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Isaiah 7:14 in Context
Almah and the Virgin Birth

By Rabbi Shlomo Nachman © July, 1991 (last updated November 24, 2017)

Recorded Live on Facebook

According to standard Nicene Christian belief, Matthew 1:23 explicitly references Isaiah 7:14 and foretells the miraculous conception and birth of Yeshua HaNotzri (Jesus of Nazareth) to an engaged virgin Judean teenager named Miriam (Mary). This belief is an essential dogma of Emperor Constantine's Nicene religion. Let's examine whether this verse actually teaches what the Christian religion claims.

To begin with, in the King James Version (KJV) of Matthew's account we read:

Matthew 1:18 Now the birth of Jesus Christ was on this wise: When as his mother Mary was espoused to Joseph, before they came together, she was found with child of the Holy Ghost.
1:19 Then Joseph her husband, being a just man, and not willing to make her a public example, was minded to put her away privily.
1:20 But while he thought on these things, behold, the angel of the Lord appeared unto him in a dream, saying, Joseph, thou son of David, fear not to take unto thee Mary thy wife: for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Ghost.
1:21 And she shall bring forth a son, and thou shalt call his name JESUS: for he shall save his people from their sins.
1:22 Now all this was done, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken of the Lord by the prophet, saying,
1:23 Behold, a virgin shall be with child, and shall bring forth a son, and they shall call his name Emmanuel, which being interpreted is, G-d with us.
Here is the same section in the modern English Complete Jewish Bible (CJB). This is a Nicene Christian version by David Stern, a Jew who left Judaism for Christianity.
Matthew 1:18 Here is how the birth of Yeshua the Messiah took place. When his mother Miry am was engaged to Yosef, before they were married, she was found to be pregnant from the Ruach HaKodesh.
19 Her husband-to-be, Yosef, was a man who did what was right; so he made plans to break the engagement quietly, rather than put her to public shame.
20 But while he was thinking about this, an angel of HaShem appeared to him in a dream and said, "Yosef, son of David, do not be afraid to take Miry am home with you as your wife; for what has been conceived in her is from the Ruach HaKodesh.
21 She will give birth to a son, and you are to name him Yeshua, [which means 'HaShem saves,'] because he will save his people from their sins."
22 All this happened in order to fulfill what HaShem had said through the prophet: 23 "The virgin will conceive and bear a son, and they will call him 'Immanu El. (The name means, "G-d is with us.")
Note that at verse 21 the name Yeshua is intentionally mistranslated in the CJB as "HaShem Saves." It actually only means "salvation" in Hebrew and is a common word and name. His name was "Yeshua" not "Yahshua" as some Messianics are beginning to write it hoping to establish their false dogma. Other Messianics are extending his name in odd creative ways attempting to blasphemously connect it with the Sacred Name of Four Letters. There seems to be no limits on what these people will do to alter the clear meaning of the biblical and/or New Testament texts. Messianics, even more than other Christians, are subtly slipping false material into their paraphrases (they seldom use solid translations) in order to intentionally deceive and alter texts to support their anti-Torah beliefs.

When the historic Yeshua and his first century students referred to "the Scriptures" they were in all instances talking about the Tanach (or "Old Testament" as Christians insultingly call it). The books of the "New Testament" were written at a later date (between around 20-65 years after Yeshua's execution according to most scholars). When studying the New Testament it is important to do so as they did. First century Jews studied through the lens of the Tanach (Acts 17:11). In other words, for something to be accepted as true it had to be in agreement with the Torah (i.e. the Five of Moses), the Tanach (i.e. the rest of the Hebrew Bible). The teachings of the Rabbis, our divinely appointed authorities, they often ignored due to Yeshua's disrespectful attitude towards them.

Is Isaiah chapter seven a Messianic text? Does it foretell the virgin birth of Jesus/Yeshua from the 8th century BCE? First let's see what Prophet Isaiah is discussing in context. I've added the bracketed comments for clarity:

Isaiah 7:1 And it came to pass in the days of Ahaz son of Jotham son of Uzziah, king of Judah, that Rezin, king of Aram, and Pekah son of Remaliah, king of Israel, marched on Jerusalem to wage war against it, and he could not wage war against it.
2 And it was told to the House of David, saying, "Aram has allied itself with Ephraim," and his heart and the heart of his people trembled as the trees of the forest tremble because of the wind.
And the Lord said to Isaiah, "Now go out toward Ahaz, you and Shear-Yashuv your son, to the edge of the conduit of the upper pool, to the road of the washer's field.
4 And you shall say to him, "Feel secure and calm yourself, do not fear, and let your heart not be faint because of these two smoking stubs of firebrands, because of the raging anger of Rezin and Aram and the son of Remaliah.
5 Since Aram planned harm to you, Ephraim and the son of Remaliah, saying:
'Let us go up against Judah and provoke it, and annex it to us; and let us crown a king in its midst, one who is good for us,'
7 So said the Lord G-d, 'Neither shall it succeed, nor shall it come to pass.
The context pertains to literal events taking place at the time. The situation looked hopeless to Ahaz and his people. He encourages them not to become demoralized by what they see.

When Ahaz learned that Aram's alliance with Ephraim had been achieved, the Judaites (i.e. the Jews/Israel) were very worried! They were outnumbered and their enemies were approaching. There seemed to be no hope for them! However when HaShem is on ones side there is always hope!

HaShem provided His people hope by issuing a promise through His prophet Isaiah! HaShem ordered the prophet to meet with King Ahaz and assure him that he and his people -- the House of David -- would survive this latest challenge as they had many others. "Just have emunah (i.e. active faith)!" Isaiah told Ahaz that the thing he feared "will not take place." Period! THIS is the central point of the chapter. Have emunah!

But still Ahaz and his people doubted.

In order to reestablish Ahaz's faith as the leader of HaShem's people, in the next few verses HaShem explains through His prophet how He will deliver the people of Judah and how things will go with the various peoples involved:

Isaiah 7:8 For the head of Aram is Damascus, and the head of Damascus is Rezin; and in another sixty-five years, Ephraim shall be broken, no longer to be a people.
9 And the head of Ehpraim is Samaria, and the head of Samaria is the son of Remaliah; if you do not believe, it is because you cannot be believed."

On verse nine Rashi notes:

if you do not believe: My prophecy, you, Ahaz, and his people, for I know that you are wicked.
it is because you cannot be believed: There is no truth in you.
So the prophet explained that it was vital that Ahaz and his followers reestablish and maintain their emunah in HaShem. As Rebbe Nachman of Breslov teaches: "The world regards faith as something minor, but I consider faith as being of the greatest importance" (Sichot Haran #33). It was in the Mind of HaShem to save His people and to preserve the line of King David among them, however they needed to exercise their emunah. It was imperative that they relied on HaShem's deliverance. If we wish to receive His blessings in our lives we too must have emunah.

We have all been granted free will. HaShem ensures this. In order to receive His blessings we must choose to have a suitable consciousness to receive from Him. That was the case here. Both Ahaz and his people continued to doubt, and so HaShem offered Ahaz a most remarkable boon:

Isaiah 7:10 And the Lord continued to speak to Ahaz, saying,
11 "Ask for yourself a sign from the Lord, your G-d: ask it either in the depths, or in the heights above."
Notice the reason Ahaz was offered a such a rare boon. He could ask HaShem for any sign that would bolster his emunah in G-d's deliverance, either for himself or for his people. The purpose of the offered sign was to rally the morale of the people experiencing this threat at this time, to rectify their doubts and to reestablish their faith in HaShem's protection. HaShem wanted to act through His people and yet His people had to be willing to receive!

Despite this unprecedented offer to abate their doubts, for reasons not made clear in the text, Ahaz refused to even ask for a sign when prompted by HaShem's representative! His rationale sounds good at first, very pious, but Ahaz was not being honest! If HaShem gave Ahaz proof, then Ahaz knew he would have to act on it! One cannot trick the HaShem!

Isaiah 7:12 And Ahaz said, "I will not ask, and I will not test the Lord."
And he said, "Listen now, O House of David, is it little for you to weary men, that you weary my G-d as well?
14 Therefore, the Lord, of His own, shall give YOU a sign; behold, the young woman is with child, and she shall bear a son, and she shall call his name Immanuel [literally "G-d is with us"].
15 Cream and honey he shall eat when he knows to reject bad and choose good.
16 For, when the lad does not yet know to reject bad and choose good, the land whose two kings you dread, shall be abandoned."
17 The Lord shall bring upon you and upon your people and upon your father's house, days which have not come, since the day that Ephraim turned away from Judah, namely, the king of Assyria.

"You have no faith!" Isaiah charges not only Ahaz but all those with him. "Not only do you try my patience, but HaShem's as well!"

Rashi notes on verse 16:

For, when the lad does not yet know to reject bad and choose good: the land shall be abandoned by its inhabitants, [i. e.,] the land of Rezin and the land of Pekah.
you dread: and fear its two kings, Rezin and Pekah, for in that year the king of Assyria marched on Damascus since Ahaz hired him, as it is stated in the Book of II Kings (16:9): "And seized it and exiled its inhabitants to Kir, and he slew Rezin," and in that very year (ibid. 15: 30), "Hoshea the son of Elah revolted against Pekah the son of Remaliah, and he struck him and slew him… in the twentieth year of Jotham," which was the fourth year of Ahaz.
Using the faithless Ten Tribes (i.e. Ephraim) as an example, Navi (Prophet) Isaiah chastens Ahaz, king of Judah. "Didn't HaShem stand with you and choose you even as Ephraim was divorced by Him due to their lack of faith" (Jeremiah 3:8)? And now, Navi Isaiah excoriates them, "Will you still refuse to believe Him!"
"OK then," the prophet says, "HaShem's Will IS going to happen! Since you refuse, He will choose the sign so that you will stand firm before your enemies in faith!" This reminds of us the warning that if the End Time Jews refuse to make teshuvah (repentances) HaShem will empower "the one as cruel as Haman" and he will drive us to knees so that we repent, and then will come Mashiach ben David! But it doesn't have to go this way!

This is what is happening here. HaShem is giving the people a clear sign that will force those present, at that time and place, to make teshuvah!

The House of Judah (the Jews) is vital to G-d's Plan of Redemption! The anointed heir of King David, Mashiach ben David, the Messiah, will come through the line of Judah (through Jesse and David). This heir will one day be crowned the King of the City of David at Yerushalayim, the eternal capital of the Jewish people. What was happening here was therefore very important to save his ancestors. The Davidic lineage had to survive! Proof needed to be shown to those involved so they would stand in their faith. THIS was the purpose of the sign and it was fulfilled in that place and place as prophesied.

The question at hand is: "Did this sign directly refer to HaMashiach's birth?

Who was this divine sign for according to the prophet?

This is a very important question and the text itself supplies the answer!

7:14 "Therefore HaShem himself will give you a sign..."
Is it even plausible to believe that this prophetic sign was given to a people facing imminent annihilation by their enemies in order to bolster their faith and clam their fears, when its fulfillment would not occur for 800 plus years in the future? Imagine this scenario: This prophecy was given for "you," the people hearing the words of Isaiah at that place and time and under those dire circumstances. Promises of a baby nearly a thousand years in the future would be of no comfort to such people whatsoever.

The text is completely clear when read in context. Did this promise by Navi Isaiah to the fearful Ahaz have anything at all to do with the coming of the promised Messiah? No. Clearly it was for Ahaz and his people who were at that time facing imminent destruction without the direct intervention of HaShem.

This sign was clearly intended for those Jews huddled there in fear and indecision waiting for Ahaz to lead them. Nothing in the context even hints at anything other than that. The prophet said in effect:

Some Christians argue that since the text says the sign is for the House of David -- "Hear now, you house of David" -- it is for the House of David for all times. But notice verse 2, "Now the house of David was told..." The House of David HaShem is clearly speaking to -- through His Prophet -- are the followers of Ahaz present at that time and place.

"Therefore..." (i.e. to bolster your faith and martial your courage) the prophet of HaShem says ... because of something ... Because of what? Because these Jews gathered there with Ahaz were afraid to do their duty to HaShem -- and were thereby standing in the way of HaShem's Will (and the protection of the Davidic lineage) -- "behold, the young woman [Hebrew: almah is with child, and she shall bear a son."

Words mean different things according to their context. "Rabbi Shlomo Nachman is a really sweet guy" means something different from "that candy was very sweet!" Likewise, when studying the Scriptures and finding a "therefore" or a "wherefore" always pause to determine what its there for! Without context one will be easily led astray.

"Therefore": to establish YOUR faith Ahaz, HaShem has determined to give YOU (Ahaz), and your fellow Jews there, a sign that He is with YOU, that He will protect "you" from these enemies you are all so afraid of. This is the crux of this event as presented by the prophet. 'That young pregnant girl over there will be used by HaShem as a sign for "you."' The Jews had lost faith that HaShem was with them and so her son would named "G-d Is With You." Navi Isaiah assures them that HaShem is still with them and that HaShem is even prepared to prove it! Such an offer!

About "Almah"

There is the matter of translating this pivotal word that needlessly complicates matters. While the Vatican had ample opportunity to edit the texts of the New Testament, the Tanach was carefully preserved by devout and meticulous Jewish scribes. It could not be so easily altered to support Nicene beliefs.

Almah, the word wrongly translated as "virgin" in the King James and other Nicene translations, and correctly as "young woman" in the version I used above (i.e. the Judaica Press version) is intended to support the dogma of the virgin birth of Jesus. Any Hebrew language dictionary worth its salt will tell you however that this word does not mean "virgin." It is not translated that way except by those seeking to support a dogma that simply is not in the text.

Here's how the Judaica Press Tanach correctly translates this verse:

Isaiah 7:14 Therefore, the Lord, of His own, shall give you a sign; behold, the young woman is with child, and she shall bear a son, and she shall call his name Immanuel.
The word almah means a young girl, a "maiden" or "damsel." That's all it means. The text tells us nothing more about this young mother, only that she was young, probably in her early to mid teens, pregnant and that she and her pre-born baby was physically there with the endangered Jews. There is no biblical reason to take this as a messianic prophecy nor as a foretelling of a virgin birth for anyone.

Had Isaiah intended to say this girl was a virgin, he would have called her a bethuwlah, a virgin (betula). This is not the word used.

JPS: Isaiah 7:14 Therefore the Lord Himself shall give you a sign: behold, the young woman shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel.

Koren/Sacks: Therefore the Lord Himself shall give you a sign: Behold, the young woman is with child....

The baby was named Immanu El (Immanuel) as an assurance that G-d's protection was there with His people at that time and in that place.

Mary's son was born 800 years later and named Yeshua (salvation), not Immanuel. The out of wedlock birth of Mary's child was not a fulfillment of this prophecy, which had long before been fulfilled, and she did not name her child Immanuel. Applying this promise to Ahaz as a messianic prophecy or as a proof of Christian claims about Yeshua is simply another attempt to twist our scriptures into teaching something they do not. Jesus met none of the essential Messianic prophecies and no where do the biblical prophecies say Messiah get a "do-over" or second advent.

Friends, no one wants the Messiah to be here more than we Jews! We pray for his reign thrice daily at least. But the truth is, thus far, no one has met the biblical qualifications. NO ONE. For more on these qualifications see my study HERE

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