Isaiah 7 is one of the most fascinating Old Testament chapters — and it's perhaps the one (alongside Isaiah 9) that gets the most attention during the Christmas season. Why, you ask?
As any Isaiah 7 commentary will tell you, the chapter is widely seen as having predicted Jesus' birth, and it's even referenced by Matthew in the New Testament, as we'll explore. But what does this biblical text have to say about the promise of the messiah?
The Isaiah 7 connection to Jesus' birth is notable, of course, considering that the book was likely written between 739 and 681 B.C., hundreds of years before the words in Isaiah 7:14 would come to fruition with Christ's birth.
Isaiah 7 Commentary: The Promise of the Messiah in the Old Testament
When examining Isaiah 7, it's perhaps best to start with Isaiah 7:14 (NIV), which reads:
"Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign: The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel."
This has been widely-held to be a prophecy of Mary's pregnancy and Jesus' eventual birth. But it should be noted that there has been a debate over the original meaning of "virgin." You can read about that discussion here (i.e. some believe it translates to "young woman" and not "virgin").
All of that aside, the bigger issue at the center of the discussion is that some believe Isaiah 7 and Isaiah 7:14, in particular, is really part of a "double prophecy," meaning that it had both a near-immediate fulfillment as well as a future fulfillment (i.e. Jesus' birth).
An Isaiah 7 commentary in GotQuestions.org has more:
In the context of Isaiah chapter 7, the Aramites and Israelites were seeking to conquer Jerusalem, and King Ahaz was fearful. The Prophet Isaiah approaches King Ahaz and declares that Aram and Israel would not be successful in conquering Jerusalem (verses 7-9). The Lord offers Ahaz the opportunity to receive a sign (verse 10), but Ahaz refuses to put God to the test (verse 11).
God responded by offering the "virgin" text in Isaiah 7:14, with some noting that this meant that Israel and Aram would face destruction.
So, if that's the case and the text also has a more immediate fulfillment, how did the virgin birth come into play?
Isaiah 7: New Testament References
The New Testament makes it clear that Mary's pregnancy and Jesus' birth are to be seen as fulfillments of Isaiah 7:14. Matthew 1 points back to Isaiah 7:14 when describing an angel visiting Joseph and revealing that Mary's pregnancy was from the Holy Spirit.
Matthew 1:22-23 (NIV), which directly quotes from Isaiah 7:14, reads:
"All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet: 'The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel' (which means 'God with us').'"
This clearly indicates the New Testament belief that Christ's birth was a fulfillment of this prophecy. So, the double prophecy discussion is certainly intriguing, but there's no doubt about what the New Testament teaches: that Jesus' birth fulfilled Isaiah 7:14.
Isaiah 7: Other Thoughts
The entire Old Testament points toward the promise of Jesus, so one need not depend entirely on Isaiah 7.
In fact, Isaiah 9:6-7 (NIV) also speaks to the powerful coming of Christ. These verses, written hundreds of years before Jesus, read:
"For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the greatness of his government and peace there will be no end. He will reign on David’s throne and over his kingdom, establishing and upholding it with justice and righteousness from that time on and forever. The zeal of the Lord Almighty will accomplish this."
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