DOES “NOT” BELONG IN ISAIAH 9:3?
by Shawn Brasseaux
Isaiah 9:3 says in the King James Bible: “Thou hast multiplied the nation, and not increased the joy: they joy before thee according to the joy in harvest, and as men rejoice when they divide the spoil.” Does the word “not” belong here?
Even though Dr. C. I. Scofield faithfully circulated basic dispensational truths in his eponymous study Bible (1909 and 1917), he was not without error concerning his center-column notes and footnotes. He walked in the spiritual light he had, and we are quite grateful (!) for his labor. However, he had his blind spots and we would do well to notice and avoid them. This is a case in point. The dear Brother actually recommended “not” be omitted from Isaiah 9:3, thereby removing the authority from the Bible! (Most textual critics today still agree with him.) In this brief study, we will lay out why we hold to the unaltered King James reading of Isaiah 9:3.
- Reading #1, with “not:” “Thou hast multiplied the nation, and not increased the joy: they joy before thee according to the joy in harvest, and as men rejoice when they divide the spoil.” (This is the King James Bible wording.)
- Reading #2, without “not:” “Thou hast multiplied the nation, and… increased the joy: they joy before thee according to the joy in harvest, and as men rejoice when they divide the spoil.” (The ellipsis […] is where the “not” appears in the KJB.)
Like the majority of modern translators today, Dr. Scofield preferred Reading #2. Reading #1 (the King James Bible) is said to be incorrect. Scan the two readings again. You will see why Reading #2 makes more sense to them. Reading #1 appears to be antithetical toward itself. So we can better see this discrepancy, we paraphrase both readings:
- Reading #1: God has multiplied the nation, and not increased the joy: they joy before him…. (KJB verse speaks of no increased joy as well as joy—which is it then, joy or no joy?)
- Reading #2: God has multiplied the nation, and increased the joy: they joy before him…. (altered KJB verse speaks of increased joy and joy—joy and joy are harmonious here)
The negation makes the King James Bible unpopular in Isaiah 9:3. Textual critics eagerly pounce on it. They will not submit to a Book, as they (sinful man) want to be the authority. Here is the problem. Usually, when people speak of a “King James error,” they look at the word or verse superficially. They do not investigate in-depth, only accuse. They have a limited understanding of a word or its definition. Therefore, if the King James Bible disagrees with their preconceived idea, the Bible (they claim) is wrong. They do not define the words according to Scripture; rather, they define the words according to their theology. When the Bible says otherwise, their theology takes precedence. They do not have enough experience in the Bible—for if they did, they would not go around correcting it. Instead of the Bible adjusting their view, they adjust the Bible to fit their view. We cannot agree to this mentality. Either the Bible is the foundation of our faith, or it is not. Either it is the final authority, or it is not. There is no middle ground!!
Reading #1 is correct, and we need not change the King James Bible by removing the word “not.” “Thou hast multiplied the nation, and not increased the joy: they joy before thee according to the joy in harvest, and as men rejoice when they divide the spoil.” There was a time when God did multiply the nation Israel. They prospered in the centuries leading up to Isaiah’s ministry. Then, God did not increase the joy. Finally, they do joy before Him. We must approach the verse dispensationally if we are to make sense of it. The whole verse is not applicable all at once. Part of the verse is true at one point on the Bible timeline and the other part of the verse is true at another point on the timeline. There is not joy throughout the verse; there is not uninterrupted joy as commonly assumed. There is sadness and then joy. In other words, the doleful Assyrian Captivity is followed by the glorious Millennium. Note that the colon ( : ) between the first “joy” and the “they” spans more than 2,000 years.
Look at the closing verse of the previous chapter (8:22). Then start at the beginning of the chapter we are investigating (9:1-2), reading all the way through to verse 7. There is judgment then restoration, captivity then kingdom. There is spiritual darkness followed by spiritual light. Messiah (Jesus) comes to bring light at His First Coming, to usher in God’s righteous earthly kingdom at His Second Coming. Compare these verses with Matthew 4:13-16. Look at Christ conquering Israel’s enemies and causing war to cease in Isaiah 9:4-5. (Connect that victory with the closing of verse 3.)
See Messiah’s birth and reign in Isaiah 9:6-7 (which itself is another timeline passage, not fulfilled all at once). Certainly, this timeline (8:22–9:7) spans from before the cross all the way to beyond the Second Coming. Isaiah 8:22 and 9:1 is Israel before Messiah’s birth; the next verses (9:2 and following) pick up from His birth onward. There is scene switching, of course, verses looping back to earlier ones. However, there is no mistake in the King James Bible. The “not” belongs in Isaiah 9:3, for that time of no increased joy (Captivity) is there to contrast with the time when God will increase their joy (yet future from us, when Christ returns to set His earthly kingdom and deliver Israel from their enemies and Captivity).
Read Isaiah 9:3 in that light now: “Thou hast multiplied the nation [pre-Captivity], and not increased the joy [Captivity]: [2,000-plus years later, Captivity lifted, Israel now in Kingdom] they joy before thee according to the joy in harvest, and as men rejoice when they divide the spoil.”
By the way, nearly all modern English translations eliminate “not” from Isaiah 9:3: American Standard Version, Amplified Bible, Contemporary English Version, English Standard Version, Good News Bible, Holman Christian Standard Bible, Living Bible, The Message, New American Standard Bible, New Century Version, New English Translation, New International Version, New Living Translation, New Revised Standard Version, New World Translation [Jehovah’s Witness “bible”], Revised Standard Version, The Voice). Please note that the NKJV departs from the KJB here, and is not a King James Bible at all!!
We often hear, “All versions say the same thing. The modern versions are no different from the King James Bible.” To say this is to do nothing but advertise Bible ignorance. Whoever says that has not done enough research to comment. No honest person could say that “not increased the joy” is the same as “increased the joy.” There is willful ignorance if someone cannot differentiate between a simple positive statement and a simple negative statement. “Yes” and “no” are not the same—unless you really do not care about facts and just want to vilify the (Protestant) King James Bible so you can promote some modern English translation (a Roman Catholic reading!).
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