The word virgin is a misinterpretation:
There has been a considerable amount of debate concerning the Hebrew word "Almah" translated here as virgin. This word has other meanings depending on the context it is used. Other interpretations of this word include young women (old enough to marry), an unmarried women and maiden. It is important to note here that in most cases the young, unmarried maiden was also a virgin.
There is reason to believe that the interpretation of virgin is correct here. Matthew 1:22-23 makes it clear that regardless of the interpretation of the Hebrew word, weather virgin or young woman, that this prophecy from Isaiah 7:14 was tied to the birth of Jesus who was also God, as reflected in His name Emanuel (God with us) and His nature. Isaiah reveals more about the Messiah's Divine nature in Isaiah 9:6. The New Testament authors were simply following and reconfirming the pre-established Jewish interpretation of this passage. See the Septuagint notes below.
Interestingly enough when the Septuagint was written by the 72 elders of Israel (six from each tribe) the writers specifically chose the Greek word "parthenos," for virgin. This clearly demonstrates the common Jewish understanding of this passage at that time. There is no doubt that Jewish leaders looked at this passage as a messianic passage with the expectation of some type of supernatural birth.
The Septuagint translation of the Torah was done between 285 and 244 B.C.E. Septuagint is the oldest Greek translation of the Bible...the legend contained in the apocryphal letter of Aristeas, according to which 72 elders of Israel, six from each tribe, translated the LAW [Torah] into Greek in Alexandria, during the reign of Ptolemy II Philadelphus (285-244 B.C.E.)...The designation Septuagint was EXTENDED to the rest of the Bible and non-canonical books that were translated to Greek during the following two centuries."(1)
Since this translation was completed in pre-Christian Alexandria before Jesus was even born, the position that Christian scholars have intentionally misinterpreted this word holds no merit.
However the question does arise as to why this passage that was originally understood and taught as messianic during the days of the Second Temple and the time of Christ, is now not viewed that way anymore by most Rabbinical commentaries in modern day Judaism.
For other comments concerning this word please read The Meaning Of The Word Almah.
The prophecy does not mention that the baby is The Messiah.
There does not need to be any mention in these verses of the prophesied child Emanuel (meaning God with us) also being the Messiah. One of the beautiful things about Messianic prophecy is that there are so many prophecies that one prophecy helps to reinforce the understanding of another. Collectively put together, Messianic prophecies paint an unmistakable image of many aspects of Messiah's life and death including Messiah's Divine origin. Passages that teach of Messianic Divinity like Psalm 110:1 and Jeremiah 23:6 are an example of how God allows one area of the Bible to support another area.
This prophecy had to be fulfilled during the time of King Ahaz.
It is important to understand who this prophecy goes out to. Because Ahaz has a chance to ask for a sign (include God in the decision making process) and Ahaz refuses (Ahaz is looking somewhere else for help besides God) Isaiah's prophecy is meant for the entire "house of David"!
God is allowing King Ahaz who is king of Judah to know that Judah will survive (no thanks to Ahaz who is viewed as an unrighteous unbelieving king). While in the near term the two kings, Rezin, king of Aram (i.e. Syria) and Pekah, King of Samaria (i.e. the northern ten tribes of Israel) will not be allowed to overthrow Ahaz kingdom, a little farther down the timeline of the prophecy (65 years) Ephraim's destruction is predicted.
In the long term Isaiah prophesied to "house of David" (Judah) that Israel and Syria would be deprived of their kings before Yeshua (Jesus) would know to refuse the evil, and choose the good. Not only was Israel and Syria forsaken of both her kings, but Israel and Judah (national Israel) were forsaken of both their kings before Yeshua/Jesus knew to refuse the evil, and choose the good. At the birth of the Messiah, national Israel was under the complete domination of the Roman Empire.
Another interesting comment is that the prophecy is viewed by the Septuagint translators to render the verb "shall give" in the future tense. They felt this rendering appropriate because the sign is promised for the future, grammatically and contextually. Claims that the Septuagint tampered with the text by changing the tense to the future are sometimes made. Since the Septuagint translation was done around 285 - 244 BC it could not contain a Christian slant because Jesus had not even been born yet. The translation was done only by Jewish scribes who still felt at that time that the prophecy had not yet been fulfilled completely.(2)
Some Christian scholars believe that the prophecy found in Isaiah 7:14 may be an example of the doctrine of dual fulfillment's, which claims that a prophecy may be fulfilled in some part or in whole more than one time. There is however only one recorded virgin birth and that is the birth of Jesus.
Jewish commentators who do not embrace Christianity in any way are still unable to agree on who this prophecy is pointing to. Historical figures who ;ivied at the time or near the time of the prophecy do not meet all the criteria.
The question has been asked why did not Isaiah choose the common noun "bet(h)ulah" for virgin, instead of "almah."
The term "bethulah" while often used in the Old Testament in the sense of "a virgin," sometimes also refers to "a married woman," for instance:
Lament like "a virgin" (bethulah) girded with sackcloth for the husband of her youth (Joel 1:8). (Widows are not virgins).
Obviously the bethulah in this passage was a married woman, who lost her husband and therefore was not a virgin. On the other hand almah always refers to an unmarried woman.
Likewise in Deuteronomy 22:19, a married woman, after the wedding night is described as bethulah - a term which supposedly applies exclusively to a virgin. Therefore, we conclude that of all possible terms which Isaiah might have used to describe a virgin "almah" was the best and least ambiguous.(3)
Consider this. In the NJPSV (New Jewish Publication Society Version) of the Tanakh (Old Testament) - the word betulath is used fifty-one times. Out of those fifty-one times the NJPSV translates betulah as "maiden" - rather than "virgin" - thirty-one times. This translation is the most widely used Jewish translation of our day. Even the Stone edition of the Tanakh which reflects traditional Orthodox scholarship, frequently translates betulah as "maiden" as well.(4)
It is believed that in a legal context, betulah is often interpreted as "virgin." However, in Esther 2:17-19, the young women who are chosen to spend the night with the king are referred to as betulah both before and after they have sexual relations with the King.(4)
Yeshua did not fulfill the prophecy because he was never called Immanuel (in particular, by his mother, as spelled out in Isaiah 7:14).
Consider These things. According to 2 Samuel 12:24–25, Solomon was to be called Jedidiah, but he was never referred to by this name once in the Tanakh.
The Talmud and a number of Rabbinic commentaries claim that the birth of Hezekiah fulfilled Isaiah 9:6, referring all the names of the child to him. But when was he ever called by any of these names, let alone called by all of them? Yet that did not stop these traditional Jewish sources from claiming that this passage referred to him. How then can the argument be made that Isaiah 7:14 cannot refer to Jesus because he was not called Immanuel in the New Testament?
The fact is that Yeshua the Lord is praised and adored as Immanuel by millions of his followers around the world. Many of the great hymns of the church center in on that one key name, including the medieval classic beginning with the words, “O come, O come, Emmanuel, and ransom captive Israel".(4)
Articles related to Isaiah 7:14 include:
Articles related to our Messiah's birth include:
Other Articles of Interest Include:
1). Encyclopedia Judaica, Volume 14, p.1178.
2). HaDavar Messianic Ministries, Anti Missionary Arguments, Pastor Robert Morris.
3). The Prophet Isaiah - A Commentary by Victor Buksbazen p.151.
4). Answering Jewish Objections To Jesus by Michael Brown Volume 3 (4:3).