Romans 8:22

We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time.

What is the source of knowledge? Is it written in the OT? Any specific verse?

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    Earthquakes, volcanoes, tsunami ? (Up-voted +1.) – Nigel J Jan 21 at 16:34

Apart from personal observations and experience, Paul was intimately acquainted with Scripture.

Paul knew that since the fall of man, every part of God’s creation was subjected to a curse. Under that curse, all creation groans: the ground was cursed for Adam’s sake, thorns and thistles and noxious weeds began to grow, all of Eve’s daughters have laboured painfully in childbirth, and death entered the world (Genesis 3:14–19).

Paul also knew about God’s promises to lift the curse of sin and to restore all creation to the Eden-like reflection of God’s glory: “For behold, I create new heavens and a new earth, and the former things shall not be remembered or come into mind” (Isaiah 65:17).

In Romans 8, the apostle Paul is teaching believers that their new life in Jesus Christ is solidly founded on God’s promises and plans for His children. The first promise Paul touches on is that of future glory. Then, in verse 19, Paul says that all creation is eagerly awaiting that future glorious day when God’s children become who they were always meant to be, that the creation would be liberated from its bondage to decay.

Elsewhere Paul uses the illustration of a woman in childbirth to show how believers long to be clothed in their heavenly bodies: “For in this tent we groan, longing to put on our heavenly dwelling” (2 Corinthians 5:2).

P.S. Almost forgot to mention the glaringly obvious: Paul was writing under divine inspiration.


I think it refers back to Genesis 3:17-19 and the curse place upon the earth by God. Perfection in Eden has now been changed to a cursed ground, whereas there were fruit trees, green plants etc. there is now thorns an thistles. Where fruit/food was readily available at an arm's reach- there is now labor to be done and by the sweat of the brow there will be food.

  • Plants are only one part of creation. That doesn't really suggest all creation. – curiousdannii Jan 23 at 23:15

How did Paul know that “the whole creation has been groaning”?

For some six thousand years since the fall of Adam, mankind has been in bondage to pain, death, wars, famines, deceases, mental and emotional disturbances, fear guilt, worry e.t.c. Paul observed all these and with his knowledge of the scriptures, he realistically summed the human experience:

Romans 8:22 (NET Bible)

22 For we know that the whole creation groans and suffers together until now

To dust you will return

Genesis 3:19 (NASB)

19 By the sweat of your face You shall eat bread Until you return to the ground, Because from it you were taken; For you are dust, And to dust you shall return.”


What is the source of knowledge? Is it written in the OT? Any specific verse?

First, as to the meaning of the phrase οἴδαμεν γὰρ ὅτι (“for we know that”). Douglas Moo, in his commentary to Romans, said the phrase is:

to introduce a commonly recognized truth (see also 2:2; 3:19; 7:14; 8:28), and it may be that he sees the violence and disasters in nature as evidence of the “yearning” he speaks of in this verse.

Joseph Fitzmyer, in his Anchor Yale Bible Commentary to Romans said that Paul owed this knowledge to the OT and to the intertestamental literature:

Paul alludes to Gen 3:17–19 and 5:29, where the earth has been cursed because of Adam’s sinful transgression. But he is also thinking of the OT promises about “a new heaven and a new earth,” the apocalyptic promises in Trito-Isaiah (Isa 65:17; 66:22). In intertestamental literature such promises were transferred to the messianic age: 1 Enoch 45:4–5 (the earth will be transformed for the upright along with the Chosen One); Jub. 4:26; 2 Apoc. Bar. 31:5–32:6; 4 Ezra 7:11, 30–32, 75. This notion is also found in Rev 21:1 and 2 Pet 3:13 in the NT and is echoed in later rabbinic literature (see Str-B 3.247–55): the world, created for humanity and the service of it, was drawn into Adam’s ruin; the blessings given to him (fertility of the soil, fecundity of trees, brilliance of stars, friendliness of animals, limitation of insects) were all lost, because Eve gave Adam (= humanity) to eat of the forbidden fruit. Paul is tributary to such Jewish thinking. He realizes that through Adam came not only sin and death (5:12–14), but “bondage to decay” and the “slavery of corruption,” which affect all material creation, even apart from humanity (8:19–23).


In addition to Rick Martin's observation, in Isaiah 35:1-10 (NASB)

1 The wilderness and the desert will rejoice, And the desert will shout for joy and blossom; Like the crocus

2 It will blossom profusely And rejoice with joy and jubilation. The glory of Lebanon will be given to it, The majesty of Carmel and Sharon. They will see the glory of the Lord, The majesty of our God.

3 Strengthen the exhausted, and make the feeble strong.

4 Say to those with anxious heart, “Take courage, fear not. Behold, your God will come with vengeance; The retribution of God will come, But He will save you.”

5 Then the eyes of those who are blind will be opened, And the ears of those who are deaf will be unstopped.

6 Then those who limp will leap like a deer, And the tongue of those who cannot speak will shout for joy. For waters will burst forth in the wilderness, And streams in the desert.

7 The scorched land will become a pool And the thirsty ground springs of water; In the haunt of jackals, its resting place, Grass becomes reeds and rushes.

8 A highway will be there, a roadway, And it will be called the Highway of Holiness. The unclean will not travel on it, But it will be for the one who walks that way, And fools will not wander on it.

9 No lion will be there, Nor will any vicious animal go up on it; They will not be found there. But the redeemed will walk there,

10 And the redeemed of the Lord will return And come to Zion with joyful shouting, And everlasting joy will be on their heads. They will obtain gladness and joy, And sorrow and sighing will flee away.


In addition, note the phrase "as in" which signals a biblical metaphor but not an exact likeness. In this specific question's case, it is "as in the pains of childbirth" with which no previous replies have dwelt.

The NT biblical authors were much more steeped in the OT than we can possibly imagine. (This statement needs no overt reference as much of Jesus' words drew from the OT and these references are provided in bible versions.)

In the story of Israel, the metaphor of "pains of childbirth" could signal two other events:

First is the labor of Rachel (the beloved of Jacob), the birth of a son of Jacob's old age, Benjamin, the subsequent death of Rachel, and the yet future symbolism of Rachel, no longer alive on earth, but in spirit, weeping for her children. Rachel is buried near Bethlehem, where baby boys of Israel would be killed by Herod in the act of trying to kill Jesus. She would have reason to weep.

Genesis 35:16-19

16 Then they moved on from Bethel. While they were still some distance from Ephrath, Rachel began to give birth and had great difficulty. 17 And as she was having great difficulty in childbirth, the midwife said to her, “Don’t despair, for you have another son.” 18 As she breathed her last—for she was dying—she named her son Ben-Oni But his father named him Benjamin.

19 So Rachel died and was buried on the way to Ephrath (that is, Bethlehem). 20 Over her tomb Jacob set up a pillar, and to this day that pillar marks Rachel’s tomb.

Now harkening back to Genesis:
Jeremiah 31:15

"This is what the Lord says: “A voice is heard in Ramah, mourning and great weeping, Rachel weeping for her children and refusing to be comforted, because they are no more.”

and then the fulfilled moment from Jeremiah noted by Matthew 2:18:

“A voice is heard in Ramah, weeping and great mourning, Rachel weeping for her children and refusing to be comforted, because they are no more.”

All of these relate back to the childbirth event of Rachel's death; the pain of childbirth directly relates to what all humanity experiences. Rachel knew she was going to die; she saw her fate coming, as all of humanity does. Surely, she cried out in pain and possibly bled to death. Her body, racked in the waves of contractions and pain, becomes the mother figure of giving one's life for another. Even in the poor and humble lives on earth before Christ, people would have been able to look around at the world and feel this similar wracking, screaming, and gasping for breath as one craves for justice, relationship with God, and the end of pain and death in this existence.

Second: childbirth, as designed, brings quickly following a joyous event. Indeed, Benjamin survived his mother's death. The special mothering of Joseph and Benjamin were the channel through which salvation moved through the family of Israel. Birth brings the arrival of new life on earth. So the emphasis in Romans 8:22 is on pain and chaos before new creation and peace (Genesis 1). Jesus' arrival signaled the arrival of that long-sought-for justice, recompense (making things right), that new close relationship with a parent and the arrival of Life.


It is the ministry of reconciliation.

2 Corinthians 5:19

that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting people's sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation.

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