ἐν γαστρὶ ἔχουσα [en gastri echousa] , in the womb having. Something we should immediately notice about this entire vision is the lack of any mention of a father. This is most uncharacteristic of a Jewish writing dealing with genealogy (cf. Mtt. Mat. 1:1; Luke Luke 3:23). The lack of a father is significant and, when combined with the rest of Scripture (Isa. Isa. 7:14; Luke Luke 1:34), points strongly toward the virgin birth. Another point which is critical that we understand: the woman produces the child and not the other way around! How often commentators stumble over this simple point! If we keep in mind that the woman is the source of the child, then we avoid all sorts of confusion as to the identity of the woman in relation to the child. She is the mother of the child and not his offspring!
cried out in labor
κράζει [krazei] , present tense, the woman was in the midst of birth pangs at the time John saw her. Although Scripture is replete with instances of women experiencing birth pangs, this is one instance where the pain is both symbolic and literal for it finds its fulfillment in the virgin birth of Christ by Mary. Yet there is more. Remember that the book we have before us is one of two bookends of Scripture, and that many of the themes from the beginning of creation (Gen. Gen. 1:1) are to be brought to consummation in the eternal state (Rev. Rev. 22:1+). When we consider the woman in labor from the perspective of the grand scheme of Scripture, we think immediately of the curse. For it is at the curse, Gods response to The Fall of mankind, where we see the first mention of both childbirth and labor pain:
And the LORD God said to the woman, What is this you have done? The woman said, The serpent deceived me, and I ate. So the LORD God said to the serpent: Because you have done this, you are cursed more than all cattle, and more than every beast of the field; on your belly you shall go, and you shall eat dust All the days of your life. And I will put enmity Between you and the woman, and between your seed and her Seed; He shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise His heel. To the woman He said: I will greatly multiply your sorrow and your conception; in pain you shall bring forth children; your desire shall be for your husband, and he shall rule over you. (Gen. Gen. 3:13-16)Notice several elements of this most important passage and their correlation with the chapter before us:
- A woman and the serpent.
- Enmity between the woman and the serpent.
- Conflict between her offspring and the serpent.
- Childbirth (first mention in Genesis).
- The woman will experience labor pains.
The people and their land will be reborn in a day (Rom. Rom. 11:26), suddenly at the Messiahs coming (Zec. Zec. 12:10-Zec. 13:1), unaccompanied by travail pains (Isa. Isa. 54:1, Isa. 54:4-5). . . . The figure of the male child comprehends the spiritually regenerated nation, the many sons being viewed as one under the returning Messiah, who will then be manifested as their one representative Head. . . . Will the LORD begin and not finish His work of restoring Israel?4
While it has been customary for commentators to view this as the church (spiritual Israel) quickly springing up and spreading across the world, it should rather be viewed as converted Israel who will come to faith during the Tribulation Period and quickly spread the message of the gospel around the world.5Thus, the labor of our woman precedes and differs from the woman of Isaiah Isa. 66:1. Our woman has been in labor for long ages. She labored from the first promise to Eve until its culmination in the virgin Mary:
But when the fullness of the time had come, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, that we might receive the adoption as sons. (Gal. Gal. 4:4-5)No matter how definite the text before us, there will always be some who avoid the obvious in favor of another interpretation. Thus it is with those who attempt to make the woman the Church, totally reversing the symbolism of the text which indicates that she gives birth to Christ and not the other way around:
Israel, not the Church, gave birth to Christ (Rom. Rom. 9:1; Mic. Mic. 5:1; Isa. Isa. 9:6; Heb. Heb. 7:14). In no possible sense did the Church do so. Seiss, generally very helpful, most strenuously asserts the Woman to be the Church Universalwhom he calls the Mother of us all, etc. But this is a Romish relict, nothing else. The church of all ages is a pleasant theological dream, wholly unscriptural. No wonder Mr Seiss proceeds to call the Child the whole regenerated purchase of the Saviors blood, though how the Mother and the Child can be thus the same company, even the authors utmost vehemence fails to convince you! [Seiss: Lectures 26 and 28]6
1 Yet how fashionable it is in our day for seemingly highly educated Christian theologians to dismiss all possibility that Genesis Gen. 3:15 speaks of the promised redeemer. They denounce the protevangelium (first gospel), almost as if in concert with Judaism they seek to deny the unity of both NT and OT. They would do well to reconsider the words of Jesus (Luke Luke 24:27, Luke 24:44; John John 5:39, John 5:46).
2 An odd phrase for an offspring in a Jewish genealogy, which hints at His virgin origin.
3 Arnold Fruchtenbaum discusses evidence that Eve expected the promised redeemer in Cain: Literal translation: I have gotten a man: Jehovah. The common English translation is not based on the Hebrew text but on the Greek Septuagint which reads through God. This was followed by the Latin Vulgate which also reads through God. The Jerusalem Targum, an Aramaic translation, reads I have gotten a man: the angel of Jehovah. The rabbis also gave a reading here which is much closer to the original Hebrew text. The Targum Pseudo-Jonathan reads, I have gotten for a man the angel of the Lord. Another Aramaic translation is the Targum Onqelos which says from before the Lord. The Midrash Rabbah (on Gen. Gen. 22:2), the rabbinic commentary, says of Gen. Gen. 4:1 with the help of the Lord. Rabbi Ishmael asked Rabbi Akiba, Since you have served Nahum of Gimzo for 22 years and he taught that every ach and rach is a limitation but every et and gam is an extension, tell me what is the purpose of the et here. He replied, if it is said I have gotten a man: the Lord it would have been difficult to interpret, hence et with the help of the Lord is required. The footnote on page 181 of this Midrash says it might imply that she had begotten the Lord. The rabbis clearly understood the implications of the construction and so had to make the necessary adjustments in their translation.Arnold G. Fruchtenbaum, Messianic Christology (Tustin, CA: Ariel Ministries, 1998), 16.