Isaiah 7:14 “Therefore the Lord Himself shall give you a sign: a maiden is with child and she will bear a son, and will call his name Immanuel.” The verse above is found in the book of Isaiah in the Hebrew and Christian scriptures. The prophet Isaiah is addressing Ahaz, the king of Judah in the 8th c. BC, and tells the king that there will be a sign that his message is true. The sign that was given by God has been interpreted by Jews and Christians differently and become a point of contention throughout history. The Christians argue that Jesus is the Messiah while the Jews believe the prophecy was fulfilled in Ahaz’s time and Jesus was not the Messiah. The context of this verse must be understood before passing judgment on Isaiah’s words. The different translations of the verse are also very important to the debate and will be discussed. The context of the verse will help one get into the mindset of Isaiah and understand the reasoning behind his prophecy. In the 8th c. BC, Assyria was a great power and had control over many territories. Two nations, Syria and Israel, decided to challenge the control of Assyria and free themselves. The Syrian king Rezin and the Israelite king Pekah joined together and approached the king of Judah, Ahaz, in order to enlist his nation to fight with them. Ahaz did not want to fight against Assyria and risk being destroyed, however, Rezin and Pekah gave Ahaz an ultimatum to join or be killed. They then could enthrone a king that would support them. Ahaz was frightened, but then Isaiah tells Ahaz not to worry, they will be defeated by the Assyrians before any harm shall come to Judah. Ahaz does not accept the prophecy outright so Isaiah tells him to ask God for a sign. Ahaz does not want to test God, but Isaiah retorts that there will be a sign whether he asks or not. The translation and interpretation of this sign has led to
much contention. It is important to look at the verse from the Jewish and Christian perspectives. The Jews believe that the sign God was sending to Ahaz was fulfilled in his time. This is mainly due to the different “virgin/young woman” translations. In Hebrew the verse is: Hinneh ha-almah harah ve-yeldeth ben ve-karath shem-o immanuel. The main focus is on the phrase haalmah harah “the young woman/virgin is pregnant”. The verb tense from the Hebrew translation states that the young woman is pregnant and thus not a virgin. If this is true then there is no way Jesus fulfills the Messianic prophecy. Jewish scholars believe that the prophecy was just part of the narrative and was fulfilled when king Rezin and Pekah were assassinated. The sign is not the coming of Jesus, but is intended to mean that King Ahaz and Judah will be protected by God from destruction. The Christian’s understand the phrase to be the Messianic prophecy which is fulfilled by Jesus. One example of a Christian translation from the Hebrew text is the King James’ version which states: “Therefore the Lord shall give you a sign; Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel.” The future verb tense is used which does not indicate that the prophecy will be fulfilled in Ahaz’s time. The interpretation of Isaiah 7:14 is based upon Matthew in the New Testament. In the scriptures Matthew states that a virgin will have a child named Jesus who fulfills the prophecy that the Lord had proclaimed in the past. The meaning of Immanuel is “with us is God”; the Christians believe that Jesus Christ is Immanuel because he represents God with them. The debate sparked by the interpretation of Isaiah 7:14 may never end with one final answer. The Jewish and Christian faith is largely dependent upon this verse. Some believe Immanuel was Isaiah’s son, some believe Immanuel was Jesus Christ, and some believe Immanuel was just a sign of divine protection. Many verses in the Bible can be interpreted in
several ways. It is very important to study the context and historical translations of the scriptures when searching for their meaning. Maybe one day the true meaning behind Isaiah 7:14 will be understood.
References:  Yosef, Uri. "Is Isaiah 7:14 A Messianic Prophecy?" Messiah Truth: A Jewish Response to Missionary Groups. Web. 04 Feb. 2011. <http://www.messiahtruth.com/is714a.html>.  "Isaiah 7:14 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." Online Parallel Bible: Weaving God's Word into the Web. Web. 04 Feb. 2011. <http://bible.cc/isaiah/7-14.htm>.  Singer, Tovia. "Outreach Judaism - Responds Directly to the Issues Raised by Missionaries and Cults. Responds to Jews For Jesus." Outreach Judaism - Responds Directly to the Issues Raised by Missionaries and Cults. Responds to Jews For Jesus. Web. 04 Feb. 2011. <http://www.outreachjudaism.org/matthew.html>.  Senior, Donald, and John Joseph Collins. The Catholic Study Bible: the New American Bible. Oxford: Oxford UP, 2006. Print.