New English Translation
14 For this reason the Lord himself will give you a confirming sign.[a] Look, this[b] young woman[c] is about to conceive[d] and will give birth to a son. You, young woman, will name him[e] Immanuel.[f] 15 He will eat sour milk[g] and honey, which will help him know how[h] to reject evil and choose what is right. 16 Here is why this will be so:[i] Before the child knows how to reject evil and choose what is right, the land[j] whose two kings you fear will be desolate.[k] 17 The Lord will bring on you, your people, and your father’s family a time[l] unlike any since Ephraim departed from Judah—the king of Assyria!”[m]
18 At that time[n] the Lord will whistle for flies from the distant streams of Egypt and for bees from the land of Assyria.[o] 19 All of them will come and make their home[p] in the ravines between the cliffs and in the crevices of the cliffs, in all the thorn bushes, and in all the watering holes.[q] 20 At that time[r] the Lord will use a razor hired from the banks of the Euphrates River,[s] the king of Assyria, to shave the hair off the head and private parts;[t] it will also shave off the beard. 21 At that time[u] a man will keep alive a young cow from the herd and a couple of goats. 22 From the abundance of milk they produce,[v] he will have sour milk for his meals. Indeed, everyone left in the heart of the land will eat sour milk and honey. 23 At that time[w] every place where there had been 1,000 vines worth 1,000 silver shekels will be overrun[x] with thorns and briers. 24 With bow and arrow[y] people will hunt[z] there, for the whole land will be covered[aa] with thorns and briers. 25 They will stay away from all the hills that were cultivated for fear of the thorns and briers.[ab] Cattle will graze there, and sheep will trample on them.[ac]Read full chapter
- Isaiah 7:14 tn The Hebrew term אוֹת (ʾot, “sign”) can refer to a miraculous event (see v. 11), but it does not carry this sense inherently. Elsewhere in Isaiah the word usually refers to a natural occurrence or an object/person vested with special significance (see 8:18; 19:20; 20:3; 37:30; 55:13; 66:19). Only in 38:7-8, 22 does it refer to a miraculous deed that involves suspending or overriding natural laws. The sign outlined in vv. 14-17 involves God’s providential control over events and their timing, but not necessarily miraculous intervention.
- Isaiah 7:14 tn Heb “the young woman.” The Hebrew article has been rendered as a demonstrative pronoun (“this”) in the translation to bring out its force. In addition, the syntactical sequence of הִנֵּה (hinneh) followed by the article followed by a noun always refers to something definite and present to the speaker and audience. It is very likely that Isaiah pointed to a woman who was present at the scene of the prophet’s interview with Ahaz. Isaiah had met him where the people wash clothes (7:3) and likely there were many women present at the scene. Isaiah’s address to the “house of David” and his use of second plural forms directly suggest other people were present, and his use of the second feminine singular verb form (“you will name”) later in the verse is best explained if addressed to a woman who is present.
- Isaiah 7:14 tn Traditionally, “virgin.” Because this verse from Isaiah is quoted in Matt 1:23 in connection with Jesus’ birth, the Isaiah passage has been regarded since the earliest Christian times as a prophecy of Christ’s virgin birth. Much debate has taken place over the best way to translate this Hebrew term, although ultimately one’s view of the doctrine of the virgin birth of Christ is unaffected. Though the Hebrew word used here (עַלְמָה, ʿalmah) can sometimes refer to a woman who is a virgin (Gen 24:43), it does not carry this meaning inherently. The word is simply the feminine form of the corresponding masculine noun עֶלֶם (ʿelem, “young man”; cf. 1 Sam 17:56; 20:22). The Aramaic and Ugaritic cognate terms are both used of women who are not virgins. The word seems to pertain to age, not sexual experience, and would normally be translated “young woman.” The LXX translator(s) who later translated the Book of Isaiah into Greek sometime between the second and first century b.c., however, rendered the Hebrew term by the more specific Greek word παρθένος (parthenos), which does mean “virgin” in a technical sense. This is the Greek term that also appears in the citation of Isa 7:14 in Matt 1:23. Therefore, regardless of the meaning of the term in the OT context, in the NT Matthew’s usage of the Greek term παρθένος clearly indicates that from his perspective a virgin birth has taken place.
- Isaiah 7:14 tn Elsewhere the adjective הָרָה (harah), when used predicatively, refers to a past pregnancy (from the narrator’s perspective, 1 Sam 4:19), to a present condition (Gen 16:11; 38:24; 2 Sam 11:5), and to a conception that is about to occur in the near future (Judg 13:5, 7). (There is some uncertainty about the interpretation of Judg 13:5, 7, however. See the notes to those verses.) In Isa 7:14 one could translate, “the young woman is pregnant.” In this case the woman is probably a member of the royal family. Another option, the one followed in the present translation, takes the adjective in an imminent future sense, “the young woman is about to conceive.” In this case the woman could be a member of the royal family, or, more likely, the prophetess with whom Isaiah has sexual relations shortly after this (see 8:3).
- Isaiah 7:14 tn Heb “and you will call his name.” The words “young woman” are supplied in the translation to clarify the identity of the addressee. The verb is normally taken as an archaic third feminine singular form here, and translated, “she will call.” However the form (קָרָאת, qaraʾt) is more naturally understood as second feminine singular, in which case the words would be addressed to the young woman mentioned just before this. In the three other occurrences of the third feminine singular perfect of I קָרָא (qaraʾ, “to call”), the form used is קָרְאָה (qarʾah; see Gen 29:35; 30:6; 1 Chr 4:9). A third feminine singular perfect קָרָאת does appear in Deut 31:29 and Jer 44:23, but the verb here is the homonym II קָרָא (“to meet, encounter”). The form קָרָאת (from I קָרָא, “to call”) appears in three other passages (Gen 16:11; Isa 60:18; Jer 3:4 [Qere]) and in each case is second feminine singular.
- Isaiah 7:14 sn The name Immanuel means “God [is] with us.”
- Isaiah 7:15 tn Or, perhaps “cream,” frequently, “curds” (NAB, NASB, NIV, NRSV, NLT); KJV, ASV “butter”; CEV “yogurt.”
- Isaiah 7:15 tn Heb “for his knowing.” Traditionally the preposition has been translated in a temporal sense, “when he knows.” However, though the preposition ל (lamed) can sometimes have a temporal force, it never carries such a nuance in any of the 40 other passages where it is used with the infinitive construct of יָדַע (yadaʿ, “to know”). Most often the construction indicates purpose/result. This sense is preferable here. The following context indicates that sour milk and honey will epitomize the devastation that God’s judgment will bring upon the land. Cultivated crops will be gone, and the people will be forced to live off the milk produced by their goats and the honey they find in the thickets. As the child is forced to eat a steady diet of this sour milk and honey, he will be reminded of the consequences of sin and motivated to make correct moral decisions in order to avoid further outbreaks of divine discipline.
- Isaiah 7:16 tn Heb “for, because.” The particle introduces the entire following context (vv. 16-25), which explains why Immanuel will be an appropriate name for the child, why he will eat sour milk and honey, and why experiencing such a diet will contribute to his moral development.
- Isaiah 7:16 sn Since “two kings” are referred to later in the verse, the “land” must here refer to Syria-Israel.
- Isaiah 7:16 tn Heb “the land will be abandoned, which you fear because of its two kings.” After the verb קוּץ (quts, “loathe, dread”) the phrase מִפְּנֵי (mippeney, “from before”) introduces the cause of loathing/dread (see Gen 27:46; Exod 1:12; Num 22:3).
- Isaiah 7:17 tn Heb “days” (so KJV, NAB); NASB, NRSV “such days.”
- Isaiah 7:17 sn Initially the prophecy appears to be a message of salvation. Immanuel seems to have a positive ring to it, sour milk and honey elsewhere symbolize prosperity and blessing (see Deut 32:13-14; Job 20:17), verse 16 announces the defeat of Judah’s enemies, and verse 17a could be taken as predicting a return to the glorious days of David and Solomon. However, the message turns sour in verses 17b-25. God will be with his people in judgment, as well as salvation. The curds and honey will be signs of deprivation, not prosperity, the relief announced in verse 16 will be short-lived, and the new era will be characterized by unprecedented humiliation, not a return to glory. Because of Ahaz’s refusal to trust the Lord, potential blessing would be transformed into a curse, just as Isaiah turns an apparent prophecy of salvation into a message of judgment. Because the words “the king of Assyria” are rather awkwardly tacked on to the end of the sentence, some regard them as a later addition. However, the very awkwardness facilitates the prophet’s rhetorical strategy here, as he suddenly turns what sounds like a positive message into a judgment speech. Actually, “the king of Assyria,” stands in apposition to the earlier object “days,” and specifies who the main character of these coming “days” will be.
- Isaiah 7:18 tn Heb “in that day” (so KJV). The verb that introduces this verse serves as a discourse particle and is untranslated; see note on “in the future” in 2:2.
- Isaiah 7:18 sn Swarming flies are irritating; bees are irritating and especially dangerous because of the pain they inflict with their sting (see Deut 1:44; Ps 118:12). The metaphors are well chosen, for the Assyrians (symbolized by the bees) were much more powerful and dangerous than the Egyptians (symbolized by the flies). Nevertheless both would put pressure on Judah, for Egypt wanted Judah as a buffer state against Assyrian aggression, while Assyrian wanted it as a base for operations against Egypt. Following the reference to sour milk and honey, the metaphor is especially apt, for flies are attracted to dairy products and bees can be found in the vicinity of honey.
- Isaiah 7:19 tn Heb “and shall rest” (so KJV, ASV); NASB, NIV, NRSV “and settle.”
- Isaiah 7:19 tn The meaning of this word (נַהֲלֹל, nahalol) is uncertain; some understand this as referring to another type of thorn bush. For bibliography, see HALOT 676 s.v. I *נַהֲלֹל.
- Isaiah 7:20 tn Heb “in that day” (so ASV, NASB); KJV “In the same day.”
- Isaiah 7:20 tn Heb “the river” (so KJV); NASB “the Euphrates.” The name of the river has been supplied in the present translation for clarity.
- Isaiah 7:20 tn Heb “the hair of the feet.” The translation assumes that the word “feet” is used here as a euphemism for the genitals. See BDB 920 s.v. רֶגֶל.
- Isaiah 7:21 tn Heb “in that day.” The verb that introduces this verse serves as a discourse particle and is untranslated; see note on “in the future” in 2:2.
- Isaiah 7:22 tn The verb that introduces this verse serves as a discourse particle and is untranslated, see note on 2:2.
- Isaiah 7:23 tn Heb “in that day.” The verb that introduces this verse serves as a discourse particle and is untranslated; see note on “in the future” in 2:2.
- Isaiah 7:23 tn Heb “will become” (so NASB); NAB “shall be turned to.”
- Isaiah 7:24 tn Heb “with arrows and a bow.” The more common English idiom is “bow[s] and arrow[s].”
- Isaiah 7:24 tn Heb “go” (so NAB, NIV, NRSV); TEV “go hunting.”
- Isaiah 7:24 tn Heb “will be” (so NASB, NRSV).
- Isaiah 7:25 tn Heb “and all the hills which were hoed with a hoe, you will not go there [for] fear of the thorns and briers.”
- Isaiah 7:25 tn Heb “and it will become a pasture for cattle and a trampling place for sheep.”sn At this point one is able to summarize the content of the “sign” (vv. 14-15) as follows: A young woman known to be present when Isaiah delivered this message to Ahaz (perhaps a member of the royal family or the prophetess mentioned in 8:3) would soon give birth to a boy whom the mother would name Immanuel, “God is with us.” Eventually Immanuel would be forced to eat sour milk and honey, which would enable him to make correct moral decisions. How would this situation come about and how would it constitute a sign? Before this situation developed, the Israelites and Syrians would be defeated. But then the Lord would usher in a period of time unlike any since the division of the kingdom almost 200 years before. The Assyrians would overrun the land, destroy the crops, and force the people to subsist on goats’ milk and honey. At that time, as the people saw Immanuel eating his sour milk and honey, the Davidic family would be forced to acknowledge that God was indeed with them. He was present with them in the Syrian-Israelite crisis, fully capable of rescuing them, but he was also present with them in judgment, disciplining them for their lack of trust. The moral of the story is quite clear: Failure to appropriate God’s promises by faith can turn potential blessing into disciplinary judgment.