What’s in a Name?

Image by Gordon Johnson from Pixabay

Fourth Sunday of Advent


Isaiah 7:10-16

Romans 1:1-7

Matthew 1:18-25

Psalm 80:1-7, 16-18

Today’s passage in Matthew leans on the passage in Isaiah and is a favorite of Christians this time of year.

A few things to note about the Isaiah version of 7:14. Because you will not ask, the Lord himself will give you a Sign. See, a maiden shall conceive and give birth to a son, and shall call him Immanuel, which means, God is with usPhillips The underlined word is generally translated virgin, but the Hebrew word is almah, meaning a female who has reached puberty. Virginity is not a part of almah, though it is generally assumed. The Greek Septuagint (LXX), the translation commonly used in Jesus’ day, did translate almah as parthenos, meaning virgin.

We know the writers of the New Testament quoted the LXX rather than trying to make their own translation from Hebrew to Greek, so Matthew’s verse is proper. ‘Behold, a virgin shall be with child, and bear a son, and they shall call his name Immanuel’Phillips

Some will point out that the Isaiah prophecy came true months later when a child was born within the royal family, though not of Ahaz. That should not shock us. Nearly every prophecy has come true more than once. God speaks to a situation, but also to future times.

Others will point to the dozens of other cultures that cherish their own virgin birth stories. Even Caesar Augustus was declared to have been born of a virgin—well after he died. There is a big difference with the others, the prophecy of Immanuel came some seven centuries before the event.

Matthew’s account of the birth of the promised one begins with the genealogy we all skip through, but it is important. Yeshua was promised in Genesis 22:18 to be a descendant of Abraham; in Numbers 24:17 to be from Jacob; in Genesis 49:1 to be from Judah; in Isaiah 11:1 to be from Jesse; 2 Samuel 7:13 to be from David; and Haggai 2:22-23 to be from Zerubbabel. All six promises are recorded in the first 12 verses of the Gospel.

Next, the Gospel turns to the matter of the parents of Yeshua. Verses 18-25 give us the Cliff Notes version of how Yeshua came to have the parents everyone in his day knew he grew up with. This Gospel was written at least 30 years after the Resurrection, so there had been plenty of time for the gossip to make the rounds that Yeshua was a bastard child. We are as certain as we can be that Joseph died between Yeshua’s 12th year and 30th (ish) year. The account of Joseph’s dream came from Mary, most likely, but it could have been from other family or friends. Imagine how Joseph might have tried to explain his pregnant intended wife. (During the period we would call the engagement, men and women living in the same house for one year, in separate rooms generally in his parent’s house, before the marriage was physically consummated. Gives new meaning to the phrase, living together.)

Joseph had an easier time than a man would have today because many people in the First Century accepted that God could do all the things Matthew described. Still, it would have been a tough sell. I see him holding his head high and ignoring the slings and arrows.

One very important point is that God directed Joseph to name his first son Yeshua. It means God is our Savior. Here is a brief lesson on the name. https://www.google.com/search?q=yeshua&oq=Yeshua&aqs=chrome.0.0l8.3117j1j7&sourceid=chrome&ie=UTF-8#kpvalbx=_rF_sXaYWjNy1BfmNqZAB102

Why did God have Joseph name the child? While Yeshua did not come from the seed of Joseph, Joseph was to act the role of father and fathers then always named their boys and often their girls as well. God gave Joseph some cover for the illegitimate charges. Joseph also acted quickly to take Mary to his own house to add protection for her.

The angel did tell Joseph that the father was the Holy Spirit of God. He also told Joseph that Yeshua’s birth would fulfill Isaiah’s prophecy.

Why was he not named Immanuel? That name means God with us. Yeshua was to be our Savoir, hence the difference. Actually, Yeshua has dozens of names in the Bible. I think it is also important that Yeshua was a very common name at the time. If he had been the only child to grow up with an unusual name, there would have been all kinds of speculations about him. As it was, people saw him as one of them.

He called himself the Son of Man because he was one of us. He carried our DNA. His mother nursed him, cleaned up his messes and taught him to count to ten. He was only abnormal in how quickly he learned his lessons about God.


Read my earlier comments on this theme here and here.


Be righteous and do good.

Mike Lawrence

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s