Within this week’s HafTarah we have the verse:
לָכֵן יִתֵּן אֲדֹנָי הוּא, לָכֶם--אוֹת: הִנֵּה הָעַלְמָה, הָרָה וְיֹלֶדֶת בֵּן, וְקָרָאת שְׁמוֹ, עִמָּנוּ אֵל
Lachen yiten Hashem hu lachem ot hine haalma hara veyoledet ben vekarat sh`mo Eemanu El.
The JPS renders:
“Therefore the Lord Himself shall give you a sign: behold, the young woman shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel.”
(Isaiah 7:14; JPS)
The Orthodox Jewish Bible renders:
“Therefore Hashem Himself shall give you an ot (sign); Hinei, HaAlmah (the unmarried young virgin) shall conceive, and bear Ben, and shall call Shmo Immanu El (G-d is with us)”
(Isaiah 7:14; The Orthodox Jewish Bible)
Most Christian Bibles render:
"Therefore the Lord Himself will give you a sign: Behold, a virgin will be with child and bear a son, and she will call His name Immanuel.”
(Isaiah 7:14; NASB)
Why the difference between “young woman” and “virgin” (or as the OJB says: “the young unmarried virgin)? Why such a difference? And which is correct?
You will have to bear with me because my first statement maybe rather shocking but hang in there with me. Out of all of these translations from a literal translation the word עַלְמָה found in the verse, does literally mean “young woman” and not what the Christian Bibles or the OJB renders. So technically, from a literal sense, the Jewish Publication Society Tanach is correct on this. But does this necessarily mean the others are wrong? Let’s investigate.
First of all, we have to be good scholars and ask without bias, ask, why do other Bibles render עַלְמָה as “virgin” in this passage? How long does this go back?
Now, first of all we have to reconcile Sotah 49b where it says:
"The Sages taught: During the siege in the Hasmonean war, Hyrcanus was outside [the walls of Jerusalem] and Aristobulos was inside. Every day [the Jews] would send out a box of dinar coins and they would send the daily sacrifice in return. [Inside Jerusalem,] there was an old man who knew Greek wisdom. He spoke [with the beseiging forces outside] with Greek wisdom and said to them, 'As long as the Jews are involved in the Temple service, they will not fall into your hands.' The next day they lowered the box of coins and they sent them up a pig [instead of the daily sacrifice]. When it reached halfway up the wall, it dug its hoofs into the wall and the land of Israel trembled four hundred parasangs. At that time they said, 'Cursed is the man who raises pigs, and cursed is the man who teaches his son Greek wisdom.'"
The reason we have to reconcile this is because we are going to be looking at the Greek Septuagint (1-3rd Century BCE). The reason the rabbis of the Talmud took great issue with the Septuagint is because of the fact Greek was not only the language of the enemy of Israel. But also because Greek is a Germanic language that cannot fully contain Semitic thought, when you have a word such as ܡܠܬܐ in Aramaic which has 5 meanings, all of which are accurate meanings that bring out the whole meaning, the Greek equivalent is λογος and means only one thing. So the text is flattened with the Greek and it takes away its Semitic nature. But the Greek does help us in terms of looking at theology through time. It allows it to be pinned down to how it was rendered by a majority of the community.
Now, keep in mind, the Greek Septuagint was not written by Christians. It was written between the 3rd and 1st Century BCE, before the time of Yeshua’s birth. Now the Septuagint renders ἡ παρθένος which is not the Greek equivalent of “young woman” rather it is the Greek equivalent of “virgin”. Now the world’s leading anti-missionary, Tovia Singer claims that the “Christians changed Isaiah 7:14” in his tape set “Let’s Get Biblical”. If this were true then they would have had to have had Doc Browns time traveling Delorian to influence the rabbis 100-300 years before the birth of Yeshua to change it because the Septuagint was not a Christian Translation it was a Jewish Translation that predated Yeshua’s birth.
So now, we have to ask why was עַלְמָה seen in this passage when the word for “virgin” in Hebrew is בְּתוּלַה (betulah)? How did עַלְמָה become translated to “virgin”?
The reason is Isaiah 9:6
לְםַרְבֵּה הַמִּשְׂרָה וּלְשָׁלוֹם אֵין-קֵץ עַל-כִּסֵּא דָוִד וְעַל-מַמְלַכְתּוֹ, לְהָכִין אֹתָהּ וּלְסַעֲדָהּ, בְּמִשְׁפָּט וּבִצְדָקָה; מֵעַתָּה, וְעַד-עוֹלָם, קִנְאַת יְהוָה צְבָאוֹת, תַּעֲשֶׂה-זֹּאת.
lemarbe hamisra ulshalom eyn ketz al kise David veal mamlachto lehachin ota oolsaada bemishpat uvitzdaka meata vead olam kinat Hashem Tze`vaot ta’ase zot.
“That the government may be increased, and of peace there be no end, upon the throne of David, and upon his kingdom, to establish it, and to uphold it through justice and through righteousness from henceforth even for ever. The zeal of the LORD of hosts doth perform this.”
(Isaiah 9:6; JPS)
Within the verse we have a textural anomaly. It is the word לְiםַרְבֵּה the thing that is odd about it is the letter ם. Now the ם has two forms. When it is at the beginning or inside of a word it is written as מ. But it only takes it’s sofit form (ם) when it is at the end of a word as the last letter. Here we see it as he first letter of Marbeh or the second letter of L’Marbeh. Now we will investigate why this is. Interesting enough the Gutnich Chumash (which is from Kol Menechem, a part of Chabad) says this:
לְםַרְבֵּה הַמִּשְׂרָה וּלְשָׁלוֹם אֵין-קֵץ Much authority and peace without end. According to Chasidic thought, the "open" letter mem (ם) alludes to exile, whereas the "closed" mem (ם) alludes to redemption. Thus, in one verse that speaks of exile we find an open mem uncharacteristically at the end of a word ("the walls of Jerusalem, which were [הֵמ] broken down"—Nechemiah 2:13)', and in our verse, which alludes to redemption, we find a closed mem in the middle of a word ("much authority" לְםַרְבֵּה הַמִּשְׂרָה). The shape of the two letters actually depicts their message graphically. The open mem remains unsealed on one side, indicating that there is an "opening" for negative influences—hence the state of exile. The closed mem, on the other hand, is totally sealed, suggesting a state where a person is totally protected against sin, as will occur with the redemption. It is also interesting to note the Talmud begins with an open mem and concludes with a closed mem, suggesting that through the process of observing all the laws that are detailed in the Talmud the world becomes spiritually refined, thus reaching a redemptive state. Likewise, we find that the name Menachem (מְנַחֵם), cited by the Talmud as one of the names of Mashiach (Sanhedrin 98b), begins with an open mem and ends with a closed mem (Sichas Shabbos Parshas Vayikra 5749, par. 6; Hadran al Hashas 5749, note 122).
Now let’s look at the entire context of Sanhedrin 98b and we will see that even though Kol Menechem claims the passage is speaking of Schneerson (they get that idea from the passage on Sanhedrin 98b and the phublishing company provides this footnote for the reason of proof that Schneerson is the Messiah) we see that it is actually speaking of Yeshua of Nazareth.
“What is his name? The school of Rabbi Sheila says: Shiloh is his name, as it is stated: “Until when Shiloh shall come” (Genesis 49:10). The school of Rabbi Yannai says: Yinnon is his name, as it is stated: “May his name endure forever; may his name continue [yinnon] as long as the sun; and may men bless themselves by him” (Psalms 72:17). The school of Rabbi Ḥanina says: Ḥanina is his name, as it is stated: “For I will show you no favor [ḥanina]” (Jeremiah 16:13). And some say that Menaḥem ben Ḥizkiyya is his name, as it is stated: “Because the comforter [menaḥem] that should relieve my soul is far from me” (Lamentations 1:16). And the Rabbis say: The leper of the house of Rabbi Yehuda HaNasi is his name, as it is stated: “Indeed our illnesses he did bear and our pains he endured; yet we did esteem him injured, stricken by God, and afflicted” (Isaiah 53:4).”
Now does any of the other sages say anything on this subject? Oh yes:
“Of the increase of his government and peace there shall be no end (Is 9:6). R. Tanhum said: Bar Kappara expounded in Sepphoris, Why is every mem in the middle of a word open The Holy One, blessed be He, wished to appoint — ?)סתום( whilst this is closed ,)פתוח( Hezekiah as the Messiah, and Sennacherib as Gog and Magog; whereupon the Attribute of Justice (מדת הדין) said before the Holy One, blessed be He: ‘Sovereign of the Universe! If Thou didst not make David the Messiah, who uttered so many hymns and psalms before Thee, wilt Thou appoint Hezekiah as such, who did not hymn Thee in spite of all these mira- cles which Thou wroughtest for him?’ Therefore [the mem] was closed. Straightway the earth exclaimed: ‘Sovereign of the Universe! Let me utter song before Thee instead of this right- eous man [Hezekiah], and make him the Messiah.’ So it broke into song before Him, as it is written, From the uttermost part of the earth have we heard songs, even glory to the tzaddik (Is 24:16). Then the Prince of the Universe said to Him: ‘Sovereign of the Universe! It [the earth] hath fulfilled Thy desire [for songs of praise] on behalf of this tzaddik.’ But a heavenly Voice cried out, ‘It is my secret, it is my secret’ [Play on Is 24:16 רזי לי רזי לי “I am wasting away, I am wasting away!”] To which the prophet rejoined, אוי לי ‘Woe is me, woe is me: how long [must we wait]?’ The heavenly Voice [again] cried out, ‘The treacherous dealers have dealt treacherously; yea, the treacherous dealers have dealt very treacherously’ (Is 24:16) which Raba — others say, R. Isaac — interpreted: until there come spoilers, and spoilers of the spoilers.”
“And Rabbi Yoḥanan said: The merit of the Patriarchs ceased since the days of Hezekiah, as it is stated: “For the increase of the realm and for peace without end, upon the throne of David, and upon his kingdom to order it, and to establish it with judgment and with justice; from now and forever the zeal of the Lord of hosts performs this” (Isaiah 9:6). That is to say, from this point on, the merit of the Patriarchs will not protect Israel, leaving only the zeal of the Lord.”
“The name Adam CONSISTS OF THREE LETTERS: THE Aleph OF ADAM ALLUDES TO the supernal world WHENCE THE RIGHT COLUMN ORIGINATES. The closed (final) Mem is the letter that appears in the phrase, "Of the increase (Heb. Lemarbeh) of his realm" (Yeshayah 9:6). ALTHOUGH IT APPEARS IN THE MIDDLE OF THE WORD, IT IS WRITTEN TRADITIONALLY AS FINAL MEM, IN ITS CLOSED FORM. FROM IT, THE LEFT COLUMN IS EXTENDED. The lower Dalet is concealed in the west, and this is the entire MOCHIN of above and below. AFTER this had been established above, IN ZEIR ANPIN AND HIS FEMININE PRINCIPLE, it was established below AS WELL, IN ADAM HIMSELF."
(Zohar 1:34b Bereishis)
"Rabbi Shimon said, Aleph OF AMEN is the depth of the well, whence all the blessings flow and come out and exist. Open Mem is the river that emerges and flows, WHICH IS YESOD, and is called Mem. This is the meaning of what we learned that open Mem IS YESOD, closed final Mem IS BINAH, as we established BY THE VERSE, "for the increase (Heb. lemarbeh, spelled with final Mem) of the realm" (Yeshayah 9:6)."
(Zohar 3:285b Vayelech)
One thing that is amazing as well is the symbolism in Judaism of “open” and “closed” like that of the מ is related to the idea of virginity in Semitic thought:
“Rav Avdimi from Haifa said: Before a man eats and drinks he has two hearts but after he eats and drinks he has one heart, as it says, A hollow man is two hearted, the word nabob (hallow) occurring also in the text nebub luhoth, which we translate ‘hallow with planks’. R. Huna, the son of R. Joshua said: If a man is a wine drinker, even though his heart is closed like a virgin, the wine opens it [saying a full stomach of wine and bread opens one to the Torah], as it is said: New wine shall make open out the maids.”
(Baba Batra 12b)
The closed מ in לְםַרְבֵּה deals with a closed womb, symbolizing virginity. Thus, this is the reason why the Jews who brought about the Septuagint wrote the translation as “virgin” and not “young woman/young maiden” because of the symbolism of the closed ם.
Anti-missionaries do not want you to learn lashon kodesh, nor the words of the sages for these very reasons. They rely upon half truths when it comes to these concepts and they rely on ignorance of both of these things in Jewish thought.
When the functions of Judaism are applied and not hyper-literalism we can clearly see that the “young woman” mentioned in Isaiah 7:14 is indeed a virgin. Outside of the Hebrew language, and the textural anomalies of it as well as the words of the sages is the only way the words of the anti-missionaries can make sense.