isaiah 7:14 in Hebrew

Messiah in Isaiah 7:14 and Matthew 1:20-21

isaiah 7:14 in HebrewMessiah is everything. In today’s DAILY PORTION email, I address the long debated issue of Matthew seemingly misinterpreting Isaiah 7:14. Those who have become used to ancient ways of interpreting texts, such as the midrashes of the Jewish sages, are not surprised by what Matthew has done. It’s a Jewish thing. (Note: a midrash is a creative interpretation of a scripture text that makes for a sermon-like application and the classical midrashes were written from the 3rd through 10th centuries by the Sages of Judaism).

Messiah, Whose Birth Means Liberation

If the words of a prophet 2,700 years ago, about the timing of peace and the end of a threat being signified by the birth of a child, was significant, how much more then the birth of the divine Messiah? Matthew is not talking about some prophecy that a virgin would miraculously conceive. It is true that the LXX’s (Septuagint’s, the Greek translation of the Torah) choice of parthenos παρθένος in Isaiah 7:14 (translating the Hebrew almah, עַלְמָה, young woman) does allow for a comparison to the fact that Mary was a virgin who miraculously conceived. But Matthew is talking about something more than a crude misinterpretation of Isaiah. He means that Yeshua’s life is comparable to the great events of Israel’s history and that he is the true child whose birth brings salvation.

Today’s Hebrew:

ve’davak וְדָבַק is the Vav-conversive Qal Perfect from the root דבק. To cling. “… and clings to his wife.” In Judaism devekut דבקות is the practice of clinging to God emotionally and in our daily thoughts. Whether we apply this word to our marriage or our relationship with God, it is a powerful idea.

Today’s Greek:

plei-roh-thei πληρωθῇ from plei-ro-oh πληροω. Fill. “This happened so that what was spoken by the prophet would be filled full.” Does not mean “fulfill.” It is the simple verb for filling something up. Matthew uses it with key texts where he gives a midrash-like interpretation. For example, here, Isaiah was referring to a young bride who would soon become pregnant (non-miraculously) as a timing marker for peace in Judah and the end of the Aramean-Israelite threat against Judah. Matthew makes a midrash, comparing the prophetic announcement of the birth of a child whose arrival symbolizes salvation and the angelic announcement of Yeshua whose birth is actual salvation.

Today’s Torah Portion and Commentary: Genesis 2:20-3:21.

Scripture Text: https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Genesis%202:20-3:21&version=CJB
Commentary Text: http://DerekLeman.com/Genesis#genesis3

Today’s Gospel and Commentary: Matthew 1:18-25.

Scripture Text:https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Matthew%201:18-25&version=ESV
Commentary Text: http://DerekLeman.com/Matthew#matthew3

Shalom, perceptive readers,

As you can tell from today’s comments and thoughts, I care about reading Matthew 1:20-21 correctly. I think its actual meaning is more inspiring than the erroneous “prophecy fulfilled” view. The takeaway from a text like this is simple. Yeshua is more important than we know.

When I led a congregation, there was a period of time when I downplayed the importance of Messiah. Over time I came to realize Messiah is what makes Messianic Judaism and, more than that, Messiah is everything.

Though most people, Jewish or not, are unaware of the centrality of Messiah, it is a fact of the universe we will all discover. He is the Lord before whom we will all be changed, to whom we will gladly bow in joy and peace.

Derek Leman

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3 Comments

  1. The Book of Revelation strongly confirms your statements: Yeshua is more important than we know and Messiah is everything. As a matter of fact, John makes it clear in Rev 1:17-18 that the risen and glorified Yeshua identifies Himself with Jahwehistic titles such as the Alpha and Omega, First and the Last, Beginning and the End.

  2. Hi, Derek — You report that there was a time when you downplayed the importance of the Messiah, but I can’t really picture what you mean by that. On the other hand, we have the historical example of Christianity overplaying or exaggerating that importance to the detriment of the centrality and distinctiveness of HaShem (along with their dismissal of the centrality and distinctiveness of the Jewish people in HaShem’s economy of salvation). I suppose in both cases what is missing is a solid, balanced, nuanced ‘hasidic perspective of dvekut to an admor who serves to define and focus his disciples’ view of HaShem and their approach to Him and their dvekut to Him. Their admor adds fullness to their experience of HaShem; he is their doorway through which they enter into greater understanding of Him. Thus also did Rav Yeshua compare himself to a door (viz:Jn.10), as well as a means by which his disciples could have an abundance of life (ibid).

    1. Oops! I submitted that last without its concluding punchline:

      I’d say that’s pretty important, wouldn’t you?

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