Isaiah 66:7 Commentaries: "Before she travailed, she brought forth; Before her pain came, she gave birth to a boy.
Isaiah 66:7
Before she travailed, she brought forth; before her pain came, she was delivered of a man child.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(7) Before she travailed . . .—The mother, as the next verse shows, is Zion; the man-child, born at last without the travail-pangs of sorrow, is the new Israel, the true Israel of God. The same figure has met us in Isaiah 49:17-21; Isaiah 54:1, and is implied in Matthew 24:8. Its antithesis is found in Isaiah 37:3.

Isaiah 66:7-8. Here begins a new paragraph of the prophet’s discourse, containing a description of the sudden and great increase of the Christian Church, upon God’s rejecting the Jews, and destroying their temple and worship: “the very destruction of the Jewish polity making way for the reception and spread of the gospel, inasmuch as it abated that opposition which the Jewish zealots all along made to its progress; and the abolishing the Jewish worship contributed very much to the abrogating the law of Moses, and burying it with silence and decency.” See Romans 11:11, and Lowth. This paragraph, however, is not unconnected with what precedes. “It is,” as Vitringa observes, “another consolatory argument, directed to those who reverenced the word of Jehovah, and formed the true Zion, taken from the rapid and wonderful increase of the church among the Gentiles, superior to all human thought, all expectation. For when in the former section Isaiah had done two things; first, had predicted the calling of the Gentiles, (chap. 65:1,) and then the punishment of the ungodly, and such as rejected the gospel; in this section, after he had repeated the indignation conceived by God against the hypocrites and those who did not obey the gospel, he in the same manner comforts the pious Jews, from the unexpected event of the most wished-for success of the calling of the Gentiles, who, joined with them in one body, should form one church, and inherit the earth.” Before she travailed she brought forth — The church is represented here as a travailing woman, the mother of all true believers: see Isaiah 54:1; Galatians 4:26. The whole verse is expressive of a great and sudden salvation which God would work for his church, like the delivery of a woman, and that before her travail, and without pain, of a man-child. It undoubtedly refers to the introduction of the gospel, and its rapid and unexpected progress. Who hath heard such a thing? — The prophet here calls either to the whole world, or to such as feared God among the Jews, to admire his stupendous work of providence and grace, in the sudden erection and wonderful enlargement of the gospel church. Who hath seen such things? — Who hath witnessed such an extraordinary event? Shall the earth be made to bring forth in one day, or shall a nation, &c. — “The suddenness of this event is as surprising as if the fruits of the earth, which are brought to perfection by slow degrees, should blossom and ripen all in one day. And the fruitfulness of this spiritual increase is as wonderful as if a whole nation were born at once, or by one woman.” For as soon as Zion travailed — As soon as the fulness of time came for erecting the gospel church; she brought forth her children — In great multitudes, without pain or difficulty, no inauspicious circumstance occurring to prevent their birth: see Acts 2:41; and Acts 4:4.66:5-14 The prophet turns to those that trembled at God's word, to comfort and encourage them. The Lord will appear, to the joy of the humble believer, and to the confusion of hypocrites and persecutors. When the Spirit was poured out, and the gospel went forth from Zion, multitudes were converted in a little time. The word of God, especially his promises, and ordinances, are the consolations of the church. The true happiness of all Christians is increased by every convert brought to Christ. The gospel brings with it, wherever it is received in its power, such a river of peace, as will carry us to the ocean of boundless and endless bliss. Divine comforts reach the inward man; the joy of the Lord will be the strength of the believer. Both God's mercy and justice shall be manifested, and for ever magnified.Before she travailed, she brought forth - That is, Zion. The idea here is, that there would be a great and sudden increase of her numbers. Zion is here represented, as it often is, as a female (see Isaiah 1:8), and as the mother of spiritual children (compare Isaiah 54:1; Isaiah 49:20-21). The particular idea here is, that the increase would be sudden - as if a child were born without the usual delay and pain of parturition. If the interpretation given of Isaiah 66:6 be correct, then this refers probably to the sudden increase of the church when the Messiah came, and to the great revivals of religion which attended the first preaching of the gospel. Three thousand were converted on a single day Acts 2, and the gospel was speedily propagated almost all over the known world. Vitringa supposes that it refers to the sudden conversion of the Gentiles, and their accession to the church.

She was delivered of a man child - Jerome understands this of the Messiah. who was descended from the Jewish church. Grotius supposes that the whole verse refers to Judas Maccabeus, and to the liberation of Judea under him before anyone could have hoped for it! Calvin (Commentary in loc.) supposes that the word male here, or manchild, denotes the manly or generous nature of those who should be converted to the church; that they would be vigorous and active, not effeminate and delicate (generosam prolem, non mollem aut effeminatam). Vitringa refers it to the character and rank of those who should be converted, and applies it particularly to Constantine, and to the illustrious philosophers, orators, and senators, who were early brought under the influence of the gospel. The Hebrew word probably denotes a male, or a man-child, and it seems to me that it is applied here to denote the character of the early converts to the Christian faith. They would not be feeble and effeminate; but vigorous, active, energetic. It may, perhaps, also be suggested, that, among the Orientals, the birth of a son was deemed of much more importance, and was regarded as much more a subject of congratulation than the birth of a female. If an allusion be had to that fact, then the idea is, that the increase of the church would be such as would be altogether a subject of exultation and joy.

7. she—Zion.

Before … travailed … brought forth—The accession of numbers, and of prosperity to her, shall be sudden beyond all expectation and unattended with painful effort (Isa 54:1, 4, 5). Contrast with this case of the future Jewish Church the travail-pains of the Christian Church in bringing forth "a man child" (Re 12:2, 5). A man child's birth is in the East a matter of special joy, while that of a female is not so; therefore, it here means the manly sons of the restored Jewish Church, the singular being used collectively for the plural: or the many sons being regarded as one under Messiah, who shall then be manifested as their one representative Head.

The whole verse is expressive of a great and sudden salvation, which God would work for his church, like the delivery of a woman, and that of a

man child, before her travail, and without pain. The only doubt is, whether it referreth to the deliverance of the people out of Babylon, or the world’s surprisal with the Messiah, and the sudden and strange propagation of the gospel, and it is a question not easily determined. The delivery of the Jews out of Babylon, indeed, was without strugglings or any pain; not like their deliverance from Egypt, after the wasting of their enemies by ten successive plagues, but by the kind proclamation of Cyrus. But it seems not to have been sudden, only as to the day, and hour, and manner; for Daniel understood by books that the time was come, Daniel 9:2, and the people had a prospect of it seventy years before, Jeremiah 25:12 29:10. The prophecy therefore seems rather to refer to the coming of Christ, and the sudden propagation of the gospel. The popish interpreters applying it to the Virgin Mary bringing forth Christ, is like other of their fond dreams. Before she travailed, she brought forth,.... That is, Zion, as appears from the following verse: lest it should be thought that the interest of Christ would be swallowed up and lost in the destruction of the Jews, this, and what follows, are said concerning the conversion of many of that people, both in the first times of the Gospel, and in the latter day, as well as concerning the calling of the Gentiles, and the uniting of both in one church state. Zion, or the church of God, is here compared to a pregnant woman, that brings forth suddenly and easily, without feeling any pain, or going through any travail, or having any birth throes; at least, feeling very little pain and travail, and having very few pangs, and those, as soon as they come, are gone, and an immediate delivery ensues:

before her pain came, she was delivered of a man child; like a woman before she is scarcely sensible of any pain; as soon as ever she perceives the least uneasiness of this kind, is delivered of a son, to her great joy, and the joy of all about her. This is to be understood, not of the sudden and easy deliverance of the Jews from the Babylonish captivity, by the proclamation of Cyrus, which occasioned great joy; much less of the birth of Christ, of the Virgin Mary at the inn, and in the stable, which is the sense of some Popish interpreters; much better do some Jewish writers interpret it of the birth and appearance of Christ, before the troubles of their nation came on; so the Targum,

"before distress comes to her, she shall be redeemed; and before trembling comes upon her, her King shall be revealed;''

that is, the King Messiah; and so some copies have it, according to Galatinus (r); who also makes mention of another exposition of this passage, by R. Moses Haddarsan, if it may be depended on,

"before he should be born that should bring Israel into the last captivity, the Redeemer should be born;''

that is, as he explains it, before the birth of Titus, who destroyed the temple and city of Jerusalem, the Messiah should be born; but the passage refers not to his natural but mystical birth, or the regeneration of a spiritual seed in his church; or of the conversion of the first Christians both in Judea and in the Gentile world; who were like a man child, strong and robust, able to bear and did endure great hardships for the sake of Christ, and do him much work and service, in which they persevered to the end; see Galatians 4:26, as the first Christians did through various persecutions, until the times of Constantine, by whom they were delivered from them, and who is prophesied of as the church's man child, as in Revelation 12:2.

(r) De Arcan. Cathol. Ver. I. 4. c. 11. p. 219.

Before {h} she travailed, she brought forth; before her pain came, she was delivered of a male child.

(h) Meaning, that the restoration of the church would be so sudden and contrary to all men's opinions as when a woman is delivered before she looked for it, and without pain in travail.

EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
7–9. The sudden repopulation of the city by her children. The figure is taken from ch. Isaiah 49:17-21, Isaiah 54:1; the fact set forth being the instantaneous return of the exiled Israelites, by which, without effort, the poor and struggling Jewish community becomes at once a great nation.Verses 7, 8. - Before she travailed, etc. Without any long delay, without any labour pains, Zion will bring forth a man-child - a whole nation, which wilt be born at once, and not grow up by slow degrees. The occupation of Jerusalem by the great body of the returned exiles (Ezra 2:1; Ezra 3:1) is intended. Such a second birth of a nation was strange, and without precedent (comp. Isaiah 42:9; Isaiah 43:19). Shall the earth be made to bring forth in one day? rather, can a land be brought forth in one day? It is not only a people, but a country, that is born anew; not only the Jews, but Judaea. Although the note on which this prophecy opens is a different one from any that has yet been struck, there are many points in which it coincides with the preceding prophecy. For not only is Isaiah 65:12 repeated here in Isaiah 66:4, but the sharp line of demarcation drawn in chapter 65, between the servants of Jehovah and the worldly majority of the nation with reference to the approaching return to the Holy Land, is continued here. As the idea of their return is associated immediately with that of the erection of a new temple, there is nothing at all to surprise us, after what we have read in Isaiah 65:8., in the fact that Jehovah expresses His abhorrence at the thought of having a temple built by the Israel of the captivity, as the majority then were, and does so in such words as those which follow in Isaiah 66:1-4 : "Thus saith Jehovah: The heaven is my throne, and the earth my footstool. What kind of house is it that ye would build me, and what kind of place for my rest? My hand hath made all these things; then all these thing arose, saith Jehovah; and at such persons do I look, at the miserable and broken-hearted, and him that trembleth at my word. He that slaughtereth the ox is the slayer of a man; he that sacrificeth the sheep is a strangler of dogs; he that offereth a meat-offering, it is swine's blood; he that causeth incense to rise up in smoke, blesseth idols. As they have chosen their ways, and their soul cheriseth pleasure in their abominations; so will I choose their ill-treatments, and bring their terrors upon them, because I called and no one replied, I spake and they did not hear, and they did evil in mine eyes, and chose that in which I took no pleasure." Hitzig is of opinion that the author has broken off here, and proceeds quite unexpectedly to denounce the intention to build a temple for Jehovah. Those who wish to build he imagines to be those who have made up their minds to stay behind in Chaldea, and who, whilst their brethren who have returned to their native land are preparing to build a temple there, want to have one of their own, just as the Jews in Egypt built one for themselves in Leontopolis. Without some such supposition as this, Hitzig thinks it altogether impossible to discover the thread which connects the different vv. together. This view is at any rate better than that of Umbreit, who imagines that the prophet places us here "on the loftiest spiritual height of the Christian development." "In the new Jerusalem," he says, "there will be no temple seen, nor any sacrifice; Jehovah forbids these in the strongest terms, regarding them as equivalent to mortal sins." But the prophet, if this were his meaning, would involve himself in self-contradiction, inasmuch as, according to Isaiah 56:1-12 and 60, there will be a temple in the new Jerusalem with perpetual sacrifice, which this prophecy also presupposes in Isaiah 66:20. (cf., Isaiah 66:6); and secondly, he would contradict other prophets, such as Ezekiel and Zechariah, and the spirit of the Old Testament generally, in which the statement, that whoever slaughters a sacrificial animal in the new Jerusalem will be as bad as a murderer, has no parallel, and is in fact absolutely impossible. According to Hitzig's view, on the other hand, v. 3a affirms, that the worship which they would be bound to perform in their projected temple would be an abomination to Jehovah, however thoroughly it might be made to conform to the Mosaic ritual. But there is nothing in the text to sustain the idea, that there is any intention here to condemn the building of a temple to Jehovah in Chaldaea, nor is such an explanation by any means necessary to make the text clear. The condemnation on the part of Jehovah has reference to the temple, which the returning exiles intend to build in Jerusalem. The prophecy is addressed to the entire body now ready to return, and says to the whole without exception, that Jehovah, the Creator of heaven and earth, does not stand in need of any house erected by human hands, and then proceeds to separate the penitent from those that are at enmity against God, rejects in the most scornful manner all offerings in the form of worship on the part of the latter, and threatens them with divine retribution, having dropped in Isaiah 66:3-4 the form of address to the entire body. Just as in the Psalm of Asaph (Psalm 50) Jehovah refuses animal and other material offerings as such, because the whole of the animal world, the earth and the fulness thereof, are His possession, so here He addresses this question to the entire body of the exiles: What kind of house is there that ye could build, that would be worthy of me, and what kind of place that would be worthy of being assigned to me as a resting-place? On mâqōm menūchâthı̄, locus qui sit requies mea (apposition instead of genitive connection). He needs no temple; for heaven is His throne, and the earth His footstool. He is the Being who filleth all, the Creator, and therefore the possessor, of the universe; and if men think to do Him a service by building Him a temple, and forget His infinite majesty in their concern for their own contemptible fabric, He wants to temple at all. "All these" refer, as if pointing with the finger, to the world of visible objects that surround us. ויּהיוּ (from היה, existere, fieri) is used in the same sense as the ויהי which followed the creative יהי. In this His exaltation He is not concerned about a temple; but His gracious look is fixed upon the man who is as follows (zeh pointing forwards as in Isaiah 58:6), viz., upon the mourner, the man of broken heart, who is filled with reverential awe at the word of His revelation.

We may see from Psalm 51:9 what the link of connection is between Isaiah 66:2 and Isaiah 66:3. So far as the mass of the exiles were concerned, who had not been humbled by their sufferings, and whom the preaching of the prophet could not bring to reflection, He did not want any temple or sacrifice from them. The sacrificial acts, to which such detestable predicates are here applied, are such as end with the merely external act, whilst the inward feelings of the person presenting the sacrifice are altogether opposed to the idea of both the animal sacrifice and the meat-offering, more especially to that desire for salvation which was symbolized in all the sacrifices; in other words, they are sacrificial acts regarded as νεκρὰ ἔργα, the lifeless works of men spiritually dead. The articles of hasshōr and hasseh are used as generic with reference to sacrificial animals. The slaughter of an ox was like the slaying (makkēh construct with tzere) of a man (for the association of ideas, see Genesis 49:6); the sacrifice (zōbhēăch like shâchat is sometimes applied to slaughtering for the purpose of eating; here, however, it refers to an animal prepared for Jehovah) of a sheep like the strangling of a dog, that unclean animal (for the association of ideas, see Job 30:1); the offerer up (me‛ōlēh) of a meat-offering (like one who offered up) swine's blood, i.e., as if he was offering up the blood of this most unclean animal upon the altar; he who offered incense as an 'azkârâh (see at Isaiah 1:13) like one who blessed 'âven, i.e., godlessness, used here as in 1 Samuel 15:23, and also in Hosea in the change of the name of Bethel into Beth 'Aven, for idolatry, or rather in a concrete sense for the worthless idols themselves, all of which, according to Isaiah 41:29, are nothing but 'âven. Rosenmller, Gesenius, Hitzig, Stier, and even Jerome, have all correctly rendered it in this way, "as if he blessed an idol" (quasi qui benedicat idolo); and Vitringa, "cultum exhibens vano numini" (offering worship to a vain god). Such explanations as that of Luther, on the other hand, viz., "as if he praised that which was wrong," are opposed to the antithesis, and also to the presumption of a concrete object to מברך (blessing); whilst that of Knobel, "praising vainly" ('âven being taken as an acc. Adv.), yields too tame an antithesis, and is at variance with the usage of the language. In this condemnation of the ritual acts of worship, the closing prophecy of the book of Isaiah coincides with the first (Isaiah 1:11-15). But that it is not sacrifices in themselves that are rejected, but the sacrifices of those whose hearts are divided between Jehovah and idols, and who refuse to offer to Him the sacrifice that is dearest to Him (Psalm 51:19, cf., Psalm 50:23), is evident from the correlative double-sentence that follows in Isaiah 66:3 and Isaiah 66:4, which is divided into two masoretic verses, as the only means of securing symmetry. Gam ... gam, which means in other cases, "both ... and also," or in negative sentences "neither ... nor," means here, as in Jeremiah 51:12, "as assuredly the one as the other," in other words, "as ... so." They have chosen their own ways, which are far away from those of Jehovah, and their soul has taken pleasure, not in the worship of Jehovah, but in all kinds of heathen abominations (shiqqūtsēhem, as in many other places, after Deuteronomy 29:16); therefore Jehovah wants no temple built by them or with their co-operation, nor any restoration of sacrificial worship at their hands. But according to the law of retribution, He chooses tha‛ălūlēhem, vexationes eorum (lxx τὰ ἐμπαίγματα αὐτῶν: see at Isaiah 3:4), with the suffix of the object: fates that will use them ill, and brings their terrors upon them, i.e., such a condition of life as will inspire them with terror (megūrōth, as in Psalm 34:5).

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