segunda-feira, 9 de abril de 2012

Isaiah’s prophecy of the "virgin birth" (Isaiah 7:14)

"Therefore the Lord shall give unto you a sign; behold, the young woman is with child, and she will bear a son, and she will call his name Emanuel" (God is with us).

This verse is applied by the Christians as an evidence of their faith. The prophet, they say, predicted here, that an Israelitish virgin would conceive, and bare a son (Jesus) under the influence of the Holy Ghost, as is related in the Gospel of Matthew.

Refutation—This assertion rests solely on the support of imagination. The word עַלְמָה (young woman) used in the verse, does not mean a virgin, as they maintain, but signifies merely young woman. See Genesis 24:14, where Abraham’s servant says, first, "And there shall be a damsel הַנַּעֲרָה to whom I say," etc.: and afterwards, he says, "and there shall be a young woman הָעַלְמָה who cometh out to draw water," etc. Both נַעֲרָה and עַלְמָה can be applied either to a maiden or a married woman.

With regard to a maiden, we find in Genesis 24:28, "the young woman run and told her father’s household:" and, in Ruth 2:5, "To whom belongeth this young woman?" (הַנַּעֲרָה). In the same way, we meet with the word עַלְמָה meaning simply young female: for instance, Exodus 2:8, "And the young woman went and called the mother of the child." As we express in Hebrew נַעֲרָה and עַלְמָה indiscriminately for a virgin or a married woman, so we apply, respecting a young man, both נָעַר and עֶלֶם. See 1 Samuel 17:58, "Whose son is this lad?" (עֶלֶם). And in the same chapter, verse 56, "Whose son is this young man?" (נָעַר). The age of adolescency is likewise expressed both by עֲלוּמִים and by נְעוּרִים. See Isaiah 54:4, "and thou shalt forget the shame of עֲלוּמִים thy youth." And Jeremiah 31:19, "and the disgrace of נְעוּרִים my youth." This proves, that the female in minor age, whatever her state may be, is denominated alike by נַעֲרָה or עַלְמָה in the same manner as the young man in minor years is styled נָעַר or עֶלֶם. The wife of Isaiah, who was still youthful, is termed in Scripture, עַלְמָה young woman. Moreover, the sense of the chapter is altogether adverse to the exposition of the Christians. It refers to Ahaz, King of Judah, who had been in great trouble and consternation on account of the confederacy which the monarchs (Pekah, King of Israel, and Rezin, King of Syria,) had determined on, namely, to besiege and subjugate Jerusalem. See Isaiah 7:2, "And it was told to the House of David, saying, Syria is confederate with Ephraim; and his heart was moved, and the heart of the people, as the trees of the wood are moved with the wind." Hence, the Lord sent to him the prophet Isaiah, to give him courage, that his heart should not be dismayed at their approach—since their design would assuredly be frustrated. To convince him of this, the Almighty gave him a sign, or token that Jerusalem would remain unmolested, and that the territories of Samaria and Damascus would soon be abandoned and deserted. Had it been the purpose of inspired writ to announce, as the Christians maintain, the advent of Jesus, how could Ahaz be concerned in a sign that could only be realized many centuries after his death, or how could any promise cheer his heart that was not to be fulfilled in his own days? It is true, there is also a prophecy, in this chapter, relating to calamities suspended over the hostile kings, and which happened within sixty-five years subsequent to the existing danger; "For the head of Syria is Damascus, and the head of Damascus is Rezin; and within threescore and five years shall Ephraim be broken, that it be no people." But the computation of sixty-five years did not commence from the date of the prophecy. At the period when the prophet spoke, his young wife was pregnant, and bore a son, who was first called Emanuel (God is with us), and afterwards, Maher-shalal-hash-baz (speed the plunder, hasten the spoil). "For," says Isaiah, "before the boy shall know how to call father and mother, the riches of Damascus and the spoil of Samaria shall be taken away before the King of Assyria." The fulfillment of this event is thus recorded in 2 Kings 16:9, "And the King of Assyria hearkened unto him, and the King of Assyria went up against Damascus, and took it, and carried the captives to Kir, and slew Rezin." In the same book (15:29-30) the fate of Pekah, King of Israel, is described in the following words. "In the days of Pekah, the son of Remaliah, King of Israel, came to Tiglath-Pileser, King of Assyria, and took Ijon, and Abel-Beth Maachah, and Janoah, and Kedeth, and Hazor, and Gilead, and Galilee, all the land of Naphtali, and carried them captive to Assyria." Verse 30, "And Hosea, the son of Elah, made a conspiracy against Pekah, the son of Remaliah, and smote him, and slew him, and reigned in his stead, in the twentieth year of Jotham, the son of Uzziah." The word of the prophet Isaiah וּבְעוֹד שִׁשִּׁים וְחָמֵשׁ שָׁנָה "within sixty-five years," is to be understood, as at the completion of these years, counted from the time of the prophecy of Amos, who predicted, concerning Damascus (in his book, 1:5), "And I will break the bolt of Damascus, and cut off the inhabitants of the valley, and even the support of the scepter from Beth-Eden, and the people of Syria shall go into captivity into Kir, saith the Lord." About Israel, the same prophet predicted (ibid 7:11), "And Israel shall be exiled from its territory." Hence it appears, that before three years had elapsed after this announcement, the Syrians, and many of the Israelites, with the Kings, Rezin and Pekah, were carried into captivity to Assyria. In the twentieth year of Jotham, which was the fourth of Ahaz, Hosea, the son of Elah, killed Pekah, the son of Remaliah, and reigned in his stead.

There is here a variation of statements with regard to these event, twenty years being ascribed to the government of Jotham, while subsequently it is mentioned that the occupation of the throne only lasted sixteen years, so that the four additional years must be considered to belong to the reign of his son Ahaz. We reconcile this discrepancy by the view, that, Ahaz having been a wicked king, Scripture prefers adverting to the departed pious King Jotham than to the reigning monarch, the ungodly Ahaz. Thus the sixty-five years expired in the ninth year of Hosea, the son of Elah, when the complete exile of all Israel took place. The following calculation will show the historical connection between the prophecy and its fulfillment. Amos prophesied two years before the earthquake, which occurred in the seventeenth year of the reign of Jeroboam, the son of Joash, King of Israel. This king ruled twenty-four years after the earthquake. Then Menahem governed twelve, Pekahiah two, Pekah twenty, and Hosea nine years, which make together the sum of sixty-five years. The seven months of the reign of Zechariah and Shalum are omitted from the calculation, being included in the years of the other kings. This calculation has been adopted by several Christian authors. If our opponents should ask who the young woman was to whom Isaiah alluded when he said, "She is with child, and shall bear a son;" we reply, that she was (as we have before asserted) the prophet’s wife. This is proved by Isaiah 8:3, "And I came to the prophetess, and she conceived and bare a son; and the Lord said unto me, Call his name Maher-shalal-hash-baz." The question may then arise, How could he be called so after the name Emanuel had been previously given to him to afford a sign to Ahaz? We answer, by showing that the child received not two but three names, in consideration of the three kings concerned in the prophecy. Referring to the King of Judah he was named Emanuel (God is with us), to indicate that from the time of his birth peace would prevail in Judea.

Alluding to the King of Israel, he was called Maher-shalal, and in allusion to the King of Syria he received the name of Hash-baz, pointing out by the two latter names, that those monarchs, with all their possessions, would soon become the spoil of the Assyrian Kings. The two names are of a synonymous character, and in perfect accordance with each other. Therefore the prophet says, shortly after mentioning Emanuel (7:16), "for before the child shall know to refuse the evil and choose the good, the land that thou abhorest shall be forsaken of both the kings." In the same style he repeats after the name of Maher-shalal-hash-baz, "For before the child shall have knowledge to call, My father and my mother, the riches of Damascus and the spoil of Samaria shall be taken away before the King of Assyria." Seeing that these two verses are in perfect consonance with each other, the child spoken of must needs be the very same, and he being the son of Isaiah, stands a sign and token to these three kings. The intention to express several events by giving several names to one individual, is evident from the double appellation.

Shear Jashub (i.e. a remainder shall return) is an illustration of the ten tribes who are to remain in their captivity, while the two united tribes of Judah and Benjamin were to return from Babylon to Jerusalem at the expiration of the seventy years. On that account the prophet said, after the second son had been born unto him, "Here I stand, and the children which God has given me for signs and tokens in Israel;" and for this purpose only the Almighty bid him meet Ahaz, accompanied by his son Shear Jashub. Though the latter son was then but very young, his two names with opposite meanings stood as tokens for the future destiny of Ephraim (the ten tribes) on the one hand, and of Judah on the other.

R. David Kimchi has given a forced interpretation to the passage on Emanuel; believing that this individual was not the son of Isaiah, but of the king. The prophet expressing himself (chapter 8:8), "And the stretching out of his wings shall fill the breadth of thy land, O Emanuel;" our expositor supposes, that the possessive, thy, could not have been addressed to a person who was not a son of the ruler of the country. But this conclusion is, to me, quite unfounded. We find, frequently, אַרְצְךָ (thy land), meaning thy native land, or country. See, for instance, Genesis 12:1, "And the Lord spake unto Abraham, go out of thy land." Now, it is well known, that Abraham was not the lord of the land which he was ordered to quit; but that the word his land could only be applied to it inasmuch as it was the land of his birth. See also Jeremiah 12:15, "And I shall bring them back, every man to his heritage, and every man to his land." Moreover, suppose Emanuel was the son of a king, how could the land of Israel have been called his country, since he did not succeed his father in the government?

It appears to me, that when Isaiah prophesied, saying, "Behold, the woman is with child," he was not aware that he spoke about his own wife – just as Samuel was not conscious that he prophesied concerning David, when he said to Saul, 1 Samuel 13:14, "The Lord has sought unto Himself a man after His own heart, and has appointed him prince over His people." Further, when Samuel said (chapter 15:28), "The Lord has torn away from thee the kingdom of Israel, and has given it to thy neighbor, who is better than thee;" for being at the house of Jesse, he knew which of the sons he was to anoint for the kingdom; so that when remarking to Eliab, he exclaimed, "Surely, the Lord’s anointed is before Him;" but only when he came to David, then the Lord told him to anoint him. With the same ignorance of things unrevealed, in the moments of inspiration, Isaiah prophesied on the young woman, until the token given him in the second prophecy rendered it manifest to him; the Lord saying then to him (chapter 8:1), "Take unto thee a large scroll, and write upon it with man’s pen, Maher-shalal-hash-baz." After which Isaiah writes, "I took unto myself faithful witnesses; namely, Uriah, the priest, and Zechariah, the son of Jebarachiah; and I came near to the prophetess, and she conceived, and bare a son, and the Lord said unto me, Call his name Maher-shalal-hash-baz." It was necessary he should take faithful witnesses, in order to record all the minute parts of the Divine bidding, since he himself had to fulfill all.

Scripture introduces the words, "And it was told to the House of David," instead of to "Ahaz," etc. We account for this by the fact, that Ahaz was a wicked man; and it was thought proper, therefore, to indicate that the miracle did not occur for the merit of this king, but for the merit of his ancestor. The disputant may ask, "In what did, then, the sign and miracle consist, if the prophet predicted merely that a married woman would conceive and bear a son?" We reply, that the sign and the miracle, undeniably, consisted in the assurance of an event that could not be foreseen and foretold by a profane man. Conception and birth do not depend on human will; and many an infant is born that never sees the light: nor can we know whether the mother will give birth to a son or a daughter. Another miracle is, the prediction that the mother of the new-born child would call it Emanuel; and this prediction fulfilled, vouches for the truth of the additional prophecy, that Judah and Jerusalem would be saved from the attack of two belligerent kings. Again, it is a miracle, that the child, after its birth, was not to suck from the breasts of its mother, like other sucklings, but would feed on butter and honey. See Isaiah 7:15, "Butter and honey shall he eat, that he may know to refuse the evil, and to choose the good." This fare, and the abstaining from mother’s milk shall endow him with knowledge to avoid the evil and to prefer the good, and make him excel all other children in intellect. The activity of free agency is to commence with him as soon as he can call father and mother-which renders him pre-eminent among other children of his age. The confirmation of this event is in chapter 8 of Isaiah.

The Christians maintain, that if that child had been born from the young woman like other children of men, his name could not have been called Emanuel (God is with us): but that this name was quite applicable to Jesus, who was a compound of the Divine and human nature.

Refutation—It is the Hebrew idiom to join the name of the Almighty to the proper names of men, and even to inanimate objects; for instance, Samuel, Zuriel, Uziel, Michael, Eliezer, Elijah, Isaiah, Zurishaddai, etc. In Genesis 33:20, an altar was called, "El-Elohe Israel" (i.e., God is the God of Israel). In Exodus 17:15, an altar is called, "The Lord is my banner." We find the application in Jeremiah 33:16, "The Lord is our righteousness." In Ezekiel 48:35, we find the expression, "The Lord is there," which is applied to Jerusalem, the Holy city, as a name which will be given to it at the time of the Messiah, when the glorious presence of the Almighty shall return to it. That, however, Jesus should be called by the name Emanuel is not affirmed by any passage of the Gospel. We only find in Matthew 1:20, that the angel said to Joseph in a dream, "Fear not to receive Mary thy wife, for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Ghost, and she shall bring forth a son, and they shall call his name Jesus (יֵשׁוּעַ), for he shall save his people from their sins. Now, all this was done that it might be fulfilled which was spoken of the Lord by the prophet, saying, Behold, a virgin shall be with child, and shall bring forth a son, and they shall call his name Emanuel," etc. It is further stated, "And Joseph took unto him Mary his wife, and knew her not until she had brought forth her first-born son, and she called his name Jesus." In Luke 2:21, we find, "And when the eight days were accomplished for the circumcising of the child he was called Jesus, which was so named of the angel before he was conceived in the womb." From this it appears that Emanuel was a different individual from Jesus, for Jesus was in no instance called Emanuel—as to the name Jesus, it was given to him by mere chance, there were many other Jews named Jesus. See Ezra 2, 3 and 10, and the 2nd book of Chronicles 31. The Jews spell Jesus יֵשׁוּ, because the ע is omitted in the pronunciation of the Christians; but suppose the ע is to be retained, there is no inference deducible from that in favor of their faith, as Matthew tried to establish for the Christians, to apply the name of Jesus also to the son of Sirach, who wrote a book called Ecclesiasticus.

Our disputant may ask, Of whom did Isaiah prophesy in chapter 9:6 (9:7 in the English bible), when he said, "Unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: on his shoulders shall be the government: and they shall call him Wonderful, Counselor, Almighty God, Father of Eternity, Prince of Peace. Of the increase of [his] government and peace there shall be no end [without end, Hebrew] 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"?

We give the following reply: Those passages refer to Hezekiah, King of Judah, during whose government Israel experienced, through a divine intercession, a signal deliverance from Sennacherib, King of Assyria, who had raised a siege against Jerusalem with an army of a hundred and eighty thousand valiant men. That this great miracle, namely, the fall of the camp of Sennacherib, referred to in the verses under consideration, was occasioned from the regard entertained by the Almighty for "the virtue of the child born unto us," and which, at the time of the prophecy, was already "given unto us." For when Ahaz ascended the throne, Hezekiah had already attained his ninth year. The truth of this exposition is borne out by the verses antecedent and subjoined to the passage "for a child has been born unto us." The latter word of the 6th verse of the 9th chapter of Isaiah must be rendered thus: "And he who is Wonderful, a Counselor and Omnipotent God; a Father of Eternity, he called his (the child’s) name Prince of Peace." The child born unto Ahaz is entitled the Prince of Peace because of the peace granted to Israel in the days of Hezekiah.

The preceding epithets are applied to the Almighty as indications of marvelous occurrences accompanying the life of Hezekiah, "God showed Himself Wonderful," causing for his (Hezekiah’s) sake, the shade of the sundial to recede; as "Counselor," the Lord established his own designs, and frustrated those of Sennacherib; as "the Omnipotent God," He evinced His divine attribute by suddenly destroying the immense army of the invading king; as "Father of Eternity," and Ruler of time, who, according to His pleasure, adds to and diminishes from the life of mortals, He manifested His power by prolonging the life of Hezekiah for a period of fifteen years.
The opponent may object to the above translation, by pleading, that he finds in his version of Isaiah the verb (וַיִּקָּרֵא) in the passive, viz.: "and his name was called, and not, as we are supposed to read, וַיִּקָּרֵא taking the verb in the active form (he called his name), so that the epithets which follow apply to the child, whose name the Almighty called "Wonderful," etc.

We know well that Jerome has made a practice of accommodating Scripture to the notions of his own creed; and has endeavored to establish an authority for his belief in the Divinity of Jesus. All endeavors, however, have failed. Even after adopting the reading of Jerome, we should be entitled to assign the above epithets to Hezekiah, since we have already proved that the nature of the holy language allows application of the name of the Almighty to human beings, and even to inanimate objects, inclusively. To give to Jesus the above appellations is altogether incompatible with his own history. How can he claim the names "Wonderful" and "Counsellor," when it is remembered, that one of his disciples frustrated his designs, and betrayed him to his enemies? How can he merit the title, "Powerful" or "Omnipotent God," who suffered an unnatural death? How can he be the "Father of Eternity," who did not attain even half of the natural period of human life? How can he be distinguished as the "Prince of Peace" whereas, no peace existed in his days: and as he himself asserted, by saying, "I am not come to bring peace into the earth, but the sword." The Christians avail themselves of the passage, "to the increase of government, and peace without end," to oppose us with the following question: — "If the intention of the prophet had been to prophesy an earthly kingdom, how could he say that his (the king’s) government would be without end?" We reply to this, that the expression, "without end," (קץ אין) is a mere figure of speech. We find, similarly, in Isaiah 2:7, "And his land was full of silver and gold, and there was no end to his treasures; and his land was full of horses, and there was no end to his chariots."

Thus we find, also, in Ecclesiastes 4:8, "There is One, and no second, and he has neither son nor brother; and there is no end to all his troubles." At the end of the above prophecy, Isaiah says, chapter 9:6, "On the throne of David, and over his kingdom." This passage is a clear refutation of the Christian doctrine of the Messiah, for Jesus never sat on the throne of David, and never ruled over Israel. Should they interpret the throne of David in a spiritual sense, we must declare that the throne of David never meant anything but in relation to terrestrial government. David sat on a real throne, and his kingdom was a positive reality. Scripture, therefore, treats of it here in that sense only, and does not allude to any visionary kingdom. The expression, to establish it, and support it, "in judgment and righteousness, now and for evermore," shows that his dominion—that is, the dynasty of David—will never perish. And though an interruption has occurred during the time of the captivity, the government, nevertheless, will in the days of the Messiah, return to the scion of David. See Ezekiel 37:25, "And they shall live in it, and their children, and their children’s children, to eternity, and my servant David shall be prince over them for ever." This whole passage refers to the Messiah, as will be shown hereafter. Our opponents may remark, "How can the idea of eternity be understood from the words ‘even for evermore,’ if the government of the House of David ceased from the time of the captivity?" Our answer to this argument is, that an intermediate cessation destroys not the nature of the perpetual duration; for we find that the commandment of circumcision, was enjoined on the posterity of Abraham, as an everlasting covenant, (see Genesis 17:7), "And my covenant shall be in your flesh as an everlasting covenant;" and, nevertheless, the ceremonial was, from sanitary motives, discontinued during the whole period of the journey through the desert. When, however, the tribes had entered the Land of Promise, the practice of that covenant was resumed, and will remain in force, even in the days of the Messiah, as the Prophets have declared to us. See Isaiah 52:1, "Awake, awake! Put on thy strength, O Zion; put on thee the garments of thy glory, O Jerusalem, thou holy city, for there shall never more enter into thee the uncircumcised and the unclean." The prophet Ezekiel likewise says (chapter 44:9), "Thus saith the Lord God, Any son of an alien, of an uncircumcised heart and of uncircumcised flesh, shall not enter into my sanctuary." Another instance we find in the covenant which the Almighty made with Phineas to grant the high priesthood to him and his posterity for ever; a long suspension occurred among his posterity, for we learn that Eli, Abimelech, and Abiathar officiated as high priests, until King Solomon ascended the throne; nevertheless that dignity reverted to the rightful party, viz., the descendants of Phineas (see 1 Kings 2:26); where it is related that Solomon deposed Abiathar, and placed Zadok in his office. The same is related in 1 Chronicles 29:22, "And Zadok they anointed to be priest" because he was of the lineage of Phineas; and though another interruption in the dignity of priesthood took place during the time of the captivity, it will be restored at the coming of the Messiah; and the words in Numbers 25:13, will be realized, "And it shall belong to him and to his seed after him as an everlasting priesthood." Ezekiel informs us on this point by telling us (chapter 44:15), "And the priests, the Levites, the children of Zadok, who observed the observances of my sanctuary, while the children of Israel strayed from me, they shall come nigh unto me." This prophecy is connected with the Advent of the Messiah, as will be explained in its proper place. We have now given a full refutation to mistaken assertions of our opponents, and having founded our arguments on prophecy, they can only be opposed by opponents of truth itself.

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