Bible passage: Isaiah 7:13-14
Written: Between 701-681 BC
The following is from the book 100 Fulfilled Bible Prophecies, © Ray Konig, and is reprinted here with permission from the author and publisher.
In Isaiah 7:13-14, the prophet gives a well-known prophecy that Christians often view as predicting the virgin birth of Jesus.
It is also a prophecy that is widely misunderstood by commentators, some of whom contend that it does not predict a virgin birth, that it is not about the Messiah, and that it is not fulfilled by Jesus.
These commentators universally overlook key details of the prophecy, including its shared traits with other Old Testament prophecies, as well as the significance of its use of a key Hebrew word that is often translated as virgin and sometimes as young woman.
Isaiah gave this prophecy about 2,700 years ago, during a time when a northern military alliance was threatening to destroy the Kingdom of Judah and the “house of David,” which refers to the royal descendants of King David:
13 And he said, Hear ye now, O house of David; Is it a small thing for you to weary men, but will ye weary my God also? 14 Therefore the Lord himself shall give you a sign; Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel. (Isaiah 7:13-14, KJV)
This prophecy speaks of a promised descendant of King David in an extraordinary way. Isaiah addresses the house of David (verse 13) and then speaks of a son (verse 14), meaning a son of the house of David, as in a descendant of David. He prefaces the conception and birth of this promised descendant as being a sign from God.
These two characteristics -- being spoken of as a promised descendant of David, and being spoken of in an extraordinary way -- define what can be called a son of David prophecy, of which there are several in the Old Testament. These are prophecies about the Messiah being an extraordinary descendant of David, and they include 2 Samuel 7:12-16, Isaiah 7:13-14, Isaiah 9:6-7, Jeremiah 23:5-6 and Micah 5:1-4.
The first son of David prophecy is found in 2 Samuel 7:12-16, where the prophet Nathan, who lived during the time of David about 3,000 years ago, foretold that a descendant of David would inherit an eternal throne.
These prophecies from Nathan and Isaiah were given during times when the house of David was facing threats of annihilation. In Nathan’s time, the house of David was at war with the house of Saul. In Isaiah’s time, the house of David was targeted for destruction by a military alliance that sought to install its own king (Isaiah 7:6).
Isaiah’s prophecy revisits and reiterates the underlying promise of Nathan’s prophecy -- that the house of David would survive the threats against it because it is the house from which the Messiah would be born. And, Isaiah is adding new details -- that the Messiah would have a virgin birth and be referred to as “Immanuel,” which means “God with us.”
These two details are related, which is another point that is widely and embarrassingly overlooked. It is the virgin birth that positions the Messiah to be divine and human, to be God with us. Because Jesus was conceived by the Holy Spirit and born of a virgin mother (Matthew 1:18-25 and Luke 1:26-38), he is fully divine and fully human. He is God with us.
The Hebrew word alma, which is a key word in the underlying Hebrew text of Isaiah 7:14, is often translated as virgin, and sometimes as young maiden or young woman. This word, alma, is critically important, and its significance is widely and embarrassingly overlooked. It is used only three times in the underlying Hebrew text of the Old Testament in reference to a specific person.
The first time that the word alma is used for a specific person is in Genesis 24:43, in reference to Rebekah, who is identified as being a virgin in Genesis 24:16. She becomes the wife of Isaac and gives birth to Jacob, who becomes the father of the 12 Tribes of Israel. Rebekah is the first woman through whom all Israelites -- including her son Jacob, and the Messiah -- can trace their ancestry. Rebekah is the mother of Israel.
The second time that alma is used for a specific person is in Exodus 2:8, in reference to Miriam. She is the sister of Moses and the deliverer of Moses. She plays a key role in saving Moses’ life and in reuniting him with their mother (Exodus 2:1-10). Moses later becomes the one who delivers the people of Israel. Moses, as a prophet, miracle worker, intermediary, leader and deliverer, serves as a unique Old Testament precedent for the Messiah.
The third time that alma is used for a specific person is in Isaiah 7:13-14, where Isaiah speaks of the mother of the extraordinary and promised descendant of King David -- the Messiah, the savior of the world. The Messiah is the one descendant of Israel who offers deliverance to all people throughout the world.
As explained throughout the New Testament, Jesus, by way of his miraculous birth, is God incarnate as a man. He is able to be perfect, sinless, humanly mortal and divinely eternal, to suffer and die for our sins, to be resurrected, to offer salvation, to preside over Judgment Day, and to reign eternally over the Kingdom of God, also known as the Kingdom of Heaven.
- Research and commentary is based on the book 100 Fulfilled Bible Prophecies. © Ray Konig and AboutBibleProphecy.com.