Luke 21:23 But woe unto them that are with child,

KJV Verse: 

Luke 21:23 But woe unto them that are with child, and to them that give suck, in those days! for there shall be great distress in the land, and wrath upon this people.

Greek Verse: 

Literal Alternative: 

So sad the ones carrying [a baby] in the belly, also, the ones sucking in those days there. There is going to be, consequently, a natural force, a great one, upon the planet also a natural impulse in a crowd, this one.

Explanation of Greek: 

The first part of this verse is nearly the same as Matthew 24:19  and Mark 13:17. In this first part, there are no word used as active verbs. It is a great example of the different between spoken and written language. The last part is unique to Luke and interesting because it use a number of uncommon and unique words, two of which are related in a way that is lost in translation and one of which is translated to look like a very common word, but it isn't.

There is no "but" in this verse. The word usually translated as "but" exists in the Matthew version, but it is translated as "and" there.

"Woe" is from an exclamation of grief, meaning "woe" or "alas." However, Christ seems to use it humorously. Every verse in which it appears have the hallmarks of Christ's humor. Today we would say "so sad [for you]" or "boo-hoo to you." The word is very like the Jewish, "oy veh" which can be used to express sorry but with is more commonly used cynically. More about this phrase in this article on Christ's humor, under the subtitle, "exaggeration."

The word translated as "unto them that" is from the Greek article, "the," which usually proceeds a noun and, without a noun, takes the meaning of "the one" or, in the plural, "the ones."

The phrase translated as "with child" doesn't contain any of those words in Greek, but it does have the sense, but only after the final word of the phrase.

The word translated as "with" is from a word that means "in" but also means "within", "with," or "among."

The word translated as "child" means "paunch", "belly", "gluttony" with en, or "womb." With the verb "to have" and the preposition en, it means "have in the belly" in the sense of "big with child." Until the next word, these two words mean "gluttony."

The untranslated word for "have" appears here, but it is in the form of an adjective, "having a belly."

The "and" here is the normal conjunction "and" which can also be used as "also."

"To them that give suck" is from a noun form of the verb that means "to suck." We would say, "the ones sucking or nursing."

The word translated as "in" is the same one as used above, emphasizing the repetition of the verse.

The word translated as "those" is an adjective that highlights its noun as in a specific place from a word that means "there." It seems to indicate that the "days" are about a certain place as well as time.

The Greek word translated as "days" also means "time," in general, and refers specifically to the "daytime."

The word translated as "for" introduces a reason or explanation so "because" and, in questions, "why."  To prevent a run-on sentence, it can be translated as "this is why" or "this is because..." to start a new sentence. However, since this word always appears in the second position, it is more like an aside remark like, "consequently" or "as a cause".

The verb "there shall be" here is the common form of "to be" in Greek. This is the first active verb in this verse.  It means to have a certain characteristic or remain in a certain condition. It also equates terms or assigns characteristics. 

The word translated as "great" means "big", "high" "great," and "impressive."

"Distress " is a noun that is uncommon for Jesus. It doesn't means "distress" but "force", "constraint", "necessity," and "natural need." It means the natural forces that require things to be as they are. The contrast in this verse is between the natural force of nature on the earth and the natural impulses within people.

The word translated as "in" means "on", "over", "upon", "against", "before", "after", "during", "by" or "on." When used with "the earth" it is almost always translated as "upon".

The word translated as "the land" means "earth", "ground" and "dirt". It refers to the physical planet, not society, which Christ describes as the world. See this article for more on these words.

The Greek word translated as "and" is used as the conjunction "and", but it also is used to add emphasis ("also").

"Wrath" is a word that Jesus uses uniquely here. It means a "natural impulse", " propensity "temperament", "disposition", "mood", " anger", and "wrath". The "natural" connects it to the "distress" word above. This is the natural impulse within people. We might say "moodiness".

There is no Greek word for "upon" here. The word comes from the form of "this people". Interestingly, this is the primary meaning of the word translated as "in" above.

The word translated as "this" means "from here" or "this/that thing."

"People" is another word that Jesus only uses here. The word is used throughout the Gospels to refer to the crowds of people that Jesus draws, but Jesus only uses it here. It  means "men", "people assembled", "the multitude",  and"people" of one name.  The phrase "wrath of the people" describes the moodiness of crowds.

 

Greek Vocabulary: 

οὐαὶ (exclam) "Woe" is from ouai, which is an exclamation of pain or anger meaning "woe" or "alas" but it can be used sarcastically.

ταῖς (article pl fem dat) "Unto them that" is the Greek article, "the," which usually proceeds a noun and, without a noun, takes the meaning of "the one" or, in the plural, "the ones."

ἐν "With" is from en, which means "in", "on", "at", "by", "among", "within", "surrounded by", "in one's hands", "in one's power," and "with". -

γαστρὶ (noun sg fem dat) "Child" is from gaster, which means "paunch", "belly", "gluttony" with en, or "womb." With the verb "to have" and the preposition en, it usually means "big with child."

ἐχούσαις (part pl pres act fem dat) "Have" is from echo, which means "to have", "to hold", "to possess", "to keep", "to have charge of", "to maintain", "to hold fast", "to bear", "to carry", "to keep close", "to keep safe," and "to have means to do." -- The word translated as "have" means "to possess" or "to keep" but it isn't used in the same way as a "helper" verb that the English "have" is.

καὶ "And" is from kai, which is the conjunction joining phrases and clauses, "and," or "but." After words implying sameness, "as" (the same opinion as you). Used in series, joins positive with negative "Not only...but also." Also used to give emphasis, "even", "also," and "just."

ταῖς θηλαζούσαις (part pl pres act fem dat) "To them that give suck" is from thelazo, which means "to suckle", "to nurse," and "to suck (for animals)." this is the present participle form used as a female dative noun.

ἐν "With" is from en, which means "in", "on", "at", "by", "among", "within", "surrounded by", "in one's hands", "in one's power," and "with". -

ἐκείναις (adj pl fem dat) "Those" is from ekeinos, which means "the person there", "that person", "that thing", "in that case", "in that way", "at that place," and "in that manner."

ταῖς ἡμέραις. (noun pl fem dat) "Day" is from hemera, which, as a noun, means "day" "a state or time of life", "a time (poetic)", "day break" and "day time." It is also and also has a second meaning, of "quiet", "tame (animals)", "cultivated (crops)," and "civilized (people)." --

 ἔσται ( verb 3rd sg fut ind mid ) "There shall be" is eimi, which means "to be", "to exist", "to be the case," of circumstance and events "to happen",  and "is possible." (The future form is esomai. The 3rd person present indicative is "esti.")

γὰρ (partic) "For" comes from gar which is the introduction of a clause explaining a reason or explanation: "for", "since," and "as." In an abrupt question, it means "why" and "what." -- 

ἀνάγκη [uncommon] (noun sg fem nom ) "Distress" is from ananke which means "force", "constraint", " necessity," and "natural need." It means the natural forces that require things to be as they are. --

μεγάλη  ( adj sg fem nom ) "Great" is megas, which means "big", "full-grown", "vast", "high", "great", "mighty", "strong (of the elements)","loud" (of sounds), "over-great (with a bad sense), "impressive" (of style), and "long" ( of days). --

ἐπὶ (prep) "In" is epi, which means "on", "over",  "upon", "at", "by", "before", "across," "after" in position, "during", and "against." --

τῆς γῆς ( noun sg fem gen ) "The land" is ge, which means "the element of earth", "land (country)", "arable land", "the ground," and "the world" as the opposite of the sky. Like our English word "earth," it means both dirt and the planet. --

καὶ (conj/adv) "And" is kai, which is the conjunction joining phrases and clauses, "and," or "but." After words implying sameness, "as" (the same opinion as you). Used in series, joins positive with negative "Not only...but also." Also used to give emphasis, "even", "also," and "just."

ὀργὴ [unique]( noun sg fem nom ) "Wrath" is orge, which means a "natural impulse", " propensity "temperament", "disposition", "mood", " anger", and "wrath".

τῷ λαῷ [unique]( noun sg masc dat ) "People" is from laos, which means "men", "people assembled", "the multitude",  and"people" of one name.

τούτῳ, ( adj sg masc dat ) "This" is touto, which means "from here", "from there", "this [thing]," or "that [thing]." --

Related Verses: 

Jan 11 2019