Messianic Prophecies: Isaiah 7: 11-16 and 9: 1-7

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Something for the weekend.  Lo How a Rose Ere Blooming.  Continuing on with our Advent examination of major Messianic prophecies, we come to Isaiah 7: 11-16:

11 Ask thee a sign of the LORD thy God; ask it either in the  depth, or in the height above.

12 But Ahaz said, I will not ask, neither will I tempt the LORD.

13 And he said, Hear ye now, O house of David; Is it a small thing for you to weary men, but will ye weary my God also?

14 Therefore the Lord himself shall give you a sign; Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel.

15 Butter and honey shall he eat, that he may know to refuse the evil, and choose the good.

16 For before the child shall know to refuse the evil, and choose the good, the land that thou abhorrest shall be forsaken of both her kings.

and Isaiah 1-7:

1Nevertheless the dimness shall not be such as was in her vexation, when at the first he lightly afflicted the land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali, and afterward did more grievously afflict her by the way of the sea, beyond Jordan, in Galilee of the nations.

2The people that walked in darkness have seen a great light: they that dwell in the land of the shadow of death, upon them hath the light shined.

3Thou hast multiplied the nation, and not increased the joy: they joy before thee according to the joy in harvest, and as men rejoice when they divide the spoil.

4For thou hast broken the yoke of his burden, and the staff of his shoulder, the rod of his oppressor, as in the day of Midian.

5For every battle of the warrior is with confused noise, and garments rolled in blood; but this shall be with burning and fuel of fire.

6For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace.

7Of the increase of his government and peace there shall be no end, upon the throne of David, and upon his kingdom, to order it, and to establish it with judgment and with justice from henceforth even for ever. The zeal of the LORD of hosts will perform this.

Saint Cyril of Alexandria commented upon this passage:

 

Some of those who have translated the divine Scriptures have rendered this text: ‘Behold ayoung woman shall conceive.’ It seems to the Jews that the mother of the Lord should be indicated by the expression ‘young woman’ rather than be called a virgin. For they think it possible to invalidate the power of the mystery if she is called a young woman rather than a virgin. One may note their ignorance on a number of levels. First, even if the virgin is called a young woman, that does not exclude her from being a virgin. Secondly, they say that the prophet uttered these words about the wife of Ahaz, so that we should take this to refer to the birth of Hezekiah. But, my friends, one might say to them, who has called Hezekiah Emmanuel? Or how can it be proved that before he had knowledge of good and evil he rejected wickedness and chose the good? We therefore say farewell to their quibbling and welcome what is right and true, believing that in this prophecy God is indicating the Holy Virgin to us.  For in this way there will truly be a miracle and a great sign, in both its depth and its height, that has come about in accordance with the divine promise. For he who is from above, and is by nature the only-begotten Son of God the Father, emptied himself and was brought forth from a virginal womb according to the flesh, receiving his generation not from the human emission of seed but from the power and energy of the Holy Spirit. For that is why it was said to the holy Virgin by the mouth of the blessed Gabriel:

The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. She will in consequence, he says, bear a son.  See how, in order to show that he was truly God as well as man, the prophet assigned to him attributes that were both divine and human. For when he says that he was given food suitable for infants, namely butter and honey, he is trying to assure us that he came to be in the flesh in reality. Then he teaches that although he did indeed become flesh he was nonetheless as God superior to sin, for he adds at once:

For before the child knows good and evil, he will reject evil and choose the good.

For men who have not yet arrived at puberty cannot discern what is vicious and what is good. This phrase therefore signifies that it belongs to the divine nature to be irrevocably fixed on the good. This is also true of Christ as, though he came into being according to the flesh through the Holy Virgin, he was holy as God both from the womb and before it, seeing that he did not lose his own prerogatives on account of his human nature. Neither did he ignore what pertains to human nature on account of the dispensation of the Incarnation, in order that he might be believed to have become like us in reality, and might sanctify this created nature of ours.

 

6 Responses to Messianic Prophecies: Isaiah 7: 11-16 and 9: 1-7

  • With all due respect to St. Cyril of Alexandria, is there any reason why this prophecy could not refer BOTH to the birth of Hezekiah and to the birth of Christ?

    The mother of Hezekiah would have been a young unmarried woman — which in that culture was normally synonymous with being a virgin — at the time. Isaiah was saying that by the time the son she would eventually have with King Ahaz had reached the age of reason, “the land that thou abhorrest” (Assyria?) would no longer be a military threat, and the country would enter an era of relative peace and prosperity. Hezekiah would go on to be one of Israel’s greatest and holiest kings, sort of a second coming of David in some ways.

    Even if that was Isaiah’s intended meaning, why could not God have meant it as a foreshadowing of the ultimate salvation to come through His Son? God does sometimes speak through people even when they don’t realize it. For example, when the high priest Caiphas talked about it being better that “one man should die for the people”.

  • Possibly Elaine, although as Saint Cyril points out many portions of the prophecies simply do not apply to Hezekiah. Of course it is not only Christians who have seen these as Messianic prophecies, but also many Jews down through the ages. There is of course an understandable irritation by some Jewish scholars that Christians seek to use Old Testament passages to assert that they foretell Christ, but there is also a strong tradition of Jewish scholarship that sees such passages as foretelling the Messiah, although they reject that Christ was he. Such an expectation was commonplace in the time of Christ as this passage from the Roman historian Suetonius’ Life of Vespasian indicates:

    “There had spread over all the Orient an old and established belief, that it was fated for men coming from Judaea to rule the world. This prediction, referring to the emperor of Rome -as afterwards appeared from the event- the people of Judaea took to themselves”.

  • Isaiah 9:6 prophesied that the child will be called “God the Mighty.” Why would a newborn baby be called God? Therefore, this prophecy refers to Jesus Christ.

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