The Most Difficult Verse in the Bible

Double fulfillment of prophecy makes no sense to a Jew. I am confounded by Dispensationalists, in particular, who explain away difficult Bible verses to the second and third degree.

Some would have Jesus return once to resurrect the saints, and again to judge the world; but this disagrees with the word of our Lord (John 5:28-29).

Jews believe that the “abomination of desolation” spoken of by Daniel the prophet was fulfilled at the time of Antiochus Epiphanes. Jesus, however, said that it was yet to be fulfilled — as interpreted by this author in 70 AD ( Matthew 24:15).

Some evangelicals see a more complete fulfillment of Daniel’s prophecy when the Antichrist desecrates the Third Temple — a temple which does not even stand.

We might as well throw hermeneutics out the window, and discard all rules of proper exegesis. Absent sound principles we can make the Bible say anything.

Theodore of Mopsuesti (350-428 AD) wrote that it was unwise to apply scripture both historically and allegorically.

Milton S. Terry wrote that scripture must have one sense, or no sense at all:

… the moment we admit the principle that portions of Scripture contain an occult or double sense, we introduce an element of uncertainty in the Sacred Volume, and unsettle all scientific interpretation.

With that brief introduction let us now examine what I believe to be the most difficult verse in the Bible — Isaiah 7:14.

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

Matthew 1:22-23 declares that the prophecy was fulfilled at the birth of Jesus:

All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet: “Behold! The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and they will call Him Immanuel” (which means, “God with us”).

Here’s the context. When Ahaz was king of Judah, Israel (the ten northern tribes) and Damascus forged an alliance to conquer Judah (the southern kingdom). Ahaz sought an alliance with Assyria to resist the threat, but the LORD (speaking through the prophet) comforted the people with the assurance of Divine protection on the condition that they believe the word of the LORD.

The LORD instructed the prophet to assure the king that his enemies would be laid waste within 65 years.

Ahaz was prompted to ask of the LORD a sign, but the king answered, “I will not test the LORD”. This angered YHWH who, ignoring Ahaz, then gave a sign to the house of David that a virgin would give birth to a son.

The Rabbis do not believe that this is speaking of the Messiah — that the missionaries (Christians) have corrupted the meaning of the text.

‛Almâh (עלמה) is derived from the Hebrew word ‛âlam (עלם) which means to hide, or conceal; and though it may be interpreted as maiden the context dictates that it be understood as virgin for in ancient days unmarried girls of marriageable age were hidden from the general population.

That Christians corrupted the true meaning is an invalid charge. New Testament writers referenced the Septuagint which was a Greek translation of the Hebrew Bible. In Alexandria (Egypt), 270 years before the birth of Jesus Christ, 72 Jewish scholars (six from each of the twelve tribes) translated the Hebrew Bible into Koine Greek. It was an accepted translation for 300 years — that is, until the crucifixion of our Lord.

Rabbis believed that the birth of Mashiac would be a supernatural event. The “72” translated ‛almâh as virgin (parthenos) in the Greek translation — for a common, ordinary birth would be less than a miraculous sign.

Additionally, the original Hebrew includes the definite article so that the passage should read, the virgin shall conceive

This is seen also in the story of Rebekah drawing water from the well — when the virgin (hā·‘al·māh) cometh forth to draw water

When the evangelist Mattityahu (Matthew) interpreted the prophet Ysha’yah (Isaiah) he referenced the Septuagint and saw the fulfillment of the prophecy in the virgin birth of Christ.

Ellicott wrote:

It is not so easy for us, as it seemed to St. Matthew, to trace in Isaiah’s words the meaning which he assigns to them.

Jesus would not be born for 700 years. How would His birth be a sign to Judah and King Ahaz in the imminent threat posed by their northern neighbors, Israel and Syria? Not to mention that before the child came of age — that is, was able to know right from wrong — the enemies of the southern kingdom would be laid waste.

When we turn to chapter 8 of Isaiah we read that the prophet has conjugal relations with his wife (the prophetess) who conceives and bears a son.

And the LORD speaks to the prophet that before the son is old enough to cry out ‘My father’ or ‘My mother’ Damascus would be taken away by Assyria.

To summarize, YHWH assured Judah that Israel and Damascus would be laid waste within 65 years. When Ahaz refused a sign from the LORD, Jehovah gave a sign to the house of David — that a virgin would conceive and give birth to a son. Before he came of age the enemies of Judah would become a wasteland.

Isaiah’s wife then conceives, and gives birth to a son who — before he can speak — will be a sign of the Assyrian conquest of Judah’s enemies.

Assyria, with whom Judah was allied, conquered Syria (Damascus), and carried Israel into captivity.


Calvin believed as some Rabbis that the birth of Isaiah’s son in chapter 8 was a fulfillment of the birth prophesied in chapter 7, but not in the sense of a double fulfillment. The prophetess was neither a virgin nor a maiden. It is Jewish tradition that Isaiah’s wife was the mother of his first-born son, Shear-jashub (whose mane means remnant returns). Thus, there would be nothing supernatural about the birth of a second son.

When the prophets received a vision or word from the LORD they understood it provincially. Some expositors believe that Isaiah received the prophecy of the virgin birth in a vision not understanding what he was seeing. Moreover, the sign was not to King Ahaz — for he angered the LORD — but to the house of David to which the LORD had an everlasting covenant.

Be mindful that the LORD had promised Judah deliverance from their enemies if only they would believe:

… If you will not believe, you surely shall not last (Isaiah 7:9).

We know further that the birth of Isaiah’s son was not a sign of salvation as the remainder of chapter 8 reveals the LORD’s displeasure with Judah, and it’s eventual fall to Assyria with whom Ahaz had allied in disobedience to the providence of the LORD.

So, then, what remains?

The answer to this difficult problem is found in Isaiah 9:6-7 where the prophet recalls the promised son whose birth is yet fulfilled:

For a child will be born to us, a son will be given to us;
And the government will rest on His shoulders;
And His name will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
Eternal Father, Prince of Peace.
There will be no end to the increase of His government or of peace,
On the throne of David and over his kingdom,
To establish it and to uphold it with justice and righteousness
From then on and forevermore.
The zeal of the LORD of hosts will accomplish this …

The LORD’s (יהוה של) promise to the house of David (דָּוִד), thus fulfilled at the birth of Christ (ישו) — and nowhere else in the Holy Bible — confirmed by Mattityahu (מַתִּתְיָהוּ‎) that Yeshua (ישוע), born of the virgin Miryam (מִרְיָם), and by His own testimony is the spiritual and literal fulfillment of the Law and Prophets.

Just as He told His disciples:

Everything must be fulfilled that is written about Me in the Law of Moses, the Prophets, and the Psalms (Luke 24:44).

One sense … one fulfillment … one Messiah.

Copyright © 2016 Messiah Gate