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WAS THE MESSIAH, PREDICTED IN THE OLD TESTAMENT, TO HAVE A MAN AS HIS IMMEDIATE FATHER?
If the Messiah was to be the son of a man and a woman, in the ordinary course of human nature, it could not reasonably be supposed that any notice of so common an event would be taken by the prophets. But, if he was to be an exception to all rules and examples, from the creation to the end of the world; it must be supposed that some intimation, at least, if not clear prediction would be given of it. If then Christians could produce nothing of this kind from the Old Testament, it would weaken very much their proof of the miraculous conception of Jesus; and even their evidence of another kind that he is the predicted Messiah. But, if matters are in this respect so arranged, as it might reasonably have been expected beforehand, it must powerfully combine with all their other arguments to establish their doctrine.
The well-known prophecy of Isaiah first calls for our most serious attention.1 Let the introduction be carefully and impartially considered. "The Lord spake unto Ahaz, saying, Ask thee a "sign2 of the Lord thy God; ask it either in the "depth, or in the height above:" either " a sign "from heaven, or one like the dividing of the sea." Beyond doubt, a miraculous sign, of the most stu 1 Isa. vii. 10—14. 'niK Ex. iv. 9. viii. 23. Num. xvi. 38. 2. Kings xx. 9. Heb.
pendous nature, vastly deviating from the ordinary course of human affairs, was intended.—But, when Ahaz perversely refused to ask a sign, God answered, "The Lord himself shall give you a "sign: Behold, a virgin shall conceive and.bear "a Son, and shall call his name Immanuel." The introduction, and the call for attention, must lead every attentive and impartial reader to expect, that some manifest interposition of Omnipotence was about to be promised : but there would be nothing miraculous, or uncommon, in a virgin marrying and bearing a son; nor even in the name Immanuel, except as understood in the sense of the New Testament: nor have they, who adopt this interpretation, been able to ascertain who this virgin was, and who the son born of her, or why he was to be called Immanuel. Hezekiah, to whom some would apply it, had been born long before; for he was twenty-five years of age at his father's death, and his father reigned only sixteen years.
The words, however, will not bear this sense: and we appeal, not to Rabbinical Hebrew, or to the Rabbinical traditions and interpretations, but to the Hebrew Bible. Now, the original word (rroV?) in the Hebrew Bible, uniformly means, ' a woman 'who has not known man, by lying with him. It 'is derived from cfoy, to be hid or concealed. 'Hence Q7J7, puer qui adhuc gnarus non est con'cubitus matrimonialis : occultatus a re conjugali: '(Robertson :) and ' fTfcfoy, adolescentula puella, 'sed virgo, sic appellata, quod esset, ocultata 'viro.' (Buxtorf.)
"The virgin was very fair to look upon, and a "virgin, (Hbin;!) neither had any man known "her." 1 The same ideas are afterwards expressed in one word, tip^S?-2 The word is also used concerning Miriam, when the history evidently supposes she was about twelve or thirteen years old, living in her father's house.3
The word occurs also in Proverbs. "There are "three things which are too wonderful for me; "yea, four which I know not: the way of an eagle "in the air; the way of a serpent upon a rock; "the way of a ship in the midst of the sea; and "the way of a man with a maid." 4 'Promptissi'mum est intelligere vinculo, quibus virgo incipit 'astringi futuro sponso suo; quae a castis et pudi'cis virginibus teguntur.' 'It is most obvious to 'understand it of those ties, by which a virgin be'gins to be bound to her own future husband; 'which by chaste and modest virgins are covered.' The clause may, however, mean the various arts of insinuation, by which men win the affections of young women, while yet virgins; and at length obtain their consent either to honourable marriage, or dishonourable intercourse. The previous virgin purity of the persons concerned is evidently supposed: and the case of the adulterous woman, mentioned in the next verse, is totally distinct from it.
The plural of this noun occurs in the sixty-eighth Psalm, and is translated "damsels; " 5 where the obvious meaning is clearly coincident. It is also found in Canticles; and in one place as expressly distinguished from "queens and concubines;"6 and it occurs no where else in the Hebrew Bible. But nTiTQ is of more frequent occurrence. "woman." " Therefore, that holy thing, which shall "be born of thee, shall be called the Son of God."1 —But how can this title belong to one born in the ordinary course of things, as other men are?
1 Gen. xxiv. 16. * Gen. xxiv. 43. 'Ex. ii. 8.
4 Prov. xxx. 18—20. 'Ps. Ixviii. 25. "Cant. i. 3. vi.8.
According to this constant use of the word, it is, in the passage under consideration, expressly predicted, that a " virgin," 'one who has not known man by lying with him,' "shall conceive and bea "a son, and call his name Immanuel:" and it is predicted as a sign, a most extraordinary fact, a most signal interposition of Omnipotence.
If the Jews will not admit the evangelist's interpretation of this prophecy;1 let them shew distinctly and without any interpolation, when and in whom it has been fulfilled, or will be fulfilled. Till this be done in a manner satisfactory to the understandings of learned men, of whatever creed; we have a right to conclude that it foretels the most wonderful event yet known on earth; the conception and birth of a Man ' without a 'human father;' and justly entitled to the name "Immanuel, God With us." For "his name "shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, the "mighty God." 2 With such a clear and decisive prediction, other prophecies may fairly be considered as pre-intimations of this stupendous and infinitely important event.—On what account was the Messiah first promised and predicted, as "the "Seed of the woman.?" 3 Till his immediate parent, the Lord Jesus, in whom we Christians confide, was the Seed of the man, at least equally as the Seed of the woman: but, not having man as his immediate father, he had been from the beginning emphatically foretold as " The Seed of the
1 Matt. i. 21—23. 'Is. ix. 5,6. 'Gea. iii. 15.
VOL. IX. M
Thus, the opinion of the Jews, grounded almost uniformly on the language of scripture, that a man is indeed the son of his mother, but the seed of his father, combines in fixing the Christian interpretation of the original promise of a Messiah: and that it should be almost, if not altogether, a solitary exception to the rule, must be allowed to be a very singular coincidence with the language of Isaiah.
It is also said by Jeremiah, in a prophecy of multiplied blessings to Israel, "The Lord hath "created a new thing in the earth; a woman "shall compass a man." 2—Now, for a woman to conceive a son, by an immediate act of almighty power, without any human father, and so " com"pass " and carry him in her womb, and in due time give him birth; was indeed "a new thing" never before heard of: to effect this was, strictly speaking, "to create a new thing:" and this "new thing" was most intimately and inseparably connected with the great and gracious events predicted throughout the chapter.—' It is a new 'thing and unheard of that a woman should court 'a man :—so the Jewish nation shall return to God 'their Husband. So most of the modern Jews un'derstand the words.' (Lowth.) But is it indeed " a "New Thing in the earth," and a work of creating power; for a woman to return of her own accord, if allowed, to her husband whom she had for1 Luke i. 34, 35. * Jer. xxxi. 22.