Why Wasn’t Jesus Named Emmanuel Instead?
[ Author: Rich Christian ]
There’s No Cause for Concern
Recently in one of our Facebook groups, the question was asked: “Why was Jesus [sic] name Jesus rather than Emmanuel [sic]?”. This person also wondered, that because Jesus wasn’t actually named Immanuel, maybe this is one of the reasons why the Jews, by and large, rejected Him as the messiah. The passage being referred to is Isaiah 7:14.
(NASB) Isaiah 7:14 Therefore the Lord Himself will give you a sign: Behold, a virgin will be with child and bear a son, and she will call His name Immanuel.
At face value, it does indeed seem a bit perplexing–Christians seem to have had a big oversight, thus missing the details of this prophecy. Some have made a distinction between the words called and named (1), with the former being used in the English text. This is a nice idea but it’s more of a tautological argument, and isn’t all that helpful. While the prophecy of Isaiah does indeed say that the messiah was to be called Immanuel, it must be understood that the Hebrew word for “called” (qârâ’) has a semantic range of meaning. Within various Brown-Driver-Briggs Hebrew Lexicon definitions, it means:
to call unto, cry (for help), call (with name of God, be proclaimed, be summoned)
Interestingly, this is exactly what we see in the New Testament with Jesus, that He was to be called upon for help, to be proclaimed etc. (Romans 10:13, Acts 2:21) The gospels connect the dots of the names Jesus and Immanuel:
(HCSB) Matthew 1:21-23 She will give birth to a son, and you are to name Him Jesus, because He will save His people from their sins.” Now all this took place to fulfill what was spoken by the Lord through the prophet: See, the virgin will become pregnant and give birth to a son, and they will name Him Immanuel, which is translated “God is with us.”
Consequently, by connecting Jesus–or Yeshua (His name in Hebrew, meaning salvation), to what the prophet Isaiah said about this person, that is God with us (2) (3) (4), it’s affirming the person of Jesus as God, who actually came to save us! Scripture declares that God certainly was manifested in the flesh. (5) (6)
What’s in a Name?
(ESV) Isaiah 9:6 For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder, and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
In this passage of Isaiah, we read several other names being applied to this child who is to rule in the future. These names are more than mere titles however; they’re ontological descriptions of Jesus’ very being–attributes He already possessed before the incarnation! As one of our members in the group succinctly proclaimed: Jesus is Immanuel by revelation, not by translation. (STZ)
(1) JFB Commentary:
“call—that is, “she shall,” or as Margin,”thou, O Virgin, shalt call;” mothers often named their children (Gen 4:1;Gen 4:25; Gen 19:37; Gen 29:32. In Mt 1:23 the expression is strikingly changed into, “They shall call”; when the prophecy received its full accomplishment, no longer is the name Immanuel restricted to the prophetess’ view of His character, as in its partial fulfilment in her son; all shall then call (that is, not literally), or regard Him as peculiarly and most fitly characterized by the descriptive name,”Immanuel” (1Ti 3:16; Col 2:9) (eSword)
(2) Clark Commentary:
“Immanuel.] For עמנואל Immanuel, many MSS and editions have עמנו אל immanu El, God with us.” (eSword)
(3) Barnes Commentary:
“It is true, that Matthew Mat 1:23 uses this name as properly expressing the rank of the Messiah; but all that can be demonstrated from the use of the name by Matthew is, that it properly designated the nature and rank of the Lord Jesus. It was a pledge, then, that God was with his people, and the name designated by the prophet had a complete fulfillment in its use as applied to the Messiah.” (eSword)
(4) Gill Commentary:
“And shall call his name Immanuel; which is, by interpretation, “God with us”, Mt 1:23 whence it appears that the Messiah is truly God, as well as truly man: the name is expressive of the union of the two natures, human and divine, in him; of his office as Mediator, who, being both God and man, is a middle person between both; of his converse with men on earth, and of his spiritual presence with his people. See John 1:14.” (eSword)
(5) (KJV) 1 Timothy 3:16 And without controversy great is the mystery of godliness: God was manifest in the flesh, justified in the Spirit, seen of angels, preached unto the Gentiles, believed on in the world, received up into glory.
(6) Poole Commentary:
“Immanuel; which signifies, God with us; God dwelling among us, in our nature, Joh 1:14, God and man meeting in one person, and being a Mediator between God and men. For the design of these words is not so much to relate the name by which Christ should commonly be called, as to describe his nature and office; as we read that his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, &c., Isa 9:6, and that this is said to be his (the Messiah’s) name whereby he shall be called, The Lord our Righteousness, Jer 23:6, although he be never called by these names in any other place of the Old or New Testament; but the meaning of these places is, He shall be wonderful, and our Counsellor, &c., and our Righteousness; for to be called is oft put for to be, as Isa 1:26“.