Updated: Aug 21
One of the most contested scriptures in the Bible when it comes to prophecies concerning Yeshua as the Messiah can be found in Isaiah 7:14:
Therefore the Lord Himself shall give you a sign; Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel.
The Apostle Matthew (1:23) quotes this verse as being fulfilled by Yeshua.
The clear rendering of this verse in Isaiah would seem to indicate that the prophecy was fulfilled in the days of King Ahaz of Judah by the birth of Isaiah's son, Mahershalalhashbaz (8:1). However, as with many prophecies in the Bible, if not most, there is a near fulfillment and a far fulfillment. Upon further investigation I believe this to be true for the Immanuel prophecy and apparently the Apostle Matthew did also.
Those in disagreement that Yeshua is the fulfillment of this prophecy assert 4 basic reasons. I would like to discuss and give my challenge to those reasons.
First, they argue that the word Immanuel was a name just like other Hebrew names that end in "el" and Mary and Joseph did not name Yeshua, Immanuel. Well if this is true then Isaiah did not name his son Immanuel either instead he named him Mahershalalhashbaz. If that argument holds truth then Isaiah's son would not have been the near fulfillment of the prophecy. Instead the word Immanuel should be understood as a description of the character or nature of the child, his prophetic purpose. Consider for example the Hebrew Melchizedek, or more correctly Malki Tzedek. This is not a man's personal name. Instead it is a title or description of a man. The term means - My King of Righteousness or My Righteous King.
Unlike the personal names Daniel, Ezekiel, Nathaniel, and other names ending in "el" the Hebrew Immanuel is made up of two Hebrew words: Immanu meaning with us and El meaning Elohim; hence it means - Elohim (God) with us. Therefore it is a description of the prophetic nature of the child that was to be born. Isaiah states himself that his children are to be "for signs and for wonders in Israel" (Isaiah 8:18). Indeed, the prophet names his children titles that were descriptions of what was to happen to the nation of Judah, but he never named one of them Immanuel and none of his sons ever fit all of the Immanuel prophecies. Instead his sons were named according to what was going to happen to Judah during that time. Mahershalalhashbaz meant "hasten to seize the prey". Isaiah brought his son Shear-Jashub along which meant "a remnant shall return". We see in these names what happened to Judah in those days. Likewise, the future child that would come to fulfill this prophecy would have a name that was prophetic for His calling. His name would be salvation (yeshu-ah in Hebrew). He would truly be God with us!
Joseph and Mary had to name their son Yeshua because it fits the Immanuel prophecies, but a true description of their son's character and ultimate purpose was Immanu El (God with us).
The Hebrew word Immanu El appears only three times in scripture. All of those times are in Isaiah. This would suggest that the three instances are all related to Isaiah's prophecy. In fact, Isaiah does not complete his Immanu El prophecies concerning the child that was to be born until the end of chapter 12 so everything from chapter 7 through chapter 12 should be studied when examining the Immanuel prophecies.
The three mentions of Immanu El are in Isaiah 7:14, 8:7-8, and 8:9-10. There are variations of the way that translations use the word in those 3 scriptures. In the first instance Immanuel is used like a personal name but in the other two verses it is sometimes used in this way, but sometimes, it is translated only as, "God with us".
The second reason given is that Isaiah's prophecy seems to have already been fulfilled by the birth of his son, Mahershalalhashbaz, and everything predicted happened as prophesied prior to the child's maturation. We find that the kingdom of Judah was spared although their enemies came up to their neck. Both of those kingdoms were destroyed within 65 years just as prophesied. The reason is because God is with us (Immanu El). However, if we tie the rest of the prophecies together we find that Mahershalalhashbaz does not fit the prophecies given in Isaiah chapter 11. He most certainly was not "The Branch" spoken of in chapter 11; which also eludes to Messianic prophecies regarding "The Branch" in Zechariah. Neither was this child the things listed in chapter 9: wonderful, counselor, mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace and the government of Israel was never upon Mahershalalhashbaz's shoulder. No indeed, this child was only an immediate fulfillment but any serious Bible scholar should be able to see that a lot of Messianic language is being used about the future child that would come who would fulfill all the wonderful prophecies mentioned from chapter 7 through chapter 12.
In chapter 12 we find a song by Isaiah. This song had everything to do with the future child who was to come when God would be our salvation (yeshu-ah). The mention of God as our salvation is listed no less than 3 times. Just as Judah was saved from their enemies with the sign of the birth of Isaiah's son, likewise when the Messiah (Yeshua) comes He will be bringing salvation for His people and indeed the whole world who trust in Him. Salvation (yeshu-ah) is His Name. That is why Joseph and Mary were instructed to name Him Yeshua (salvation) because He was to save His people not only from their enemies but from their sins. He is the ultimate and future fulfillment of all of the Immanu El prophecies from Isaiah.
Isaiah 12:1- 4 And in that day thou shalt say, O LORD, I will praise thee: though thou wast angry with me, thine anger is turned away, and thou comfortedst me. Behold, God is my salvation (yeshu-ah); I will trust, and not be afraid: for the LORD YHVH is my strength and my song; he also is my salvation (yeshu-ah). Therefore with joy shall ye draw water out of the wells of salvation (yeshu-ah). And in that day shall ye say, Praise the LORD, call upon His name, declare his doings among the people, make mention that his name is exalted.
I have heard people say if Yeshua is the Messiah why isn't his name mentioned in the Bible. IT IS! It was mentioned 3 times in the above scriptures alone.
Isaiah concludes his song with a declaration that God is in the midst of us (12:6). Truly this is when Messiah will be ruling and reigning in ultimate fulfillment of Isaiah's prophecy.
The future fulfillment of Messiah's birth acknowledges that the final fulfillment is often preceded by types, symbols, and shadows, that prefigure Messiah. Is there any evidence of this foreshadowing in the TaNaKH? Yes! Consider Zechariah 3:1-9. Rabbi's see this as Messianic and Zechariah 6:11-13. Joshua was another shadow. We have something similar in Isaiah. Could this child of Isaiah prefigure a more glorious child that was to come in the future? Yes, absolutely!
The third argument is that Yeshua couldn't be a sign to Ahaz some 700 years after the event. A closer look reveals that the prophecy wasn't just to Ahaz alone. Isaiah declares in 7:13-14 that it was to the House of David. A natural birth is hardly a sign. Women have had babies every day since the beginning of time. God used supernatural births to get Israel's attention: Sarah, Rebekkah, Rachel, Samson's parents, Hannah, and even Elizabeth.
The 4th and final argument is the one I like the most. It comes from the scripture that this article began with. It is the use of the word virgin. The word virgin as used in the Hebrew in that verse is almah. Dissenters argue that the word almah can mean a young maiden, not necessarily a virgin. There are many other words in the Hebrew that could also mean a young maiden so why was this particular word chosen? Does it truly denote a virgin, or a young maiden that was of marriage age and was a virgin? If this almah was Isaiah's wife then was it the first time he had had sexual relations with her? Did he also have another wife because it mentions that he had another son? Or, did the use of this word denote the miracle that would happen in the future, a supernatural birth of the Immanu El child that was to come?
This word almah is used only 7 times in scripture. If this word does not indeed refer to a virgin maiden then we have a problem. The first usage of the word appears in Exodus 24:43 and it is in reference to Rebekkah when she would come to draw water from the well and be chosen as a wife for Isaac. She was a young virgin maiden of marrying age. Am I to believe that Rebekkah was not a virgin when she was chosen for Isaac?
The second use of this word is in Exodus 2:8 and it is referring to Miriam. Am I to believe that Miriam was not a virgin young maiden?
The other four verses are in Psalms 68:25, Proverbs 30:19, SOS 1:3, and SOS 6:8. When taken in context it is evident that all of these young maidens were of marrying age and they were clearly virgins.
The 70 Jewish sages who translated the Septuagint chose the Greek word parthenos for the Hebrew rendering of almah. Anyone who has studied Greek knows that the word parthenos is clearly the Greek word for a virgin. There is no doubt about this!
Evidence is clear that there was a near and a future fulfillment of Isaiah's Immanu El prophecies. While his son fulfilled the near prophecy, the child who was to come from a virgin, whose name was foretold to be salvation (yeshu-ah), is clearly the future fulfillment of these prophecies. He will truly be GOD with us (Immanu El)!