Luke 21:23
But woe to them that are with child, and to them that give suck, in those days! for there shall be great distress in the land, and wrath on this people.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(23) Great distress in the land.—Literally, great need, or necessity. The word, which St. Luke uses as an equivalent for “tribulation,” is not found in the other Gospels in this sense. It is, however, so used by St. Paul (1Corinthians 7:26; 2Corinthians 6:4; 2Corinthians 12:10; 1Thessalonians 3:7).

21:5-28 With much curiosity those about Christ ask as to the time when the great desolation should be. He answers with clearness and fulness, as far as was necessary to teach them their duty; for all knowledge is desirable as far as it is in order to practice. Though spiritual judgements are the most common in gospel times, yet God makes use of temporal judgments also. Christ tells them what hard things they should suffer for his name's sake, and encourages them to bear up under their trials, and to go on in their work, notwithstanding the opposition they would meet with. God will stand by you, and own you, and assist you. This was remarkably fulfilled after the pouring out of the Spirit, by whom Christ gave his disciples wisdom and utterance. Though we may be losers for Christ, we shall not, we cannot be losers by him, in the end. It is our duty and interest at all times, especially in perilous, trying times, to secure the safety of our own souls. It is by Christian patience we keep possession of our own souls, and keep out all those impressions which would put us out of temper. We may view the prophecy before us much as those Old Testament prophecies, which, together with their great object, embrace, or glance at some nearer object of importance to the church. Having given an idea of the times for about thirty-eight years next to come, Christ shows what all those things would end in, namely, the destruction of Jerusalem, and the utter dispersion of the Jewish nation; which would be a type and figure of Christ's second coming. The scattered Jews around us preach the truth of Christianity; and prove, that though heaven and earth shall pass away, the words of Jesus shall not pass away. They also remind us to pray for those times when neither the real, nor the spiritual Jerusalem, shall any longer be trodden down by the Gentiles, and when both Jews and Gentiles shall be turned to the Lord. When Christ came to destroy the Jews, he came to redeem the Christians that were persecuted and oppressed by them; and then had the churches rest. When he comes to judge the world, he will redeem all that are his from their troubles. So fully did the Divine judgements come upon the Jews, that their city is set as an example before us, to show that sins will not pass unpunished; and that the terrors of the Lord, and his threatenings against impenitent sinners, will all come to pass, even as his word was true, and his wrath great upon Jerusalem.All things which are written may be fulfilled - Judgment had been threatened by almost all the prophets against that wicked city. They had spoken of its crimes and threatened its ruin. Once God had destroyed Jerusalem and carried the people to Babylon; but their crimes had been repeated when they returned, and God had again threatened their ruin. Particularly was this very destruction foretold by Daniel, Daniel 9:26-27; "And after threescore and two weeks shall Messiah be cut off, but not for himself; and the people of the prince that shall come shall destroy the city and the sanctuary; and the end thereof shall be with a flood, and unto the end of the war desolations are determined." See the notes at that passage.23. woe unto—"alas for."

with child, &c.—from the greater suffering it would involve; as also "flight in winter, and on the sabbath," which they were to "pray" against (Mt 24:20), the one as more trying to the body, the other to the soul. "For then shall be tribulation such as was not since the beginning of the world, nor ever shall be"—language not unusual in the Old Testament for tremendous calamities, though of this it may perhaps be literally said, "And except those days should be shortened, there should no flesh be saved, but for the elect's sake those days shall be shortened" (Mt 24:21, 22). But for this merciful "shortening," brought about by a remarkable concurrence of causes, the whole nation would have perished, in which there yet remained a remnant to be afterwards gathered out. Here in Matthew and Mark (Mt 24:24; Mr 13:22) are some particulars about "false Christs," who should, "if possible"—a precious clause—"deceive the very elect." (Compare 2Th 2:9-11; Re 13:13.)

Ver. 23,24. Josephus tells us, that in the wars which ended in the taking of Jerusalem, by the famine and the sword there perished one million one hundred thousand Jews, and ninety seven thousand were carried into captivity. Jerusalem ever since that time hath been

trodden down by the Gentiles, the Romans, Saracens, Franks, and is at this day trodden of the Turks.

Until the times of the Gentiles be fulfilled. Some from this text think, that there shall be a time when the Jews shall repossess the city of Jerusalem. Whether any such thing can be from hence gathered, I doubt. Some here by the times of the Gentiles understand all that time between the destruction of Jerusalem and the end of the world. Others, the time when the gospel should be carried over all the world. But their opinion seemeth to me most probable, who interpret it of the time of God’s patience with the Gentiles. As the Jews have filled up their measure, and now the wrath of God is come upon them to the uttermost, so the Gentiles shall have their time also. The Romans have had their time, the Turks now have their time; but their glass is also running out, there will be a fulfilling of their time too, and whether then another sort of barbarians shall possess it, or the Jews or Christians shall recover it, time must interpret. But woe unto them that are with-child,.... See Gill on Matthew 24:19.

For there shall be great distress in the land; of Judea. The Greek word here used, properly signifies "necessity", but here intends afflictions and distress; in which sense it is often used by the Septuagint, as in Psalm 107:6 and it is also by the Targumists adopted into their language, and used in the same sense (d): and indeed, the distress was very great, and such a time of tribulation, as was never known since the beginning of the world, nor never will be the like; what with the enemy without, and their seditions and divisions within, the robberies, murders, and famine, which prevailed and abounded, their miseries are not to be expressed:

and wrath upon this people; of the Jews; even the wrath of God, as well as of man, which came upon them to the uttermost; and their own historian observes, that God, who had condemned the people, turned every way of salvation to their destruction (e).

(d) Vid. Targum in Genesis 22.14. & xxxviii. 25. & Targum Sheni in Esth. v. 1.((e) Joseph. de Bello Jud. l. 6. c. 15.

But woe unto them that are with child, and to them that give suck, in those days! for there shall be great distress in the land, and {e} wrath upon this people.

(e) By wrath are meant those things which God sends when he is displeased.

EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
Luke 21:23-24. Comp. Matthew 24:19 ff.; Mark 13:17 ff., to both of which Luke is related sometimes by abridgment, sometimes by more precise statements ex eventu.

Ἐπὶ τῆς γῆς] on the earth, without special definition (comp. Luke 5:24, Luke 18:8, Luke 21:25). The latter is then introduced in the second member (τῷ λαῷ τούτῳ) by καί (and especially); but μεγάλη belongs to both. On the divine ὀργή, which is punitively accomplished in such calamities, comp. 1Ma 1:64; 1Ma 2:49; 2Ma 5:17; Daniel 8:19.

τῷ λ. τ.] dependent on ἔσται.

Luke 21:24. στόματι μαχαίρας] by the mouth of the sword, Hebrews 11:34. Thus frequently פִּי חֶרֶב, Genesis 34:26; Deuteronomy 13:16, and elsewhere. Comp. Sir 28:18; Jdt 2:27; 1Ma 5:28. The sword is poetically (Hom. Il. xv. 389; Porson, ad Eurip. Or. 1279; Schaefer) represented as a biting animal (by its sharpness; hence μάχ. δίστομος, two-edged). Comp. πολέμου στόμα, Hom. Il. x. 8, xix. 313. The subject of πεσ. and αἰχμαλ. is: those who belong to this people.

αἰχμαλωτ.] According to Joseph. Bell. vi. 9. 2, ninety-seven thousand were taken prisoners, and, for the most part, dragged to Egypt and into the provinces.

Ἱερουσαλ.] when conquered and laid waste (Luke 21:20), in opposition to Paulus, who finds merely the besetting of the city by a hostile force here expressed.

ἔσται πατουμ. ὑπὸ ἐθνῶν] shall be trodden under foot of the Gentiles, a contemptuous ill-treatment; the holy city thus profaned is personified. Comp. Isaiah 10:6; 1Ma 3:45 (see Grimm, in loc.), 1Ma 4:60; Revelation 11:2; Philo, In Flacc. p. 974 C; Soph. Ant. 741.

ἄχριςἐθνῶν] till the times of the Gentiles shall be fulfilled, i.e. till the time that the periods which are appointed to the Gentile nations for the completion of divine judgments (not the period of grace for the Gentiles, as Ebrard foists into the passage) shall have run out. Comp. Revelation 11:2. Such times of the Gentiles are ended in the case in question by the Parousia (Luke 21:25 f., 27), which is to occur during the lifetime of the hearers (Luke 21:28); hence those καιροί are in no way to be regarded as of longer duration,[244] which Dorner, de orat. Ch. eschatolog. p. 73, ought not to have concluded from the plural, since it makes no difference with respect to duration whether a period of time is regarded as unity, or according to the plurality of its constituent parts. See, for example, 2 Timothy 3:1 comp. with Luke 4:3; 1 Timothy 4:1; Sir 39:31; 1Ma 4:59; 2Ma 12:30. In opposition to Schwegler, who likewise finds betrayed in the passage a knowledge of a long duration, and therein the late composition of the Gospel; see Franck in the Stud. u. Krit. 1855, p. 347 f. Hofmann, Schriftbew. II. 2, p. 643, erroneously dates the beginning of the καιροὶ ἐθνῶν not from the taking of Jerusalem, supposing, on the contrary, the meaning to be: till the time, in which the world belongs to the nations, shall be at an end, and the people of God shall receive the dominion. In answer to this, it may be said, on the one hand, that the thought of the dominion of the world (according to Daniel 7:14; Daniel 7:27) is a pure interpolation; on the other, that the καιροὶ ἐθνῶν would be the ΚΑΙΡΟΊ, which were familiar to all from the prophecies, and which had already begun to run their course, so that at the time of Jesus and long before they were regarded as in process of fulfilment. This is the reason for our having οἱ καιροί with the article (comp. Luke 19:44). Comp. on ΚΑΙΡΟΊ without the article, Tob 14:5; Acts 3:20-21. By a perverse appeal to history, it has been explained as having reference to the fall of heathenism under Constantine (Clericus), and to the conversion[245] of the heathen-world (see in Wolf; also Dorner, l.c. p. 68). Comp. Lange, who suggests withal the thought of the Mohammedans.

[244] “Non infertur hinc, templum cultumque umbratilem instauratum iri,” Bengel. Comp. Calov. in loc., and our remark after Romans 11:27.

[245] Comp. Luther’s gloss: “till the heathens shall be converted to the faith, i.e. till the end of the world.”Luke 21:23. οὐαὶ, etc.: as in parallels as far as ἡμέραις; then follow words peculiar to Lk. concerning the ἀνάγκη and ὀργὴ. The use of the former word in the sense of distress is mainly Hellenistic; here and in St. Paul’s epistles. The latter word expresses the same idea as that in 1 Thessalonians 2:16.23. woe unto them that are with child] The ‘woe’ is only an expression of pity for them because their flight would be retarded or rendered impossible.

great distress...and wrath] 1 Thessalonians 2:16, “Wrath is come upon them to the uttermost.” Josephus says that, when there were no more to plunder or slay, after “incredible slaughter and miseries,” Titus ordered the city to be razed so completely as to look like a spot which had been never inhabited. B. J. vi. 10, vii. 1.Luke 21:23. Ἐπὶ τῆς γῆς, on the earth [but Engl. Vers. in the land]) even outside of Judea. The same phrase occurs in Luke 21:25; but with greater force, Luke 21:35.[225] [The omission of the particle ἐν is favoured as well by the margin of both Editions, as also by the Germ. Vers.—E. B.[226]]—ἘΝ Τῷ ΛΑῷ ΤΟΎΤῼ, in the case of [‘upon’] this people) who have despised so great grace vouchsafed from heaven. [The introduction of the appellation ‘Israel’ is avoided in this case.—V. g.]

[225] “Upon the earth”—“On the face of the whole earth.” This makes Bengel’s interpretation of the words, Luke 21:23, more probable than that of Engl. Vers—E. and T.

[226] ABCDac Vulg. omit ἐν. Rec. Text has it, without any of the oldest authorities.—E. and T.Distress (ἀνάγκη)

Originally constraint, necessity; thence force or violence, and in the classical poets, distress, anguish.

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