b-greek-digest V1 #537

b-greek-digest             Sunday, 8 January 1995       Volume 01 : Number 537

In this issue:

        Isaiah 7:14 (was A sign...and a seed) 
        Re:Immanuel Prophecy
        Immanuel prophecy, vv 15-17


From: dkennedy@cornerstone.edu
Date: Sat, 07 Jan 1995 13:05:10 EST
Subject: Isaiah 7:14 (was A sign...and a seed) 

Along the lines of George Ramsey's post (6 Jan 1995) offering objections to
the direct prediction view of Isa 7:14 (in response to postings and
bibliography of William Brooks), I would underscore a point made well (I think)
by John Walton (_JETS_ 1987) -- 

* If almah does mean "virgin," then this is at variance with the meaning of
the entire Hebrew word family -- elem "young man" and alumim "youth" which
cannot mean anything like "virgin" in the masculine or plural abstract words
related to almah. Whatever almah does mean, it should be generally in
harmony with the entire word family, especially when "virgin" is imported
into some of the uses of almah in the OT and is not a clear derivation from

While more speculative, I also find Walton's suggestion very attractive that
the almah in Isa 7 may be an almah (cf Song of songs 6:8) in Ahaz's court
(syntax: "is pregnant and is about to give birth"). 

Instead of importing NT conclusions back into the OT and then claiming that
they started there (sorry -- that's my view of much of NT exegesis of the use
of the OT in the NT), I think that we would be better off to investigate more
fully the concept of PLEROO by NT writers who sought to show how God in
Christ has brought to fulfillment His workings from of old. My thanks to those
who have indeed sought to do this on this list in the past. 

David B. Kennedy
Grand Rapids Baptist Seminary, MI


From: Mitch Brittnacher <mbrittna@ece.ucsd.edu>
Date: Sat, 7 Jan 95 12:18:56 PST
Subject: [none]



From: William Brooks <wjbrooks@olympus.net>
Date: Sat, 7 Jan 1995 15:44:32 -0800
Subject: Re:Immanuel Prophecy


The questions you posited regarding my posting on Isa. 7:14 are fair ones to
ask.I'll do my best to answer them.

>>1. How would an event to happen 700 years later be a sign to King Ahaz?

As you know, the direct Immanuel prophecy is not limited to v. 14 but
includes vv.15-17 as well. These 2 vv. are problematical in their
interpretation. Some resort to imaginary textual changes to make them fit
with v. 14, others claim they are textual intruders and simply dismiss them
from their discussions. There is not one shred of evidence for either
position. The serious exegete, then, needs to face them head on.

The answer, I'm afraid, is rather long winded because there are quite a few
textual issues to deal with. I use the Eudora mailer which has a 30K limit,
so I don't think it will fit in this response. I'll post how, IMHO, vv.
15-17 relate to the chronology of the Immanuel prophecy.

>>2. How often do you find in the Old Testament a "sign" ('ot) which is not
immediately accessible or imminent?

Frankly, I don't know. I guess I'll have to do some study. I'll let you know
when I find out.

>>3. Your reference to the syntax of 7:14 as constituting an instance of the
futurum instans would lead naturally to the conclusion that the event was
imminent when Isaiah announced it.

In my original posting I suggested that the verbless cause should be
translated with an "is." This suggests that the event was not imminent but
was in progress. In other words--if this prophecy were referring only to
Christ--Isaiah saw it (somehow). This, I realize, gets into the argument of
predictive prophecy. Personally, I have no problems with God irrupting into
His Creation and bring the timelessness of eternity into the pronouncements
of His prophets. The book of Isaiah is filled with intimate knowledge of the
details of Christ's life--yes, 700 years before He was born.

>>4. The closest parallel, syntactically, to Isaiah 7:14 occurs in Genesis
16:11, where the angel of the Lord announces to Sarah, "Behold (hinneh) you
[are] with child (hrh) and you shall bear (wyldt) a son..."  No problem with
construing the pregnancy as *already underway* and the birth as *yet to come.*

Actually, there are two other passages that have the verbless clause hnh
hrh: Gen. 16:11 and Jdg. 13:3.  In both instances, however, a
waw-consecutive perfect, not a participle, is found within the context which
puts the clause into the future, not the present. I defer to Gesenius, p. 36.

>>5. Isaiah went on to say, in 7:16, that "before the child knows how to
refuse the evil and choose the good, the land before whose two kings you are
in dread will be deserted."  This makes sense in the context of the
mid-730's B.C., when Ahaz feared the attack by the kings of Israel and
Syria.  Can it make sense at all (without an interpretive tour de force) in
reference to the childhood of Jesus? [Query: For those of you whose high
doctrine of inspired prophecy leads you to believe that the only referent of
the Immanuel sign is Jesus, wouldn't this verse imply that there was a time
when Jesus did NOT know how to refuse the evil and choose the good? Does
your view of Jesus's divinity accommodate this implication?]

For the answer to the first part of the question, see my comments on vv.
14-15. which you'll have to in order to understand my answer to the second
part of the question.

Although the virgin birth of Christ is a foundational doctrine to Christian
theology, it is not a dominant thought in Scripture.  The prophecy of Isaiah
7:14 seems to undergird Luke's presentation of Jesus' conception and birth
(1:26-38).  The passage is hinted at in v. 27 by the use of parthenos,
almost quoted in v. 31 and influenced the phrasing in 2:21.  Paul apparently
was familiar with Jesus' earthly life (2 Cor. 5:16) but he makes no direct
statements regarding His birth.  Matthew is alone in recording Scriptural
authority for the virgin birth of Christ.

Beyond the virgin birth, the prophecy of Isaiah 7:14-17, was fulfilled with
precision.  The natural, logical deduction of a virginal birth is that the
Child would have no earthly father.  Jesus never called Joseph His father
but regularly referred to God as His Father.  The dynastic interests of
Isaiah 7 are carried on in Jesus' life as He is given the epithet "Son of
David."  While there is a flurry of biblical activity surrounding His birth,
it is interesting that the next snapshot of Jesus in the New Testament is as
a twelve year old boy in the Temple (Lk. 2:41-49).  In this episode, it is
obvious that He had matured into an intelligent and wise young man who was
conscious of His uniqueness.  Perhaps too much may be made of the point, but
Isaiah focused on the twelve year old Immanuel, as He reached moral
maturity, as the contemporary sign to Ahaz.

Isaiah foretold that Immanuel would experience pain and suffering so that He
may reach moral maturity.  This theme is visited again as he says of
Yahweh's Servant in Isaiah 50:4 (NASB):
	The Lord Yahweh has given Me the tongue of disciples,
	That I may know how to sustain the weary one with a word,
	He awakens Me morning by morning,
	He awakens My ear to listen as a disciple,
	The Lord Yahweh has opened My ear;
	And I was not disobedient,
	Nor did I turn back.

In some mysterious manner, Jesus developed in His understanding (Lk. 2:52)
and, since He was fully human, experienced the range of human emotions.
Hebrews 5:8 says of Christ: "Although being a Son, He learned, by means of
what He suffered, obedience." David C. Wells in "The Person of Christ"
states: "He had to grow through obedience to the point where he could stand
fully possessed of a sinless but mature nature before God."

>>6.. When consulting the LXX for an indication of how the text was read in
the late Jewish (pre-NT) world, we do indeed note the use of parthenos [but,
as Moshe Shulman noted in a posting about a week ago, that noun is used at
places in the LXX OT--he mentioned Genesis 34:3--where it is clear that it
does not mean "virgin"].  But note also that the same Jewish translator read
the phrase wqr't smw immnw-'l as "*thou* [i.e., Ahaz] shalt call his name
Immanuel"; it would seem that our LXX translator (whatever implications he
attached to parthenos) took the child to be one that would be born in Ahaz's

I've only been a part of the Net for a few days, so I didn't see the posting
you referred to. I'll look into it though.

As far as the other issue is concerned, confusion arises within the LXX
concerning which form of the verb kaleo should be used to translate the
Hebrew qr' (to call). The different variations are: kaleseis (second person
singular, LXX-A, B, C); kalesei (third person singular, LXX-S); kalesete
(second person plural, LXX-L, Q) and kalesousin (third person plural,
one-fourth to one-half of all known minuscules).  

Qr', without vowel pointing, appears to be either a qal second person
singular, masculine or feminine.  It is, however, according to Gesenius and
supported by BDB, a rare archaic form of the qal, third person, feminine of
qr (reference Gesenius, 206. This is supported by Ugaritic as well, the
usual ending for an Ugaric qtl verb was t). LXX-A, B, C reflect the second
person appearance of the verb. Kalesete probably arose to conform itself
with humin in the first clause of this verse.  The minuscules are late texts
which date from the ninth to fifteenth centuries A.D.  While they may have
preserved an older reading, it appears that they have been deliberately
altered to kalesousin in order to agree with Matthew.  Although the textual
support is scanty, LXX-S is alone in correctly reproducing the person and
number of  qr' and is, therefore, the preferred reading.

>>7. My thinking is that we have too small a sample of the uses of almah and
bethulah in Israel to base too much on the precise meaning which we believe
attaches to these terms.  If we bring in Ugaritic parallels to illumine OT
usage, this may only cloud the issue.  I do not have the references at hand,
but is it not true that the two cognate terms in Ugaritic (glmt and btlt)
are used, in parallel, with reference to Anat, goddess of love--and
certainly no virgin?  It may be that the ancients did not employ these terms
(absent some additional modifiers, as in Genesis 24:16) to make precise a
woman's virginity. (I'm not sure that evenparthenos in classical Greek is so
unambiguous as our discussionsometimes implies.)My position is that we
should read the text in the most natural way possible, and in this case it
means understanding Isaiah's words to refer to an imminents event which
could mean something to Ahaz.  (Reading the text "naturally" does not
preclude later readers from finding more in a text than the original
speaker/writer/listener understood.)

This seems to me to be a difference in HO's : ) Granted, the evidence for
establishing almah to mean "young virgin" is not overwhelming, IMHO there
_is_ enough evidence to support this meaning and, as far as I know, no hard
evidence to dissuade from it. The usual epithet for Anat was "btlt ant"
(Virgin Anat). Yet, her well recorded sexual escapades with Baal makes it
almost certain that the ancients applied this term to her as a title versus
it being a description of her chastity (after all, they weren't stupid). I
tried to be as thorough as possible in researching and writing about the
Immanuel prophecy, finding all that I could on it (even those who disagreed
with me), I don't  recall seeing anything about glmt being used in parallel
with btlt in referring to Anat. If you find anything that suggests that let
me know. In the bibliography I referenced Vawter's article ("The Ugaritic
use of glmt, Catholic Biblical Quarterly 14, Oct. 1952)--again, he did not
say anything about glmt and btlt in parallel with reference to Anat.

You mention again the contemporary fulfillment. This is a common comment
that the Immanuel prophecy _had_ to have some significance to Ahaz or else
it would be meaningless. Although the posting on vv. 15-16 deals with this
idea some, let me say some more about it.

The overall context for the prophecy is 7:1-17. This passage, along with the
appropriate passage in Kings and Chronicles, tells us quite a bit about
Ahaz. Ahaz was twenty years old when he gained the throne. He was the first
Judean monarch since Solomon to be directly associated with idolatrous
practices.  In the vast amount of Scripture dedicated to Ahaz, nothing good
is said of him. Under him, the kingdom began to unravel. Almost
simultaneously, Rezin and Pekah attacked from the north, the Philistines
from the west and Edom from the south.  And, too, Ahaz had to concern
himself about Assyria.  The nation shook with fear at the prospect of being
led by this young, inexperienced king who was thrown into the throes of
national disaster.  While several reasons may be given for the
Syro-Ephramite invasion, Scripture makes it clear that the primary cause was
due to Ahaz's idolatry, apostasy and failure to trust Yahweh.  
Into this milieu of confusion, fear and turmoil, Yahweh sent His prophet
Isaiah and his son, Shear-jashub, to steady the nerves of Ahaz and the
nation. The invaders' plans included overthrowing the Davidic throne by
setting ben-Tabeel as ruler.  In a solemn, divine pronouncement, Yahweh
declares "it shall not stand and it shall not be". The promise was before
Ahaz but also was the dire warning: "if you do not believe, then you shall
not be established" (v. 9).

Verse 9 indicates that what is to follow is not simply for Ahaz, but is for
the entire house of David--the royal house. The verbs in v. 9 are plural,
they refer to the entire royal house with Ahaz as its present
representative.  His decision will have ramifications on the future history
of the royal family: unbelief and disobedience will result in judgment on
the Davidic dynasty.  That this has dynastic interest is also seen in the
use of 'mn ("to establish").  The term is used in Yahweh's promise to David
in 2 Samuel 7:16: "and shall be established your house".  The message to
Ahaz was clear: deliverance will come from Yahweh, the coalition will not
succeed in its intended aim, Ahaz is to trust Yahweh and not follow his
pro-Assyria leanings.

But Ahaz did reach out for Assyria, he refused to trust God. Although Ahaz
rejected Yahweh, in His grace, gave another opportunity for him to trust Him
as his protector and deliverer.  Isaiah brings the message in v. 11: "Ask
for yourself a sign from Yahweh your God!  Make it deep as Sheol or make it
as high as the heights!" Ahaz's seemingly pious answer, an allusion to
Deuteronomy 6:16, belies the fact that he was an enthusiastic Baal worshiper. 
Just as Ahaz alludes to Deuteronomy, so does Isaiah in his reply.  Shemn-na
harkens back to the great shema in Deuteronomy 6:4-- contrary to Ahaz's
proclivity the covenant people of God, especially the king, were to put
their trust in God alone.  But a note of warning is seen as well.  The
phrase shemn-na "in nearly all instances in MT, . . ., is hostile,
minacious."  The shift from "your God" in v. 11 to "my God" in v. 13 is
ominous for it shows that Yahweh is disassociating Himself from Ahaz.  In
essence, Ahaz's decision was the final straw for the royal family.  The sign
Yahweh will give is for their notice; David's house-- the kings of Judah--
is about to receive communication from Yahweh. And what they received was
the Immanuel prophecy

In essence, then, Ahaz had his chance: he refused to trust Yahweh, he sought
Assyrian help, he refused to ask for a sign from Yahweh although he was
commanded to do it, he clung to his Baal worship. Although God is extremely
gracious, there comes a point, I believe, where He will no longer extend His
grace but His judgement. 


From: William Brooks <wjbrooks@olympus.net>
Date: Sat, 7 Jan 1995 15:47:26 -0800
Subject: Immanuel prophecy, vv 15-17

Several suggestions are posited for the contemporary fulfillment of Immanuel
by those who hold to a dual fulfillment view:  Hezekiah, the remnant, the
second of Isaiah's three sons, or some boy to be born.  The leading
candidate, however, is Mahershalalhashbaz, Isaiah's son in 8:1-4.  Gleason
Archer expresses this viewpoint in the Wycliffe Biblical Commentary: "	This
[`almah referring to a chaste and unmarried woman] 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 prophecy
was given."

This view supposes that Isaiah's first wife, the mother of Shear-jashub, had
died and that he was engaged to the virgin prophetess at the time of the
prophecy.  Not only is this sheer speculation with no biblical evidence, it
also contradicts several points:  (1) `Almah referred to a woman who was
both unmarried and virgin.  According to Isaiah 7:14, the unmarried virgin
who conceived the child also gave birth to the child in the same state.  The
actions of 8:3 makes it obvious that Isaiah's wife was neither unmarried nor
virgin at the birth of Mahershalalhashbaz.  "The `alma of 7:14 either was a
virgin or was not and cannot simultaneously predict these two opposing
meanings."  (2) It is probable that Isaiah's wife was an `almah before their
marriage.  Contrary to Archer's view, the most natural supposition is to
assume that the prophetess was the wife of Isaiah and the mother of both
Shear-jashub and Mahershalhashbaz.  As such, she would no longer be
designated as an `almah.  The syntactical structure of 7:14 shows the woman
was called an `almah before and after the birth.  (3) Immanuel's conception
and birth was for dynastic interests, Mahershalalhashbaz's was not.  (4) As
will be shown below, the seemingly parallel time frame expressed in 7:15-17
and 8:4 are not the same.  

The next verse (15) gives added insight into Immanuel's life and how he
affected Ahaz.  The phrase "curds and honey" was oftentimes an expression of
plenty and blessing.  But the apparent blessing should be regarded here as a
statement of "caustic irony."  Isaiah 7:18-25 rhetorically used the phrase
"in that day" to describe the havoc that the Assyrian hordes would bring to
the nation.  One of the results, 7:21-22, foretold the consumption of curds
and honey by those who remained.  Since it is found in the context of
judgment, it should itself be regarded as a judgment.  Rice comments:  "A
land that is so devastated that it makes an excellent pasture and those who
survive are so few that they will have an abundance is not a picture of
plenty and felicity but its opposite."  Albeit real, curds and honey in 7:15
graphically symbolized suffering.

The pairing "good/evil" is crucial to the understanding of this passage.  It
always carried with it the connotation of moral right and wrong.  Isaiah
used the phrase in 1:16-17 to admonish the nation to make correct moral
decisions and again in 5:20 to chastise them for moral dyslexia.  Immanuel
would eat curds and honey--i.e., experience suffering--not merely to
distinguish between right and wrong, but to be able to make "a proper
choice--to reject evil and choose good" and thus "come to a disciplined
maturity."  The time frame, then, referred to "Immanuel's maturity rather
than his infancy" and suggested a chronological age of twelve years.

The next two verses (16-17) shift attention back to the contemporaneous
situation. The evidence for this includes: (1) the use of btrm ("before"0, a
temporal term; (2) the use of second person, singular pronouns; (3) the
oblique reference to Pekah and Rezin; (4) the reference to Assyria.  Isaiah
indicated to Ahaz that the twelve year span of Immanuel's maturing process
was also the time frame for Aram's and Israel's fall.  This prophecy was
made around 734:  Damascus fell in 732, Samaria in 722--twelve years from
the Immanuel prophecy.

It is best to pause and summarize the findings of this study of Isaiah
7:14-17.  In contradistinction to what Yahweh commanded Ahaz to ask, He set
forth His own sign-- indeed a miraculous sign--for the entire nation,
especially to her royal house.  A young, unmarried virgin would both
conceive and, while still an unmarried virgin, give birth to a son whom she
would name `Immanuel.'  This son, being virginally conceived and delivered
would, by logical necessity, have no earthly father--He would be a unique
child.  Immanuel, through his experiences of suffering and pain, would reach
maturity and be able to reject evil and choose good.  Although this was
future, and Isaiah and Ahaz did not know how far in the future it was, the
sign of the child Immanuel also had contemporaneous  importance.  The age of
His moral maturity, twelve years, also served as a chronometer to Ahaz:  the
twelve year period marked when Aram and Israel would be forsaken.  Over the
nation of Judah, however, would blow the grim cloud of divine judgment.
Ahaz rejected Yahweh and approached Assyria for military salvation but,
instead, the Assyrian hordes would bring devastation, affliction and misery
(2 Chr. 28:20; Isa. 7:18-25).  


End of b-greek-digest V1 #537


To unsubscribe from this list write


with "unsubscribe b-greek-digest" as your message content.  For other
automated services write to the above address with the message content

For further information, you can write the owner of the list at


You can send mail to the entire list via the address: