DIG: What is the sign that God will give to Ahaz despite his refusal to ask for one? How is Mt 1:23 the ultimate fulfillment of this prophecy (see my commentary on The Life of Christ Ap - The Birth of Jesus Foretold to Joseph)? What does Immanuel mean? Why is that important?
REFLECT: How has the LORD gone the extra mile with you in your life? When has He shown extraordinary grace and patience with you? How did you respond? Why? When have you not responded and suffered the consequences? What did you learn from that experience? Is there anything you can do now to help others?
At the heart of our earthly existence, our heavenly Father wants the best for us. Even a sinful human father normally wants the best for his children, let alone, our perfect heavenly Father! He will go the extra mile to give us a chance to repent and be saved. The apostle Peter would say it like this: He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance (Second Peter 3:9b). But ADONAI will not take away our free will to reject Him. We can say no to God and make it stick. This dynamic is clearly seen here in Ha'Shem's dealing with king Ahaz.
The LORD had graciously sent His prophet Isaiah to Ahaz, king of Judah, to offer an authenticating sign so that he might believe and the nation would be saved. But after Ahaz’s stubborn refusal to ask for a sign to confirm the LORD’s prophecy, Isaiah said to him, "Hear now, you house of David! Is it not enough to try the patience of men? Will you try the patience of my God also (7:13)?"
Here Isaiah was no longer addressing Ahaz alone; the prophet was addressing the house of David. Every you in 7:10 through 12 is singular and addresses Ahaz, but every, you in these two verses is in the plural, addressing the sign to the house of David. Therefore, because of the king’s skepticism, the sign Isaiah was giving was not to Ahaz individually, but to the house of David collectively. The human house of David was finally without hope; it had tried God’s patience too far. In fact, YHVH was worn out from trying to get this nation to act in faith during this crisis. The change from your God in 7:11 to my God here is ominous. Isaiah seems to be saying that Ahaz had rejected the very One who would have supported and established him. As a result, no longer can the prophet speak of your God, now it is only my God, who is evidently foreign to Ahaz. King Saul had a similar experience in his life (First Samuel 15:26-30). From this point on, however long it should take for this human Jewish dynasty to come to a complete collapse, the only hope is in ADONAI’s provision.
As a result of Ahaz’s refusal of an immediate sign during his lifetime, Isaiah looked about 700 years into the future and prophesied: The LORD Himself will give you a sign: The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a Son, and will call Him Immanuel (7:14). If Ahaz would not ask for a sign, God, in His sovereignty, will give him one anyway. It is impossible to determine if this was the sign God intended to give had Ahaz asked, or whether it was especially given in light of his refusal to ask. At any rate, it is the one he received. It confirmed Isaiah’s earlier promise in 7:4-9, but it also verified the foolishness of not trusting in that promise. That the positive side would have applied had Ahaz received the sign in faith lends some weight to the idea that this was the intended sign. Had the king received it in faith, Immanuel would have appeared to vindicate the House of David. As it was, He was to appear as a shame. They had not believed, so they received the just result of that unbelief. Nevertheless, YHVH, in His faithfulness to His own promise, would raise up from the wreckage a true Son of David.
The demonstrative article therefore is an active participle. Isaiah uses this phrase 43 times in his book. With the exception of 48:7 every time it is used, it is referring to the future. It could be referring to something past, present, or future. By itself, it does not necessarily require a future interpretation. In the Hebrew however, if the word is used with the Hebrew active participle, it is always interpreted as a future event. And the phrase will give birth to is an active participle. So this is a future event.
Now let us look at the Hebrew word virgin. Na-tor-ah is generally translated by the word girl. It is used of virgins and non-virgins. In the case of a virgin, one example is used in First Kings 1:2, and in the case of a non-virgin, an example is used in Ruth 2:6. For most women the word for a virgin is bet-to-la, which in classical Hebrew refers to a single girl without reference to age. However, in most cases in classical Hebrew it is used of a virgin. But because the word is not always clearly a virgin, sometimes after using the term they have to use a descriptive phrase to point out that they mean virgin (Genesis 24:16; Judges 21:12). So bet-to-la means a single girl of any age. Now with that knowledge, we come to the word that is used in Isaiah, the word almah. The basic meaning of almah is a young virgin. It never refers to someone who is old. It is never used of a married woman. In the other Semitic languages, the root word always means virgin. There is no debate on this. In addition, in the Septuagint the word used is tarthenos, which is the word used for a strict virgin.
As far as how it is used in the TaNaKh, it is only found in seven places: Genesis 24:43 in reference to Rebekah where it states that she is a virgin; Exodus 2:8 in reference to Miriam the sister of Moses; Psalm 68:25 that deals with young virgins worthy to participate in a religious procession; Song of Songs 1:3 referring to women who are worthy to be desired; Song of Songs 6:8 where there is a contrast with two other groups, queens, concubines, and virgins beyond number. Queens were legal wives and their main function was to produce royal children to the throne. The concubines served the king sexually. Virgins were prospective concubines; Proverbs 30:18-19 contrasts the virgin with the adulteress in Proverbs 30:20; and finally, the passage here, Isaiah 7:14. In each reference, while some passages are clearly virgins, even the unclear passages at least allow for virginity. But nowhere does it refer to a married woman.
Because of the fact that the word virgin cannot refer to a married woman, only an unmarried woman, there are only two options when interpreting this passage. Either you have a virgin birth or an illegitimate birth. Illegitimate births are very common, no miracle there. Likewise a virgin getting married and giving birth to a child is very commonplace. Not only that, but it is YHVH doing this so you have moral problems if you associate God with something illegitimate. The entire context of the passage begs for a virgin birth. The emphasis is that in her virginity she will conceive, and that is the miracle.
The definite article before the word does not mean a virgin; it means the virgin. In Hebrew grammar the usage of a definite article, when against something specific, has two rules. First, it would refer to a woman already mentioned in the immediate context. There has been no woman mentioned in the immediate context. Secondly, would be the law of previous mention. This is when some event or some person had become so familiar in the minds of the people that when the event or person is mentioned, everybody knows what or who is being discussed. For example when you say, the Exodus, the Jews know what you are talking about. That is similar to this passage. However, there is no woman to go to in the previous context. There must be a specific woman in the minds of the people, so if it said the woman everyone would know which woman was being referred to. Has there been such a previous mention? Yes, in Genesis 3:15. What Isaiah is doing is explaining the mystery of this passage. The Bible teaches that the Messiah’s seed, or offspring, will come after the woman, which goes contrary to all Biblical systems and principles of Jewish law. And now Isaiah explains why it is necessary. The reason Christ will have to be born after the offspring of the woman is because there is no man involved. He will be born of a virgin, and: The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel, which means God with us (Matthew 1:23).
There is something else in this verse. The sign was to be a boy named Immanuel. When parents name a child, it shows the thinking of the parents. The parents’ hopes and aspirations for the child can be seen in the meaning of the name they choose. Maybe it will be true, and maybe it will not be true. In Scripture, when Elohim names a child, it becomes true. And the character of this child is literally, God with us. Concerning Immanuel, there is a certain flow in the context. In Chapter 7 He is to be born, in Chapter 9 He will be viewed as having already been born, and in Chapter 11 He is reigning. By the time you get to the end of 7:9, the king of Y'hudah has been given a specific promise. The first part of the promise is that the two kings of the confederacy are doomed to failure. That does not guarantee the establishment of Ahaz personally; that would take faith on his part. But as far as the House of David there is no threat to it, the promise will remain.
What does it mean for us today that God is with us? The God of the universe is able to have a personal relationship with us. The Holy Spirit was not a permanent indwelling for each believer in the God of Abraham, Issac and Jacob. The Ruach HaKodesh would come and go. That is why David said: Have mercy on me, O God. Do not cast me from your presence or take your Holy Spirit from me (Psalm 51:1 and 11). But with the coming of Messiah, God with us has taken on a whole new dimension. Now God lives inside of us. This is what Jesus had in mind when He said that the Rauch HaKodesh would indwell the apostles (see my commentary on The Life of Christ Kr - The Holy Spirit Will Teach You All Things). YHVH would no longer in the center of the twelve tribes (see my commentary on Exodus Ep - The Camp of the Twelve Tribes of Isra'el), but in the human heart itself.
This means we can live without fear. If YHVH lives in us through the power of the Ruach HaKodesh, then neither the condemnation of our past sins nor the power of present temptation can defeat us. If God is for us, who can be against us (Psalm 56:9; Romans 8:31)? Nothing that anyone can do to us can ultimately hurt us, because Immanuel has conquered death. God with us would be a great truth even if Christ had not come. But it would only be an incomplete hope. There would always be the grave, the single most inescapable reality of human experience. But Messiah has gone with us all the way, even into the tomb. And having gone in with us, He can bring us out with Him. Immanuel! 27
Many large cities have computerized warning signs to alert drivers to hazards ahead. I recall one occasion when I was on the freeway and a sign told me, "Accident ahead - major delay.” There was no other reason to believe there had been an accident, but I heeded the warning anyway and got off at the next exit to take another route to my destination. Returning about an hour later in the other lane, I found the sign had told the truth. There was a terrible traffic jam by that time and cars were lined up for miles. The new sign had provided a timely warning and saved me a great deal of time by letting me know what was ahead. Seven-hundred years before the coming of Messiah, the prophet Isaiah told God’s people what was ahead for them. He didn’t have a computer or giant billboards, but he had the Holy Spirit and was able to predict the coming, character, and style of Christ.
The Teaching Ministry of Jay Mack 2006-2017