De Immanuel-profetie uit Jesaja en de geboorte van Jezus

Ieder jaar wordt rond en met het Kerstfeest de bekende profetie uit Jes. 7:14 (gesproken tegen de goddeloze koning Achaz, vader van Hizkia) gelezen: “Daarom zal de HEER Zelf u een teken geven: de jonge vrouw is zwanger, zij zal spoedig een zoon baren en Hem Immanuel noemen“. Volgens de evangelist Mattheus wordt deze profetie in vervulling gebracht als Maria zwanger wordt door de Heilige Geest van de Here Jezus en Hem ter wereld breng: “De maagd zal zwanger zijn en een zoon baren, en men zal em de naam Immanuelgeven, wat in onze taal betekent ‘God met ons’” [Matth. 1:23].

Because Matthew uses those words in his story of the birth of Jesus, our minds leap straight to that. For Isaiah’s hearers, that wasn’t the point. And they didn’t hear him say, ‘A virgin shall conceive’, either; a better translation is ‘a young woman’ – and certainly not ‘the virgin’, as the NIV has it; that’s reading back into the text something you think ought to be there. Because this is a prophecy for King Ahaz. It goes on, ‘Before the boy knows enough to reject the wrong and choose the right, the land of the two kings you dread – Israel and Syria – will be laid waste’ (7:16). In other words, stick it out for a couple of years and Israel and Syria won’t be a problem any more. The young woman in question may have been Isaiah’s wife; we don’t know. What we do know is that it happened just as he said: first Syria fell, then Israel.

There’s nothing miraculous about that, it’s just statecraft. But these are also shafts of light lancing down from the far future. Matthew in his Gospel describes Joseph, discovering that his fiancée Mary is pregnant and having a vision in which he’s told, ‘What is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit.’ Matthew says: ‘All this took place to fulfil what the Lord had said through the prophet: “A virgin shall be with child and will give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel which means, God with us’ (Matthew 1:22).

So the act of rescue that God performs for his people in about 740 BC, and the sign that he gave to his people that he would do that, become a promise to the world that God would do that for everyone. Immanuel wasn’t the only child born with a name that said something about God – Isaiah had two other sons and gave them both symbolic names – but Mary’s child would be utterly, completely different. The Immanuel born in 740 BC would live and die, and the only thing significant about him was his name: but the Immanuel born to Mary would be the saviour of the world”.

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