Matthew’s gospel begins with a genealogy showing that Jesus Christ is the “Son of David, the Son of Abraham” (Matt. 1:1). Matthew intends to show how Jesus fulfills the promises of God. And the first of these promises are tied to the virgin birth, the naming of Jesus and his role in saving “His people from their sins” (Matt. 1:21). Matthew shows us that this child is the fulfillment of a prophecy spoken long ago. “So all this was done that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the Lord through the prophet: ‘Behold, the virgin shall be with child, and bear a Son, and they shall call His name Immanuel,’ which is translated, ‘God with us.’” (Matt. 1:22–23).

This is all probably familiar to us, but are we familiar with the context of this ancient prophecy? Which prophet did the Lord speak to? How was this prophecy understood in its original context? Let’s investigate this further with some assistance from the NKJV Study Bible in Full Color.

Isaiah and Ahaz

After his vision and commissioning in Isaiah 6:1–13, Isaiah is sent to deliver a message to Ahaz. Ahaz is making preparations for a foreign invasion, a trembling thought (Isaiah 7:2). But the Lord tells him not to fear, that the kings who come against him will not be successful (7:4–9).

As if the Lord’s word is not enough to reassure Ahaz, the Lord gives him the opportunity to ask for a sign (7:10–11). This is an open invitation to ask for whatever he wants, carte blanche! And yet, Ahaz is too pious (proud?) to take advantage of the opportunity. He replies, “I will not ask, nor will I test the Lord!” (7:12). Nevertheless, seemingly exasperated by Ahaz’s refusal, the Lord will provide a sign. “Therefore the Lord Himself will give you a sign: Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a Son, and shall call His name Immanuel” (7:14).

Isaiah turns from the king whom he has dismissed in judgment and addresses all who are present. The sign is for many. The word Lord speaks of the sovereignty of God, of His great control over all His creation. The pronoun Himself adds an absolute certainty to the impending sign. The Hebrew word rendered virgin means “a young woman of marriageable age.” But the word also connotes the idea of virginity, for the Septuagint, the Greek translation of the Hebrew Bible made in the second century B.C., translates the Hebrew word with a Greek word that specifically means “virgin.”

NKJV Study Bible in Full Color

Verse 14 is the prophecy Matthew says is fulfilled in the birth of Jesus, the incarnation of the Son of God. Here’s an excerpt from an article in the NKJV Study Bible in Full Color that describes the challenge of interpreting this sign.


“Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a Son, and shall call His name Immanuel.” During the Christmas season, this verse becomes a part of our common vocabulary (7:14). Most Christmas pageants recite the verse, and pastors explain the meaning of Immanuel, “God with Us.” How the prophecy was fulfilled in the birth of Christ is recorded in the Gospel of Matthew (Matt. 1:23). But there are still questions that surround this prophecy. For instance, how could the birth of Jesus be a sign to Ahaz? Sometimes unraveling biblical prophecy can be difficult. This is one of those cases; Christians have interpreted this prophecy in several different ways.

Ahaz’s Wife and Child

Some have thought the anonymous “virgin” may refer to a royal mother—more specifically Ahaz’s wife. Thus the child would be Hezekiah, Ahaz’s successor. Hezekiah would be a sign to Ahaz that God was in control: The Lord was with Ahaz; He would save Judah from the enemies that surrounded Ahaz, enabling his son to inherit the throne (Is. 7:1–3). Yet the reference to the child eating “curds and honey” was a prediction of Assyria’s eventual domination of Judah.

Isaiah’s Wife and Child

Others have identified Isaiah’s wife, “the prophetess” of 8:3, as the “virgin.” She was a young woman of marriageable age, another meaning of the Hebrew word translated virgin. The child in this case would be Maher-Shalal-Hash-Baz. According to this view, the child’s two names, Maher-Shalal-Hash-Baz meaning “Speed the Spoil, Hasten the Booty,” and Immanuel meaning “God with Us,” symbolize judgment and salvation. In fact, Isaiah himself described his children as “signs” to the nation (see 8:18), and he delivered a similar prophecy for this son (compare 7:16 with 8:4).

Joseph’s Wife and Child

Some cite the parallel between the prophecy that a “virgin shall conceive” and Jesus’ miraculous birth as evidence that this prophecy was fulfilled only in Jesus. Mary was the virgin mother; and the birth of Jesus was the sign of God’s salvation. His name would be Immanuel, “God with Us,” because Jesus was the Son of God and He lived among us (Matt. 1:23). According to this view, Isaiah’s prophecy had no fulfillment prior to Jesus’ birth (Matt. 1:18–25).


It is not uncommon for biblical prophecies to have one level of fulfillment in the immediate future, and a final fulfillment many years later in the person and work of the Savior, Jesus. Thus the pregnancy of Isaiah’s new wife and the birth of her son (Is. 8:3) could have been a sign to King Ahaz. However, this would have been a fulfillment, not the fulfillment. The prophecy was completely fulfilled in the coming of God’s only Son to the earth. He is the only Child who can truly be called Wonderful, Counselor, and Prince of Peace (see 9:6).

Even though uncertainty surrounds how this prophecy was fulfilled during Isaiah’s lifetime, Matthew makes it clear that Isaiah’s words find their ultimate fulfillment in the virgin birth of Jesus, a sign to people of all ages that God was with them.

Keep Reading the NKJV Study Bible in Full Color

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    • Brad Hoffman Reply

      Hi Chuck! That part of the post was an excerpt from the notes in the NKJV Study Bible Full Color. You’re correct that the verse contains more names for Christ then was referred to in the notes. Here’s the full verse, “For unto us a Child is born, unto us a Son is given; and the government will be upon His shoulder. And His name will be called Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace” (Isaiah 9:6).

  1. “Imanu El” is two words in the Hebrew. Go look. There’s a space. The end of the verse would read…
    “… and proclaim His name. God is with us.”
    What name?
    The name the angel gave. “Yeshua”, the name of God. Yeshua said He came in the name of His Father. Even when He sent the “Comforter” He said He would send Him in His name. Which is, Yeshua.

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