Mutmaßungen zum historischen Hintergrund von Jes 7,14

Isa 7:14 is one of the most enigmatic texts of the Old Testament in which the traditional Christian exegesis has found the roots of the dogma of the virgin birth. It remains a question though whether this text indeed focuses on the female figure rathern than the son to be born. Following a brief survey of the recent state of research, in this article I address the question of the possible historical background of the text. Recent semantical investigations of the term עַלְמָה, often translated as ‘virgin’, show that neither עַלְמָה nor its synonym בְּתוּלָה imply any information about the eventual sexual experience of the named person. Both terms denote a young, unmarried woman. Regarding the identity of this woman there are four main theories: 1. the woman and his son are late eschatological figures conveying messianic messages; 2. the woman is the daughter of Zion and Immanuel is the people of Jerusalem. 3. the medieval Jewish exegesis identifies the woman with the wife of Isaiah and Immanuel would be another son of the prophet beside Shear-Jashub and Maher-shalal-hash-baz. 4. עַלְמָה is the wife of Ahaz and Immanuel is the king’s son. In the light of the preceding verses, a dialog between the prophet and the king, verse 14 appears to continue this dialog and, in this manner, it can be interpreted as a message for Ahaz about the future fate of his family. But why whould Isaiah interfere in the private life of Ahaz? An answer may come from 2 Chron 28:7, which states that during the Syro-Efraimite war, hence in the time of the narrative of Isa 7, Maaseiah, a בֶּן־הַמֶּלֶךְ was assassinated. For the correlation of the two events it is crucial to clarify the meaning of בֶּן־הַמֶּלֶךְ. Some assume this expression means ‘crown prince’, others presume that he was only a high-rank ‘officer’ at the palace. However, biblical and extra-biblical shreds of evidence point to the fact that the idiom can very likely used in both senses. But even in the latter case, בֶּן־הַמֶּלֶךְ may denote a member of the dynasty who was commissioned with administrative / political duties. If our interpretation is correct, 2 Chron 28:7 attests to a murder in the house of Ahaz. In the light of these findings it may seem plausible that the promise of the new son in Isa 7:14 was rooted in the actual crisis of the king’s family, who had lost a precious member, a son – or eventually a relative – of Ahaz.