OUTLINE OF MESSIAH'S CAREER
ACCORDING TO BOOK OF IMMANUEL (Isa. 7-12)
IN Isaiah 7-12, inclusive, is found that portion of Scripture known among scholars as the "Book of Immanuel," being thus named because Immanuel (Messiah) is the subject of the prophecy. These prophecies were spoken through ישעיהו Isaiah at the time when the northern kingdom, allied with Syria, threatened an aggressive warfare against Ahaz, king of Judah, which warlike movement caused consternation in Jerusalem. God immediately sent the prophet to Ahaz with this message, "Ask thee a sign of the Lord thy God; ask it either in the depth, or in the height above." To this message Ahaz, with hypocritical piety, answered, "I will not ask, neither will I tempt the Lord," which answer was but a pious dodge in a vain attempt to soothe a guilty conscience. Seeing that the king, bent on carrying out his own plans in preference to trusting the Lord and obeying the word of the prophet, rejected the miracle which God proposed to work in order to confirm his faith, Isaiah with his face toward the future addressed the "house of David" in the following words: "Is it a small thing for you to weary men, that ye will weary my God also? Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign: behold, the virgin shall conceive¹ and bear a Son, and shall call His Name Immanuel" (Author's Tr.). That the expression "house of David" refers to the Davidic dynasty is clear from I Kings 12:16. Therefore the prophecy concerning the birth of the Child of verse 14 was not addressed to Ahaz, but to the Davidic house.
That this interpretation is correct is certain from the fact that in verse 11 the prophet in speaking to Ahaz used the singular form of "you"; but when he in verse 13 addressed the house of David he used the plural of "you." The use of the plural verb in this verse places this interpretation beyond question.
To seek for its fulfillment in the days of Ahaz, then, is to overlook the ones to whom the prophecy was addressed.² "Therefore the Lord Himself will give you a sign: behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a Son, and shall call His Name Immanuel." The sign which the Lord gave was that the virgin shall conceive etc. Some English translations have "a virgin," but the Hebrew text is "the virgin," the definite article pointing to some special virgin. This passage viewed in the light of וְאֵיבָה אָשִׁית בֵּינְךָ וּבֵין הָאִשָּׁה וּבֵין זַרְעֲךָ וּבֵין זַרְעָהּ הוּא יְשׁוּפְךָ רֹאשׁ וְאַתָּה תְּשׁוּפֶנּוּ עָקֵב׃ (Gen. 3:15) undoubtedly refers to the one in the latter passage called the "seed of the woman." For a person, object, or event to serve as a sign to any one it is necessary that he, or it, possess such outstanding characteristics or features so as to point definitely and unmistakably to the thing of which it serves as a sign. This statement being true, a married woman's giving birth to a child would possess no marked features which could possibly serve as a definite token of the fulfillment of the prediction. Therefore these facts undoubtedly preclude the thought of the birth of Isaiah's second son's being the fulfillment (Isa. 8:1-4)³. הָעַלְמָה translated "the virgin" means a single woman and appears only in the following passages: Gen. 24:43, Ex. 2:8, Prov. 30:19; Isa. 7:14; Psa. 68:26; S. of S. 1:3. (Also in I Chron. 15:20; Psa. 9:1; 46:1, 48:15 occurs עֲלָמוֹת, which, according to most scholars, is a reference to the soprano voice of woman or the falsetto voice of boys.) An examination of the context of every occurrence of the word, except the present passage under discussion, reveals beyond a doubt that it was used with reference to a single girl, a maiden. In the earliest Greek version of the Tenach, Septuagint, which was translated by Hebrew scholars, the Greek word παρθένος is used to translate the word בְּתוּלָה, the meaning of which is that of a virgin, except in a few cases such as Joel 1:8, where undoubtedly it refers to a young widow. παρθένος, likewise, is the word used by them to translate נַעֲרָה which undoubtedly means a maiden, and is used also by them twice to translate הָעַלְמָה in Gen. 24:43 and Isa. 7:14. The former of these passages without doubt refers to a single woman; the latter is the one under investigation. From these facts it is quite clear that the Hebrew translators of this early Greek version who used παρθένος to translate the words about which there is no dispute concerning their meaning a virgin and who made that translation before the rise of the controversy between the Jew and the Christian concerning the birth of Jesus understood by הָעַלְמָה (Isa. 7:14) that the prophet meant a young unmarried woman.
The child who is mentioned here is to be called "Immanuel" which means "God with us." The name of the child in the light of the miraculous element of the context is a definite prediction of the time when God assumes the form of a child and enters the world by virgin birth.† This prediction is confirmed by Chapter 9:6(5). כִּי־יֶלֶד יֻלַּד־לָנוּ בֵּן נִתַּן־לָנוּ וַתְּהִי הַמִּשְׂרָה עַל־שִׁכְמוֹ וַיִּקְרָא שְׁמוֹ פֶּלֶא יוֹעֵץ אֵל גִּבּוֹר אֲבִי־עַד שַׂר־שָׁלוֹם׃ "For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace."*
The translation, "For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given, and the government shall be upon his shoulders; and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The Mighty God, the Everlasting Father, the Prince of Peace," is said by one author to have been made by Christians. This same author claims that the following is the correct translation: "And the Wonderful, the Counsellor, the Mighty God, the Everlasting Father, shall call his name Prince of Peace." His justification for this translation is that the verb וַיִּקְרָא is in the active voice (Kal) and not passive (Niphal).
The author admits that the Kal stem is in the active voice, but he also wishes to call attention to the fact that there is a well established idiom in which the active voice is used in the passive sense with this very verb. In the following references the Kal stem is used with this passive sense: Gen. 11:9; 19:22; 25:30; 27:36; 29:34. In Jer. 23:6 the Kal imperfect of this same verb is translated by both Isaac Leeser and the translation of Jew. Pub. Soc. as if it were passive in the following statement: "And this is his name whereby he shall be called, the Lord is our righteousness." Without controversy the passive idea in this special idiom is expressed by the Kal stem.
Isaac Leeser translates this passage thus: "For a child is born unto us, a son hath been given unto us, and the government is placed upon his shoulders; and his name is called, Wonderful, Counsellor of the Mighty God, of the Everlasting Father, the Prince of Peace."
Therefore the correct translation is: "And his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace."
This passage being allowed to give its message without any modification simply states that in the future from Isaiah's day, a Child is to be born to the Jewish nation, which Child is to be called "Wonderful, Counsellor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace." This Child is called by these divine names because He is divine, namely, the "Mighty God and Everlasting Father." It is impossible to conceive of God's giving these divine names to a Child Who is not what the names imply. לְםַרְבֵּה הַמִּשְׂרָה וּלְשָׁלוֹם אֵין־קֵץ עַל־כִּסֵּא דָוִד וְעַל־מַמְלַכְתּוֹ לְהָכִין אֹתָהּ וּלְסַעֲדָהּ בְּמִשְׁפָּט וּבִצְדָקָה מֵעַתָּה וְעַד־עוֹלָם קִנְאַת יְהוָה צְבָאוֹת תַּעֲשֶׂה־זֹּאת׃ "Of the increase of his government and of peace there shall be no end, upon the throne of David, and upon his kingdom, to establish it, and to uphold it with justice and with righteousness from henceforth even for ever. The zeal of the Lord of hosts will perform this" (Isa. 9:7(6). This verse confirms the interpretation given above for only God can administer such a universal, peaceful, righteous reign unto the ends of the earth as this one does. Therefore He is God.
Verses 6(5) and 7(6) if considered by themselves apart from their context would seem to indicate that this Child, Who is none other than God in human form, upon reaching Manhood mounts the throne of David and administers justice to the entire world; but such is not the case, as is taught in other passages of Scripture. In the first verse of this chapter there also appears a hint concerning this matter, as is seen in the following quotation (Isa. 9:1(8:23): כָּעֵת הָרִאשׁוֹן הֵקַל אַרְצָה זְבֻלוּן וְאַרְצָה נַפְתָּלִי וְהָאַחֲרוֹן הִכְבִּיד דֶּרֶךְ הַיָּם עֵבֶר הַיַּרְדֵּן גְּלִיל הַגּוֹיִם׃ "... In the former time he brought into contempt the land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali; but in the latter time hath he made it glorious, by the way of the sea, beyond Jordan, Galilee of the Nations." Here two definite well-defined and widely-separated times are set forth, namely, "former time" in which God brings into contempt the land of Zebulun and Naphtali; and "the latter time" in which He makes those lands glorious. The former time must be the time when Messiah comes and suffers; the latter time when He comes in glory to reign. Evidently the latter time is the day of the Messiah when He shall mount the throne of David, and the knowledge of the glory of the Lord shall cover the earth as the waters cover the sea.
These two appearances of the Messiah--the one in the "former time" in humility and suffering; the other in the "latter time" in glory--are seen in Zechariah 9:9,10. "Rejoice greatly, 0 daughter of Zion; shout, 0 daughter of Jerusalem: behold, thy king cometh unto thee; he is just, and having salvation; lowly, and riding upon an ass, even upon a colt the foal of an ass. And I will cut off the chariot from Ephraim, and the horse from Jerusalem; and the battle bow shall be cut off; and he shall speak peace unto the nations: and his dominion shall be from sea to sea, and from the River to the ends of the earth." These verses seem to present a paradox, for when Zion's king Messiah comes to her He is "just, and having salvation; lowly, and riding upon an ass, even upon a colt the foal of an ass." They evidently present the Messiah when He appears the first time and suffers for Israel. When He fulfills the prediction of verse 10 He comes in power and great glory; hence He will at that time fulfill the predictions concerning the Messiah of glory. "For the earth shall be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the Lord, as the waters cover the sea" (Hab. 2:14).
In Isa. 10:21 appears the following quotation שְׁאָר יָשׁוּב שְׁאָר יַעֲקֹב אֶל־אֵל גִּבּוֹר׃ "A remnant shall return, even the remnant of Jacob, unto the mighty God." The words אֵל גִּבּוֹר "mighty God" used here are the very words used in 9:6(5) with reference to this Child Who Isaiah promises would be born to the Jewish nation. Since in this section of Isaiah 7-12, inclusive, the Prophet is discussing the question of Immanuel, there can be no doubt that this "mighty God" to Whom "the remnant of Jacob" returns is none other than the Child mentioned in 9:6(5) Who is God manifest in the flesh, the Jewish Messiah. The fact that they return unto Him implies that they previously turned from Him. Numerous are the predictions that foretell that the remnant of Israel shall come back to God; but this passage explains more specifically how they shall return, i.e., they shall turn to their Messiah Whom the nation has formerly rejected.
Another picture of the coming of the Messiah is set forth under the figure of a shoot springing out of the stock of Jesse (Isa. 11). His righteous rule is set forth in verses 3 to 5 of this chapter. The beneficent result of the lifting of the curse from the animate creation appears in verses 6-9. Verse 10 presents the glorious dwelling place of the Messiah, namely, Jerusalem (cf. Isa. 5:5,6). The regathering of Israel is set forth in verses 11 and 12. The united nation dwelling harmoniously again is set forth in verses 13-16. In Chapter 12 appears Israel's song of thanksgiving and praise of the Lord for her deliverance, which song concludes with the statement "great in the midst of thee is the Holy One of Israel." This Holy One of Israel is none other than Immanuel, the Hebrew Messiah.
The outstanding events of the career of Israel's Messiah, as was set forth in the discussion of Mic. 5:2-4, Hos. 3 and 5:14-6:3, correspond perfectly with the data concerning the Messiah presented in this Book of Immanuel.
¹ Attention sometimes is called to the fact that הרה "has conceived" is in the perfect tense and that, therefore, it cannot refer to the birth of a child in the future, but that it referred to Isaiah's wife who had already conceived. The verb's being in the perfect tense does not determine the time element, since, as is well known by all Hebrew grammarians, the time element is not expressed by the Hebrew verb but must be gathered from the context. This use of the perfect is what is known as the predictive perfect. In vision the prophet saw the event of which he spoke as already accomplished; hence his use of the perfect. Excellent examples of this use is seen throughout the Tenach. One or two examples will suffice. In Josh. 6:2, the Lord said, "See, I have given into thy (Joshua's) hand Jericho ..." In that promise it had been given to Joshua but not in reality, and yet the Lord said, "I have." Again, in I Kgs. 22:17, the prophet said to Ahaz and Jehoshaphat, "I saw all Israel scattered upon the mountains." Here the speakers used the perfect stem in speaking of events which were yet in the future.
Since the Hebrew verb does not express the time element which, as stated above, must be gathered from the context, it is necessary always to examine each context. The context of Isa. 7:14 indicates clearly that it is a prediction and not a record of accomplished facts. It is, therefore, correct to translate the passage, "Behold, the virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel."
² Some scholars thinking that the prophecy was addressed to Ahaz attempt to find the fulfillment of the virgin-born child in the birth of Isaiah's son, "Maher-shalal-hash-baz." That the prophecy did not refer to this child is evident from the fact that God instructed Isaiah to name his child not Immanuel but "Maher-shalal-hash-baz," whereas the name of the child of this prophecy is Immanuel.
³ The position taken by some, namely, that the definite article "the" is equivalent to "this," thus making "this virgin" a reference to Isaiah's wife, is an interpretation invented to satisfy a certain theological bias, since there is no example of such a meaning of the definite article. The only exception to this rule is the use of the definite article with such words as "day," but such an expression is elliptical, having the expression "the this" understood.
† There is no reason for one's doubting the virgin birth of Messiah: especially, no Hebrew who accepts the Torah as the Word of God should have any difficulty in accepting His virgin birth, since it affirms that the birth of Isaac was supernatural. (See Gen. 18:9-15.).
* This prediction torn aloof from the supernatural elements of the context might be interpreted to mean that a child would be born and would be given the name Immanuel, whose name was to serve as a prediction that God would sometime in the future dwell with Israel. Isaiah's son, of whom mention is made in Isa. 8:1-4, bore a name which was a definite prediction of a coming calamity. Concerning the birth of this son there is no miraculous element predicated; but in 7:14 the birth of this child Immanuel is set in the midst of supernatural elements. Therefore such an interpretation is impossible. Hence the interpretation mentioned in the context above is the only possible one.
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