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Was Immanuel (עִמָּנוּאֵל, "God with us") a legitimate name that predated Isaiah's writing it? Was it something that you might actually name your baby boy? Or is it a made-up symbolic name just like Isaiah's Maher-shalal-hash-baz ("Hurry to the spoils!") or Pele-joez-el-gibbor-abi-ad-sar-shalom ("Wonderful in counsel is God the mighty, the Everlasting Father, the Ruler of Peace")? To what extent was Immanuel a popular Hebrew name?

If Immanuel were an obviously symbolic name, that would be relevant for why Jesus of Nazareth was not named Immanuel.

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    What makes something a legitimate name?
    – Alex
    Commented Dec 19, 2021 at 23:30

2 Answers 2

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No wife .. No child!

To foretell the future of the House of Isreal, the prophets were using the metaphoric stories of the birthing of children and their metaphoric names. Let's see an example of that, first in Hosea because it is very clear.

To speak about the future of the House of Isreal, God ordered Hosea to know his woman to give birth to a girl and to name her "Loruhamah" (which means "No mercy"), and God said "as for I will no more have mercy upon the House of Israel, but I will utterly take them away" Hosea 1:6.

So in reality Hosea did not marry or have a girl with the name "No Mercy" .. No girl ever had this name. It is all a symbolic story that uses the name (Loruhamah/No mercy) to indicate the future of the House of Israel.

Immanuel is not an exception.

But unlike the name Loruhamah which indicated near destruction, the baby's name now is Immanuel symbolizing the wonderful near future for the sons of Yaccov. It indicates that God "will be with his people, the Jews", and they will conquer their enemies, God is with us, therefore, there is no reason for Ahaz to fear his enemies because he heard this promise of God.

The whole point then is "God will be with Zion" or as Isaiah metaphorically pictured it: the virgin (he means Zion) will have a son (he means a future), and his name will be Immanuel (he means that future will be wonderful and victorious, the future is "God is with us"). So Ahaz do not worry.

Later, the New Testament writers were able to discern some of these Old Testament metaphoric pictures and to see how they are indicating and referring to specific real events that actually took place later in Jesus' life. They could see how an actual virgin will literally bear a son and he will actually represent the presence of God with us. They believed that the Old Testament acted as a shadow of the New Testament. By that, the metaphorical pictures turn to be literal events.

Whether Immanuel was an actual name used by Jews or a name invented by Isaiah, it was used by the New Testament writer to be applied to Jesus, not to be his actual name but to indicate a state that God is with us and to be a fulfillment of a prophecy.

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  • The Hebrew names are really interesting once you look into them and their meaning. The majority operate like this. Its quite funny as many western names come from Hebrew but most people aren't aware of the real meaning. I had a converstation with a friend the other day who commented about a old professional basketballer who had a quote "crazy" name. His first name is: God'sGift his last name is Achiuwa. I responded that "Gods gift" is literally the most common English name. Then explained both Johnathan and Nathaniel mean "Gift of God" in Hebrew.
    – Marshall
    Commented Dec 23, 2021 at 15:26
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The distinction between a "name" and a "title" is highly blurred in the Bible, assuming such a distinction can be made at all. For example, are the following names or titles of God: Elyon (God Most High), El-Shaddai (God Almighty), Adonai (Lord), "I Am", etc?

The same is true of Immanuel which means (Matt 1:23), Μεθ’ ἡμῶν ὁ Θεός = "The God with Us".

This title/name is prophesied in Isa 7:14 -

Therefore the Lord Himself will give you a sign: Behold, the virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and will call Him Immanuel.

It appears in just one other place of Isa 8:8 -

It will pour into Judah, swirling and sweeping over it, reaching up to the neck; its spreading streams will cover your entire land, O Immanuel!

Almost all Hebrew names had a meaning such as:

  • Isaiah = Jehovah saves
  • Joshua = Jehovah is salvation (the name "Jesus" is simply a Greek transliteration of this name - see Matt 1:21.)
  • Jeremiah = Jehovah is exalted

Immanuel is no different. Matthew takes a real historic situation and applies it to Jesus.

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