Does Isaiah 7:14 Describe A Virgin Or A Young Woman?

Does Isaiah 7:14 Describe A Virgin Or A Young Woman?

Friday’s Column: Brent’s Bent 

Brent Pollard

With Christmas on Sunday, thoughts turn to the Christ child, born between 6 and 4 B.C. in Bethlehem. While the baby Jesus is the focus of most of the debate surrounding the innumerable nativity scenes that dot lawns and yards across the United States, His mother, Mary, is a divisive figure in her own right. In his purported “translation” of the Bible, Thomas Jefferson, for instance, left out the story of Jesus’ virgin birth. As with many others, Jefferson disbelieved in miracles. Before IVF, such an unconventional conception would have been unthinkable for the erudite of the Age of Enlightenment. However, some Christian groups today don’t believe in the virgin birth of Jesus. One way that the latter rationalizes their view is to point out that the word translated as “virgin” (almah) can likewise mean a young woman. 

There seems to be no reason it can’t mean both “virgin” and “young woman.” Those preoccupied with the debate over the virgin birth of Christ miss the other point of Isaiah 7.14. Aram and Israel threatened King Ahaz of Judah. Ahaz’s fear was palpable. God instructed Ahaz to request a sign to indicate Judah’s deliverance. God told Ahaz that he could even ask for something extraordinary. Ahaz was not a righteous king, but he pretended to be godly here by saying he would not test God. To this, God replied with the words most commonly associated with Jesus: “Behold, the virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and she will name Him Immanuel” (NASB). God revealed that this was a sign He would send to Ahaz. Moreover, God would remove the danger posed by Aram and Israel before this child reached adulthood (Isaiah 7.16). 

I’ve seen well-intentioned brothers argue that this prophecy can only refer to Jesus’ virgin birth and that we must not permit others to interpret it as referring to a young woman. However, I wonder what good a sign concerning Christ would have done King Ahaz. Ahaz was a historical figure who existed more than 700 years before the birth of Christ. How could a messianic prophecy promise Ahaz that Judah would not fall? The answer is that it couldn’t. Ahaz required immediate fulfillment. In the following chapter, Isaiah documents the event as having been accomplished. Isaiah and his wife had a son, and his birth foretold that the Assyrians would plunder those who opposed Judah (Isaiah 8.1-4). The prophetess was not a virgin since she and Isaiah were married and had given birth to at least one of Isaiah’s children (Isaiah 7.3). Thus, a young woman was the immediate realization of the sign, but a virgin was the ultimate fulfillment. 

The sign’s demands tested the faith of Joseph and Ahaz, but Joseph succeeded where Ahaz did not. Ahaz needed to trust God and wait for the sign He promised. But Ahaz sought out the Assyrians and allied with them (2 Chronicles 28.16). Joseph was well aware that a virgin could not normally conceive a child. Therefore, he was going to dissolve his relationship with Mary privately. But an angel announced to Joseph that Mary was carrying a child the Holy Spirit conceived. Joseph believed the prophetic sign from God and acted accordingly. Joseph’s response should be ours today. Rather than quibble over the precise definition of “almah,” we should believe that God means what He says. 

You Should Drink From Your Own Well

You Should Drink From Your Own Well

Friday’s Column: Brent’s Bent

Brent Pollard

Proverbs 5 provides several insights. First and foremost, be prudent. In the first 14 verses, Solomon warns against satisfying base desires. The rest of the chapter is about lustful people and the trouble they get themselves into. Solomon warns young men to resist carnal desires as if they were his sons. Yes, it is about the seventh commandment, which is not to commit adultery. Adulterous women (referred to as “strange women” in the King James Version) may also facilitate spiritual infidelity to God. God portrays the broken covenant in the Old Testament as spiritual adultery. As a result, the adulteress can be a real woman or any other sin provocateur. Do you recall who misled Solomon? His spouses (1 Kings 11.4). 

 Men are especially vulnerable to women’s wiles. I believe Satan tempted Eve because he knew he could get Adam to sin through her rather than through a direct approach. But take note of Satan’s promise of reward in words as smooth as oil. Honey drips from the adulterer’s lips as well. (The KJV makes use of honeycomb.) Keil and Delitzsch define it as “virgin honey” from intact comb cells. This translation, I believe, should not be overlooked. A prostitute or a repeat adulteress is not virginal in the literal sense, but she is a new experience for the young man. And new experiences motivate men who seek the flesh. 

Of course, Satan never fulfills his promises. Instead, the seductress’ honey tastes like wormwood. Wormwood is a bitter shrub used to produce absinthe, a deworming medicine. Wormwood is used apocalyptically by John in Revelation to describe the sorrow that befalls the earth’s rivers and fountains. The seduction eventually kills. That is the price of indulgence. “Sin will take you further than you want to go, keep you longer than you want to stay, and cost you more than you want to pay,” Ravi Zacharias says. We want to stay away from Hell’s Highway. Unlawful and promiscuous sex causes social, financial, moral, and physical devastation. This behavior harms society, family, the body, the church, and God. 

Solomon discusses the difficulties a young man’s lust can cause in verse ten. Strangers will fill themselves with their wealth, according to the KJV. In contrast to the NASB1995’s “strength,” this is worth considering. Consider a few scenarios in which sexual immorality can lead to financial ruin. First, there is the risk of blackmail from the person with whom you had an immoral relationship or a third party who discovered the tryst. What about having to make amends to the affected parties? For example, an adulterer in ancient Greece could face a hefty fine. (While this was preferable to execution or public humiliation, it was still expensive.) 

 However, sexual immorality causes physical harm (5.11). It is a sin that has resulted in terrible diseases both then and now. Many sexually transmitted diseases were fatal before the discovery of penicillin. Syphilis was particularly dreadful. In addition to blindness in infants and insanity in adults, it may occasionally attack a specific part of the body, such as the spine. Doctors call the latter condition tabes dorsalis. It effectively renders one unable to walk and move around without a wheelchair. The prevalence of tabes dorsalis is increasing among HIV-positive people.1

The issue with those young men who fall into this trap is not a lack of teachers but rather a dislike for instruction and correction. As a result, when their advisers warn them of the folly, the prodigal chooses to disregard their advice. Unfortunately, this vice appears to open the door to many other sins one desires to commit. Do you remember David, Solomon’s father? What did he do due to his adultery? (2 Samuel 11.1ff) When Bathsheba became pregnant, David attempted to conceal his sin by bringing her husband home from the war. He believed that Uriah the Hittite would undoubtedly “know” his wife while on leave. However, Uriah did not. As a result, David killed him by withdrawing his soldiers from Uriah, leaving him to fight alone on the battlefield. 

 God gives us a proper way to satisfy our sexual desires. Marriage. Solomon praises and encourages young men to pursue conjugal love. Solomon discusses a fulfilling marriage in the Song of Solomon-like language. These verses are in direct contrast to the first. Solomon describes marital love as “exhilarating.” (Contrast this verse with those at the start of the chapter, where we noted that young men seek experiences for the thrill of novelty.) Indeed, God created sexuality for us to enjoy with our spouses, but He forbids sexual relations outside of the union of a man and a woman in holy matrimony. It is worth noting that God forbids adultery in both the Old and New Testaments. However, we also require consistency in this regard. Some may be quick to point out the illicit nature of a homosexual relationship and condemn it as sexual immorality. Still, they ignore heterosexuals who have marital relations outside of wedlock. God’s word forbids either type of relationship. 

 Solomon reminds his sons that God is keeping an eye on them. Ultimately, the issue is less about sex and more about a person’s love for God. We read about Joseph, the young man approached by Potiphar’s wife. She attempted to seduce Joseph. But Joseph maintained his integrity. As he turned down Potiphar’s wife’s advances, Joseph referred to Potiphar’s trust in him but said his decision was ultimately a matter of faith. “There is no one greater in this house than I, and he (Potiphar) has withheld nothing from me except you, because you are his wife. How then could I do this great evil and sin against God? (Genesis 39.9 NASB1995) 

So, let the young man drink from his cisterns and wells, not the polluted waters of the streets. 

Sources Cited 

1 “Tabes Dorsalis.” Brain&Life, American Academy of Neurology, www.brainandlife.org/disorders-a-z/disorders/tabes-dorsalis