The key to comprehending these prophetic verses is to read them in context. Do not read it with a Christian bias based on Matthew 1:20-23, and the truth of the text will become much clearer, for the Word of G-d is as pure and clear as water.
This prophesy was given to Isaiah during the Syro-Ephraimite war of 745-727 BCE. A conflict occurred between the two kings of Rezin and Pekah and the king of Judah, Achaz. These rulers wanted to force him to join them in resisting the Assyrians, who were assembling a force to attack the Northern Kingdom led by Tiglath-Pileser III (Pul). Isaiah advises Ahaz to put his trust in G-d rather than foreign allies and instructs him to ask for a sign for proof that the prophesy is genuine. Let us look at the text.
In the reign of Ahaz son of Jotham son of Uzziah, king of Judah, King Rezin of Aram and King Pekah son of Remaliah of Israel marched upon Jerusalem to attack it; but they were not able to attack it. Now, when it was reported to the House of David that Aram had allied itself with Ephraim, their hearts and the hearts of their people trembled as trees of the forest sway before a wind. But G-d said to Isaiah, “Go out with your son Shear-jashub to meet Ahaz at the end of the conduit of the Upper Pool, by the road of the Fuller’s Field. And say to him: Be firm and be calm. Do not be afraid and do not lose heart on account of those two smoking stubs of firebrands, on account of the raging of Rezin and his Arameans and the son of Remaliah. Because the Arameans—with Ephraim and the son of Remaliah—have plotted against you, saying, ‘We will march against Judah and invade and conquer it, and we will set up as king in it the son of Tabeel,’ thus said my Sovereign G-d: It shall not succeed, It shall not come to pass. For the chief city of Aram is Damascus, And the chief of Damascus is Rezin; The chief city of Ephraim is Samaria, And the chief of Samaria is the son of Remaliah. And in another sixty-five years, Ephraim shall be shattered as a people. If you will not believe, for you cannot be trusted…” G-d spoke further to Ahaz: “Ask for a sign from the ETERNAL your G-d, anywhere down to Sheol or up to the sky.” But Ahaz replied, “I will not ask, and I will not test G-d.” “Listen, House of David,” [Isaiah] retorted, “is it not enough for you to treat the agents as helpless that you also treat my G-d as helpless?
לָ֠כֵ֠ן יִתֵּ֨ן אֲדֹנָ֥י ה֛וּא לָכֶ֖ם א֑וֹת הִנֵּ֣ה הָעַלְמָ֗ה הָרָה֙ וְיֹלֶ֣דֶת בֵּ֔ן וְקָרָ֥את שְׁמ֖וֹ עִמָּ֥נוּ אֵֽל׃
Assuredly, my Sovereign will give you a sign nonetheless! Look, the young woman is with child and about to give birth to a son. Let her name him Immanuel. (By the time he learns to reject the bad and choose the good, people will be feeding on curds and honey.) For before the lad knows to reject the bad and choose the good, the ground whose two kings you dread shall be abandoned. (Isaiah 7:1-16)
G-d instructed Isaiah to go to King Ahaz, and he had to bring his son with him. This is a little element that is often ignored. And what stands out can teach us a lesson. The meaning of the name “Shear-jashub” – “[Only] a remnant will turn back,” sets the tone for the entire conversation between Isaiah and Achaz. When a person returns to G-d and sets his trust in G-d, he wins every fight and is no longer fearful, whereas King Ahaz is afraid. In his fear, he considers seeking help from the Assyrians In his anxiety, he considers seeking help from the Assyrians instead of expecting his help from G-d. Isaiah wants to convince him that G-d will help him and G-d allows Ahaz to ask for a sign. Despite not wanting to receive it – due to misplaced piety – he does receive a sign.
The (1) young woman (2) is with child (3) and about to give birth to a son. Let her (4) name him Immanuel (5). For before the lad knows to reject the bad and choose the good (6) , the ground whose two kings you dread shall be abandoned.
- 1 It is important to note that it says “the” young woman, not “a” young woman – ה/ ha in Hebrew, the young woman. This young woman is known to the audience as King Ahaz. Maria was certainly not known to King Ahaz. It was most likely Isaiah’s wife, a prophetess as well.
- 2 This young lady wasn’t a virgin. The word for virgin in Hebrew is: betulah – בתולה. Here the text use the Hebrew word: almah – עלמה. We know that a male child is called na’ar נער, a female child na’arah – נערה or almah – עלמה—the feminine of elem – עֶלֶם—whether she be a virgin or not; for almah signifies a person of a certain age, like the masculine; and in the way of a man with a young woman – דרך גבר בעלמה (Prov. 30:19) עלמה is certainly not a virgin; because at the beginning of that passage it is said, which I know not (ibid. 18).
- 3 In fact, when Isaiah talked to King Achaz, this young lady was already pregnant. This is clearly evident from Isaiah’s use of the adjective hara – הרה , “is pregnant,” which appears in the perfect/past tense, in order to convey the sense that the woman had already conceived.
- 4 It is clear from this text that it is the mother who will name the child. Not an angel or not an unknown group of people.
- 5 The meaning of the name “Immanuel” is “The salvation of G-d”. The Almighty gave the prophet a mandate to convey his vision of deliverance regarding Jerusalem. The names of both of his children – Shar- jashub the older brother of Immanuel – were signs and portents for the Jewish People.
- 6 King Achaz had no need to worry; G-d would save him, and it would happen before this still-unborn child of Isaiah knew what was right and wrong. In Isaiah 8:4 this message is repeated, where the Almighty promises Isaiah:
כִּ֗י בְּטֶ֙רֶם֙ יֵדַ֣ע הַנַּ֔עַר קְרֹ֖א אָבִ֣י וְאִמִּ֑י יִשָּׂ֣א ׀ אֶת־חֵ֣יל דַּמֶּ֗שֶׂק וְאֵת֙ שְׁלַ֣ל שֹֽׁמְר֔וֹן לִפְנֵ֖י מֶ֥לֶךְ אַשּֽׁוּר׃
For before the boy learns to call ‘Father’ and ‘Mother,’ the wealth of Damascus and the spoils of Samaria, and the delights of Rezin and of the son of Remaliah, shall be carried off before the king of Assyria.”
Often a little boy can call his parents “daddy” and “mommy” by the time he is a year old. This prophecy of the destruction of both Syria and Ephraim, was therefore set to be fulfilled imminently, not 700 years later.
The lesson for today is that when we get afraid and turn to G-d, He is the only one who can and will save us. We should not rely on foreign forces or intermediaries, but only on Him.
As stated in Psalm 89:27:
ה֣וּא יִ֭קְרָאֵנִי אָ֣בִי אָ֑תָּה אֵ֝לִ֗י וְצ֣וּר יְשׁוּעָתִֽי׃
He shall call unto Me: Thou art my Father, My G-d, and the rock of my salvation.
By Angelique Sijbolts
 Wikipedia: Ahaz
 Rashi on Isaiah 7:14:3 : the young woman; My wife will conceive this year. This was the fourth year of Ahaz.
 Lets Get Biblical by Rabbi Tovia Singer Vol. 1 p. 45
 Lets Get Biblical by Rabbi Tovia Singer Vol. 1 p. 49
With thanks to Yoeri for the inspiration
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