Who is Immanuel?

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Scott

Puritan Board Graduate
Isa. 7 describes a conversation between Isaiah and King Ahaz. Here in an excerpt:
Again the LORD spoke to Ahaz, 11 "Ask the LORD your God for a sign, whether in the deepest depths or in the highest heights." 12 But Ahaz said, "I will not ask; I will not put the LORD to the test." Then Isaiah said, "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? 14 Therefore the Lord himself will give you [c] a sign: The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and [d] will call him Immanuel. [e] 15 He will eat curds and honey when he knows enough to reject the wrong and choose the right. 16 But 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. 17 The LORD will bring on you and on your people and on the house of your father a time unlike any since Ephraim broke away from Judah—he will bring the king of Assyria."
Who is Immanuel here? Does it refer exclusively to Jesus? Or does it refer initially to someone else and then typologically to Jesus?

From the context it appears that this is intendned to refer initially to a contemporary of Ahaz. The account regards a sign for Ahaz to comfort him regarding comnteporary events (an invasion of Judah). Isaiah tells Ahaz to ask for a sign that a near-term planned invasion of Judah will be foiled. Ahaz refuses to ask and so a sign is chosen for him. The entire context concerns events events contemporary to Ahaz' time. Vs. 16 seems to reinforce the idea that the sign would be contemporary to Ahaz. It says that the child would not reach a certain age before the events happened. I suppose this could mean that the child would not be born for hundreds of years, but the way it is worded suggests that the child will be alive and young during the fulfillment of the prophecy.

If the prophecy does refer to a contemporary of Ahaz, who is it? I believe that Jewish commentators believed it was Hezekiah, right?

Thoughts?

Scott
 

Scott

Puritan Board Graduate
Matthew Henry says that vs. 16 ("For before the boy will know enough to refuse evil and choose good, the land whose two kings you dread will be forsaken") refers to Isaiah's son, Shear-jashub. What do you guys think of that. The context does not seem to support it it me. And no translation I have seen uses Henry's modified translation (Henry changes "the" to "this"). Thanks
 

Contra_Mundum

Pilgrim, Alien, Stranger
Staff member
Ahaz' problem was that he was a faithless man. God sends Isaiah the prophet to tell Ahaz that God will deliver his people, and he does so because he has covenant, redemptive purposes to fulfill. And he will fulfill them.

But Ahaz can only think in terms of worldly power and alliances. Can he stand against Ephraim and Syria?

Now, God tells Isaiah to bring his own infant son along with him to stand and meet Ahaz as the king makes his way. Isaiah, with his babe in arms, hails the king and gives him God's Word of deliverance. And adds, "Go ahead, Jehovah says to ask for any sign you want to prove him!" Ahaz feigns a pious refusal, but this only angers the prophet.

"God himself will give you a sign! Like it or not! Will he deliver his people? Oh yes, and it will be a great deliverance, from the greatest enemy in the world. And the sign will be a virgin birth. How's that for a sign that God keeps his promise, Ahaz?"

And then, with reference to his infant son, he declares, "Oh, and by the way, those confederates whom you dread? God will take care of that little sideshow too. Before this child can tell right from wrong (say 1 or 2 yrs) the kingdoms you dread will be wasted. And you shall have another threat to haunt your dreams and waking moments: Assyria!"

There's really no other reason for God to command Isaiah to take the boy along with him and meet Ahaz. God knows what Ahaz is going to say, and little Shear-jashub has an illustrative part to play in the coming prophecy.
 

Scott

Puritan Board Graduate
Bruce: That is helpful. The point about God commanding Isaiah to bring is son makes sense. How do we know the child's age? Thanks!
 

Scott

Puritan Board Graduate
It seems that one could make the case that the figure in Isa. 7:14 is Isaiah's new son in Isa. 8, Maher-Shalal-Hash-Baz. He seems to fit the prophecy in Isa. 7, if one word translated "virgin" can also be translated woman.

* woman will be with child (Isa. 7:14) -> prophetess becomes pregnant (Isa. 8:3)
* the child is to be a sign (Isa. 7:14) -> Isaiah's child expressly identified as a sign (Isa. 8:18)
* before child is old Damascus and Samaria will fall (Isa. 7:16)(I understand Bruce and others do not apply this to the child of prophecy, but if one does, it fits in nicelt with Maher) -> (This is applied to Maher-Shalal-Hash-Baz) Isa 8:4

Counterarguments are that the prophetess may not meet the definition of virgin or maiden (that may be arguable) and that there is no record that the Maher was also called Immanuel. Still, the resemblance b/t the prophecy of Isa. 7 of the events in Isa. 8 seem very strong.

Why would the resemblance be so strong if it is not the fulfillment?
 

Scott

Puritan Board Graduate
How Does Calvin's Argument Do?

Regarding whether the prophecy of Isa. 7:14 could refer to a child born of ordinary means (through intercourse), Calvin says:
Although the word עלמה, (gnalmah,) a virgin, is derived from עלם, (gnalam,) which signifies to hide, because the shame and modesty of virgins does not allow them to appear in public; yet as the Jews dispute much about that word, and assert that it does not signify virgin, because Solomon used it to denote a young woman who was betrothed, it is unnecessary to contend about the word. Though we should admit what they say, that עלמה (gnalmah) sometimes denotes a young woman, and that the name refers, as they would have it, to the age, (yet it is frequently used in Scripture when the subject relates to a virgin,) the nature of the case sufficiently refutes all their slanders. For what wonderful thing did the Prophet say, if he spoke of a young woman who conceived through intercourse with a man? It would certainly have been absurd to hold out this as a sign or a miracle. Let us suppose that it denotes a young woman who should become pregnant in the ordinary course of nature; 109109 Quae ex coitu viri gravida esset futura . everybody sees that it would have been silly and contemptible for the Prophet, after having said that he was about to speak of something strange and uncommon, to add, A young woman shall conceive. It is, therefore, plain enough that he speaks of a virgin who should conceive, not by the ordinary course of nature, but by the gracious influence of the Holy Spirit.
While it makes sense at first, this does not seem consistent with Isa. 8:18, where Isaiah says: "Here am I, and the children the LORD has given me. We are signs and symbols in Israel from the LORD Almighty, who dwells on Mount Zion."

Isa. expressly identifies both himself and his two children as signs. It seems that Calvin's argument fails here. Thoughts?
 

Contra_Mundum

Pilgrim, Alien, Stranger
Staff member
Bruce: That is helpful. The point about God commanding Isaiah to bring is son makes sense. How do we know the child's age? Thanks!

The child's age is an educated guess. The context of the speech-event seems to indicate his age clearly enough.

Then we have the placement of this event in Isaiah's life. He prophesied dureing the reigns of Uzziah ("in the year that King Uzziah died, I saw the Lord," is Isaiah's call/commission, ch. 6, presumably as a young man), Jotham, Ahaz, and Hezekiah. Jotham's reign began at 25, but there is some reason to believe that his 16 years as king include the years of his adminstration during his father's final years (he was a leper)--one of the occasional co-regencies of the Judahite kingdom. So, the years of Jotham fter Uzziah's death are probably not the full 16, leaving Isaiah still a young man.

The Ahaz-incident (ch.7) is most likely an early event in Ahaz' reign. So three kings, and Isaiah may well be still only in his early 30s. And he lived all through Ahaz (16 more years) and most or all of Hezekiah's reign--which would mean he arrived at age 70+. Legend has it he died at the hands of king Mannaseh, Hezekiah's son who "filled Jerusalem with blood."

The next chapter (8) has Isaiah fathering additional children by "the prophetess" (probably just a title for his wife). So, if he and his wife are having children in the normal course of life, then here at the beginning of his book, and likely near the beginning of his ministry, he is fathering these children. Which would make their being quite young (even babes in arms) a strong possibility.
 

Contra_Mundum

Pilgrim, Alien, Stranger
Staff member
Scott, in your later post, you seem to be decided already that ch. 8 must be referring to the promised one Immanuel referenced in ch. 7. But Calvin's argument (and of course it is substantiated by the New Testament) is sound. What sort of astonishing sign is it to say "the girl shall get pregnant--naturally--and bear a son"? Its no great sign at all, since it happens all the time.

Shear-jashub was used as a sign, as well as Maher-shael-hashbaz. And neither of them is the sign of the son Immanuel. But still another question should be: are those words of 8:18 even put in Isaiah's mouth? They could be, but again, the NT puts them directly in Christ's mouth, Heb. 2:13.
 

Scott

Puritan Board Graduate
Bruce: I am not decided one way or another. Calvin's point does seem undermined, to me at least, by the identification of Isaiah's sons as signs. So, the sign of the predicted pregnancy could refer to the child to be born.

Also, Isa. 8:8 seems to expressly identify Isaiah's son (or another contemporary of Isaiah) as Immanuel.
 

Scott

Puritan Board Graduate
Chrysostom on Isa. 7:14

I was reading John Chrysostom's commentary on Isa. 7. He made an interesting point. When speaking of the virgin, Isaiah 7:14 uses a definite article, "the virgin." Chrysostom uses this gramatical point to contend that the woman was of special importance, namely the Virgin Mary (and, of course, he held a view of her similar to a Roman perspective). Anyway, this argument could be used to place to prophecy exclusively in relation to Christ, as Mary is blessed to all generations. This might have more strength with someone who accepts the perpetual virginity of Mary (I don't), as the statement seems to indicate a title of some sort.

As a counter to John's argument, I would note that the account of Isaiah fathering Maher with "the prophetess" in Isa. 8:3 also uses a definite article to describe "the prophetess." So, it would seem that Isa. 7:14 could similarly apply to her, at least with respect to the definite article issue. There are other problems, such as whether the prophetess was a virgin. Isaiah had another baby child, but that could have been with another wife (perhaps deceased or perhaps through polygamy).
 

Scott

Puritan Board Graduate
From my limited research, it seems that the majority position places Isa. 7:14 as referring only to Christ. Yet, there are some who see a double fulfillment, first in Maher-Shalal-Hash-Baz and later in Christ. The Spirit of the Reformation Study Bible supports the double fulfillment and the Reformation Study Bible (Sproul's) seems to suggest this as well, although not as strongly as the SOR). Gleason Archer's Encyclopedia of Bible Difficulties supports the double fulfiment position, suggesting that one is the type and other the antitype.
 

Scott

Puritan Board Graduate
Interesting perspective from the Jamieson, Fausset, Brown commentary on Isa. 7:14
virgin--from a root, "to lie hid," virgins being closely kept from men's gaze in their parents' custody in the East. The Hebrew, and the Septuagint here, and Greek (Matthew 1:23), have the article, the virgin, some definite one known to the speaker and his hearers; primarily, the woman, then a virgin, about immediately to become the second wife, and bear a child, whose attainment of the age of discrimination (about three years) should be preceded by the deliverance of Judah from its two invaders; its fullest significancy is realized in "the woman" (Genesis 3:15), whose seed should bruise the serpent's head and deliver captive man (Jeremiah 31:22, Micah 5:3). Language is selected such as, while partially applicable to the immediate event, receives its fullest, most appropriate, and exhaustive accomplishment in Messianic events. The New Testament application of such prophecies is not a strained "accommodation"; rather the temporary fulfilment of an adaptation of the far-reaching prophecy to the present passing event, which foreshadows typically the great central end of prophecy, Jesus Christ (Revelation 19:10). Evidently the wording is such as to apply more fully to Jesus Christ than to the prophet's son; "virgin" applies, in its simplest sense, to the Virgin Mary, rather than to the prophetess who ceased to be a virgin when she "conceived"; "Immanuel," God with us (John 1:14, Revelation 21:3), cannot in a strict sense apply to Isaiah's son, but only to Him who is presently called expressly (Isaiah 9:6), "the Child, the Son, Wonderful (compare Isaiah 8:18), the mighty God." Local and temporary features (as in Isaiah 7:15,16) are added in every type; otherwise it would be no type, but the thing itself. There are resemblances to the great Antitype sufficient to be recognized by those who seek them; dissimilarities enough to confound those who do not desire to discover them.
 

Sydnorphyn

Puritan Board Freshman
The son born to the 'alma looks like a Davidite, correct? If so, Isaiah's son will not work in the context. Just like the one in isaiah 9 and 11, which seems to be Josiah or Hezekiah first, with a fuller filling up in Messiah Jesus (Matt. 1.23).

See Isaiah Targum; B. Childs; Motyer; C. Seitz, et al. The LXX presents its own problems on this as well...especially seeing Matthew cites it.
 

Jerusalem Blade

Puritan Board Post-Graduate
Hello Scott (& others),

I would recommend a book by Dr. Edward E. Hindson, Isaiah’s Immanuel (NJ: P&R Pub. Co.; ISBN 0875523102). I will jump right to the summary and give a brief quote from it:

Where did Matthew get the idea that this passage in Isaiah was a prediction of Christ? The New Testament tells us he must have received it from one of two sources. Either the Holy Spirit directed him to it (John 16:13) [the book erroneously cited 14:20 –SMR], or he was taught it directly by Jesus Christ (Luke 24:27, 44-45). To deny that Matthew has given us a proper interpretation of Isaiah is to deny that Jesus knew what He said of Himself as He instructed His disciples “in the prophets” concerning Himself. It is to deny His ability to “open their understanding that they might understand the scriptures.”

The Old Testament context alone makes it clear that a child is to be born of a virgin and will come to rule on the throne of David, and His rule shall bring everlasting peace for He is “God with us.” There is emphatically substantial evidence for interpreting the birth in Isaiah 7:14 as a virgin birth. There is good supporting evidence that the pre-Christian interpreters also saw this passage as a messianic virgin-birth prediction. Therefore, there is the highest degree of possibility that Matthew had every reason to assert the fulfillment of Isaiah’s statement in the birth of Jesus Christ. Therefore, the New Testament provides an inspired interpretation to guide us. Therefore, we have the highest degree of probability that a direct, single-fulfillment of Isaiah’s prediction is in the birth of Jesus. On this basis, it is a far less verifiable position to hold that the only fulfillment is in Isaiah’s own day, or that there is a double fulfillment—then and again later in Jesus’ time. An evaluation of the evidence reveals that Isaiah did in fact predict directly and in advance the birth of Jesus Christ by Mary, the virgin of Nazareth.​

I won’t present his detailed evidences, but will give the table of contents, and where the book may be obtained today.

CONTENTS…………………………………………………………………………...vii
PREFACE……………………………………………………………………………....ix

I. INTRODUCTION…………………………………………………………….....1
Text…………………………………………………………………………………......1
Life and Ministry of Isaiah…………………………………………………...1
Leading Writers on Isaiah…………………………………………………….5
Messianic Prophecy……………………………………………………………...9

II. HISTORICAL DEVELOPMENT OF THE
INTERPRETATION OF ISAIAH SEVEN……………………………………15

III. MAIN ISSUES IN THE INTERPRETATION
OF IMMANUEL……………………………………………………………………….25
Significance of the 7:14 Passage…………………………………………25
Background of the Passage………………………………………………….25
“Therefore” ………………………………………………………………………….30
“Sign” …………………………………………………………………………………..31
“Behold” ……………………………………………………………………………….33
‘Almah…………………………………………………………………………………..34
Immanuel………………………………………………………………………………46
Contemporary Significance of the Sign to Ahaz…………………..53
Relationship of Isaiah 7:14 to the Rest of Chapters 7-12…….57

IV. EARLY INTERPRETATION OF ISAIAH 7:14……………………….64
Reference in Micah…………………………………………………………………64
Translation in the Septuagint…………………………………………………67
View of the Qumran Literature………………………………………………68
Interpretation of Rabbinic Teaching……………………………………….68
Quotation by Matthew…………………………………………………………….70
Interpretation of Apostolic Preaching and Writing…………………79

V. SUMMARY………………………………………………………………………….81

BIBLIOGRAPHY………………………………………………………………………..89

---------------

Amazon: Amazon.com: Isaiah's Immanuel: Books: Edward E. Hindson
Alibris: http://www.alibris.com/search/search.cfm?qwork=3357534&matches=10&qsort=r
 

Scott

Puritan Board Graduate
The son born to the 'alma looks like a Davidite, correct? If so, Isaiah's son will not work in the context. Just like the one in isaiah 9 and 11, which seems to be Josiah or Hezekiah first, with a fuller filling up in Messiah Jesus (Matt. 1.23).

See Isaiah Targum; B. Childs; Motyer; C. Seitz, et al. The LXX presents its own problems on this as well...especially seeing Matthew cites it.
Why do you think that the child in Isa 7 is a Davidite? Also, how do you know Isaiah was not of the line of David?
 

Scott

Puritan Board Graduate
I ended coming out on the double fulfilment side. More accurately, I see Jesus' fulfillment as typology. The context has Isaiah talking to King Ahaz about a sign that would prove that God would deliver Judah from an immediate threat, an attack by Aram and Israel. Isaiah prophecies a virgin birth. Right after the prophecy Isaiah goes to “the prophetess,” (presumably a virgin wife whom Isaiah has just married and has not yet known maritally) and has a son with her. The child’s name is Maher-Shalal-Hash-Baz. Isa 8:10and 8:13 address Isaiah's child, Maher-Shalal-Hash-Baz, by the name "Immanuel." And, of course, God rescues Judah from Aram and Israel in short order. Isaiah expressly confirms that he and his children were signs. Chapter 8:18 has Isaiah speaking: “Here am I, and the children the LORD has given me. We are signs and symbols in Israel from the LORD Almighty, who dwells on Mount Zion.” At one level, God is using the birth of a child (Maher-Shalal-Hash-Baz a/k/a Immanuel) to herald the defeat of the earthly enemies of His people. At another, this account foreshadows God using the birth of His very own Son to herald the defeat of the greatest enemy of His people, Satan.

Anyway, that is how I take it. I would be interested in reading Hindson's book and will try to get it via ILL.

Scott
 
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