[b-hebrew] Isaiah 7:13 ha-alma and xarah

Pastor Mark Eddy markeddy at adams.net
Wed May 12 12:41:14 EDT 2004

Dear Chemorion,
The commonly-held interpretation of Is 7:14 that you repeat below fails to take into account a number of
details of the text. See comments below.
----- Original Message ----- 
From: "Chemorion" <chosefu_chemorion at wycliffe.org>

> Dear all,
> I am sorry if this has already been discussed, but I need your views
> concerning ha-alma and xarah in Isaiah 7:14. MT says ha-almah ( a young
> woman), with a footnote indicating that the LXX  says parthenos (virgin).But
> Isaiah uses the perfect verb xarah, which shows that the young woman is
> already pregnant (no longer a virgin).

The verse is introduced by the announcement which uses the imperfect form of the verb: YiTTeN. The Lord
Himself WILL GIVE a sign, at some time in the future. At that future time the )aLMaH will be pregnant.
(The Hebrew word HaRaH is pointed as an adjective not as a verb, as HH correctly notes. If Isaiah were to
have used a "perfect verb," it would have had to be the feminine form HaRaTaH, since Ha)aLMaH is
Also the subject of this clause is Ha)aLMaH, with the definite article, not just )aLMaH. In the two other
instance in the Hebrew Bible that uses this form (Gen. 24:43 and Exo. 2:8) a specific person is meant.
Because Isaiah is announcing a miraculous "sign" (as deep as Sheol or as high as the height), it is
unlikely that he is using the arcile to make )aLMaH generic, as if this would be a regular ocurtance. He
has one virgin in mind.

> Are there any other ancient readings
> that support the rendering in LXX?

Actual usage of )aLMaH in the Hebrew Bible supports the LXX reading. The )aLaMOT are unmarried (maidens,
not matrons), they are not wives or concubines (Song of Solomon 6:8), and they are not being stoned to
death for adultery. So they are assumed to be virgins. I have an article by Dr. William Beck which
explains in detail why )aLMaH was the appropriate Hebrew word to use, if "virgin" is meant in this
passage. I can share parts of that article with the list, if anyone is interested. Hebrew has another
word, Na)aRa, which means merely "young woman." But a young woman remained a young woman even when she was
no longer a virgin (see Gen. 34:3-12).

> In my opinion, the young woman is the
> means by which The
> Lord is giving Ahas His own (Lord's) sign i.e. the sign is meant for Ahas
> and the people of his time. What are your views?

Isaiah does not say that the sign is "for Ahas." Ahaz refused to ask for a sign.(v. 12). So instead of
giving a sign of Ahaz's choosing, the Lord will give a sign to the "house of David" (v. 13). In verse 11
Isaiah addressed Ahaz with the singular Sha(aL LKa ("Listen, you!") but in verse 13 Isaiah switches to
referring to the "house of David" in the plural (MiKKeM, and the verb TaL(U, also LaKem in verse 14). Ahaz
is just the most recent part of the house of David, which has tried God's patience for a long time. The
sign is for the whole house of David, not primarily for the king in that house at that particular time.

Mark Eddy

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