The Greatest Offer in History – Turned Down

King Ahaz knew the trustworthy reputation of Isaiah who had prophesied to two previous kings, his father King Jotham and grandfather King Uzziah.[1] When the prophet spoke, Ahaz was fully aware that Isaiah was speaking directly for God. How then did the King botch the greatest opportunity offered by God to a man?

Ten generations earlier, the House of David was split by God as a punishment for worshipping pagan gods Sidonian goddess Astarte, Moabite god Chemosh and Ammonite god Milcom.[2] For David’s sake and to preserve His chosen home, Jerusalem, God retained the city and split off 10 tribes of Israel whom He promised to bless if they followed God like David had done.[3]

King Rehoboam, son of Solomon, ruled the nation of Judah in Jerusalem while the 10 tribes followed Jeroboam, son of Nebat from the tribe of Ephraim, who became their King of the nation Israel.[4] The two nations became enemies and with time fractured even further when tribes Manasseh and Ephraim split off from Israel warring with each other and then allying against Judah. [5]

During the reign of Ahaz, King Pekah of Ephraim allied with King Rezin of Syria (Aram or the Arameans) to attack Judah besieging Jerusalem. Inside the city, Ahaz and the people were greatly distressed.[6]

To calm their fears, God sent Isaiah promising protection to Jerusalem and King Ahaz, even foretelling that Ephraim as a nation would be eliminated within 65 years.[7] To assure the shaken King of God’s promise, Ahaz was given the unparalleled opportunity to ask for a miraculous sign with boundless limitations – any sign between Heaven and Hell to prove His promise was indisputable:

Is 7:11 “Ask a sign for yourself from the LORD your God; make it deep as Sheol or high as heaven.”(NASB)

Unbelievably, King Ahaz refused to take the offer! He said to Isaiah, “I will not ask, nor will I test the LORD!”[8] Knowing the true reason for Ahaz’ response and not taking kindly to this attitude, God’s response to Ahaz certainly didn’t ease the King’s anxieties.

Isaiah replied, “Is it too slight a thing for you to try the patience of men, that you will try the patience of my God as well?”[9] No longer speaking just to the King, Isaiah response was now addressing a much broader audience, “Listen now, O house of David!”[10]

Isaiah’s response to Ahaz’ attitude in was, in effect, “let me tell you about God’s marvelous sign!” The unsurpassed parameters of the sign were already established – it had to be something between Heaven and Hell so miraculous, so fantastic it would be unequalled:

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

Three explicit details make the Isaiah 7:14 prophecy precise. The prophesied female would be a specific virgin, “the virgin,” a reference to a female used only twice previously in Hebrew Biblical history – Rebekah, the virgin bride of Isaac, and Miriam, the virgin sister of Moses.[11] Gender of the virgin’s child was foretold to be a boy and he was named by God, also a Biblical rarity.

Various rationalizations are proposed claiming Isaiah 7:14 is not a Messiah prophesy. Some argue the prediction was really about an unidentified young female who was present with King Ahaz and Isaiah, even going so far as to say the female was already pregnant.[12] Jewish sage Rabbi Rashi taught that the prophecy was about Manoah’s wife, mother of Sampson, the Biblical strongman.[13]

Others contend the Christian Bible translations are a mistranslation, a misinterpretation, or an error.[14] A few go so far as to accuse Christians of a conspiracy to intentionally change the text as a false means to support Christianity.

Science says otherwise. Written centuries before Jesus of Nazareth was born, the Qumran discovery of the complete Great Isaiah Scroll written in ancient Hebrew contains the Isaiah 7:14 words ha-almah, “the virgin.”[15]

King Ahaz botched the opportunity to choose any sign between Heaven and Hell that resulted in God providing a seemingly impossible prophetic sign – was it a Messiah prophecy? The test of truth is straightforward – would the ability of a virgin to naturally conceive a baby boy who was named by God rise to the level of an unparalleled, matchless sign of God?

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REFERENCES:

[1] 2 Chronicles 26.22-23; 27:1-2; 2 Kings 15:32-34, 38; Isaiah 1:1; 7:1.
[2] I Kings 11:4-8, 33; I Chronicles 3:10-13.
[3] I Kings 11:26-49.
[4] I Kings 12:16-20, 26.
[5] I Kings 14:30. Isaiah 9:21.
[6] Isaiah 7:2.
[7] Isaiah 7:2, 8.
[8] Isaiah 7:12. NASB, NKJV.
[9] Isaiah 7:13.
[10] NKJV.
[11] Isaiah 7:14. Bible Hub. Hebrew text. <https://biblehub.com/text/isaiah/7-14.htm>  Genesis 24:43. Bible Hub. Hebrew text. <https://biblehub.com/text/genesis/24-43.htm>  Exodus 2:8. Hebrew text. BibleHub. <https://biblehub.com/text/exodus/2-8.htm>
[12] 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. 10 Feb. 2014.  <http://www.crivoice.org/isa7-14.htmlThe Complete Jewish Bible with Rashi Commentary. Yeshayahu- Isaiah 7:14.   <https://www.chabad.org/library/bible_cdo/aid/15938/showrashi/true>  “Who is the Almah’s son?” Teshuvas HaMinim. 2011. <http://web.archive.org/web/20120425022737/http://www.teshuvashaminim.com/isaiah714.html>
Robinson, B.A. “Isaiah 7:14 “Behold, a virgin shall conceive…”” Religious Tolerance. 2007  <http://www.religioustolerance.org/chr_proi.htm>  Gill. John Gill’s Exposition of the Whole Bible.  Isaiah 7:14 commentary. <https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/geb/isaiah-7.html>
[13] The Compete Jewish Bible- with Rashi Commentary. Isaiah 7:14, CR Judges Chapter 13.
[14] Nahigian. “A Virgin-Birth Prophesy?”  Cramer. “The Book of Isaiah.”  Cline, Austin. “Who Was Virgin Mary, Mother of Jesus? Was She Really a Virgin?” Yosef, Uri. “Isaiah 7:14 – Part 1: An Accurate Grammatical Analysis.” Bratcher, Dennis. “Isaiah 7:14: Translation Issues.”
[15] “Isaiah 7:14-Deception In The Name Of Jesus.” Agnostic Review of Christianity. n.d.  <http://agnosticreview.com/isaiah7.htm>  Miller. Fred P. “The Translation of the Great Isaiah Scroll.” Book of Isaiah. Column VI Isa 6:7 to 7:15. 2001. <http://www.moellerhaus.com/qa-tran.htm>  Miller. Fred P. “Commentary on Isaiah – In-depth verse-by-verse study of Isaiah.” Moellerhaus Publisher. 1999. <http://moellerhaus.com/7-8.htm>  Isaiah 7:14. Bible Hub. Hebrew text. <https://biblehub.com/text/isaiah/7-14.htm>  Isaiah 7:14 BibleHub.com. Interlinear Bible Hebrew text  “5959 [e] hā·‘al·māh”. <http://biblehub.com/interlinear/isaiah/7-14.htmOrthodox Jewish Bible (OJB) translation for Isaiah 7:14. <https://biblehub.com/ojb/isaiah/7.htm>

“Isaiah Messiah Prophecies – Is There One Exception?

Isaiah is the greatest of all the prophets regarded by Rabbis as second in importance only to Moses, according to the Jewish Encyclopedia.[1] Prophecies of Isaiah, who lived 300 years after the reign of King David, appear throughout his writings foretelling of the Messiah.

Many of Isaiah’s prophecies are referenced in the Babylonian Talmud reinforcing their significance.[2] In Sanhedrin 98 alone, six Rabbis make 11 references to Isaiah’s Messiah prophecies.[3]

Dead Sea Scrolls discoveries in 1947 yielded one of the most treasured finds, the Great Isaiah Scroll. Dated to about 125 BC, it is the oldest known, nearly complete Hebrew text of the Book of Isaiah.[4] Secured in the Israel Museum, Jerusalem, the scroll is 1000 years older than the Masoretic texts that serve as the source for today’s Jewish Bible, the Tenakh.[5]

Translating ancient Hebrew text has its challenges consisting of an alphabet with only 22 consonants that are used to form a root word which could be either a noun or a verb. Translators must rely on the broader context to fill in the vowels, tenses and other words to form a complete sentence in English.[6]

Subjective translations obviously open the door to variation which, in turn, impacts interpretations of prophecy meanings.[7] No surprise, Jewish interpretations are not always in agreement with Christian beliefs, some differences being less clear than others.[8]

A section of verses on a specific topic, known as a parashah or pericope, is found in Isaiah 52-53 about “My Servant.” About 200 years later, God identified “My Servant” as the “Branch” in the prophecy of Zechariah 3:8.

Quoted excerpts of the parashah from The Complete Jewish Bible about “My Servant”:  “kings shall shut their mouths because of him;” “despised and rejected;” “no deceit in his mouth;” “from imprisonment and from judgment he is taken;” “cut off from the land of the living;” “poured out his soul to death, and with transgressors he was counted; and he bore the sin of many, and interceded for the transgressors;” and “from the toil of his soul he would see, he would be satisfied.”[9]

Christians see these depictions of life, torment, death and satisfaction in life-after-death as prophecies foretelling the Messiah fulfilled by the trialcrucifixion, burial and Resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth. Judaism  generally treats the parashah as a metaphor of a man that refers to the nation of Israel, the house of Jacob; however, not all Jewish authorities are in agreement.[10]

Jonathan Targum (targum means “translation”), known as the “Official Targum to the Prophets,”  is an Aramaic translation of the Tenakh with roots going back to just after the rebuilding of the Temple in the 200 BC time frame.[11] According to the Jewish Encyclopedia, it was written “more freely, in harmony with the text of the prophetic books.”[12] The Targum was once read in Jewish worship services and is referenced in the Babylonian Talmud.[13]

Opening the parashah with Isaiah 52:13, Jonathan Targum  begins with “Behold my servant Messiah shall prosper…” Closing out the parashah, the Isaiah 53:11 Targum summarizes “…so as to cleanse their souls from sin:  these shall look on the kingdom of their Messiah…”[14]

Preeminent Jewish Scriptures authority Rabbi Maimonides once asked a rhetorical question, “What is to be the manner of Messiah’s advent, and where will be the place of his first appearance?” Answering his own question, the Rabbi quoted prophecies from the parashah – Isaiah 53:2 regarding the Messiah’s unheralded arrival and Isaiah 52:15 explaining how kings would be “confounded at the wonders” the Messiah would perform.[15]

Most controversial is Isaiah 7:14, quoted in Matthew 1:23 as a prophecy fulfilled by the birth of Jesus of Nazareth. Masoretic text of the Tenakh translates`almah as meaning “young woman” while nearly all Christian Bibles translate `almah as “virgin.”[16] Making the controversy more provocative are the few Christian Bible versions that inconsistently translate Isaiah 7:14 as “young woman” while translating it differently in Matthew as “virgin.”[17]

Matthew 1:23 Greek text quotes Isaiah 7:14 by translating `almah using the word parthenos meaning “a maiden…an unmarried daughter:  virgin.”[18] Language analysis of parthenos reveals 14 other instances by four authors of six New Testament books, all used in the context of a virgin.[19]

If Jesus of Nazareth is indeed the Messiah, how did he view Isaiah’s prophecies?  On a Sabbath in the Synagogue of his home town, Jesus read a Messiah prophecy from Isaiah 61:1-2 to publicly open his ministry:[20]

LK 4:18-19, 21 “The Spirit of the LORD is upon Me, Because He has anointed Me To preach the gospel to the poor; He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted, To proclaim liberty to the captives And recovery of sight to the blind, To set at liberty those who are oppressed; To proclaim the acceptable year of the LORD.”…”Today this Scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.” (NKJV)

Hours before his arrest during his final Passover meal with his Disciples, Jesus foretold that a scripture written about himself was yet to be fulfilled. Quoting from Isaiah 53:12 he said:

LK 22:37 “It is written: ‘And he was numbered with the transgressors’; and I tell you that this must be fulfilled in me. Yes, what is written about me is reaching its fulfillment.”” (NIV)

Isaiah’s book of prophecies from beginning to end, as a general consensus of both Jewish and Christian authorities, point to the Messiah with the exception of those disputed prophecies mirrored in the Gospel accounts. Jesus himself called out the Messiah prophecies of Isaiah as the basis for people to see that he is the fulfillment of those prophecies.

Are the Gospel accounts of the circumstances of the birth, life, death and Resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth a fulfillment of Isaiah’s Messiah prophecies?

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

REFERENCES:
[1] “Isaiah.”  Jewish Encyclopedia.  2011. <http://www.jewishencyclopedia.com/articles/8235-isaiah>
[2] Jones, Dennis A.  “Jewish Messianic Texts.”  The Emmanuel Church of the Web. n.d.  <http://fecotw.tripod.com/id88.htmlThe Babylonian Talmud. Trans. Michael L. Rodkinson. 1918. http://www.sacred-texts.com/jud/talmud.htm#t08>  Soncino Babylonian Talmud. Ed. Rabbi Isidore Epstein. 1935 – 1948. <https://israelect.com/Come-and-Hear/tcontents.html>
[3] Soncino Babylonian Talmud.  Sanhedrin 98a & b footnotes: Isaiah XLIX:7, XXIX:21  I:25, LIX:19, LIX:20, LX:21, LIX:16, XLVIII:11, LX:22; LIII.4.  Also 38a, footnote #9 to Isaiah 8:14. <https://israelect.com/Come-and-Hear/sanhedrin/sanhedrin_98.html>
[4] “The Great Isaiah Scroll.” 2018. The Israel Museum, Jerusalem. <http://dss.collections.imj.org.il/isaiah>  Miller. Library of Congress (United States). n.d. “Scrolls From the Dead Sea.” <https://www.loc.gov/exhibits/scrolls/late.html> Israel Antiquities Authority. 2012. “The Leon Levy Dead Sea Scrolls Digital Library.”  <https://www.deadseascrolls.org.il/explore-the-archive/search#q=’Isaiah‘> Fred P. The Great Isaiah Scroll. 1998. “Qumran Great Isaiah Scroll.” <http://www.moellerhaus.com/qumdir.htm> 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. 2002. p 281.    <http://books.google.com/books?id=c4R9c7wAurQC&lpg=PP1&ots=fQpCpzCdb5&dq=Abegg%2C%20Flint%20and%20Ulrich%2C%20The%20Dead%20Dead%20Sea%20Scrolls%20Bible%2C&pg=PP1#v=onepage&q=Isaiah&f=false>  “Dead Sea Scrolls.” Archaeology. 2018. <http://www.allaboutarchaeology.org/dead-sea-scrolls.htm>
[5] Benner, Jeff A. “The Great Isaiah Scroll and the Masoretic Text.” Ancient Hebrew Research Center. 2017. <http://www.ancient-hebrew.org/bible_isaiahscroll.html> “Masoretic Text.” Encyclopædia Britannica. n.d. <https://www.britannica.com/topic/Masoretic-text>  “Jewish Concepts: Masoretic Text.” Jewish Virtual Library. 2018. <https://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/jsource/Judaism/Masoretic.html>  “Masoretic Text.” Textus-Receptus.Com. 2016. <http://textus-receptus.com/wiki/Masoretic_Text>  “Masoretic Text.” New World Encyclopedia. 2014. <http://www.newworldencyclopedia.org/entry/Masoretic_Text> Zew, Moshe. “The Numeric System of the Bible.” 27 Dec. 2013.  WorldWide Witness by Moshe Zew.  <http://www.kolumbus.fi/gematria/numeric.htm>
[6] “The Hebrew Language.”  MyJewishLearning.com. n.d.  <http://www.myjewishlearning.com/culture/2/Languages/Hebrew.shtml>
“History of the Hebrew Language.”   B’NAI ZAQEN. 2005. <http://www.zaqen.info/hislangu.htm> Benner, Jeff A. “Introduction to the Ancient Hebrew Vocabulary.” Ancient Hebrew Research Center. 2013. <https://www.ancient-hebrew.org/introduction.htm>  Benner, Jeff A.  “Introduction to the Hebrew Bible.” Ancient Hebrew Research Center. 2017. <https://www.ancient-hebrew.org/introduction.htm>
[7] Benner. “Introduction to the Hebrew Bible.”
[8] Neubauer and Driver. The Fifty-third Chapter of Isaiah According to the Jewish Interpreters. “Introduction.” pp. xxix- lxv. <https://books.google.com/books?id=YxdbAAAAQAAJ&pg=PP1&hl=en#v=onepage&q=introduction&f=false>  Sullivan, Charles A. “A History of Chapters and Verses in the Hebrew Bible.” 2012. <http://charlesasullivan.com/2693/a-history-of-chapters-and-verses-in-the-hebrew-bible>
[9] The Complete Jewish Bible with Rashi Commentary. 2018. Isaiah 52-53. <https://www.chabad.org/library/bible_cdo/aid/15983>
[10] The Complete Jewish Bible with Rashi Commentary. Isaiah 53:3. Rashi commentary. Soncino Babylonian Talmud. n.d. Sotah 14a. <https://israelect.com/Come-and-Hear/sotah/sotah_14.html#14a_1> Crispin, Moshe Kohen ibn.  “Sefer ha-Musar.”  Neubauer, Driver & Rolles. The Fifty-third Chapter of Isaiah According to the Jewish Interpreters.  pp. 99-101.   <http://books.google.com/books?id=YxdbAAAAQAAJ&pg=PP1#v=onepage&q=advent&f=false>
[11] Neubauer, Adolf. And Driver, Samuel Rolles. The Fifty-third Chapter of Isaiah According to the Jewish Interpreters. 1877. “Thargum of Yonathan (Jonathan Targum)” pp. 5-7. https://books.google.com/books?id=YxdbAAAAQAAJ&pg=PP1&hl=en#v=onepage&q=Thargum&f=false>
[12] “Targum.” Jewish Encyclopedia. 2011.  < http://www.jewishencyclopedia.com/articles/14248-targum >
[13] “Targum.” Jewish Encyclopedia. 2011. “Historical Jewish Sources.” n.d. “Overview:  About Targums.”  <http://www.preteristarchive.com/BibleStudies/JewishSources/Targums/index.html>
[14] Neubauer..  The Fifty-third Chapter of Isaiah According to the Jewish Interpreters.  “Thargum of Yonathan.” pp. 5-7.
[15] Mangel, Nissen. “Responsa.” Chabad.org. 2018. <http://www.chabad.org/library/article_cdo/aid/107783/jewish/Responsa.htm> Maimonides, “Letter to the South (Yemen)”. p 374. Neubauer and Driver.  The Fifty-third Chapter of Isaiah According to the Jewish Interpreters.
[16] Isaiah 7:14.The Complete Jewish Bible with Rashi Commentary; Jewish Publication Society Bible. <http://www.breslov.com/bible/Isaiah7.htm#14>
[17] Good News Translation; Net Bible Translation.
[18] Strong. “parthenos The New Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible. CR “parthenia meaning “maidenhood: – virginity.”
[19] Net.bible.org. Greek text for Matthew 1:23; word search “Parthenos.” <http://classic.net.bible.org/search.php?search=greek_strict_index:3933>
[20] Luke 4:16-19; Isaiah 61:1-2a.