“On that account, the Lord, He will give to you a sign—Behold! the virgin: pregnant! and bringing forth a son! and she calls His name Immanuel” (v. 14, Heb.). For the meaning of words in the original languages, we, naturally, must turn to the lexicons. This means, however, that we are largely dependent upon the word of a modern, rationalistic, destructive critic. For the best lexicons have been produced by such. One lexicon is by Gesenius, translated by Robinson of Union Theological Seminary. This means the production of a work doubly Unitarian. Another edition of Gesenius, translated by Tregelles, a biblicalscholar, has notes by the translator at every point refuting the neology of Gesenius. According to this lexicon, almah (virgin) means, “A girl, a maiden, a young woman (of marriageable age). The primary idea of this word is not that of unspotted virginity, for which the Hebrews have the special word bethulah.”
Now there are three things glaringly wrong with this assertion. First, the denial that almah means primarily unspotted virginity. This denial flies in the face of the facts. It is a lie. For the word does denote unspotted virginity. Second, the Hebrew has a special word for girl, or young woman, and it is not “almah”, but “naarah,” a word which suggests nothing as to chastity or virginity. Third, bethulah is not the special, unmistakable word for unspotted virginity. For this word could mean “a girl, a virgin betrothed to a man” (Deut. 22:23ff), and therefore a woman practically married, as engagements in Israel were as binding as marriage. Then read the Deuteronomy context and you will find that “bethulah” does not connote a pure virgin. The word could also mean “a young widow,” and so one who had known a man (Joel 1:18).
This being so, the rationalism of Gesenius appears in his not only incorrect, but dishonest statement that in the Septuagint (LXX) of Isaiah 7:14 almah is incorrectlyparthenos, “virgin.” For the Greek LXX at this point is absolutely correct and accurate, being confirmed by the text of Matt. 1:23, where the Isaianic “ahnah,” virgin, is translated “parthenos,” pure virgin. For in II Cor. 11:2, the word “parthenos,” virgin, means one who has never had sexual intercourse.
Is this meaning borne out in the Old Testament? In the seven times that almah is used in Scripture, we shall see that it is. It appears in Gen. 24:43; Ex. 2:8; Prov. 30:19; Ps. 68:25; Song 1:3, 6:8; and Isa. 7:14, the culminating passage. In our beloved KJV, where almah appears in these verses, we have “virgin,” “maid,” (twice), “damsels,” “virgins,” and “virgin,” respectively. In the ASV we have “maiden” (three times consecutively), “damsels,” “virgins” (twice), and “virgin.” The RSV has “young woman,” “girl,” “maiden,” then “maidens” (three times), and finally, where it really counts (and hurts), “young woman.” The RSV claims for itself that “critics agree that it is more accurate than any previous translation.” The above shows that the opposite is the case with respect to the translations of “almah.” The KJV is the most accurate, the ASV less accurate, and RSV is the least accurate of the three. In fact, it is definitely inaccurate, as almah never means a married woman, but always a true virgin, a virtuous woman, a pure, attractive girl.
According to Gen. 24:16, Rebekah was not only a “naarah” (girl, or young woman), but a “bethulah,” a virgin. To make it perfectly plain that Rebekah was an unmarried, pure virgin, it is immediately added after the words girl and virgin that “neither had any man known her.” This last clause definitely affirms her virginity, as the term bethulah does not have sufficient definiteness by itself to do that. Neither “naarah” (girl) nor “bethulah” (virgin) unquestionably indicate unspotted virginity, so that the words “neither had any man known her” were necessarily added, and are no mere redundancy. It is clear, then, that Moses, the writer of this passage, did not intend the broad sense of “bethulah,” which includes betrothed maidens and widows, but rather the narrow sense originally limited to the term virgin. Thus the noun bethulah in this passage is so qualified as to mean virgin in the strictest sense of the word. This is further confirmed by the fact that in Genesis 24:43, Rebekah is called ha-almah, the virgin!
In Ex. 2:8 it is plain that “almah” means a young, single girl of the babysitting, or perhaps even mar riageable, age. So the word certainly means a virgin.
Appeal is made to Prov. 30:18ff in support of the idea that “almah” may mean a married woman. “There are three things which are too wonderful for me, yea, four, which I know not: the way of an eagle in the air; the way of a serpent upon a rock; the way of a ship in the midst of the sea; and the way of a man with a maid (virgin).” The way of an eagle in the air—what a magnificent privilege to see the glorious sight (as we have in Texas and over the Georgia Strait)! But who can foretell the movements or direction of the eagle? or change his course? The serpent on a rock is just as free to turn in any direction. No man can know the precise path it shall take. The same thought continues in the ship in the midst of the sea. The ship leaves a wake, the exact lines of which are not to be foreknown by man. Carrying out this parallel thought, it applies also to the way of a man with a maiden (almah). What is the way of a man with a virgin? Sometimes in an immoral or sinful relation. In such a case, “almah” would not mean a married woman, neither to this man nor to any other. For it may be said of a woman associated with her husband, or even with a man not her husband, that we know what she in either case would probably do. No, nor can we regard this woman as a harlot; for everyone knows how such a woman would act. But who can foretell whether a young virgin in her relations with a man will keep her virginity? Many a strong, principled maiden has succumbed to the more dominating male personality. The point then is that almah means only avirgin.
In Ps. 68:25, the damsels (virgins) went in the religious procession playing the timbrels. If they were married women, then a different word, not “almah,” would have been used.
In the Song of Songs, the word virgins refers to young unmarried women who become friends of the bride and groom. That they are truly unmarried virgins is plain from the fact that they stand in contrast to concubines and to queens married to kings.
Therefore, when we read in Isa. 7:14, “Behold, the virgin . . .” the word is indeed virgin, and not “young woman.” This is conclusive when we understand that in this word is the sign God gave, not to wicked King Ahaz, but to faith, to believing Judah. For what sign would it be in a young woman conceiving? But for a virgin to conceive a son without the normal, natural instrumentality of a man, and a Son Who is really Immanuel, God With Us in the flesh—that is a stupendous sign!
But modernistic rationalism and most of the new Bible translations deliberately ignore and fly in the face of all the biblical evidence herein presented. They mistranslate Scripture, they mutilate God’s Word, they destroy the sign, they deliberately discard the virgin-birth of Christ and they despise and reject the incarnation of the eternal God.
The neologists (neo-orthodox or neo-modernists, but still the old rationalists) interpret this text in such a way as to sink it in the then present, thus destroying, as they intend, its prophetic character. But that talmudical interpretation will not stand. The text has not a verb, “shall conceive,” “pregnant,” but an adjective, and then, not another verb, “and bear” a son, but a feminine present participle, “bringing forth” a son. Yet the plain grammatical structure puts the whole wonderful event into the future. “Behold” in Isaiah indicates something future, and “the Lord, He will give you a sign” is the clear statement of promise in the future. Only, the future is so vivid in prophecy that the present tense is often woven with the future. So we have “and she calls His name Immanuel.” But the whole sign is future, as “the Lord, He will” bring it to pass. From Isaiah’s point of view, future it is, and nothing else. What is here predicted can in no way be fitted into Isaiah’s present. The whole Bible is laid out in prophecy, fact, and interpretation of fact. The Old Testament prophets give us prophecy; the New Testament gospels give us fact; and the epistles give us the interpretation of the facts.
At this point a word must be said about the significance of Immanuel. For the essential point of this passage is not merely that a virgin is bringing forth a son, but that the Messiah (ha-Moshiach) is Immanuel. What does this name mean? Names in the Bible are significant. They express the working of God in providence and in grace, especially in reflecting a spiritual hope reaching into the future. So, Isaiah means Salvation of Jehovah; Jeremiah, Established of Jehovah; Zephaniah, Whom Jehovah hid; Zechariah, Remembered of Jehovah; Ezekiel, Whom God will strengthen; Daniel, My judge is God; Joel,Jehovah is God; and Immanuel, God with us. The people bearing these names did exemplify to a degree and by God’s grace the qualities denominated. But who thinks “my judge is God” means that Daniel was the judging God? Or who believes that Joel means he was divine? Then does Immanuel mean that the person with that name is actually God dwelling with His people to aid and deliver them? Or does it merely mean that the parents giving this name thus express their faith in God? In the case of this prophecy, Immanuel is the one not conceived by natural generation, but supernaturally, miraculously, and born of a virgin. He was not, as ordinarily, born of a man and a woman. He was “made of a woman” (Gal. 4:4). So, when He would come into the world, God foretold His own name. As Bible names do, it reveals His true character, and not just, as with mere human beings, what He wanted to be. God gave all these names, and the names He gives attach to the actual, the literal and the real. The inference of Scripture (not neology) then is that this son is what His name claims, God with us.
In Isaiah 8, the land of Israel is called Immanuel’s land. What in the world could that mean if the name Immanuel referred to a person born in Isaiah’s day? InIsaiah 9:6, this son is given to Israel, and very specially, from God, through physical birth (“for unto us a child is born”), and who is himself “the mighty God.” There is no Wonderful, nor Prince of Peace born in the reigns of Judah’s and Israel’s kings. The idea is pitifully absurd. What the name Immanuel reveals is that Godcame to earth through the womb of the virgin in the form of an infant born.
So the sign is supernatural, the virgin’s conception supernatural, the word almah signifies nothing less than the miracle of the incarnation of God, God in the form of man and in association with men. Isaiah, a true rabbi, furnishes us with a divinely inspired exposition of the original mother-promise of the Redeemer of God’s elect, the Savior of the world (Gen. 3:15). What else so fills the hearts of men in any and every age with holy delight?