A Connection – Branch Prophecies of Isaiah, Jeremiah and Zechariah?

Three Hebrew prophets over the span of 200 years – Isaiah, Jeremiah, and Zechariah – had one specific prophecy in common.[1] All foretold of the “Branch,” similarly interpreted as the “Sprout.”

Generations after King David’s reign, some 700 years before Jesus of Nazareth was born, the remnants of David’s kingdom of Israel were in a downward death spiral. For centuries, despite many warnings from numerous prophets, the Hebrews and their kings failed to abide by their contractual Covenant made with God at Mt. Sinai.[2]

Renowned as a prophet by both Judaism and Christianity, Isaiah warned kings Ahaz and Hezekiah of the consequences their nation faced. Isaiah prophesied the “King of Babylon” would one day take away their own descendants to serve as eunuchs in his palace.[3]

Warnings also came with good tidings when Isaiah prophesied about the coming future Messiah.[4] In one, Isaiah foretold of a “Branch” who would grow out or sprout from the root of Jesse:[5]

Is 11:1-2 “There shall come forth a Rod from the stem of Jesse, And a Branch shall grow out of his roots.  The Spirit of the LORD shall rest upon Him, The Spirit of wisdom and understanding, The Spirit of counsel and might, The Spirit of knowledge and of the fear of the LORD.”(NKJV)

A century after Isaiah’s prophecies, defiance by the Hebrews had continued leading to the fulfillment of his prophecy that judgement would come from the King of Babylon.[6] Reality came with the attack of Nebuchadnezzar and his destruction of Jerusalem.

After a devastating defeat, the Hebrew’s finest were taken captive back to Babylon where, in the Book of Daniel, at least three upstanding Hebrews served King Nebuchadnezzar. Prophet Jeremiah added more bad news prophesying that the secession of sitting kings in the House of David would end with Jeconiah aka Jehoiachin.[7]

Amidst the doom and gloom, Jeremiah also predicted good news about the coming Messiah. Twice the prophet foretold that God would raise up another King in the lineage of David, “a Branch of Righteous.” Curiously, Jewish sage Rabbi Rashi offered no commentary on either of these prophecies, perhaps because no commentary was necessary:

Jer 23:5 “”Behold, the days are coming,” says the LORD, “That I will raise to David a Branch of righteousness; A King shall reign and prosper, And execute judgment and righteousness in the earth…”” (NKJV)

Jer  33:15 “‘In those days and at that time I will cause to grow up to David A Branch of righteousness; He shall execute judgment and righteousness in the earth…’” (NKJV)

Moving ahead another century since Jeremiah’s prophecies, the 70 years of the Babylonian captivity had ended with the Medes and Persian invasion.[8] Two centuries earlier, Isaiah twice prophesied a ruler named Cyrus would rise who would allow Jerusalem to be rebuilt – Cyrus was the name of the new Persian Empire ruler who did exactly that.[9]

Darius followed Cyrus as ruler of the Persian Empire and honored Cyrus’ decree for the Hebrews to rebuild Jerusalem and the Temple.[10] Zechariah 1:1 – “In the eighth month of the second year of Darius, the word of the LORD came to the prophet Zechariah son of Berekiah, the son of Iddo.” [11]

Describing his fourth vision, Zechariah was present when Joshua the Priest stood before the angel of the LORD along with Satan who was there to accuse the priest. Satan was rebuked by God and Joshua was given fine new clothes.[12] In the vision, God then spoke directly to the high Priest:[13]

Zech 3:8 “‘Now listen, Joshua the high priest, you and your friends who are sitting in front of you—indeed they are men who are a symbol, for behold, I am going to bring in My servant the Branch.’” (NASB)

God identified the Branch as “My servant.” Incidentally, the central figure of the parashah prophecy of Isaiah 52-53 is also “My servant” who is subjected to unusual cruelties consistent with a Roman crucifixion described in the Gospels.

Narrating his eighth vision, Zechariah received instructions from God to choose people from among the exiles to make a crown of gold and silver, then set it upon the head of Joshua, the high Priest. Zechariah was directed to then deliver this message to the Priest:

Zech 6:12-13 “…‘Thus says the LORD of hosts, saying: “Behold, the Man whose name is the BRANCH! From His place He shall branch out, And He shall build the temple of the LORD; Yes, He shall build the temple of the LORD. He shall bear the glory, And shall sit and rule on His throne; So He shall be a priest on His throne, And the counsel of peace shall be between them both.”’’” (NKJV)

Joshua, the high Priest, was not from the royal lineage of King David. Nor was he expected to be made a king when the symbolic crown was set upon his head, especially since the Hebrews were subservient to an accommodating ruler, Darius. Neither was Zerubbabel given the crown, technically the rightful heir to the throne being the grandson of Jeconiah, the last sitting king in the royal secession of David before the Babylonian captivity.[14]

No one person present at this event is the focus of God’s message, rather it pointed to someone else in the future named the Branch. Rabbi Rashi commented that while he believed the prophecies are about Zerubbabel, he did not rule out that this second Branch prophecy was about the Messiah.[15] Jewish sage Rabbi Maimonides, on the other hand, viewed Zechariah 6:12 as a Messiah prophecy.[16]

Prophecies from Isaiah before the Babylonian captivity, Jeremiah during the Babylonian captivity and Zechariah after the Babylon captivity, all point to a future figure called the Branch. Viewed as Messiah prophecies, at least in part, by both Judaism and Christianity, what are the odds that Jesus of Nazareth is the fulfillment of the Branch prophecies?

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

REFERENCES:

[1] “Isaiah.” Encyclopædia Britannica. 2019. <https://www.britannica.com/biography/Isaiah> “Isaiah.” New World Encyclopedia. 2018. <https://www.newworldencyclopedia.org/entry/Isaiah>  “Jeremiah.” Encyclopædia Britannica. 2019. <https://www.britannica.com/biography/Jeremiah-Hebrew-prophet>  “Jeremiah.” New World Encyclopedia. 2018. <http://www.newworldencyclopedia.org/entry/Jeremiah>  “Zechariah.” Encyclopædia Britannica. 2019. <https://www.britannica.com/topic/biblical-literature/The-last-six-minor-prophets#ref597798>  “Zechariah, Book of.” New World Encyclopedia. 2013. <http://www.newworldencyclopedia.org/entry/Zechariah,_Book_of>
[2] Exodus 24:3-8.  CR Deuteronomy 29.
[3] Isaiah 39:7. “ben.” Netbible.org. <http://classic.net.bible.org/strong.php?id=01121>
[4] I Chronicles 2:11-13; 2 Ruth 4:17.
[5] The Complete Jewish Bible – with Rashi Commentary. Rashi commentary on Isaiah 11:1.   <https://www.chabad.org/library/bible_cdo/aid/16210/showrashi/true> CR Isaiah 9:6-7; 11:10.  CR 1 Chronicles 2:12-15, 3:16-18; Ruth 4:21-22; Matthew 1:5-16; Luke 2:4; 23-31.  Ryrie. “Introduction to the Book of Isaiah.”
[6] Jeremiah 24:10-16; 52:27-33; Esther 2:6; 2 Kings 24:6, 8, 12, 14-15; 25:27, 29
[7] Chronicles 36:8, 9; Jeremiah 22:24-30. CR Jeremiah 24:1; 27:20; 28:4; 29:2, 52:31, 33; 1 Chronicles 3:16, 17; 24:15; 2 Chronicles 36:8, 9; Esther 2:6; 2 Kings 24:6, 8, 12, 15; 25:27, 29; Ezekiel 1:2.
[8] 2 Chronicles 36:22; Ezra 2:1.
[9] Isaiah 44:28, 45:1, 13; Ezekiel 1:2-3.  CR Ezra 2:1-2; Nehemiah 7:6; Isaiah 41:2-3, 25, 27; 43:9, 21; 48:14-15.  Josephus, Flavius. Antiquities of the Jews. Book XI, Chapters I.1-2. 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>
[10] Ezekiel 1:2-3, 6:7,12. “Darius I.” Encyclopædia Britannica. 2019. <https://www.britannica.com/biography/Darius-I> Josephus. Antiquities. Book XI, Chapters III.8, IV.1-2.
[11] NET, NIV. “Darius I.” Encyclopædia Britannica.
[12] Zechariah 3.
[13] Plaut, Gunther. “Haggai, Zechariah and Malachi: Back in the Land.”  MyJewishLearning.com. n.d. <http://www.myjewishlearning.com/texts/Bible/Prophets/Latter_Prophets/The_12_Minor_Prophets/Haggai_Zechariah_Malachi.shtml>
[14] I Chronicles 3:17-19; Haggai 1:1, 12, 14; 2:2, 23; Ezra 3:8.
[15] The Complete Jewish Bible – with Rashi Commentary. Rashi commentary on Zechariah 6:12.   <https://www.chabad.org/library/bible_cdo/aid/16210/showrashi/true>
[16] Maimonides, “Letter to the South (Yemen)”. p374.  Neubauer and Driver.  The Fifty-third Chapter of Isaiah According to the Jewish Interpreters. <https://books.google.com/books?id=YxdbAAAAQAAJ&pg=PP1&hl=en#v=onepage&q=advent&f=false>

Is Crucifixion Predicted in the Messiah Prophecies?

Unimaginably cruel mental images are wrought by descriptions of a Roman crucifixion. If an actual crucifixion victim were to describe the horrors of the experience, such as the sole surviving acquaintance of Josephus rescued from the cross, the victim might very well describe it this way:

“I am poured out like water, and all my bones are out of joint. My heart has turned to wax; it has melted away within me.  My strength is dried up like a potsherd, and my tongue sticks to the roof of my mouth; you lay me in the dust of death.  Dogs have surrounded me; a band of evil men has encircled me, they have pierced my hands and my feet.  I can count all my bones; people stare and gloat over me.”[1]

Quoting not from any Roman historical account, the description was written centuries earlier before the Romans perfected this tortuous form of execution – a 1000 years earlier by King David in Psalms 22:14-17.  

Prophecies are seldom as clear as Micah’s prophecy that the Ruler of Israel would come from Bethlehem or Zechariah’s prophecy that the King of Israel would come riding on the foal of a donkey.[2] Some are delivered in perplexing, oracle-style prophecies often requiring knowledge of historical context, intricacies of analogies or symbolisms, and intermingling the present and future.[3]

Historical context of crucifixion comes from Cicero, Rome’s most celebrated orator and lawyer. A victim of a Roman crucifixion was first scourged, “exposed to torture and nailed on that cross;” it was “the most miserable and the most painful punishment appropriate to slaves alone.”

Psychological torture design of crucifixion was to choose a location that would display the exposed crucified victim “within sight of all passersby” with “the express purpose that the wretched man who was dying in agony and torture” would lastly see the circumstances surrounding his death.[4]

Modern medical expert analysis of crucifixion concluded the act of breathing added to the excruciating pain by pulling at the nail wounds driven through nerves in the wrists while pushing up full body weight on nailed feet, just to take a breath. Victims most likely died from shock, if not first by asphyxiation, when they could no longer push up to take a breath.[5]

Historical and medical analysis context of a crucifixion serve as the basis for determining if prophecies are consistent with these facts. Three parashahs or passages from the Old Testament, the Tenakh, are the focus of potential crucifixion prophecies – Psalms 22:1-24, Isaiah 52:13-53:12 and Zechariah 12:8-14.

Psalms 22 depicts a man who is enduring agony and humiliation. Physically, “bones out of joint,” his “heart has turned to wax,” extreme thirst saying his “tongue sticks to the roof of my mouth,” and “they have pierced my hands and feet.”

Psychological suffering describes “a man, scorned by men and despised by the people.” “All who see me mock me; they hurl insults, shaking their heads;” surrounded by men who are like vicious animals.

Isaiah 52-53 is similarly graphic where “My Servant” bears the mental anguish of the “suffering of his soul” being “despised and rejected by men” and considered “stricken by God, smitten by him, and afflicted.” Bodily, “his appearance was so disfigured beyond that of any man and his form marred beyond human likeness.” As an intercessor, “he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment” for which “he poured out his life unto death,” ultimately “cut off from the land of the living.”[6]

Zechariah 12:10 succinctly says, “They will look on me, the one they have pierced, and they will mourn for him as one mourns for an only child, and grieve bitterly for him as one grieves for a firstborn son.”[7]

Jewish authorities recognize portions of these parashahs as messianic prophecies. In a split between the Rabbi contributors of Babylonian Talmud Sukkah 52, one faction viewed Zechariah 12:10 as a Messiah prophecy:

“It is well according to him who explains that the cause is the slaying of Messiah the son of Joseph, since that well agrees with the Scriptural verse, And they shall look upon me because they have thrust him through, and they shall mourn for him as one mourneth for his only son…”

Rabbi Rashi, renowned Jewish authority, commented on Zechariah 12:10 siding with this interpretation in Sukkah 52.  He wrote, “And our Sages expounded this in tractate Sukkah (52a) as referring to the Messiah, son of Joseph, who was slain.”[8]

Jewish authorities are silent on the Isaiah 52-53 parashah depicting a crucifixion event; however, the Messiah prophecies throughout Isaiah’s book are acknowledged in the Talmud and by Rabbi sages. Sanhedrin 98a alone makes 9 references to Isaiah’s prophecies about the future Messiah.[9] Three prominent Rabbi sages independently identified 5 verses of the Isaiah 52-53 passage as all referring to the Messiah.

Rabbi Jose the Galilean was a Talmud contributor recognized for his authority on sacrifices and the Temple. Quoting Isaiah 53:5 and 53:6, he declared they referred to “King Messiah” who would be “wounded” for our transgressions.[10]

Rabbi Maimonides similarly identified the Messiah as the subject of Isaiah 52:15 and 53:2. The Rabbi expounded that, according to this Isaiah 52-53 parashah, the Messiah could be identified by his origins and his wonders.[11]

Rabbi Moshe Kohen ibn Crispin is renowned for his twelfth century authorship of “Sefer ha-Musar” meaning the Book of Instruction. Crispin boldly disagreed with the prevailing Jewish view that “My Servant” is a metaphor referring to the nation of Israel. Instead, Crispin said “My Servant” in Isaiah 52:13 refers to “King Messiah.” [12]

Jesus of Nazareth himself referred to the prophecies describing the manner of death for the Messiah. Days before entering Jerusalem for the last time, Jesus forewarned his Disciples predicting in precise detail that he was about to endure what was foretold by the prophets: 

LK 18:31-33 “Jesus took the Twelve aside and told them, “We are going up to Jerusalem, and everything that is written by the prophets about the Son of Man will be fulfilled. He will be turned over to the Gentiles. They will mock him, insult him, spit on him, flog him and kill him. On the third day he will rise again.”[13]

History affirms that Jesus of Nazareth was subjected to the horrific physical and psychological designs of crucifixion described by Cicero and modern forensic science analysis, consistent with the Gospels.[14] Is crucifixion predicted in the Messiah prophecies of Psalms, Isaiah and Zechariah foretelling the manner of suffering and death by the Messiah?

Rabbi Crispin profoundly summed up the challenge for each person to arrive at their own conclusion about the prophecies saying:

“… if any one should arise claiming to be himself the Messiah, we may reflect, and look to see whether we can observe in him any resemblance to the traits described here:  if there is any such resemblance, then we may believe that he is the Messiah our righteousness; but if not, we cannot do so.[15]

 

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

REFERENCES:
[1]NIV.
[2] Micah 5:2; Zechariah 9:9.
[3] Psalms 78:1-3; Hosea 12:10. Boucher.  “The Parables.”   Bugg. “Types of Prophecy and Prophetic Types.”
[4] Cicero, Marcus Tullius. In Verrem Actionis Secundae M. Tulli Ciceronis Libri Quinti.  “Secondary Orations Against Verres. Book 5. 70 B.C.  The Society for Ancient Languages   University of Alabama – Huntsville.  10 Feb. 2005. <https://web.archive.org/web/20160430183826/http://www.uah.edu/student_life/organizations/SAL/texts/latin/classical/cicero/inverrems5e.html>  Quintilian, Marcus Fabius. Quintilian’s Institutes of Oratory. 1856. Trans. John Selby Watson. Book 8, Chapter 4. <https://web.archive.org/web/20170815223340/http://rhetoric.eserver.org/quintilian/index.html>
[5] Cilliers, L. & Retief F. P.  “The history and pathology of crucifixion.”  South African Medical Journal.  Dec;93(12):938-41.  U.S. National Library of Medicine|National Institute of Health.  <http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/14750495>  Zugibe, Frederick T.  “Turin Lecture:  Forensic and Clinical Knowledge of the Practice of Crucifixion.”  E-Forensic Medicine. 2005. <http://web.archive.org/web/20130925103021/http:/e-forensicmedicine.net/Turin2000.htm>  Maslen, Matthew W. and Mitchell, Piers D.  “Medical theories on the cause of death in crucifixion.” Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine.  J R Soc Med. 2006 April; 99(4): 185–188.  doi:  10.1258/jrsm.99.4.185.  National Center for Biotechnology Information. Search term Search database. <http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1420788>  Alchin, Linda.  “Roman Crucifixion.”  Tribunes and Triumphs. 2008.  <http://www.tribunesandtriumphs.org/roman-life/roman-crucifixion.htm> Zias, Joe. “Crucifixion in Antiquity – The Anthropological Evidence.” JoeZias.com. 2009. <http://web.archive.org/web/20121211060740/http://www.joezias.com/CrucifixionAntiquity.html>  Champlain, Edward. Nero. 2009. <https://books.google.com/books?id=30Wa-l9B5IoC&lpg=PA122&ots=nw4edgV_xw&dq=crucifixion%2C%20tacitus&pg=PP1#v=onepage&q&f=false>
[6] NIV.
[7] NIV.
[8] The Compete Jewish Bible – with Rashi Commentary. Zechariah 12:10  <http://www.chabad.org/library/bible_cdo/aid/63255/jewish/The-Bible-with-Rashi.htmSoncino Babylonian Talmud. Sukkah 52a. <http://www.halakhah.com/rst/moed/16b%20-%20Succah%20-%2029b-56b.pdf>
[9] Isaiah 53:3.  Soncino Babylonian Talmud. Sanhedrin 98a footnotes: Isaiah XLIX:7, XVIII:5, I:25, LIX:19, LIX:20, LX:21, LIX:16, XLVIII:11, LX:22; footnote #31. <https://israelect.com/Come-and-Hear/sanhedrin/sanhedrin_98.htmlSoncino Babylonian Talmud. Sanhedrin 38a, footnote #9 to Isaiah 8:14. <https://israelect.com/Come-and-Hear/sanhedrin/sanhedrin_38.html>
[10] The Babylonian Talmud. Rodkinson.  “Part I.  Historical and Literary Introduction to the New Edition of the Talmud, Chapter 2.”  pp 10, 12-13.  <http://www.sacred-texts.com/jud/t10/ht202.htmThe Babylonian Talmud. Derech Eretz-Zuta. “The Chapter on Peace.”  Yose the Galilaean. Neubauer, Driver & Rolles. The Fifty-third Chapter of Isaiah According to the Jewish Interpreters. Quote. Siphrej. pp 10-11. <https://books.google.com/books?id=YxdbAAAAQAAJ&pg=PP1#v=onepage&q=Jose&f=false>
[11] Moses Maimonides. Neubauer, Adolf. And Driver, Samuel Rolles.  The Fifty-third Chapter of Isaiah According to the Jewish Interpreters. 1877. “Letter to the South (Yemen).” pp xvi, 374-375.  <http://books.google.com/books?id=YxdbAAAAQAAJ&pg=PP1#v=onepage&q=advent&f=false>
[12] Crispin, Moshe Kohen ibn. Neubauer, Driver & Rolles. The Fifty-third Chapter of Isaiah According to the Jewish Interpreters  “Sefer ha-Musar.” pp 99-101.
[13] NIV.
[14] Josephus, Flavius. Antiquities of the Jews. Trans. and commentary, William Whitson. The Complete Works of Josephus. 1850. Book XVIII, Chapter III.3. <http://books.google.com/books?id=e0dAAAAAMAAJ&printsec=frontcover&source=gbs_ge_summary_r&cad=0#v=onepage&q&f=false>   Tacitus, Gaius Cornelius. The Annals. 109 AD. Trans. Alfred John Church and William Jackson Brodribb.  Internet Classic Archive. 2009. Book XV.  <http://classics.mit.edu/Tacitus/annals.html>  Lucian of Samosata. “The Death of Peregrine.” The Works of Lucian of Samosata. Volume IV. Trans. H. W. Fowler and F. G. Fowler. 1905. p 82. <http://www.sacred-texts.com/cla/luc/wl4/wl420.htm>   Encyclopaedia Judaica. Eds. Michael Berenbaum and Fred Skolnik. Vol. 11. 2nd Edition. “Jesus.” pp 246-251.  <http://go.galegroup.com/ps/infomark.do?action=interpret&eisbn=9780028660974&prodId=GVRL&userGroupName=imcpl1111&type=aboutBook&version=1.0&authCount=1&u=imcpl1111>  “Last Days of Jesus.” PBS.org. TV show. Air date: April 4, 2017. <http://www.pbs.org/program/last-days-jesus>
[15] Crispin. “Sefer ha-Musar.” p 114.










Isaiah 7:14 – A Virgin Birth Prophecy?

Of all the Isaiah prophecies about the Messiah, Isaiah 7:14 is probably the most controversial. Why? Because Judaism and others say the prophecy made to King Ahaz is not about a virgin birth, yet Matthew’s Gospel says Jesus was born of a virgin fulfilling this prophecy.

One single Hebrew word – `almah – is the source of the controversy.[1] Most Christian Bibles translate the word as “virgin” whereas Jewish Bibles and a few Christian Bibles translate it as “young woman.”

“Virgin” vs. “young woman” – those who believe that Isaiah 7:14 is a messianic prophecy pointing to a miraculous virgin birth of a son vs. those who believe it is a short-term prediction about a young woman, not necessarily a virgin, who was to bear a son.[2]

Translation of ancient Hebrew text into English is not an exact science where there is not a word-for-word translation equivalent. Hebrew words can serve as either a noun or a verb requiring the translator to take a more wholistic view of the text to understand the context.[3]

Language analysis, a more in-dept version of literary analysis, is a scientific study of word usage by the speaker or author.[4] Word choice and its intended meaning are determined by the speaker (or writer) which may not necessarily be the same meaning applied by the listener (or the reader or translator). The key is unlocking the word definition code of the speaker or writer.

Four Hebrew words come into play in deciphering the meaning of `almah. Lowest common denominator is na`arah meaning “girl” or “young woman” where there is no specific implication of virginity.[5] Isaiah never once used this word.

Just the opposite of na`arah is bethulah explicitly meaning “virgin.” It commonly appears as a metaphor of a virgin in judgements, lamentations, or blessings. A separate category of bethulah is used in a legalistic context in the Law always used in the strictest sense of a virgin. It is also used to describe a type of na`arah; however, since Isaiah never used na`arah, he did not use it in this context – he only used bethulah 5 times as a metaphor or judgement of a city or nation.

Last of the three Hebrew words referring to a young female is the rarest –`almah – appearing only 7 times in the entire Bible. It is the feminine version stemming from the Hebrew word `elem meaning “something kept out of sight.”[6]

Unlike bethulah, none of the instances of `almah are used in metaphors, legalistic definitions, as adjectives or in adjective clauses. Instead, the word is used exclusively to make reference to a special class of females. As a standalone noun, `almah does not need further clarification from an adjective or adjective clause. Similarly, it is never used as an adjective or in an adjective clause to define the subject.[7]

Only one place in the Bible contains all these words in reference to the same female figure, Rebekah, and it is the earliest appearance of `almah. As such, the passage in Genesis 24 makes it the codex for unlocking the meaning of these Hebrew female words.

Abraham had sent his servant back to his previous homeland to find a bride for Isaac, but he did not give the servant any qualifications for her except that she had to willing agree to marry Isaac. The servant had no idea how to go about finding the bride in an unfamiliar land so he prayed for a sign that led him to find Rebekah.

Gen. 24:16 “Now the young woman [na ‘arah] was very beautiful to behold, a virgin [bethulah]; no man had known her.”

v. 43 “behold, I stand by the well of water; and it shall come to pass that when the virgin [`almah] comes out to draw water, and I say to her…”

v. 44 “let her be the woman [`ishshah] whom the LORD has appointed for my master’s son.” (NKJV)

Rebekah is first described in the past tense using the combination of na ‘arah with bethulah. Her virginity is further emphasized by saying that “no man had known her.” Later, when recounting his story to her brother, Laban, and Rebekah’s family, the servant used a present tense narrative, now referring to Rebekah as the `almah.

With dual, yet different, references to Rebekah’s virginity, there can be no doubt that she is being described as a virgin. Josephus, a Pharisee expert, wrote in Antiquities saying Rebekah viewed Laban as the “guardian of my virginity” after her father had died.[6]

At the end of the passage, the servant refers to Rebekah in the future tense as `ishshah, the Hebrew for woman, saying he hopes that she will become the wife of Isaac.[8] In this context, Rebekah would be an adult woman who is not a virgin where the use of na ‘arahbethulah nor `almah would not be accurate.

Comparing the Genesis codex definition of `almah as “virgin” to the other 6 uses of `almah in the Bible, in all instances `almah is always used as a standalone noun in the context of a virgin in a royal type context.  The language analysis conclusion:  the meaning of `almah exclusively means “virgin” – no adjectives or further clarifications is needed.

Was Isaiah 7:14 the prophecy of a virgin birth of a son or was it a prediction about a young woman to whom Isaiah was speaking known to both to him and King Ahaz ?

If `almah is translated as “a young maiden” where the state of virginity is not certain, how unimpressive is that prophecy? The female subject may already be pregnant or will soon be. Chances the baby would be boy was a 50-50 probability. Would King Ahaz, his audience or anyone else have viewed this as a miraculous sign from God bounded only by Heaven and Hell? 

On the other hand, if `almah is translated as the “virgin” who would conceive a son, that possibility would be unthinkable – a virgin conceiving a child…and it would be a boy. Would this meet the expectations of a boundless,  miraculous prophecy? 

 

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

REFERENCES:

[1] Net.bible.org. Isaiah 7 Hebrew text.
[2] 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?” <http://atheism.about.com/od/biblepeoplenewtestament/p/MaryVirgin.htm>  Yosef, Uri.  “Isaiah 7:14 – Part 1: An Accurate Grammatical Analysis.” 2011. <http://thejewishhome.org/counter/Isa714_1.pdf>  Bratcher, Dennis. “Isaiah 7:14: Translation Issues.” The Voice. 2014. <http://www.crivoice.org/isa7-14.htmlThe Complete Jewish Bible with Rashi Commentary. Yeshayahu- Isaiah 7:14.  “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…”” 2007 <http://www.religioustolerance.org/chr_proi.htm> “Isaiah 7:14-Deception In The Name Of Jesus.” Agnostic Review of Christianity. 2011.  <http://ihuanedo.ning.com/group/religiousskeptism/forum/topics/isaiah-7-14-deception-in-the-name-of-jesus>
[3] Benner, Jeff A.  “Introduction to the Hebrew Bible.” Ancient Hebrew Research Center. 2013.  <https://www.ancient-hebrew.org/introduction.htm>
[4] Sapir, Avinoam. LSI Laboratory for Scientific Interrogation. Language analysis courses.  <http://www.lsiscan.com/id37.htm>  “Scientific Content Analysis (SCAN).” Personal Verification LTD. Updated 15 November 2016. <http://www.verify.co.nz/scan.php>  Last accessed 7 Dec. 2016.
[5] “na`arah <05291>” NetBible.org. 2019. <http://classic.net.bible.org/strong.php?id=05291>
[6] BibleHub.com. Isaiah 7:14 Hebrew text. 2018. <https://biblehub.com/text/isaiah/7-14.htm>  “5959. almah” BibleHub.com. 2018. <https://biblehub.com/hebrew/5959.htm>; “5958. elem” <https://biblehub.com/hebrew/5958.htm>; “5956. alam.” <https://biblehub.com/hebrew/5956.htm>.  “`almah  <5959>” Lexicon-Concordance. n.d. <http://lexiconcordance.com/hebrew/5959.html>  “`elem <5956>” Lexicon-Concordance. n.d. <http://lexiconcordance.com/hebrew/5956.html>
[7] Josephus, Flavius. Antiquities of the Jews. Trans. and commentary. William Whitson.  The Complete Works of Josephus. 1850.  Book I, Chapter XV.2. <http://books.google.com/books?id=e0dAAAAAMAAJ&printsec=frontcover&source=gbs_ge_summary_r&cad=0#v=onepage&q&f=false>
[8]“802. נָשִׁים (ishshah) BibleHub.com. 2018. ” <https://biblehub.com/hebrew/strongs_802.htm> “H802.” Lexicon-Concordance. n.d. <http://lexiconcordance.com/hebrew/080.html#02>