Thread: Isaiah 7,14 for dummies
May 21st 2004, 03:15 AM #1
Isaiah 7,14 for dummies
13 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 a sign: The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel. 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.’ (NIV)
The context of this verse is that an alliance was threatening the idolatrous king Ahaz. Not only was he in danger, but the house of David was threatened with extinction. Therefore, Isaiah, addressing the house of David (as shown by the plural form of ‘you’ in the original Hebrew of v.13), stated that a sign to them would be a virgin conceiving. To comfort Ahaz, Isaiah prophesied that before a boy (Isaiah’s son, Shear-Jashub who was present, v. 3) would reach the age of knowing right from wrong, the alliance would be destroyed (vv. 15–17). It is important to recognize that the passage contains a double reference, so there is a difference between the prophecies to Ahaz alone (indicated by a the singular form of ‘you’ in the Hebrew) and the house of David as a whole (indicated by the plural form). Some anti-Christians, starting with the medieval Jewish commentator David Kimhi,have failed to understand this and misinterpreted the child Immanuel as a sign to Ahaz, possibly Ahaz’s godly son Hezekiah.
The word for virgin here is ‘almah. Some liberals and Orthodox Jews claim that the word really means ‘young woman’, and this is reflected in Bible translations such as the NEB, RSV, NRSV, and GNB. Such people fail to explain why a young woman’s bearing a son should be a sign — it happens all the time. The Septuagint translates it as παρθενος (parthenos), the normal word for virgin.Later Jews, such as Trypho, Justin Martyr’s (c. 160) dialog opponent, and Rashi (11th Cent.) have claimed that the Septuagint was wrong. Trypho claimed that ‘almah should have been translated neanis (young girl) rather than parthenos.
Once upon a time (around 735 BC) there was a king named Ahaz, from the house of David who reigned from Jerusalem over Juda. One day, a coalition formed by the king of Syria Rezin and the King of Ephraim Pekah, lays siege to Jerusalem and threatens to destroy it and to put another (puppet) king on the throne of David. Needless to say, poor Ahaz is terrified, but God sends forth the prophet Isaiah, who is accompanied by his son Shearjashub, to reassure him:
"Thus saith the Lord GOD, It shall not stand, neither shall it come to pass."
"...within threescore and five years shall Ephraim be broken, that it be not a people."
But incredible as it sounds, God makes it clear that unless Ahaz believe firmly in the prophecy, it will not come to pass. See how important man is for the realization of God's plans!
"If ye will not believe, surely ye shall not be established."
So, the next step is for God (represented by Isaiah who acts as the divine spokesman) to ask Ahaz what kind of sign, either celestial or terrestrial, would completely convince him that the prophecy is true. In other words, he asks him to play the role of the apostle Thomas !
"Ask thee a sign of the LORD thy God; ask it either in the depth, or in the height above. "
But poor Ahaz refuses to tempt God. God then gets in a rage and chooses the sign himself.
What is the sign?
"A young woman is pregnant and will bear a son and she will call him "God/ a mighty man is with us." This child will only eat butter and honey until he is capable of distinguishing between good and evil. Before this (archvegetarian) boy reaches spiritual maturity, though, both Syria and Ephraim wil have lost their respective kings. (my own simplified translation from "this child" onwards)
As you can see, there is no cutting the prophecy in two: the so-called "virgin" here, and the vegetarian son there.
The notion that the son is really Isaiah's son is not supported by the textual evidence at all. Besides, if Shearjashub accompanied Isaiah to his meeting with Ahaz, we have good reason to think that he had already reached an age at which he could distinguish between good and evil. And of course there is nothing in the book of Isaiah to back up the claim that his son only ate "butter and honey" in hs early childhood.
So the "son" is clearly the son of the young woman who is pregnant at the moment when Isaiah utters his prophecy.
That this is indeed so is shown by the original Hebrew text which says literally :
theyoungwoman...pregnant...and...bearing...son...andwillcall...hisname...withus... God (or "mighty man", el has different meanings).
There is no future (imperfect) tense in Hebrew, except when it says that the woman will call her son Imanu El. While in the KJV we find "the virgin shall conceive", the Hebrew text simply says: "the young woman[is] pregnant". "Pregnant" is harah in Hebrew: it is an adjective and the verb "to be" is implied. If the prophecy is to have any significant effect on the future of the kingdom of Juda, it goes without saying that the pregnancy must have been an actual fact when Isaiah made his prophecy.
As far as the alleged virginity of the mother is concerned, I think that the situation is quite clear: in Hebrew there is an unambiguous word for "virgin" and this word is not almah but bethulah. That the Hebrew were pretty sensitive to the shade of meaning between the two is shown by Genesis 24,16 where Rebecca is identified as a "bethulah". Once the reader has been apprised of her marital and physiological status, and only then, does the author of Genesis go on to describe her as an almah. (24,43)
Conclusion: Isaiah 7,14 has nothing to do with the Messiah. The prophecy concerning the young woman was misappropriated by bumbling Matthew in his zeal to show that Jesus was born in a unique way.
Last edited by Magdalenbrother; May 21st 2004 at 03:32 AM.
May 21st 2004, 08:07 AM #2Originally posted by Magdalenbrother
May 23rd 2004, 11:15 PM #3
Re: Isaiah 7,14 for dummies
Do we have to take each Evangelist in bulk? Is it forbidden to distinguish historical facts from myths, theological elaborations, pious fables and edifying stories in each single author ?
I remind you that for me myths are highly instructive stories about inner realities. They are in fact more valuable than historical facts.
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