Before we begin the narrative of our Lord’s birth and the surrounding events, we need to establish a context for His arrival into the human race. First, we will do this by looking at a number of prophecies of His birth, because His entire life, including His birth, was the subject of prophecy from the very beginnings of human history. Secondly, we will establish that He pre-existed His humanity as the Second Person of the Trinity. Third, we will look at His human genealogy. In this study of His genealogy, we’ll establish its importance. Before we study the narrative of His birth, we’ll also look at the prophecies which immediately preceded His birth, the annunciations to Zacharias, Mary and Joseph.
God saw to it that our Lord and His then future work on the Cross be revealed to the human race many centuries before He actually was born into this world. Theologically, this verse is called the Proto-Evangelium, the first presentation of the gospel of Jesus Christ. It came from the mouth of the Lord Himself to Satan through the serpent, but obviously intended for Adam and Eve’s ears as well. They heard this message just before they received their punishments. He gave them the Gospel so that they would have the opportunity to believe in Him and live as believers, guaranteed eternal life before they left the Garden. Our Lord gave this promise of salvation to Adam and Eve after He had judged the serpent, yet before their judgment. God preceded their judgment with the promise of redemption.
The immediate context of the verse deals with judgment after the first sin. It is a break in the judgments God meted out to the serpent, and to Adam and Eve. In this verse, we transition from the judgment of the serpent to an address to Satan, who is personified as the serpent. How do we know the address is actually to Satan? In Revelation 12:9 Satan is called “the serpent of old…”
And the great dragon was thrown down, the serpent of old who is called the devil and Satan, who deceives the whole world; he was thrown down to the earth, and his angels were thrown down with him. Revelation 12:9
And he laid hold of the dragon, the serpent of old, who is the devil and Satan, and bound him for a thousand years; Revelation 20:2
Often readers of this first Gospel presentation to Adam and his wife don’t see this as a Gospel message, so we need to get a better understanding of what it teaches. Note that in the immediate context of this passage, God presented His grace solution for their spiritual death before He judged them. God’s grace always precedes judgment. He always offers grace before He curses or punishes. He announced salvation by grace in this verse, before His judgment of Adam and the woman as taught in Genesis 3:16-19. There is no offer of salvation for Satan, since he was already judged and sentenced at his own trail before the Lord created the human race. Salvation for the serpent; of all nature, I’m assuming for the animal kingdom, the serpent as well, is at the Millennium.
The first issue in this promise of salvation, presented in the first sentence of this verse, is the separation of and antagonism between the serpent’s seed, which is also Satan’s seed, those under spiritual death, and the woman’s seed, Jesus Christ. Up to this time, the war between Satan and God had not included the human race. Now, because Satan introduced sin into the human race, the angelic conflict took on another dimension, the human race. God did not state this as a divine decree, announcing this enmity as a divine command, but defining a new line of demarcation or front line as it were in this age old war.
The reference to the woman’s “seed” is a prophecy concerning the virgin pregnancy and virgin birth of Jesus Christ. A descendant of the woman, not man and woman would defeat Satan. So this refers to the entrance of the God-Man into the human history. Our Lord is called the woman’s seed because He came into the world directly through the woman, without a human father involved. The Seed of the Woman is the first title of Christ. He was born from the Virgin Mary who was made pregnant because the Holy Spirit supplied the necessary chromosomes. The woman’s ovum, at time of fertilization is without corruption from the old sin nature; hence the importance of the virgin pregnancy. Our Lord had to be born perfect, without contamination from the old sin nature in order to fulfill His ministry of substitutionary spiritual death. This is also a prophecy about the new Tree of Life, the cross of Christ, in contrast to the one in the Garden from which they were soon to be expelled.
Why is there this hostility between Satan’s seed, human beings who are always born spiritually dead and the Seed of the Woman? When Satan appealed God’s sentence, which he’d be thrown into the Lake of Fire for his sin of arrogance, the battle line was drawn. All those born imperfect are immediately hostile to and in opposition to God’s perfect righteousness. Through this verse, God also set the barriers for hostility in the next phase of the angelic conflict. Until Satan is finally subjected to his sentence, this hostility will always exist in this devil’s world. Satan has actually has two seeds: all fallen angels, and unsaved members of the human race. Many unsaved perpetuate their spiritual death till the point of physical death, from which there is no salvation. The Seed of the Woman will redeem the Satan’s seed; the human race, born spiritually dead. When anyone believes in Christ he becomes the seed of Christ.
In the next line of this verse we are presented with the mechanics of salvation; faith in the then future work of Christ on the cross, bearing the sins of the world. Though faith is not mentioned, the faith mechanic is believing the message presented. We all make decisions daily, whether or not to believe a message. I reject most advertising messages I hear, but I believe some then act upon that belief. I've been burned a few times, of course. But the point is this. If you believe something you are told, you assimilate it into your thinking as true, then, on some level you act upon it. As we've noted in other lessons, once you believe what the Holy Spirit communicates to you, through someone, then He makes it effective. You don't even have to act upon it, He does all of the work! As we'll note later in this study, Adam and his wife did believe what they were told. As a result, they gained eternal life before they left the Garden.
I’ll read the next line then expand it with some explanations.
He shall crush you on the head and you shall strike Him on the heel.
As we mentioned before, “He” is the Seed of the Woman, Jesus Christ. Every woman is born with cells which are uncontaminated by spiritual death. These are her ovum. These cells only become contaminated when fertilized by the male sperm, resulting in spiritually dead offspring. Since God the Holy Spirit supplied the necessary chromosomes, our Lord was born without that contamination that afflicts every other human being.
The next two important words, “crush” and “strike” are translations from the same Hebrew word, SHUPH שׁוּף in the same form. The only exception in the form of the verbs deals with the built in subjects, “he” and “you.” Why then, do we translate the same word in two different ways. The answer lies in the principle that the context and use of a word determines its meaning. The grammarian Gesenius communicated this in so many words. We can understand from the context of each use, that the given translations are appropriate and accurate. The first use, translated, “crush,” SHUPH שׁוּף, in the 3rd person masculine singular, qal imperfect designates our Lord’s victory in the angelic conflict. The creature our Lord will crush is Satan. Our Lord, when His victory is complete, will have defeated Satan twice. He dealt him the first defeat at the First Advent when He bore the imputation and judgment for the sins of the world. Satan’s second and final defeat occurs both at the beginning and ending of the Millennium. At our Lord’s return, He will imprison him for 1000 years, and then at the end, He will throw him into the Lake of Fire. So, the crushing of the serpent’s head is the declaration of our Lord’s victory over Satan in His two advents.
The second use of SHUPH שׁוּף, the 2nd person masculine, qal imperfect, translated “strike,” has Satan as the subject. His striking our Lord’s heel refers both to the fact that he introduced the venom of sin into the world, of which He bore both the imputation and punishment, ultimately withdrawing that venom. It also refers to the physical abuse our Lord bore prior to and on the cross. Our Lord necessarily suffered substitutionary spiritual death for us, paying for the sins of the world. Satan introduced the concept of sin into the human race; our Lord was stricken with sin. Human volition took Satan's introduction of it and ran with it, thanks to spiritual death that resulted from the original sin. So, by sin, our Lord was struck, as if from that serpent of old. Note that crushing a serpent’s head is always fatal, whereas, a strike on the heel, even a venomous strike, is not necessarily fatal. Our Lord was injured, but not fatally on the heel.
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.
Chronologically, this is Isaiah’s first Messianic prophecy. The first word in the sign the Lord gave is “Behold!” This the Hebrew verb, HENNEH הנה, meaning “look!” calls special attention to what is about to be presented. To really appreciate this word, we need to look at the context of this verse. Why was Isaiah, in an almost exasperated way, saying, “Look!” He was forcefully addressing, probably not merely speaking to, Ahaz, the King of Judah, who was facing an invasion by an alliance between the ten Northern Tribes, known as Ephriam, and Syria. They’d wanted him to ally himself with them against Assyria. However, Ahaz was already secretly allied with Assyria. Isaiah had already instructed him to follow the Lord’s guidance and provision for safety, not to depend upon treaties with other nations. Isaiah was encouraging Ahaz to ask for a sign that would confirm the validity of Isaiah’s instructions and prophecies. Ahaz refused, so, Isaiah forced the sign upon him.
I had always visualized Isaiah addressing Ahaz in a fairly formal setting when he gave this sign to him, perhaps a formal address in the throne room. However, Ahaz was in the city waterworks, trying to fix a local plumbing problem related to a clogged water supply into Jerusalem. Water is an important issue when two armies are camped at your doorstep! King Ahaz called Isaiah to meet him in that part of the city.
The next word, translated “virgin,” is the Hebrew word, ALMAH עַלְמָה. As always, the context of the word determines its meaning. If the word in this case referred to a young woman of marriageable age, who’d been recently married, which is a possible meaning of that word, would that have been a sign for Ahaz? The context is clear. This young woman is indeed a virgin, as we understand its meaning. Only God can miraculously bring about a pregnancy in a young woman who isn’t sexually active.
Pregnant, the Hebrew HAREH הָרֶה, means exactly that. A virgin pregnancy is a miracle. That goes without saying. Remember that this is far removed from these days of medical interventions! We’ll talk about the mechanics involved in this when we study the angel’s announcement to Mary of her impending pregnancy. He said that the Holy Spirit would, “overshadow her…”
The next phrase: “who will call His name,” or “identify His personage as” is the Hebrew word, QARA קָרָא. “Immanuel” עִמָּנוּאֵל means “God with us,” referring to, again, unmistakably to the humanity of our Lord Jesus Christ. This prophecy teaches that He is truly a member of the human race. This name in the Hebrew, one Name when transliterated into the English, teaches that Jesus Christ was to be totally unique, the unique God-Man of the universe. There was to be, there never will be anyone like Him. There is no salvation apart from the unique person of Jesus Christ. To quote Bob Thieme: “Christ is different from God in that He is Man, He is different from all members of the human race in that He is God and also perfect Man. Christ is unique.”
The verse, then reads as:
“Look, a virgin will be pregnant and bear a Son, and who will call His name ‘God With Us.”
Now, notice that this is the Gospel message! If Ahaz and all Judah had understood this message and believed it, then they would be believers, partially fulfilling God’s plan for them. Had Ahaz believed this message, then would have become a believer, able to fully comprehend and apply all of Isaiah’s message to him and all Judah. Because Judah was about to be destroyed, undergoing national discipline, we know that most of Israel was in a state of unbelief or if belief, reversionism. To continue with our context, Ahaz rejected this sign, the offer of salvation, so he’d be given another one, his own death warrant! But that is not germane to today’s study.
Let’s take a quick break from this prophecy to understand why our Lord had to be true and completely human. Why did Jesus Christ who is eternal God have to become true humanity? We’ll look at four reasons:
1. He had to be true humanity to be our Savior. The Savior has to be a perfect man who will be the substitute for sinful man.
Therefore, since the children share in flesh and blood, He Himself likewise also partook of the same, that through death He might render powerless him who had the power of death, that is, the devil, Hebrews 2:14
2. Jesus Christ had to be true humanity to be our mediator. A mediator must be equal with both parties in the mediation. Jesus Christ is undiminished Deity and completely human. He is truly God and He is truly man!
For there is one God, and one mediator also between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, 1 Timothy 2:5
3. Christ had to be true humanity in order to be our High Priest forever after the order of Melchizedek. A priest is a man who represents man before God.
The Lord has sworn And will not change His mind, ‘You are a priest forever’ Hebrews 7:21
4. For our Lord to fulfill the Davidic covenant, as stated in 2 Samuel 7:8-16, He had to be completely human. The Davidic covenant says that David will have a Son who will reign forever. The Lord Jesus Christ in His humanity is the Son of David. He had to be a literal Son of David in order to fulfill the Davidic Covenant.
Yet the Lord was not willing to destroy the house of David because of the covenant which He had made with David, and since He had promised to give a lamp to him and his sons forever. 2 Chronicles 21:7
Isaiah continued his message. In the intervening chapters, between Isaiah 7:9 and this passage, his message built off of his sons’ names. The message contains both encouragement and warnings of future judgments. With this prophecy, he introduced a third Son, our Lord.
“For a child will be born to us, a son will be given to us; and the government will rest on His shoulders; And His name will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Eternal Father, Prince of Peace."
Though they would be in darkness, being invaded and destroyed by the Assyrian army, they would have the opportunity to believe in the Lord, build upon their salvation to experience a much greater joy than the victorious Assyrians. Their joy would be eternal in nature. In this verse, Isaiah reveals more about the Child he prophesied concerning in the verse we just looked at. The first line echoes 7:9 and builds upon it.
This Child, “God with Us,” is to be both born to us and given to us. Being born indicates His true humanity, how He was to come into the world. Being given to us indicates His deity. So in this phrase, Isaiah presents the fact of His being in Hypostatic Union, perfect humanity and undiminished Deity in one person. “The government shall be upon his shoulder” is a prophecy about His Millennial rule. He is going to rule the world for 1000 years of perfect environment.
“His name shall be called, Wonderful-counselor [the two words go together, one in apposition to the other].” What did this mean to Ahaz? What does it mean to us today? Remember Isaiah was addressing Ahaz, really rubbing his nose into the ground because he was going to a demon possessed wizard. That wizard was Ahaz’ counselor! That’s why he bribed the King of Assyria to get him out of his pickle instead of following Isaiah’s leadership. Ahaz rejected the counsel of the Wonderful Counselor, the One, Jesus Christ. Ahaz rejected the wisdom of the Wonderful Counselor and took the whole country down with him. God’s grace still reigned in spite of Ahaz’s wrong decision. The country which was in darkness, received the light of Jesus Christ. The principle: Out of cursing comes blessing.
“Mighty God” refers to Jesus Christ, the all-powerful God who is to have the governments of the world on His shoulder, and is to rule and go to the cross.
The words, “Eternal Father” are a bit misleading. Jesus Christ is not the God the Father as you may think those words state. The Hebrew reads, “Father of Eternity.” He is Father, in the sense that He is the Author of eternal life for us. Jesus Christ is the One who has provided eternal life; He is the author of eternal life, He is the origin of our eternal life.
“The Prince of Peace” means that he is the Prince of Reconciliation. Through His work He opened the door to our reconciliation with the Father. So, He is our peace.
...and through Him to reconcile all things to Himself, having made peace through the blood of His cross; through Him, I say, whether things on earth or things in heaven. Colossians 1:20
But as for you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, too little to be among the clans of Judah, from you One will go forth for Me to be ruler in Israel. His goings forth are from long ago, from the days of eternity.
Micah, ministering at about the same time Isaiah did, gave this prophecy to Israel to let them know that despite their destruction, God’s plan would march on. His message was much like Isaiah’s. Though the people to whom Micah refers to here are about to suffer disciplinary destruction at the hands of the Assyrians, the Messiah would come from the remnant that survives.
First, why did Micah call this Bethlehem Ephrathah instead of just Bethlehem, Judah? Though one reason was to differentiate it from the other Bethlehem in Zebulun, for reasons of geographic differentiation, Micah, inspired by the Holy Spirit, had another reason for identifying the city as Ephrathah. Ephrathah was identified as this city in Gen 35:16-19:
Then they journeyed from Bethel; and when there was still some distance to go to Ephrath, Rachel began to give birth and she suffered severe labor. When she was in severe labor the midwife said to her, “Do not fear, for now you have another son.” It came about as her soul was departing (for she died), that she named him Ben-oni; but his father called him Benjamin. So Rachel died and was buried on the way to Ephrath (that is, Bethlehem). Genesis 35:16-19
That this very significant event occurred on the way to Bethlehem is very important. While this passage describes Benjamin’s birth, Micah’s use of it further emphasizes that another birth is to occur in this city. This new birth will be characterized by that name, Ephrathah, coming from the verb meaning, “to be fruitful.” Its fruitfulness wasn’t to be limited to this one town but was to spread to the entire world in the Person of the Messiah! That Micah used the masculine gender instead of the usual feminine gender to identify the city again indicates the fulfillment of its fruitfulness, again, in the Person of the Messiah.
Bethlehem Ephrathah was a little, insignificant village, so small that it was left off the roster of cities in Judah! Yet from her would come the Son of God who would ultimately deliver Israel from her enemies, eternally. He is one who exists eternally.
“One who will go forth from Me” refers to God, not the prophet referring to himself. Everyone in Israel understood that it was God who always provided rulers for them, from Moses on. The word, אֲנִי ny, translated, “me.” is a personal pronoun, usually used for emphasis. The next phrase, “to be ruler in Israel,” refers to our Lord’s Millennial rule. What a contrast this presents: from the lowliest, insignificant village will come One sent by God Himself. Israel’s first king, David, Israel’s greatest king also came from humble origins.
Two parallel Hebrew phrases in this verse are also important: “from ancient times or long ago,” from the Hebrew, קֶדֶם qě∙ḏěm and “days of eternity,” from the Hebrew עֹולָםʿô∙lām. While the first term, long ago, alone could refer to the earliest days of Israel, when combined with the term, eternity, it can only refer to existence prior to the existence of the human race, prior to God’s invention of time. There is no stronger way to state this in the Hebrew. God’s sending the Messiah had been planned from eternity, so He existed before his human birth in Bethlehem.
This is, by no means, all of the prophecies concerning our Lord. In addition to these three, we will look at two prophecies which were given just prior to His birth, the two angel visitations to both Mary and Joseph.