The “Woman” Identified
3. Why will the barren “woman” have reason to rejoice?
3 Chapter 54 opens on a happy note: “‘Cry out joyfully, you barren woman that did not give birth! Become cheerful with a joyful outcry and cry shrilly, you that had no childbirth pains, for the sons of the desolated one are more numerous than the sons of the woman with a husbandly owner,’ Jehovah has said.” (Isaiah 54:1) How thrilled Isaiah must be to speak these words! And what comfort their fulfillment will bring to the Jews exiled in Babylon! At that time Jerusalem will still be lying desolate. From a human standpoint, there will seem to be no hope that she will ever again be populated, just as a barren woman could not normally hope to bear children in her old age. But this “woman” has a great blessing in her future—she will become fertile. Jerusalem will be beside herself with joy. She will again teem with “sons,” or inhabitants.
4. (a) How does the apostle Paul help us see that Isaiah chapter 54 must have a fulfillment greater than that in 537 B.C.E.? (b) What is “Jerusalem above”?
4 Isaiah may not know it, but his prophecy will have more than one fulfillment. The apostle Paul quotes from Isaiah chapter 54 and explains that the “woman” signifies something far more important than the earthly city of Jerusalem. He writes: “The Jerusalem above is free, and she is our mother.” (Galatians 4:26) What is this “Jerusalem above”? Clearly not the city of Jerusalem in the Promised Land. That city is earthly, not “above” in the heavenly realm. “Jerusalem above” is God’s heavenly “woman,” his organization of mighty spirit creatures.
5. In the symbolic drama outlined at Galatians 4:22-31, who is pictured by (a) Abraham? (b) Sarah? (c) Isaac? (d) Hagar? (e) Ishmael?
5 How, though, can Jehovah have two symbolic women—one heavenly and the other earthly? Is there some inconsistency here? Not at all. The apostle Paul shows that the answer lies in the prophetic picture provided by Abraham’s family. (Galatians 4:22-31; see “The Family of Abraham—A Prophetic Picture,” on page 218.) Sarah, “the free woman” and Abraham’s wife, pictures Jehovah’s wifelike organization of spirit creatures. Hagar, a slave girl and Abraham’s secondary wife, or concubine, pictures earthly Jerusalem.
6. In what sense did God’s heavenly organization undergo a long period of barrenness?
6 With that background, we begin to see the profound significance of Isaiah 54:1. After decades of barrenness, Sarah bore Isaac when she was 90 years old. Similarly, Jehovah’s heavenly organization went through a long period of barrenness. Way back in Eden, Jehovah promised that his “woman” would produce the “seed.” (Genesis 3:15) Over 2,000 years later, Jehovah made his covenant with Abraham regarding the Seed of promise. But God’s heavenly “woman” had to wait many, many more centuries before producing that Seed. Still, the time came when the children of this once “barren woman” were more numerous than those of fleshly Israel. The illustration of the barren woman helps us to see why the angels were so eager to witness the arrival of the foretold Seed. (1 Peter 1:12) When did that finally happen?
7. When did “Jerusalem above” have occasion to rejoice, as foretold at Isaiah 54:1, and why do you so answer?
7 Jesus’ birth as a human child was certainly an occasion for rejoicing among the angels. (Luke 2:9-14) But that was not the event foretold at Isaiah 54:1. Only when Jesus was begotten with holy spirit in 29 C.E. did he become a spiritual son of “Jerusalem above,” publicly acknowledged by God himself as his “Son, the beloved.” (Mark 1:10, 11; Hebrews 1:5; 5:4, 5) It was then that God’s heavenly “woman” had cause for rejoicing, in fulfillment of Isaiah 54:1. At last she had produced the promised Seed, the Messiah! Her centuries of barrenness were over. That, however, was not the end of her rejoicing.
Numerous Sons for the Barren Woman
8. Why did God’s heavenly “woman” have reason to rejoice after producing the promised Seed?
8 After Jesus’ death and subsequent resurrection, God’s heavenly “woman” rejoiced to receive this favored Son back as “the firstborn from the dead.” (Colossians 1:18) Then she began to produce more spiritual sons. At Pentecost 33 C.E., about 120 of Jesus’ followers were anointed with holy spirit, thereby being adopted as Christ’s joint heirs. Later that day a further 3,000 were added. (John 1:12; Acts 1:13-15; 2:1-4, 41; Romans 8:14-16) This body of sons continued to grow. During the early centuries of Christendom’s apostasy, the growth slowed to a trickle. However, that was to change in the 20th century.
[Picture on page 220]
After his baptism, Jesus was anointed with holy spirit, and Isaiah 54:1 began to have its most important fulfillment