The book of Isaiah of the Old Testament
of the Bible has preserved the following prediction:
Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign: The
virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and1
will call him Immanuel. He will eat curds and honey when he knows enough
to reject the wrong and choose the right. But before the boy knows enough
to reject the wrong and choose the right, the land of the two kings you
dread will be laid waste.2
Almost every Christian commentator of
the Bible has interpreted it in terms of a prediction in favour of Jesus
Christ (sws). Barton Payne has also recorded it as such in his ‘Encyclopedia
of Biblical Prophecy’.3
For most of the Christians it is a matter of their faith to believe in
its predictive status because it has been quoted as such in the ‘Gospel’
according to Matthew.4 In
fact it is simply due to the misconception of the writer of the gospel
and misinterpretation of the commentators of the Bible on the basis of
the wrong translation of the Hebrew word ‘ALMAH’ as ‘VIRGIN’ by the translators
of Septuagint that it has been attached to Jesus Christ (sws); whereas
it has nothing to do with this theme. Seeing the word ‘VIRGIN’, they
could not overcome their crave to mould and exploit it in favour of Jesus
Christ (sws) and came out with all their proficiency of interpretation
and hermeneutics and displayed their wonderful skill to expound it in terms
of a prediction in favour of Jesus Christ (sws). In the following lines,
the subject will be discussed under three topics:
1. Historical Back-ground of the prophecy.
2. The word ‘VIRGIN’ and the whole
story about it.
3. The word ‘IMMANUEL’ and its significance.
1. Historical Back-ground of the Prophecy
Isaiah was ‘The prophet to whom the
canonical book of Isaiah is attributed. (...). He lived in Jerusalem and
his prophetic activity extended at least from 742 to 701 BC.’5
‘He was married to a woman whom he calls prophetess (8:3) and they had
at least two sons: Shearjashub and Maher-shalal-Hashbaz.
Their names are associated with prophetic pronouncements (7:3; 8:3). He
may also have had a third son, Immanuel, who also bears a symbolic name.
(...). Isaiah was a contemporary of the prophet Micah and was preceded
slightly by Amos and Hosea, who were active in the Northern
Kingdom of Israel. Isaiah prophesied in Judah during the reigns of kings
Uzziah, Jotham, Ahaz, and Hezekiah.’6
Ahaz was the king of the Southern
Kingdom, Judah, during 735-715 BC.7
He inherited the throne of his father, Jotham8,
when he was only twenty. At that time. the king of the Northern Kingdom
of Israel was Pekah9,
son of Remaliah10.
Damascus11 was ruled
by Rezin.12 Assyria
was a sort of super power of the region at that time and its king was Tiglath
After his successful campaigns in the North and East, he laid siege to
and eventually conquered Arpad, in N. Syria during ca. 742-40 BC.
The effect of this victory was far-reaching; and tributes came in from
Tyre, Damascus, Cilicia, Carchemish, etc. The king of Damascus Rezin
became active to forge an alliance of all the anti-Assyrian forces of the
Levant14. Pekah of
Israel joined the coalition readily.
The king of Damascus, Rezin, was among those who paid
tribute to the Assyrian king Tiglath-pileser III in 738 BC., but
within three years Rezin had organized an anti-Assyrian coalition consisting
of Damascus, Tyre, Philistia, Israel, some Arab tribes, and perhaps Edom."15
Pekah of Israel and Rezin of
Damascus wished that Ahaz of Judah should also join his hands with
them in the coalition. Ahaz of Judah declined to join this coalition.
Perhaps having estimated the power of Assyria, he was afraid of it;
or, perhaps, because he had not remained faithful with Yahweh and
had inclined towards idolatry and pagonism. Pekah and Rezin
decided to attack Judah to topple the government of Ahaz and
to plant the son of Tabeel (who was probably Ahaz’s step-brother
from some Aramaean princess) on the throne of Judah as a puppet
It was in connection with this crisis that the prophet
Isaiah was sent to Ahaz to assure him of God’s help in his struggle
with Israel and the Syrians, and evidently also to warn him against calling
for foreign aid (Is 7). Ahaz, however, did not appreciate this counsel
and turned to Tiglath-pileser III of Assyria for help, sending him
a large gift of money taken from the treasures of the Temple and palace.
Tiglath-pileser responded by invading Israel and besieging Damascus
(2ki 16:5-9; 2Chr 28:6-21). Damascus was captured (in 732 BC) and Rezin
killed, and much territory of Israel was taken from Pekah and
made into an Assyrian province (see 2 Ki 15:29). It was probably with the
connivance of Tiglath-pileser that Pekah was assassinated
by Hoshea, who usurped the throne for himself and was confirmed in his
office by the Assyrian king. While Tiglath-pileser was at Damascus,
Ahaz went up to meet him, apparently to pay homage as a vassal along
with the Syrians. He sent home a model of a foreign altar that he had seen
in Damascus, with an order to have a similar one built for the Temple at
Jerusalem. This was probably an Assyrian altar to be used to worship Assyrian
national gods. It replaced Solomon’s altar of burnt offerings (2 Ki 16:10-16)."16
At the refusal of Ahaz to join
their Coalition, Damascus and Israel decided to attack Judah. Ahaz of
Judah being afraid of the coalition decided to seek protection from Assyria
through paying huge amounts as tribute to Tiglath-pileser III. Isaiah
did not like that Ahaz relinquish the liberty of Judah to the pagan
king of Assyria. As instructed by God, Isaiah called on Ahaz along
with his son, Shear-Jashub, and told him not to be afraid of Israel
and Damascus. The Bible records it as follows:
Now it came to pass in the days of Ahaz, the son
of Jotham, the son of Uzziah, king of Judah, that Rezin
the king of Syria and Pekah the son of Remaliah, king
of Israel, went up to Jerusalem to make war against it, but could
not prevail against it.
2. And it was told to the house of David, saying, "Syria’s
forces are deployed in Ephraim." So his heart and the heart of his
people were moved as the trees of the woods are moved with the wind.
3. Then the Lord said to Isaiah, "Go out now to meet
Ahaz, you and Shear-Jashub your son, at the end of the aqueduct
from the upper pool, on the highway to the Fuller’s Field,
4. "And say to him: ‘Take heed, and be quiet; do not
fear or be faint-hearted for these two stubs17
of smoking firebands, for the fierce anger of Rezin and Syria, and the
son of Remaliah.
5. ‘Because Syria, Ephraim, and the son of Remaliah
have plotted evil against you, saying,
6. "Let us go up against Judah and trouble it, and let
us make a gap in its wall for ourselves, and set a king over them, the
son of Tabel"--
7. ‘Thus says the Lord God: "It shall not stand, nor
shall it come to pass.
8. For the head of Syria is Damascus, and the head of
Damascus is Rezin. Within sixty-five years Ephraim will be broken,
so that it will not be a people. [stress added].
9. The head of Ephraim is Samaria, and the head of Samaria
is Remaliah’s son. If you will not believe, surely you shall not be established."
The following are the salient points of
a) The Alliance of Israel and Damascus
designed an abortive attempt against Judah.
b) As a first step for this
invasion, the Syrian armies assembled in Israel. The people and the king
of Judah were frightened at it.
c) The Lord told Isaiah to take his
son Shear-jashub with him to meet Ahaz out side the city
at the end of the water-supply pipe-line near the water reservoir, which
he was getting repaired in anticipation of the impending invasion/siege.
God also asked Isaiah to advise Ahaz not to be afraid of the invasion
of the coalition of Syria and Israel because their decline is already in
process and their nefarious designs against Judah are doomed to fail.
d) Within sixty five years the state
of Israel will come to an end and it will no more be a nation.
e) If Ahaz did not have faith,
he will perish.
As a surety the Lord told Ahaz
to ask for a sign. Ahaz declined and said that he will not like
to test the Lord. The Bible records the event in the following words:
10. Then the Lord spoke again to Ahaz, saying,
11. "Ask a sign for yourself from the LORD your God;
make it deep as Sheol or high as heaven."
12. But Ahaz said, "I will not ask, nor
will I test the LORD!"
13. Then he said, "Listen now, O house of David! Is it
too slight a thing for you to try the patience of men, that you will try
the patience of my God as well?
14. "Therefore the Lord Himself will give you a sign:
Behold, a virgin will be with child and bear a son, and she will call his
15. "He will eat curds and honey at the time He knows
enough to refuse evil and choose good.
16. "For before the boy will know enough to refuse
evil and choose good, the land whose two kings you dread will be forsaken.
17. "The LORD will bring on you, on your people, and
on your father’s house such days as have never come since the day that
Ephraim separated from Judah, the king of Assyria."19
The story has also been recorded in 2Kings
XVI:1-9 in the following words:
In the seventeenth year of Pekah, son of Remaliah,
Ahaz son of Jotham king of Judah became king. Ahaz was
twenty years old when he came to the throne, and he reigned in Jerusalem
for sixteen years. He did not do what was right in the eyes of the LORD
his God like his forefather David, but followed in the footsteps of the
kings of Israel; he even passed his son through the fire, adopting the
abominable practice of the nations whom the LORD had depossessed in favour
of the Israelites. He slaughtered and burnt sacrifices at the hill-shrines
and on the hill-tops and under every spreading tree.
Then Rezin king of Aram and Pekah son
of Remaliah king of Israel attacked Jerusalem and besieged Ahaz
but could not bring him to battle. At that time the king of Edom
[the king of Edom: prob. rdg.; Heb. Rezin king of Aram.—(under
foot-note ‘u’ of the book)] recovered Elath and drove the Judeans
out of it; so the Edomites entered the city and have occupied it to this
day. Ahaz sent messengers to Tiglath-pileser king of Assyria
to say: ‘I am your servant and your son. Come and save me from the king
of Aram and from the king of Israel who are attacking me.’ Ahaz
took the silver and gold found in the house of the LORD and in the
treasuries of the royal palace and sent them to the king of Assyria as
a bribe. The king of Assyria listened to him; he advanced on Damascus,
captured it, deported its inhabitants to Kir and put Rezin to death.20
As to the prediction: ‘Within sixty-five
years Ephraim will be broken, so that it will not be a people.’, it
is by way of a consolation for Ahaz and his people that they should
‘have no fear (...) because of these two stubs of smoldering firebands,’.
Taken as it is, it loses all significance, because ‘the prediction was
made about 734 B.C.,’21
(or even, maybe, in 733); and if it was to be fulfilled in the time-span
of 65 years, i.e. by 668 or 669 BC; it could be of no use for Ahaz,
who died 18 or 19 years after it: in 715 B.C.22
It could have been meaningful and consolatory for Ahaz only in case
it could spare him from the impending disaster. If it was to take place
some 65 years later, Ahaz could not have survived to celebrate it
and Judah would have been crushed to nothingness by the joint forces of
the alliance long before the predicted destruction of the two kingdoms.
Moreover it is not in conformity with the theme of the sign promised in
the forthcoming verses 14-16. It is asserted there that:
The virgin (...) will give birth to a son, and
will call his name Immanuel.(...). But before the boy knows enough to reject
the wrong and choose the right, the land of the two kings you dread will
be laid waste.23
This prediction, no doubt, could have
been very much meaningful to Ahaz. The boy’s being born and
the boy’s being able to reject the wrong and choose the right might
not have taken more than 10-15 years in all; and it is to be noted that
the devastation of the two kingdoms was to be accomplished before it,
when the forthcoming child was still undergoing the stage of ‘boyhood’.
To be more exact, it had to be accomplished before 12 years, as The Wycliffe
Bible Commentary has asserted:
That is, when he attains the age of legal accountability
(doubtless twelve years of age [stress added] ). This would come
out to 721, after the destructive campaigns of Shalmanesser V and
Sargon. Certainly by 721 Damascus was forsaken (having been captured
by Assyria in 732) and likewise Samaria (which fell in 722)24
The interpretation made by the Broadman
Bible Commentary is very interesting and it remarkably resolves the matter:
Ahaz was told specifically that before the child
knew how to refuse the evil and choose the good, that is, before
he reached the age of moral responsibility — perhaps to be understood as
12 years of age — the kings of Syria and Israel would be put to flight.
The prophecy was fulfilled in a most remarkable way, for in 732 Tigleth-pileser
III not only destroyed Damascus but also compelled Samaria to surrender
to him. [stress added].25
Moreover, it is in complete conformity
with the actual sequence of the historical events of the time. Damascus
had been conquered and its king Rezin put to death by the Assyrian king
Tiglath-pileser III (2Kings XVI:9) in 732 B.C., i.e. within one or two
years of the prediction; while, at the same time, Samaria was also
compelled to surrender to him. The significance of the event should carefully
be appreciated; it should not be over-looked or under-estimated. When the
main instigator of the alliance (king Rezin of Damascus) and his
kingdom were exterminated; king Pekah of Israel should also have
lost all hope and courage and could have no more been ‘dreadful’ for king
Ahaz, being himself a vassal of Assyria. He would have found it
difficult to save his own land from Assyria, not to say of indulging himself
in invading Judah. Broadman Commentary’s approach seems to be genuine,
when it explains the point in the passage quoted above.
It was more literally and explicitly
materialized not later than ten years of it. The capital of Israel, Samaria,
was besieged by Assyrian king Shalmaneser V in 722 BC, the capture
of which was claimed by his son, Sargon II. Deportation of its inhabitants
was carried out and foreigners were installed in their place (2Kings XVII:
5). It means that within one or two years of the prediction, the ‘dreadfulness’
of the ‘two kings’ had come to an end; and within 11 (i.e. before 12) years
of the prediction, it was conspicuously fulfilled in-toto. It should be
noted here that Isaiah uses the words ‘stubs of smoldering fire-bands’
for the two kingdoms of Israel and Syria, which signifies that the beginning
of the end of those two kingdoms had long been operative and their final
catastrophe was at hand. They are ‘smoldering fire-bands’ means: they are
like a piece or stick of wood which is in the process of burning; but it
is not burning with a flame, it is merely smudging and burning slowly.
Then the word ‘stub’ is again very picturesque and allegorical. It is a
short piece of something (e.g. a pencil, a cigarette, or a stick of wood)
left after the larger part of it has been consumed or burnt out. Dummelow
has well explained it:
RV ‘let not thine heart be faint because of these two
tails of smoking fire-bands.’ The prophet regards them as no more than
expiring torches [stress added].26
KJV uses the word ‘tail’ for this ‘stub’.
Originally, in the Hebrew Bible, the Hebrew word ‘zanab’ has been used
for it. As a primary root the word ‘zanab’ means: ‘to curtail, i.e.
cut off the rear’. Hence, figuratively (or, may be, even literally)
it means a [curtailed] tail.27
Keeping in view the historical back-ground of the age: the fast-expanding
and overwhelming Assyrian empire; and the ever-declining small Near Eastern
states; the account of Isaiah in no case seems to be an exaggeration. If
the destruction of those two kingdoms was as far away as 65 years, it would
(a) the words ‘stub of smoldering fire-bands’
are not in concordance with the real situation.
(b) They, in no way, carry any consolation or satisfaction
for Ahaz, who was facing the instant atmosphere of menace and threat
from the alliance of the neighbouring states.
That’s why the commentators of the Bible
find it difficult to interpret the verse in a satisfactory and convincing
manner. The writer of the Seventh Day Adventist Bible Commentary says:
The meaning of this prediction is uncertain. According
to the chronology of the kings followed tentatively in this commentary
(see Vol. II, pp.77, 143, 749), the prediction was made about 734 B.C.,
and no chronology places the accession of Ahaz earlier than 742. Yet by
722 Israel, the northern kingdom, had come to its end with the fall of
Samaria to the Assyrians. Some modern scholars have concluded that
the clause introduced by these words was inserted by a later hand. (...).
Assuming that the number 65 was in the original text of Isaiah, and there
is no conclusive reason for thinking that it was not, two possible fulfilments
have been suggested. Sixty-five years after 734, inclusive, would be 670,
when Esarhaddon (681-669) reigned over Assyria. It is a fact that
Esarhaddon (and after him his successor Ashurbanipal, the
Biblical Asnapper) had certain Mesopotamian peoples transported to the
former territory of the northern kingdom (Ezra 4:2-10). This was long after
Israel had come to its end as a nation (723/22). The Assyrian policy of
scattering subject peoples was designed to obliterate old national identities
and loyalties. So many Israelites of the ten tribes were absorbed into
the neighbouring populations that they have frequently been referred to
as ‘lost’ tribes. It is probable that some of them later joined the captives
from Judah and returned with them after the Exile, but as individuals in
a Jewish community that was the continuation of the old kingdom of Judah,
not of Israel.
Another interpretation has been suggested -- that the
65 years may have begun about the time of the earthquake, during the reign
of Uzziah or Jeroboam II. This earthquake was the token of
the Lord’s judgements upon Israel mentioned by Amos. If so, Isaiah here
merely refers to the fall of Samaria in 723/22. This is possible,
but not provable, because the exact date of the earthquake is not known.
Since no definite starting point of the 65 years is given, it is not possible
today -- nor is it necessary -- to determine the meaning of the prediction.
In all probability, a specific prophecy such as this was clear and meaningful
to the people in whose day it was given. Obviously, it was more important
for them to understand it than it is for us.28
The salient features of the above passage
are given below with some running comments where necessary:
i) The meanings of the prediction
ii) The prediction was made about
iii) The northern kingdom of Israel
had come to its end by 722 BC with the fall of Samaria to the Assyrians.
iv) Some modern scholars have concluded
that the clause (‘Within threescore and five years’) was inserted by a
later hand. They point to the fact that this statement seems to interrupt
the flow of thought between vs. 8 and 9. It would be pertinent here to
elaborate the observation of the worthy commentator and provide the names
and observations of some of such authorities who consider it a later addition,
or show serious reservations about its genuineness, or give it in parenthesis:
which shows that according to them the clause is not a genuine one and
is a later addition:
The New American Bible, 1991, p.788: ‘If [stress added]
the text is correct, its reference is unknown.’
The Holy Bible, R. S. V., Catholic Ed., 1966, p.694:
in ( ).
New American Standard Bible, Reference Ed.,1977, p.864:in
The New Revised Standard Version, Catholic Edition for
India, 1996, p.80: in ( ).
Christian Community Bible, na., p.523, has incorporated
this theme in the very text of the translation. Moreover, it has marked
this piece of verse 8 as ‘8b’ and has placed it in between verse 9, bifurcating
it into two pieces: ‘9a’ and ‘9b’. Its translation is: ‘Within five or
six years now Ephraim will be shattered and will no longer be a
The New Jerome Biblical Commentary, 1994, p.235: "sixty-five
years: Verse 9a is a later addition [stress added] and probably refers
to the settlement of a foreign population in Samaria by Esarhaddon.’
The New Bible Commentary, 1953, p.569: ‘These words
are regarded by some commentators as a gloss by a later writer [stress
added]: it is argued that the prophets did not normally date their predictions
in this precise way.’
The Wycliffe Bible Commentary, 1962, p.617: ‘Actually,
Samaria fell within eleven years (722 B.C.), and her population was deported
A New Commentary on Holy Scripture, 1928, p.439: ‘The
reference is obscure, and the statement seems out of place here. [stress
Peake’s Commentary on the Bible, 1967, p.495: ‘The sentence
is not in accord with the facts, and would, in any case, be cold comfort
to Ahaz. Possibly it should be read, ‘Yet six, nay five, years more...’
and placed after 9a’.
A Commentary on the Holy Bible, Dummelow, 1956,
p.419: ‘On account of the manner in which this prediction interrupts
the parallelism, some modern scholars regard it as an addition by a later
editor. [stress added]’.
v) Assuming that the number 65 was in
the original text of Isaiah, the worthy commentator gives two justifications:
(i) 65 years after the date of the proclamation of the prophecy (in 734
BC.) would be 670 BC., when Esarhaddon (681-669BC.) reigned over
Assyria. He and his successor, Ashurbanipal had transported certain
Mesopotamian peoples to former Israel, long after its extinction in 722
or 721 BC. (It is a far-fetched and worthless justification, because the
Israelites had already been transported from Israel to somewhere even beyond
Assyria in 722 or 721 BC after the fall of Samaria by the then Assyrian
king Shalmaneser V or Sargon; which shows that Israel was
completely destroyed in 722 BC. As far as Esarhaddon is concerned,
he did not transport the Israelites from Israel; he only transported certain
Mesopotamian peoples to former Israel, which does not mean that the destruction
of Israel was accomplished 65 years later by Esarhaddon.) (ii) The
second justification: that the 65 years may have begun about the time of
the earthquake, during the reign of Uzziah or Jeroboam II;
is so baseless and vague that it needs no comment at all.
vi) Since no definite starting point
of the 65 years is given, it is not possible today to determine the meaning
of the prediction. (It is obviously incorrect and an abortive attempt on
the part of the commentator to confuse the matter. He had himself stated
above that the prediction was made about 734 B.C. (3rd line of the
quotation from the commentator above)).
Matthew Henry has also offered some
interesting interpretations about the verses. While explaining verse 9,
at one point, he notes:
Interpreters are much at a loss how to compute the sixty-five
years within which Ephraim shall cease to be a people; for the captivity
of the ten tribes was but eleven years after this: and some make it a mistake
of the transcriber, and think it should be read within six and five
years, just eleven.29
While explaining verse16, he brings forward
quite a unique interpretation; which curtails the period between the utterance
and fulfilment of the prediction to three or four years:
Here is another sign in particular of the speedy destruction
of these potent princes that were now a terror to Judah, v.16. ‘Before
this child (so it should be read), this child which I have now in
my arms’ (he means not Immanuel, but Shear-jashub his own son, whom
he was ordered to take with him for a sign, v.3), ‘before this child
shall know how to refuse the evil and choose the good’ (and those who
saw what his present stature and forwardness were would easily conjecture
how long that would be), ‘before this child be three or four years older
[from now], the land that thou abhorest, these confederate forces
of Israelites and Syrians, which thou hast such an enmity to and standest
in such dread of, shall be forsaken of both their kings, both Pekah
and Rezin,’ who were in so close an alliance that they seemed as if they
were the kings but of one kingdom. This was fully accomplished; for, within
two or three years after this, Hoshea conspired against Pekah,
and slew him (2Kings xv.30), and, before that, the king of Assyria took
Damascus , and slew Rezin, 2Kings xvi. 9. Nay, there was a present
event, which happened immediately, and which this child carried the prediction
of in his name, which was a pledge and earnest of this further event. Shear-jashub
signifies The remnant shall return, which doubtless points at
the wonderful return of those 200,000 captives whom Pekah and Rezin
had carried away, who were brought back, not by might or power, but
by the Spirit of the Lord of hosts. Read the story, 2 Chron xxviii. 8-15.
The prophetic naming of this child having thus had its accomplishment,
no doubt this, which was further added concerning him, should have its
accomplishment likewise that Syria and Israel should be deprived of both
From all the above references and dissertations
the following conclusions can be safely arrived at without any strained
a) The prophecy was pronounced by
the prophet Isaiah to Ahaz, king of the southern kingdom of Judah, more
than seven hundred years prior to the birth of Jesus.
b) At that time Ahaz was facing
the threat of invasion by the alliance of Syria and Israel to dethrone
him and establish some Tabeel in his place as their puppet.
c) Ahaz thought that he could
not withstand the invasion and decided to seek patronage from the then
super power of the region, Tiglath-pileser III, the pagan king of
d) God did not like that Ahaz should
relinquish the liberty of the land and the people of Judah to a pagan king,
who could otherwise do no harm to Ahaz or Judah.
e) It was at this stage that the prophecy
was addressed to Ahaz by Isaiah as directed by the Lord Himself.
f) To all intents and contents, the
prophecy was to console and ensure Ahaz that the coalition could
do him no harm, was nothing to be afraid of, and was itself to be exterminated
in the very near future -- within a period of a few years; and before the
very eyes of his.
g) The cycle of the fulfilment of
the prophecy started functioning within months, and Tiglath-pileser
of Assyria, who was already entangled with the members of the coalition
(it may be noted here that the very purpose of the formation of the
coalition was to defend against the fast-encroaching advancements of Assyria),
began to occupy vast territories of Syria and Israel; and within an year
or two captured Syria; putting her king Rezin to death. As to the
king of Israel, Pekah son of Remaliah, his kingdom became
subject to the Assyrian invasion within months depriving him of most of
his territories leaving almost only the capital Samaria under his
control. King Pekah himself was assassinated by a conspiracy
led by Hoshea, who succeeded him, in c.732 BC. It can thus be appreciated
that both the kings who plotted against Judah were murdered and the alliance
had been shattered and was no more a threat for Ahaz, which becomes
a partial fulfilment of the prophecy.
h) The prophecy was fulfilled in-toto
within the time span of eleven to twelve years with the fall of Jerusalem
to Assyria in 722 BC.
i) Naturally, once fulfilled in letter
and spirit, the prophecy had nothing to do with any event to occur at any
time or stage of the history of man-kind.
j) The application of the prophecy
to the birth of Jesus Christ -- an event taking place seven and a quarter
centuries after the complete and perfect fulfilment of the prophecy --
is quite arbitrary, absurd and baseless.
That’s why a great number of the Christian
authorities is also of the same opinion, for example:
A New Commentary on Holy Scripture observes:
‘As delivered by Isaiah, its only reference was to the immediate future
[stress added], and amongst the Jews it was never connected with the
Messiah: see Gore, Dissertations, 289 f.’31
Peakes Commentary records: ‘It is not a
direct prediction of Christ, or even of a scion of David’s line who would
rule his people in justice and peace (...). since the Christian affirms
that this hope, and all the hope of Israel, found its ultimate fulfillment
in Christ, he may say that this prophecy too points onward to him.’32
The Seventh-day Adventist B. Commentary asserts:
‘the prediction here made had an immediate application within
the frame-work of the historical circumstances set forth in the chapter.
The Broadman Bible Commentary has recorded
its observations as follows: ‘A particularly important rule to remember
in exegesis is that no verse of Scripture can be properly understood
apart from its context (stress added). In this case the context
unquestionably demands that the promised child serve as a sign to
king Ahaz, thus ruling out the possibility that Isaiah
was looking into the far distant future. The birth and early
childhood of Immanuel were related to events that transpired in the later
half of the eighth century B.C. The specific events in question were
the defeat of Israel and Syria (vv. 15-16) and the invasion of Judah by
the Assyrians (vv.17-25). To overlook these facts is to miss the whole
point of the passage (stress added)."34
From the above discussion, it is to
be concluded that the prophecy relates to a specific historical background
-- that of the latter half of the eighth century BC -- and should be translated
and interpreted accordingly.
1. Masoretic Text; Dead Sea
Scrolls: ‘and he’ or ‘and they’ (note b14 by the
2. NIV - Isa. VII:14-16, p.615.
3. J. Barton Payne, Encycl. of
Biblical Prophecy, Hodder and Stoughton,London,1973, pp.292,93 and p.666.
4. The Bible - Mt. I:22f.
5. J.L. McKenzie, Dictionary of the
Bible, Geoffrey Chapman, London, 1984, p.397. [758 to 698 B.C. according to W.
Smith, A Dic. of the Bible, Regency Reference Library, Zondervan Publishing
House, Grand Rapids, Michigan, 1967, p.267 ; and approximately between 740
and 701 B.C. according to Paul J. Achtemeier (Gen. Ed.), Harper’s Bible
Dictionary, T.P.I., Bangalore, 1994, p.426.]
6. Harper’s B. Dictionary,
7. According to J.L.McKenzie,
op.cit., p.16; Harper’s, op.cit., p.17; The Interpreter’s, Dic. of the
B., Vol.I, Abingdon Press, Nashville, NY., 1962, p,64; and Siegfried H. Horn,
Seventh Day Adventist B. Dic., Review and Herald® Publishing Association,
Hagerstown, p.32; and 741-726 according to W. Smith op.cit.;
and 733-721 according to T.K. Cheyne and J, Sutherland Black (Editors), Encycl.
Biblica,Vol.I, Watts and Co., London, E.c., 1899, p./c.95; and
735-719 BC according to the Jewish Encyclopedia, KTAV Publishing
House, Inc., N.Y.,!901, Vol.I, p.285.
8. Jotham was the son and
successor of Uzziah or Azariah, and was king of Judah ca.750-35
9. ‘Pekah (open-eyed), son
of Remaliah, originally a captain of Pekahiah king of Israel,
murdered his master, seized the throne, and became the 18th sovereign of the
northern kingdom, B.C. 757-740. Under his predecessors, Israel had been much
weakened through the payment of enormous tribute to the Assyrians (see esp.
2Kings 15:20), and by internal wars and conspiracies. Pekah seems to have
steadily applied himself to the restoration of its power. For this purpose he
contracted a foreign alliance, and fixed his mind on the plunder of the sister
kingdom of Judah. (...) When, however, his (the then king of Judah, Jotham’s)
weak son Ahaz succeeded to the crown of David, the allies no longer hesitated,
but entered upon the siege of Jerusalem, B.C. 742. (...). The kingdom of
Damascus was finally suppressed and Rezin put to death, while Pekah was
deprived of at least half his kingdom (...). Pekah himself, now fallen
into the position of Assyrian vassal, was of course compelled to abstain from
further attacks on Judah. (...), Hoshea the son of Elah conspired
against him and put him to death.’ (W. Smith’s Dic. of the B., op.cit.
10. Remaliah had been a
captain of the king of Israel, Pekahiah, murdered his master and became
the 18th sovereign of and reigned over Israel for 757-740 BC.
11. Capital of Aram, which
was the name of Syria in those days.
12. ‘King of Damascus. He
attacked Jotham during the later part of his reign, 2Kings 15:37; but his
chief war was with Ahaz, whose territories he invaded, in conjunction
with Pekah, in about B.C.741. Though unsuccessful in his siege of
Jerusalem, 2Kings 16:5; Isa.7:1, he ‘recovered Elath to Syria.’
2Kings 16:6. Soon after he was attacked, defeated and slain by Tiglath-pileser
II [or III?], king of Assyria. 2Kings 16:9.’ (W. Smith, A Dic. of the B.,
‘Aramaean king of Damascus. In 735 BC he formed an
alliance with Pekah of Israel against Judah, then ruled by Jotham, to
compel Judah to join a coalition against Assyria. Jotham died very
shortly afterwards, and his successor Ahaz offered tribute to
Tiglat-pileser III of Assyria and asked for assistance.’ (J.L. McKenzie’s
Dic. of the B., p.738.)
13. His original name was Pulu.
He was the sovereign of Assyria during 745-727 BC. ‘Before the accession of Tiglath-pileser
Assyrian power had fallen to a low estate under a series of weak kings. Tigleth-pileser
attained the throne by a Coup d`’etat of which the details are not known;
he was not a member of the reigning royal family. From his accession he
exhibited extraordinary ability and industry; he is the true founder of the
Assyrian empire, which endured for 100 years after his death. He conquered the
Aramaean tribes of Babylonia and made himself king of Babylon; this attempt to
settle the Babylonian question by personal union of the two monarchies of
Babylon and Assyria was imitated by some of his successors. He transported many
of the peoples of Babylonia to other regions of the empire; he was the first to
practice transportation on a large scale with the deliberate purpose of breaking
national and tribal consciousness and uniting all subjects under the one
monarchy of Assyria. (...). He conquered Galilee and Gilead in 734 BC and
incorporated them into an Assyrian province. Damascus was defeated and razed in
732; this kingdom also was incorporated into an Assyrian province. Other kings
of Syria and Palestine submitted and paid tribute. [J.L. McKenzie, Dic. of the
Bl., op.cit., p.890.]
14. Levant is the name for the
countries of the eastern coast of the Mediterranean.
15. Harper’s B. Dic., op.cit.,
16. Seventh-day Adventist B.
Dic., op.cit.,1979, p.24.
17. Stub means: "short
end piece or stump remaining from a pencil, cigarette or similarly-shaped
object; butt" (Oxf. Adv. Learners Dic., p.907)
18. The NKJV - Isa.
19. NASB - Isa.VII:10-17.
Note: The concept of the v.17 is not clear in this version. To make the concept
clear, it would be desirable to look into some other translations as well:
NKJV-- "The LORD will bring the king of Assyria
upon you and your people and your father’s house--days that have not come
since the day that Ephraim departed from Judah."
NAB -- The LORD shall bring upon you and your people and your
father’s house days worse than any since Ephraim seceded from Judah.
[This means the king of Assyria.]
GNB -- "The LORD is going to bring on you, on your
people, and on the whole royal family, days of trouble worse than any that have
come since the kingdom of Israel separated from Judah--he is going to bring the
king of Assyria.
20. NEB - 2Kg. XVI:1-9, p.286.
21. The Seventh Day Adventist
BIBLE COMMENTARY, Review and Herald® Publishing Association, Hagerstown, 1977,
22. ‘Ahaz (...) The 12th
occupant of the throne of the kingdom of Judah, who reigned approximately 20
years (c. 735-c.715 B.C.), (...). After his father’s death he reigned 16 years
(2Ki 16:2; 2Chr 28:1).’ (Seventh Day Adventist Dictionary Revd. Ed., p.23).
J.L. McKenzie has also recorded his reigning period as 735-715 BC. in his B.
23. NIV - Isa. VII:14-16.
24. The Wycliffe B. Commentary,
Ed. by Charles F. Pfeiffer and Everett F. Harrison, Moody Press, Chicago, 1962,
25. The Broadman Bible
Commentary, Vol.5, p.216.
26. A Commentary on the Holy
Bible, Ed. Rev. J. R. Dummelow, N. Y., The Macmillan Company, 1956, p.918.
27. Strong’s Exhaustive
Concordance together with Dictionaries of the Hebrew and Greek Words, Baker Book
House, Grand Rapids, Michigan, 1984, p.35: entry Nos.2179,2180.
28. The Seventh Day Adventist
BIBLE COMMENTARY, Review and Herald® Publishing Association, Hagerstown, 1977,
29. Matthew Henry, An Exposition
of the Old and New Testament Vol.V, N.Y., Robert Carter & Brothers, n.a., p.
30. Matthew Henry, op.cit., p.48.
31. A New Commentary on Holy
Bible, Ed. Charles Gore, p.439.
32. Peake’s Commentary on the
Bible, Ed. Matthew Black, Nelson, 1967, p.495.
33. The Seventh-day Adventist B.
Commentary, Vol.4, p.135.
34. The Broadman Bible
Commentary, Vol.5, p.215.