Matthew Poole Commentary - Matthew 1:23 - 1:23

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Matthew Poole Commentary - Matthew 1:23 - 1:23

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This Chapter Verse Commentaries:

Ver. 22,23. By these great acts of Divine Providence, that which was spoken and prophesied of by Isaiah, Isa_7:14, speaking by inspiration from God, was fulfilled. Though things are said in the evangelists to be fulfilled when the types have had their accomplishment in the antitype, and when something cometh to pass much like, or bearing some proportion to, something which before happened in the world, (as I shall show hereafter), yet I take the sense of being fulfilled here to be literally fulfilled; believing so much of that prophecy as is here quoted did literally concern Christ, and none but him. But we must take heed of interpreting the particle that as signifying the end of God’s action in this great work of Providence; for the end for which God sent his Son into the world was before expressed, to save his people from their sins, not to fulfil a prophecy.

That here only signifies the consequent of that act of Divine Providence, and the sense is but only this, By all this which was done, was fulfilled that which was spoken of the Lord by the prophet, &c. But the Jews have so much clamouring against the application of that text Isa_7:14 to Christ, and some learned interpreters thinking the fulfilling mentioned to be no more than the fulfilling of a type in the antitype, it will be necessary that we make it appear that it was literally fulfilled. To which I know of but two prejudices:

1. That it could be no relief to Ahaz, nor to the Jews, against their sense and fear of their present danger, to tell them that Christ should be born of a virgin eight hundred years after.

2. That whereas it is added, Isa_7:16, 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.

Supposing those two kings to be Pekah king of Israel and Rezin king of Syria, who were at that time joined in a siege against Jerusalem, or at least preparing for it, and the child mentioned Isa_7:16 to be the son of a virgin promised Isa_7:14, it could be no relief to Ahaz, nor any great news for the prophet to have told Ahaz, that they should both leave the country before eight hundred years were elapsed. Let us therefore first consider the history to which that prophecy related. Isa_7:1,2 we are told, that in the time of Ahaz, Rezin the king of Syria, and Pekah the son of Remaliah, king of Israel, went up toward Jerusalem to war against it. And it was told the house of David, ( that is, Ahaz), saying, Syria is confederate with Ephraim. And his heart was moved, and the heart of his people, as the trees of the wood are moved with the wind. The expedient which Ahaz thought upon in this distress, was to get Tiglathpileser, the king of Assyria, to join with and help him; which he afterward did, hiring him with the silver and gold found in the house of the Lord, and in the treasures of the king’s house, as we find 2Ki_16:7,8. This conjunction with idolaters was what the Lord had forbidden, and had often declared his abhorrence of. To prevent it, he sends his prophet Isaiah to him: Isa_7:3,4, Go forth now to meet Ahaz, thou, and Shear-jashub thy son, at the end of the upper pool in the highway of the fuller’s field; and say unto him, fear not, neither be faint hearted, & c. In short, he assures him in the name of the Lord, that the counsel of these two kings should not stand, nor come to pass, that within threescore and five years Israel should not be a people, &c., Isa_7:7,8. Ahaz knew not how to believe this. Isaiah offereth him from God to ask a sign for the confirmation of his word, either in the depth, or in the height. Ahaz refuseth it under pretence that he would not tempt the Lord, as if it had been a tempting God to have asked a sign at his command. At this the Lord was angry, as appeareth by the prophet’s reply, Isa_7:13; And he said, Hear ye now, O house of David; Is it a small thing for you to weary men, but will you weary my God also? Then he goeth on, Therefore the Lord himself shall give you a sign; Behold, a virgin, & c. There was nothing more ordinary in the prophets than to comfort the people of God amongst the Jews in their distresses with the promise of the Messias; this we find they often did with reference to the captivity of Babylon, and in other causes of distress and trouble. And certainly that is the design of the prophet here, in these words: Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a Son, and shall call his name Emmanuel. Ahaz had refused to believe the promise God gave him, to defeat the counsel of these two kings; he had refused to ask a sign, for the confirmation of God’s word. Well, (saith the prophet), God shall give you that fear him a sign, he shall in his own time send you the Messias, whose name shall be called Emmanuel, and he shall be born of a virgin. Nor yet doth he leave Ahaz and his people comfortless, as to their present distress, for saith he, Isa_7:16, 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. The Hebrew is rekh which I think were better translated this child, than the child, for h seems not to be a relative, (referring to the child, mentioned in Isa_7:14), but a demonstrative, referring to the son of Isaiah, Shearjashub, whom God, Isa_7:3, commanded the prophet, going to meet Ahaz, to carry with him, who probably was a very young child. Saith the prophet: Here is a little child whom God hath commanded me to bring with me; before this child be much older, this land which thou art so much afraid of shall be quitted of both those kings who have now some possession of it; for at this time Rezin had taken Elath, a city of Judah, 2Ki_16:6; and doubtless he and Pekah had taken divers places, for they were come up to Jerusalem itself. And indeed, if this be not the sense, it is very hard to conceive to what purpose God commanded Isaiah to take Shearjashub with him when he went upon this errand. Isa_7:3. So that Isa_7:14 remains as a prophecy respecting the Messiah only, and given not for any relief of unbelieving Ahaz as to his present distress, but for some relief to God’s people among the Jews, with reference to their posterity. This will appear a much more probable sense than theirs, who think that Mahershalalhashbaz is the son mentioned Isa_7:14, whom we read of Isa_8:3, who was born to Isaiah of the prophetess, (who some think was at this time a virgin), and was a type of Christ; for the Scripture doth not tell us whether that prophetess was a virgin or a widow, neither was it any great wonder that a virgin being married should conceive, and bear a son. Nor had this been any relief to Ahaz, as to his present distress, for this virgin (if she were such) was yet to be married, to conceive, and bear a son; so that, according to that notion, we must allow three or four years before Ahaz could have expected relief. This is further advantaged by that passage, Isa_8:18, Behold, I and the children which the Lord hath given me are for signs: not the child, but the children. Shearjashub was for a sign of God’s deliverance of the Jews from those two kings; Mahershalalhashbaz was for a sign of the destruction of the Israelites within five years, and also of Syria, which fell out afterward. Thus Isa_8:14 remains a literal prophecy of Christ. For the Jewish interpretation of it concerning Hezekiah, (born fifteen years after), it is too ridiculous to be mentioned.