to Hezekiah, saying, ‘Thus shall you speak to Hezekiah king of Judah: “Do not let your God in whom you trust deceive you by promising that Jerusalem will not be given into the hand of the king of Assyria. Behold, you have heard what the kings of Assyria have done to all lands, devoting them to destruction. And shall you be delivered? Have the gods of the nations delivered them, the nations that my fathers destroyed, Gozan, Haran, Rezeph, and the people of Eden who were in Telassar? Where is the king of Hamath, the king of Arpad, the king of the city of Sepharvaim, the king of Hena, or the king of Ivvah?”’” Isaiah 37:8-13
Hezekiah prays and God responds to the taunt of the Assyrian king:
“Hezekiah received the letter from the hand of the messengers, and read it; and Hezekiah went up to the house of the LORD, and spread it before the LORD. And Hezekiah prayed to the LORD: ‘O LORD of hosts, God of Israel, who is enthroned above the cherubim, you are the God, YOU ALONE, of all the kingdoms of the earth; you have made heaven and earth. Incline your ear, O LORD, and hear; open your eyes, O LORD, and see; and hear all the words of Sennacherib, which he has sent to mock the living God. Truly, O LORD, the kings of Assyria have laid waste all the nations and their lands, and have cast their gods into the fire. For they were no gods, but the work of men’s hands, wood and stone. Therefore they were destroyed. So now, O LORD our God, save us from his hand, that all the kingdoms of the earth may know that YOU ALONE are the LORD’… Therefore thus says the LORD concerning the king of Assyria: He shall not come into this city or shoot an arrow there or come before it with a shield or cast up a siege mound against it. By the way that he came, by the same he shall return, and he shall not come into this city, declares the LORD. For I will defend this city to save it, for my own sake and for the sake of my servant David. And the angel of the LORD went out and struck down a hundred and eighty-five thousand in the camp of the Assyrians. And when people arose early in the morning, behold, these were all dead bodies. Then Sennacherib king of Assyria departed and returned home and lived at Nineveh. And as he was worshiping in the house of Nisroch his god, Adrammelech and Sharezer, his sons, struck him down with the sword. And after they escaped into the land of Ararat, Esarhaddon his son reigned in his place.” Isaiah 37:14-20, 33-38
Hezekiah beseeches Yahweh to save his people from the Assyrians in order to show that he alone is God. Thus, as far as the biblical writers are concerned there are no other gods which exist alongside Yahweh.
In light of the foregoing, it is quite evident that Ezekiel 32:21 and 31:11 are not saying that these heathen rulers were actually gods, albeit in a lesser sense than Yahweh. From the overall context of the Scriptures, we can safely conclude that these heathen kings are called gods in irony, i.e. that there are rulers who were wrongly considered gods by the peoples and yet died a humiliating and shameful death, died like any other mortal.
The Monotheism of Isaiah and Jesus
To reiterate our point above regarding Yahweh being the only God there is, here are some verses from Isaiah:
“‘You are my witnesses,’ declares the LORD, ‘and my servant whom I have chosen, that you may know and believe me and understand that I AM. Before me no god (el) was formed, nor shall there be any after me. I, I am the LORD, and besides me there is no savior… Also henceforth I AM; there is none who can deliver from my hand; I work, and who can turn it back?’” Isaiah 43:10-11, 13
“Thus says the LORD, the King of Israel and his Redeemer, the LORD of hosts: ‘I am the first and I am the last; besides me there is no god (elohim). Who is like me? Let him proclaim it. Let him declare and set it before me, since I appointed an ancient people. Let them declare what is to come, and what will happen. Fear not, nor be afraid; have I not told you from of old and declared it? And you are my witnesses! Is there a God (eloah) besides me? There is no Rock; I know not any.’” Isaiah 44:6-8
“I am the LORD, and there is no other, besides me there is no God (); I equip you, though you do not know me, that people may know, from the rising of the sun and from the west, that there is none besides me; I am the LORD, and there is no other.” Isaiah 45:5-6
“remember the former things of old; for I am God (el), and there is no other; I am God (elohim), and there is none like me, declaring the end from the beginning and from ancient times things not yet done, saying, ‘My counsel shall stand, and I will accomplish all my purpose,’ calling a bird of prey from the east, the man of my counsel from a far country. I have spoken, and I will bring it to pass; I have purposed, and I will do it.” Isaiah 46:9-11
According to Isaiah, there is no other el, no other elohim, besides Yahweh, a belief shared by Moses:
“See now that I, even I, AM, and there is no god (elohim) beside me; I kill and I make alive; I wound and I heal; and there is none that can deliver out of my hand.” Deuteronomy 32:39
Recall that both the kings of Babylon and Assyria used the very same language in the above citations to describe themselves. They were claiming to be gods in the same sense that Yahweh is God.
Now for Isaiah to call the Messiah the Mighty God in light of his explicit monotheism means that the prophet truly believed that the Messiah is Yahweh God. This becomes even more obvious in light of the fact that all the titles of the Messiah are used elsewhere by Isaiah in reference to Yahweh:
“For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder, and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor (Pele Yo’etz), Mighty God (El Gibbor), Everlasting Father (Abi Ad), Prince of Peace (Sar Shalom).” Isaiah 9:6
“In that day the remnant of Israel and the survivors of the house of Jacob will no more lean on him who struck them, but will lean on the LORD, the Holy One of Israel, in truth. A remnant will return, the remnant of Jacob, to the mighty God (El Gibbor).” Isaiah 10:20-21
Notice how just in the very next chapter Isaiah calls Yahweh the Mighty God!
“O LORD, you are my God; I will exalt you; I will praise your name, for you have done wonderful things, counsels formed of old, faithful and sure.” Isaiah 25:1
“This also comes from the LORD of hosts; he is wonderful in counsel and excellent in wisdom.” Isaiah 28:29
“I form the light, and create darkness: I make peace (shalom), and create evil: I the LORD do all these things.” Isaiah 45:7 KJV
“For thus says the One who is high and lifted up, who inhabits eternity (ad), whose name is Holy: ‘I dwell in the high and holy place, and also with him who is of a contrite and lowly spirit, to revive the spirit of the lowly, and to revive the heart of the contrite.” Isaiah 57:15
“For you are our Father (ab), though Abraham does not know us, and Israel does not acknowledge us; you, O LORD, are our Father (ab), our Redeemer from of old is your name.” Isaiah 63:16
Hence, the Messiah is not a mighty god-like the heathen kings, but is THE Mighty God in the same sense that Yahweh is since he is Yahweh God incarnate. A careful examination of the entire context of Isaiah, as well as the overall context of the Scriptures, proves this beyond any reasonable doubt.
All Scripture citations taken from the English Standard Version (ESV), unless stated otherwise.