ESV - 14 Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign. Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel.
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Both terms are theologically correct translational synonyms in Hebrew thought. The Hebrew word used in this verse is almah (read al-maw) refers to a virgin or a young woman. The word is used 34 time in the KJV Bible, 27 of which are found in the Old Testament. The first usage of the word is in Genesis 24:16 and Genesis 24:43 both in respect of the virginity of Rebekah as a suitable wife for Isaac and when she was identified by Abraham's servant as she came to draw water at the well. One can fairly argue that in respect of Abraham's command to the servant, virginity was implied but in the second usage in 24:43, a young woman was in view but the essence of virginity in Hebrew culture was well grounded. Notice that Joseph expected Mary to have been a virgin when she was engaged or betrothed to him and his apparent disappointment (Matthew 1:19-20) speaks volumes of this fact. Paul uses the Greek word parthenos 4 times in 1 Corinthians to designate a virgin within the same context of Hebrew thought and in 2 Corinthians 11:2 in the context of the purity of the church which should be pure and spotless before Christ as his eternal bride. Female chastity was a virtue which was deeply practiced, guarded and respected by Jewish and many Middle Eastern societies on the basis of religious and cultural requirements. In the context of Isaiah 7:14, the idea of a virgin is even more pronounced because this scripture has been held as a prophetic message that spoke of the coming of Christ by means of incarnate birth. Some scholars have associated the prophecy with the birth and reign of King Hezekiah but this assertion is too restrictive given the heavy messianic content in Isaiah which spans a great proportion of its works. Isaiah is commonly referred to as the Messianic prophet.
Hebrew: ha-`almah (HSN-), the virgin -- the only one who ever was, or ever will, be a mother in this way. `Almah (HSN-) is translated "virgin" for Rebekah, meaning a pure, unmarried, young woman (Gen. 24:43), and for unwedded, young women (Song 1:3; 6:8); maid of the young, unmarried virgin sister of Moses who was about 14 (Ex. 2:8), and of one who goes with man for the first time (Prov. 30:19); damsels as used of young ladies playing timbrels (Ps. 68:25-26). Here it refers to the virgin mother who would have no sexual relations until after she had given birth to the Messiah (Isa. 7:14; Mt. 1:18-25; note, Lk. 8:19). The argument that `almah (HSN-) could mean a young married woman is not supported in any scripture. In view of the plain record of Mary being a pure virgin who conceived by the Holy Spirit, it only shows unbelief and rebellion against God's Word and the perfect plan of redemption through a virgin-born Man -- God manifest in the flesh -- if we accept anything but what is plainly declared in Isa. 7:14; 9:6-7; Mt. 1:18-25; Lk. 1:30-38; Jn. 1:1-14; Rom. 8:3; Gal. 4:4; 1Tim. 3:16; Heb. 1:5-7; and Heb. 2:6-18. The Hebrew: bethuwlah (HSN-), is translated virgin 38 times (Gen. 24:16; Ex. 22:17; Lev. 21:3,14; Dt. 22:19,23,28; 32:25; Judg. 21:12; 2Sam. 13:2,18; 1Ki. 1:2; 2Ki. 19:21; Esther 2:2-3,17,19; Ps. 45:14; Isa. 23:4,12; 37:22; 47:1; 62:5; Jer. 14:17; 18:13; 31:4,13,21; 46:11; Lam. 1:4,15,18; 2:10,13,21; Joel 1:8; Amos 5:2; 8:13); maid 7 times (Ex. 22:16; Job 31:1; Jer. 2:32; 51:22; Lam. 5:11; Ezek. 9:6; Zech. 9:17); and maiden 5 times (Judg. 19:24; 2Chr. 36:17; Ps. 78:63; 148:12; Ezek. 44:22). `Almah (HSN-) denotes an unmarried girl of marriageable age and therefore a true virgin. Bethuwlah (HSN-) refers to an unmarried girl and expresses virginity of a bride or one betrothed (Isa. 62:5; Joel 1:8). The Greek, parthenos (GSN-), in Mt. 1:23 and Lk. 1:27 means a maiden; an unmarried daughter; a virgin. Translated "virgin" 14 times and, in every case, it means an unmarried maiden (Mt. 1:23; 25:1,7,11; Lk. 1:27; Acts 21:9; 1Cor. 7:25-37; 2Cor. 11:2; Rev. 14:4). This is the root word of parthenia (GSN-), meaning "virginity" (Lk. 2:36).
In Luke 1:26-38, Mary claims virginity and accepts her role as mother of Jesus by virtue of the Holy Spirit. If "Almah" can and frequently does mean virgin and if Mary claims virginity, (“How can this be, since I do not know a man?”), then we have prophecy made and prophecy fulfilled. Whether in English or Hebrew or Greek, we understand that there are often multiple possible meanings of specific words, with the intended meaning clarified by context. Parsing the word of God, should not be necessary for Christians, because the Holy Spirit is the translator. Honest and humble searching for understanding "in faith" is honored by the Spirit.
Previous answers to this question, which delved into the original language (Hebrew) and the apparently first translation by Hebrew scholars (Septuagint), have already covered (quite thoroughly) how we can linguistically and even traditionally understand Isaiah 7:14 and the use of the word "almah" (virgin/young woman). And, all throughout the Old Testament period of history, this ages old debate would be something I'm sure we would hear among the people and the scholars..."what did God mean?" In fact, we are told as much in Matthew 13:17, Luke 10:24, and 1 Peter 1:10-12 where we hear that the prophets, righteous people, and even angels were inquiring concerning God's salvation and the Messiah through whom it would come. But we are privileged to not need such a debate among ourselves any longer. God, the author of the Scriptures that were imparted through the Holy Spirit to be recorded for us by select godly men, has given us a clear declaration of how we are to understand Isaiah 14:17. In the gospel of Matthew, the Spirit declares "Now the birth of Jesus Christ took place in this way. When his mother Mary had been betrothed to Joseph, before they came together she was found to be with child from the Holy Spirit." (Matthew 1:18). Mary had not yet had (sexual) relations with her betrothed, and was found to be with child. Mary was a virgin who had conceived. Immediately following, we hear from an angel of the Lord who tells Joseph, and us, how to understand this - had she been unfaithful, or was this something more? "And her husband Joseph, being a just man and unwilling to put her to shame, resolved to divorce her quietly. But as he considered these things, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, “Joseph, son of David, do not fear to take Mary as your wife, for that which is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.” All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet: “Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall call his name Immanuel” (which means, God with us). (Matthew 1:19-23) God has forever set the debate to rest: Mary was a virgin; Mary had conceived not by man but by the Holy Spirit; the angel provides assurance that this is not some evil thing, but is a fulfillment of Isaiah 7:14 which prophesied the virgin birht of Jesus (God is salvation) who is Immanuel (God with us) and is the long awaited Messiah.
Why would being a "young woman" have any significance? Young women have babies ALL DAY EVERY DAY, and it didn't just start. (some of this can make you wonder). I can't see God using a sexually active young woman through which to bring His Son into the world, when He can have His pick at which virgin to use. And that's what He did, He CHOSE one. He didn't give her a big buildup and say why He chose her, or give any reason whatsoever. The bible just makes it plain that she, of course, was not yet married, and that she was indeed a virgin (Lk 1). Someone said that most of the unmarried women of that era were assumed to be virgins, but I seriously doubt that. I believe they were ASSUMED to be protecting themselves from persecution. It wasn't long ago that it was that way here in this land. I don't mean like it was a few thousand years ago, but still, it didn't pay to be a woman with a "sordid past." But hormones are hormones, whether in antiquity or more modern settings. (BTW a man with a "reputation" was moved to the front of the line). See Judah in Genesis 38. See David 1 Chr 14 and others. You can't fool God, so Mary didn't have any secrets, she was a virgin woman. When I was an unbeliever (raised in church from a toddler by a pastor father and mother), like I said, before I became a believer I would say, 'WHY do they say she was a virgin?' It made no sense to me. And there you have it! If I could explain it, it wouldn't be a miracle. The bible says that God told Abraham to leave his homeland and his relatives. He told Abraham what He would do for and through him, and Abraham BELIEVED God. It means that Abraham AGREED with God. So did Noah. Noah agreed to build the ark because he believed God. Mary also. She said 'Be it unto me according to you word.' (Luke 1:38) That was her way of saying "Amen." She agreed to the terms. That's what God taught me about myself. I didn't believe God because I was disagreeing with Him. When I looked into His word, I saw a God who was a Father, not a dictator or a judge. If He's either of those to a person, it's because that person DISAGREES with God BEING Father. Fathers have authority. To not believe what God tells us is to disagree with Him TELLING us, not what He says, but THAT He has a right to say what He says. When you take a closer look at what He says you see that it's to our advantage to AGREE with what He says. So then you begin to BELIEVE God. The best part of it is that He won't lie because He CAN'T. Also He has no reason to. God is not a man that He should lie (Num 23:19). If He says she was a young woman, she was a young woman. If He says she was a young virgin woman, that's what she was. If you don't believe it in English, knowing how to say it in Hebrew or Greek won't make any difference. The bible says 'Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and you will be saved.' (Acts 16:31) It's as simple as that. Agreeing that what Jesus did for us will save us. Let the church say 'Amen.'
The word interpreted "virgin" (almah) alludes to a youthful lady who has never had sexual relations with a man. The spouse of Isaiah who bore the child in fulfillment of the primary part of the prediction was a virgin until she conceived with Isaiah. Notwithstanding, as indicated by Matthew 1:23-25, Mary, the mother of Jesus, was a virgin in any event, when she begot Jesus. The "virgin birth" of the child of Isaiah was an indication to Israel that God would convey them from physical servitude to the Assyrians. Be that as it may, the otherworldly origination and birth of the Son of God was an indication to the entirety of God's children that He would convey them from deep slavery to sin and demise.
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