would end with the birth of the child and so pregnancy would normally come to a happy and satisfying conclusion.—John 16:21, 22.
“WOE TO THE PREGNANT WOMAN”
When responding to the apostles’ question about the conclusion of the system of things, Jesus spoke about fleeing from Judea and said: “Woe to the pregnant women and those suckling a baby in those days!” (Matt. 24:19; Mark 13:17; Luke 21:23) The fulfillment and truthfulness of those words became apparent in the events prior to and during the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 C.E. Though reasonable activity and movement is usually possible for a woman during her pregnancy (Luke 1:39, 56; 2:5), extended flight on foot over mountainous country would be hard on her, and especially if her time for delivery were close. Extreme adversity befell pregnant women and those suckling babies when Roman forces laid siege to Jerusalem. Famine prevailed. During pregnancy it is important for a woman to have proper nourishment. If, for example, she does not get sufficient calcium she might lose her teeth, as the body takes calcium to form the bones of the developing baby. Furthermore a woman’s maternal protective instinct would increase her suffering as she saw infants starving and dying, all the while knowing that she would soon bring a child into such conditions. Josephus wrote about some starving men in besieged Jerusalem: “They showed no pity for grey hairs or helpless babyhood, but picked up the children as they clung to the precious scraps and dashed them on the floor.”—The Jewish War, translated by G. A. Williamson, p. 291; compare Luke 23:29.
The period of pregnancy culminating in the birth of a child is used several times in a metaphorical sense. Israel lost God’s favor because her unfaithful people ‘conceived trouble and brought to birth what is hurtful.’ (Isa. 59:2-8; compare Psalm 7:14.) The process began with their allowing “hurtful thoughts” and wrong desires to impregnate their minds and hearts and, in effect, incubate there, with the inevitable result that “hurtful works” came to birth.—Compare James 1:14, 15.
Elsewhere Isaiah depicts Israel as a woman crying out in labor pains and saying to God: “So we have become because of you, O Jehovah. We have become pregnant, we have had labor pains; as it were, we have given birth to wind. No real salvation do we accomplish as regards the land, and no inhabitants for the productive land proceed to fall in birth [come to life, JP].” (Isa. 26:17, 18) This may refer to the fact that, despite God’s blessings (compare verse 15) and his having set before Israel the opportunity to become a “kingdom of priests and a holy nation” (Ex. 19:6), Israel had not yet seen realized the long-awaited fulfillment of the promise regarding the Seed through whom blessings would flow. (Gen. 22:15-18) Israel’s own efforts at salvation had produced nothing, unreality; as a nation it could not bring about the freedom “from enslavement to corruption” for which all creation “keeps on groaning together and being in pain together.” (Rom. 8:19-22; compare 10:3; 11:7.) With the Babylonian conquest the land “faded away” due to its pollution through the violation of God’s covenant, and ‘the inhabitants of the land decreased in number.—Isa. 24:4-6.
In contrast, by bringing back his people from exile, Jehovah made Jerusalem like a woman who had been made pregnant by her husband and brought forth numerous children.—Isa. 54:1-8.
The apostle Paul quotes this prophecy of Isaiah chapter 54 and applies it to “the Jerusalem above [which] is free, and she is our mother.” (Gal. 4:26, 27; compare Hebrews 12:22.) This evidently provides the key for understanding the vision recorded at Revelation 12:1-5, in which a pregnant heavenly “woman” gives birth to “a son, a male, who is to shepherd all the nations with an iron rod.” The shepherding of the nations with an iron rod is directly connected with the Messianic kingdom of God and hence the vision must relate to the producing of that Kingdom, so that, following the defeat of Satan’s attack on the newborn “child,” the ensuing cry goes forth: “Now have come to pass the salvation and the power and the kingdom of our God and the authority of his Christ.” (Rev. 12:10) The anguish of the pregnant heavenly “woman” preceding the birth calls to mind Paul’s expression at Galatians 4:19, “childbirth pains” there apparently representing stirring interest and fervent desire to see full development of matters reached (in Paul’s case, the full development of the Galatian believers as Christians).
A name applied to the day preceding the weekly sabbath, during which the Jews prepared for the sabbath.
When Jehovah began to provide manna in the wilderness he directed that a double portion be collected on the sixth day, since the people were not to gather manna on the sabbath, or seventh day. So, in preparation for the weekly sabbath, the Jews collected and baked or boiled extra manna. (Ex. 16:5, 22-27) In time the “day before the sabbath” came to be termed Preparation, as Mark explained. (Mark 15:42) (Somewhat similarly, in German Samstag [Saturday] is also called Sonnabend [literally, “Sun evening”] or “evening before Sunday [Sonntag].”) The Jewish Preparation day would end at sundown of what is today called Friday, at which time the sabbath would commence, the Jewish day running from evening to evening.
On Preparation the people prepared meals for the next day, the sabbath, and completed any other pressing work that could not wait until after the sabbath. (Ex. 20:10) The Law stipulated that the body of a man executed and hung on a stake “should not stay all night on the stake.” (Deut. 21:22, 23; compare Joshua 8:29; 10:26, 27.) Since Jesus and those impaled with him were on stakes on the afternoon of Preparation, it was important to the Jews that their deaths be hastened if necessary so that they could be buried before sunset. This was especially so since the day soon to begin at sundown was a regular sabbath (the seventh day of the week) and also a sabbath because of being Nisan 15 (Lev. 23:5-7), hence it was a “great” sabbath. (John 19:31, 42; Mark 15:42, 43; Luke 23:54) Josephus quoted a decree of Caesar Augustus that said the Jews were “not obliged to go before any judge on the Sabbath-day, nor on the day of preparation to it, after the ninth hour,” indicating that they began to prepare for the sabbath at the ninth hour on Friday.—Antiquities of the Jews, Book XVI, chap. VI, par. 2.
Regarding the morning of Jesus’ trial and appearance before Pilate, which was in the morning period of Nisan 14 (the Passover day having begun the evening before), John 19:14 says: “Now it was preparation of the passover.” (RS, AV, NW, Da) Some commentators have understood this to mean “preparation for the passover,” and certain translations so render the verse. (AT, We, CC) This, though, suggests that the Passover had not yet been celebrated, whereas the Gospel accounts explicitly show that Jesus and the apostles had celebrated it the night before. (Luke 22:15; Matt. 26:18-20; Mark 14:14-17) Christ perfectly carried out the regulations of the Law, including the requirement to celebrate the Passover on Nisan 14. (Ex. 12:6; Lev. 23:5; see PASSOVER.) The day of Jesus’ trial and death could be viewed as the “preparation of the passover” in the sense that it was the preparation for the seven-day Festival of Unfermented Cakes that began the next day. Because of their closeness on the calendar, the entire festival itself was often included in the term Passover. And the day after Nisan 14 was always a sabbath; additionally, in 33 C.E. Nisan 15 fell on the regular sabbath, making the day a “great” or double sabbath.