Once again, you display the importance of not ripping a part of Tanach out of the whole work. As I was working through reading this weekend’s messages, I could hardly believe that you considered the child of Isaiah 7, Emmanuel, to be Jesus or whatever you call him. Even a passing reading of Isaiah 7 will show that Isaiah cannot be talking about Jesus. Emmanuel was dead hundreds of years before Jesus was born. Do not lose heart, however. The author of the Gospel of Matthew has misled you; it is not your fault.
I urge you to return to Isaiah 7 without having Matthew 1 in mind. After all, this is how the book was read and understood for hundreds of years. And you should ask what the chapter is about. It will become obvious as you read the chapter that it is not about the Messiah. Normally, I do not think it best to identify what a chapter is not about, but in this case, because of the misrepresentations of the Church, it is useful and necessary. The chapter is about two armies that are threatening Judah, and the Jewish king that does not wish to rely upon God. Isaiah tells King Ahaz that the threat of the armies will be turned back, that God has not abandoned Judah. This is what is happening in Isaiah 7. Compare it with the Messianic chapter Isaiah 2, and you will note a world of difference.
You will note also that Isaiah tells Ahaz to ask for a sign. Ahaz refuses, so Isaiah offers him a sign anyway. This sign is an indication that God will save Judah from the two encroaching armies. And the sign is that a young woman will have a child and she will name the child Emmanuel. Also, before the child knows to choose between good and evil, so while he is still young, the two kings of whom Ahaz is afraid will no longer be a threat. This second part, the two verses concerning the child that follow Isaiah 7:14 are not quoted by the author of Matthew. The reason why is because he cannot. They would reveal the context of the prophecy and would show that they apply in no way to Jesus. But you and I, we must take careful note of the prophet’s words. And we must in no way allow ourselves to misrepresent them or tolerate those that do.
This child, Emmanuel, was born before these kings were no longer a threat to Israel. As you know, they did not live 600 years and only turn back at the birth of Jesus. Obviously not. No, they were turned back during the life of Emmanuel, a male child born in the time of Isaiah and Ahaz. And before he reached maturity, the kings were turned back.
Sometimes Christians are misled by the name ‘Emmanuel’. They are confused as to the nature of the name. They believe that it indicates that the child would be divine. “God with us” they think to mean that God came down to be with people. The name means nothing of the sort. The name is an indication that “God is with us” in the sense that He had not abandoned the Jewish people. He is on their side, not physically dwelling with them. This latter explanation is the one that fits within the context of the chapter; the former does not. Moreover, it is not unusual for Jewish names to have a divine name as part of them, as Isaiah’s name does. This does not mean that Isaiah was God. Furthermore, Isaiah is not the only prophet to name children as messages to the Jewish people. I am sure you will remember that Hosea, his contemporary in the north, did likewise.
You should also know that Matthew changed the words of Isaiah. Matthew does not like the prophets, apparently, for he constantly misrepresents their words. Not only does Isaiah not write of a virgin birth, as I am sure you are aware, but he writes that the woman would name her child Emmanuel. Matthew changes this to “they shall call his name Emmanuel”. Matthew wants ‘Emmanuel’ to sound like an honorific, but it is not. Isaiah is telling us that the woman would name the child Emmanuel, which Mary did not do. Mary named her child, ‘Jesus’. This by itself is a failure of Jesus to fulfill the prophecy.
I hope after reviewing these facts, you realize your error. I am sure it was unintentional. The Church has long misrepresented the passage. The way it is written does not fit their theology. However, if we seek the truth, if we wish to know what God says, then we cannot afford to accept uncritically such misrepresentations. Instead we must turn from a Church that manipulates the Word of God to invent its own theology. We must turn from a Church that rewrites the word of God. We must turn from a Church that considers its own opinions superior to that of the Creator. It is no wonder that the Church disallowed for so long its parishioners the right to read Tanach for themselves. It allowed them to bury the truth. Reading Isaiah 7 shows that it has nothing to do with Messiah. ‘Emmanuel’ is not Jesus, but died long before Jesus. He was not born of a virgin. And his mother actually named his child, ‘Emmanuel’.
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Yisroel C. Blumenthal