What was the sign of Isaiah 7.14?

We have all read the verse in Isa 7.14 that says “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.” We know that Miriam, the mother of Yeshua, was a virgin and that was what she told Joseph after the Gabriel (Luke 1.26-38) appeared to her and said that she was with child (Matt 1.18-25). Joseph, who didn’t believe her at first, wanted to divorce her privately but an angel appeared to him in a dream and said that he should not be afraid to take Miriam as his wife because she has conceived by the power of God. This happened during the month of Kislev, which was the sixth month of Elisabeth’s pregnancy with John. This was the month of Chanukah (dedication) and so John was born three months later, around Passover. That means Yeshua was born around the time of Sukkot. Now, what we are going for is the “sign” mentioned in Isa 7.14. However, at face value, a young woman having a baby wasn’t a sign, and the sign was that she was going to be a virgin, but how could that be proved conclusively? It is, therefore, significant that Miriam went “with haste” after the announcement by Gabriel to her cousin Elisabeth’s house. Why would she do that? Elisabeth was married to Zachariah, an older man and a respected priest, a tzaddik, a righteous man. Was she told to go to a respected Kohan’s house? We know she stayed there for three months until Passover, when specific ceremonies were conducted. She was beginning to show, too. There is a ceremony in the Torah that can prove that she was a virgin or not. It is called “The Sotah” and it is found in Num 5.11-31 and this portion is read between Sukkot and Chanukah in the synagogues of the first century. Sotah means “one who has strayed” and it was given because a husband may suspect his wife has been unfaithful, and this ceremony is done before the Lord to prove her innocence. The Sotah of Miriam cannot be proven because there are no records from the Temple, but if she did this there would have been a record in the first century. By 70 AD, this ceremony was no longer practiced because there were so many adulterous women in that generation. This ceremony is only associated with the Temple, just like the picking of lots, the cleansing of lepers and so on, but it will return with the coming Temple. The Temple in the first century was a supernatural environment, just like the time in the Wilderness, and there were things that happened there all the time that were miraculous. Now, there were two types of Sotah. First, there is the Sotah where there is no specific evidence, just a suspicion by the jealous husband. The second Sotah is one where there is specific evidence, such as the woman is pregnant. This is what Miriam was and she would have been called the “presumptive Sotah.” The Mishah has a tractate on this called “Sotah” and it says in Sotah 1.1 that the husband had to warn her before two witnesses to stay away from someone. If she didn’t, then this could be initiated. Did Miriam “volunteer” for this ceremony by going to two witnesses who could testify of her chaste behavior? Did she volunteer for the Sotah ceremony by going to their house in order to see she was a virgin? This is no small thing. In the Mishnah, the husband would take his wife to a local Beit Din (court) and two learned men would accompany her on the way to the Temple to prove that the husband does not cohabit with her on the way. Did Zachariah and Elisabeth perform a similar function during her three month stay with them? Once at the High Court in Jerusalem, the priests tried to instill fear within her (Sotah 1.4). They wrote on paper the curse if she was not telling the truth before the Lord, and the Lord’s name was written on it as well. Dust from the Temple is mixed with water and the paper with the curse on it and she is made to drink it. If she dies immediately she is believed guilty, but this could take up to three years. She has the opportunity to say she is guilty. If so, then a certificate of divorce is written and she is divorced. If she says she is pure, they can take her up to the eastern Gate, called the “Gate of the Just.” It was here that the ashes of the Red Heifer were kept and where they purify lepers and women after childbirth. Here, a priest takes hold of her garments and if they tore, they tore. They let down her hair and tried to humiliate her, but this was not done in front of younger priests if she was attractive. All of this was done to get her to confess. If she was wearing white, they dressed her in black. If she had jewelry on, they took it off. They put on an Egyptian dress over her breasts. Anyone could watch these proceedings except for her male and female servants and parents. She was treated according to her sin. If she adorned herself for her lover for the sin, God disgraced her. If she revealed herself to sin, the Lord revealed her sin. She sinned with the thigh first, then the belly, so the thigh is struck first and then the belly. The Mishah is very detailed on what exactly happens during this ceremony and there is much information on it, so if you want more information we refer you to the Mishnah, the tractate Sotah. You can also read about it in the Torah and in Alfred Edersheim’s book “The Temple: its ministries and services, p361-365.” Now, although this can’t be proven, did Miriam volunteer for this ceremony to prove she was a virgin? It would certainly prove her case before God and it would be a powerful “sign” to the priests and the people, not to mention the Sanhedrin. We don’t believe Joseph required it because he was given a dream by God, but she talked with Zachariah and Elisabeth. They knew Messiah was coming and their son was going to go before him as his messenger. Here are the signs: the angel visited Zachariah that Messiah was coming. The Sotah in the Temple, if it happened, also verified Miriam’s pregnancy as being from God, fulfilling Isa 7.14. There was a sign at the circumcision of John when Zachariah’s tongue was loosed and of course all the signs associated with the birth of Yeshua. But Miriam did not need to convince Joseph she was a virgin, he knew she was. You also have to ask this question. When Yeshua said he was the Messiah and they were trying to find fault with him, why didn’t his enemies, the priests, the scribes, the Temple officials contest his m other’s virginity? If they could prove his mother was not a virgin, it would put an end to all his claims to be the Messiah. Maybe they could not contest this sign of Isa 7.14 because there was proof on record in the Temple, the “voluntary Sotah” of his mother in the Temple records? Was this the “sign” mentioned in Isa 7.14 and was the Sotah given in the Torah as way to prove it? Just something to think about.

Posted in Articles, Idioms, Phrases and Concepts, Prophecy/Eschatology, The Tanach, The Temple, Understanding the New Testament

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