What the scriptures say about
pain associated with the act of being born; birthpangs
Also see: Womb | New birth: Regeneration | Birthpangs of the Messiah
Easton's Bible Dictionary | International Standard Bible Encyclopedia Birth+Pain | Thompson Chain Reference

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  BIRTH + PAIN: Genesis 3:16   |   1Samuel 4:19   |   1Chronicles 4:9   |   Isaiah 26:17-18   |   Isaiah 66:7   |   Matthew 24:8   |   Mark 13:8   |   John 16:21   |   Revelation 12:2  

BIRTH [Easton's Bible Dictionary]

As soon as a child was born it was washed, and rubbed with salt (Ezekiel 16:4), and then swathed with bandages (Job 38:9; Luke 2:7,12). A Hebrew mother remained forty days in seclusion after the birth of a son, and after the birth of a daughter double that number of days. At the close of that period she entered into the tabernacle or temple and offered up a sacrifice of purification (Leviticus 12:1-8; Luke 2:22). A son was circumcised on the eighth day after his birth, being thereby consecrated to God (Genesis 17:10-12; Compare Romans 4:11).

Seasons of misfortune are likened to the pains of a woman in travail, and seasons of prosperity to the joy that succeeds child-birth (Isaiah 13:8; Jeremiah 4:31; John 16:21,22).

The natural birth is referred to as the emblem of the new birth (John 3:3-8; Galatians 6:15; Titus 3:5, etc.).

BIRTH [International Standard Bible Encyclopedia]

burth (genesis):

(1) It was said by the angel beforehand of John the Baptist, "Many shall rejoice at his birth"; and when he was born Elisabeth said, "Thus hath the Lord done unto me .... to take away my reproach among men" (Luke 1:14,25). Among the ancient Hebrews barrenness was a "reproach" and the birth of a child, of a son especially, an occasion for rejoicing.

(2) This, no doubt, was due in part to the Messianic hope inspired and sustained by prophecy (see Genesis 3:15, where it was foretold that the seed of the woman should bruise the serpent's head; and subsequent prophecies too numerous to mention). Cases in point worth studying are found in Genesis 4:1, where Eve rejoices over the birth of her firstborn and cries, "I have gotten a man with the help of Yahweh"; and 1 Samuel 1:20, where Hannah exults over her firstborn, calling his name "Samuel," "because," she says, "I have asked him of Yahweh."

(3) The marvelous passage in Isaiah 7:14, "Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel," must have intensified the longing and hope of every devout Jewish maiden to be a mother, if mayhap, under God, she might be the mother of Messiah -- Immanuel! (Compare Matthew 1:22-23; Luke 1:13 f.)


George B. Eager

PAIN [International Standard Bible Encyclopedia]

pan (chul, chil, chebhel, chalah, chalchalah, ka'-ebh, ke'ebh, metsar, makh'obh, `amal, tsir; basanizo, ponos, odin):
These words signifying various forms of bodily or mental suffering are generally translated "pain"; 28 out of the 34 passages in which the word is used are in the poetical or prophetical books and refer to conditions of mental disquiet or dismay due to the punishment of personal or national sin. There is only one instance where the word is used as a historic record of personal physical pain: the case of the wife of Phinehas (1 Samuel 4:19), but the same word tsir is used figuratively in Isaiah 13:8; 21:3; Daniel 10:16, and translated "pangs" or "sorrows." In other passages where we have the same comparison of consternation in the presence of God's judgments to the pangs of childbirth, the word used is chebhel, as in Isaiah 66:7; Jeremiah 13:21; 22:23; 49:24. In some of these and similar passages several synonyms are used in the one verse to intensify the impression, and are translated "pain," "pangs," and "sorrows," as in Isaiah 13:8.

The word most commonly used by the prophets is some form of chul or chil, sometimes with the addition "as of a woman in travail," as in Psalms 48:6; Isaiah 26:18; Jeremiah 6:24; 22:23; Micah 4:10. This pain is referred to the heart (Psalms 55:4) or to the head (Jeremiah 30:23; compare Jeremiah 30:5-6). In Ezekiel 30:4, it is the penal affliction of Ethiopia, and in Ezekiel 30:16, the King James Version "Sin (Tanis) shall have great pain" (the Revised Version (British and American) "anguish"); in Isaiah 23:5 Egypt is sorely pained at the news of the fall of Tyre. Before the invading host of locusts the people are much pained (Joel 2:6 the King James Version). Pain in the sense of toil and trouble in Jeremiah 12:13 is the translation of chalah a word more frequently rendered grieving or sickness, as in 1 Kings 14:1; Proverbs 23:35; Song of Solomon 2:5; Jeremiah 5:3. The reduplicated form chalchalah is especially used of a twisting pain usually referred to the loins (Isaiah 21:3; Ezekiel 30:4,9; Nahum 2:10).

Pain in the original meaning of the word (as it has come down to us through the Old French from the Latin poena) as a penalty inflicted for personal sin is expressed by the words ka'ebh or ke'abh in Job 14:22; 15:20, and in the questioning complaint of the prophet (Jeremiah 15:18). As a judgment on personal sin pain is also expressed by makh'obh in Job 33:19; Jeremiah 51:8, but this word is used in the sense of afflictions in Isaiah 53:3 in the expression "man of sorrows." The Psalmist (Psalms 25:18) praying for deliverance from the afflictions which weighed heavily on him in turn uses the word `amal, and this word which primarily means "toil" or "labor," as in Ecclesiastes 1:3, or "travail" as in Isaiah 53:11, is translated "painful" in Psalms 73:16, as expressing Asaph's disquiet due to his misunderstanding of the ways of Providence. The "pains of hell" (Psalms 116:3 the King James Version), which got hold of the Psalmist in his sickness, is the rendering of the word metsar; the same word is translated "distress" in Psalms 118:5. Most of these words have a primary physical meaning of twisting, rubbing or constricting.

In the New Testament, odin is translated "pain" (of death, the Revised Version (British and American) "pang") in Acts 2:24. This word is used to express any severe pain, such as that of travail, or (as in Aeschylus, Choephori, 211) the pain of intense apprehension. The verb from this, odunomai, is used by the Rich Man in the parable to describe his torment (the Revised Version (British and American) "anguish") (Luke 16:24). The related verb sunodino is used in Romans 8:22 and is translated "travailing in pain together." In much the same sense, the word is used by Euripides (Helena, 727).

In Revelation 12:2 the woman clothed with the sun (basanizomene) was in pain to be delivered; the verb (basanizo) which means "to torture" is used both in Matthew 8:6 in the account of the grievously tormented centurion's servant, and in the description of the laboring of the apostles' boat on the stormy Sea of Galilee (Matthew 14:24). The former of these seems to have been a case of spinal meningitis. This verb occurs in Thucydides vii.86 (viii.92), where it means "being put to torture." In the two passages in Revelation where pain is mentioned the word is ponos, the pain which affected those on whom the fifth vial was poured (16:10), and in the description of the City of God where there is no more pain (21:4). The primary meaning of this word seems to be "toil," as in Iliad xxi.525, but it is used by Hippocrates to express disease (Aphorisma iv.44).

Alexander Macalister

BIRTHS FORETOLD [Thompson Chain Reference]
    * Genesis 16:11
    * Genesis 18:10
    * Judges 13:3
    * 1 Kings 13:2
    * 2 Kings 4:16
    * Isaiah 9:6
    * Matthew 1:21
    * Luke 1:13

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