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Bible Q

Doesn’t the name “Immanuel” show that Jesus is God, and therefore proves the Trinity? (Isaiah 7:14, Matthew 1:23)

Isaiah 7:14 Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign. Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel [1].
ESV footnote [1] Immanuel means God is with us


Isaiah 8:8 and it will sweep on into Judah, it will overflow and pass on, reaching even to the neck, and its outspread wings will fill the breadth of your land, O Immanuel.” … 10 Take counsel together, but it will come to nothing; speak a word, but it will not stand, for God is with us.[1]
ESV footnote [1]The Hebrew for God is with us is Immanuel

Matthew 1:23 “Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall call his name Immanuel” which means, God with us.

There are stronger verses on which to argue that Jesus is God, or not — and a search of this site will produce Q&A on many of them (see, for example, the answers tagged with “Trinity“). This — the ‘Immanuel’ — is simply a name, and one that says only that in some way God was with mankind in Christ. What exactly that means in relation to Christ can only be worked out by clearer verses elsewhere.

But the main problem with the idea that the name itself means that Jesus is God, is that Jesus was only the second person to bear this prophetic title. The context of Isaiah makes clear that the first Immanuel was an infant in 732 BCE when Tiglath-Pileser sacked Damascus and Samaria, killing Ahaz’ two Northern enemies, Pekah and Rezin.

Isa.7:1 In the days of Ahaz the son of Jotham, son of Uzziah, king of Judah, Rezin the king of Syria and Pekah the son of Remaliah the king of Israel came up to Jerusalem to wage war against it, but could not yet mount an attack against it. 2 When the house of David was told, “Syria is in league with Ephraim,” the heart of Ahaz and the heart of his people shook as the trees of the forest shake before the wind.

Isa.7:18 In that day the Lord will whistle for the fly that is at the end of the streams of Egypt, and for the bee that is in the land of Assyria. 19 And they will all come and settle in the steep ravines, and in the clefts of the rocks, and on all the thornbushes, and on all the pastures. 10 Again the Lord spoke to Ahaz, 11 “Ask a sign of the Lord your  God; let it be deep as Sheol or high as heaven.” 12 But Ahaz said, “I will not ask, and I will not put the Lord to the test.” 13 And he said, “Hear then, O house of David! Is it too little for you to weary men, that you weary my God also? 14 Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign. Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel.  15 He shall eat curds and honey when he knows how to refuse the evil and choose the good. 16 For before the boy knows how to refuse the evil and choose the good, the land whose two kings you dread will be deserted. 17 The Lord will bring upon you and upon your people and upon your father’s house such days as have not come since the day that Ephraim departed from Judah—the king of Assyria.”

Although it has been suggested that the original Immanuel was another son of Isaiah, that is impossible since the Hebrew word “maiden” (about which, more here) may mean virgin or newly-wed bride, but cannot mean a wife who has already born a child. So the only possible options are (A) a son of Ahaz, the recipient of the prophecy, (B) some unknown third child of a third mother who just happened to be passing when Isaiah made the prophecy – which makes little sense seeing as the child coming to a knowledge of good and evil is a sign of the nearing end of Rezin and Pekah. The prophecy only has value in Ahaz can keep the child near and watch the child grow.

In this context then the logical answer is that the child was Ahaz’ son Hezekiah, who name “Yah-is-my-Strength” is not so far from Immanuel, and who later turned out to show vividly to Israel God-with-us in the destruction of the Assyrian army by the angel (2 Kings 19:35; Isaiah 37:36)

See also answer: Why does Isaiah 9:6 call Jesus “Mighty God, Everlasting Father”? — another name which probably applies in the first application to Hezekiah, also Is Isaiah 9:6 “Wonderful counselor” related to Isaiah 7:14, 8:8 “Immanuel”?

One Reply to “Doesn’t the name “Immanuel” show that Jesus is God, and therefore proves the Trinity? (Isaiah 7:14, Matthew 1:23)”

  1. Does this passage demand that Jesus would be God physically with us because “Immanuel” means, “God is with us? Does this prove that Jesus must be God? Not at all.

    Even the respected Trinitarian Murray Harris, author of “Jesus As God” (who you never got back to me on ) said this in “The New Testament Use of in Reference to Jesus,” while examining in detail Matthew 1:23. He drew this conclusion: “There are therefore strong reasons for believing that…in Jesus God is present to bring salvation to his people rather than Jesus, as {ho theos}, is personally present with his people. Matthew is not say, “Someone who is ‘God’ is now physically with us,” but “God” is acting on our behalf in the person of Jesus.” (pg. 258)

    The name Immanuel given to Jesus or anyone else, would not cause the Jews to think God was with them physically but to serve as a sign that God was with them in support, backing them.

    We know that personal names were extremely important to God and to his people as recorded in the Bible. The meanings of their names were often carefully selected by their parents and were sometimes changed during their lifetimes because of changing circumstances.

    Many trinitarians in past discussions have tried to tell me that, since the name “Jesus” (probably “Yehoshua” in Hebrew) means “Jehovah is Salvation” (or “Jehovah Saves”), then Jesus is Jehovah.

    If that were true, then all the other people in the Bible whose names had that same meaning (which includes all those named “Jesus,” “Joshua,” “Jeshuah,” and “Isaiah”) are also Jehovah!

    It is very interesting that Joshua was originally named ‘Hoshea’ (“Salvation” – p. 303, Today’s Dictionary of the Bible, Bethany House Publ.), but Moses began to call him ‘Joshua’ (Yehoshua: ‘Jehovah is Salvation’ or ‘Jehovah the Savior’ – p. 358; “[Jehovah] Saves” – Young’s Concordance; “Jehovah Saved” – Strong’s Concordance) at a certain point. – Numbers 13:8, 16.

    Obviously Moses meant in no way to imply that Hoshea had become Jehovah! The addition of “Jehovah” to Hoshea’s name merely indicated Moses’ understanding of Hoshea’s loyalty to Jehovah and that any salvation that might occur through the man Joshua most certainly came originally from Jehovah.

    Notice that the actual name for “Joshua” in the original language of the NT is identical to the name for “Jesus.” See Hebrews 4:8 and compare Hebrews 6:20 in the NT Greek portion of a New Testament Greek-English interlinear Bible. Also see Acts 7:45 and compare Acts 16:7 and Matthew 26:51.

    Consider too the name “Jehu” means “Jehovah is He” but that does make “Jehu” the same being as Jehovah does it? “Eli’atha” means “God Has Come.” Is he God as well? The name “Ithiel,” means “God is with me” but it is safe to say that his parents did not believe their son was God. (Proverbs 30:1)

    What about the other many Bible names given to others similar to these?

    It was a common practice among Jews to embody the word “God,” even “Jehovah,” in Hebrew names. Even today “Immanuel” is the proper name of many men, none of whom are incarnations of God. One of my best friends has that name.

    In announcing Jesus’ coming birth, did Jehovah’s angel say that the child would be God himself? No, the announcement was: “He will be great, and will be called the SON of the Most High.” (Luke 1:32, 35)

    He was Jehovah’s Representative, Jehovah’s Anointed One, the Christ or Messiah. In sending the Messiah to the Jews God showed that he was with them, not against them. He continued with the faithful Jewish remnant that accepted Jesus the Messiah, and he is with those who accept Christ the enthroned King at this time.

    It would be good to study carefully Isaiah 7 and 8 and try to understand who “Immanuel” was in Isaiah’s day. How would he serve as a sign? Was he also a God-man? Because one of Isaiah’s sons was called “Immanuel,” did this mean he was God himself? In what way was God at that time “with his people?”

    The widely acclaimed Trinitarian Bible dictionary, The New International Dictionary of New Testament Theology, 1986, Vol. 2, pp. 86, 87, states:

    “The name Emmanuel [or Immanuel] which occurs in Isa. 7:14 and 8:8 means lit. ‘God [is] with us’ …. In the context of the times of Isaiah and King Ahaz the name is given to a child as yet not conceived with the promise that the danger now threatening Israel from Syria and Samaria will pass ‘before the child knows how to refuse evil and choose the good.’ Thus, the child and its name is a sign of God’s gracious saving presence among his people …. [The name Emmanuel] could be a general statement that the birth and naming of the special child will indicate that the good hand of God is upon us.” – p. 86. And, “The point of the present passage [Matt. 1:23] is to see in the birth of Jesus a saving act of God, comparable with the birth of the first Emmanuel. Both births signify God’s presence with his people through a child.” (pg. 87)