Question: "What does Immanuel mean?"
Answer: Immanuel is a masculine Hebrew name meaning “God with us” or “God is with us.” The name Immanuel appears in the Bible three times, twice in the Old Testament book of Isaiah (7:14 and 8:8), and once in the Gospel of Matthew (1:23).
An alternate spelling of the name Immanuel is Emmanuel, which comes from the Septuagint, the Greek translation of the Hebrew Old Testament. Immanuel, spelled with an I, is the translation of the original Hebrew name into English, whereas Emmanuel, spelled with an E, is a translation of a translation (from Hebrew to Greek to English).
In the book of Isaiah, a child born in the time of King Ahaz was given the name Immanuel as a sign to the king that Judah would receive relief from attacks by Israel and Syria: “Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign: The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel” (Isaiah 7:14). The name Immanuel betokened the fact that God would establish His guiding and protecting presence with His people in this deliverance. A second, far-reaching implication of Isaiah’s prophecy about a child named Immanuel concerned the birth of Jesus Christ, Israel’s Messiah.
Seven hundred years after King Ahaz, a virgin from Nazareth named Mary was engaged to Joseph. Before they were married, an angel visited Joseph to confirm that Mary had conceived a child through the Holy Spirit (Matthew 1:20–21). When the child was born, they were to name Him Jesus. Matthew, understanding the fulfillment of Isaiah’s prophecy, delivers this inspired revelation: “All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet: ‘The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel’ (which means ‘God with us’)” (Matthew 1:22–23).
Jesus fulfilled Isaiah’s prophecy because He was literally “God with us”; He was fully human yet still fully God. Christ came to live in Israel with His people, as Isaiah had foretold. Matthew recognized Jesus as Immanuel, the living expression of the Incarnation—the miracle of the Son of God becoming a human and making His home among us so that He could reveal God to us. Jesus was God with us, manifested in human flesh (1 Timothy 3:16).
The Gospel of John beautifully describes the Incarnation: “The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth. . . . No one has ever seen God, but the one and only Son, who is himself God and is in closest relationship with the Father, has made him known” (John 1:14–18).
In Jesus, God walked with us and talked with us as He did with Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden. Christ’s arrival showed all humanity that God is faithful to fulfill His promises. Jesus was not just a sign of God with us, like the child born in the time of Ahaz. Jesus was God with us in Person.
Jesus is Immanuel. He is not a partial revelation of God with us; Jesus is God with us in all His fullness: “For in Christ lives all the fullness of God in a human body” (Colossians 2:9, NLT). Jesus left the glories of heaven and took on the form of a servant so that He could identify with us in our day-to-day human struggles (Philippians 2:6–11; Hebrews 4:15–16).
Immanuel is our Savior (1 Timothy 1:15). God sent His Son to live among us and die for us on the cross. Through Christ’s shed blood, we can be reconciled to God (Romans 5:10; 2 Corinthians 5:19; Colossians 1:20). When we are born of His Spirit, Christ comes to live in us (2 Corinthians 6:16; Galatians 2:20).
Our Immanuel will be with us forever. After His resurrection from the dead, before Jesus returned to the Father, He made this promise: “I am with you always, even to the end of the age” (Matthew 28:20, NLT; see also Hebrews 13:5). Nothing can ever separate us from God and His love for us in Christ (Romans 8:35–39).