Israel’s sin was catapulting the nation of Israel into certain ruin. Israel needed salvation, and God’s plan was to bring them salvation. In chapters 7-12 we find a recurring theme that God’s promise of salvation would include several children of special prophetic significance (7:3, 14-16; 8:1-4; 9:6-7; 10:20-23; 11:1-5).

The apostle Matthew draws a connection between the promises of Isaiah 7:14-16 to the virgin birth of Jesus Christ, telling us that the virgin birth of Jesus brought a fulfillment to Isaiah 7:14-16 (Matt. 1:18-25). An exegetical study of Isaiah 7 in its own literary and historical context shows us that there is more that needs to be said about the relationship of the two passages. Today’s blog will focus only on the meaning of Isaiah chapter 7. Chapters 8-12 will continue to fill out this grand, prophetic picture.

Chapter 7 brings us to a new section that extends through chapter 12, a section that revolves around judgment and salvation messages against Jerusalem and Judah.  When God gave Isaiah his call to prophesy in chapter 6, God warned Isaiah that the people were not going to listen.  We now begin to see the outworking of this truth.[1]  Will God’s people put their faith in Yahweh or the powers of Assyria for deliverance?[2]  Sadly, they are not going to trust Yahweh.  Chapter 7 introduces us to their lack of trust and how this lack of trust would cost them dearly.  Nevertheless, God has a plan to save His people one day through a very special promised child, a repeated focus of chapters 7-12.

THE FUTILITY OF ASSYRIAN PLANS PROMISED CHILD, Pt. 1 (7:1-25vs.9-11)

One of the most fascinating topics of biblical studies is that of messianic prophecy, the study of Old Testament prophecies that predicted the coming of the Messiah.  It has been estimated that there are over 60 specific prophecies that were fulfilled in the first coming of Christ alone.  Josh McDowell explains the odds of fulfilling only eight prophecies in one individual.  McDowell says, “we find that the chance that any man might have lived down to the present time an fulfilled all eight prophecies is one in ten to the seventeenth power. That is 1 in 100,000,000,000,000,000.”[3]  To illustrate, McDowell says this would be like covering the state of Texas with silver dollars two feet deep, marking one with a pen, randomly dropping a blindfolded man from a helicopter, and having that man pick out that one silver dollar on the first try.  The odds are astronomical. Isaiah 7-12 gives a number of messianic prophecies, but some of them take the form of what theologians call typology.  Typology might be called a subset of prophecy where a historical person, place or institution serves to foreshadow some eschatological truth that is fulfilled in the Messiah.

Chapter 7 introduces us to one of the most-famous passages of typology in the Bible, a passage where God is assuring the king of Judah that he can put his complete trust in the Lord.  The signs God promises in this chapter are meant to encourage King Ahaz to trust in God’s protection in the immediate crisis (the type), but they also contain long-term messianic implications as well (the antitype).  God gives two signs to the king as proof that He would sustain the Davidic Dynasty and not let it fall.

First sign from God:  The sign that comes when God promises and then destroys your enemy right before your eyes (vv. 1-9)

God tells Ahaz he has nothing to fear from the two enemy powers who were threatening to overthrow the throne of David, for God Himself would bring them down.[1]  Isaiah gives Ahaz two reasons why he needed to trust.

First reason Judah needed the Lord’s salvation (vv. 1-2)

Sound exegesis always searches for relevant historical data to help understand the setting.  This is part of what is called Bible Introduction.

The historical context as being during the days of Ahaz (v. 1).  Ahaz ruled as king of Judah from 735-715, but he was not a man of God (cf. 2 Kings 16:1-11).  Jotham, the father of Ahaz, was an effective ruler (750-735), and in general “he did what was right in the sight of the Lord” (2 Kings 15:34).  Ahaz also had a godly example in his grandfather Uzziah (ca. 792-750), not a perfect man, but one who trusted the Lord.  Ahaz had godly ancestors, but he himself did not trust the Lord.

Historical studies place the events of chapter 7 in 734 B.C., the year after Ahaz came to the throne.[2]  Isaiah indicates that Judah was being attacked by a coalition of two nations, Aram, i.e., Syria (led by Rezin), and Israel (led by Pekah).  These two nations had already tried to overthrow Judah in 735, but did not succeed (v.1).  Ahaz then received another report that these two nations were making plans for another attack (v. 2).[3]  Ahaz and the people of Judah were terrified (hearts shaking like trees).  The goal of this invasion was to overthrow Judah and force them into a coalition to fight Assyria.

To state the problem bluntly, Ahaz did not trust the Lord.  Earlier he had done the right thing when he rejecteda deal by Israel and Syria to join their alliance against Assyria (7:6; cf. 2 Kings 16:5), but then he turned right around paid Assyria tribute money to help Judah against Israel and Aram (2 Kings 16:7).  Assyria, however, eventually broke the deal and invaded Judah after overthrowing Gaza, Galilee, and Gilead, overthrowing Damascus in 732 and Samaria in 722.  Samaria’s eventual fall (722) resulted in many Jews being taken captive (2 Kings 17)and many foreigners getting settled in Israel in the days of Esarhaddon (671), making the beginnings of the Samaritan people group (cf. Ezra 4:2)Ahab’s fascination with Assyria evenled him to place an Assyrian altar in the Jerusalem temple (2 Kings 16:10-16; 2 Chron. 28:1-24).

Syria and Israel had already tried to overthrow Judah under Jotham, but they did not succeed (cf. 2 Kings 15:36-38).  Second Chronicles 28:1-12 speaks about other battles involving Ahaz after he  came to the throne where Judah suffered a massive defeat with the death of 120,000 troops (and even the king’s son) and 200,000 people taken as slaves by Israel.[4]  God intervened by sending the prophet Obed to order Israel to restore the captives, and they did.  The dangers to Judah were real, but Judah’s true need was to trust the Lord (Pss. 108:12; 118:8; Jer. 17:5-7).

Another imminent threat (v. 2).  Syria and Israel were preparing for another invasion of Judah, and Syria had already moved troops into Israel in preparation.  The real problem, though, was that Ahaz did not trust in the Lord.  God sent Isaiah to remind Ahaz that he really needed the Lord.

Second reason Judah needed the Lord’s salvation (vv. 3-9)

Truth is what matters.  Ahaz needed to know and believe the truth of God, so the Lord sent him the prophet Isaiah.

God sends Isaiah to assure Ahaz he need not fear (v. 3).[5]  Ahaz was assessing the water supplies of Jerusalem at the end of the conduit of the upper pool on the highway to the fuller’s field, a reservoir that may have held water from the Gihon Spring near Jerusalem.[6]  The precise location of this pool has been debated with some placing it (1) at the confluence of the Kidron and Tyropean Valleys (cf. 36:2 where the King of Assyria would stand), or (2) at the foot of Zion in the Hinnom where we find Siloah-Gihon (8:6; cf. 1 kings 1:33; 2 Chron. 32:30), or (3) that the stream divided making two pools, an upper pool (Neh. 2:15), and a lower pool (Isa. 22:9).[7]  Regardless of the exact location, the issue at stake is this:

An adequate water supply is imperative for a city under siege. The king was probably satisfying himself as to this or making arrangements for its improvement. He was therefore engaged in an activity directly related to the situation described in v. 1.[8]

Interestingly, God also told Isaiah to take along his son whose name was She’ar Yashub.[9]  It is curious that Judah was in the midst of a national crisis and yet God is going to have Isaiah take along his son to confront the king.

God tells Ahaz not to fear (v. 4).  Isaiah is to give Ahaz a four-fold command to not fear an attack by Rezin and Pekah (a murderer and usurper as seen in 2 Kings 15):  “take care; be calm; have no fear; do not be fainthearted.”  He then mockingly calls these two kings “two stubs of smoldering fire brands.”  In God’s estimation they are nothing but charred, smoldering sticks (Amos 4:11; Zech. 3:2).

God exposes the plans of Rezin and Pekah (vv. 5-6).  He tells Ahaz that their plan was to invade Jerusalem, overthrow the Davidic dynasty, and set up a puppet king named Tabeel whom they would control, thus forcefully bringing Judah into their anti-Assyrian coalition.  God makes it clear that He already knew about their plans, and also that He was not going to let them succeed.  In the meantime, however, Ahaz had sent the envoys to the king of Assyria with a bribe to have him turn aside Syria and Israel (2 Kings 16:7-9; 2 Chron. 28:16).  His trust was not in the Lord.

The Davidic dynasty will not fall to Israel and Syria (v. 7).  God makes it forcefully clear that He was not going to let them succeed in overthrowing the Davidic Dynasty (cf. 2 Sam. 7:12-16; Pss. 2; 89; 132).[10]  Now, in a little over 100 years God would interrupt the Davidic dynasty by having Nebuchadnezzar overthrow Judah, but that overthrow was not going to happen by Syria and Israel.

God reinforces His message (vv. 8-9).  God reinforces His message by making it clear that Syria had its own capital (Damascus) and king (Rezin) and that Israel also had its own capital (Samaria) and king (Pekah).  That is, Judah and Jerusalem did not belong to them.  Furthermore, within 65 years the people of Israel (“Ephraim”) would be so diluted through exile and foreign repopulation that they would not even exist as a distinct people group anymore.  Syria and Israel would soon fall to Assyria, but the eventual impact from Ashurbanipal (669-626) would also bring a death blow to her national identity.  Kidner notes that,

Syria was crushed in 732, while Israel lost her northern territories as early as 734, her national existence in 722 [2 Kings 17], and her racial identity through a series of re-peoplings which continued to at least the reign of Esarhaddon (cf. Ezr. 4:2). By the end of this (669 bc) she was indeed too shattered to be a people (8).[11]

The main message for Ahaz was that God was not going to let the Davidic dynasty fall to Syria and Israel.  All he had to do was believe.  The warning, though, is that a failure to believe the promise (Hiph. of ’aman) would mean that they would also experience a military onslaught (Niph. of ’aman).

It was very soon after this in 734 that Tiglath Pileser began his westward movement and Ahaz allied himself with Assyria (2 Kings 16:7).  Within two years, Damascus fell to Assyria in 732 (2 Kings 16:9; Isa. 17).  After this, Assyria invaded the Philistine coastal plain, and many parts of Israel fell to Assyria (Isa. 14:28-32).  Egypt instigated a revolt in 724 (2 Kings 17:4ff.) during the reign of Shalmaneser, but the revolt was short lived, and because of Israel’s part in the revolt, Assyria came and overthrew Samaria in 722.  Hosea explains it as being the judgment of God:  “I gave you a king in My anger, and I am taking him away in My wrath.”  All that was left in Israel was a lowly residue.  It was under Esarhaddon (65 years later) that Assyria re-located massive numbers of foreigners in Israel, putting an end to Israel’s national identity (2 Kings 17:24; Ezra 4:2; 2 Chron. 33:11).

At this moment in 734 B.C., though, God had given His promise to Ahaz that Syria and Israel would not overthrow the Davidic dynasty.  Sadly, Ahaz refused to trust the Lord (cf. 2 Chron. 28:16-27).  The result was an invasion that brought Judah to its knees (cf. Isa. 7:17-25; 8:5-8).  Over the next 30 years Assyria ravaged Judah, and it was not until 701 B.C. during the reign of Hezekiah that God brought the Assyrians such a blow that they eventually pulled back (chs. 36-37).  The promise has been given (vv. 1-9), but Ahaz failed to trust the prophetic sign, leading God to give a second prophetic sign in verses 10-25.

Second sign from God:  The sign that comes when God promises and then destroys your enemy right before your eyes (vv. 10-25)

Ahaz did not listen the first time, so God spoke again in verses 10-25 with a second prophetic sign.  This passage is filled with interpretive challenges which call for great exegetical care.

Interpretive challenges of the following section

Verses 10-25 reinforce the prophetic promises in verses 1-9, but this section includes one of the most-famous (and most-debated) prophetic passages of the whole Bible.  Numerous interpretive issues are involved.

New Testament use of the Old Testament.  The New Testament uses the Old Testament in a variety of ways.  One way is direct prophecy where the New Testament use reflects a direct and literal meaning of the Old Testament (e.g., Luke 19:42/Dan. 9:24-27; Matt. 2:6/Mic. 5:2).  Second, sometimes the New Testament makes an application from a principle in the Old Testament (e.g., 1 Tim. 5:18; cf. Deut. 25:24).  Kaiser adds another category he calls “applications” where the New Testament applies something to Christ using some kind of specific term or theological concept (e.g., Rom. 8:32/Gen. 22).[12]  A fourth kind takes place in typology wherein the New Testament makes reference to a real historical person, place, or institution in the Old Testament and shows that the historical event also serves as a shadow (a type) of something in the New Testament.[13]  The authority for this connection comes from the Spirit-inspired New Testament prophet.

Matthew’s use of Isaiah.  How should we understand Matthew’s use of Isaiah 7:14 (Matt. 1:18-25)?  Is the virgin birth of Jesus the fulfillment a direct prophecy in Isaiah 7?[14]  This writer believes there is good reason for not treating this as the fulfillment of a direct prophecy, but as biblical typology.  In other words, the “prophecy” of Isaiah 7:14 (which flows into chapter 8) was speaking about historical events fulfilled in the days of Isaiah, but God was using these events from the time of Isaiah to typologically point to truths that would be fulfilled in Christ as revealed in the New Testament by the Holy Spirit.[15]

Ahaz rejects God’s offer for a sign (vv. 10-13)

God tells Ahaz to ask him for any kind of sign to prove that He was going to deliver Judah from Syria and Israel (vv. 10-11), and the sign can be as big as Ahaz wants.[16]  Ahaz feigns a pious façade by saying he did not want to tempt the Lord by asking for a sign (cf. Deut. 6:16), a sign that God already told him He would give.[17]  Isaiah rebukes his empty piety (v. 13).  The problem, explains Oswalt, is that, “what they have rejected as foolish—reliance upon God’s care and presence—is ultimate wisdom, while their wisdom—that Assyria can be trusted to look for Judah’s interests—is errant nonsense.”[18]  Young explains, “[Ahaz was] a ‘practical’ man to whom the worship of Yahweh has little meaning,”[19] so he refused to ask.[20]

The giving of a sign of deliverance (vv. 14-16)

God tells Ahaz that He Himself will provide the proof (a sign, ’oth) that He would not let Judah fall to Syria and Israel.[21]  As proof, God says,

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 name Immanuel.  He will eat curds and honey at the time He knows enough to refuse evil and choose good.  For before the boy will know enough to refuse evil and choose good, the land whose two kings you dread will be forsaken (vv. 14-16).

Let us make three initial observations about this promised child.

First observation:  The promised child will come to a young lady who is currently an unmarried maiden (v. 14a).  The promise begins by saying that that a virgin will conceive and bear a child.[22]  As recognized by all Hebrew scholars, the term used for “virgin” in 7:14 (‘almah) is not the actual Hebrew word for “virgin” (bethulah).  Bethulah is the more precise term that means “virgin,” so Oswalt explains that it is hard to see why Isaiah used the ambiguous ‘almah if he was wanting to make a prophecy about the virgin birth of Jesus.[23]  The term ‘almah  comes from a root that conveys the idea of coming to fullness or maturity.  In the Bible it is frequently used to refer to young women who have arrived at a level of physical maturity so that they are now marriageable young ladies, i.e., unmarried maidens—young maidens who would also be expected to be sexually pure in the context of Old Testament Israel (cf. Gen. 24:43; Exod. 2:8; 1 Chron. 15:20; Ps. 46:1; 68:25; Prov. 30:19; Song 1:3; 6:8).  It is true that the LXX translates ‘almah in 7:14 by the Greek term parthenos, the Greek word that means “virgin,” but this translation must not be seen as the dominating point in seeking to understand the meaning of ‘almah in 7:14.  Wolf notes that we find a parallel usage of two cognate Ugaritic terms in one Ugaritic document that sheds considerable light on how these two terms in Isaiah might properly be understood.  Wolf explains that the Ugaritic text conveys the idea that,

a particular virgin would soon be engaged and that after her marriage she would become the mother of a son.  At the time the prediction was made, she was a virgin.  This kind of announcement was a blessing on the upcoming marriage.[24]

Commenting on the implications of these parallels, Wolf states, “A close study of Isaiah 7 and 8 reveals the same picture.  Isaiah was about to be engaged to a prophetess,”[25] and what we learn is that this future wife of Isaiah was the one who was currently the unmarried maiden (almah) who would soon give birth to another son to Isaiah.[26]  This writer concurs with Wolf’s explanation.  Pfeiffer echoes these same ideas when he writes,

This well fits the prospective mother alluded to in this situation. Judging from 8:1-4, the typical mother was the prophetess who became Isaiah’s wife within a short time after this prophecy was spoken. Therefore she was a virgin at the time this promise was given. She serves as a type of the Virgin Mary, who remained a virgin even after her miraculous conception by the Holy Spirit. The son of this prophetess, correspondingly, is a type of the Messianic Immanuel, as will shortly be explained. 15.[27]

In conclusion, the mother who would soon bear this child was still a young, unmarried virgin.  However, she would soon marry Isaiah and bear the promised child, all of it as Syria and Israel were being weakened as a sign to unbelieving Ahaz.[28]

Second observation:  The promised child will be given a symbolic name (v. 14b).  The mother would name her child Immanuel.  Many people in the ANE had names with some sort of spiritual significance, so it is not surprising that this child would also.[29]  The literal meaning of the name Immanuel is “God with us.”  What is the significance of this name?  Matthew’s application of Isaiah 7:14 to Jesus serves as a confirmation of the deity of the Son of God.[30]  However, is this the idea being conveyed in the context of Isaiah?  Perhaps not.

We see the name Immanuel used several times in this section (chs. 7-12).  The most significant observations come from two uses in 8:8-10.  What we see is the empty confidence of unsaved Judeans who thought that they would be exempt from invasion and defeat because of God’s choice of Israel, David, Jerusalem, and the temple.  The empty confidence of the unsaved Judeans reflected itself in open declarations that an overthrow of Jerusalem was impossible since God is “with us” (“Immanuel”).  Their empty faith was not going to save them.  When God tells Isaiah that his son would be called Immanuel, this was a form of sarcastic rebuke that He was not going to deliver them.  Yes, Jesus is God in flesh, but this is not the original sense of how Isaiah was using the expression.[31]

Third observation:  By the time the child reaches the age of moral awareness, the Syro/Israel threat will be gone (vv. 15-16).  It is the flowing context of verses 15-16 which solidifies the solution proposed above.  The two statements found in verses 15-16 make it clear that the promised child is one to be born in the immediate historical context.

Here in verse 15, Isaiah states, “He will eat curds and honey at the time he knows enough to refuse evil and choose good.”  This statement is enigmatic on a first reading, but the flowing context explains it.  God’s promise is that by the time the promised child (Immanuel) is able to have the capacity for making moral judgments (cf. similar wording in Gen. 2:17; Deut. 1:39; 1 Kings 3:9; Isa. 5:20; Jonah 4:11), his primary diet is going to be that of curds (chem’ah, sour milk, butter[32]) and honey (debash, probably bee honey, although the term was also used for honey made out of dates[33]).  At what age do children develop the capacity for understanding moral instruction?  This is probably best understood as being something roughly around two to three years of age.[34]  But why will this child be eating curds and honey within two years?  The answer is found in verses 17-25 that within two to three years Assyrian armies are going to invade and so devastate the vineyards and fields that the only food source is going to be curds and honey.[35]

Verse 16 reinforces verses 14-15 with a second statement and makes it explicit what the essence of God’s promise is:  “For before the boy will know enough to refuse evil and choose good, the land whose two kings you dread will be forsaken.”  Not only will the Assyrian invasion mean devastation to the land of Judah, but it will also mean a complete weakening of Syria and Israel so that the danger of them overthrowing the Davidic dynasty will be gone forever.[36]

Historical sources show us that Tiglath Pileser began invading very soon after these prophecies in 734 B.C., and very shortly after this his armies both conquered Damascus and invaded Israel, all within a space of two years (Samaria fell in 722).[37]  His invasions did not stop with the overthrow of Syria and Israel, however, but they came all the way into Judah as well.[38]  As a result, the land was left in complete devastation (vv. 17-25; cf. 2 Kings 15:29; 16:9).  Martin summarizes:

Within about three years (nine months for the pregnancy and two or three years until the boy would know the difference between good and evil) the alliance would be broken. It was broken in 732 b.c. when Tiglath-Pileser III destroyed Damascus. After Tiglath-Pileser had defeated Aram and put Rezin to death Ahaz went to Damascus to meet the Assyrian monarch (2 Kings 16:7–10). Ahaz liked an altar he saw in Damascus, and had a sketch of it drawn so a similar altar could be set up in Jerusalem. No wonder Isaiah and God were angry with Ahaz. Even after the alliance had been broken by Tiglath-Pileser Judah had no peace. Though Assyria did not defeat Judah, she had to pay Assyria a heavy tribute.[39]

The consequences for disbelief (vv. 17-25)

God had given Ahaz the assurance that He would not let the Davidic dynasty fall, but Ahaz did not believe God, a disbelief that would have serious consequences (7:9).[40]  Here in 17-25 God explains that these consequences.  We can break down 17-25 into five particular warnings.[41]

First warning:  It will be one of the worst events in history (v. 17).  Up to this time, one of the worst events in the history of Israel took place in 931 B.C. when the kingdom of Israel separated with ten of the tribes, breaking off to follow a false king and a false worship system in a separate kingdom called Israel (cf. 2 Kings 12).  Judah and Benjamin stayed loyal to the son of David in Jerusalem and the worship of Yahweh in the temple of Jerusalem (the kingdom of Judah).  The coming calamity will be even worse—the “the king of Assyria.”[42]  If Ahaz thought Syria and Israel were bad problems, he would soon find out how brutal the Assyrians were.[43]

Second warning:  It will leave nothing untouched (vv. 18-19).  God makes it clear that He is the One who has planned this invasion, for He is the One who will “whistle for the fly that is in the remotest part of the rivers of Egypt and for the bee that is in the land of Assyria” (v. 18). 

Throughout its history, Israel was often caught in the middle between the power structures to the south (the fly in Egypt; cf. 18:1) and the powers to the north (the bee in Assyria/Babylon).  Even though Ahaz thought he could summon aid from these powers, in reality God was the One at work who would bring in these powers for the purposes of judging His faithless people (cf. 5:26 for the same whistle metaphor).[44]  God is bringing in enemy armies, and they will “come and settle on the steep ravines, on the ledges of the cliffs, on all the thorn bushes and on all the watering places” (v. 19).  The timing of all these events is hard to pinpoint,[45] but clearly it will overwhelm the land.

Third warning:  It will bring severe humiliation (v. 20).  God already used one metaphor to describe the invaders (flies and bees), but now he calls them a hired razor.  Kidner explains, “The two metaphors in vs 18–20 make the swarms of looting soldiers not only an uncomfortably vivid prospect but clearly a divine scourge.”[46]  God is at work to judge, and it will bring severe humiliation to faithless Judah.  Ahaz thought he was hiring Assyrian mercenaries to save Judah (2 Kings 16:7-8), but in reality God was hiring them to shave the head, legs, and beard of the men of Judah, something severely shameful (cf. 2 Sam. 10:4-5).[47]

Fourth warning:  Loss of all food supplies (vv. 21-22).  A massive invasion would mean devastation to the fields and vineyards.  Bread and wine will become scarce, and that will mean a primary diet of curds and honey.  Pfeiffer explains, “Here again we find butter and honey as the food of sparse survivors in a land of ruined fields and orchards.”[48]

Fifth warning:  It will leave total desolation (vv. 23-25).  The last warning comes in verses 23-25:  The well-cultivated land of Judah would see all its crops brought to ruin so that all that remains is a wasteland (the thousand vines valued at a thousand shekels is a hyperbolic way of expressing the former prosperity).  The well-cultivated land will become a land of “briars and thorns” (Isa. 5:1-7), wild animals (that require one to remain armed), and mere pastureland for oxen and sheep.  The whole land will be one big mess-abandoned and left desolate.

Summary and application These events took place some 2,700 years ago, but there are principles that apply today.  Perhaps the greatest lesson is the importance of remembering that no matter what kind of trial we are facing, we should always trust the Lord and His Word.


[1] As we have already seen, these two enemy powers were Syria and the northern kingdom of Israel who wanted to overthrow the Davidic dynasty so they could forcefully bring Judah into a military alliance against Assyria.

[2] Oswalt, The Book of Isaiah, 1-39, 196.

[3] In the first year of Rehoboam (931 B.C.) the nation divided, with Judah and Benjamin staying faithful to the son of David in Jerusalem, and the other 10 tribes defecting to start a new kingdom in the north called Israel (Ephraim here).

[4] Young believes these events were probably prior to Isaiah 7 (Edward J. Young, The Book of Isaiah, vol. 1 (Grand Rapids:  Eerdmans, 1965), 267.  The captives were taken from Judah, but God intervened with a prophet named Oded and persuaded them to return them.

[5] This event is probably taking place in 734 B.C., sometime within the first year of Ahaz’s reign (Wolf, Interpreting Isaiah, 89).

[6] John A. Martin, “Isaiah,” in The Bible Knowledge Commentary:An Exposition of theScriptures, ed. J. F. Walvoord and R. B. Zuck, vol. 1, cited in electronic form with Logos Libronix (Wheaton, IL:  Victor Books, 1985), 1047.

[7] Oswalt, The Book of Isaiah, 1-39, 199.

[8] G. W. Grogan, “Isaiah,” in The Expositors Bible Commentary, ed. Frank E. Gaebelein, vol. 6 (Grand Rapids:  Zondervan, 1986), 60.

[9] The name itself means “a remnant will return” and is one of several prophetically significant names we find in 7-12 (Isa. 8:18; cf. 7:14; 8:3; 9:6; Heb. 2:12-13).  The good news is that Israel will one day have a restored remnant (cf. 1:9; 4:2; 6:13; 10:20-23; 11:11-16; 37:4, 31-32: 46:3; 49:6), but the bad news is that they must first suffer war, invasion, exile, and a huge reduction in their population.

[10] The forcefulness of the statement is emphasized by God’s self-identification as the “Lord God,” i.e., sovereign Yahweh who rules the affairs of man.

[11] F. Derek Kidner, “Isaiah,” in New Bible Commentary: 21st Century Edition, ed. D. A. Carson et al., 4th ed., cited in electronic form with Logos Libronix (Leicester, England; Downers Grove, IL: Inter-Varsity Press, 1994), 638.

[12] Walter Kaiser, The Messiah in the Old Testament (Grand Rapids:  Zondervan, 1995), 35.

[13] For example, Hebrews shows how in the Day of Atonement (Lev. 16) Christ was foreshadowed by both the High Priest (Heb. 9:11) and the sacrifice (Heb. 9:12).

[14] This commentary will not analyze the various alternative views that have been proposed.  It is the hermeneutical conviction of this writer that the starting point for understanding its relationship must be the contextual exegesis of the passage in its own setting, and that the result will be that Matthew’s use is typological.  Grogan notes that there are many different ways people have interpreted this passage with numerous variations within those views (Grogan, “Isaiah,” 62-63).

[15] We find four examples of typology in the first four chapters of Matthew:  (1) 1:23:  the birth of a son as sign of divine salvation (cf. Isa. 7:14), (2) 2:15:  the protection of God’s Son from enemy slaughter (cf. Hos. 11:1), (3) 2:18:  the enemy attack to destroy the promised seed of Israel (cf. Jer. 31:15), (4) 2:23:  God’s Messiah would be despised as a “Nazarene” (as seen in all the OT).  Given Matthew’s pattern it is reasonable to see the present passage as being typological.

[16] The sign could be from any of several means, perhaps a fulfilled prophecy (1 Sam. 2:34; 3:19-21; Jer. 44:29), or perhaps some other kind of miracle (Exod. 4:8-9; 7:8-12; Deut. 13:2-5; Judg. 6:36-40; 2 Kings 20:8-11; Isa. 38:7).  The significance of this sign is that God is giving a visible indicator that He will not let the House of David fall to Syria and Israel.

[17] Wolf, Interpreting Isaiah, 90.

[18] Oswalt, The Book of Isaiah, 1-39, 203.

[19] Young, The Book of Isaiah, vol. 1,280.

[20] Interestingly, when God told Hezekiah to ask for a sign a generation later, Hezekiah trusted the Lord and did ask . . . and was delivered (Isa. 38:7).

[21] The emphatic nature of God’s promise concerning the House of David can be seen in that (1) God introduces the prophecy by saying “behold” (hinneh, a bold and dramatic statement).  As Keil notes, this term is an exclamation that is meant to rivet attention to something spectacular (F. Delitzsch and C. F. Keil, Keil and Delitzsch Commentary on the Old Testament, vol. 7 [Grand Rapids:  Eerdmans, 1969], 121).  (2) It is a message from the sovereign Lord (‘Adonay) of Israel—the One who rules heaven and earth (the DSS and a few other mss. read YHWH instead of Adonay).  (3) Isaiah adds the third person pronoun “Himself” (hu’) placing emphasis on the subject.  (4) It is a message spoken not merely to Ahaz, but to the entire House of David and people of Judah (lakem, “you” plural) (Young, TheBook of Isaiah, vol. 1,284).  God’s promise about the eternality of the Davidic Covenant is certain.

[22] Notes on grammar:  (1) The word “virgin” is articular (“the virgin” perhaps) and points us to think about someone particular.  (2) The term conceive (harah) is in the form of a feminine adjective.  (3) The term “bear” is in the form of a Qal feminine participle.

[23] Oswalt, The Book of Isaiah, 1-39, 210.

[24] Wolf, Interpreting Isaiah, 91.  The Ugaritic term glmt is the cognate term with the Hebrew term ‘almah, both of which always refer to an unmarried, marriageable age maiden (Young, TheBook of Isaiah, vol. 1,287).

[25] Ibid.

[26] Isaiah’s first wife had perhaps died, necessitating a remarriage.  Webb posits the curious explanation that the ‘almah  is Zion and that her son is the faithful remnant who will emerge from her sufferings (Barry G. Webb, The Message of Isaiah [Downers Grove:  IVP, 1996], 63).

[27] Charles F. Pfeiffer, The Wycliffe Bible Commentary:  Old Testament, cited in electronic form with Logos Libronix (Chicago: Moody Press, 1962), Is 7:14.  Although Motyer does not prefer this explanation, he recognizes the strong contextual connections between 7:13-16 and 8:1ff. (J. Alec Motyer, The Prophecy of Isaiah:  An Introduction and Commentary [Downers Grove:  IVP, 1993], 86-87).

[28] Thus, the sign to Ahaz had to be fulfilled within a few years or it would cease to be a sign (Wolf, Interpreting Isaiah, 91).  A historical fulfillment of Isaiah 7:14 does not alter the reality that the Old Testament has a building body of prophetic truth revolving around one promised male child who would one day destroy God’s enemy and bring a final restoration to this sin-cursed creation (Gen. 3:15; 4:1; 5:28-29; 9:27; 12:1-3; 15:1ff; 21:12; 22:18; 35:9-12; 49:10; Num. 24:17; 1 Sam. 2:1-10; 2 Sam. 7:12-16; Job 9:33; 16:19-21; 19:23-27; 33:23-28; Ps. 132:11; Isa. 42:1-9; 49:1-13; 50:4-11; 52:13-53:12; Jer. 23:5-6; 30:9-21; 33:14-26; Ezek. 17:22-24; 21:25-27; 34:23-31; 37:15-28; Dan. 7:13; Hos. 3:4-5; Joel 2:23; Amos 9:11-15; Mic. 2:12-13; 5:2; Zeph. 3:14-17; Hag. 2:6-9, 21-23; Zech. 3:8-10; 6:9-15; 9:9; 11:10-13; 12:10; 14:3-4, 9).

[29] The father is often the one to name the child, but the Bible shows us that it is not uncommon for the mother to do so (Gen. 4:1, 25; 29:31; 30:13, 17-24; 35:18; Judg. 13:24; 1 Sam. 1:20; 4:21).

[30] Certainly Matthew is correct when he indicates that Jesus is God in flesh—Yahweh the King of Israel who has come to save His people (Isa. 9:6-7; 10:20-23; cf. Jer. 23:5; 33:15; Zeph. 3:14-20).

[31] Oswalt correctly observes that that the person who bears the symbolic name Immanuel is one in the same with the one who bears the symbolic name Maher-Shalal-hash-baz in 8:1-4 (Oswalt, The Book of Isaiah, 1-39, 213).  Both symbolic names refer to the child that would soon be born to Isaiah and his soon-to-be wife.

[32] Ludwig Koehler et al., The Hebrew and Aramaic Lexicon of the Old Testament, cited in electronic form with Logos Libronix (Leiden: E.J. Brill, 1994–2000), 325.

[33] Ludwig Koehler et al., The Hebrew and Aramaic Lexicon of the Old Testament, cited in electronic form with Logos Libronix (Leiden: E.J. Brill, 1994–2000), 212-213.

[34] Oswalt holds out the possibility that since Samaria did not fall until 12 years later in 722 B.C. the promise may be related to the idea of official accountability when the child would turn 12 (Oswalt, The Book of Isaiah, 1-39, 214).

[35] Ibid., 212.

[36] This is the same exact message conveyed in 8:1-8.

[37] As noted by Keil and Delitzsch, “Consequently, the birth of Immanuel apparently falls between the time then present and the Assyrian calamities, and his earliest childhood appears to run parallel to the Assyrian oppression” (Delitzsch, Keil and Delitzsch Commentary on the Old Testament, 223).

[38] The Assyrian oppressions began under Tiglath-Pileser III (745-727) in roughly 734-732 B.C. and continued through the reigns of Shalmaneser V (727-722), Sargon II (722-705), Sennacherib (705-681), Esarhaddon (681-669), and Ashurbanipal (668-631).  Weaker kings followed, and within 20 years the Assyrian empire would fall to other rising powers.

[39] Martin, “Isaiah,” 1048.

[40] Wolf, Interpreting Isaiah, 92.

[41] Isaiah repeats the expression “in that day” in vv. 18, 20, 21 and 23.  In context it is clear that all of these are referring to near-term judgments that were going to fall on Judah and not to the eschatological Day of the Lord.

[42] The grammar is very bold in the way that the predicate accusative “the king of Assyria” is introduced by the marker ’eth (cf. similar constructions in Gen. 4:1; 6:10; 26:34).

[43] Grogan, “Isaiah,” 65.

[44] Martin, “Isaiah,” 1048.

[45] Oswalt, The Book of Isaiah, 1-39, 216.

[46] Kidner, “Isaiah,” 639.

[47] It is also possible that Isaiah, by saying this, has exposed the king’s plan before his very eyes (Oswalt, The Book of Isaiah, 1-39, 217).

[48] Pfeiffer, The Wycliffe Bible Commentary:  Old Testament, Is 7:14.


[1] Herbert Wolf, Interpreting Isaiah (Grand Rapids:  Zondervan, 1985), 89.

[2] John N. Oswalt, The Book of Isaiah, 1-39 (Grand Rapids:  Eerdmans, 1986), 192.

[3] Josh McDowell, Evidence That Demands a Verdict (San Bernardino:  Here’s Life Publishers, 1972), 167.

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