Micah’s Unique Bethlehem Prophecy

Prophecies throughout the Scriptures foretell many things about the Messiah, but only one prophecy specifies the location from where he would come forth – Bethlehem Ephrathah.[1]

Micah 5:2 “But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, Though you are little among the thousands of Judah, Yet out of you shall come forth to Me The One to be Ruler in Israel, Whose goings forth are from of old, From everlasting.” –New King James Version

Translations of the Micah prophecy in the Jewish and Greek Bibles are in harmony with English translations; in Jewish Bibles one verse earlier: 

Micah 5:1 But thou, Beth-lehem Ephrathah, which art little to be among the thousands of Judah, out of thee shall one come forth unto Me that is to be ruler in Israel; whose goings forth are from of old, from ancient days.” – Jewish Publication Society[2]

Micah 5:2 And thou, Bethleem, house of Ephratha, art few in number to be reckoned among the thousands of Juda; yet out of thee shall one come forth to me, to be a ruler of Israel; and his goings forth were from the beginning, even from eternity.” – Septuagint LXX [3]

One noteworthy exception is the Targum Jonathan, the Aramaic Talmud translation, which uses the word Mashiach, Hebrew for “Messiah”:[4]

“Out of thee Bethlehem shall Mashiach go forth before me, to exercise dominion over Israel. Whose name has been spoken of Old from the day of Eternity.”

Hebrew text of Micah’s prophecy not explicitly saying Mashiach (Messiah) opens the door to controversy. Counterviews, in essence, contend the future ruler of Israel would possess no messianic qualities.

Some argue the “ruler of Israel” refers to a future general or that Bethlehem Ephrathah refers to a family clan, not a town location.[5] Others claim the meaning of the “days of old” and “ancient times” refers to the golden area of David’s reign some 300 years earlier. A few even go so far as to say Targum Jonathan was mistranslated.

All sides agree it is a prophecy about a future ruler of Israel who will come from the lineage of David leaving the controversies to hinge on two questions. Would the future ruler come forth from the physical location of the town of Bethlehem Ephrathah or as a descendant of the Biblical person, Bethlehem Ephrathah?[6] Who is the true identity of the future ruler of Israel?

Detractors of this being a Messiah prophecy are lined up against some very highly respected Jewish religious authorities. Comments by Rabbi Rashi, revered as a Jewish sage on the Talmud and its Mishnah, appear in The Complete Jewish Bible with Rashi Commentary:  [7]

And you, Bethlehem Ephrathah”: [Rashi:] whence David emanated, as it is stated (I Sam. 17:58): “The son of your bondsman, Jesse the Bethlehemite.” And Bethlehem is called Ephrath, as it is said (Gen. 48:7): “On the road to Ephrath, that is Bethlehem.”

“from you shall emerge for Me”: [Rashi:] the Messiah, son of David, and so Scripture says (Ps. 118:22): “The stone the builders had rejected became a cornerstone.”

“and his origin is from of old”: [Rashi:] “Before the sun his name is Yinnon” (Ps. 72:17).

Rashi identified the future ruler of Israel as “the Messiah, Son of David” and “Yinnon” (Yinon) has been his name “before the sun.” The Babylonian Talmud Sanhedrin 98b identifies Yinnon along with Shiloh and other names for the Messiah (Moshiach) including one with a quote from the Isaiah 52-53 parashah Messiah prophecy.[8] Reflected in Rashi’s commentary, Talmud Nedarim 39b says the name of the Messiah has existed before the Sun and shall endure forever.[9]

Medieval Rabbi David Kimchi (Kimhi or Radak) is highly regarded by Jewish authorities for his written comments in the margins of the Torah 1347 edition, The Prophets.[10] An excerpt of Kimchi’s commentary on the prophecy is translated from Hebrew text using Google Translate: [11]

“And this is King Christ and it means to be you avoided in the cities of thousands of young Judah now against them and though yes from you Christ came to me because of David’s seed. Who was from Bethlehem will be and that is what he said and his origins promoted from the world because the origins of the Messiah at that time would say that a long time ago were from Bethlehem it is David because there is a long time between David and the King of Christ and it is to him that he was from ancient times…”

Further evidence of a special status for Bethlehem is found earlier in the Book of Micah. A contemporary of Isaiah, Micah prophesied judgment of utter destruction and singled out 10 towns or cities by name in Israel that would experience God’s wrath – Bethlehem was not one of them.[12]

Just the opposite. Micah specifically pointed to Bethlehem Ephrathah, “out of you shall come forth to Me The One to be Ruler in Israel.” Not just any ruler, but one described with divine characteristics, “whose goings forth are from of old, from ancient days.”

King Herod’s expert Jewish religious council of chief priests and scribes believed Micah’s prophecy foretold the future “King of the Jews” or Christos would come forth from the location of the nearby town, Bethlehem Ephrathah. According to Matthew, the Magi did indeed find and worship the child, Jesus of Nazareth, and Herod sought to kill him there.

Foretelling the location of the birth of the Messiah far into the future sets a standard of predictability that seems virtually impossible. In a small town of little significance, in a land disdained by its rulers, raises the level of difficulty of accuracy to the extreme. Impossible is controlling the circumstances of one’s own birth. Chances of intentionally fulfilling this prophecy without divine intervention…

Nazareth was the expected location of the birth of Jesus, nothing seemed to be able to change that – except for a Roman Caesar. Months in the making, the decree of Augustus announced by the Town Crier set in motion the birth of Jesus in Bethlehem where Magi, already traveling in parallel time, were destined to arrive in that little town at a single moment in time. If Micah’s prophecy foretells the Messiah would come from Bethlehem Ephrathah, was the birth of Jesus in Bethlehem a fulfillment of that prophecy?

 

Creative Commons License

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.

REFERENCES:

[i] Killian, Greg (Hillel ben David).  “Bethlehem – Beit Lechem – The House of Bread.”  Betemunah.org.  n.d. <http://www.betemunah.org/bethlehem.html>  “Bethlehem.” Lexicon-Concordance Online Bible.  n.d <http://www.eliyah.com/cgi-bin/strongs.cgi?file=hebrewlexicon&isindex=bethlehem>[2] Jewish Publication Society (JPS) translation. 1917. Benyamin Pilant. 1997. <http://www.breslov.com/bible/Micah5.htm#5>
[3] English Translation of the Greek Septuagint Bible. Trans. Brenton, Lancelot C. L. 1851.  <http://www.ecmarsh.com/lxx/Michaeas/index.htm>
[4] “Targum.” Jewish Encyclopedia. 2011. <http://jewishencyclopedia.com/articles/14248-targum>  “Historical Jewish Sources.” The Preterist Archive. “Overview:  About Targums.”  n.d. <http://www.preteristarchive.com/BibleStudies/JewishSources/Targums/index.html>
[5] “Jesus Christ is a False Messiah.”  Ed. Chris Thiefe.  EvilBible.com. Point #8, A & B. <https://www.evilbible.com/do-not-ignore-the-old-testament/jesus-is-a-false-messiah>  “Jesus of Bethlehem.” MessianicJewishTruth.com. n.d. <http://web.archive.org/web/20131103080951/http://www.messianicjewishtruth.com/Jesusbethlehem.html>  “Who will emerge from Bethlehem.” Teshuvas HaMinim. 2011. <http://web.archive.org/web/20120902023316/http://www.teshuvashaminim.com/michah51.html>
[6] I Chronicles 2:19, 24,50; 4:4.
[7] Bolding and brackets added by author.  The Complete Jewish Bible with Rashi’s Commentary. Micah – Chapter 5.
[8] Sanhedrin 98b. Soncino Babylonian Talmud. 1935-1948. <https://israelect.com/Come-and-Hear/sanhedrin/sanhedrin_98.html> “Nedarim 39b.” Soncino Babylonian Talmud.  Steinsaltz, Adin. “Masechet Sanhedrin 98a-104b.” Orthodox Union. 2010. <https://www.ou.org/life/torah/masechet_sanhedrin_98a104b>
[9] “Nedarim 39b.” Soncino Babylonian Talmud. Ed. Isidore Epstein. 1935-1948. <https://israelect.com/Come-and-Hear/nedarim/nedarim_39.html#39b_11>
[10] “Kimhi” Jewish Encyclopedia. 2011. <http://jewishencyclopedia.com/articles/9320-kimhi>  Marlowe, Michael.  Editions of the Hebrew Text of the Bible. Bible Research. “The Incunabula.”   2012. <http://www.bible-researcher.com/hebrew-editions.html>  Rosenau, William. Jewish Biblical Commentators. 1906. pp 87-91. <http://www.archive.org/stream/jewishbiblicalco00rose/jewishbiblicalco00rose_djvu.txt>  Mindel, Nissan. “Rabbi David Kimchi – RaDaK.” Chabad.org. 2019.  <http://www.chabad.org/library/article_cdo/aid/111880/jewish/Rabbi-David-Kimchi-RaDaK.htm>
[11] “Redak on Micah.” Micah 5:1. Sefaria.org. Hebrew text translated using Google Translate. <https://www.sefaria.org/Radak_on_Micah.5.1.1?lang=bi>  CR Yehoshua, Avram. “Messiah’s Diety and Micah 5:2.” Quote cited from Mikraoth Gedoloth. n.d. <http://seedofabraham.net/Messiahs-Deity-and-Micah-5.2.pdf>
[12] Micah 1: Gath, Beth Leaphrah, Shaphir, Aaanan, Beth Ezel, Maroth, Jerusalem, Lachish, Achzib, and Mareshah. Wood, Leon J. “Eighth-Century Prophets: Isaiah and Micah.” 1979. <http://www.ldolphin.org/isaiah/woodisaiah.html>  Miller, Fred P. “The Prophecy Of Micah.” 2016. <http://www.moellerhaus.com/Micah/micahcom.htm>

The Prince of Peace – Who Is He?

Popularly appearing in cards, posters, songs and media during the Christmas season is a Bible passage from Isaiah. Foretold is a male child who will become a King whose kingdom will last forever and he will be called the “Prince of Peace” – who is he?

Is 9:6-7 “For unto us a Child is born, Unto us a Son is given; And the government will be upon His shoulder. And His name will be called Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.  Of the increase of His government and peace There will be no end, Upon the throne of David and over His kingdom, To order it and establish it with judgment and justice From that time forward, even forever…”[1]

Hebrew text in English reads Sar Shalowm, the first word Sar meaning “prince.”[2] The masculine noun Shalowm, commonly recognized as the Jewish greeting Shalom, means “peace;” its root word meaning “to be safe…figuratively, to be completed.”[3] Translated as “called” or “name” is the Hebrew text word qara’, the same Hebrew word used in the Isaiah 7:14 prophecy where the future boy child is to be called “Immanuel.”

Two Rabbi sage contributors to the Jewish Babylonian Talmud discuss the identity of the “Prince of Peace.” Rabbi Jehoshua declared:[4]

“The name of the Holy One, blessed be He, is also “peace” (Shalom), as it is written: “And called it Adonay-shalom.””

Quoting from Judges 6:24, the Rabbi referred to the place named Y@hovah shalowm, “the LORD is Peace.” Gideon, famed Hebrew judge, military leader and prophet, named the place where he had met an angelic messenger and spoke to the LORD.[5]

Rabbi Jose the Galilean expanded on Jehoshua’s statement quoting from Isaiah 9:5(6) unambiguously saying the name of the Messiah is “peace…’the prince of peace’”:

“The name of the Messiah is also “peace” (Shalom), as it is written: “The prince of peace.””

Going into more detail, the Galilean alluded to Isaiah 52:7 and Deuteronomy 20:10 prophecies that the Messiah will be known for his great characteristic of peace:

“When the Messiah shall come to Israel, he will begin with peace, as it is written: “How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of the messenger of good tidings, that publisheth peace, that announceth tidings of happiness, that publisheth salvation, that saith unto Zion, Thy God reigneth.” He also said: Great is peace, because even wars are waged for the sake of peace…”

Jumping back in, Rabbi Jehoshua, referring to Isaiah 26:3, said the “Holy One” would use peace to uphold righteous because of their trust in him:

“In the future the Holy One, blessed be He, will uphold the righteous with peace, as it is written [Is. xxvi. 3]: “The confiding mind wilt thou keep in perfect peace; because he trusteth in thee.””

The Complete Jewish Bible with Rashi Commentary translation (chapter 9 begins one verse earlier) is significantly different. It says, “the wondrous adviser, the mighty God” will call the son “the prince of peace.”

IS 9:5-6 “For a child has been born to us, a son given to us, and the authority is upon his shoulder, and the wondrous adviser, the mighty God, the everlasting Father, called his name, ‘the prince of peace.’ To him who increases the authority, and for peace without end, on David’s throne and on his kingdom, to establish it and to support it with justice and with righteousness; from now and to eternity…” – Complete Jewish Bible with Rashi Commentary

Renowned Jewish sage Rabbi Rashi’s commentary disagreed with the Talmud contributors, instead saying the prophecy refers to King Hezekiah, a descendant of King David. Rashi hedged acknowledging it is possible “Prince of Peace” could also be a name for the “Holy One”:

“…it is possible to say that “Prince of Peace,” too, is one of the names of the Holy One, blessed be He, and this calling of a name is not actually a name but an expression of (var. for the purpose of) greatness and authority…On the throne of the kingdom of David shall this peace be justice and righteousness that Hezekiah performed.”

“He [Hezekiah] increased the authority upon his shoulder, and what reward will He [God] pay him? Behold, his peace shall have no end or any limit.” – Rabbi Rashi

Christian Old Testament Bible content is based on the Septuagint LXX c. 285-247 BC.[6]According to Josephus, Pharaoh Ptolemy Philadelphius of Egypt commanded the translation of the Hebrew Bible text into a complete Greek translation. Performed by 72 Jewish scholars, it explains the Roman numeral “LXX.”[7]

Tanakh, the Jewish Scriptures, is based on two surviving Hebrew Masoretic (MT) texts. The oldest is the Aleppo Codex dated to 925AD, partially destroyed by a fire.[8] The oldest complete Masoretic text is the Leningrad Codex dated to 1008-10AD.[9] Modern Tanakh translations have a dependency on the Leningrad manuscript to fill in the missing content.

Menachem Cohen, Professor of Bible and Director of the Miqraot Gedolot HaKeter Project (Great Scriptures) at Bar-Ilan University of Israel, explained the Masoretic Text  lacked the benefit of a side-by-side comparison to the original “witnessing” Hebrew text.[10] The MT, Cohen stated, began diverging from the 1250-year older Septuagint translation at some point before the Roman’s destruction of the Jewish Temple in 70 AD.

Qumran scroll discoveries began in 1948 and among the finds was a crown jewel, a complete Hebrew text scroll of Isaiah known as the “The Great Isaiah Scroll.”[11] Isaiah’s book was originally written around 700 BC and the Great Isaiah Scroll is dated to between 200-100 BC. The Scroll provides the “side-by-side” text translation opportunity.

One translator of the Great Isaiah Scroll, Fred P. Miller, explained the translation methodology on his website, The Translation of the Great Isaiah Scroll. His direct translation:[12]

Great Isaiah Scroll 9:6-7:

[Line] 23…Because a child shall be born to us and a son is given to us and the government shall be upon

[Line] 24. his shoulders and he shall be called wonderful, counsellor, mighty God, everlasting father the prince of peace. (6) Of the increase

[Line] 25. of his government [&waw&} and his peace there shall be no end. upon the throne of David and over his kingdom to order it and to establish it

[Line] 26. in judgement and in righteousness from and until eternity, The zeal of YHWH of Hosts will perform this.

Christian Bible translations foretell the future child of Isaiah 9:-6-7 will be called “Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.” Babylonian Talmud Rabbi’s interpreted the verses saying the “Prince of Peace” is the Messiah; however, the Complete Jewish Bible with Rashi Commentary says it is not a Messiah prophecy. Which is it? If the verses are a Messiah prophecy, was Jesus of Nazareth the fulfillment that prophecy?

 

Creative Commons License

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.

REFERENCES:

[1] NKJV.
[2] sar <08269>. NetBible.org. Hebrew text. <http://classic.net.bible.org/strong.php?id=08269>  “8363.” Strong’s Concordance with Hebrew and Greek Lexicon. Eliyah.com. n.d. <http://www.eliyah.com/cgi-bin/strongs.cgi?file=hebrewlexicon&isindex=8323>
[3] Y@havah shalowm” <03073> Net.Bible.org. Hebrew text. “Shalom.” Ravitzky, Aviezer. “Shalom: Peace in Hebrew.” n.d. <https://www.myjewishlearning.com/article/shalom>  “7965 ‘shalowm.’” Strong’s Concordance with Hebrew and Greek Lexicon. Eliyah.com. n.d. <http://www.eliyah.com/cgi-bin/strongs.cgi?file=hebrewlexicon&isindex=+shalowm> “7999 ‘shalam.’” Strong’s Concordance with Hebrew and Greek Lexicon. Eliyah.com. n.d. <http://www.eliyah.com/cgi-bin/strongs.cgi?file=hebrewlexicon&isindex=shalam> Berkowitz, Matthew. “Greetings of Peace.” 2006 <http://www.jtsa.edu/greetings-of-peace>  “Hebrew: Greetings & Congratulations.” Jewish Virtual Library. 2019. <https://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/hebrew-greetings-and-congratulations>
[4] The Babylonian Talmud.Trans. Michael L. Rodkinson. 1918. Tract Derech Eretz-Zuta. Chapter on Peace. <https://www.sacred-texts.com/jud/t05/ere18.htm>
[5] Judges 6:24. Hebrew text. NetBible.org. <http://classic.net.bible.org/verse.php?book=Jdg&chapter=6&verse=24>
[6] “The Septuagint (LXX).” Ecclesiastic Commonwealth Community. n.d. <http://ecclesia.org/truth/septuagint.html>
[7] Josephus, Flavius. Antiquities of the Jews. Book XII, Chapter II.1-6; 13-1.. Trans. and commentary William Whitson. The Complete Works of Josephus. 1850. <http://books.google.com/books?id=e0dAAAAAMAAJ&printsec=frontcover&source=gbs_ge_summary_r&cad=0#v=onepage&q&f=false>  English Translation of the Greek Septuagint Bible. Trans. Brenton, Lancelot C. L. 1851. <http://www.ecmarsh.com/lxx> “Septuagint.”  Septuagint.Net. 2018.  <http://septuagint.net>  “Septuagint.” Encyclopædia Britannica. 2019. <https://www.britannica.com/topic/Septuagint>
[8] Ofer, Yosef. “The Aleppo Codex.” n.d. <http://www.aleppocodex.org/links/6.html>  Bergman, Ronen. “A High Holy Whodunit.” New York Times Magazine. July 25, 2012. <https://www.nytimes.com/2012/07/29/magazine/the-aleppo-codex-mystery.html>  Ben-David, Lenny. “Aleppo, Syria 100 Years Ago – and Today.” 23/07/15. Arutz Sheva 7 | isralenationalnews.com.  <http://www.israelnationalnews.com/News/News.aspx/198521>
[9] Lundberg, Marilyn J. “The Leningrad Codex.” USC West Semitic Research Project. 2012. University of Southern California. 8 Jan. 1999. <https://web.archive.org/web/20170403025034/http://www.usc.edu/dept/LAS/wsrp/educational_site/biblical_manuscripts/LeningradCodex.shtml> Leviant, Curt. Jewish Virtual Library. 2019. “Jewish Holy Scriptures: The Leningrad Codex.” <https://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/the-leningrad-codex> “Leningrad Codex.” Bible Manuscript Society. 2019. <https://biblemanuscriptsociety.com/Bible-resources/Bible-manuscripts/Leningrad-Codex>  Leviant, Curt. Jewish Virtual Library. 2019. “Jewish Holy Scriptures: The Leningrad Codex.” <https://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/the-leningrad-codex>
[10] Cohen, Menachem. “The Idea of the Sanctity of the Biblical Text and the Science of Textual Criticism.” Eds. Uriel Simon and Isaac B Gottlieb. 1979. Australian National University. <http://cs.anu.edu.au/%7Ebdm/dilugim/CohenArt> Cohen, Menachem. “Mikra’ot Gedolot – ‘Haketer’ – Isaiah.” 2009. <http://www.biupress.co.il/website_en/index.asp?id=447
[11] Benner, Jeff A. “The Great Isaiah Scroll and the Masoretic Text.” Ancient Hebrew Research Center. 2019. <https://www.ancient-hebrew.org/dss/great-isaiah-scroll-and-the-masoretic-text.htm> “The Dead Sea Scrolls.” The Israel Museum. 2019. <https://www.imj.org.il/en/wings/shrine-book/dead-sea-scrolls> “Isaiah.” Biblica.  Abegg, Jr., Martin G., Flint, Peter W. and Ulrich Eugene Charles.  The Dead Sea Scrolls Bible:  the oldest known Bible translated for the first time into English. “Introduction”, page x. (page hidden by Google Books). 2002. <https://books.google.com/books?id=c4R9c7wAurQC&lpg=PP1&ots=fQpCpzCdb5&dq=Abegg%2C%20Flint%20and%20Ulrich2C%20The%20Dead%20Dead%20Sea%20Scrolls%20Bible%2C&pg=PP1#v=onepage&q=Isaiah&f=false>
[12] Miller, Fred P. “The Translation of the Great Isaiah Scroll.” n.d. <https://www.ao.net/~fmoeller/qa-tran.htm>  Miller, Fred P. “”Q” = The Great Isaiah Scroll.” Translation. n.d.  <http://www.moellerhaus.com/qum-intr.htm>

Virtually Hidden – the Significant, Rarest of Hebrew Words

Appearing only three times in the Hebrew text of the Tanakh, the Old Testament, is a virtually hidden Hebrew word and yet it may be the most significant – ha-almah. Only two Jewish or English Bibles translate all three instances using this exact Hebrew text, the Orthodox Jewish Bible and Young’s Literal Translation.[1]

Comprised of ha and `almah, written as Hmleh, hmle and hā-‘al-māh, it is translated into English as two words.[2] Easiest to translate is “ha” or “Hey” which means “the,” a definite article used to make a clear and specific reference.[3] Hebrew has a special difference; it is much more dramatic.[4]

Ancient Hebrew script for the consonant “h” is one single pictograph letter.[5] Hebrew language expert Jeff A. Benner describes the original pictograph character in this way:

“The Hey has a “h” sound and is a picture of a man with his arms raised up, shouting and pointing at a great site as if to say “behold, look at that”.  This letter means “the” in the sense of pointing to something of importance.”[6]

Translation of `almah is one of the most controversial in the Jewish-Christian discourse. One side claims that `almah means “young woman,” “maid” or “damsel” which does not necessarily mean “virgin.”[7] The other side asserts `almah specifically means “virgin” as seen in some Bible versions translations.[8]

Strong’s Concordance of Hebrew defines `almah is “a lass (as in veiled or private): – damsel, maid, virgin.”[9] In those days a “maid” or “damsel” was a young woman or girl who was typically presumed to be a virgin by implication of her age and single marital status whereas a “virgin” is explicitly self-explanatory.[10]

Commonly, `almah is translated in both Jewish and Christian Bibles as “young woman.” Those two words are not part of the formal Strong’s definition exacerbating the issue. How the word is or is not intended by its authors to be understood requires textual analysis.

Some critics contend that since the Hebrew word for “virgin” is bethulah, then `almah cannot refer to a virgin.[11] Indeed, bethulah (bə-ṯū-lāh, bthuwlah , b@thuwlah or hlwtb) means “virgin” appearing 50 times in Biblical Hebrew texts.[12] It occurs in the contexts of metaphors for peoples or nations in judgements, lamentations or blessings; legalistic references; or to describe the virginity of an actual female subject.

Focusing only on references where bethulah involves an actual female subject, three usage rules emerge. The word is always used as an adjective noun or in an adjective clause to clarify na `arah (girl) or another female noun within the context of na `arah (girl). Examples: “the girl [na `arah] was a very beautiful virgin [bethulah];” “Tamar [proper noun], for she was a virgin [bethulah];” or “my virgin [bethulah] daughter [noun].”[13]

More significantly, bethulah is not used as a standalone noun for a specific female subject. Nor is bethulah the subject who initiates a present or future tense action. There are no instances that say something like “bethulah shall call;” “bethulah plays;” “bethulah shall bear;nor “bethulah loves.”[14]

Appearing only 7 times in Biblical Hebrew text is the word `almah. Its word usage rules are strikingly different, based as much on the circumstantial setting as it is on sentence structure.

As a standalone noun, `almah, like “virgin,” is self-evident – it does not need further clarification with an adjective or adjective clause. Conversely, the word is never used as an adjective noun nor in an adjective clause to define the subject. For example, there are no instances such as “a na `arah who is an `almah;” “Tamar who is an `almah;” nor “my `almah daughter.”

As the direct female subject of a sentence, `almah is used to initiate an action only in the present or future tense:  “`almah playing tambourines;” “`almah went and called; “`almah love you;” “`almah comes out to draw water,” and “`almah shall conceive and bear a Son, and shall call.”[15]

Five instances of `almah occur in texts after the defining moment when the Law was given to Moses at Mt. Sinai. Perhaps most revealing is that `almah always appears in royal circumstances – virgins in the king’s harem, in a king’s presence, a king’s perspective, and the royalty of God’s musical worship.[16]

Remaining are the two occurrences involving two Hebrew matriarchs, Rebekah and Miriam, before the Law centuries before the first Hebrew king.[17] According to Phillip E. Goble, Editor of The Orthodox Jewish Bible, Rebekah is revered as the “mother of the Nation of Israel” and Miriam is “the savior of the Exodus” (Moses) – Hebrew royalty.[18]

Rebekah’s story in Genesis 24 is the only passage in the Bible that contains both `almah and bethulah plus the two related Hebrew words `ishshah (woman) and na ‘arah (girl) making it the codex for all four words. Most noteworthy is that bethulah is used to define `almah as “virgin.”  

Narrowed further are the three instances where the Hebrew text word ha precedes `almah, in essence saying,  “behold, look at that” (“pointing to something of importance”). The first two occurrences appear in reference to the two Hebrew matriarchs before God’s Law legally defined the purity of virginity for marriage.

For Rebekah and Miriam, the use of ha-almah places the focus on the significance of their state of virginity before entering their adult lives of greatness.[19] Only one other appearance of ha-almah occurs in the entire Bible; the only time after the Law, appearing identically in both The Great Isaiah Scroll and the Masoretic text of Isaiah.[20]

King Ahaz refused to accept God’s offer to name any sign between Heaven and Hell as proof of God’s promise to protect his kingdom from their enemies. God responded with His own chosen sign which had to be greater – anything less would be unimpressive. Through the prophet Isaiah God promised this sign:

IS 7:14 “Therefore the Lord Himself will give you a sign: Behold, the virgin [ha-almah] shall conceive and bear a Son, and shall call His name Immanuel.”(NKJV)

Isaiah wrote the rarest of Hebrew words – ha-almah would give birth to a son whom would be called Immanuel meaning “God with us.” [21]

If the sign was intended to refer to a female without any expectation of virginity, Isaiah would have been expected to use either na ‘arah or `ishshah; however, he didn’t. Nowhere in Isaiah’s writings is the appearance of na ‘arah (girl). Variations of `ishshah occurs 11 times in Isaiah in reference to an adult woman, wife, mother, or even an adulteress where in all senses virginity is neither assumed nor expected.

Isaiah used bethulah in 5 instances, always as a metaphor or judgement of a city or nation. The word bethulah does not fit the prophecy with a female subject and its use would have violated Hebrew text protocol.

Instead, Isaiah chose ha-almah in a dual royal context – King Ahaz and God. Whomever he referenced in the prophecy, the ha-almah female is in the highest echelon of Hebrew importance, on the same level as the matriarchs Rebekah and Miriam.

Textual analysis confirms ha-almah means “the virgin” used by God as the impossible “sign” in Isaiah’s prophecy of the virgin birth of a boy to be called Immanuel. Was Isaiah 7:14 a Messiah prophecy fulfilled by the Mary’s virgin birth of Jesus of Nazareth?

 

Creative Commons License

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.

ASB = Amercian Standard Bible
BSB = Berean Study Bible
CSB = Christian Standard Bible
DBT = Darby Bible Translations
ESV = English Standard Version
HCS = Holman Christian Standard Bible
ISV = International Standard Version
JUB = Jubilee Bible 2000
NHE = New Heart Christian Bible
NIV = New International Verson
NKJV = New King James Verson
NLT = New Liviing Translation
OJB = Orthodox Jewish Bible
WEB = World English Bible
YLT = Young’s Literal Translation

REFERENCES:

[1] The Orthodox Jewish Bible. 2002. BibleHub. <https://biblehub.com/ojb/genesis/1.htmYoung’s Literal Translation. 2019. <https://biblehub.com/ylt/genesis/1.htm>
[2] Isaiah 7:14. Hebrew text transliteration. BibleHub. 2019. <https://biblehub.com/text/isaiah/7-14.htm> hā·‘al·māh. Hebrew text. BibleHub.com. n.d. <https://biblehub.com/hebrew/haalmah_5959.htm>
[3] Isaiah 7:14. Hebrew text. NetBible.org. <http://classic.net.bible.org/verse.php?book=Isa&chapter=7&verse=14> ‘almah <05959>. NetBible.org. 2019. <http://classic.net.bible.org/strong.php?id=05959> “the.” Merriam-Webster. 2019. <https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/the>  “the.” Cambridge Dictionary. n.d. <https://dictionary.cambridge.org/dictionary/english/the
[4] Goble, Phillip E, ed. “The Translator to the Reader.” The Orthodox Jewish Bible. 2002. Artists for Israel International. 2012. p vii. <http://www.afii.org/ojbible/ix.pdf
[5] Benner, Jeff A. “Introduction to Ancient Hebrew.”  Ancient Hebrew Research Center. 2019. <https://www.ancient-hebrew.org/introduction.htm>
[6] Benner. “Introduction to Ancient Hebrew.”
[7] Nahigian, Kenneth E.  “A Virgin-Birth Prophesy?” Skeptic Tank Files. n.d.<http://www.skeptictank.org/files/sr/2virgi93.htm> Cramer, Robert Nguyen.  “The Book of Isaiah.”  The BibleTexts.com. 1998 <http://www.bibletexts.com/verses/v-isa.htm>  Cline, Austin. “Who Was Virgin Mary, Mother of Jesus? Was She Really a Virgin?” About.com|Agnosticism/Atheism. n.d. <http://atheism.about.com/od/biblepeoplenewtestament/p/MaryVirgin.htm>  Yosef, Uri. “Isaiah 7:14 – Part 1: An Accurate Grammatical Analysis.” The Jewish Home. 2011. <http://thejewishhome.org/counter/Isa714_1.pdf>  Bratcher, Dennis. “Isaiah 7:14: Translation Issues.”  The Voice. 2014. <http://www.crivoice.org/isa7-14.html>  Gill. The Complete Jewish Bible – with Rashi Commentary. n.d.   <http://www.chabad.org/library/bible_cdo/aid/63255/jewish/The-Bible-with-Rashi.htm>  CR Judges Chapter 13. John Gill’s Exposition of the Whole Bible.  Isaiah 7:14 commentary. <https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/geb/genesis-24.html
[8] Genesis 24:43 – ESV, NKJV, KJV, HCS, OJB; Exodus 2:8 – OJB; Isaiah 7:14 – NIV, NLT, ESV, BSB, NKJV, CSB, HCS, DBT, ISV, JUB, NHE, WEB, OJB; American Standard Version, 1901 Edition. Perseus.Tufts.Edu. <http://www.perseus.tufts.edu/hopper/text?doc=Perseus:text:1999.01.0156:book=Isaiah:chapter=7&highlight=virgin> Robinson, B.A. “Isaiah 7:14 “Behold, a virgin shall conceive…”” Religious Tolerance. 2007 <http://www.religioustolerance.org/chr_proi.htm
[9] “almah.” Strong’s Concordance with Hebrew and Greek Lexicon. Eliyah.com. n.d. <http://www.eliyah.com/cgi-bin/strongs.cgi?file=hebrewlexicon&isindex=almah
[10] Net.bible.org. Hebrew text. Reference: TWOT – 1630b.  Strong. “`almah  <5959>  “damsel.”  Merriam-Webster. 2019. <https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/damsel
[11] Nahigian.  “A Virgin-Birth Prophesy?” Cramer. “The Book of Isaiah.”  Cline. “Who Was Virgin Mary, Mother of Jesus? Was She Really a Virgin?” Yosef.. “Isaiah 7:14 – Part 1: An Accurate Grammatical Analysis.” Bratcher. “Isaiah 7:14: Translation Issues.”
[12] “bthuwlah.” Strong’s Concordance with Hebrew and Greek Lexicon. Eliyah.com. n.d. <http://www.eliyah.com/cgi-bin/strongs.cgi?file=hebrewlexicon&isindex=bthuwlah>  Strong The New Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible. “ bethulah <1330>.” <http://classic.net.bible.org/strong.php?id=01330> Genesis 24:16. Net.bible.org. Hebrew text. “b@thuwlah <01330>;” footnote 1.  <http://classic.net.bible.org/verse.php?book=Gen&chapter=24&verse=16
[13] Genesis 24:16, 2 Samuel 13:2. Soncino Babylonian Talmud. Ed. Isidore Epstein 1935-1948. Yebamoth 61b. Soncino Babylonian Talmud. <https://israelect.com/Come-and-Hear/yebamoth/yebamoth_61.html > CR 2 Samuel 13:18; I Kings 1:2.  “na`arah <05291>” NetBible.org. 2019. <http://classic.net.bible.org/strong.php?id=05291>  
[14] CR Isaiah 7:14; Psalms 68:25; Song of Solomon 1:3.
[15] CR Genesis 24:16; Psalms 68:25; Song of Solomon 1:3, 6:8; Isaiah 7:14.
[16] CR Psalms 68:25; Proverbs 30:19; Song of Solomon 1:3, 6:8; Isaiah 7:14;
[17] Genesis 24:43; Exodus 2:8.  Goble. “The Translator to the Reader.” p vii.  Net.bible.org. Hebrew text. “`almah  <5959>” <http://classic.net.bible.org/strong.php?id=05959>  Strong. The New Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible. “almah.”
[18] Goble. “The Translator to the Reader.” p vii.
[19] Goble. “The Translator to the Reader.” p vii.
[20] Miller. Fred P.  “The Translation of the Great Isaiah Scroll.” Book of Isaiah. 2001. Column VI Isa 6:7 to 7:15.   <http://www.moellerhaus.com/qa-tran.htm “hmleh.” Net.bible.org. <http://classic.net.bible.org/search.php?search=hebrew_strict_index:hmleh> BibleHub.com. Interlinear Bible Hebrew text. Isaiah 7:14. “5959 [e] hā·‘al·māh”.  <http://biblehub.com/interlinear/isaiah/7-14.htmOrthodox Jewish Bible (OJB). Isaiah 7:14.
[21] “`Immanuw’el <06005>. NetBible.org. 2019. <http://classic.net.bible.org/strong.php?id=06005> Isaiah 7.14. BibleHub.com. Strong’s Lexicon. “Immanuel.” <https://biblehub.com/parallel/isaiah/7-14.htm