In Part 1, we addressed the use of the Hebrew word, almah (virgin), as it is used in Isaiah 7:14. Today we are going to look at the whole of chapter 7 and onwards to understand the historical aspects of what is written, which will lead to how it pertains to the birth of Christ, and then into His future return.
Many people ask why the historical context is important, and the answer is really twofold. First, it’s important because God gave us a very specific set of instructions to tell whether a prophet came from Him or not.
Deuteronomy 18:20-22 But the prophet, which shall presume to speak a word in my name, which I have not commanded him to speak, or that shall speak in the name of other gods, even that prophet shall die. (21) And if thou say in thine heart, How shall we know the word which the LORD hath not spoken? (22) When a prophet speaketh in the name of the LORD, if the thing follow not, nor come to pass, that is the thing which the LORD hath not spoken, but the prophet hath spoken it presumptuously: thou shalt not be afraid of him.
Many scholars will look at historical prophecies, like those given in Daniel, and say that they have already come to pass, and that they were given to those specific people for that specific period of time, and that those prophecies don’t have any more meaning for us today. The problem with that is there are many parts of Daniel and this book of Isaiah that have not come to pass even to this day. Why? Because God gave us the prophecy and allowed it to be partially fulfilled to show that prophets like Isaiah and Daniel truly came from Him. If we only have prophecy given for the end of the world then we wouldn’t know if they came from Him until after the end of the world and by then it wouldn’t matter. God wants us to know before hand.
Mark 13:23 But take ye heed: behold, I have foretold you all things.
The second reason is that the historical context gives us the example for the future. Thus, if we can see the physical past events that happened, it helps us to understand not only the physical events that will happen, but also the spiritual ones.
1 Corinthians 10:11 Now all these things happened unto them for ensamples: and they are written for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the world are come.
Therefore, we need to know and understand what happened historically during the time of Isaiah.
Isaiah 7:1 And it came to pass in the days of Ahaz the son of Jotham, the son of Uzziah, king of Judah, that Rezin the king of Syria, and Pekah the son of Remaliah, king of Israel, went up toward Jerusalem to war against it, but could not prevail against it.
What did the world look like at this point in history? The kingdoms of Judah and Israel, having been split, are sometimes called the northern and southern kingdoms. The northern kingdom didn’t want to go down to Jerusalem to worship, and instead they set up two golden calves to worship.
To the north of the northern kingdom, you have Syria, and to its east you have the big daddy superpower of the world Assyria. The Assyrian empire was extremely aggressive and had, in the not too distant past, threatened the northern kingdom during the reign of Menahem. Menahem decided to pay tribute to Assyria instead of fighting, however as anyone knows, if you feed a problem it only makes it hungrier.
Israel was a mess and was well past the four sons that God had promised Jehu would sit on the throne, Jehoadaz, Jehoash, Jeroboam II and Zechariah. Now we have a pile of evil generals and politicos that started with Shallum and there is even some evidence that supports the notion that the northern kingdom was split between Israel and Ephraim. Regardless, God wasn’t happy with any of it.
Did Israel care? No, of course not. So they decided to join up with Syria and attack Judah. Now it’s hard to say for sure why Israel decided to attack Judah. Some speculate that Israel and Syria joined forces to stave off the mounting pressure of Assyria and wanted Ahaz to join them. Ahaz refused so they attacked him. It would seem strange for a pair of kings, worried about an Assyrian assault, to attack a southern neighbor, but it isn’t unheard of. I mean, Hitler did the same thing with Russia while fighting the west. The bottom line is people do strange things when they don’t stop to consult our Father.
Now Ahaz wasn’t a peach. He was just as evil as… well he was a bad dude. He sacrificed, not only to other gods, but he participated in Molechism, which is tossing children into fire. But when you decide to join up with a foreigner (Syria) and attack your brother (Judah), you’re going to be in a heap of hurt. Those of you that have kids can relate. If your sons or daughters have a fight with one another, that’s one thing, but if one of your sons grabs some other kid and uses him to beat up their brother that is crossing the line. Quite frankly, it’s unthinkable for most of us, but that is what Pekah did.
Reading on in Isaiah chapter 7, we will find that God sends Isaiah and specifically tells him to bring his son Shearjashub (this will be important to remember in the next part) to meet with Ahaz and tell him that Syria and Ephraim are not going to prevail, and that within 65 years they are not going to even be a people. Then God says:
Isaiah 7:10-11 Moreover the LORD spake again unto Ahaz, saying, (11) Ask thee a sign of the LORD thy God; ask it either in the depth, or in the height above.
Pause a moment. God tells you to ask for a sign would you ask? I mean He didn’t say I’ll give you one if you would like. He TOLD him to ask, but what does the mighty Ahaz do?
Isaiah 7:12 But Ahaz said, I will not ask, neither will I tempt the LORD.
He can sacrifice children to Molech, but he won’t tempt God by doing what He tells him to do. That calls to mind a verse earlier in this book of Isaiah doesn’t it?
Isaiah 3:4 And I will give children to be their princes, and babes shall rule over them.
Anyway, that brings us to the well-known verse 14
Isaiah 7:14 Therefore the Lord himself shall give you a sign; Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel.
This is the SIGN for the above prophecy. Namely, that God is going to make it so that Syria and Ephraim are no longer a people. Historically, this happened which is why most of Israel is scattered to this day, not knowing who they are.
Fast-forward to chapter 8:
Isaiah 8:1-4 Moreover the LORD said unto me, Take thee a great roll, and write in it with a man’s pen concerning Mahershalalhashbaz. (2) And I took unto me faithful witnesses to record, Uriah the priest, and Zechariah the son of Jeberechiah. (3) And I went unto the prophetess; and she conceived, and bare a son. Then said the LORD to me, Call his name Mahershalalhashbaz. (4) For before the child shall have knowledge to cry, My father, and my mother, the riches of Damascus and the spoil of Samaria shall be taken away before the king of Assyria.
Clearly the prophetess isn’t a virgin (though she could’ve been prior), but obviously this is the child of which God spoke that would come, but only in part. This child is a proof that what Isaiah said was true. How do we know Mahershalalhashbaz isn’t the child Immanuel? Because if you read on through to chapter 9 you come to:
Isaiah 9:6-7 For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace. (7) Of the increase of his government and peace there shall be no end, upon the throne of David, and upon his kingdom, to order it, and to establish it with judgment and with justice from henceforth even for ever. The zeal of the LORD of hosts will perform this.
Did Mahershalalhashbaz accomplish this? No, and because he wasn’t of the house of David, we know that ultimately this isn’t the child God intended. Thus, we know that God intended this for a future messiah. Also if you read on through to chapter 14, where this whole sequence continues on to, you will see that Mahershalalhashbaz doesn’t come close to fitting the bill in it’s entirety.
But, was Mahershalalhashbaz the one Isaiah (or God rather) was speaking about in 7:14? Well Isaiah seemed to think so:
Isaiah 8:18 Behold, I and the children whom the LORD hath given me are for signs and for wonders in Israel from the LORD of hosts, which dwelleth in mount Zion.
But wait, it says Children not child. Hey I’m glad you noticed that. It does say that, doesn’t it? That’s why I told you to note how God told Isaiah to bring his son, Shearjashub which means, a remnant shall return. And we will cover what that sign means prophecically even onto this day when we return in part 3.
If this was helpful please share and God bless.