“Behold, a virgin shall be with child, and shall bring forth a son, and they shall call his name Emmanuel, which being interpreted is, God with us.” (KJV)
1. The name can be translated as, “God with us” or “God is with us.” We know that God was with the people in Jesus Christ, and Jesus himself said that if one had seen him, he had seen the Father.
2. The significance of the name is symbolic. God was with us, not literally, but in His Son, as 2 Cor. 5:19 (NASB) indicates: “That God was in Christ, reconciling the world to Himself.” It is important to read exactly what was written: God was in Christ, not God was Christ. Symbolism in names can be seen throughout the Bible. It is not unique to Jesus Christ. Many people were given names that would cause great problems if believed literally. Are we to believe that Elijah was “God Jehovah,” or that Peter was a literal “rock” which is what his name means, or that Bithiah, a daughter of Pharaoh, was the sister of Jesus because her name is “daughter of Jehovah?” Are we to believe that Dibri, not Jesus, was the “Promise of Jehovah,” or that Eliab was the real Messiah since his name means “My God [is my] father?” Of course not. It would be a great mistake to claim that the meaning of a name proves a literal truth. We know that Jesus’ name is very significant—it communicates the truth that, as the Son of God and as the image of God, God is with us in Jesus, but the name does not make Jesus God. For more on the fact that calling something does not make it that thing, see the notes on Jeremiah 23:6.
3. The prophecy which comes from Isaiah 7:14 was not originally about Jesus, it was about a son that was soon to be born (Isa. 7:14), but this prophecy also finds a second fulfillment in Jesus. Thus, to conclude that this prophecy makes Jesus God because it uses the word “Immanuel,” would also prove that the original child who was born around 700 years before Christ is also God, which Trinitarians do not want to do. Many commentators have written about Isaiah 7:14 and how the vocabulary and the context are not about a virgin birth but about a birth that would occur in Isaiah’s time, and that is true. Easily available commentaries include J. P. Lange’s Commentary and the commentary on the Old Testament by Keil and Delitzsch.
The context around Isaiah 7:14 makes it clear that the prophecy had fulfillment at the time of Isaiah as well. God said that this defeat of Israel would happen within 65 years (Isa. 7:8). Then God told Ahaz to ask for a sign that this would happen. The “sign” of the young woman was specifically given to Ahaz that Israel and Syria would be shortly defeated in war. Isaiah said, “…the Lord himself will give you [king Ahaz] a sign. Behold, the young woman will conceive and bear a son, and will call his name Immanuel…before the child knows to refuse the evil and choose the good, the land whose two kings you abhor [Israel and Syria] will be forsaken” (Isa. 7:14, 16). That event took place around 730 BC, long before Christ was born.
In the time of Ahaz and Isaiah, things looked bad for Judah. Syria and Israel were both larger nations than Judah, and Judah would not stand much of a chance in a war against them. But Isaiah foretold Judah’s deliverance, bolstered by the fact that God would be with them to deliver them, symbolized by the birth of a child who would be named “Immanuel,” and indeed God was with Judah and they were delivered from the enemy. Then, more than 700 years later, at the birth of Christ, the name Immanuel was again symbolic and appropriate because God was working powerfully in Christ to support and deliver His people and make salvation available to everyone, which Jesus did.
Buzzard, p. 135
Farley, pp. 46 and 47
Morgridge, p. 119
Snedeker, pp. 355-359