Prophecy is one of the many tools used in presenting evidence for the Bible. Often it is questioned. Many claim some of the prophecies used are not prophecy at all but history. Many times they are confused. Isaiah 7:14 is one such prophecy. So why the confusion? I am glad you ask!
Dr. Frank Turek is often ask, “Do you take the Bible literally.” My answer is, “Yes, where it is meant to be taken literally.” As with the case of Isaiah 7:14, there are at least three interpretations of what exactly the prophet was referring. It appears too often many attempt to read more into the text than it actually states. Yet, if one believes there is one truth, an objective truth, then it can only mean one thing to everyone, everywhere, at all times. Here in lies much of the problem with Christianity today. So many individuals, regardless of reason, seem to take scripture out of context. The Bible, as with other historical literature, can, and should, be read with each reader arriving at the same conclusion. God does not intend, neither does he condone confusion within His church. “For God is not the author of confusion but of peace, as in all the churches of the saints.” (1Cor. 14:33) The purpose of this essay is to survey the three major views of the identity of Immanuel, provide a historical background of this writers view, and provide evidence of that view.
The Three Views
Isaiah chapter seven verse fourteen states: “Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign. Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel.” “The identification of Immanuel and his mother in Isa 7:14 has been an object of heated debate for centuries.” The problem arises from differing thoughts from within Isaiah, concerning chapter 8, and becomes more complicated with the quote from Matthew in his gospel. (Matt. 1:23)
Many feel that the context of Isaiah 7:14 demands it to mean the prophet is predicting a sign specifically for King Ahaz. Simply stating that the child is the kings own son, obviously meaning King Ahaz wife would conceive and bear the son named Immanuel. To this writer, this is not the proper interpretation.
The second view concerning this specific piece of scripture is the view “that the c almah is Isaiah's own wife, the prophetess of 8:3, one of several wives or his new wife after the death of Shear-jashub's mother, and that Immanuel was one of the prophet's sons.” This particular view also seems to stretch the context of what the prophet is actually saying.
The third and final, of the most popular views, and the one this writer so agrees, concerns the prophet Isaiah predicting the coming birth of Jesus. It appears obvious when one looks at the words used that Matthew is indeed referring to the prophet when he speaks of the virgin Mary and Jesus. If the book of Isaiah is to be read as prophetic literature, one must also understand when to use literal prophecy. Though the debate has raged for centuries concerning the interpretation of this passage, one must approach the passage minus any and all presuppositions. This is not an easy task. However, based on the historical setting and the evidence being presented this writer feels certain the final view is the correct interpretation.
The historical setting of Isaiah begins with the author himself. Critics claim there were at least two Isaiah’s. In fact, the claim is made the second Isaiah wrote history instead of prophecy. However, this does not provide sufficient historical data concerning the particular verse in question; it is worth mentioning as foundational bases for the case being presented. “The prophet Isaiah made this momentous prophecy during the reign of Judah’s wicked and idolatrous King Ahaz.”
“Immanuel, literally “with us” [is] God.” Occurring three times in the Bible (Isa. 7:14; 8:8; Matt. 1:23), the Hebrew word imam nu el. (Gr. Emmanouel) is employed as a proper name in all three verses, and as such is the name of the promised of spring of the alma (“unmarried woman”) of Isaiah 7:14 and the parthenos (“virgin”) of Matthew 1:23, who owns (Isa.8:8) and protects (v. 10) the land and people of Israel.”
Here in lies the beginning of the problem; the historical setting of the prophet using the name Immanuel, and it occurring three other times within the entire Biblical writings. The definitions are clear, and the use with both the Hebrew and Greek languages support the meanings of Immanuel, alma, and parthenos. However, many disagree, and that is fine, but facts do not lie. Many times it is stated one can believe whatever they wish, but it does not make it to be true. As stated previously, there is one Truth, and it is objective. It should be obvious by simply defining the terms in question of the correct interpretation, and or context of the passage.
“As a proper name it is also descriptive of both this child’s divine nature and his messianic work of grace.”
The most compelling evidence has been provided in the historical section previously. It is here this writer will build a circumstantial case with the information available.
“Isaiah 7:14 predicted that one named Immanuel (God with us) would be born of a virgin.” This prophecy was actually predicted over 700 years in advance of the actual occurrence. “The objection that this is not really a prediction of Christ’s birth is answered in the article, Virgin Birth of Christ.”
In reviewing the three options of interpretation one can see the only viable option is, in fact, Isaiah 7:14 predicts the virgin birth of Jesus.
In what is referred to as the Single Reference to a Natural Birth, as mentioned previously, “it is generally acknowledged that not all usages of the phrase “that it might be fulfilled” entail a truly predictive prophecy, Isaiah 7:14 need not be one of them.” The Double Reference concerning alma, “rejects the idea that the significance of Isaiah 7:14 is exhausted in the natural birth of the prophetess’s son. The Single Reference to a Supernatural Birth, the view this writer believes, s the only option if reading the text in context. “If both the Septuagent and the inspired New Testament affirm that this refers to an actual virgin, it must refer to Christ alone;” referring to Isaiah 7:14.
Based on this evidence it would seem a solid case has been made concerning the scripture of the prophet Isaiah. As stated in the introduction, one of the main problems concerning Christianity today is the division over the Bible. I do not have all of the answers. However, the answers I have are based on evidence and reason. I am not afraid to admit to being wrong. If only others would do the same…
The identity of Immanuel in Isaiah 7:14 has been a topic for debate for many centuries. It has been presented in this essay the three most widely held interpretations concerning this piece of scripture. Each has been addressed in a brief overview.
The third option, The Single Reference to a Supernatural Birth has both been presented and defended. Historical background information has been provided, along with supporting evidences. To this writer it is obvious, if read in context, though prophecy, but literally also, the third option is indeed correct.
Elwell, Walter A. Gen. Ed. Evangelical Dictionary of Theology 2nd edition Baker Books Grand Rapids, MI 2001
Geisler, Norman L. Baker Encyclopedia of Christian Apologetics Baker Books Grand Rapids, MI 2000
Wolf, Herbert Martin. 1972. "Solution to the Immanuel prophecy in Isaiah 7:14-8:22." Journal Of Biblical Literature 91, no. 4: 449-456. ATLA Religion Database with ATLASerials, EBSCOhost (accessed May 26, 2015).
Turek, Frank Stealing from God Tyndale House Publishing, Colorado Springs, CO. 2014
http://www.gty.org/blog/B111223/the-virgin-birth-and-prophecy last accessed May 25th 2015