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Isaiah 7:14b reads:

הִנֵּ֣ה הָעַלְמָ֗ה הָרָה֙ וְיֹלֶ֣דֶת בֵּ֔ן וְקָרָ֥את שְׁמֹ֖ו עִמָּ֥נוּ אֵֽל׃

This is often translated similarly to the ESV:

Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel.

In this translation, the subject of "call" appears to be hāʿalmâ (ESV, "the virgin”), which would normally reflect a 3rd person feminine singular inflection of the Hebrew verb. However, the finite verb וְקָרָ֥את (wəqārāt̲, and she will call | and you (fem) will call) appears to be a 2nd person feminine singular. The English translation is also not adequately explained by the LXX which uses a second person singular verb, καλέσεις.

The NET is the only major translation I see that uses a second person verb, "You, young woman, will name him…" Their notes explain:

The verb is normally taken as an archaic third feminine singular form here, and translated, “she will call.” However the form (קָרָאת, qara’t) is more naturally understood as second feminine singular, in which case the words would be addressed to the young woman mentioned just before this.

They go on to illustrate how every other instance of קָרָא (qārāʾ, “to call”) uses the normal inflections for the second and third person feminine singular verbs. (There are two instances of the unusual קָרָאת (qārāt̲) as a third feminine singular, but these are actually a different, homonymous verb.) The NET translation identifies the second person referent by using a demonstrative "this young woman" for hāʿalmâ earlier in the verse.

This makes a lot of sense to me because it’s a verb form I recognize. However, it’s not the decision made by most translators. It seems like there must be some compelling reason that other translations have decided otherwise. What is the reason?

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    With this question, I believe Isaiah 7:14 is now tied with Genesis 1:1 for the most-asked-about verse on BH.SE (five questions). John 1:1 is maintaining a close second. Somebody correct me if I’ve missed one! – Susan Mar 20 '15 at 6:02
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    The KJV margin contains the following : Or - Thou, O virgin, shalt call his name Immanuel. But the main text of the KJV omits it. – Nigel J Oct 6 '17 at 8:50
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The remaining translations may have understood this verse as Radak did, that this wording is not simply a prophecy, but rather a commandment. For this reason, the word "וקראת" was used rather than "ותקרא", but when translated, the translators felt this was unnecessary for the translation, as it was not inserted for for grammatical usage.:

וקראת – על אמו הוא אומר והיה מנהגם כי האמות היו קוראות שם לבניהן, ואמר וקראת דרך צווי כי הנביא היה מצוה שתקרא שמו כן, כי מיום שיולד יהיה לכם שלום ויהיה האל עמכם לכך תקרא שמו עמנואל, ומהו האות.

I would also note that Ibn Ezra finds a grammatical parallel to Exodus 5:16.

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Susan's arguments, above . . .

Plus the fact that the KJV places an explanatory alternative reading in the margin,

Or - Thou, O virgin, shalt call his name Immanuel

Plus the fact that the words of Gabriel, in the reality of the fulfilment of the prophesied event

και καλεσεις το ονομα αυτου [TR] and thou shalt call his name [KJV]

exactly mirror the words of Isaiah, all give considerable weight to considering what has been outlined as the preferred wording and meaning in this place.

But it is beyond my own ability to suggest any reason why it has not been adopted by the majority. It troubles me a little that Robert Young does not adopt it in his literal bible of 1862 as I know from experience that he has no qualms in departing from tradition if he thinks it appropriate.

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According to James Ralston Skinner: "the 7th day was the kodeshed day, the pure virgin day or circle..."1

If the text is using the term 'Virgin' as a metaphor for a 'day' or a 'circle' then this may possibly disturb the forms? I mention it because I checked the numerical epigraphy of the text with Paleo-hebrew gematria* and הָעַלְמָ֗ה הָרָה֙ = 360 (degrees).

Much strangeness in the Tanakh can be traced to the fact that some words and verses aren't actually meant to be read, but counted. I hope this is of some use to you.

*Please see my profile.


1“Key to the Hebrew-Egyptian Mystery in The Source of Measures originating the British Inch and the ‎Ancient Cubit by which was built the Great Pyramid of Egypt and the Temple of Solomon; and through ‎the possession and use of which, Man, assuming to realize the creative Law of the Deity, set it forth in ‎a mystery, among the Hebrews called Kabbala”, by J. Ralston Skinner (1875), page 270.

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    This seems like a very compelling reason for this translation - especially in the Septuagint, however there's one thing missing for me to make that leap: Where in the text is it mentioned that it is the 7th (kodeshed ) day? Would you mind editing your answer to add that? – James Shewey Aug 23 '17 at 16:03
  • That's done, James. – Bethsheba Ashe Sep 23 '17 at 18:21
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    Thanks, but citing a source still doesn't explain what the " kodeshed day" or establish that the "pure virgin day or circle" arises from the Biblical texts. In fact, it makes it a little less clear - based on the source you cited it makes me wonder if this is coming from Kabbala... – James Shewey Sep 24 '17 at 0:57
  • I believe he's using the term to mean קָדוֹשׁ qadosh: sacred, holy, so the qadosh day would be the holy day or Sabbath. I suppose the Seven day week can be imagined as a circle? I'll work with the text a little more this week and do some more research, James. There is also the word qodesh: apartness, sacredness: biblehub.com/hebrew/6944.htm – Bethsheba Ashe Sep 24 '17 at 5:31
  • Exodus 16:23 gives us "שַׁבַּת קֹ֛דֶשׁ"; the holy Sabbath or "Qodesh Sabbat". – Bethsheba Ashe Sep 24 '17 at 5:40
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The reason most translators don't make that distinction is that it's pretty irrelevant. There's no difference in message if the virgin calls her son's name Immanuel, or if the court calls him that, or if Ahab calls him that. That's going to be the kid's name.

I want you to imagine the scene at Ahab's court. When Isaiah starts talking to Ahab, the court is silent to listen to the conversation. Isaiah tells Ahab to ask for a sign, Ahab refuses, so Isaiah says "God now gives you a sign." The court is gathered around, listening to the conversation, and while they maintain some respectful space, Isaiah is standing fairly close to the young lady in question.

Isaiah gestures to the young lady to show what virgin he is talking about, and addresses Isaiah. "Look! a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son." Isaiah then turns to the virgin and says "And (you) shall call his name Immanuel." He then turns back to Ahab to finish the conversation.

Was Isaiah predicting what name the mother would choose? Was he ordering her to name the baby Immanuel? None of that is material to the narrative: what's material is that Isaiah was giving Ahab a definite time limit before the nations persecuting Israel would lose their kings and withdraw their armies.

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