The Thomas Pages homepage
Isaiah's Virgin Prophecy
 WITHIN ITS OWN CONTEXT OF THE SIGN-CHILD PASSAGE OF THE PROPHET ISAIAH: CHAPTERS SEVEN TO NINE .
ha-almah
The written Word of God deserves to be fully respected within its own context and no less!
 
 
NO
prophecy of Holy Scripture better exemplifies the conflicting Bible interpretations between Judaism and Christianity on the use of their mutual Holy Scriptures than Isaiah's prophecy to king Ahaz about the coming Immanu-el child (recorded within the passage of Isaiah 7:1 to 9:7).
 
The core of this conflict is the translation of the word 'almâh' (עלמה) in Isaiah 7:14 which refers to the mother of this future sign-child.
 
CHRISTIANS from the beginning saw in this prophecy the virgin birth of Jesus, a fact central to His deity and therefore to His capacity to be the sufficient (i.e infinite) sacrifice for all sin.
Septuagint fragment of Psalm 89:4-7
Septuagint fragment
of Psalm 89:4-7
 
BUT in contrast Judaism asserts correctly that the Hebrew word 'almâh' does not mean virgin, as it has almost always been translated in Christian versions of Isaiah 7:14. Yet surprisingly, the first known translation of this word as 'virgin' (parthenos) is not Christian but pre-Christian Jewish: a translation into Greek more than a century before the birth of Jesus, and known as the Septuagint (LXX).
 
TO understand this, it must be noted that the Septuagint translation often verges on a paraphrase (as some modern English versions also do), indicating that the Jewish translators were aware that its Greek-speaking readers may miss the meaning in a literal translation because of cultural differences. They evidently believed that a translation was needed that would help bridge the cultural gap by giving more than simply a literal equivalent of each word.
Please Note!

AN example of this is Isaiah 1:13 where the Septuagint translates "calling of assemblies" (Hebrew qr` mqr`) as "Great Day" (meaning the Day of Atonement assembly). This paraphrase by the Septuagint is supported in the Jewish Talmud; the collective wisdom of Judaism. Thus the Septuagint translation reflects the interpretative understanding (the exegesis) of the more orthodox Judaism of its time. It is all the more significant then that these same Jewish scholars should then have translated the Hebrew 'almah' as 'parthenos' – the Greek term meaning virgin, and only virgin.
It is
perhaps worthy to note what the famous translator of the Septuagint into English, Sir Lancelot Charles Lee Brenton (1807-1862), wrote:
'In estimating the general character of the [Septuagint] version, it must be remembered that the translators were Jews, full of traditional thoughts of their own as to the meaning of Scripture; and thus nothing short of a miracle could have prevented them from infusing into their version the thoughts which were current in their own minds. They could only translate passages as they themselves understood them. This is evidently the case when their work is examined.' (emphasis mine)
 
  Parthenos
The usual biblical Hebrew word for 'virgin' is בּתוּלה/bethûlâh,
not העלמה/'almâh'.
TO
date, modern Judaism has not been able to supply an explanation of why the most trusted Jewish scholars of that time would translate 'almâh' (young woman/maiden) as 'parthenos' (virgin) in a translation that would later become the Bible of Diaspora Judaism. If you wish, compare the versions of this verse below:
 
Isaiah 7:14
Jewish, Hebrew Massoretic:
לכן  יתן  אדני  הוא  לכם  אות  הנה  העלמה  הרה  וילדת  בן  וקראת  שׁמו  עמנו  אל׃
Jewish PRE-Christian, Greek Septuagint:
dia touto dwsei kurios umin shmeion idou h parqenos en gastri exei kai texetai uion kai kaleseis to onoma autou emmanouhl
the same again in upper case  DIA TOUTO DWSEI KURIOS AUTOS UMIN SHMEION IDOU H PARQENOS EN GASTRI EXEI KAI TEXETAI UION KAI KALESEIS TO ONOMA AUTOU EMMANOUHL
Christian, New American Standard:
Therefore the Lord Himself will give you a sign: Behold, a virgin will be with child and bear a son, and she will call His name Immanuel.
Click to see: The Great Isaiah Scroll dating about 125 BC/BCE, found among the Dead Sea Scrolls.
IF
these pre-Christian Jewish scholars were correct then, we need to know why the sacred original text did not simply use the common Hebrew word for virgin. If the prophet simply intended to mean 'virgin' why did he not use the available Hebrew word for 'virgin' – בּתוּלה (bethûlâh)?
 
 
THE answer shows the awesome depth and richness of Holy Scripture. This prophecy like all messianic prophecy was not given in a vacuum. It had an immediate application to its first hearers many centuries before the birth of Jesus.
 
 
AS it should always be for understanding any verse, the God-given context of the text confirms or contradicts its human interpretation. Here, the context makes it very clear that the Immanu-el child would be God's sign to king Ahaz of when God would help the terrified king be completely free of the threat facing his kingdom. The Immanu-el child (to be so named by his mother) would be God's time-frame for the deliverance of Judah from the allied military threat of Israel and Syria. 
 
 
BUT note the context more closely. It is Isaiah's own family that is in view in this prophecy. God instructs the prophet to deliver this prophecy in a public place with his little son at his side. After Isaiah's announcement to king Ahaz of this future child as God's sign, the prophet is instructed to write, as a legally witnessed affidavit (8:1-2), his yet-to-be-conceived child's name (Maher-shalal-hash-baz) describing Judah's coming military deliverance. 
 
 
THIS was the father's legal naming of the child (in contrast to – "she shall call his name" of the text). The next verse then refers to Isaiah's own wife as "the prophetess" (8:3), and to his sexual approach to her – from which this sign-child is then conceived. This is the immediate context of the text and therefore a true, if still yet incomplete, understanding of this prophecy. 
 
 
Justifiably, Isaiah therefore exclaims in this chapter (8:18)
 
 "Behold, I and the children whom the Lord has given me are for signs and wonders in Israel from the Lord of hosts who dwells on Mount Zion." 
However,
as understood by pre-Christian Jewish scholars, two factors would have given this prophecy a message of even greater significance than Isaiah's time, and which these Septuagint scholars would therefore have seen as messianic.
 
  These are –  
1
The naming by Isaiah's prophetess-wife of her yet-to-be-conceived next child. 
This is in contrast to the customary naming of the child by its father. The mother's act of naming accentuated by the name itself ('Immanu-el', meaning – 'God with us') indicated to them its messianic character.
 
2
Isaiah's ensuing prophecy.
This restates the child-sign in response to the anticipated suffering, specifically in north Israel (Zebulun and Naphtali, that is – Galilee), which Judah's military deliverance would cause in the future political power-shift. (When Assyrian action against Judah's brother-kingdom, Israel, ended the Israel-Syrian military threat against Judah).
In the English text this is 8:19-9:7, and in Hebrew text it is 8:18-9:6).
 
The
child-sign is then strongly restated by Isaiah (9:5-6), and described in the awesome terms of a future glorious messianic kingdom leaving no doubt of its messianic character (9:6-7) –
 
 
"For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder,
                  and His name shall be called –
Wonderful Counselor,
Mighty God,
Everlasting Father,
Prince of Peace.
Of the increase of His government and of peace there will be no end, on the throne of David and over His kingdom,
to establish it and to uphold it with justice and with righteousness from this time forth and forevermore.
The zeal of the LORD of hosts will do this."
Sadly in avoidance the
Jewish Publication Society translation prefers
to leave these messianic titles
UN-translated, as 'Pele-joez-el-gibbor-Abi-ad-sar-shalom'
(פלא יועץ אל גבור אביעד שׂר שׁלום)
In this
context then, these most trusted translators of the paraphrasing Jewish Septuagint (unlike the Jewish Publication Society today) saw this unusual choice of the word 'almah' for Isaiah's wife as an inspired messianic anticipation of the naturally impossible!
So, because of –   
1.  the strong messianic message of its context; plus,  
2.  God's unusual use of the term 'almah' for Isaiah's wife and the mother of his baby son Shear-jashub;  
these
dedicated Jewish scholars of Holy Scripture, among the best scholars of ancient Israel, understood it to mean nothing other than the humanly impossible –
 
 
A Virgin-Mother
See:
Full Genealogy of Jesus
That
this Immanuel prophecy should fulfil a dual role in God's Word like this should not be thought unusual. This is common to messianic prophecy, that first the immediate situation of the prophet be addressed, and then the principle involved in the prophecy be applied, beyond the immediate, to the larger picture of Israel's destiny.
 
 
Hence the messianic sense became the orthodox Jewish translation of the time – of a virgin who would conceive a son as God's great sign. Thus, did Israel anticipate the birth of the Gospel that would grow up in Galilee, walk the roads of Judah, and become God's gracious Lamb!
Hallelu-Jah!
 
In the powerful prophetic imagery of the prophet Micah (Isaiah's contemporary) this same concept grows from the symbolic 'daughter of Zion' in the pains of childbirth (in Mic.4:10), Judah's Exile, — to the birth of the Messiah child in which the symbol becomes flesh (Micah 5:2-3) –
 
"But as for you Bethlehem Ephrathah, too little to be among the clans of Judah,
from you
[Bethlehem] One will go forth for Me to be ruler in Israel [the Messiah].
His goings forth are from long ago, from the days of eternity [for He comes from God].
Therefore, He
[God] will give them [Israel] up until the time when she who is in labour has borne a child."
Yet
tragically, centuries later, in a hostile and hardening reaction to Christian use of this same Jewish translation, strangely awkward translations were created for use in the Diaspora synagogues around the Roman empire.
 
In

The twisted
interpretation
of dishonest minds
addition, the rumour was cultivated that Jesus was actually the bastard offspring of the hated military occupying force – and specifically of a Roman soldier named Pantenos (an obvious corruption of 'parthenos' – virgin).
 
Today, even though the Bible's awesome description of this sign-child as "Mighty God, Everlasting Father" so obviously did not apply to Isaiah's own sign-child (8:18), it is applied by some modern rabbis to Ahaz's son 'Hezekiah' in order to avoid acknowledging Jesus of Nazareth as Israel's Messiah or Christ.
 
Yet
strangely for their argument, it was their same so-called 'Wonderful Counsellor' and 'Mighty God' king Hezekiah who offered an abject apology to Sennacherib of Assyria and even plundered the Lord's Temple as a bribe for him to withdraw his troops (2 Kings 18:14-16).
 
If
Hezekiah had been the great sign-child, apart from the blasphemous assertions these titles then carried, there is here also a serious date anomaly.
 
 
It would mean that Hezekiah was already king and dying of natural causes at the mature age of 23 when Isaiah visited him to get his house in order to die, and that, after his tears, God graciously 'extended' his life by 15 years to the great age of about 38. Not Likely! So, honest exegesis requires us to discard the Hezekiah option!
 
Jewish Rabbi
Jarchi (1104-1180) refutes this twisted Hezekiah-interpretation by pointing out that Hezekiah was already nine years old when his father Ahaz began to reign, and this being, as he says, the fourth year of his reign, Hezekiah must have been thirteen years of age at this time. In like manner, Jewish Rabbis Aben Ezra and Kimchi also object to this fraudulent interpretation.
 

Yes,
real faith can never be forced: no more by pressure of argument than by force of arms. But, the unbelief of Israel, in Ahaz's time as in any other time, also cannot undo this Word of God or make it of no effect!
 
For, as Isaiah himself stated –  
 
"The zeal of the Lord of hosts will accomplish this."
Isaiah 9:7
 
And He did!
 
   See: The Final Separation between Judaism and Christianity
Tragically today, Judaism's hypocrisy considers an atheistic Jew as still a Jew – but a Christian Jew is not!
In December 1977 Christian evangelism of Jews in Israel became a criminal offence punishable by up to 5-years in prison.

Equality before God 'Mother of God' Fallacy Divine Election of Israel The Jewish Talmud Daniel Chapter Nine

back
Copyright © Lloyd Thomas 2000-2014. All Rights Reserved Worldwide.
Feel free to copy, as long as this full copyright notice is included.

FOR A ROUGH TRANSLATION SIMPLY CHOOSE A LANGUAGE