After my meeting with Brian the other day (which initially sparked this thought), I was thinking the about names that begin with אב (ab) in the Hebrew scriptures. Some of the more popular names are Abram/Abraham and Absalom. Hebrew names have meaning. In this case, Abram is “exalted father,” Abraham is “father of a multitude,” and Absalom is “my father is peace.”

Absalom is really the shortened form of the name Abishalom; the shortened Absalom drops the י (Hebrew yod). Among many other names, a few that have the yod are Abimelech (אבימלך), Abinadab (אבינדב), Abiezer (אביעזר). They mean “my father is king,” “my father is noble,” and “my father is help,” respectively. The addition of the yod functions as a possessive suffix (אבי = “my father”).

When אבי is not used as part of a name, the yod functions as a construct marker connecting two words (generally understood in the sense X of Y, such as אבי כנען [=”father of Canaan” {Gen 9:18}]). My initial observations have found אבי to stand alone, with a pronominal suffix, or joined to another word with a maqqef when it is in the construct form.

This leads me to Isaiah 9:6[9:5 MT]. The word translated in the KJV as “eternal everlasting Father” has אבי as part of it. I think, however, that this translation is misleading. First, the word in question אביעד looks just like other names with אבי in it—indeed, it is said to be a name earlier in the verse. Second, the word “Father” is not modified by an adjective. Third, Accordance 8 parses this as a construct form, translated as “Father of eternity,” which does not necessarily identify the son to be born as the eternally-existent Father. It seems that the translation “eternal/everlasting Father” comes from the Latin Vulgate (fortis Pater), rather than from the Hebrew text.

I propose that instead of “eternal/everlasting Father,” אביעד should be understood as “my Father is eternal” (I doubt this is something new with me, but I do not have any Old Testament commentaries to check). I do not see ‘abi’ad as two words in construct form, but instead a name formed by the joining of two words, as Abiathar, Abimelech, Abigail, and hosts of other names beginning with ab– are. Understanding אביעד as “my Father is eternal” accords well with the way we understand other אבי compound names. It also works well theologically where the Son is always differentiated from the Father (the Son is not the Father), and reveals who the Father is (by the name “my Father is eternal”).