It has been claimed by some that Matthew’s reference to Isaiah 7:14 in Matthew 1:23 is out of context, that Isaiah’s sign to appear centuries later would mean nothing to King Ahaz during his then present trouble. The kings of Syria and Samaria were allied and had plotted to destroy the Judean monarchy and set up a puppet government friendly to their own interests (2Kings 16:5). But, is this conclusion correct, namely, if a virgin didn’t conceive in the days of Ahaz, how could Matthew’s reference to Isaiah be correct for Jesus?
Matthew 1:23 KJV Behold, a virgin shall be with child, and shall bring forth a son, and they shall call his name Emmanuel, which being interpreted is, God with us.
Isaiah 7:14 KJV Therefore the Lord himself shall give you a sign; Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel.
It is believed by some that:
a) the young woman (almah – H5959) is most likely already with child and about to birth;
b) nothing in the Scripture indicates anything other than a regular baby would be burn, i.e. there is nothing to say the child would be God;
c) this child would be born in King Ahaz’s time; he would lay eyes on him, because the sign is the age of the child when ‘x’ happens to the king’s enemies.
Concerning the Hebrew almah (H5959), I have already posted it is a synonym of betulah (H1330). They both mean young girl and if unmarried, in the context of Jewish society back then, that meant a virgin. As far as Isaiah 7:14 referring to God is concerned, if a virgin were to conceive without the aid of intercourse with a man, would the offspring be a ‘regular baby’? Let’s be honest; if such a thing would occur this miracle baby could not be just an ordinary ‘Joe’. As far as it referring to God is concerned, this is not specifically noted here in Isaiah 7, but it is so noted later in the prophecy (Isaiah 9:6).
It is true that ‘a’ child would be born in the days of King Ahaz, and he would indeed see the child and recognize that before the child was old enough to reason, the king’s political troubles would be over (Isaiah 7:16). So, who is this child, for it certainly cannot be Jesus?
Basically, there are three arguments concerning to whom Isaiah refers in his prophecy when he calls him Immanuel.
- Some interpret this Scripture to mean that the child is Shear-jashub, Isaiah’s son, whom the Lord had told Isaiah to bring with him when he visited the King (Isaiah 7:3).
- Some point to Hezekiah, Ahaz’s son, as the child God used to be the sign.
- Others will point to Mahershalalhashbaz, Isaiah’s yet unborn son, whom he fathered by the prophetess (Isaiah 8:1-4).
Concerning numbers 1 & 2 above, neither could be the one God intended to be a sign to Ahaz, because the prophecy states the virgin “shall conceive,” indicating the child is not yet born. But even if the young woman is already with child as some scholars assume, Hezekiah was at least nine years old at the time of the prophecy and had already reached the age of reason.
While the third opinion is probably the near sign to Ahaz that his political troubles would be over, it cannot be the fulfillment of Isaiah 7:14 for two reasons.
- The sign wasn’t simply given to Ahaz but to the “house of David”. Judah’s enemies were seeking to defeat Judah and replace the Davidic line. God wished to give Ahaz a miraculous sign of great significance (Isaiah 7:11), showing that would never happen, but Ahaz wouldn’t believe. So, God gave his own unbelievably true sign (still disbelieved today by many) that an almah would both conceive and deliver a child. Now there is absolutely nothing strange or miraculous in a young girl conceiving and delivering a child, but if a virgin (also a possible meaning of almah) should both conceive and deliver, that would be miraculous. While Mahershalalhashbaz could be a sign for Ahaz, it could not be a sign to “the house of David” or the royal line—anyone who had a right to that throne. Therefore, a greater and future fulfillment is necessary, and just as the “fulfillment” of the prophecy was the sort that Ahaz had to **look back** to see the hand of God in bringing about the events that transpired, so too, when Jesus was born, we need to “look back” to note the fulfillment of the prophecy. God promised the “line of David” that no one would successfully replace them. Even when the Hasmonians (only one listed as a king of Israel in the Talmud) and the Herods later ruled over the Jews, the Jews kept looking for the Messiah, the Son of David, to arrive and take the throne.
- Mahershalalhashbaz could not be the primary sign, because Isaiah 8:8 shows that the king of Assyria comes into Immanuel’s land. That is, Immanuel is Lord or King of the land of the Jews. None of Isaiah’s son’s were ever king. God, himself is King of the land and is represented in the persons of the kings of Judah and Israel, thus, implying that Immanuel in Isaiah 7:14 is God. Furthermore, the prophecy in Isaiah 8 extends into Isaiah 9 to verse-6 and after. There in Isaiah 9:6 Immanuel in Isaiah 8 is the child who is born, the son given and the government is upon his shoulders, showing he is of the line of David and not Isaiah’s son (the near sign).
Isaiah 7:14 is fulfilled in Matthew 1:23, but Jesus was never publicly referred to as Immanuel, and the Jews as a nation never believed in the Virgin Birth. The angel told Matthew he would be called Immanuel. Jesus fulfills the meaning of the name i.e. “THE GOD WITH US.” Millions of people today, perhaps billions throughout the last 2000 years, have believed in and claimed that Jesus is God, and he was and is with us (Matthew 28:20).