After Solomon’s death in 930 BCE, the Unified Monarchy split in two: Israel consisting of the 10 Northern Tribes and Judea consisting of the Tribes of Judah and Benjamin. Ahaz was of the House of David (v.13) and the King of Judea around 730 BCE – when the Assyrian Empire was threatening both Israel and Judea. (Assyria conquered Israel in 722.)
In today’s reading, Ahaz is offered a sign by Yahweh to support what Isaiah is saying on God’s behalf. The sign is that a young woman (v.14) is with child and will bear a son whose name will be Immanuel (“God is with us”). This child will “eat curds and honey” (v.15) – which means in a time of prosperity and after the siege by the Assyrians ended. Most scholars opine that the “young woman” was the mother of Hezekiah who was the King of Judea when the Assyrians ended their siege of Jerusalem around the year 700 BCE.
In today’s Gospel, the author cites Isaiah 7:14 by saying a “virgin” shall conceive a son (Matt. 1:23). The reason for the difference between the two texts is that the author of the Gospel relied on a Greek translation of the Book Isaiah. In Hebrew, the word used in Isaiah is “almah” which means “young woman.” In the Greek translation of Isaiah, almah was translated as “parthenos” – which means virgin.
Paul’s letter to the Romans is his longest, last and most complex letter. It was written in the late 50s or early 60s (CE). Among other messages, Paul sought to encourage respectful and supportive relationships between the Gentile Jesus Followers and the Jewish Jesus Followers in Rome. (Jesus Followers were not called “Christians” until the 80’s.)
In today’s reading, Paul states that Jesus was “declared” to be Son of God by his resurrection from the dead (v.4). His reference to “Gentiles” (v.5) means the Gentile Jesus Followers. Paul then broadens his address to all the Jesus Follower Community in Rome (v.7).