Of the Virgin’s Womb

Let’s look briefly at Isaiah 7:14 - one of the key texts that speaks of the virgin birth - and how it relates to the work of Jesus.

In Isaiah 7, the prophet Isaiah is sent to King Ahaz of Judah to instruct him to ask for a sign from God (vv. 10–11). This was to be a sign of God’s provision in the face of potential devastation from Syria and Israel. Though asking for a sign from God is often correlated with a lack of faith, here God commanded Ahaz to ask for a sign. In this case, not asking for a sign indicates the king’s lack of faith (v. 12). 

 

The virgin birth of Jesus is an important part of the Christmas message. “Late in time behold him come, offspring of a virgin’s womb.” This doctrine is often related to the prophecy of Isaiah 7:14. But this passage can be difficult to understand. What did it mean originally? How does it fit into the Old Testament context? And how did Christ fulfill it? Let’s look briefly at Isaiah 7:14—one of the key texts that speaks of the virgin birth—and how it relates to the work of Jesus.

We begin with the Old Testament context, which has many tangles to unravel. In Isaiah 7, the prophet Isaiah is sent to King Ahaz of Judah to instruct him to ask for a sign from God (vv. 10–11). This was to be a sign of God’s provision in the face of potential devastation from Syria and Israel. Though asking for a sign from God is often correlated with a lack of faith, here God commanded Ahaz to ask for a sign. In this case, not asking for a sign indicates the king’s lack of faith (v. 12). Instead of trusting in a political alliance with Assyria (see 2 Kings 16:1–9), Ahaz was directed to trust in the God who rules over the nations. Ahaz’s refusal to heed the prophetic word and trust in God eventually led to the bee-like invasion of the Assyrians (Isa. 7:17–25).

Though Ahaz did not ask for a sign from God, he was nevertheless given a sign. This is recounted in Isaiah 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.” God Himself chose the sign—the birth of a special child. It’s not entirely clear which child is in view here. Is it Hezekiah? One of Isaiah’s own sons? But that the child comes from God as a sign to Ahaz is certain.

What may be less certain is whether the young woman in view was actually a virgin. Some have argued that the Hebrew term translated “virgin” in Isaiah 7:14 is apparently not the more common term for a virgin and is a term that may simply refer to a young woman who has not yet had a child. Some have therefore argued that Isaiah is not speaking of a virgin birth.

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