When the angel appeared to Joseph in a dream, he learned that his fianc Mary was"with child through the Holy Spirit" and would give birth to a son named"Immanuel" ( Matthew 1:18 Matthew 1:23 )."Immanuel" is a Hebrew word meaning "God with us" and expresses thewonder of the incarnation, that God "became flesh and made his dwelling amongus" ( John 1:14 ).In the Old Testament God's presence with his people Israel was particularly evident in thetabernacle ( Exod 25:8 ),but the glory that filled the tabernacle was surpassed by the personal presence of God theSon as he revealed the Father during his ministry on earth. Christ's glory was revealedthrough the miracles he performed ( John 2:11 ).
The birth of Immanuel to the virgin Mary fulfilled the prophecy of Isaiah 7:14, thesign given to Ahaz about seven hundred years earlier. At that time the wicked Ahaz ignoredIsaiah's advice and appealed to the king of Assyria for help in a political crisis. Boththe context of Isaiah 7 and the use of "Immanuel" two more times in chapter 8(vv. 8, 10) raise the distinct possibility that the sign had a near fulfillment thataffected Ahaz directly. Such a possibility is supported by the two verses immediatelyafter 7:14 that tell us that the boy will still be young when Ahaz's enemiesthekings of Samaria and Damascuswill lose their power (a prediction fulfilled in 732b.c.). The birth of a boy who would serve as a sign to Ahaz appears to be closely linkedto the birth of Isaiah's son Maher-Shalal-Hash-Baz in 8:1-4. Both Immanuel in 7:15-16 andMaher-Shalal-Hash-Baz in 8:4 are young children when Damascus and Samaria collapse. And in8:8 the two boys may be identified as Isaiah addresses Immanuel as if he were alreadypresent in Jerusalem. Verse 10 contains another occurrence of "Immanuel" in thewords "God is with us." The prophet was challenging Ahaz to trust God, who was"with" his people just as he had promised to be with them constantly. In Numbers14:9 Joshua and Caleb had urged the Israelites to acknowledge that the Lord was with themand to begin the conquest of Canaan, but just like Ahaz the people chose the path ofunbelief with its tragic consequences. An earlier king of Judah, Abijah, believed that Godwas with his people as they faced the numerically superior army of Jeroboam. Abijah'sfaith was honored as the Lord gave him a resounding victory ( 2 Chron 13:12-15 ).
If "Immanuel" was another name for Isaiah's son, the use of"virgin" for Isaiah's wife refers to the time when she was his fianc. The signof Isaiah 7:14 constitutes a blessing on an upcoming marriage, predicting that a virginwho was engaged to be married would be able to have a child early in the marriage. UnlikeMary she was not a virgin after she became pregnant. It is likely that Isaiah's marriageto a prophetess is in fact briefly described in 8:1-3. Matthew's use of this verse wasextraordinarily appropriate in light of Mary's unique virginity and the incarnation ofJesus, who was God in the flesh. Matthew ends his Gospel with Jesus' own assurance to hisdisciples that he was Immanuel: "And surely I am with you always, to the very end ofthe age" ( 28:20 ).
Herbert M. Wolf
See also VirginBirth
Bibliography. J. Lindblom, A Study of the Immanuel Section in Isaiah; J.Oswalt, Isaiah 1-39; H. M. Wolf, Interpreting Isaiah.
Copyright © 1996 by Walter A. Elwell. Published by Baker Books, a division of
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[N] indicates this entry was also found in Nave's Topical Bible
[E] indicates this entry was also found in Easton's Bible Dictionary
[H] indicates this entry was also found in Hitchcock's Bible Names
[S] indicates this entry was also found in Smith's Bible Dictionary
Bibliography InformationElwell, Walter A. "Entry for 'Immanuel'". "Evangelical Dictionary of Theology".