The Righter Report

The Immanuel Prophecy

by Pete Righter

Overview: The date: 735 BC.

Israel, aka “Ephraim” (consisting of the northern ten tribes of Israel, i.e. the “Northern Kingdom”) and Judah – aka “The House of David,” or the “Southern Kingdom” – consisting of the tribes of Judah and Benjamin – were at war with each other. Pekah, king of Israel, was allied with Syria in an effort to resist the more powerful forces of the Assyrian empire. Pekah and Syria also sought to overwhelm Judah, sack Jerusalem, take its spoils, and install a pro-Syrian regime, at which time the “now unified” forces of Israel, Syria, and Judah would be in a better position to stand against Assyrian aggression.

In the midst of this menacing scenario we find King Ahaz of Judah, a weak and wicked king who had taken over the throne the year before. In 2 Kings chapter 16 we read,

“Ahaz was twenty years old when he became king, and he reigned in Jerusalem sixteen years. Unlike David his father, he did not do what was right in the eyes of the Lord his God. He followed the ways of the kings of Israel and even sacrificed his son in the fire, engaging in the detestable practices of the nations the Lord had driven out before the Israelites. He offered sacrifices and burned incense at the high places, on the hilltops and under every spreading tree.”

Ahaz and the people of Judah were beleaguered and frightened at the prospect of Jerusalem being sacked by the Northern forces.

It was at this time that the Lord God took notice of these events and called on the prophet Isaiah to visit with Ahaz and promise him undeserved deliverance. Isaiah and his son Shear-Jashub, subsequently met with Ahaz at the “end of the aqueduct of the Upper Pool, on the road to the Washerman’s Field” and relayed God’s promise of deliverance. The Lord even told Ahaz to ask for a sign to confirm the promise. Amazingly, Ahaz rebuffed the Lord, saying, “I will not ask (for a sign), neither will I tempt the LORD” (7:12).

The Immanuel Prophecy:

Then Isaiah said, “Hear now, you House of David! Is it not enough to try the patience of humans? Will you try the patience of my God also? 14 Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign: The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel” (Isaiah 7:14).

He will be eating curds and honey when he knows enough to reject the wrong and choose the right, for before the boy knows enough to reject the wrong and choose the right, the land of the two kings you dread will be laid waste.

In other words, in less than a handful of years, the threats of Pekah of Israel and Rezin of Syria would be removed.

And thus, deliverance from the Lord for the House of David was provided. What’s more, the Bible records that seven centuries later, Isaiah’s prophecy and the Lord’s divine deliverance would came to full fulfillment not only in Israel and Judah, but to the entire world as well.

The Fulfillment (from Matthew chapter 1):

18 This is how the birth of Jesus the Messiah came about: His mother Mary was pledged to be married to Joseph, but before they came together, she was found to be pregnant through the Holy Spirit. 19 Because Joseph her husband was faithful to the law, and yet did not want to expose her to public disgrace, he had in mind to divorce her quietly. 20 But after he had considered this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, “Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. 21 She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.” 22 All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet: 23 “The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel” (which means “God with us”).

Key objections concerning the Immanuel prophecy:

Objection 1 – The prophecy was not fulfilled because Jesus was never called Immanuel.

It is often common in the Bible for Biblical personalities to have more than one name, and/or one descriptor. For instance, King Solomon was also called Jedidiah (2 Samuel 12:24-25). And the Lord God himself was called El Shaddai (Lord God Almighty); El Elyon (The Most High God); Adonai (Lord, Master); Yahweh (Lord, Jehovah); Jehovah Nissi (The Lord My Banner); Jehovah-Raah (The Lord My Shepherd), and Jehovah Tsidkenu (The Lord Our Righteousness), just to name a few.

And even though Immanuel was not the everyday name of Jesus in the 1st century, the prophecy is open-ended and has no specific timeframe attached to it. In matter of fact, Jesus is called Immanuel today in any number of churches around the world, and many churches are aptly named, “The Church of Immanuel”.

It should also be noted that history records no other fulfillment to the name / person of Immanuel. And certainly not in the Old Testament. The name Immanuel is found only three times in the Jewish Tanakh: His birth prophesied (7:14); Immanuel’s “land” would eventually be invaded by the Assyrians (8:8); and Immanuel would thereafter shatter the future attacks on Israel / Judah, for “God is with us” (8:10).

Objection 2 – “Virgin” is not the correct translation for the Hebrew word almah in 7:14.

According to various critics, the Hebrew word for “virgin” in 7:14 that should have been used instead of almah is “betulah.” However, betulah comes with a lot of baggage. For instance, a betulah can be an older woman, rather than a young maiden, since the betulah in Joel 1:8 is a married woman “grieving for the husband of her youth”.

Additionally, the King’s concubines were referred to as betulahs even after they had spent the night with the king in Esther chapter 2.

What’s more, when betulah is used in reference to Rebekah as a virgin (Genesis chapter 24) it came with the qualifier, “nor had any man known her.” The qualifier wasn’t necessary when almah was used.

It should also be noted that an almah in ancient Judaism was always considered a virgin unless there was compelling evidence against her virginity.

The only word in Hebrew that can really signify a young maiden virgin is almah. Also, nowhere in Scripture is an almah seen as one who has lost her virginity.

Finally, when the Jewish rabbis translated the Jewish Tanakh into the Greek (Greek Septuagint) they used the Greek word for virgin “parthenos” – in Isaiah 7:14. That’s the same Greek word from which we get Parthenon- i.e. the Temple of the Virgin Athena!

Objection 3 – Jesus was born 700 years too late to fulfill the sign God have to Ahaz.

Even though the prophecy uses the definite article for the virgin, it nevertheless says nothing about the timing for the fulfillment of the prophecy. It is a future fulfillment, to be sure. In addition, the prophecy centered on, and was given to, the House of David as a whole (7:14) – to the Jewish people.

Some contend the “virgin” (almah, young maiden) was the wife of Isaiah. However, Isaiah’s wife was not a virgin, and the birth of their second son could hardly be considered a “sign” (an unusual occurrence given by the Lord), as the son was born in the usual way. Moreover, the second son – Maher-shalal-hash-baz – was never called or known as Immanuel.

Conclusion –

“In conclusion,” as Dr. Michael L. Brown (distinguished Messianic scholar and author of the 5-volume work, “Answering Jewish Objections to Jesus”) notes, “there is no substance to the argument that Matthew misinterpreted Isaiah 7:14 when he claimed that the prophecy was fulfilled in Yeshua’s (Jesus’) virgin birth. To the contrary, his interpretation reflects genuine insight into a difficult passage of scripture that bears the mark of the inspiration of the Holy Spirit.”

Editor’s note: Re. the Star of Bethlehem, which was recorded in the Gospel of Matthew, and accompanied the birth of Christ.

The following quote is from the book “Killing Jesus,” by Bill O’Reilly, page 15 note:

“In 1991, The Quarterly Journal of the Royal Astronomical Society (volume 32, pages 389-407) noted that Chinese astronomers had observed a long-tailed, slow-moving comet in their skies during March of 5 B.C. This sui-hsing, or “star,” hung in the Capricorn region for more than seventy days. This same comet would have been visible in the skies over Persia, home of the Magi, in the hours just before dawn. Due to the earth’s orbital motion, the comet’s light would have been directly in front of the Magi during their journey – hence, they would have followed the star.”

God bless,

– The Righter Report

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March 1, 2015 Posted by | Evangelical, God, History, Human Interest, Theology, Theology Articles | , , , , | Leave a comment