Thought for the Week
Rabbi Yochanon said, “In the generation of the coming of the Son of David, disciples of the Sages will be few in number, and as for the others, they will see sorrow and grief. Many troubles and evil laws will be made, each new evil quickly coming before the other has ended.” (b.Sanhedrin 97a)
Rachel began to give birth and she suffered severe labor. (Genesis 35:16)
Jacob’s beloved wife Rachel died while giving birth to her second son. The matter of Rachel’s travail can be seen in a messianic perspective. In Jewish literature the troubled times that precede the advent of Messiah are called the birth pains of Messiah (Chevlei Shel Mashiah, חבלי של משיח). The birth pain imagery is from the prophets Isaiah, Jeremiah and Micah, who frequently used the “woman in labor” simile. The prophet Jeremiah calls it “the time Jacob’s distress”:
For thus says the LORD, “I have heard a sound of terror, of dread, and there is no peace. Ask now, and see if a male can give birth. Why do I see every man with his hands on his loins, as a woman in childbirth? And why have all faces turned pale? Alas! for that day is great, there is none like it; and it is the time of Jacob’s distress, but he will be saved from it.” (Jeremiah 30:5-7)
In the Torah, “the time of Jacob’s distress” that comes “as a woman in childbirth” is none other than the travail and death of his beloved wife Rachel. In that sense, Rachel’s travail hints at the calamitous days of the birth pains of Messiah. Yeshua tells us that the beginnings of those birth pangs will be characterized by wars, famines and earthquakes.
In His first coming, the time of trouble actually descended upon Israel after Messiah’s coming. The birth pangs the Master spoke of, including the destruction of the Temple and Jerusalem, came after His death and resurrection. The first coming was like a mother who births a baby, and after the baby is born, suffers through the pain of labor. This is in keeping with the words of the prophet Isaiah:
Before she travailed, she brought forth; before her pain came, she gave birth to a boy. (Isaiah 66:7)
In Revelation 12, Israel is symbolized by a woman “clothed with the sun, and the moon under her feet, and on her head a crown of twelve stars.” (Revelation 12:1) This woman alludes to Rachel. In the book of Revelation, she cries out, “being in labor and in pain to give birth.” (Revelation 12:2) The child she births is the Messiah. He is taken from her up to heaven, and the dragon (Satan) makes war upon her. In the same way, after Yeshua ascended to the Father, Rome made war on Judea and Jerusalem. The great travail came after the birth of the child.
Yeshua has ascended to the right hand of the Father. When He returns, His second coming will be anticipated by a time of great travail. However, the trouble of those dark days will be forgotten in the joy of His appearing:
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. (John 16:21)