A woman when she is in travail has sorrow, because her hour is come: but as soon as she is delivered of the child, she remembers no more the anguish, for joy that a man is born into the world.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)A woman when she is in travail hath sorrow.—The Greek is more exactly, the woman . . . hath pangs—that is, “the woman in the well-known illustration.” (See Note on John 15:15.) This figure was of frequent use in the prophets. (Comp. Isaiah 21:3; Isaiah 26:17-18, and especially Isaiah 66:7-8; Jeremiah 4:31; Jeremiah 22:23; Jeremiah 30:6; Hosea 13:13-14; Micah 4:9-10.)
That a man is born into the world.—The word is the wider word for “human being.” (Comp. Note on John 1:51.) The thought is of the joy of maternity swallowing up the pangs of child-birth. These cease to exist, but that continues. She forgets the one in the fulness of the other.Luke 23:27.
The world - Wicked men. The term world is frequently used in this sense. See John 16:8. It refers particularly, here, to the Jews who sought his death, and who would rejoice that their object was obtained.
Shall be turned into joy - You will not only rejoice at my resurrection, but even my death, now the object of so much grief to you, will be to you a source of unspeakable joy. It will procure for you peace and pardon in this life, and eternal joy in the world to come. Thus their greatest apparent calamity would be to them, finally, the source of their highest comfort; and though then they could not see how it could be, yet if they had known the whole case they would have seen that they might rejoice. As it was, they were to be consoled by the assurance of the Saviour that it would be for their good. And thus, in our afflictions, if we could see the whole case, we should rejoice. As it is, when they appear dark and mysterious, we may trust in the promise of God that they will be for our welfare. We may also remark here that the apparent triumphs of the wicked, though they may produce grief at present in the minds of Christians, will be yet overruled for good. Their joy shall be turned into mourning, and the mourning of Christians into joy; and wicked men may be doing the very thing - as they were in the crucifixion of the Lord Jesus - that shall yet be made the means of promoting the glory of God and the good of his people, Psalm 76:10.Genesis 3:16, I will greatly multiply thy sorrow and thy conception; in sorrow thou shalt bring forth children; and when her weeks are fulfilled, her hour is come to feel the effect of this curse, the fruit of the first woman’s transgression: but no sooner is she delivered of a child, but she forgetteth all her throes and pains, for joy of a child born into the world. Such (saith our Saviour to his disciples) is your state; you are as a woman in travail; so will all those that believe in me be, to the end of the world. Genesis 3:16; This is God's ordination and appointment for sin:
because her hour is come; is at hand; the fixed time in nature is up, and there is no avoiding it:
but as soon as she is delivered of the child; for though the sorrow is great, yet there is a deliverance, and she is saved in child bearing: when
she remembereth no more the anguish; the sharp pains she has endured in her travail;
for joy that a man is born into the world. Much such a way of speaking is used by the Jews (z), who observe,
"if a woman brings forth a male child, all is forgot, and she repents (i.e. of her impatience, or any unbecoming expression in the time of labour), , "for the joy of a man child".''
And our Lord seems to have respect to a prevailing notion among them, as well as many others, of the felicity of male children: it is a common saying with them (a),
"blessed is he whose children are males, and woe to him whose children are females:''
for they say (b),
"when , "that a man child comes into the world", peace comes into the world.''
Now our Lord, by this instance, illustrates the sorrow his disciples should have by his departure, and the joy that they should be possessed of upon his return to them; that as the pains of a woman in travail are very sharp and severe, and the distress of her mind, about the issue of things respecting herself and offspring, is very great, so would be the grief and trouble of the disciples on account of the death of their Lord and master: but as when a woman is safely delivered of a man child, she is so filled with joy, that her sorrow is remembered no more so should it be with them, when Christ should appear to them; all their trouble, concern, anxiety of mind, and fears, that attended them, would all vanish away, and they be distressed with them no more.A woman when she is in travail hath sorrow, because her hour is come: but as soon as she is delivered of the child, she remembereth no more the anguish, for joy that a man is born into the world.
EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)John 16:21. He adds an illustration of the manner in which anxiety and dread pass into joy: ἡ γυνή “the woman,” the article is generic, cf. ὁ δοῦλος, John 15:15, Meyer, ὅταν τίκτῃ, “when she brings forth,” λύπην … αὐτῆς, “hath sorrow because her hour”—the critical or appointed time of her delivery—“is come”. The woman in travail is the common figure for terror-stricken anguish in O.T.: Psalm 48:6; Jeremiah 4:31; Jeremiah 6:24, etc. ὅταν δὲ γεννήσῃ τὸ παιδίον … “but when the child is born, she no longer remembers the distress, for the joy that a man is born into the world”. The comparison, so far as explicitly used by our Lord in John 16:22, extends only to the sudden replacement of sorrow with joy in both cases. But a comparison of Isaiah 66:7-9, Hosea 13:13, and other O.T. passages, in which the resurrection of a new Israel is likened to a difficult and painful birth, warrants the extension of the metaphor to the actual birth of the N.T. church in the resurrection of Christ. Cf. Holtzmann.21. A woman] Or, The woman, like ‘the servant’ (John 15:15): in each case the article is generic, expressing the general law. The figure is frequent in O.T.; Isaiah 66:7; Hosea 13:13; Micah 4:9. See on Mark 13:8.
for joy] Better, for the joy, the joy peculiar to the case.
a man] A human being, one of the noblest of God’s creatures.John 16:21. Ὅταν τίκτῃ, when she is about to bring forth) Here there is not yet added, offspring, because the woman is then rather held fast in the throes of actual labour.—ἄνθρωπος, a human being) whether a son or a daughter.—εἰς τὸν κόσμον into the world) How much greater will be your joy, to sec Jesus, restored alive to you, John 16:22.Verse 21. - The next illustration is very remarkable, and surely cannot be a simple analogy of the supervening of joy on sorrow. The woman (the article does not point to any special γυνή, but refers to a universal fact and law of womanhood, cf. ὁ δοῦλος, John 15:15) when she is in travail hath sorrow, because her hour is come. So now there are the travail-pangs of the new humanity, the new theocracy, bitter and terrible, But as soon as she has brought forth the child, she remembereth no longer the anguish, for the joy that a man is born into the world. The old prophets often compared the grief of Israel or her peril to the pangs of a travailing woman preluding deliverance (Isaiah 21:3; Isaiah 26:17; Isaiah 66:6, 7; Hosea 13:13) and even joy - the joy of bringing manhood into the world and the new consciousness of maternity. Meyer and others rebel against any meaning beyond that of the following of joy upon sorrow; but Tholuck, De Wette, Ebrard, and Moulton see here the obvious reference to those "travail-pangs of death" with which St. Peter (Acts 3:24) said that the Holy One could not be restrained, agonies in which for a while every apostle must have wept and lamented, dying and being crucified with him, and to the glorious deliverance of all who suffered with him, when they live again in newness of life by the power of his resurrection.
Literally, the woman. The generic article marking the woman as representing her sex: woman as such.
She is in travail
The anguish (τῆς θλίψεως)
Commonly rendered affliction or tribulation in A.V. See on Matthew 13:21.
Joy (τὴν χαρὰν)
Properly, the joy which answers to the anguish.
A man (ἄνθρωπος)
See on John 1:30.
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