Child theme in Isaiah 6-12

Peter Kirk Peter_Kirk at sil.org
Fri Feb 2 11:26:54 EST 2001


I am glad, Dan, that you are trying to look at this in a broader context in
the book of Isaiah. Let me add some more observations on this aspect, rather
off the cuff.

There is quite a theme of children being born in Isaiah 6-12. The Christian
interpretation, very likely going right back to Matthew (who at 4:15-16
quotes Isaiah 9:1-2 (Hebrew 8:23-9:1)) links the child of 7:14 with that of
9:6-7(5-6) and thence to the Branch in chapter 11. Surely in any kind of
Messianic interpretation these latter passages refer to the Davidic Messiah.
But is it correct to link 7:14 with these other passages?

The picture is more complicated as we also have Isaiah's own children with
their symbolic names: Shear-Jashub (7:3) and Maher-Shalal-Hash-Baz (8:3).
The wording of 7:14-16 is so close to that of 8:3-4, including the reference
to two kings being defeated before the child grows up, that 7:14 must at
least in part refer to this same situation, and HF(AL:MFH must be Isaiah's
wife, the prophetess of 8:3. Now we are explicitly told that the birth of
Maher-Shalal-Hash-Baz was not a virgin birth as Isaiah "went to" his mother,
and he had an older brother Shear-Jashub. Either the chronology is confused,
or Isaiah and his wife actually had three boys: Shear-Jashub, Immanuel and
Maher-Shalal-Hash-Baz. On that basis the two kings were to be defeated
before Immanuel was old enough to discern right and wrong, and while
Maher-Shalal-Hash-Baz was even younger, before he could even say "Dada" and
"Mama". Immanuel, who is addressed in 8:8, would then grow up to live in a
land recovering from war and feed himself on milk products from his cow and
two goats (7:21-22, explaining 7:15).

So is there any link between these children and the child of 9:6-7? Matthew
obviously thought so. But it is not clear to me. Shear-Jashub returns in
10:21-22 as the returning remnant. From the remaining stump and root (6:13,
11:1) a new Branch will spring up. Maybe this is the same as the child of
9:6-7, but it seems (from the Hebrew verb forms) that this child has already
been born but is not yet ruling. Perhaps the original reference is to
Hezekiah, but the apparent divine titles and reference to everlasting reign
suggest a further fulfilment which can only be eschatological.

I conclude that Isaiah's original referents in 7:14 and in 9:6-7 were not
some future Messiah but two different children in his own time. Matthew
didn't get it wrong, rather (as always in chapters 1-2) he was seeing
typological parallels rather than fulfilment of events prophesied centuries
earlier. Although Matthew clearly wrote of a virgin birth (1:25), I doubt if
he got the idea from Isaiah 7:14, which he would have read in Hebrew without
clear implications of viriginity. But he did see a typological link, perhaps
partly in the idea of virginity, but also between his understanding of Jesus
and the wider context in Isaiah.

Peter Kirk


-----Original Message-----
From: Dan Wagner [mailto:Dan.Wagner at datastream.net]
Sent: 02 February 2001 04:24
To: Biblical Hebrew
Subject: RE: virgin: _BETHULAH_ and/or _(ALMAH_


This has been an interesting discussion--i finally had a chance to catch up
in reading today!

<snip>

In any case, my key argument remains that:
1. the *context* of Isaiah 7:1-14 necessitates that Isaiah intended that the
sign be a miraculous one.
2. that miraculous sign was the birth of a unique child named "God-With-Us"
to a virgin (which does not necessitate divine-human intercourse as the
Greek and some ANE myths--as one post confused the issue--but is simply a
miraculous conception; surely the male "seed" was created for the occasion,
nothing really special for Isaiah's theology, cf. 4:5; 40:26-28; 42:5; 45:7)
3. that this sign-birth was not for Ahaz but for the Davidic line beyond him
in the future.

Jonathan Safren responded to my post with the stated attempt to deal with it
in context (philologically). He did so concerning the following verses
(15ff) but ignored the preceding ones completely, except to say (in his
revision) that the miracle required by them was something other than the
sign-birth, which notion i comfortably reject as philologically impossible.
I'll admit that he does deserve are response concerning 7:15ff if my
interpretation is correct, but he certainly has not dealt with the first
half of the chapter up to verse 14. In fact, no one has.

Rather than repeating what i've said before, i want to clarify my position
by making a comparison/contrast of the _)OTH_ (sign) given to Ahaz with that
of the one given to Hezekiah in Isa. 38 in their context (as i suggested
earlier). For sake of clarity i will do it in a separate post.

Dan Wagner




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