Etymologically, the meaning of the word "almah" is derived from the verb "almah," "to hide," or "to conceal" which helps to support the virgin interpretation. However the meaning of words cannot always be fully established by their etymological derivation alone.(1)
One should be careful connecting the concept of "being hidden" with that of being a virgin, especially since some of the almah's in the bible went about freely in public and were anything but hidden (Gen 24:43 and Psalm 68:25 -26). There may however be other aspects of the almah's "hideness."(2)
The term "almah" in biblical text is never applied to a married woman.
Isaiah 7:14 is one of the most discussed Bible verses that uses this word.
Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign: The virgin (almah) will conceive and give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel.
This Messianic prophecy is further complemented by a description of this same child found in Isaiah 9:6 which reconfirms the name Immanuel. The Septuagint (Greek copy of the Old Testament) chose the specific Greek word for virgin in this same Isiah 7:14 prophecy years before Jesus was born. In the New Testament, Matthew 1:18-23 confirms that Jesus, The Messiah, was the one foretold about in Isaiah 7:14.
Scriptures of interest include:
Psalm 68:25, Song of Solomon 1:3, Proverbs 30:19 and Isaiah 9:6.
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. The 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 more than 100 years before Jesus was even born, the position that Christian scholars have intentionally misinterpreted this word holds no merit. The Septuagint was not attempting to support a "Christian" interpretation of Isaiah 7:14 or any other verse.
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 no longer viewed that way anymore by most Rabbinical commentaries in modern day Judaism. The same holds true for What The Rabbis Said About Isaiah 53.
Rashi: In his comment on The Song of Solomon 1:3, Rashi frankly explains that "alamoth" the plural of "almah" means "betuloth"-"virgins."(1)
While writing about this verse (Isaiah 7:14) Rashi writes "And some interpret that this is the sign, that she was a young girl (almah) and incapable of giving birth." Here, Rashi is acknowledging that some Jewish commentators interpret the text to indicate that God's sign to Ahaz had to do with the highly unusual nature of the birth.(3)
Articles related to Isaiah 7:14 include:
The hebrew word "almah" does not mean virgin 100 percent of the time. There is not a word in the Hebrew bible that denotes a virgin every time it is used.
For those who think that the hebrew word "Betulah" should have or would have been used to promote the clear concept of a virgin birth is Isaiah's 7:14 prophecy, you may be interested is reading the comments on this issue from the Common Objections To The Isaiah 7:14 Prophecy. In some cases betulah may refer to a married woman (Joel 1:8).
In ancient Jewish culture, a young, unmarried woman was presumed to be a virgin.
Articles related to our Messiah's birth include:
JewishRoots.Net Comment: The hebrew word "almah" is not used to describe a virgin 100 percent of the time. While it may have been the best choice in Hebrew and Greek wording, those who wish to study Messianic prophecy are encouraged to study it from a broader context. JewishRoots.Net does believe that this prophecy tells of the virgin birth of our Messiah Jesus Christ. Complemented with Isaiah 9:6 which is a further description of this child, including his divine attributes, it fits perfectly with the child's name/title here, Immanuel (God is with us).
True biblical prophecy works together with other areas of scripture. In other words scripture supports scripture. This child's birthplace can be found in Micah 5:2 A Ruler Out Of Bethlehem, this child's name/title can be found here in Isaiah 7:14 (Immanuel). His divine attributes are found in Isaiah 9:6 and Isaiah 43:11. The time of his death is found in Daniel 9:24-27. His resurrection is found in Psalm 16. His return to earth (second coming) is found in Zechariah 12:10 where Israel will look upon the one that is pierced which is further supported in Zechariah 14:1-7 which brings Daniel's 70th week (see Daniel 9:24-27) prophecy to an end. All of these prophecies work together and no one prophecy needs to stand alone.
1). The Prophet Isaiah - a commentary by Victor Buksbazen (The Friends Of Israel Gospel Ministry) p.149-150. 2).
2). Answering Jewish Objections To Jesus Volume 3 (4:3) by Michael Brown.
3). Rashi, Mikraoth Gedoloth on Isaiah 7:14.
4). Dr. Daniel Goldberg, Th, D., D.D. the international representative for Chosen People Ministries. Sept. 2013 The Chosen People publication.