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Verse-by-Verse Bible Commentary

John 16:21

"Whenever a woman is in labor she has pain, because her hour has come; but when she gives birth to the child, she no longer remembers the anguish because of the joy that a child has been born into the world.

Adam Clarke Commentary

For joy that a man is born - Ανθρωπος is put here for a human creature, whether male or female; as homo among the Romans denoted either man or woman.


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Bibliography
Clarke, Adam. "Commentary on John 16:21". "The Adam Clarke Commentary". https:https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/acc/john-16.html. 1832.

Coffman's Commentaries on the Bible

A woman when she is in travail hath sorrow, because her hour is come: but when she is delivered of the child, she remembereth no more the anguish, for the joy that a man is born into the world.

The analogy here strongly resembles some of the parables found in the synoptics. Fittingly, Jesus the Seed of Woman here referred to himself as a woman in the pangs of childbirth, his apostles also being identified with him as sharing in his sufferings.

Her hour is come ... strongly reminds the student of Jesus' frequent references to his own "hour." The child is the church or kingdom of God, which was in fact delivered by the agonies of death through which the Lord passed. The woman's remembering no more the anguish and rejoicing over the child correspond to the rejoicing that followed the Lord's resurrection. Most remarkably, Jesus never lost sight of the joy of saving sinners, the same being the motivation that sustained him upon the cross itself (Hebrews 12:2). These applications of the metaphor appear in the Lord's own explanation in the next verse.


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James Burton Coffman Commentaries reproduced by permission of Abilene Christian University Press, Abilene, Texas, USA. All other rights reserved.

Bibliography
Coffman, James Burton. "Commentary on John 16:21". "Coffman Commentaries on the Old and New Testament". https:https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/bcc/john-16.html. Abilene Christian University Press, Abilene, Texas, USA. 1983-1999.

John Gill's Exposition of the Whole Bible

A woman when she is in travail hath sorrow,.... As was said she should have, 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 JewsF26Tzeror Hammor, fol. 98. 2. , 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), בשמחת הזכר, "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 themF1T. Bab. Pesachim, fol. 65. 1. Kiddushin, fol. 82. 2. Bava Bathra, fol. 16. 2. Sanhedrin, fol. 100. 2. ,

"blessed is he whose children are males, and woe to him whose children are females:'

for they sayF2T. Bab. Nidda, fol. 31. 2. ,

"when שבא זכר בעולם, "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.


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The New John Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible Modernised and adapted for the computer by Larry Pierce of Online Bible. All Rightes Reserved, Larry Pierce, Winterbourne, Ontario.
A printed copy of this work can be ordered from: The Baptist Standard Bearer, 1 Iron Oaks Dr, Paris, AR, 72855

Bibliography
Gill, John. "Commentary on John 16:21". "The New John Gill Exposition of the Entire Bible". https:https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/geb/john-16.html. 1999.

Robertson's Word Pictures in the New Testament

A woman (η γυνηhē gunē). “The woman,” any woman.

When she is in travail (οταν τικτηιhotan tiktēi). Indefinite temporal clause, “whenever she is about to bear (or give birth),” οτανhotan and present active subjunctive of τικτωtiktō common O.T. image for pain.

Her hour is come
(ηλτεν η ωρα αυτηςēlthen hē hōra autēs). Second aorist active indicative, timeless aorist, “her hour” for giving birth which she knows is like a living death.

But when she is delivered of the child
(οταν δε γεννησηι το παιδιονhotan de gennēsēi to paidion). Indefinite temporal clause with οτανhotan and first aorist active subjunctive of γενναωgennaō “But whenever she bears the child.”

The anguish
(της τλιπσεωςtēs thlipseōs). Genitive case after μνημονευειmnēmoneuei of τλιπσιςthlipsis usual word for tribulation (Matthew 13:21).

Is born
(εγεννητηegennēthē). First aorist (effective) passive indicative of γενναωgennaō f0).


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The Robertson's Word Pictures of the New Testament. Copyright Broadman Press 1932,33, Renewal 1960. All rights reserved. Used by permission of Broadman Press (Southern Baptist Sunday School Board)

Bibliography
Robertson, A.T. "Commentary on John 16:21". "Robertson's Word Pictures of the New Testament". https:https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/rwp/john-16.html. Broadman Press 1932,33. Renewal 1960.

Vincent's Word Studies

A woman ( ἡ γυνὴ )

Literally, the woman. The generic article marking the woman as representing her sex: woman as such.

She is in travail

A common Old Testament image of sorrow issuing in joy. See Isaiah 21:3; Isaiah 26:17; Isaiah 66:7; Hosea 13:13; Micah 4:9, Micah 4:10.

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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Bibliography
Vincent, Marvin R. DD. "Commentary on John 16:21". "Vincent's Word Studies in the New Testament". https:https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/vnt/john-16.html. Charles Schribner's Sons. New York, USA. 1887.

The Fourfold Gospel

A woman when she is in travail hath sorrow1, because her hour is come: but when she is delivered of the child, she remembereth no more the anguish, for the joy that a man is born into the world.

  1. A woman when she is in travail hath sorrow, etc. The simile here is very apropos, according with Scriptural ideals (Colossians 1:18; Revelation 1:5).


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These files are public domain and are a derivative of an electronic edition that is available on the Christian Classics Ethereal Library Website. These files were made available by Mr. Ernie Stefanik. First published online in 1996 at The Restoration Movement Pages.

Bibliography
J. W. McGarvey and Philip Y. Pendleton. "Commentary on John 16:21". "The Fourfold Gospel". https:https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/tfg/john-16.html. Standard Publishing Company, Cincinnati, Ohio. 1914.

Calvin's Commentary on the Bible

21.A woman, when she is in labor. He employs a comparison to confirm the statement which he had just now made, or rather, he expresses his meaning more clearly, that not only will their sorrow be turned into joy, but also that it contains in itself the ground and occasion ofjoy It frequently happens that, when adversity has been followed by prosperity, men forget their former grief, and give themselves up unreservedly tojoy, and yet the grief which came before it is not the cause of the joy But Christ means that the sorrow which they shall endure for the sake of the Gospel will be profitable. Indeed, the result of all griefs cannot be otherwise than unfavorable, unless when they are blessed in Christ. But as the cross of Christ always contains in itself the victory, Christ justly compares the grief arising from it to the sorrow of a woman in labor, which receives its reward when the mother is cheered by the birth of the child. The comparison would not apply, if sorrow did not producejoy in the members of Christ, when they become partakers of his sufferings, just as the labor in the, woman is the cause of the birth. The comparison must also be applied in this respect, that though the sorrow of the woman is very severe, it quickly passes away. It was no small solace to the apostles, therefore, when they learned that their sorrow would not be of long duration.

We ought now to appropriate the use of this doctrine to ourselves. Having been regenerated by the Spirit of Christ, we ought to feel in ourselves such a joy as would remove every feeling of our distresses. We ought, I say, to resemble women in labor, on whom the mere sight of the child born produces such an impression, that their pain gives them pain no longer. But as we have received nothing more than the first-fruits, and these in very small measure, we scarcely taste a few drops of that spiritual gladness, to soothe our grief and alleviate its bitterness. And yet that small portion clearly shows that they who contemplate Christ by faith are so far from being at any time overwhelmed by grief, that, amidst their heaviest sufferings, they rejoice with exceeding great joy.

But since it is an obligation laid

on all creatures to labor till the last day of redemption,
(
Romans 8:22,)

let us know that we too must groan, until, having been delivered from the incessant afflictions of the present life, we obtain a full view of the fruit of our faith. To sum up the whole in a few words, believers are like women in labor, because, having been born again in Christ, they have not yet entered into the heavenly kingdom of God and a blessed life; and they are like pregnant women who are in childbirth, because, being still held captive in the prison of the flesh, they long for that blessed state which lies hidden under hope.


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Bibliography
Calvin, John. "Commentary on John 16:21". "Calvin's Commentary on the Bible". https:https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/cal/john-16.html. 1840-57.

Scofield's Reference Notes

world

Greek, "kosmos", means "mankind".

(See Scofield Matthew 4:8).


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Bibliography
Scofield, C. I. "Scofield Reference Notes on John 16:21". "Scofield Reference Notes (1917 Edition)". https:https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/srn/john-16.html. 1917.

John Trapp Complete Commentary

21 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.

Ver. 21. A woman when she is in travail] The sorrow of a saint is often compared to that of a travailing woman, Isaiah 26:17; Jeremiah 6:24, &c. 1. In bitterness and sharpness; which made Medea say, that she had rather a thousand times be slain in battle than once bring forth a child: Millies in belle perire mallem, quam semel parere. 2. In utility; it tends to a birth. 3. In hope and expectation, not only of an end, but also of fruit. 4. In that there is a certain set time for both. And Finis edulcat media. The end sweetens the means. (Keckermann.)


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Bibliography
Trapp, John. "Commentary on John 16:21". John Trapp Complete Commentary. https:https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/jtc/john-16.html. 1865-1868.

Greek Testament Critical Exegetical Commentary

21.] The ‘tertium comparationis’ is ἡ λύπη εἰς χαρὰν γενήσεται: but the comparison itself goes far beyond this mere similitude.

ἡ γυνή is not merely generic, but allusive to the frequent use and notoriety of the comparison. We often have it in the O.T.,—see Isaiah 21:3; Isaiah 26:17-18; Isaiah 37:3; Isaiah 66:7-8; Hosea 13:13-14; Micah 4:9-10.

τίκτῃ] is bringing forth, viz. παιδίον, expressed in τὸ π. below.

ἡ ὥρα αὐτ.] her (appointed) time.

τὸ παιδ. not necessarily masculine (“non puella sed puer,” Aug(224)), but indefinite.

The deeper reference of the comparison has been well described by Olshausen: “Here arises the question, how are we to understand this similitude? We might perhaps think that the suffering Manhood of Christ was the woman in her pangs, and the same Christ glorified in the Resurrection, the Man born; but the Redeemer (John 16:22) applies the pangs to the disciples: how then will the ἄνθρωπος who is born apply to them?” Then, after condemning the shallow and unsatisfactory method of avoiding deep research by asserting that the details of parables are not to be interpreted, he proceeds: “Hence the proper import of the figure seems to be, that the Death of Jesus Christ was as it were an anguish of birth belonging to all Humanity (ein schmerzvoller Geburtsact der ganzen Menschheit) in which the perfect Man was born into the world; and in this very birth of the new man lies the spring of eternal joy, never to be lost, for all, inasmuch as through Him and His power the renovation of the whole is rendered possible” (ii. 379). And indeed the same is true of every Christian who is planted in the likeness of Christ. His passing from sorrow to joy—till “Christ be formed in him,” is this birth of pain. And the whole Church, the Spouse of Christ,—nay, even the whole Creation, συνωδίνει, till the number of the elect be accomplished, and the eternal joy brought in. And thus the meaning which Luthardt insists on as against the above remarks of Olshausen, viz. the new birth of the Church, is in inner truth the same as his.


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Bibliography
Alford, Henry. "Commentary on John 16:21". Greek Testament Critical Exegetical Commentary. https:https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/hac/john-16.html. 1863-1878.

Johann Albrecht Bengel's Gnomon of the New Testament

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.


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Bibliography
Bengel, Johann Albrecht. "Commentary on John 16:21". Johann Albrecht Bengel's Gnomon of the New Testament. https:https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/jab/john-16.html. 1897.

Matthew Poole's English Annotations on the Holy Bible

Our Lord compares the state of the church in this life, and more especially in those first and most furious times, to the state of a woman that is big with child, and in her travail; when, he saith, she hath sorrow, that is, great pain, because God, when he cursed the woman for her transgression, made this her portion, 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.


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Bibliography
Poole, Matthew, "Commentary on John 16:21". Matthew Poole's English Annotations on the Holy Bible. https:https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/mpc/john-16.html. 1685.

Justin Edwards' Family Bible New Testament

Remembereth no more the anguish; the time of Zion’s keenest anguish has always been the birth-time of her enlargement; and the time of the believer’s deepest sorrow, the birth-time of his highest and holiest joys.


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Bibliography
Edwards, Justin. "Commentary on John 16:21". "Family Bible New Testament". https:https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/fam/john-16.html. American Tract Society. 1851.

Cambridge Greek Testament for Schools and Colleges

21. ἡ γυνή. The article is generic; this is the general law: comp. ὁ δοῦλος (John 15:15). The metaphor is frequent in O. T. Isaiah 21:3; Isaiah 26:17; Isaiah 66:7; Hosea 13:13; Micah 4:9. See on Mark 13:8. Note the articles in what follows; the child, the anguish, the joy,—always to be found in such a case. But the joy effaces the anguish, because a human being (ἄνθρωπος), the noblest of God’s creatures, is born. ΄όχθου γὰρ οὐδεὶς τοῦ παρελθόντος λόγος.


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Bibliography
"Commentary on John 16:21". "Cambridge Greek Testament for Schools and Colleges". https:https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/cgt/john-16.html. 1896.

Whedon's Commentary on the Bible

21. A woman… hath sorrow—A brief illustrative parable. It is plain that the woman stands for the apostles; her travail sorrow for their grief at Christ’s death; and the man child for Christ revealed at his resurrection. The best commentary upon this parable is furnished by John himself in Revelation 12:1-5, where a woman brings forth a man child, who is caught up into the heaven to the throne of God; in which the woman represents the Church of God bringing forth a Saviour and ruler of the world. The literal basis of this figure is the birth of Christ from a pure virgin. Or, still farther back, it is Eve whose seed should bruise the serpent’s head. The woman thus symbolizing the Church is here represented by the apostles, who are the Church now in travail and overwhelmed with sorrow until the bringing forth of the glorified Christ. Then shall their very sorrow transform into joy.

Remembereth no more the anguish—It is God’s great compensation that her sorrow shall be as if it never had been, and the whole thing becomes a joy.

A man is born—A human being, according to the Greek, of either sex. In the midst of humiliation and sorrow, the birth of a human immortal is a most stupendous event. The creation of a material world bears no comparison with it; hence, to the view of Scripture, all the circumstances of generation and birth are divine and wonderful.


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Bibliography
Whedon, Daniel. "Commentary on John 16:21". "Whedon's Commentary on the Bible". https:https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/whe/john-16.html. 1874-1909.

Expository Notes of Dr. Thomas Constable

Jesus compared how the disciples would feel to the feelings of a pregnant woman at her delivery. This was an Old Testament illustration of how God"s people would feel when Messiah appeared (cf. Isaiah 21:3-5; Isaiah 26:16-21; Isaiah 66:7-14; Jeremiah 13:21; Micah 4:9-10). Jesus again used the word "hour" (Gr. hora, John 2:4; et al.) to focus the critical time of both painful experiences: His death and the woman"s delivery. What issues from the painful experience is so wonderful, in both cases, that the resulting joy replaces the former sorrow.


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Bibliography
Constable, Thomas. DD. "Commentary on John 16:21". "Expository Notes of Dr. Thomas Constable". https:https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/dcc/john-16.html. 2012.

Schaff's Popular Commentary on the New Testament

John 16:21. 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 longer the tribulation for her joy that a man is born into the world. An illustration of what had been said familiar to all, but drawn out of the very heart of Old Testament life and feeling (Isaiah 21:3; Isaiah 26:17; Isaiah 66:7; Psalms 128:3; Ezekiel 19:10). Yet there is more in the language than meets the eye at first sight, and its peculiarities form a valuable proof of the correctness of the interpretation given above by the twice repeated ‘little while.’ For why (1) the expression her ‘hour’ is come, but because the crucifixion was the ‘hour’ of Jesus, that of His deepest sorrow and the sorrow of His disciples? And why (2) the use of the word ‘man’ instead of child, when it is said ‘a man is born into the world,’ but because that which is brought forth in tribulation is the new birth of regenerated humanity, and because that new life with which the Church springs into being is life in a risen Lord (Ephesians 2:5), and carries us back to the moment when Jesus Himself rose from the grave?


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Bibliography
Schaff, Philip. "Commentary on John 16:21". "Schaff's Popular Commentary on the New Testament". https:https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/scn/john-16.html. 1879-90.

The Expositor's Greek Testament

John 16:21. He adds an illustration of the manner in which anxiety and dread pass into joy: γυνή “the woman,” the article is generic, cf. δοῦλος, John 15:15, Meyer, ὅταν τίκτῃ, “when she brings forth,” λύπηναὐτῆς, “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.: Psalms 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.


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Bibliography
Nicol, W. Robertson, M.A., L.L.D. "Commentary on John 16:21". The Expositor's Greek Testament. https:https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/egt/john-16.html. 1897-1910.

E.W. Bullinger's Companion Bible Notes

A woman = The woman. The article, in conjunction with the Hebraism "in that day", verses: John 16:23, John 16:26, in. dicates the woman (wife) of Rev 12. See Isaiah 66:7-11. Micah 5:3. Compare Psalms 22:31. Hosea 13:13. Micah 4:9, Micah 4:10. The time is the time of Jacob"s trouble (Jeremiah 30:7), the birth -pangs (sorrows, Matthew 24:8) which will result in the birth of the new Israel, the nation of Isaiah 66:8 and Matthew 21:43.

child. App-108:

anguish. Greek. thlipsis, tribulation. Matthew 24:21, Matthew 24:29.

for = on account of. Greek. dia. App-104. John 16:2.

man. App-123.

is born = was born.


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Bibliography
Bullinger, Ethelbert William. "Commentary on John 16:21". "E.W. Bullinger's Companion bible Notes". https:https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/bul/john-16.html. 1909-1922.

Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - Unabridged

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.

A woman when she is in travail hath sorrow ...


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Bibliography
Jamieson, Robert, D.D.; Fausset, A. R.; Brown, David. "Commentary on John 16:21". "Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - Unabridged". https:https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/jfu/john-16.html. 1871-8.

Ellicott's Commentary for English Readers

(21) 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.

For the phrase “into the world” comp. John 1:9; John 18:37.


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Bibliography
Ellicott, Charles John. "Commentary on John 16:21". "Ellicott's Commentary for English Readers". https:https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/ebc/john-16.html. 1905.

Treasury of Scripture Knowledge

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.
woman
Genesis 3:16; Isaiah 26:16-18; Jeremiah 30:6,7; Hosea 13:13,14; Micah 4:10; Revelation 12:2-5
for
Genesis 21:6,7; 30:23,24; 1 Samuel 1:26,27; Psalms 113:9; Luke 1:57,58; Galatians 4:27

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Bibliography
Torrey, R. A. "Commentary on John 16:21". "The Treasury of Scripture Knowledge". https:https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/tsk/john-16.html.

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