In the first article on this topic, I pointed out that a prominent pastor told his congregation and viewing audience the following: “In your Bible, right next to Isaiah 66:8, you can write down May 14, 1948.” It’s obvious that Isaiah 66 describes a time when the sacrificial system was operating (v. 3), the ancient people of Tarshish, Put, Lud, Meshech (the archers, those who draw the bow: Ezek. 27:10), Tubal, and Javan [Greece] were living (v. 19), chariots, mules, and camels were in use (v. 20) and the Levitical system was still operating (v. 21). These are hardly descriptions of modern-day Israel. What these far-away people groups show is that the gospel message was inherently universal. Consider what we find in Acts 2:6-11 on the day when the Holy Spirit was poured out:
And when this sound occurred, the crowd came together and they were bewildered, because each one of them was hearing them speak in his own language. They were amazed and astonished, saying, “Why, are not all these who are speaking Galileans? And how is it that we each hear them in our own language to which we were born? Parthians, Medes, and Elamites, and residents of Mesopotamia, Judea, and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya around Cyrene, and visitors from Rome, both Jews and proselytes, Cretans and Arabs—we hear them speaking in our own tongues of the mighty deeds of God.”
The gospel was always meant to be international. Those who were brought back from exile were to be missionaries to the nations. This was always to be Israel’s task. In order to apply Isaiah 66:8 to the modern state of Israel one must skip over the promised and realized return from exile that Ezra and Nehemiah describe in great detail and the New Covenant where the gospel was preached at Pentecost to “Jews living in Jerusalem … from every nation under heaven” (Acts 2:5) where in a single day thousands of Jews were saved and continued to be saved along with non-Jews throughout the Roman Empire to the point where Paul could write that the gospel had been preached “in all creation under heaven” (Col. 1:23). “To the Jew first and also to the Greek” (Rom. 1:16). It’s quite evident from the book of Acts that a “nation producing the fruit of it” (Matt. 21:43) was established in one day, if we are to take Isaiah 66:8 literally like some popular dispensational writers do.
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Now read Isaiah 66:8 within the context of the above passages:
Who has heard such a thing? Who has seen such things?
Can a land be born in one day?
Can a nation be brought forth all at once?
As soon as Zion travailed, she also brought forth her sons.
These “sons” were believing Jews—thousands of them (Acts 2:41 [~3000]; 4:4 [~5000]; 21:20 [“many thousands”: μυριάς/myriads]). When the persecution started by unbelieving Jews, notice what these believing Jews living in Jerusalem did.
Saul was in hearty agreement with putting him to death. And on that day a great persecution began against the church in Jerusalem, and they were all scattered throughout the regions of Judea and Samaria, except the apostles. Some devout men buried Stephen, and made loud lamentation over him. But Saul began ravaging the church, entering house after house, and dragging off men and women, he would put them in prison. Therefore, those who had been scattered went about preaching the word. Philip went down to the city of Samaria and began proclaiming Christ to them (Acts 8:1-4).
Remember what Jesus told His disciples prior to His ascension:
So when they had come together, they were asking Him, saying, “Lord, is it at this time You are restoring the kingdom to Israel?” He said to them, “It is not for you to know times or epochs which the Father has fixed by His own authority; but you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be My witnesses both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and even to the remotest part of the earth”(1:6-8).
Jesus answered their question with a statement about the worldwide proclamation of the gospel not a reinstitution of the Old Covenant Jerusalem-centered kingdom. The kingdom was becoming international. The ekklēsia grew and advanced into a new nation of covenant people (Rom. 9).
· The word of God kept on spreading; and the number of the disciples continued to increase greatly in Jerusalem, and a great many of the priests were becoming obedient to the faith (Acts 6:7).
· So the church throughout all Judea and Galilee and Samaria enjoyed peace, being built up; and going on in the fear of the Lord and in the comfort of the Holy Spirit, it continued to increase (9:31).
· But the word of the Lord continued to grow and to be multiplied (12:24).
· And the word of the Lord was being spread through the whole region. But the Jews incited the devout women of prominence and the leading men of the city, and instigated a persecution against Paul and Barnabas, and drove them out of their district. But they shook off the dust of their feet in protest against them and went to Iconium (13:49-51; also 19:20).
This would have been the perfect time for Paul and Barnabas to tell their countrymen that the rapture of the church could happen at any moment and God would again restore Israel to her unique status. Instead, Paul and Barnabas “shook off the dust of their feet.” Peter had been given a vision to take the gospel to the non-Israelite nations (Acts 10). The book of Acts ends with Paul “proclaiming the kingdom of God” (28:31). He does not say anything about the restoration of the Old Covenant order or the land. There is no mention of a rebuilt temple. Not one word! Israel (to the Jew first) served God’s purpose to take the gospel to the world: “For so the Lord has commanded us, ‘I HAVE PLACED YOU AS A LIGHT FOR THE GENTILES, THAT YOU SHOULD BRING SALVATION TO THE END OF THE EARTH’” (13:47; also, Luke 2:32; Isa. 49:6). The kingdom is Jesus-centered and world-centered, not physical Israel-centered.
Peter wrote to believers in his day, “But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation [Ex. 19:6], a people for God’s own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who has called you out of darkness into His marvelous light; or you once were not a people, but now you are the people of god; you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy” (1 Peter 2:9-10). Notice how Peter quotes OT passages that referred to Israel but were applied to the NT ekklēsia (Acts 5:11; 8:1-4) that included believing Jews and Gentiles. Peter was not describing a distant reestablishment of Israel in 1948 but what was taking place in his day.
Anyone who has read commentaries on Isaiah should know all of this. It is irresponsible to claim Isaiah 66:8 is about modern-day Israel. It’s especially irresponsible to tell people to write in their Bibles May 14, 1948 at Isaiah 66:8. For example, John N. Oswalt writes:
The significance of zākār, “male,” here [66:7] is unclear. The [Targ[um Jonathan]](https://www.sefaria.org/Targum_Jonathan_on_Isaiah.66.7?lang=bi) paraphrases “her king will be revealed,” which is plainly a messianic reference. Rev. 12:5 uses similar terminology in what is apparently a messianic setting. Without further indications in the immediate context, however, it is impossible to make definitive judgment. It may be that the term is used because a male was understood to be the progenitor of a nation. On the apparent influence of this verse (and all of ch. 66) on the NT, see R. Aus, “The relevance of Isaiah 66:6 to Revelation 12 and 2 Thessalonians 1.”
Note that Oswalt does not interpret 66:7-8 as the 1948 “rebirth” of Israel. He does not apply these verses to “a single historical event” but “applies,” according to John Calvin (1509-1564), “to a number of events in redemption history” beginning with “the release from captivity, which suddenly became a reality with Cyrus’s conquest of Babylon” and including the Reformation. Oswalt concludes that “in a single moment Zion will give birth to a brand-new people, a people forever set free from the curse of sin.” That took place because of the redemptive work of Jesus. There was no postponement or “gap” in redemptive history. Jesus proclaimed, “It is finished” (John 19:30).
FREE DOWNLOAD: Isaiah 66:8 and the Modern State of Israel
Gary DeMar dispels the often-claimed notion that Isaiah 66:8 is fulfilled in modern-day Israel. The New Testament is the best interpreter of the Old Testament, and the NT does not say a single word about Israel becoming a nation again or the need for it to happen. If the reestablishment of the state of Israel is a fundamental doctrine, then Jesus and the NT writers would have said something about it. In fact, this subject is conspicuous by its absence; Paul seems to show no interest in the land in the purposes of God.BUY NOW
What do Commentators Say?
You don’t have to take my word for my view on this. As always, I check my work with other sources. In the case below, with commentators who do not have an eschatological ax to grind. Most of today’s popular prophecy pundits work within the bubble of an existing system that has little biblical support when examined by comparing Scripture with Scripture without adding elements to passages that are not present but needed. J. Alec Motyer writes about 66:21 that “Jerusalem is not the literal city but the city of Galatians 4:25-26; Hebrews 12:22; Revelation 21.”
Here’s what other commentators have to say on the subject.
John D. W. Watts
Ver. 7 The next eight verses use birth and child imagery to describe the emergence of the new city. The suddenness of the events is portrayed in this verse” Before … labor, she gives birth. Jerusalem’s destruction in 587 B.C. had left marks on the city which were not removed until Nehemiah rebuilt the walls in 437 B.C. (see Bright, HI, 381). After that long wait of well over a century, it took only two years for Henemiah to complete the wall. It was an unbelievable feat. The metaphor picks up imagery from 49:20-21 (See Rev. 12:5).
Ver. 8 Who ever heard of such a thing? … Zion has done into labor and birthed her children. The achievements of Ezra and Nehemiah were memorable. They accomplished more in a short period than anyone else in the century before and century after them. The children of Zion are at the new covenant community of faithful servants of Yahweh. This passage develops the theme of 65:8-10, 13:25; Deut 8:5; Jer. 31:20; Hos 11:1. The reference to children could also be to the new inhabitants (see Neh 11).
A Critical Commentary and Paraphrase on the Old Testament and the Apocrypha
Ver. 7. Before she travailed, she brought forth.] Here begins a new paragraph, containing a description of the sudden increase of the Christian church, upon God’s rejecting the Jews, and destroying their temple and worship. The very destruction of the Jewish polity making way for the growth of the gospel, inasmuch as it abated that opposition which the Jewish zealots all along gave to the spreading of it; and the abolishing the Jewish worship contributed very much to the abrogating the law of Moses, and burying it with silence and decency. (See Rom. xi.11.) The church is described here as a travailing woman, the mother of all true believers. (See liv.1. Gal. iv.26.)
Before her pain came, she was delivered of a man-child.] The expressions import how suddenly and quickly Christianity was spread and propagated over the world. And this latter sentence alludes to the Hebrew women being delivered of their male children, before the midwives could come to them, (Exod. i.19.) The propagating the kingdom of Christ, is, in like manner, described by a woman’s travailing, and bringing forth a man-child, Rev. xii.1, 2, 5. which place plainly alludes to the words here.
Ver. 8. Shall the earth be made to bring forth in one day? or shall a nation be born at once?] The suddenness of this event is as surprising, as if the fruits of the earth, which are brought to perfection by slow degrees, should blossom and ripen all in one day. And the fruitfulness of this spiritual increase is as wonderful, as if a whole nation were born at once, or by one woman. We may understand the former part of this sentence of the speedy propagation of the gospel through the world, and the latter part of it of the sudden conversion of the Jews, and their union with the gentiles into one church, when God will remove the iniquity of the land in one day, as it is foretold, Zech. iii. 9. (Compare Micah v. 3.) These two events, though distant in time [to Isaiah’s day], yet will agree very much in the swiftness of their progress.
An Old Testament Commentary for English Readers
(7) Before she travailed . . .— Tho mother, as the next verse shows, is Zion ; the man-child, born at last without the travail-pangs of sorrow, is the new Israel, the true Israel of God. The same figure has met us in chaps. xlix.17-21, liv.1, and is implied in Matt. xxiv. 8. Its antithesis is found in chap, xxxvii. 3.
(8) Shall the earth be made . . .—Better*, Shall a land be made to travail*. The usually slow processes of national development are contrasted with the supernatural rapidity of the birth and growth of the new Israel.
The Nelson Study Bible
66:7, 8 Before she … gave birth represents the birth of the community from the cast-out worshipers as coming so quickly that it will be without pain. At times, Zion is pictured as the daughter of the Lord (1:8); here she is the mother of His people. The male child and her children may refer to Christ and His Church.
New Self-Interpreting Bible Library
Ver. 7. When Christ, as ‘a child born, a son given, came in the flesh, a remnant were doubtless expecting and praying for his appearing; but as a nation and church, the Jews neither expected nor desired such a Redeemer.
V. 8. For as soon as Zion prevailed. ‘But as soon as Zion travailed,’ &c. of which see the wonderful conversions produced by a single apostolic address, Ac. 2.41; [“So then, those who had received his word were baptized; and that day there were added about three thousand souls.”] 4:4 [“But many of those who had heard the message believed; and the number of the men came to be about five thousand.”]. And surely what God has effected once he is able to accomplish again.
John Addison Alexander
Before she travailed she brought forth before her pain came she was delivered of a male. All interpreters agree that the mother here described is Zion that the figure is essentially the same as in ch. 49:21 and that in both cases an increase of numbers is represented as a birth while in that before us the additional idea of suddenness is expressed by the figure of an unexpected birth…. This verse [66:7]… represents the event previously mentioned. The terms of the sentence are exceedingly appropriate both to the return from Babylon and the future restoration of the Jews [after the exile] but admit at the same time of a wider application to the change of dispensations as the birth of the church of the New Testament.
Pulpit Commentary on Isaiah
Verses 7, 8.—Before she travailed, etc. Without any long delay, without any labour pains, Zion will bring forth a man-child—a whole nation, which wilt be born at once, and not grow up by slow degrees. The occupation of Jerusalem by the great body of the returned exiles (Ezra 2:1; 3:1) is intended. Such a second birth of a nation was strange, and without precedent (comp. Isaiah 42:9; 43:19). Shall the earth [eretz] be made to bring forth in one day? rather, can a land be brought forth in one day? It is not only a people, but a country, that is born anew; not only the Jews, but Judaea.
Verse 22.— As the new heavens and the new earth, which I will make, shall remain. The “new heavens and the new earth,” once created, continue forever (comp. Rev. 21:1-27; 22:1-5). So shall your seed and your name remain. This statement is usually taken to be a promise of some special pre-eminence to the Jew over the Gentile in the final kingdom of the redeemed. But St. Paul speaks of all such privileges as already abolished in his day (Col. 3:11); and, if the priesthood is to be common to both Gentile and Jew, the principle of equality would seem to be conceded. Perhaps no more is here meant than that, as the “new heaven and new earth” will always remain, so there will always remain a seed of true believers to worship God in them.
Albert Barnes’ Notes on the Bible
Before she travailed, she brought forth — That is, Zion. The idea here is, that there would be a great and sudden increase of her numbers. Zion is here represented, as it often is, as a female (see Isa. 1:8), and as the mother of spiritual children (compare Isa.54:1; 49:20-21). The particular idea here is, that the increase would be sudden — as if a child were born without the usual delay and pain of parturition. If the interpretation given of Isaiah 66:6 be correct, then this refers probably to the sudden increase of the church when the Messiah came, and to the great revivals of religion which attended the first preaching of the gospel. Three thousand were converted on a single day (Acts 2), and the gospel was speedily propagated almost all over the known world. Vitringa supposes that it refers to the sudden conversion of the Gentiles, and their accession to the church.
“Isaiah 40-66” by Marvin A. Sweeney 
It is noteworthy, therefore, that 66:2, 5 employ the Hebrew term ḥārēdîm, “those who tremble” at YHWH’s word (i.e., those who stand in awe of YHWH and will do what YHWH expects), insofar as it is the same term employed for the self-designation of the community under Ezra (Ezra 9:3; 10:4…). Convincing the people to support such an enterprise, particularly in the aftermath of the Babylonian exile and the rebuilding of the temple, was a key challenge for a people that continued to live in economic hardship and under threat by the various brigands and marauders of western Asia during the Persian period. Consequently, the differentiation between the wicked and the righteous served a rhetorical end to convince the people that they would not want to be accounted among the wicked who ignored YHWH and the temple, but instead among those who supported YHWH, the creator of the universe and the redeemer of Israel, in YHWH’s efforts to restore the temple to its proper role as the holy center of the Jewish people in Jerusalem and as the holy center of creation at large.
In short, chs. 65-66 were written … in an effort to support the temple reforms of Nehemiah and Ezra.
Isaiah 65-66 functions as the conclusion to the book of Isaiah as a whole by pointing to the anticipated restoration of Jerusalem that will follow from the punishment and exile suffered by the city since the Assyrian period.
Isaiah 66:20-21 “refers to YHWH’s choosing priests and Levites from the exiled Israelites who are returned by the nations to Zion.
John N. Oswalt, The Book of Isaiah: Chapters 44-66 (NICOT) (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1998), 2:674. Note 674.
Oswalt, The Book of Isaiah, 2:675.
J. Alec Motyer, The Prophecy of Isaiah: An Introduction and Commentary (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1993), 540.
John D. W. Watts, Isaiah 34-66, Word Biblical Commentary(Waco, TX: Word Books, 1987), 25:363.
Patrick, Lowth, Arnald, Whitby, and Lowman, A Critical Commentary and Paraphrase on the Old Testament and the Apocrypha, new ed. (London: 1822), 3:587.
Charles John Ellicott, ed., An Old Testament Commentary for English Readers, 4 vols. (London: Cassell and Company, Limited, 1884), 4:575.
New Self-Interpreting Bible Library (St. Louis: The Bible Educational Society, 1916), 3:1227.
Joseph Addison Alexander, Commentary on the Prophecies of Isaiah, one-volume ed. (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, [1865) 1953), 2:455-456.
Rolf P. Knierim, Gene M. Tucker, and Marvin A. Sweeney, eds., The Forms of the Old Testament Literature (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 2016).