“Yeshua is the greatest phenomenon that has ever crossed the horizon of this world. He’s the superlative of everything good that we could call him. He’s unparalleled. He's unprecedented. He's the only one qualified to be an all-sufficient Savior. He's the miracle of the age.” 1 And the miracle started at his birth. He was born of a virgin.
There are hundreds if not thousands of books, commentaries, studies and sermons on Isaiah 7:14 and it’s Messianic application in Matthew for the Virgin Birth. Although biblical scholars debate the precise significance of Isaiah 7:14. The prophet speaks of a supernatural event of great importance to the house of David. Isaiah prophecies the birth of a royal child by supernatural means.
THE THREE SONS
One key to understanding this passage of scripture and its Messianic significance is to see the interrelationship of three sons mentioned in Isaiah 7 and 8.
1. Shear-jashub (Remnant will return) – 7:3
2. Immanuel (God with Us) - 7:14
3. Maher-shalal-hash-baz (Swift is the booty, speedy is the prey) - 8:3
Another key to understanding this Messianic aspect of Isaiah 7 & 8 is the Near/Far View of prophecy.
NEAR/FAR VIEW OF PROPHECY
The Biblical prophets saw Messiah coming on the immediate horizon of time. Prophets received their words from a timeless God who saw the end from the beginning and communicated from a perspective of timelessness and all of history having been completed. Therefore when the prophets received this information it was as if it was already done or surely about to happen any day. But in actuality was in the distant future, hundreds of years into the future. Now let’s look at Isaiah’s prophecies.
Isaiah 7:1-3 - Now it came about in the days of Ahaz, the son of Jotham, the son of Uzziah, king of Judah, that Rezin the king of Aram and Pekah the son of Remaliah, king of Israel, went up to Jerusalem to wage war against it, but could not conquer it. When it was reported to the house of David, saying, “The Arameans have camped in Ephraim,” his heart and the hearts of his people shook as the trees of the forest shake with the wind.
HISTORICAL & SPIRITUAL IMPLICATIONS
Judah was under attack from the Northern Kingdom of Israel and their fear was very real! The Northern Kingdom was joined by the Arameans or Syrians, this war was called the Syro-Ephraimite War 735 BC. The Northern Kingdom called “Israel” was angry that Judah did not support a plan to attack Assyria. Ahaz paid tribute to the King of Assyria for protection (2 Kings 16)
Rezin the king of Aram and Pekah the king of Israel had a goal to capture Jerusalem and remove Ahaz as the reigning king and install a “puppet” king who would do their bidding. In Judah, the king was always a descendant of David. The threat was real, it was the “house of David” that was addressed twice in Isaiah 7 (2 & 13). This was to be an assault on God’s established dynasty from which the Messiah would come. If they were successful then the Messiah could not be born according to prophecy. The current king in David’s line was the faithless Ahaz.
Isaiah 7:3, 4 - Then the LORD said to Isaiah, "Go out now to meet Ahaz, you and your son Shear-jashub, at the end of the conduit of the upper pool, on the highway to the fuller's field, and say to him, 'Take care and be calm, have no fear and do not be fainthearted because of these two stubs of smoldering firebrands, on account of the fierce anger of Rezin and Aram (Syria) and the son of Remaliah (Northern Kingdom Israel).
ISAIAH VISITS AHAZ
Isaiah speaks a word of prophecy that should build faith in Ahaz. Isaiah meets Ahaz at a special location “conduit of the upper pool”. Isaiah visits Ahaz with his son Shear-jashub at the command of the LORD. Shear-jashub means “a remnant shall return”. This is the first sign of the three sons. His name is symbolic of a message which the prophet wishes to emphasize. Isaiah uses the very words Shear-jashub to express his oft-repeated statement that a remnant of Israel will return to the LORD. The LORD was faithful to Israel and by implication would fulfill the promise of a coming Messiah.
Isaiah 7:5-9 - Because Aram, with Ephraim and the son of Remaliah, has planned evil against you, saying, Let us go up against Judah and terrorize it, and make for ourselves a breach in its walls and set up the son of Tabeel as king in the midst of it, thus says the Lord GOD : It shall not stand nor shall it come to pass. For the head of Aram is Damascus and the head of Damascus is Rezin (now within another 65 years Ephraim will be shattered, so that it is no longer a people ), and the head of Ephraim is Samaria and the head of Samaria is the son of Remaliah. If you will not believe, you surely shall not last.
THE NORTHERN KINGDOM OF ISRAEL EXILED
This prediction came true in three phases.
1. 732 BC Tiglath-pileser, king of Assyria, conquered Israel and sent many captives back to Assyria (2 Kings 15:29).
2. 721 BC, Assyria destroyed the northern Kingdom by deporting their population to Assyria and settling the land of Israel with other peoples (2 Kings 17:24).
3. 669 BC, Ashurbanipal enacted the final population transfers between Israel and Assyria (Ezra 4:2,10).
In 669 BC, 65 years from the date the prophecy about Ephraim was given it was fulfilled. To confirm the threat on Judah would not succeed, the Lord offered a sign to Ahaz.
Isaiah 7:10-13 - Then the LORD spoke again to Ahaz, saying, “Ask a sign for yourself from the LORD your God; make it deep as Sheol or high as heaven.” But Ahaz said, “I will not ask, nor will I test the LORD!” Then he said, “Listen now, O house of David! Is it too slight a thing for you to try the patience of men, that you will try the patience of my God as well?
NO SIGN REQUESTED
Ahaz in his false show of faith did not ask for a sign. History shows he worshiped idols and offered his son to the fires of Molech (2 Kings 16:3). If Ahaz had asked for a sign and it came about, it would invalidate this idolatry. When Ahaz was under his greatest threat, he refused the Lord’s comfort and rejected the offer of a sign. It seems that Isaiah is speaking to Ahaz and the House of David (mentioned 2-times vss 2 & 13)
1. Ahaz - Near-term view - Survival of Judah
2. House of David - Long-term view - Survival of the Messianic Promise
Isaiah 7:14 - 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.
Tanach is filled with examples of miraculous births. Sarah giving birth to Isaac – Child of Promise. Rachel giving birth to Joseph – Child that saved his people. Hannah giving birth to Samuel – The last judge and prophet. Manoah's wife giving birth to Samson – A judge
God used a unique birth to signal a unique mission for an empowered leader. If the birth of Samson, a judge with many character flaws, was unique, how much more the birth of the Messiah. In this way, there would be no room for boasting of human effort in achieving God’s plan. The sign that the Lord promised the house of David is that a virgin woman would bear a son.
The Hebrew word is ‘almah (Strongs, 5959). While the word ʿalmah can refer to a virgin, it does not specifically mean “virgin.” It refers to an un-married woman. It’s basic meaning is primarily related to adolescence, not sexual chastity. According to the commandments and cultural customs during biblical times a young woman who never married, must also be a VIRGIN. No single word in biblical Hebrew always and only means “virgin”. It is important to understand a word in the context this word is used. For example, I could say this pipe is lead – “metal”. Or I could say, I lead a horse by a rope – “means to go before”. Let’s examine two of the seven instances where ‘almah is in the Tanach in the context of this use.
EXAMPLES OF ‘ALMAH IN THE TANACH
‘Almah in the Tanach always means a young, un-married woman and there are no instances which can prove that an ʿalmah is not a virgin.
1. Genesis 24:43 - Abraham asks Eliezer to find a bride for Isaac and he finds Rebecca. Eliezer refers to her as a maiden - word “ ‘Almah ”.
2. Exodus 2:8 - As Moses was being picked from the Nile by Pharaoh’s daughter, Miriam watched on. Pharaoh’s daughter said to her, Go. And the maid “’Almah” went and called the child's mother. Miriam is later described as a young girl, un-married and living with her parents.
The Septuagint a Greek translation of the Tanach written 200 years before Messiah’s birth uses the Greek word for "virgin". In the Peshitta, a translation from Hebrew to the Syriac language in 2 AD translates ‘almah as virgin. It is clear that the ancient Rabbi’s translated and understood ‘almah as “virgin”
Important questions to consider are; Who is this Immanuel and Who is the virgin? This woman is not specifically named in the context. It is reasonable to expect that if God Himself provides a sign that is listed in Isaiah 7:14, a birth of this significance would be documented somewhere. The Immanuel is documented in only two places in the Tanach, Isaiah 7:14; 8:8. Could it be that the name, which means Immanuel or God’s with Us, is a Remez of someone greater in the future? Remez is a “hint” using rabbinic interpretative principles of a deeper or longer view of a Scriptural passage.
Immanuel is the second sign of the three sons mentioned in Isaiah chapters 7, 8. With the son Immanuel, Israel has a long term view, to the House of David and the promise made to King David that his offspring would rule Israel. Yet Isaiah in his prophecy with Ahaz at the same time jumps back to a near-term view in his prophecy that involved his, Isaiah’s son.
Isaiah 7:15, 16 - “He will eat curds and honey at the time He knows enough to refuse evil and choose good. For before the boy will know enough to refuse evil and choose good, the land whose two kings you dread will be forsaken.”
WHO IS THE BOY?
Remember that Isaiah’s son Shear-Jashub was with Isaiah when he prophesied to Ahaz. So it is reasonable to assume that Isaiah was pointing to his son when he said “before the boy will know enough to refuse evil and choose good, the land whose two kings you dread will be forsaken.” The son referenced here is not Immanuel but Shear-Jashub. Michael Rydelnik writing in “The Messianic Hope: Is the Old Testament Really Messianic?” says,
“So who is the child in [Isa. 7:16]? In light of Isaiah being directed to bring his own son to the confrontation with the king at the conduit of the upper pool [Isa. 7:3], it makes most sense to identify the lad as Shear-Jashub. Otherwise there would be no purpose for God directing Isaiah to bring the boy. Thus having promised the virgin birth of the Messiah (Isa. 7:13-15), the prophet then points to the very small boy that he has brought along and says, ‘But before this lad (using the article with a demonstrative force) knows enough to refuse evil and choose good, the land whose two kings you dread will be forsaken. In this way, Shear-Jashub functioned as a sign to the king. Appropriately, Isaiah could tell Judah in the very next chapter, “Here I am with the children the Lord has given me to be signs and wonders in Israel from the Lord of Hosts who dwells on Mount Zion” (Isa. 8:18).”
This near term prophecy was fulfilled two years later when these two kings were killed (2 King 16). Let’s review the signs of the sons:
1. Shear-jashub – 7:3 (Remnant will return) is a sign of the near-time view. In judgment of these two nations, God promises a remnant.
2. Immanuel – 7:14 (God with Us) is a sign of a far-time view. A remez (hint) of a promised redeemer.
Now let’s look at the third and final sign of a son in Isaiah’s prophecy.
Isaiah 8:1-4 - Then the LORD said to me, "Take for yourself a large tablet and write on it in ordinary letters:Swift is the booty, speedy is the prey. "And I will take to Myself faithful witnesses for testimony, Uriah the priest and Zechariah the son of Jeberechiah." So I approached the prophetess, and she conceived and gave birth to a son. Then the LORD said to me, "Name him Maher-shalal-hash-baz; for before the boy knows how to cry out 'My father ' or 'My mother,' the wealth of Damascus and the spoil of Samaria will be carried away before the king of Assyria."
WHY IS THIS IMPORTANT TO MESSIANIC PROPHECY?
This was a recoded birth of another son of Isaiah. Maher-Shalal-Hash-Baz in chapter 8, seems to take the place of the Immanuel prophecy in chapter 7 in terms of the immediate historical context spoken of there. But the birth in Isaiah 8 seems to repeat this very same promise in Isaiah 7 to Immanuel.
For Isaiah’s contemporaries, the birth of Maher-Shalal-Hash-Baz virtually took the place of the birth of Immanuel. An important fact to note is there is not a record of the sign of Immanuel’s birth in the Tanach. Leaving this important prophetic announcement without any record of fulfillment for more than seven hundred years. Yet Immanuel's birth was documented.
Mattityahu 1:20-25 - But when he had considered this, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, “Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife ; for the Child who has been conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit. She will bear a Son; and you shall call His name Yeshua, for He will save His people from their sins.” Now all this took place to fulfill what was spoken by the Lord through the prophet: “BEHOLD, THE VIRGIN SHALL BE WITH CHILD AND SHALL BEAR A SON, AND THEY SHALL CALL HIS NAME IMMANUEL,” which translated means, “GOD WITH US.” And Joseph awoke from his sleep and did as the angel of the Lord commanded him, and took Mary as his wife, but kept her a virgin until she gave birth to a Son; and he called His name Yeshua.
YESHUA’S BIRTH ANNOUNCEMENT
Yeshua’s birth announcement followed the literary and theological character of the historical narratives of the Tanach. Yeshua’s birth was going to be extraordinary. The announcement was given by an angel. The angelic announcement included the child’s name (Mattityahu 1:21). People’s response to the child and to his character and mission are outlined to Miriam. In a sense she was “functionally” barren in that a virgin cannot have a child. In his study of Isaiah Theologian Craig Kenner states,
“Because Isaiah’s children were for ‘signs’ (8:18), Matthew was right to recognize in Immanuel (compare Is 8:8) a sign pointing to the ultimate presence of God and triumph for Judah in the Davidic Messiah who would be born to Israel” (Is 9:1–7; Blomberg 1992:60; Keener 1993:48).
A SIGN TO CATCH OUR ATTENTION
The translation of this word (virgin or young woman) must be seen in the larger context of a sign given by the LORD. For centuries young women have given birth as an ordinary course of life and this would not be considered a supernatural event/miracle. If a virgin were to give birth, that would be a miracle and a clear sign that the LORD had fulfilled his promise to the Davidic line. It is not difficult to see how Isaiah 7:14 is a Messianic prophecy. Mattityahu records Immanuel’s birth that was promised in this passage with reference to the birth of Yeshua.
THE MESSIAH HAS NO BIOLOGICAL FATHER
This was the belief held by the sages as expressed in Midrashic literature. In Genesis Rabbah 35: “The savior which I will raise from within you has no father”. In Genesis Rabbah 37: “No savior that I will raise from within you, has a father”. It is “conceivable” to understand the concept of a Virgin birth. Today, we know that a virgin birth is possible by a medical technique called “In vitro fertilization”. A fertilized egg is implanted into a woman’s womb and grows into a child. If mankind has the capability of doing this, how much more the Creator and Sovereign of the universe! God created a fertilized egg and implanted it into Miriam’s womb to gestate and eventually give birth to God’s Son, Yeshua, who is the Savior of the World! Is that so inconceivable?
Let’s review the signs of the sons:
1. Shear-jashub – 7:3 (Remnant will return) is a sign of the near-time view. In judgment of Israel going into exile, God promises a remnant to faithless Ahaz.
2. Immanuel – 7:14 (God with Us) is a sign of a far-time view. A Remez or “Hint” of a promised redeemer.
3. Maher-shalal-hash-baz - 8:3 (Swift is the booty, speedy is the prey) is a sign of the near-time view. God is bringing judgments to faithless Judah that reflects the faithless nature of King Ahaz
Michael L. Brown, Answering Jewish Objections to Jesus, Volume 3 says, “
“To conclude, then, there is no substance to the argument that Matthew misinterpreted Isaiah 7:14 when he claimed that the prophecy was fulfilled in Yeshua’s virgin birth. To the contrary, his interpretation reflects genuine insight into a difficult passage of Scripture, an insight that bears the mark of the inspiration of the Holy Spirit.”
Consider reviewing these videos:
A Virgin Birth!? (Isaiah 7:14) Produced by One For Israel
Dr. Michael Brown’s discussion of Isaiah 7:14
1. Sermon Titled: "That's My King", Dr. S.M. Lockridge
Michael L. Brown, Answering Jewish Objections to Jesus, Volume 3: Messianic Prophecy Objections
Michael Rydelnik, The Messianic Hope: Is the Old Testament Really Messianic?
Bryan E. Beyer, Encountering the Book of Isaiah (Encountering Biblical Studies): A Historical and Theological Survey
William Bjoraker, The Eighth Key Interpretive Principle for Messianic Prophecy: The Babylonian Exile As Template for the New Exodus Isaiah 40-55 as Prime Source
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