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“He Is God; and He Is with Them”: Helaman 8:21–23 and Isaiah’s Immanuel Prophecy as a Thematic Scriptural Concept

Title“He Is God; and He Is with Them”: Helaman 8:21–23 and Isaiah’s Immanuel Prophecy as a Thematic Scriptural Concept
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2023
AuthorsBowen, Matthew L.
JournalBYU Studies
Volume62
Issue1
Pagination135–168
KeywordsIsaiah (Prophet); Jesus Christ, Prophecies about; Jesus Christ—Immanuel; Nephi (Son of Helaman); Prophecies of Isaiah
Abstract

The prophet Isaiah foretold to Ahaz and the house of David: “Therefore the Lord himself shall give you a sign; Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel” (Isa. 7:14). Latter-day Saints often interpret and teach the “Immanuel” prophecy of Isaiah 7:14 as a simple, straightforward messianic prophecy with a single fulfillment in the birth of Jesus Christ. Most pay little attention to the historical circumstances in which Isaiah gave the prophecy—namely, the Syro- Ephraimite crisis prior to the Assyrian invasion in the eighth century BCE. The idea of a more immediate, contemporary fulfillment is sometimes (wrongly) regarded as undermining the veracity of Matthew’s statement of its fulfillment in Jesus.

On the contrary, this earlier fulfillment should be acknowledged and understood by Christians in general and Latter-day Saints in particular rather than swept aside or ignored. Understanding the more immediate eighth-century-BCE fulfillment of the Immanuel prophecy is key to understanding why Matthew used it as part of his portrayal of Jesus’s birth and the idea of “God with us” as a broader theme in his gospel. It is also key to understanding why the Immanuel prophecy remained important to the Nephites, especially after they united with the Mulochites (Mulekites). Together, the historical-critical and messianic readings of the Immanuel theme in Isaiah 7:14; 8:8, 10 help us appreciate the strength of Isaiah’s message in its immediate context and why that prophecy, as a doctrinal source, remained meaningful to later generations of Israelites.

URLhttps://byustudies.byu.edu/article/he-is-god-and-he-is-with-them/