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Isaiah 26:17-18

Context

26:17 As when a pregnant woman gets ready to deliver

and strains and cries out because of her labor pains,

so were we because of you, O Lord.

26:18 We were pregnant, we strained,

we gave birth, as it were, to wind. 1 

We cannot produce deliverance on the earth;

people to populate the world are not born. 2 

1 tn On the use of כְּמוֹ (kÿmo, “like, as”) here, see BDB 455 s.v. Israel’s distress and suffering, likened here to the pains of childbirth, seemed to be for no purpose. A woman in labor endures pain with the hope that a child will be born; in Israel’s case no such positive outcome was apparent. The nation was like a woman who strains to bring forth a child, but can’t push the baby through to daylight. All her effort produces nothing.

2 tn Heb “and the inhabitants of the world do not fall.” The term נָפַל (nafal) apparently means here, “be born,” though the Qal form of the verb is not used with this nuance anywhere else in the OT. (The Hiphil appears to be used in the sense of “give birth” in v. 19, however.) The implication of verse 18b seems to be that Israel hoped its suffering would somehow end in deliverance and an increase in population. The phrase “inhabitants of the world” seems to refer to the human race in general, but the next verse, which focuses on Israel’s dead, suggests the referent may be more limited.



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