7In the days of Ahaz son of Jotham son of Uzziah, king of Judah, King Rezin of Aram and King Pekah son of Remaliah of Israel went up to attack Jerusalem, but could not mount an attack against it. 2When the house of David heard that Aram had allied itself with Ephraim, the heart of Ahaz and the heart of his people shook as the trees of the forest shake before the wind.
3 Then the Lord said to Isaiah, Go out to meet Ahaz, you and your son Shear-jashub, at the end of the conduit of the upper pool on the highway to the Fuller’s Field, 4and say to him, Take heed, be quiet, do not fear, and do not let your heart be faint because of these two smouldering stumps of firebrands, because of the fierce anger of Rezin and Aram and the son of Remaliah. 5Because Aram—with Ephraim and the son of Remaliah—has plotted evil against you, saying, 6Let us go up against Judah and cut off Jerusalem and conquer it for ourselves and make the son of Tabeel king in it; 7therefore thus says the Lord God: It shall not stand, and it shall not come to pass. 8 For the head of Aram is Damascus, and the head of Damascus is Rezin.
(Within sixty-five years Ephraim will be shattered, no longer a people.) 9 The head of Ephraim is Samaria, and the head of Samaria is the son of Remaliah. If you do not stand firm in faith, you shall not stand at all.
10 Again the Lord spoke to Ahaz, saying, 11Ask a sign of the Lord your God; let it be deep as Sheol or high as heaven. 12But Ahaz said, I will not ask, and I will not put the Lord to the test. 13Then Isaiah said: ‘Hear then, O house of David! Is it too little for you to weary mortals, that you weary my God also? 14Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign. Look, the young woman is with child and shall bear a son, and shall name him Immanuel. 15He shall eat curds and honey by the time he knows how to refuse the evil and choose the good. 16For before the child knows how to refuse the evil and choose the good, the land before whose two kings you are in dread will be deserted. 17The Lord will bring on you and on your people and on your ancestral house such days as have not come since the day that Ephraim departed from Judah—the king of Assyria.’
18 On that day the Lord will whistle for the fly that is at the sources of the streams of Egypt, and for the bee that is in the land of Assyria. 19And they will all come and settle in the steep ravines, and in the clefts of the rocks, and on all the thorn bushes, and on all the pastures.
20 On that day the Lord will shave with a razor hired beyond the River—with the king of Assyria—the head and the hair of the feet, and it will take off the beard as well.
21 On that day one will keep alive a young cow and two sheep, 22and will eat curds because of the abundance of milk that they give; for everyone that is left in the land shall eat curds and honey.
23 On that day every place where there used to be a thousand vines, worth a thousand shekels of silver, will become briers and thorns. 24With bow and arrows one will go there, for all the land will be briers and thorns; 25and as for all the hills that used to be hoed with a hoe, you will not go there for fear of briers and thorns; but they will become a place where cattle are let loose and where sheep tread.
No Ordinary Child
It’s hard to understand exactly what Isaiah is talking about in this text of conquering kings, wondrous signs and rather odd prophesies. But one thing is clear: God will be with his people. “14Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign. Look, the young woman is with child and shall bear a son, and shall name him Immanuel.” Immanuel literally means, “God with us.”
We do know that the God of Israel has been known to bring about his will and purpose through a woman who gives birth to a baby. Sarah was quite the unexpected mother in her old age; and yet, God gave her a son as promised. Isaac was born to Sarah and Abraham in fulfillment of the covenant God had made with them.
We don’t know the identity of the young woman about whom Isaiah prophesies in his historical context. We, along with biblical scholars, can only argue and speculate about her identity. Perhaps she’s Isaiah’s wife; perhaps she’s King Ahaz’s wife; maybe she is an anonymous woman who is pregnant. Regardless, the point is that Isaiah sees a divine sign of hope in this expectant young woman. Her son will mature and become a wise leader who will remove foreign threats to Jerusalem.
We do know, retrospectively, that Isaiah’s prophetic words find their ultimate fulfillment in the young woman Mary, who submits to giving birth to God’s own Son. Jesus will not be just another wise leader, but to a Savior-King, who, in his very flesh and bone, is Immanuel, God with us!