Notes on Isaiah 7   

David H. Linden

University Presbyterian Church, Las Cruces, NM  USA


With Isaiah’s call to be a prophet of God, the setting in Isaiah 7 is an historical event. It was a meeting of Isaiah and King Ahaz. In chapters 7-11, Christ as Immanuel or Son of David appears in chapters 7, 8, 9 & 11. Chapter 8 speaks of Immanuel and has a statement of the LORD (Jehovah or Yahweh) applied to the Lord Jesus by the Apostle Peter in 1 Peter 3:15.  These are rich Scriptures foretelling Christ. The prophecy of the virgin birth is unique to the entire Old Testament.  In chapter 7, King Ahaz rejected one of the most unusual appeals God has ever made to any human being. It was the Lord’s call to trust Him, the God of his fathers, and the One Who had guaranteed the permanency of David’s succession. The chapter ends with the severe consequences of Ahaz’s vile rejection of the Lord. God would bring the army of the Assyrian King right up to the walls of Jerusalem.


The Background:  2 Chronicles 28 and 2 Kings 16      Ahaz king of Judah had already suffered defeat by Israel. (In one day Israel killed 120,000 of Judah’s soldiers.) Ahaz’s strategy to deal with the threat of a combined attack by Israel and Aram was to turn to Assyria for help. His plan would be thwarted (8:10). In this setting Isaiah approaches Ahaz to tell him that Israel and Aram will neither succeed nor survive. Ahaz must have faith in the word of the Lord (v.9). The choice for Ahaz was faith in the Lord or in the king of Assyria. He chose the king of Assyria (2 Chronicles 28:16) but received trouble instead.  He even said to the Assyrian king, “I am your servant and vassal. Come up and save me …” (2 Kings 16:7). He should have said that to the Lord his God. 


The call of Isaiah in chapter 6 to be a prophet and the Psalm of Praise in chapter 12 begin and end this section. Within that we have the bad king of chapter 7 who feared men, and the King Whose delight is in the fear of the Lord (11:3).



7:1-3   The reports of danger to Jerusalem were true. Previous encounters proved to be much trouble for Judah. There was reason for their fear. With an attack very likely, Ahaz was out to look at the aqueduct. Jerusalem’s water came from outside the city walls and so it could be cut off by an enemy. 22:1-14 deals with a time a little later; by then, Jerusalem had done more to protect its water supply. In Isaiah 22 their sin included trust in a more protected water supply. This location was an ideal place for Isaiah to meet Ahaz. Imminent danger was on his mind. He would trust Assyria rather than the Lord. As a result, at that same spot the Assyrian officer, with an army behind him, stood to threaten Jerusalem in 36:2. In a few years, the same nation Ahaz had trusted came to destroy them.


7:4-9   Isaiah was sent by the Lord to give Ahaz counsel. Isaiah 6:9,10 predicted that dull hearts would not believe any word from God. Here by the aqueduct it happened. The message to Ahaz was to cease the kind of fretful preparations they were doing, a message of “be quiet and do nothing”. 30:15 gives the same message; with the Lord to protect them the proper response would be quiet confidence. God’s salvation comes by ceasing from our works to rest in Christ (Hebrews 4:9,10). Instead with a powerful army already gathering against him, Ahaz resorted to worldly pragmatism, political expediency, and covenantal betrayal.


The Lord’s assurance was that whatever those two kings would attempt against Jerusalem would fail. “… It will not happen.” This word came in the context of multiple “sons of…”. Isaiah took his son Shear-Jashub, whose name was also a word from the Lord that there would be a returning remnant. Ahaz, son of Jotham, was a son of David. Pekah was not of the line of David. He was an opportunist who murdered the previous king and seized the throne of Israel. He lasted twenty years before the next man murdered him and took the throne (2 Kings 15). The Lord God of Israel had made no commitment to those other kings. They lived and died by their swords. Pekah was merely the son of Remaliah. They wanted to install someone whose name we do not know. He is referred to only as “the son of Tabeel”. There was no covenant of the Lord with him or his ancestors. In contrast to this, Ahaz of the House of David could have rested in God’s promise, “… I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever” (2 Samuel 7:14).   


The danger Ahaz feared were two kings at the end of their power. They were better described as smoldering stubs, where the fire had died and all that was left was the smoke before it went out altogether. When God gives such an appraisal, it should be a matter of great comfort. Those kings had threatening words (v.6), but the Sovereign Lord had reliable words. God was unimpressed with Damascus and Samaria. To God the nations are like dust on a scale (40:15-17). Note that it was not Ahaz who described the plot against him (vv.5,6), but the Lord reported it to Ahaz! The Lord knew his trouble. The call was to stand firm in faith. This faith was not a leap into the dark; it was the covenant of God who had already preserved the line of David all the way to Ahaz. (Note Psalm 89:3,4,35-37 & Psalm 132:11.) This was a crisis point. Not to stand in faith in this situation would mean the downfall of the nation. Ahaz’s unfaithfulness to God meant that God sent Assyria to overrun all of Judah. Thereafter the nation was so weak, it was an easy matter for Babylon to destroy it. God sent Isaiah to call on Ahaz to believe Him. In every faithful sermon God calls us to faith and obedience.     


7:10   The text reports no response from Ahaz. The Lord spoke again. Note it was Isaiah speaking before, but here it says the Lord spoke again, therefore when Isaiah was speaking the words of God, it was the Lord speaking. This is what our Bible is; it is the Word of God channeled through chosen human instruments. Men wrote and spoke, yet the message came from God even if all that the hearers heard was the voice of a prophet. 


7:11-13   God does not always use signs or miracles. He has used many throughout the Bible, especially in times when unbelief was rampant, and God chose to bolster faith by them. Unbelief was often widespread among people who had witnessed God’s mighty deeds. (See Psalm 95:7-11). It is extremely rare that God would allow a man to choose what miracle he wanted performed. This was the amazing offer from God to Ahaz. (The angels must have been stunned at such a thing.) It was as if God had said, “What can I do to assure you that I am serious about keeping my promise to you?” Ahaz could have asked for the shadow to reverse (38:7,8). He could have asked for all the horses in the armies of Israel and Aram to run into the Sea of Galilee and drown; the Lord would have done it. Instead Ahaz was committed to his unbelief. 


Ahaz gave a pious reply to the prophet. It was actually an impious response to God. He provoked God to His very face. (Note 65:2,3). It really is presumptuous to tell God we will believe Him if He will do a sign of our choosing. We must not tempt the Lord (Deuteronomy 6:16). In this case though, it was God making the offer. The King of Judah turned God down. As was the case here, often God is rejected in the guise of religious talk. Ahaz tried the patience of God. He was told to “ask the Lord your God…”  Your God is not repeated; thereafter Isaiah referred to the Lord as “my God” (v.13). Such details in Isaiah are deliberate.


7:14   By the kindness of God making a promise and delivering it at a location connected to the danger they were facing, Ahaz’s heart was hardened by the way he heard the Word of God. Then he could not turn back from his apostasy. He traded the tender mercies of His faithful Lord for the deceitful treachery of the King of Assyria. He declined a sign he could have chosen, and so was denied seeing the fulfillment of it. Then God would give a sign beyond the understanding and time of Ahaz. Ahaz would never see it. This sign was impossible beyond the deepest depths and the highest heights (v.10). A virgin would give birth to a male child.


Does Isaiah 7:14 really say virgin?      Many years before Christ, Jewish scholars translated Isaiah 7:14, using the Greek word parthenos. Those men understood both languages. Parthenos means virgin. The New Testament uses that same unambiguous word in Matthew 1:23. Jesus’ birth was to a virgin mother. But many argue that a different Hebrew word would mean virgin, and since Isaiah did not use it, according to them, he was not saying in 7:14 that a virgin would have a son! Such claims not only cast doubt on the New Testament quotation of this text, the claim falls apart when we look up examples of both words in the Old Testament. The word Isaiah used never means a married woman, and the other word need not always mean an unmarried woman. That Rebecca was a virgin is very clear in Genesis 24:16; then later in v.43 she is described by the same word Isaiah used in 7:14. Languages often have words without precise counterparts to other languages. For example, Greek simply uses the word for a male to mean husband. If a woman says, “He is my man”, we know she meant her husband. The context decides the meaning. Likewise, Isaiah used a word that more than any other word in his language indicated that a virgin would have a son.  We must never forget that the Holy Spirit was also guiding Matthew in his choice of words in Matthew 1:23. To say a woman will have a baby boy is hardly an earth shaking sign. It has happened before.


The male child would be called Immanuel, meaning God with us, for the simple reason that the One Who would come is God and would be on earth with His people. Immanuel is mentioned again in 8:8 & 10. The land which was under the rule of the House of David was His land, and He is addressed in prayer (8:8) so He must be the Lord. He is spoken to as One living and able to hear, so the future child of the virgin was alive long before the virgin was. He is the Lord Who frustrates the plans of His opponents in 8:10. So, Immanuel, the Name by which He would be called, is a literal description of Him, not just a name that testifies about the Lord.


A Double Fulfillment?      The matter of whether to translate the Hebrew word as virgin is a debate that brings some into conflict with the New Testament. There is another complication which has sincere believers of the inerrancy of Scripture differing. Some think that since a sign was given to Ahaz, it makes no sense to give a man a sign he will never see. Therefore, there had to be a fulfillment in his day, because Isaiah included that before the virgin’s child  would be old enough to choose between evil and good (perhaps not liking the taste of olives?), the two kings Ahaz dreaded would be a threat no longer. But the text also refers to the birth of Christ. The suggested resolution is that there are two fulfillments:  a) the birth of Maher Shalal Hash Baz in 8:1-4 and b) the birth of Jesus seven centuries later. This hypothesis depends upon (with some danger of conflict with Matthew 1:23) the word for virgin being broad enough to refer to a natural birth (such as the next son of Isaiah in 8:1-4), and yet not deny the eminent sign later of the virgin birth of Christ. In other words, the first fulfillment was the child from Isaiah’s non-virgin wife; the second fulfillment is the son of the Virgin Mary.  This interpretation is a high wire act that creates more trouble than it solves..


I say that interpretation should be rejected for the following reasons:


1.  The statement was not to Ahaz as an individual, but to the House of David (v.13). The you pronouns in vv. 13,14 are all plurals. Thus the sign was to the dynasty, not to one individual. The line of David continued long after Ahaz. This sign from God can stand as a promise extending over many generations.


2.  The time of that virgin birth was not indicated, only that the two kings would fade first. There is no real contradiction here. Before Jesus was old enough to reject either evil things or food He did not like, those two kings were gone, long gone.


3.  Isaiah does not report any son born in Ahaz’s day named Immanuel.  A birth without that name could not be a fulfillment of this prophecy. There could be no other Immanuel than God the Lord who also fits the words about Him in chapter 8.  Maher Shalal Hash Baz is eliminated.  His name shows that he does not fulfill this prophecy.


4.  Maher Shalal Hash Baz was born on a schedule that connected tightly to the time of Ahaz. As Isaiah’s son, he was a genuine sign (8:18). His long name signified the impending defeat of the kings of Israel and Aram.  In this way God did provide a sign that marked the early defeat of the kings who were terrifying Ahaz.


5.  The old argument over the meaning of the word for virgin in 7:14 is back. This argument by evangelicals draws some strength from the unsuitable argument of liberals, and in return it actually provides it with a measure of approval.  Any fulfillment less than an unambiguous virgin birth greatly weakens this unique prophecy, the only one in the OT about the virgin birth. The marvelous prediction of a virgin birth cannot be of a natural birth and a virgin birth by using the same words in one statement.  


6.  Accepting only one fulfillment of 7:14 maintains that this sign is of a truly supernatural kind. It is incongruous after offering his choice of a sign of cosmic proportions, that it would to be replaced with a limp prediction of a very ordinary birth. 


So the ultimate sign to the House of David was the singular, supernatural, eventual birth of a virgin’s son within the line of David. This was a wonderful thing unbelieving Ahaz would never see, did not deserve to see, and did not benefit from. The virgin birth allowed Christ to be the true legal Son of David, yet not strictly in the biological line of Jehoiachin (or Coniah) according to Jeremiah 22:24-30. Note Jechoniah (i.e., Jehoiachin) in Matthew 1:11. The parallel between the birth promised in 7:14 and the one in 8:3,4 is unmistakable.  Scripture does places them in the same passage. One son is called a sign, but in the case of Christ, the sign is the conception and birth to a virgin. One sign was for Ahaz to see, and then centuries later another sign, distinct from the first, happened in a virgin’s womb. 



7:15-17   The Setting of the Birth of Christ      Jesus was born into poverty (2 Corinthians 8:9). This is indicated by curds and honey. Curds come from the milk of an animal that can forage. The animal can move around and be hidden. When an occupying army is all around, farmers cannot plant and be sure they will be the ones to eat their crop. This poverty resulted from Judah being subject to foreign powers: Assyria, Babylonia, Persia, Greece, and Rome. This was how Ahaz’s sin affected his people; the nation crumbled. Then into these stark consequences of His people’s sin, the Son of David would be born to lay claim to a non-existent throne, as far as the world was concerned. In the time of the Romans, Joseph and Mary, a poor man and woman, would be given the privilege to raise the newborn Son of David. There were so poor they could only offer a pair of doves or two young pigeons.  (Compare Luke 2:22-24 with Leviticus 12:7,8.)


Though the kings of Aram and Israel would afflict Judah no more, Judah would be overwhelmed by the King of Assyria, a flood reaching to the neck (8:8). Living under Gentile domination would be a tragedy comparable to the breakup of Israel when 10 tribes revolted against the House of David to form another nation (1 Kings 12:20). Yet, a stump would survive (6:13).   


7:17-25  The Assyrian Invasion   Egypt gets brief mention.  Some in the king’s court probably counseled that they seek Egypt’s assistance. Later, Judah would unite in the sinful policy of making Egypt their trust (Isaiah 29-31). Years later, Egypt did come but not to help. They removed King Jehoahaz and took him captive to Egypt (2 Chronicles 36:2-4). So the mention of Egypt in Isaiah 7 fits in. However, at that time, Assyria was the overwhelming power.


The Lord would bring the king of Assyria, a sovereign decision and act of God. They would come in overwhelming numbers like a swarm of bees, and they would be everywhere; there was no place to hide. If one seeks to hide in caves from the fear of the Lord (2:19), there they would find enemy soldiers in the crevices of the rocks (7:19)!  Like a razor cutting off every hair before it, the Assyrians would come with no one to stop them till they surrounded the walls of Jerusalem in Isaiah 36 & 37. In ancient times shaving off a man’s beard was an act of humiliation. Much attention is given to the burdens of daily life especially hardship in the loss of food.



There was a Son Who would come in the line of David. The House of David would not be replaced by some unknown son of Tabeel. Instead, a Son called Immanuel would be born to a virgin (v.14). “He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give to him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever; his kingdom will never end”   (Luke 1:32,33).