23a Behold, a virgin shall be with child, and shall bring forth a son.
The birth of Jesus had been a long-awaited event for God had revealed various facts related to His birth through the prophets of old. The prophets and saints of God lived with a holy curiosity about the manner of His condescension into this world. In 1 Peter 1:11, we read about their curiosity: “Searching what, or what manner of time the Spirit of Christ which was in them did signify, when it testified beforehand the sufferings of Christ, and the glory that should follow.”
In our text, Matthew introduces his first quotation of Old Testament fulfilment. He quotes Isaiah 7:14 – “Behold, a virgin shall be with child, and shall bring forth a son.” These words of Isaiah can rightly be applied only to the virgin Mary and her son Jesus. They refer to no other. A considerable number of recent commentators erroneously suggest that the Hebrew word used by Isaiah for “virgin” (‘almah) simply means a young woman of marriageable age, and hence “son” refers to a child of his day — e.g. Hezekiah as the royal son and heir to King Ahaz’s throne, or Isaiah’s son Maher-shalal-hash-baz (cf. Isaiah 8:1, 3), or some anonymous child to be named Immanuel. Those who say the words of Isaiah 7:14 refer to Ahaz’s wife and his son Hezekiah, or to Isaiah’s wife and their son, or to someone else other than Mary and her son, are in serious error!
Firstly, this prophecy predicted the miraculous conception by a virgin. Such a thing had never happened in the history of Israel or the world, except in the case of Mary, the mother of Jesus. The prophecy is introduced with the word “Behold”! It denotes that the event predicted is something extraordinary and wonderful. When Isaiah foretold this prophecy, he also introduced it with the word “sign” (’owth), which means “wonder” or “miracle”. There was no miraculous conception or birth in Isaiah’s time. Secondly, Matthew translated the Hebrew word ‘almah (a virgin) into the Greek word parthénos, which can only mean “a virgin”. If a married woman was meant by the Hebrew word ‘almah in Isaiah 7:14, why should an ordinary birth be regarded as a “sign”? Moreover, it is only fitting that a supernatural birth had been predicted and fulfilled for the provision of divine salvation by a divine Saviour. If Christ’s birth was just like that of all other individuals, then He would have the original sin of Adam and could not be our Saviour. Christ’s virgin birth precisely proves that He is our sinless divine Saviour!