The Virgin Birth Prophecy
Abstract: There are several issues with Isaiah 7:14. The first is the meaning of the word virgin, and the second is who is calling the son Immanuel, and the third is that manner of the birth and the circumstance of the naming implies that the name ascribes more than the hopeful sentiment that naming other sons Immanual can. It implies divinity. Several other issues are discussed.
Behold, the virgin is pregnant, and bearing a son. Then you will have called his name: Gŏd is with us
|וְקָרָאתָ||wǝqārā’ŧā||then you will have called|
|עִמָּנוּ אֵל||‘immānû’ēl||with us is Gŏd|
It has long been claimed by opponents of the virgin birth that the word used may mean a young woman who is married. And so this is how the JPS version translates it. This notion is based on tradition and authority coming from Rabbis and apostate Christians, and the facts will not support it despite all their degrees and credentials. The word עַלְמָה comes from the root עלם meaning hidden or obscure. This is a fitting root, since a virgin is a girl whose nakedness is hidden from any man. No man has uncovered her nakedness.
In usage, the word is used nine times in Scripture. The first use is in Gen. 24:43. Here is refers to the virgin Rebecca before her marriage to Isaac. The word is sometimes translated maiden which is permitted, so long as we understand that the word maid and maiden refer to never married women. The phrase old maid refers to an older woman who never got married.
The second usage of virgin is found in Exodus 2:8, where it clearly refers to Moses’ virgin sister. The next usage is 1 Chronicles15:20, where the word is used in the plural. But the translators shamefully refuse to render its meaning, and instead just transliterate it: Alamoth. It is used in the phrase, properly rendered, psalteries set to virgins. Virgins is a name of the musical tune here, or style, whose origin is easily explained by composers wanting to write songs for dancing virgins. In Psalm 46:1, we find the same usage for a musical style or tune: A Psalm of the sons of Korah according to virgins. The sense virgins is confirmed in Psalm 68:26:
in the midst of virgins beating tamborines. Here the NAS translates: maidens, and the KJV: damsels, and the JPS: damsels. How many people know the meaning of damsel? The definition is: a young unmarried women.
The next use is in Proverbs 30:19:
And the way of a man with a maiden. The text may be refering to the wonder of courtship or romance before marriage, but a more negative sense is likely meant. The way of the eagle in the air is to hunt prey. So also the way of the serpent on the rock. The man also hunts the virgin, and this is compared to the adulterous woman hunting prey. The virgin is unspoiled until she his caught by the man, and so also the other prey in the comparison. The hunters, of course, want the unspoiled prey. That is why they are hunting. The manner of the pusuit, therefore, confirms the meaning virgin.
The next use is in the Song of Solomon:
therefore the maidens will have loved you. (1:3) Again, maiden means a woman who has never been married. In this context they are desiring to be chosen by the king, because he is so handsome. Song of Solomon 6:8 confirms this sense:
there are sixty queens, and eighty concubines, and maidens without number. Solomon kept a harem, and so he is writting from his point of view. Every harem had Queens, which were wives with royal status and more than common legal rights. Then there were concubines, who were married, but had no royal status or rights to have their sons succeed. Finally, every harem had virgins, who had been selected for the king, but who had never yet slept with the king. When they did they became concubines or Queens depending on the terms of their purchase. Of course, I am not endorsing this system. But it does show the meaning of maiden/virgin.
Finally, we come back to the last usage in Isa. 7:14, where the birth is given as a sign, and it is to be a mighty sign, for it is preceeded by
Ask for yourself a sign from Yahweh your Almighty, made deep as Sheol or made high as the height above. Ahaz refuses to ask, because he has no fidelity to Yahweh. He feigns piety in not asking. Therefore Yahweh himself gives the sign, which was not asked for, and to those who seek him not.
A sign is no sign if it is not miraculous, or beyond human doings. If the woman was not a virgin when the child was born, then who would call it a sign as deep as Sheol or high as heaven? As we have seen, in every usage of the word in Scripture, the sense is only virgin. Those opposing are simply uttering the lies of tradition, religous bias, and even hatred against the truth.
This brings us around to my next point: who is represented in the text as calling the son Immauel? As nearly every translation will have it, the sense is that the virgin herself is calling the child Immanuel. The NAS puts,
and she will call His name Immanuel. The reason is that the Masoretic Hebrew Text reads this way according to vowel pointing put in around AD 1000. However, there is a problem. The vowels may be put so that the text reads You will have called. This sense is confirmed by the LXX: καλέσεις = you will call, and also by Matthew: καλέσουσιν = they will call. Who then is the you who will call his name Immanuel? It is the same you in the first part of Isa. 7:14,
So my Lord will give to you a sign.. Who will call him Immanuel is part of the sign.
Then he said, ‘Listen please House of David, is it a little thing that you weary men that you will also weary my Almighty?’ The you refers to the “house of David.” Therefore, the sign is twofold. First the virgin gives birth to a son, and then the house of David will call him Immanuel. This shows that there is an eschatological fulfillment coming when all Israel and specifically the house of David will call the Messiah Immanuel. And this is how Matthew puts it. For he says
they will call his name Immanuel.
Now someone might object to the switch from a plural you in vs. 13 to a singular you with the verb in vs. 14. But Matthew does refer to the house of David as they. The meaning is the same. He just chose a different pronoun to refer to the same entity. This sort of pronoun usage is seen all over the Torah and Prophets. For example:
Then the people he/it thirsted there for waters, then he/it murmured against Moses; then he/it said, “Why this you make us go up from Egypt, to kill me and my sons, and my cattle with thirst? All the pronouns in bold in this literally translated text refer to the entity called “the people” at the start of the text. We see that a plural entity is refered to with a 3rd person singular verb twice, and then the people themselves are represented to refer to themselves with us, me, and my! This is no atypical anomaly in Hebrew. Biblical Hebrew does this sort of thing in many places. A plural entity is represented, or represents itself using singular pronouns as well as plural pronouns.
Now I turn to the naming itself: Immanuel. In the light of Isa. 9:6  and Jer. 23:6, and 33:16, the Messiah is called Mighty God and Yahweh our Righteousness. Jer 33:16 goes,
That this is what He will proclaim himself to her: Yahweh our Righteousness. The Hebrew verb here needs to be pointed: יִקָּרֵא. It is a niphal reflexive or passive, ie. it could also read
he will be proclaimed to her: Yahweh our Righteousness or
he will proclaim himself. The pronoun her refers to Jerusalem. So we see that the name Immauel is more than an ordinary name. It it spoken with the affection and respect for God himself.
Now there are many Jews who argue that the child was Hezekiah. There is nothing in the history or context that the sign was given that way. The sign is given to the house of David, which will be restored in the end of days. The Hezekiah hypothesis depends on the unfounded interpretation of virgin to mean a young married woman. The lingustic evidence says virgin is what it means. Tradition says that is not what it means.
Jewish apologists are given to two sorts of arguments to defend their tradition. The first is that they make themselves the authorities on the issue, and then appeal to tradition. This is circular reasoning. If confirmation of an answer depends on circular reasoning, then there is no safeguard against deception, or being deceived. Being deceived can kill you.
The second sort of argument is founded on trying to trap their opponents into contradictory positions, or by ascribing contradictoary positions to them. This is a form of straw man argumentation. Ascribe a presupposition to your opponent that is easy to disprove, or that you can make appear to be illogical, and then do so. They spend enormous efforts manufacturing these sorts or arguments and contaminating the evidence where they can to support it.
The Rabbis use Isa. 7:15 to suggest that Immanuel does not know good and evil, and further, they represent Isa. 7:16 as referring to Immanuel, when the prophecy has switched to Isaiah’s son which he brought with him. I now give a translation of the verses in question:
Curd and honey he1 will eat. For he knows refusal of the evil and choice of the good2.
1. “Curd and honey” represents several things here. First it is shown later in the prophecy that curd (milk, butter) will be a chief food because hard times will push Israel into animal husbandry. The hard times will also make the fields turn to weeds, and hence the flowers will increase the production of bees. So men will be compelled to this diet. On the other hand, “curd and honey” is the same as “milk and honey” and bespeaks of a very fertile and prosperous land. So what does it mean? First Messiah ate curds and honey under the oppression of the Romans, and then when he restores the prosperity of the kingdom, he will eat curds and honey again. When Messiah was young, the Romans laid waste to Israel in a major war, fought in the spring of 1 BC. As an infant, Yeshua was taken to Egypt, and as a very small lad, he returned to Galilee. It is quite likely that the economic recovery from that war resulted in an excess of honey from abandoned fields, and also milk from grazing becoming the first step of recovery.
2. These words remind us of the “tree of knowledge of good and evil”. For Immanuel עִמָּנוּ אֵל (G-d with us) knows good and evil because he is the Holy One of Israel. The text is mistranslated to make it seem that Immanuel does not know the difference between good and evil. The literal Hebrew is, “Butter and honey he will eat; for knowing he refusal in the evil and choice of the good.” The Stone Edition Tenach adds the words, “as soon as” to the text. These words do not belong. The NAS adds the words “at the time ... enough”. These words do not belong. The KJV reads “that he may”. These words do not belong either. The Hebrew word is לְדַעְתּוֹ, and can be properly rendered “as knows he”, or “for knows he”, or “in respect to knowing he”. Verse 16 should not be used to reinterpret the text, because in vs. 16 the subject has switched to Isaiah’s son Shear Yashuv, who is to be made the immediate sign to Ahaz. The Rabbis will exploit every mistake and will leave them uncorrected whenever it is to their advantage.
But before, the lad1 knows refusal of the evil and choice of the good, the land will be forsaken from the faces of her two kings which you dread.
1. As is often the case in Prophecy, and especially Messianic Prophecy, the person being referred to suddenly changes. Isaiah has been told to bring his son שְׁאָר יָשׁוּב to the meeting with Ahaz. The purpose of bringing the lad was because he was to be part of the prophecy. So at this point in the prophetic word we can imagine Isaiah, who is speaking to Ahaz, looking to his side, and nodding at his son She’ar-Yashuv as he utters these words. One clue that the narrative has come back to the local situation is Isaiah’s reference to Ahaz and his enemies, “her two kings which you dread”; a second clue is that “Immanuel...knows refusal of the evil and choice of the good.,” but Isaiah’s son is shown as not knowing the difference between ‘good and evil’. Shear-Yashuv (a remnant will return) stands for those of Israel who will be saved. But Immanuel stands for the Saviour; for he is “G-d with us”.
So we see here how the leaven of the Rabbis has poisoned the well of Messianic Prophecy.
Then it will sweep on into Judah, it will overflow and pass through, it will reach even to the neck; and the spread of its wings will fill the breadth of your land, Immanuel1.
1. The Father is addressing the Son here before his birth, much like Psalm 110:1. The Land was indeed, “Immanuel’s” as the text says, “your land, Immanuel”. At this point in time “Immanuel” is the “Angel of Yahweh”, who is in fact “Yahweh” himself (cf. Gen. 19:24; 16:7, 13!; 18:1; Judges 13:3, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21, 13:22!, 13:23!)
Therefore He will give Yãhweh Himself1 to you as a sign: Look!n The young virgin2, is pregnant and bearing a son, and you will proclaim his name Immanuel.
I will now put in some older notes as they may be helpful from the MISB:
1. The text should read “Yahweh Himself” here, יַהְוֶה הוּא. This is one of the 134 places where the scribes altered the divine name to Adonai. Adam Clarke tells us that 25 Kennicott MSS, 9 ancient, and 14 De Rossi MSS still read the divine name here. An official list of changes occurs in the Massōrah (§§ 107-15, Ginsburg’s edition) contains 134. The word order,
Therefore, will give Yahweh Himself to you as a sign teaches that “Yahweh Himself is the sign”. The Almighty Son is Yahweh Himself. This recalls Gen. 22:8, 14
The Almighty will be seen for Himself the lamb or
The Almighty will see to Himself the Lamb [...] Yahweh will be seen [...] on the hill Yahweh will be seen.
n. Behold! הִנֵּה is used to show that Isaiah is reporting what he has seen in the future by the Spirit of G-d. He has seen the pregnant virgin bearing a son. He has seen “the House of David” lauding the Son with the title “Immanuel”. If the child was not “Yahweh Himself” or the child was born of a woman who was not a virgin, then the prophecy would not be much of a sign. Yet liberals and Rabbis alike have claimed that the child to be was Hezekiah or some other local person, and try to convince us that vs. 16 speaks of the same person, or that 8:8 says he was already born. If such a wondrous sign had been fulfilled then, surely it would have been recorded. Silence is golden. And Yahweh does speak to his Messiah before he is born (cf. Ps. 110:1; Isa. 44:28, 45:1). And his birth is recorded in Matthew.
By way of review, this note repeats some of the newer remarks:
2. The word עַלְמָה is used only in cases where the subject is a young virgin woman. The lemma occurs 9x, Gen. 24:43; Ex. 2:8; 1 Chronicles 15:20; Psa. 46:1, 68:26; Prov. 30:19 ; Song 1:3, 6:8 ; Isa. 7:14. At the first usage, Gen. 24:43, the young virgin woman is also identified with a synonym meaning “virgin” בְּתוּלָה. In Exodus 2:8, Miryam is obviously a young virgin. In the next two cases (1 Chronicles 15:20; Psa. 46:1) it is the name of a tune (עַל־עֲלָמוֹת) = “according to young virgins”. In Prov. 30:19 the term speaks of romancing a young betrothed virgin; in Song 1:3 of hopeful young virgins, and in 6:8 unmarried young virgins who are neither wives nor concubines. The difference between עַלְמָה and בְּתוּלָה is that the latter is a more general technical term for a virgin of any age, while עַלְמָה would designate a virgin still in her youth. עַלְמָה is reasonably derived from the root עָלַם meaning “hide” “conceal” “cover”, which would then be explained that an עַלְמָה is a young woman whose virginity remains “hidden” or “concealed”.