He will be called "Wonderful" – Johann Gerhard’s Exegesis of Isaiah 9:6-7

As I was preparing for Advent and Christmas sermons, I came across a few gems from Johann Gerhard’s “Seven Christmas Sermons” (Translated by Rev. Elmer M. Hohle, published by The Johann Gerhard Institute, Decatur, IL November 1996). One of them has to do with the title “Wonderful” applied to the Messiah in Isaiah 9:6:

First of all, Isaiah calls this little Child which is born to us: Wonderful. This Name is taken from the book of Judges 13:18. There the angel of the Lord Himself appears to the wife of Manoah and announces to her the birth of Samson. This same angel was the Son of God, the Angel of the great counsel-as the seventy translators [of the LXX] have in this case rendered this reference of Isaiah, where He Himself is called God. When Manoah asks for the name of this angel, he answers: Why do you ask for my name, which, of course, is Wondrous?

This Child will be called Wonderful, since everything about Him is wondrous. God, as Your Name, so also is Your fame, says David in Psalm 48:11, that is, that’s how He Himself is. Wonderful is the personhood of this Child, for He is a God and man in one person. One such person is to be found nowwhere else, whether in heaven or upon earth. Wonderful is His birth, in that He became man not from the blood of man nor from the flesh, but solely from the Holy Spirit. Three things there are, says St. Bernard, over which one must greatly marvel: that this is a Child of God and Man in one person, that the Mother of this child was simultaneously a mother and yet a virgin, [and] that faith in the heart of a man is able to grasp this great wonder.

In Ex. 3:2, 3, the angel of the Lord, that is, God’s Son, appears to Moses in a fiery flame out of the bush. As he saw that the bush was burning with fire and yet was not consumed, He said: I want to come over there and take a look at this great countenance [sight] of why the bush does not burn up. That wonderful countenance signified that the glory of the divine nature, which otherwise is a consuming fire (Deut. 4:24), would personally fill up the assumed humanity and yet not consume it; rather it would exalt it so that also the mother of Christ would bring to the world God’s Son (the true Light) and that yet her virginal purity would remain unconsumed. This is the great mystery of the person of this wonderful little Child. Like Moses, we with the eyes of faith view it in wonder. But we should first take ff the shoes just as Moses was commanded there; that is, we should let fall off all sinful affections and fleshly thoughts.

Interesting how Gerhard makes the connection between the Angel of the Lord’s name being “Wondrous” and the “son to be born to us” being called Wonderful. I am assuming that Gerhard saw textual similarities between the two words, but without looking at the Hebrew (or Greek) I can’t say for sure. I also love his comparison of the burning bush with the Incarnation and the Virginity of Mary.


About Rev. Paul L. Beisel

Graduate of Concordia Theological Seminary, Fort Wayne, IN in 2001 (M Div.) and 2004 (S.T.M.); LC-MS Pastor and Adjunct Instructor for John Wood Community College; Husband of Amy and father of Susan, Elizabeth, Martin, and Theodore.
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