Archive for the ‘Mahershalalhashbaz’ Category

Mahershalalhashbaz and Immanuel

December 20, 2009

Mahershalalhashbaz has a name that is quite a handful. Recently, my attention was brought to a claim that Mahershalalhashbaz was the one and only fulfillment of the prophecy in Isaiah 7:14, “… a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel … .” The claim that Mahershalalhashbaz is the one and only fulfillment is plainly mistaken, since Matthew’s gospel connects the prophecy to Jesus:

Matthew 1:22-23
Now all this was done, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken of the Lord by the prophet, saying, “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.”

One might ask why Mahershalalhashbaz is even brought into the matter. The reason is the following flow of the passage (keep in mind that the chapter divisions are not original):

Isaiah 7:10-8:4
(10) Moreover the LORD spake again unto Ahaz, saying, (11) “Ask thee a sign of the LORD thy God; ask it either in the depth, or in the height above.”

(12) But Ahaz said, “I will not ask, neither will I tempt the LORD.”

(13) And he said, “Hear ye now, O house of David; Is it a small thing for you to weary men, but will ye weary my God also? (14) Therefore the Lord himself shall give you a sign; Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel. (15) Butter and honey shall he eat, that he may know to refuse the evil, and choose the good. (16) For before the child shall know to refuse the evil, and choose the good, the land that thou abhorrest shall be forsaken of both her kings. (17) The LORD shall bring upon thee, and upon thy people, and upon thy father’s house, days that have not come, from the day that Ephraim departed from Judah; even the king of Assyria. (18) And it shall come to pass in that day, that the LORD shall hiss for the fly that is in the uttermost part of the rivers of Egypt, and for the bee that is in the land of Assyria. (19) And they shall come, and shall rest all of them in the desolate valleys, and in the holes of the rocks, and upon all thorns, and upon all bushes. (20) In the same day shall the Lord shave with a razor that is hired, namely, by them beyond the river, by the king of Assyria, the head, and the hair of the feet: and it shall also consume the beard. (21) And it shall come to pass in that day, that a man shall nourish a young cow, and two sheep; (22) And it shall come to pass, for the abundance of milk that they shall give he shall eat butter: for butter and honey shall every one eat that is left in the land. (23) And it shall come to pass in that day, that every place shall be, where there were a thousand vines at a thousand silverlings, it shall even be for briers and thorns. (24) With arrows and with bows shall men come thither; because all the land shall become briers and thorns. (25) And on all hills that shall be digged with the mattock, there shall not come thither the fear of briers and thorns: but it shall be for the sending forth of oxen, and for the treading of lesser cattle.”

(8:1) Moreover the LORD said unto me, “Take thee a great roll, and write in it with a man’s pen concerning Mahershalalhashbaz.”

(2) And I took unto me faithful witnesses to record, Uriah the priest, and Zechariah the son of Jeberechiah. (3) And I went unto the prophetess; and she conceived, and bare a son.

Then said the LORD to me, “Call his name Mahershalalhashbaz. (4) For before the child shall have knowledge to cry, My father, and my mother, the riches of Damascus and the spoil of Samaria shall be taken away before the king of Assyria.


Notice that the child of the prophetess (or wife of the prophet) is described as being young at the critical point (“For before the child shall have knowledge to cry, My father, and my mother”) and there are also two kingdoms (Damascus and Samaria) who are being conquered by Assyria.

This link suggests that Mahershalalhashbaz is a primary fulfillment of the prophecy, though not the ultimate fulfillment of the prophecy. What’s interesting though, is that in being the primary fulfillment, Mahershalalhashbaz also serves as a type (i.e. foreshadow) of Christ.

I noticed this in a particularly striking way when reading Cyril of Alexandria’s commentary on Isaiah. In that commentary he practically ignores the historical person Mahershalalhashbaz. One reason is that apparently his version of the Old Testament in Greek did not transliterate the Hebrew name, Mahershalalhashbaz, but rather translated it. The English translation of the Greek translation that Cyril had was “Quickly plunder, rapidly pillage” which is similar to Strong’s proposed translation of “hasting (as he (the enemy) to the) booty, swift (to the) prey.”

It may be that Cyril was way off, and he himself views the passage as difficult, but he makes an interesting observation. The wise men from the east who came to Jesus brought gold, frankincense, and myrrh. Jesus received this booty, prey, or plunder at time when he was quite young, before he could speak.

I’m not totally convinced by Cyril’s explanation, as you can probably tell. Yet, it is an interesting idea. Those who are fond of the redemptive-historical hermeneutic should especially enjoy it.

-TurretinFan

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