Within the context of Matthew’s Gospel, we have information that we don’t find anywhere else. Luke focuses around Mary’s story, and so here I won’t look at putting the pieces together. Others have, but I haven’t really seen much of a simple expounding of what is found here in Matthew for the sake of understanding Matthew. Overall, the passage itself is pretty simple and straight to the point. Mary was impregnated, and Joseph didn’t do it. Like all men, Joseph would expect that she must have cheated on him, but because he was righteous, he didn’t want to disgrace her. Therefore, he decided to divorce her quietly. Instead, an angel tells Joseph that the child was given of the Holy Spirit, and to take it as his own. Joseph does so, and proves in this action that it is true: he was a righteous man.
To get into the more specific parts of the passage, we can begin with verse 18. The word “genesis” is used for Jesus’ birth. While it can mean birth, the more common word to choose would have been “gennasis”. Why would Matthew choose this word instead of that one? The whole point of Matthew’s Gospel revolves around kingdom. He just finished the genealogy, laying out how Jesus is connected to David and Abraham. David represents the messianic King that was promised. Abraham was called out of all nations to be established as God’s nation. In both of these men, there was a “genesis” that took place. There was a beginning of God’s Kingdom through Abraham, and a beginning of God’s theocratic rule through David. It isn’t as though these things were absent before Abraham and David, but that through them it was manifest incarnate.
And here we have the point. Jesus is God incarnate, bringing forth the flesh and blood Kingdom of God with Him, ruling that Kingdom as the son of David. The reason this is “genesis” instead of “gennasis” is because Matthew is perceiving something new transacting here. It is more than a birth. It is more than even the promised messiah, as many Jews would have been hoping and expecting. Matthew deliberately quotes the Old Testament verses that he does, at the times that he does. So, when we read later from Isaiah (Mat 1:23), “Behold, the virgin shall be with child”, we can be assured that it is here for a reason. And, again, in Mat 2:6, when Micah 5:2 is quoted, we can know that this also revolves around the point.
Isaiah 7:14 has a context. When you go back to the passage, you find that the king of Syria and the king of Israel (northern country) came against Judah (southern country) in attack. God speaks to Isaiah, and tells him to prophesy to the king. God begins to say that this plot will be fruitless. God then asks the king what he desires as a sign for evidence that this will take place, but the king says, “I shall not test the LORD”. This is pious, but a false righteousness at best. God then speaks to the king what sign He will give, saying that there will be a child born unto a bethoolah (young woman), and his name shall be Emmanuel.
When you continue the passage, it goes on for another few chapters. In chapter 8, Isaiah has a son, which some have considered that this is the “sign” unto Ahaz. God speaks about how the armies will not invade, only to then talk about how Rezin (king of Syria) will invade, and will “fill the breadth of your land, O Emmanuel”. We then come to chapter 9 when Isaiah beings to prophesy of this kingdom that will be established, and how there will be “a child born to us”, obviously continuing the Emmanuel prophecy, but showing that it couldn’t be Isaiah’s son.
Within this whole passage, when we’re dealing specifically with Isaiah 7:14 as quoted by Matthew, the whole point is that this child is a sign that pertains to end time significance. There is something happening here. Matthew is hinting at the establishment of a kingdom, which is altogether the same as what God established through Abraham and David, and yet at the same time altogether different. The two manifestations through Abraham and David are only reflections – unable to compare with the reality. What Abraham signifies, and all of the glory that we can express through this great call to be a nation that will bless all nations falls flat on its face when the reality comes forth in this male child. All of what David signifies, and the beautiful rule by which David is known, to rule in righteousness, justice, and equity, which all of our hearts pant and yearn for, is anemic in comparison to what Jesus represents.
This is a hard thing. If the first came with glory, then how much more glorious must this be? Does it cause for you to rejoice? Does it bring a tear to your eye?
The significance of Isaiah 7:14, and the significance of Matthew 1:18 stems from Genesis 3:15. The seed of the woman is at enmity with the seed of the serpent, and yet it isn’t said that this “seed” shall crush that “seed”. No, the woman’s seed shall crush the head of the serpent itself. The serpent’s seed shall be destroyed along with the serpent itself. This is altogether important, because it says that Joseph did not daigmatisai Mary. Daigmatisai is used only one other time in the New Testament. We find it in Colossians 2:15, that Jesus made of the principalities and powers a “public spectacle”, or a “public disgrace”, or a “public shame”. What Joseph did not do unto Mary, Jesus does unto “the principalities and powers” – those demonic unseen forces that usurp and rule the peoples, societies, and nations.
I also find it interesting that the word “onar” (dream) occurs five times in these first couple chapters of Matthew, but never again until Matthew 27:19 when Pilate’s wife sends council to her husband to have nothing to do with Jesus. I’m not sure what to do with that, but it seems there is some sort of significance, both in the amount of times Matthew uses the word, who it is that has these dreams (Joseph and Pilate’s wife), and that it occurs nowhere else in the New Testament…
The name Jesus even signifies this. Jesus is the English transliteration of the Latin transliteration of the Greek transliteration of the Hebrew Yehoshua or Yeshua. Confused? Let’s break it down… We read in our English Bibles “Joshua”. The actual name from the Hebrew was “Yehoshua” or “Yoshua/Yeshua” (I’ve heard some claim either of these). When you transliterate, you take the letters and their sounds, and you just use the English letter equivalent. So, they used the yod to begin with, and the Latin equivalent was J. When you go from the Latin into English, the J no longer has the Y sound. In our text, Iesous was the Greek form of Yeshua, which in Latin is Jesus (pronounced Yesus).
Back to the point, the name of Jesus is the name of God. Matthew tells us what Jesus means – Jehovah is salvation – “for He will save His people from their sins.” For this reason, Matthew quotes Isaiah 7:14, and tells us that Emmanuel means “God with us”. Do you get it? Matthew is telling us that this man is named Jesus, which means “Jehovah is salvation”, because He (Jesus/Jehovah) shall save us from our sins. Jesus and God/Jehovah are being paralleled here. Matthew is claiming that Jesus is God with us, Yahweh.
It is with this statement, concluding that Joseph woke up and did as the angel told him, that we conclude our first chapter of Matthew. Next we will begin with the scene at Herod’s palace. What is interesting is that when we compare the sweep of Isaiah 7-9 with Micah 5:1-3, we find that Matthew is putting pieces together for us. As I showed, we have Rezin, the King of Syria, being prophesied that he shall not enter Israel. Then, Isaiah talks about he will enter Israel. Did God change His mind? No, there is a separate event at the end of the age, where this “king of Syria” – a pattern of the Antichrist – will come in and devastate Israel. There is a mention of this “child” Emmanuel in chapter 7, and then after his birth in chapter 8 there is prophecy of an invasion. Then, in chapter 9, there is the “child born to us” who has the government of God upon his shoulders. In Micah 5:2-3, we have the messiah born, and then part of Israel being cast off temporarily, until “she who has travailed gives birth”, and then all of Israel’s brothers will come back to knowing God, being a part of Israel again, and being under their messiah and shepherd. Do you see how these are parallel statements being said, but yet hidden within the references of Matthew? It’s interesting to say the least….