You Shall Call His Name Immanuel
Who is the son named “Immanuel” in the prophecy? In the scroll of Isaiah, the name “Immanuel” appears only twice: in Isa 7:14 and Isa 8:8. In the Apostolic Writings, it appears only once in the Gospel of Matthew referring to the Messiah but only as a reference to Isaiah. And if it was prophesied in Isaiah, why was another name given in Matthew: “Yeshua”? And which of them is his name? And once given in Matthew it has never been mentioned again in the Apostolic Writings. Why?
We read from the prophecy in Isaiah thus,
Therefore the Lord himself shall give you a sign; Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel. (Isa 7:14 KJV)
It is critical to the meaning of the text of Isa 7:14 to understand where the second person pronoun “you” is used as masculine or feminine singular and masculine or feminine plural.
לָ֠כֵן Therefore יִתֵּ֨ן shall give אֲדֹנָ֥י the Lord* הוּא himself לָכֶ֖ם to you m. pl אוֹת a sign
הִנֵּ֣ה Behold הָעַלְמָ֗ה the young maiden הָרָה֙ conceived וְיֹלֶ֣דֶת and you shall bring forth m./f. sing. you
בֵּן a son וְקָרָ֥את and you shall call m./f. sing. you שְׁמֹ֖ו his name עִמָּ֥נוּ אֵֽל׃ Immanu El.
*While the Leningrad Codex (Masoretic text) reads adonai, the Dead Sea Scroll (DSS) reads YHVH instead.
Below is a word-for-word translation of the verse:
כֵּן ken, therefore, so, thus.
נָתַן natan, to give.
אֲדֹנָי adonai, my lord(s), master(s).
הוּא hu, he, himself.
אוֹת ot, sign, signal.
הִנֵּה hinneyh, see, behold. Hinneyh is always used by Isaiah to introduce a future occurrence.
עַלְמָה almah, a young girl or woman.
הָרָה harah, to conceive from which הָרֶה hareh, pregnant, comes.
יָלַד yalad, to bring forth; when used with a word such as son, as in our verse, it means to give birth, if not it simply means to bring forth.
בֵּן ben, son.
קָרָא kara, to call, but more literally to meet, to encounter or to address a person by name. In the Masoretic text this word is written as v’karat meaning either “and you (masculine) shall call” or “and you (feminine) shall call.” In the DSS, however, this is the word v’kara meaning “and he shall call.”
שֵׁם shem, name.
Almah vs bethulah
Almah is traditionally translated in English as “virgin.” The word almah, however, refers to a young woman one of whose characteristics could be virginity. In other words, almah simply means a young woman who could be a virgin or not.
The word עלמה almah, is derived from the verb עלם alam, to conceal, to hide, to cover, as a young girl is covered under the authority of her father. The word עלם elem, from the same root verb, is applied to a young man as seen in 1Sa 17:56 and 1Sa 20:22.
That almah could mean a non-virgin can be seen in the context of Pro 30:19 which reads:
The way of an eagle in the heavens, The way of a snake on a rock, The way of a ship in the heart of the sea, And the way of a man with a girl (almah). (Pro 30:19)
There is another Hebrew word commonly translated as “virgin”. This is the word בְּתוּלָה bethulah. In such passages as Gen 24:16 (where bethulah appears) and Gen 24:43 (where almah appears), we see that almah can mean virgin because both words refer to the same person Rivkah the future wife of Yitschak.
And the young woman (bethulah) was very good-looking, a virgin, no man having known her. And she went down to the fountain, filled her jar, and came up. (Gen 24:16)
… see, I am standing by the fountain of water, and when the maiden (almah) comes out to draw water, and I say to her, “Please give me a little water from your jar to drink”, (Gen 24:43)
The word almah is also applied to Miriam, the sister of Mosheh when she was a young girl as seen in Exo 2:8. But in such passages as Son 1:3, Son 6:8, and in Psa 68:25, almah may refer to virgin or non-virgin because this word simply means a young woman, maiden.
There are sixty queens and eighty concubines, and innumerable maidens (almah). (Son 6:8)
In all these places, except in Pro 30:19, almah is used in its obvious and natural meaning to denote a young female.
Although, bethulah means a virgin, in Hebrew this word can also mean a young married woman who is pure in her marriage as this word is used in the following verse,
Wail like a maiden (bethulah) girded with sackcloth for the husband of her youth. (Joe 1:8)
The Hebrew word Immanuel is a compound of two words – immanu meaning “with us” and el (God, Elohim). (For more information on the meaning and use of the Hebrew word עִמ with, refer to the article The Bil’am Story). In the Masoretic text of Isa 7:14, this name is written as two separate words immanu and el which translates into “with us is God”, but JPS prefers to read it as one word “Immanuel”,
Therefore the Lord Himself shall give you a sign: behold, the young woman shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel. (Isa 7:14 JPS)
However, because these two words are grouped together as one in DSS, it appears as a name with the same meaning:
Therefore, Yehovah Himself gives you a sign. Look, the maiden conceives and gives birth to a son, and he shall call his name Immanuel. (Isa 7:14 DSS)
With that said, below is the literal translation of our verse:
Therefore the Lord himself shall give you [plural] a sign. Behold, the young woman conceived, and you [m/f sing.] shall bring forth a son, and you [m/f sing.] shall call his name Immanuel.
Now, there are questions that need to be asked: To whom is YHVH speaking? Who is the young woman that will give birth? And the last but not the least is: Who is the son to whom YHVH is referring?
To answer to the first question, we need to see the context of the whole chapter and more particularly of the preceding verses (Isa 7:10-13).
And Yehovah spoke again to Achaz, saying, “Ask a sign for yourself from Yehovah your Elohim; make deep the request or make it high.” But Achaz said, “I do not ask nor try Yehovah!” And he said, “Hear now, O house of David?! Is it not enough that you weary men, that you weary my Elohim also? (Isa 7:10-13)
YHVH is speaking to Achaz King of Judah through Isaiah the prophet to ask for a sign. The king is refusing and in v.13 YHVH is addressing the whole house of David saying: “Hear now, O house of David!”
Regarding the second question, some commentators have suggested that the young girl was Isaiah’s wife, as they read Isa 8:1-4. But it is unlikely that YHVH will use such a word as almah with the meaning of “virgin” who had been long married, like the prophet’s own wife, without any reserve.
And I went to the prophetess, and she conceived and bore a son. And Yehovah said to me, “Call his name Maher-Shalal-Chash-Baz; for before the child knows to cry ‘My father’ and ‘My mother’, the riches of Dammesek and the spoil of Shomeron is taken away before the king of Ashshur.” (Isa 8:3-4)
The son who was born to Isaiah was given a quite the name: Maher-Shalal Chash-Baz (swift is booty, speedy is prey) which was a symbolical name of Isaiah’s son and a prophetic indication that Damascus and Samaria (the Northern Kingdom) were soon to be plundered by the king of Assyria, as Isa 8:4 indicates.
To answer the third question, that the child who is to be born is the Messiah, whose birth is hailed in Chapter 9 and in Chapter 11 of Isaiah?
In order to answer these questions, we need to refer to another verse where the name Immanuel is mentioned, and that is in Mat 1:23.
Behold, a virgin shall be with child, and shall bring forth a son, and they shall call his name Emmanuel, which being interpreted is, God with us*. (Mat 1:23 KJV) *translational gloss in Greek
The Hebrew manuscript of the Gospel of Matthew translated by George Howard, Mercer University Press, 1995, reads thus (notice the differences):
Behold, the young woman is conceiving and will bear son, and you (f. sing.) will call his name Immanuel, that is, ‘With us is El‘. Hebrew Gospel of Matthew 1:23
This is the only place in the entire Apostolic Writings where the name “Immanuel” is given to the Messiah (by quoting the prophecy in Isaiah) shortly after He was given the name Yeshua. After that “Immanuel” is mentioned nowhere else.
How is that significant? To answer this question, we need go back to Isaiah and notice again how Immanuel has been spelled in the Leningrad codex and Dead Sea Scroll. As already stated above, in the Masoretic text (Leningrad codex) Immanuel is actually two words, while in DSS, it is one word.
If Immanuel is to be considered as two words, then it is not a name but a description of a name. If it is so, then Mat 1:21 (where the Messiah is named Yeshua) and Mat 1:23 (where He is called Immanuel) can be reconciled, and more properly, that Immanuel “With us is God” is a description of the name Yehoshua. (For more information on the name of the Messiah and why “With us is God” is a description of His name, refer to His Name is Yehoshua).
And indeed, when Yehoshua the Messiah was in the world, he fulfilled the description of his name Immanuel, “With us is God”: not in a bodily form but in YHVH’s authority and power.
And Nicodemus the Pharisee knowing very well the prophecy in Isaiah about the child to be born by a young woman fulfilled with his own words that Yeshua is Immanuel, that is, “With us is God” saying,
This one (Nicodemus) came to Yehoshua by night and said to Him, “Rabbi, we know that You are a teacher come from Elohim, for no one is able to do these signs You do if Elohim is not with him.” (Joh 3:2)
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May we merit seeing the coming of our Mashiach speedily in our days!
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