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Two Virgin Births

Therefore the Lord Himself will give you a sign: Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a Son, and shall call His name Immanuel. (Isaiah 7:14)

There is a virgin birth declared in Isaiah 7:14 which is not typically believed, but is explicitly stated. When taken for exactly what it says, it clearly declares a virgin birth in that time, in the time of Isaiah and king Ahaz.

In Isaiah 7 the Lord gives king Ahaz a prophecy via Isaiah concerning the king of Syria and the king of Israel. They had come up against Jerusalem (Isaiah 7:1), and the Lord via Isaiah tells Ahaz, king of Judah, that they will not prevail. Then Ahaz is told to ask for a sign, but he refuses (Isaiah 7:10-12). So, the Lord himself gives Ahaz a sign - a virgin birth (Isaiah 7:14).

Some may argue against the translation "virgin" in Isaiah 7:14, because it is not the typical word for "virgin" in the Hebrew. The typical word for "virgin" is בְתוּלָה (betulah).1 But here in Isaiah 7:14 it is עַלְמָה (`almâh).2 This word is translated "virgin" (e.g. Genesis 24:43; Proverbs 30:19; Song of Solomon 1:3; 6:8) or "maiden" (e.g. Exodus 2:8; Psalm 68:25), and the LXX translates it as παρθενος (parthenos) "virgin" in Genesis 24:43 and Isaiah 7:14.3

The passage that should remove all doubt as to how עַלְמָה (`almâh) is to be understood, particularly in Isaiah 7:14, is Matthew 1:23. Here the God-breathed (2 Timothy 3:15) writer gives παρθενος (parthenos),4 virgin, as the meaning of עַלְמָה (`almâh) in Isaiah 7:14, and declares Mary's virgin birth as a fulfillment of what "was spoken by the Lord through the prophet" (Matthew 1:22).

But, wasn't Isaiah 7:14 already fulfilled? Indeed, it was, as it is written,

Therefore the Lord Himself will give you a sign: Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a Son, and shall call His name Immanuel. Curds and honey He shall eat, that He may know to refuse the evil and choose the good. For before the Child shall know to refuse the evil and choose the good, the land that you dread will be forsaken by both her kings. (Isaiah 7:14-16)

With that language, it is quite clear this virgin born child was born then, in Ahaz's time, as a sign to Ahaz. Immediately before this the Lord told Ahaz,

Ask a sign for yourself from the LORD your God; ask it either in the depth or in the height above. (Isaiah 7:11)

Ahaz was to ask for a miraculous sign for himself, not for someone else in the future, but for himself. Furthermore, it was to be "either in the depth or in the height above". In other words, with no limits. Yet, Ahaz refuses, but God doesn't. He gives him a very miraculous sign, a virgin birth!

The Lord tells Ahaz the child will not be very old ("before the Child shall know to refuse the evil") before both kings Ahaz was concerned about will no longer be ruling in their lands. If the virgin born child hadn't been born in Ahaz's time, then Ahaz received no sign, and the above words of God were a lie, because He gives explicit details as to the child's development in relation to the kings of Syria and Israel.

But, the Lord cannot lie (Titus 1:2) and He did give Ahaz a sign, as it is written, "the Lord Himself will give you a sign" (Isaiah 7:14). That sign was a virgin born child who would eat curds and honey (Isaiah 7:15) and while yet quite young, Rezin and Pekah would no longer be in power in Syria and Israel.

Now, who was this virgin born child? His name is given in Isaiah 7:14 - Immanuel, עִמָנוּ אֵל (`immânu' êl). This is the same name given in Matthew 1:23 "which is translated, 'God with us'".5 Is this the same person? Well, what did "God with us" mean in Matthew 1:23? It meant God Himself was with us. He "became flesh and dwelt among us" (John 1:1, 14). Why would it be any different in Isaiah 7:14?6 In Isaiah 7:14 it's a virgin birth (as in Matthew 1:23) and the same identical name is given, Immanuel (God with us). Moreover, if the birth in Isaiah 7:14 is a virgin birth, and the One born is "God with us", then who is the Father of this virgin born child in Isaiah 7:14? It could only be God.

In light of the above, Hebrews 1:6 makes an interesting statement.

But when He again brings the firstborn into the world,7 He says: "Let all the angels of God worship Him."8

When does He again bring the firstborn into the world?9 The firstborn in Hebrews 1:6 is the Son of God. That's the context (Hebrews 1:1-5). Who is the Father of the Son of God? Obviously, God is (2 Corinthians 1:3). If God brought His Son into the world in Isaiah 7:14, and He has only one begotten Son (John 3:16), then when does He again bring Him into the world? Matthew 1:23 records the "again". Matthew 1:23 reveals a second fulfillment of Isaiah 7:14. It's not a first fulfillment, as already noted. Isaiah 7:14 was fulfilled in Ahaz's time. Matthew 1:23 records an "again" of Isaiah 7:14.10

Now, some might argue that prophecy can only have one fulfillment, but such a standard is unfounded in holy writ. In fact, just the opposite is found not only in Isaiah 7:14, but, for example, in Malachi 4:5-6.

Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the LORD. And he will turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the hearts of the children to their fathers, lest I come and strike the earth with a curse.

Jesus said this was fulfilled in John the Baptist, and will also be fulfilled in Elijah himself.

For all the prophets and the law prophesied until John. And if you are willing to receive it, he is Elijah who is to come. (Matthew 11:13-14)

And His disciples asked Him, saying, "Why then do the scribes say that Elijah must come first?" Jesus answered and said to them, "Indeed, Elijah is coming first and will restore all things. But I say to you that Elijah has come already [via John the Baptist], and they did not know him but did to him whatever they wished. Likewise the Son of Man is also about to suffer at their hands." (Matthew 17:10-12; see also Mark 9:11-13)

The angel who announced the birth of John the Baptist stated,

He will also go before Him in the spirit and power of Elijah, "to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children," and the disobedient to the wisdom of the just, to make ready a people prepared for the Lord." (Luke 1:17)

So, we see Malachi 4:5-6 fulfilled in the gospels via John the Baptist, and, as Christ noted, it will yet be fulfilled in the future. "Indeed, Elijah is coming first and will restore all things." (Matthew 17:11).

For another example, see Hosea 11:1 & Matthew 2:15. Hosea 11:1 was fulfilled in the past when He called Israel out of Egypt. That's the context of Hosea 11:1. Yet, Matthew 2:15 applies that same prophecy (Scripture) to Christ in the NT.

Endnotes:

1. בְתוּלָה (betulah) is found in Genesis 24:16; Exodus 22:16-17; Leviticus 21:3, 14; Deuteronomy 22:19, 23, 28; 32:25; Judges 19:24; 21:12; 2 Samuel 13:2, 18; 1 Kings 1:2; 2 Kings 19:21; 2 Chronicles 36:17; Esther 2:2-3, 17, 19; Job 31:1 ("young woman" NKJV); Psalm 45:14; 78:63 ("maidens" NKJV); 148:12 ("maidens" NKJV); Isaiah 23:4, 12; 37:22; 47:1; 62:5; Jeremiah 2:32; 14:17; 18:13; 31:4, 13, 21; 46:11; 51:22 ("maiden" NKJV); Lamentation 1:4, 15, 18; 2:10, 13, 21; 5:11 ("maidens" NKJV); Ezekiel 9:6 ("maidens"); 44:22; Amos 5:2; 8:13; Joel 1:8 ("Lament like a virgin girded with sackcloth for the husband of her youth." A betrothed virgin would have a husband. See Deuteronomy 22:23-24); Zechariah 9:17 ("young women" NKJV).

The word for "virginity" is the absolute plural Hebrew word בְתוּלִים (betuliym) and it is found in Leviticus 21:13; Deuteronomy 22:14-15, 17, 20; Judges 11:37-38; Ezekiel 23:3, 8.

2. עַלְמָה (`almâh) is found in Genesis 24:43 ("virgin"); Exodus 2:8 ("maiden"); 1 Chronicles 15:20 ("Alamoth" [NKJV] is a transliteration. Plural of עַלְמָה [`almâh] is עֲלָמוֹת [`alâmot]); Psalm 46:1 ("Alamoth"); 68:25 ("maidens"); Proverbs 30:19 ("virgin"); Song of Solomon 1:3; 6:8 ("virgins"); Isaiah 7:14 ("virgin").

3. LXX translates עַלְמָה (`almâh) in Exodus 2:8 as νεανις (neanis) "young woman"; 1 Chronicles 15:20 as αλαιμωθ (alaimôth); Psalm 46:1 as κρυφιων (kruphiôn) "secrets" (a word related to עַלְמָה [`almâh] is תַּעֲלֻמוֹת [ta`alumot] which is "secrets" e.g. Psalm 44:21); Song of Solomon 1:3 and 6:8 (LXX vs. 7) as νεανιδες (veanides) "maidens". LXX does not have Proverbs 30:19.

The Jewish Publication Society (JPS, 1917) translates as follows: Genesis 24:43 and Exodus 2:8 "maiden"; Psalm 68:26 and Song of Solomon 1:3; 6:8 "damsels", and Proverbs 30:19 "young woman".

The JPS Tanakh (TNK, 1985) translates as follows: Genesis 24:43 "young woman"; Exodus 2:8 "girl"; Psalm 68:26 and Song of Solomon 1:3 "maidens"; Proverbs 30:19 "maiden"; Song of Solomon 6:8 "damsels".

The Complete Jewish Bible (CJB, 1998) translates as follows: Genesis 24:43 and Psalm 68:26 "girls"; Exodus 2:8 and Proverbs 30:19 "girl"; Song of Solomon 1:3; 6:8 "young women".

Moreover, the related masculine noun, עֶלֶם [`elem] means "young man" found in 1 Samuel 17:26; 20:22. There is also עֲלוּמִים [`alumiym] found in Job 20:11 ("youthful vigor"); 33:25 ("youth"); Psalm 89:45 ("youth"); Isaiah 54:4 ("youth"). The related verb is עָלַם [`âlam] and it means "conceal" or "hide" (e.g. Job 28:21 "It is hidden"; Psalm 90:8 "secret" [NKJV], passive participle with pronominal suffix, עֲלֻמֵנוּ [`alumênu], "our secrets").

4. παρθενος (parthenos) is the NT word for virgin found also only in Matthew 25:1, 7, 11; Luke 1:27 (2x); Acts 21:9; 1 Corinthians 7:25, 28, 34, 36-38; 2 Corinthians 11:2; Revelation 14:4.

5. The Greek word Εμμανουηλ (emmanouêl) "Immanuel" in Matthew 1:23 is a Greek transliteration of עִמָנוּ אֵל (`immânu' êl). עִמָנוּ אֵל (`immânu' êl) is also found in Isaiah 8:8 & 10 ("God is with us" NKJV).

Moreover, "God with us" in the Greek in Matthew 1:23 is μεθ ημων ο θεος (meth hêmôn ho theos).

6. God born in the flesh is also found in Isaiah 9:6-7, "Mighty God" אֵל גִּבּוֹר ('el gibor), "Everlasting Father" אֲבִיעַד ('aviy`ad). Note also Isaiah 52:13-53:12.

7. The KJV for Hebrews 1:6 does not follow the Greek word order. The KJV reads, "And again, when he bringeth in the firstbegotten into the world". The Greek for this part of the verse is, οταν δε παλιν εισαγαγη τον πρωτοτοκον εις την οικουμενην (hotan de palin eisagagê ton prôtotokon eis tên oikoumenên), more literally, "But when again He brings the firstborn into the world". The adverb "again", παλιν (palin), modifies the verb "He brings", εισαγαγη (eisagagê).

Some might argue that "again", παλιν (palin), modifies "say" of the prior verse (vs. 5) as the "again" in verse 5 does. With this, Hebrews 1:5-6 would read,

And again say . . . (verse 5)

But when again say He brings . . . (verse 6)

Such an idea doesn't fit, as it does, e.g. in Hebrews 2:12-13. There the adverb "again" modifies the verb "saying" of verse 12. Thus, the idea is as follows:

And again saying . . . (vs. 13a, "again" here modifies "saying" of the prior verse)

And again saying . . . (vs. 13b)

Furthermore, in the NT the time of οταν (hatan) "when" is always determined by the words following it. Thus in this case, the "when" in verse 6 is tied to the following words, "again He brings the firstborn into the world." These words qualify what time frame ("when") the writer is talking about.

Claiming "again" modifies the "say" of verse 5 is in opposition to how οταν (hatan) "when" is used throughout the NT. In such a claim, the "when" would be determined by the prior word "say" (of verse 5), and it would put an artificial separation between "when" and "again", as opposed to tying them together (as they should be) with the following words, "He brings . . .". Thus, the meaning is as exactly as it says, "when again He brings the firstborn into the world."

8. "Let all the angels of God worship Him", και προσκυνησατωσαν αυτω παντες αγγελοι θεου (kai proskunêsatôsan autô pantes angeloi theou). These exact same Greek words are found in the LXX in Deuteronomy 32:43. There is no like wording in the Hebrew text.

9. Some think Hebrews 1:6 is speaking of the "Second Coming" (i.e. when Christ returns, Revelation 1:7).

It is only at the Second Coming that the fullness of the prophecy, And let all the angels of God worship Him, will come to pass. At the present time angels do not understand the whole picture well enough to give the Son full worship. (The MacArthur New Testament Commentary, Hebrews, p. 31, copyright 1983 by The Moody Bible Institute of Chicago)

Besides the obvious addition (Proverbs 30:5-6) of the last sentence, Christ revealed in John 17:5 that His glory with the Father is the same after His death and resurrection as it was before the creation of the world.

And now, O Father, glorify Me together with Yourself, with the glory which I had with You before the world was. (John 17:5)

Since Christ does not change (Hebrews 13:8), and He was already slain from the foundation of the world (Revelation 13:8), and as John 17:5 reveals His glory does not change, then the worship due Him by the angels has no change. Hebrews 1:6 declares, "Let all the angels of God worship Him," as does Psalm 148:2 command,

Praise Him, all His angels; Praise Him, all His hosts!

"Him" is both the Father and the Son. This command of worship is not a new or unknown thing to the angels, as MacArthur makes it out to be.

Moreover, the context of Hebrews 1:6 speaks of the Son being begotten and "a Son" to the Father (Hebrews 1:5). This fits an "again" of incarnation, just as Matthew 1:22-23/Isaiah 7:14 records. Any claim to the "Second Coming" would need to be proven Biblically, which MacArthur did not do.

10. Some might argue that Isaiah's son, Maher-Shalal-Hash-Baz, in Isaiah 8:3 is the child of Isaiah 7:14, but Isaiah 8:3 is not a virgin birth. It says,

Then I went to the prophetess, and she conceived and bore a son. (Isaiah 8:3)

The Hebrew word used here for "I went" is אֱקְרַב ('eqrav) and simply means to "draw near" (e.g. Isaiah 5:19), but is also used for drawing near for sexual intercourse, for example, in Genesis 20:4; Leviticus 18:6, 14, 19; 20:16; Deuteronomy 22:14; Ezekiel 18:6. Isaiah clearly is the father of this child. Also, the name of the child is different.

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