Easton's Bible Dictionary
God with us. In the Old Testament it occurs only in Isaiah
7:14 and 8:8 . Most Christian interpreters have regarded these words as directly
and exclusively a prophecy of our Saviour, an interpretation borne out by the
words of the evangelist ( Matthew 1:23 ).
Hitchcock's Dictionary of Bible Names
God with us
Smith's Bible Dictionary
That is, God with us, the title applied by the apostle
Matthew to the Messiah, born of the Virgin, ( Matthew 1:23 ; Isaiah 7:14 ) because
Jesus was God united with man, and showed that God was dwelling with men.
International Standard Bible Encyclopedia
The name occurs but 3 times, twice in the Old Testament (Isaiah 7:14; 8:8), and
once in the New Testament (Matthew 1:23). It is a Hebrew word signifying "God
is with us." The form "Emmanuel" appears in Septuagint (Emmanouel).
1. Isaiah Rebukes Ahaz:
In 735 BC Ahaz was king of Judah. The kingdom of Israel was already tributary
to Assyria (2 Kings 15:19,20). Pekah, king of Israel, a bold and ambitious usurper,
and Rezin, king of Syria, formed an alliance, the dual object of which was, first,
to organize a resistance against Assyria, and second, to force Ahaz to cooperate
in their designs against the common tyrant. In the event of Ahaz' refusal, they
planned to depose him, and to set the son of Tabeel, a choice of their own, upon
the throne of David. To this end they waged war against Judah, advancing as far
as Jerusalem itself, but without complete success (Isaiah 7:1). Ahaz, a weak king,
and now panic-stricken, determined to invoke the aid of Tiglath-pileser, king
of Assyria (2 Kings 16:7). This he actually did at a later stage in the war (2
Kings 6:9; 15:29). Such a course would involve the loss of national independence
and the payment of a heavy tribute. At this period of crisis, Isaiah, gathering
his disciples around him (Isaiah 8:16), is told to deliver a message to the king.
Ahaz, though making a show of resistance against the coalition, is in reality
neither depending upon the help of Yahweh nor upon the courage of his people.
Isaiah, in an effort to calm his fears and prevent the fatal alliance with Assyria,
offers him a sign. This method is specially characteristic of this prophet. Fearing
to commit himself to the policy of Divine dependence, but with a pretense at religious
scruples, "Neither will I tempt Yahweh," the king refuses (Isaiah 7:12). The prophet
then chides him bitterly for his lack of faith, which, he says, not only wearies
men, but God also (Isaiah 7:13).
2. The Sign of "Immanuel":
He then proceeds to give him a sign from God Himself, the sign of "Immanuel" (Isaiah
7:14). The interpretation of this sign is not clear, even apart from its New Testament
application to Christ. The Hebrew word translated "virgin" in English Versions
of the Bible means, more correctly, "bride," in the Old English sense of one who
is about to become a wife, or is still a young wife. Psalms 68:25 English Versions
of the Bible gives "damsels."
Isaiah predicts that a young bride shall conceive and bear a son. The miracle
of virgin-conception, therefore, is not implied. The use of the definite article
before "virgin" (ha-'almah) does not of itself indicate that the prophet had any
particular young woman in his mind, as the Hebrew idiom often uses the definite
article indefinitely. The fact that two other children of the prophet, like Hosea's,
bore prophetic and mysterious names, invites the conjecture that the bride referred
to was his own wife. The hypothesis of some critics that a woman of the harem
of Ahaz became the mother of Hezekiah, and that he was the Immanuel of the prophet's
thought is not feasible. Hezekiah was at least 9 years of age when the prophecy
was given (2 Kings 16:2).
Immanuel, in the prophetic economy, evidently stands on the same level with Shear-jashub
(Isaiah 7:3) as the embodiment of a great idea, to which Isaiah again appeals
in Isaiah 8:8 (see ISAIAH, VII).
3. Was It a Promise or a Threat?:
The question as to whether the sign given to Ahaz was
favorable or not presents many difficulties. Was it a promise of good or a threat
of judgment? It is evident that the prophet had first intended an omen of deliverance
and blessing (Isaiah 7:4,7). Did the king's lack of faith alter the nature of
the sign? Isaiah 7:9, "If ye will not believe," etc., implies that it might have
done so. The omission of Isaiah 7:16, and especially the words "whose two kings
thou abhorrest," greatly simplifies this theory, as "the land," singular, would
more naturally refer to Judah than to Syria and Ephraim collectively. The omen
would then become an easily interpreted threat, referring to the overthrow of
Judah rather than that of her enemies. Immanuel should eat curdled milk and honey
(Isaiah 7:15), devastation reducing the land from an agricultural to a pastoral
one. The obscure nature of the passage as it stands suggests strongly that it
has suffered from interpolation. The contrary theory that the sign was a promise
and not a prediction of disaster, has much to commend it, though it necessitates
greater freedom with the text. The name "Immanuel" implies the faith of the young
mother of the child in the early deliverance of her country, and a rebuke to the
lack of that quality in Ahaz. It is certain also that Isaiah looked for the destruction
of Syria and Ephraim, and that, subsequent to the Assyrian invasion, salvation
should come to Judah through the remnant that had been faithful (Isaiah 11:11).
The fact that the prophet later gave the name of Maher-shalal-hash-baz to his
new-born son, a name of good omen to his country, further strengthens this position.
The omission of Isaiah 7:15, 17 would make the sign a prophecy of the failure
of the coalition. It is plain, whichever theory be accepted, that something must
be eliminated from the passage to insure a consistent reading.
4. Its Relation to the Messianic Hope:
The question now presents itself as to what was the relation
of Immanuel to the Messianic prophecies. Should the emphasis be laid upon "a virgin,"
the son, or the name itself? For traditional interpretation the sign lay in the
virgin birth, but the uncertainty of implied virginity in the Hebrew noun makes
this interpretation improbable. The identification of the young mother as Zion
personified, and of the "son" as the future generation, is suggested by Whitehouse
and other scholars. But there is no evidence that the term 'almah was used at
that time for personification. The third alternative makes Immanuel a Messiah
in the wider use of the term, as anticipated by Isaiah and his contemporaries.
There can be little doubt but that there existed in Judah the Messianic hope of
a national saviour (2 Samuel 7:12). Isaiah is expecting the arrival of one whose
character and work shall entitle him to the great names of Isaiah 9:6. In him
should dwell all the fullness of God. He was to be "of the stem of Jesse," the
bringer of the Golden Age. The house of David is now beset by enemies, and its
reigning representative is weak in faith. The prophet therefore announces the
immediate coming of the deliverer. If he had intended the virgin-conception of
Christ in the distant future, the sign of "Immanuel" would have possessed no immediate
significance, nor would it have been an omen to Ahaz. With regard to the Messianic
idea, Micah 5:3 ("until the time that she who travaileth hath brought forth")
is of importance as indicating the prevalent thought of the time. Recent evidence
shows that even in Babylonia and Egypt there existed expectations of a divinely
born and wonderful saviour. To this popular tradition the prophet probably appealed,
his hearers being easily able to appreciate the force of oracular language that
is to us obscure. There is much to confirm the view, therefore, that the prophecy
5. The Virgin Birth:
The use of the word as it relates to the virgin birth of Christ and the incarnation
cannot be dealt with here (see PERSON OF CHRIST). These facts, however, may be
noted. The Septuagint (which has parthenos, "virgin") and the Alexandrian Jews
interpreted the passage as referring to the virgin birth and the Messianic ministry.
This interpretation does not seem to have been sufficiently prominent to explain
the rise of the idea of miraculous virgin conception and the large place it has
occupied in Christological thought.
Arthur Walwyn Evans
ahaz, bible commentary, bible history, bible reference, bible study, define, emmanouel, ha-'almah, immanuel, jesus, matthew, prophecy, virgin