THE ORACLE OF IMMANUEL.
Isaiah, one of the great prophets, is the author of the oracle of Immanuel. The prophet states in Is.7:14.
“The Lord himself, therefore, will give you a sign. It is this; the maiden is with child and will soon give birth to a son whom she will call Immanuel.”
The Oracle of Immanuel is one of the outstanding “royal messiah” texts of Isaiah. The oracle is delivered in the royal court of king Ahaz of Judah.
Many interpreters identify the proffered “Sign” with the birth of Hezekiah, the son of Ahaz and the future king of Judah.
In reference to another historical context, the oracle of Isaiah is reminiscent of the oracle of prophet Nathan in 2 Sam.7:12-16. This oracle stipulates and places emphasis on the permanence, sovereignty, continuity and eternity of the dynasty of King David.
The prophetic name given to the child-son is Immanuel. The Hebrew name means: God –is-with-us or May-God-be -with-us.
The Christian tradition, interprets Is. 7:14 to be a hidden prophecy and direct prediction of the virgin birth of Jesus, the Messiah.
The texts of Mathew 1:23 quotes Is.7:14 as the actual fulfillment of the prophecy concerning the virgin birth of Christ. The text states:
“The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son and they will call him Immanuel.”
The Christian tradition raises controversial and very serious considerations against the claim of the virgin and the virgin birth.
The controversy rests on the following arguments [i] prophet Isaiah uses the word maiden which in Hebrew corresponds to almah. The Hebrew word is a feminine name for a girl, maiden, who has reached the age of puberty. The maiden is marriageable but unmarried.
[ii] The Septuagint (Lxx), the Greek version of the bible translates almah as parthenos which explicitly means virgin. This translation is strongly challenged by Hebrew scholars.
[iii] The vulgate, the translation of the Greek version into Latin, renders parthenos virgo meaning virgin.
[iv] The strict Hebrew word for virgin and thus implying virginity is betulah. Prophet Isaiah does not use the word betulah but almah.
[v] It needs to be stated explicitly that prophet Isaiah never had the intent of using the word betulah meaning virgin. He uses the word almah meaning maiden.
[vi] In Mathew 1:23, the evangelist uses the word parthenos – the virgin will conceive- which has no Hebrew correspondence.
[vii] it can hardly be said explicitly that Mathew is using the text in reference to the virgin birth. The evangelist in all possibility is referring to the text much in the sense as it in Isaiah, which is as prediction of the birth of an heir to the dynasty of King David.
The Christian tradition, in all faith and piety has idealized almah to be and to mean parthenos, virgo and virgin.