Now all this happened to fulfill what was spoken by the Lord through the prophet: "Behold, the virgin shall be with child and shall bear a son, and they shall call his name "Immanuel," which interpreted means, "God with us." Matthew 1:23
The Trinitarian Claim
Matthew quotes the prophecy at Isaiah 7:14 to indicate this prophecy was fulfilled by the birth of Jesus. Trinitarians claim the name Immanuel, "God with us," is intended to identify baby Jesus as "God." This claim is made by suggesting "God with us" means that God [the Son] came down from heaven to occupy the same geographical space as "us."
The Claim vs. The Facts
The inescapable Scriptural facts show us beyond doubt that Isaiah is prophesying that a child named "Immanuel" will be born during the reign of King Ahaz as a sign to Ahaz that God would resolves his current war problem. The facts also show us that "Immanuel" which means "God with us," does not mean God comes down from heaven to be geographically located among human beings but means God is with His people in plan and purpose.
The Problems with the Claim
1. Eisegetical Preconceptions
Trinitarians are reading extraneous preconceptions into the text:
- God [the Son] came down into the virgin Mary.
- "God with us" means God was up there in heaven and came down from heaven to occupy the same geographical space as the people of Israel.
Trinitarians assume "God with us" means that God came down from heaven to be with the people of Israel in a spatial sense. As such, Trinitarian incarnation doctrine is eisegetically read into the text. However, there is absolutely nothing in the context of Matthew's nativity account to suggest God came down from heaven into the womb of Mary. Neither is there anything in the context which indicates "God with us" means God came to occupy the same space as the Israelite people. These preconceptions are simply imagined into the text.
One also needs to recognize that Matthew and Luke mention absolutely nothing about God coming down from heaven in their nativity accounts. This fact is completely disregarded by Trinitarian interpreters. But consider the reality here. If God really did come down from heaven into the womb of Mary, we must ask whether it is even remotely feasible to suggest that neither Matthew nor Luke would completely fail to mention God's descent in their respective nativity accounts. It's preposterous. But Trinitarians always reserve a right for themselves to imagine their doctrines into the text wherever they find it convenient to do so.
2. Almighty God didn't know right from wrong?
Let the reader ask himself/herself precisely WHO the following passage is about:
Therefore Yahweh Himself will give you [King Ahaz] a sign: Behold, a virgin will be with child and bear a son, and she will call his name Immanuel. He will eat curds and honey at the time he knows to refuse evil and choose good. For before the boy will know to refuse evil and choose good, the land whose two Kings you dread will be forsaken. Isaiah 7:14-16.
The two verses immediately following the Isaiah 7:14 prophecy tell us what will occur to the two Kings currently attacking Jerusalem before the child Immanuel grows up and knows right from wrong. To interpret the name Immanuel to mean that this child is himself God would therefore mean Almighty God will not know right from wrong. It is a ludicrous proposition.
Therefore Yahweh Himself will give you [King Ahaz] a sign: Behold, a virgin will be with child and bear a son, and she will call his name [God with us]. [God] will eat curds and honey at the time He knows enough to refuse evil and choose good. For before [God] will know enough to refuse evil and choose good, the land whose two Kings you dread will be forsaken. Isaiah 7:14-16.
The above represents the implications of the Trinitarian interpretation of verse 7:14. Their interpretation obviously doesn't make any sense.
However, if the name Immanuel was a name given to a human child as a sign to Ahaz that the God of Israel, not the child himself, would be "with them" in plan and purpose, the name "Immanuel" (God with us) then makes complete sense. And indeed, the verses immediately preceding Matthew 1:23 also shows us that "God with us" refers to God being with Israel in plan and purpose, not where God is spatially located. Matthew tells us that God will provide a Savior to save his people from their sins and this all happened to fulfill Isaiah's prophecy. As Luke says, God raised up a horn of salvation in the House of David (Luke 1:68ff.). Jesus was God's salvation (Luke 2:30). God raised up a horn of salvation in the House of David, and in this way, God was with the people of Israel.
3. Immanuel was prophesied to be born during the Reign of King Ahaz (8th century BC)
When we explore the context of Isaiah 7:14, the Trinitarian error and the true picture becomes crystal clear. The context of Isaiah 7:14 is that two Kings are attacking Jerusalem and Ahaz the King of Judah. Through the prophet Isaiah, Yahweh God informs King Ahaz that he will give him a sign concerning the outcome of Ahaz's difficult situation. That sign to King Ahaz is the birth of a child who will be named Immanuel.
Now it came about in the days of Ahaz, the son of Jotham, the son of Uzziah, King of Judah, that Rezin the (1) King of Aram and Pekah the son of Remaliah, (2) King of Israel, went up to Jerusalem to wage war against it, but could not conquer it. When it was reported to the house of David, saying, "The Arameans have camped in Ephraim," his heart and the hearts of his people shook as the trees of the forest shake with the wind. Then Yahweh said to Isaiah, "Go out now 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, and say to him, 'Take care and be calm, have no fear and do not be fainthearted because of these two stubs of smoldering firebrands, on account of the fierce anger of Rezin and Aram and the son of Remaliah. Because Aram, with Ephraim and the son of Remaliah, has planned evil against you, saying, 'Let us go up against Judah and terrorize it, and make for ourselves a breach in its walls and set up the son of Tabeel as king in the midst of it,' thus says Yahweh God: "It shall not stand nor shall it come to pass. For the head of Aram is Damascus and the head of Damascus is Rezin (now within another 65 years Ephraim will be shattered, so that it is no longer a people), and the head of Ephraim is Samaria and the head of Samaria is the son of Remaliah. If you will not believe, you surely shall not last." Then Yahweh spoke again to Ahaz, saying, "Ask a sign for yourself from Yahweh your God; make it deep as Sheol or high as heaven." But Ahaz said, “I will not ask, nor will I test Yahweh!” Then he said, “Listen now, O house of David! Is it too slight a thing for you to try the patience of men, that you will try the patience of my God as well? Therefore Yahweh Himself will give you [King Ahaz] a sign: Behold, a virgin will be with child and bear a son, and she will call his name Immanuel. He will eat curds and honey at the time He knows enough to refuse evil and choose good. For before the boy will know enough to refuse evil and choose good, the land whose two Kings you dread will be forsaken. Yahweh will bring on you, on your people, and on your father’s house such days as have never come since the day that Ephraim separated from Judah, the King of Assyria.”
The context plainly tells us that a child named Immanuel will be born during the reign of King Ahaz and the days of the prophet Isaiah. The birth of this child was to be a sign to King Ahaz. Ahaz reigned over 700 years before Jesus was born. It would not have been much of a sign to King Ahaz if the child was born 700 years after he died. This does not mean the prophecy cannot also apply to Jesus. Several such "dual prophecies" occur in Scripture and they are commonly called "near fulfillment" and "far fulfillment" prophecies. Scholars debate who the child in question is. They usually identify as Isaiah's son or Ahaz's son Hezekiah. For our intents and purposes, it does not really matter if it is one or the other. It only matters that we recognize the birth of this child named Immanuel did necessarily occur during the reign of King Ahaz. The context demands it. Otherwise, this child was not a sign to Ahaz and Isaiah was a false prophet. In fact, a time frame is explicitly given in the context. Verses 15-16 make it even more clear, "He will eat curds and honey at the time he knows enough to refuse evil and choose good. For before the child will know enough to refuse evil and choose good, the land whose two Kings you dread will be forsaken." It is quite clear that this will all take place during the reign of King Ahaz. The two Kings currently attacking him will be overthrown before the child Immanuel grows up. That obviously can't be Jesus.
Now once it is realized that the birth of this child, Immanuel, must occur during the reign of Ahaz, it is also be clear that it is impossible to interpret Immanuel, "God with us," to refer to the God of Israel coming down from heaven to be located in the same space as Israel. The child born born during the reign of Ahaz was obviously not named "Immanuel" because he was God Himself. The text makes it clear what "Immanuel" means. The child was a sign to show King Ahaz that God was with him in plan and purpose. God is giving a sign that He is with King Ahaz and the House of David concerning the war situation which they are currently suffering. In other words, "God with us" does not mean that God has decided to come and be located among them but that He is with them in plan and purpose. Moreover, it reads that Yahweh will give them a sign not that Yahweh will BE the sign!!
We simply cannot rationally interpret Isaiah 7:14 to mean God has come down from heaven when it concerns Jesus but deny the very same words mean something entirely different when it comes to the child Immanuel who was born during the reign of King Ahaz. It is impossible to interpret Isaiah's words to mean that child was Almighty God Himself without the consequence of some very absurd implications. These facts tell us beyond doubt that "God with us" (Immanuel) does not mean God coming down from heaven to be located in the same space as the people of Judah. It can only mean God was "with" the people of Judah in plan and purpose. Hence, if "God with us" does not mean God coming to be located in the same space as King Ahaz, the same words can't mean that for Jesus either. Moreover, such an interpretation would result in the absurd implication that Almighty God did not know right from wrong.
Analysis of the Facts
1. Isaiah 7:14 - Another Dual Prophecy
There are numerous "dual prophecies" in Scripture with a near and far fulfillment. For example, God's promise to David at 2 Samuel 7:14 is said by the Scriptures to be fulfilled in Solomon yet the Hebrews writer tells us this promise was fulfilled in Jesus (Heb 1:5). Hosea 11:1 refers to God calling the nation of Israel out of Egypt. Yet, Matthew tells us this was fulfilled when baby Jesus returned from Egypt (2:15). Isaiah 42:1ff. contextually refers to the nation of Israel yet Matthew tells us this refers to Jesus (12:18ff.). Psalm 45:6-7 refers to an ancient Davidic King on his wedding day. But the Hebrews writer refers this passage to Jesus (1:8). Since a child named Immanuel is to be born as a sign to Ahaz that the two Kings attacking him will be defeated, this is obviously another dual prophecy. And obviously, "God with us" at Isaiah 7:14-16 doesn't mean God himself is that sign and that he came down from heaven to live among Israelites. The human child Immanuel is a sign to Ahaz that God is with him in plan and purpose concerning the problem of the two attacking Kings.
2. Isaiah Provided the Decisive Answer
If we look at Isaiah 8:8-10, another occurrence of the name "Immanuel," we can clearly also see here that the name Immanuel was intended to mean "God with us" in plan and purpose.
Then it will sweep on into Judah, it will overflow and pass through, It will reach even to the neck; And the spread of its wings will fill the breadth of your land, O Immanuel. Be broken, O peoples, and be shattered; And give ear, all remote places of the earth. Gird yourselves, yet be shattered; Gird yourselves, yet be shattered. Devise a plan, but it will be thwarted; State a purpose, but it will not stand, For God is with us" (Lit. Immanuel). (Isaiah 8:8-10).
Here in the next chapter, Isaiah makes it abundantly clear what Immanuel ('God with us') means. It means God would be with Israel functionally in plan and purpose.
3. "God with us" - Not Geographically but Purposefully
An unresolvable problem with the Trinitarian interpretation is that it involves the assumption that "God with us" necessarily means God is with us spatially, He is geographically with us, God is occupying the same space or environment as us. However, the evidence, as we have seen, shows this cannot be the case. Trinitarians completely disregard the Biblical testimony concerning this kind of language. In Scripture, "God with us" does not mean God is situated in the same spatial environment as us and this Trinitarian assumption conveniently ignores this fact. The idea of God being "with" someone in a functional sense rather than a spatial sense is a common expression in the Scriptures. For God to be with Israel, for example, meant He was with them in plan and purpose as opposed to being against them. It meant God is with Israel in a functional sense rather than spatial sense.
The "us" in 'God with us' is intended to refer to the people of Israel. God was with Israel in plan and purpose because we are told numerous times that "no one has ever seen God" or even can see God. The fact is, that we are told right here in the preceding context of Matthew chapter one how God was with his people Israel. They were to name him Jesus because he would save His people from their sins. As Simeon so vividly declares to the God of Israel, "Mine eyes have seen YOUR salvation." (Luke 2:30). And as Zachariah proclaimed:
Blessed be the Lord God of Israel, for He has visited us and accomplished redemption for His people, and has raised up a horn of salvation for us in the house of David His servant
Jesus is that horn of salvation which God raised up to save the people of Israel. In this way, God was with the people of Israel in plan and purpose. It should be quite clear what is intended by the word "God with us." The Lord God of Israel, God the Father, with his people Israel in plan and purpose by raising up a horn of salvation from the House of David to redeem them from their sins.
4. God with His People
The Bible tells us that God was "with" his people many, many times and it never meant God came down from heaven to occupy the same space they occupied. And there isn't any reason whatsoever to think Matthew had this in mind either. Yahweh was said to be with his people in the Old Testament and it is a reference to God being with them in plan and purpose (see Psalm 46:5-7; Haggai 2:4). For example, at 2 Chronicles 13:12 we are told God was "with" Israel but no one assumes it means Yahweh descended from heaven to occupy their common space (also see 2 Chron 15:2; 20:17). David says that although he walks through the valley of the shadow of death he fears no evil, because YHWH is "with him" (Ps 23:4). We all know this means God cares for David and is with him David as opposed to being against him. These references all mean that God is with His people in plan and purpose.
And when we come to the New Testament, and explore what it has to say concerning Jesus, this fact becomes even more obvious. At John 3:2, Nicodemus remarks that he felt God was "with" Jesus because of the miracles he had done. Indeed, Jesus tells us plainly that he drove out demons not by himself but by "the Spirit of God" (Matthew 12:28), and that it was God the Father "in him" who did the works (John 14:10). Indeed, Peter also tells us plainly that God preached the good news of peace and did miracles through Jesus (Luke 8:39 24:19; Acts 2:22; 10:36,38; see Lk 24:20). God was with Israel in the sense that he was with them in plan and purpose in the work of His Anointed One whom He had sent to carry out His purposes for His people.
At Luke 7:16 where Jesus rose a young man from the dead, the Scriptures say, "They were all filled with awe and praised God. 'A great prophet has appeared among us,' they also said, 'God has come to help his people.'" No one seriously interprets this particular verse to mean Jesus was God and had come to raise this young man from the dead. In fact, the context tells identifies Jesus as a prophet of God. In the very same way, Matthew tells us that God has come to save his people through by means of His son and in this way the child is "God with us" because through this child, God was with his people in the plan and purpose of salvation. It is plainly obvious to anyone who embraces the truth instead of clinging to a man-made tradition, that the term "God with us" refers not to the idea that "Jesus is God" but to the idea that God the Father was with Israel in plan and purpose by raising up a horn of salvation in the House of David: baby Jesus. The overwhelming force of Scripture, the immediate context of the passage, and the facts behind the origin of the quotation, demand we comprehend the name "God with us" to refer to God being with them in plan and purpose. Matthew was speaking in terms of God's function, not His geographic location.
The idea here in Matthew is to indicate God was with his people Israel in the plan and purpose of their salvation. If we back up just a little to verse 1:21 in Matthew, we will see that the angel tells Joseph that the child born to Mary is to be called "Yahweh saves" (Jesus) because he will "save his people from their sins."
Carefully notice what Matthew says in verse 22, "Now all this happened to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet." All what happened? Everything Matthew had just described. Obviously, we are to reflect back to the fact that God was going to save his people from their sins by providing Israel with this child, his son, God's salvation (Luke 2:30). The name "Immanuel" refers to God's plan and purpose which He will accomplish through His Anointed One Jesus. This is how Yahweh was "with" Israel. Yahweh God was saving his people from their sins and in this way is "with them." It is a matter of plan and purpose, not a matter of God's location. The name "Immanuel" or "God with us" is intended to refer to what God was doing rather than where he was.
In the context of Isaiah 7:14, the birth of the child Immanuel had to occur during the reign of Ahaz as a sign to Ahaz. We are also told that the two Kings attacking Ahaz would be defeated before this child would know right from wrong. Nobody would rationally identify that particular child born during Ahaz's time as "God." We would rather interpret this to mean Immanuel was a sign to King Ahaz that Yahweh God was with Israel concerning the two Kings attacking him and they would ultimately be defeated. This undeniable fact tells us that "God with us" means God was with King Ahaz in plan and purpose not that he child born during his time would be God himself coming down from heaven to be "with him" spatially. As with several other prophecies in Scripture, this prophecy has a near/far dual fulfillment. The context demands a near fulfillment in the time of Ahaz, a child named Immanuel, "God with us," born as a sign to him, whom we cannot rationally say was Yahweh God. We are also told that the child Immanuel will not know enough to refuse evil and choose good. To insist baby Jesus is called Immanuel because he IS Almighty God would necessarily mean that Almighty God did not know enough to refuse evil and choose God, a total absurdity. Finally, we are explicitly told in Isaiah that the child Immanuel is a SIGN that Yahweh God is with his people Israel not that Immanuel IS Yahweh.
Taken in isolation, the name "Immanuel" interpreted as "God with us" could hypothetically mean two different things: (1) God with us in the sense of occupying the same space, or (2) God with us in the sense of being with us in plan and purpose (as opposed to being against us). So we must honestly ask ourselves which one was intended. And the Bible clearly gives us the answer. The Bible commonly refers to God being "with" His people and it always means in plan and purpose. "God with us" is a reference to God the Father being "with us" by raising up a horn of salvation, a savior, for His people, His salvation, Jesus (cf. Luke 2:30). We also find that Matthew was quoting Isaiah who made it quite plain at Isaiah 8 that he was referring to plan and purpose and not location. Hence, we are compelled to discern that the Trinitarian claim is without any merit whatsoever and that the name Immanuel is a name given to show us that through His Anointed One Jesus, God the Father would be functionally with his people in plan and purpose.
How God was with us (with Israel):
"Blessed be the Lord God of Israel, for he has visited and redeemed his people, and He has raised up a horn of salvation for us in the House of his servant David, as he spoke by the mouth of His holy prophets from of old, that we should be saved from our enemies and from the hand of all who hate us; to perform the mercy promised to our fathers, and to remember his holy covenant, the oath which he swore to our father Abraham, to grant us that we, being delivered from the hand of our enemies, might serve Him without fear, in holiness and righteousness before Him all the days of our life." Luke 1:68-75
Last Revision/Update: February 15, 2016