Today, the March for Life, recently I was told that Numbers chapter 5 verses 11-31 supports a woman’s right to abort their unborn child. Not so, these passages define the civil actions that God commanded the Israeli men of the Old Testament to take if they were “jealous” of their wife; jealous meaning that the husband believed the wife to be unfaithful. The wife in question was to ingest a special drink made by the priests. This drink would give signs if a person was guilty; ie, the thigh would rot and the belly would swell.
- The main reason that this has became an issue is because of a mistranslation in the NIV. I would add that the NIV is a perversion of the scriptures and a poor excuse for an translation. The NIV uses the phrase “your womb miscarries” while the KJV uses the phrases “thy thigh to rot.” The NIV wrongly says that the womb miscarries, which causes multiple people to fall into confusion.
- The primary focus of this passage is to manifest the guilty party. Nowhere in these passages is there any hint of an unborn child from an adulterous relationship. The thigh rotting and belly swelling was a supernatural means in which God shined a light onto the guilty party. It would be like a prosecutor having undeniable evidence.
- Both guilty and innocent wives of jealous husbands drank this concoction indiscriminately. Why would it only cause abortions on the guilty? Why would it not harm the unborn children of the innocent wives? Verse 28 states concerning the innocent wives, “she shall be free, and shall conceive seed.” Again, it only affected the guilty, yet, BOTH drank it. This certainly did not cause an abortion, it manifested the guilty.
When does life begin? It either happens at conception or it doesn’t. There is no grey area when life begins. To describe a pregnant woman, the bible often uses the term ‘with child’. Check out these verses: Ge 16:11, Ge 19:36, Ge 38:24, Ge 38:25, Ex 21:22, 1Sa 4:19, 2Sa 11:5, 2Ki 8:12, 2Ki 15:16, Ec 11:5, Isa 26:17, Isa 26:18, Isa 54:1, Jer 30:6, Jer 31:8, Ho 13:16, Am 1:13, Mt 1:18, Mt 1:23, Mt 24:19, Mr 13:17, Lu 2:5, Lu 21:23, 1Th 5:3, Re 12:2.
David considered himself a sinner from the moment of conception, ‘Behold, I was shapen in iniquity; and in sin did my mother conceive me.’ (Psalms 51:5)
The bible does not support abortion. A human fetus is a living person and deserving of basic human rights. Every child is a “heritage of the LORD” and should be treasured as such.
Here is the verse that they say advocates abortion with the Strong’s numbers, with the Strong’s translation below:
Then the priest H3548 shall charge H7650the woman H802 with an oath H7621 of cursing, H423 and the priest H3548 shall say H559 unto the woman, H802 The LORD H3068 make H5414 thee a curse H423 and an oath H7621among H8432 thy people, H5971 when the LORD H3068 doth make H5414 thy thigh H3409 to rot, H5307 and thy belly H990 to swell; H6639
The KJV translates Strong’s H5414 in the following manner: give (1,078x), put (191x), deliver (174x), made (107x), set (99x), up (26x), lay (22x), grant (21x), suffer (18x), yield (15x), bring (15x), cause (13x), utter (12x), laid (11x), send (11x), recompense (11x), appoint (10x), shew (7x), miscellaneous (167x).
The KJV translates Strong’s H423 in the following manner: curse (18x), oath (14x), execration (2x), swearing (2x).
The KJV translates Strong’s H3409 in the following manner: thigh (21x), side (7x), shaft (3x), loins (2x), body (1x).
The KJV translates Strong’s H990 in the following manner: belly (30x), womb (31x), body (8x), within (2x), born (1x).
The KJV translates Strong’s H6639 in the following manner: swell (1x).
Abortion in the Bible
Passages from the Pentateuch: the
first five books in the Hebrew Scriptures:
It is mainly from the Hebrew Scriptures that the modern-day Jewish people obtain their spiritual insight. In Judaism, a fetus is regarded as a pre-human, as not fully a human person. It is considered to become fully human only after it has half-emerged from the birth canal during the process of being born.
Christians primarily use the Christian Scriptures for guidance. However, the Hebrew Scriptures also contain passages that some feel may deal with abortion.
This passage describes how God made Adam’s body out of the dust of the earth. Later, the “man became a living soul” only after God “breathed into his nostrils the breath of life.”
Some theologians have suggested that this passage states clearly that Adam’s personhood started when he took his first breath. Following this reasoning, a newborn would become a human person only after she or he starts breathing. This would imply that a fetus is only potentially human. Thus, an abortion would not terminate the life of a human person. The most important word in the Hebrew Scriptures that was used to describe a person was “nephesh;” it appears 755 times in the Old Testament. It is translated as “living soul” in the above passage. One scholar, H.W. Wolff, 1believes that the word’s root means “to breath.” He argues that during Old Testament times:
“Living creatures are in this way exactly defined in Hebrew as creatures that breathe.”
An alternate interpretation is that Adam and Eve were unique creations. They did not start as a fetus, and were not born. They were fully formed as adults. If this approach is taken, then It is not valid to compare a newborn who has not yet breathed to Eve and Adam when they were first created as fully formed adults who had not yet breathed.
“…Rebekah, his, wife conceived. And the children struggled together within her; and she said, If it be so, why am I thus? And she went to inquire of the LORD. And the LORD said unto her, Two nations are in thy womb, and two manner of people shall be separated from thy bowels; and the one people shall be stronger than the other people; and the elder shall serve the younger.“
The passage refers to the twin fetuses of Rebekah as being “nations.” They are clearly not nations at that stage of development; the word has to be interpreted symbolically. They are rather two fetuses who were later born. The Bible refers to their descendents as nations. The passage also refers to the twin fetuses as “banim:” a Hebrew word which almost always means “newborns” or “infants,” or “children.” The ancient Hebrews did not have a separate word to describe “fetuses.” So they used the same word to describe fetuses that they also used to refer to children.
Some suggest that since the ancient Hebrews used “banim” to refer to fetuses, newborns, infants and children, that they regarded all four as simply stages of human personhood.
English translations of the Bible generally use the term “children” here; this would more accurately be translated as “fetuses” except that the latter primarily a medical term. Again, the passage does not address the main question: were the fetuses full persons, or are they just potential persons at the time?
Tamar’s pregnancy was discovered three months after conception, presumably because it was visible at that time. This was positive proof that she had been sexually active. Because she was a widow, without a husband, she was assumed to be a prostitute. Her father-in-law Judah ordered that she be burned alive for her crime. If Tamar’s twin fetuses had been considered to be human beings, one would have expected her execution would have been delayed until after their birth. There was no condemnation on Judah for deciding to take this action. (Judah later changed his mind when he found out that he was the male responsible for Tamar’s pregnancy.)
If the fetuses that she was carrying are not to be regarded as living human beings at the end of her first trimester of pregnancy, then causing their death would not be a great moral concern.
However, if the twin fetuses are to be considered as human persons, then it seems strange that they would be considered of such little value as to allow them to be killed for the alleged sin of the woman carrying them. In this case, this passage may be expressing a theme that runs through the Bible from Genesis to Revelation: that it is acceptable to kill or otherwise punish innocent person or persons for the sins or crimes of others — the pregnant woman in this case.
An alternate interpretation is that innocent persons were often punished for the sins of one member of the family. See Joshua 7:21, Daniel 3:28-19, and Daniel 6:24). So it might be normal to give little concern to the fetuses.
“The Lord said to Moses, ‘Consecrate to me every firstborn male. The first offspring of every womb among the Israelites belongs to me, whether [hu]man or animal.'”
Throughout much of the very ancient Middle East, the firstborn son in each family was ritually murdered as a sacrifice to the Gods. However if the first son was preceded either by the birth of a girl or a miscarriage, then the ceremony was not performed, as the son was not the first offering of the womb. In later years, this practice evolved into a substitute animal sacrifice, a monetary donation to the temple, or a dedication of the child to their deity.
The Interpreter’s One-Volume Commentary on the Bible states:
“…the ancestors of the Israelites probably at one time actually sacrificed their first born children, as Genesis 22:1-14 implies.” 2
These passages relate to infanticide, not abortion, because the infant would be killed after birth. But it shows the low regard for newborn humans during that era. Other references of human sacrifices in the Hebrew Scriptures are found at:
- Judges 11:29-40: Jephthah promises God that he will make a human sacrifice of the first person who comes to greet him when he returns home after a successful battle. He later ritually sacrifices his only daughter.
- I Kings 16:34: This passage may refer to the killing by Hiel of his two children during the reconstruction of Jericho. Archeological excavations there have uncovered the remains of persons who appear to have been sacrificed “to obtain divine favor.“
- II Kings 16:3: Ahaz, king of Judah, murdered his son as a human sacrifice.
- II Kings 17:17: The people of Judah abandoned worship at the temple in Jerusalem. They were said to have burned their children as human sacrifices to Baal.
- II Kings 21:6: Manasseh burned his son as a human sacrifice to Baal.
- Isaiah 57:5: Isaiah, speaking for the Lord, comments on the practice of the people of Israel in sacrificing their children, “down in the valleys, under overhanging rocks.“
- Jeremiah 7:31: Jeremiah, speaking for the Lord, criticizes the people of Judah for burning “their sons and daughters in the fire.“
“You shall not murder.”
This verse is often mistranslated “Thou shalt not kill.” Murder actually refers only to the killing of a human person.
Since the Jewish religion has traditionally interpreted the Torah as implying that a fetus as achieving full personhood only when it is half emerged from the birth canal, this verse would not apply to abortion.
Exodus 21:22: (Cont’d)The New International Version (NIV) of the Bible uses the phrase: “gives birth prematurely.” and offers “miscarriage” as an alternative translation in a footnote. These two options result in totally opposite interpretations: one supporting the pro-choice faction; the other supporting the pro-life movement.
Some liberal theologians reject this interpretation. 1 They point out that this passage appears to have been derived from two earlier Pagan laws, whose intent is quite clear:
- Code of Hammurabi (209, 210) which reads: “If a seignior struck a[nother] seignior’s daughter and has caused her to have a miscarriage [literally, caused her to drop that of her womb], he shall pay ten shekels of silver for her fetus. If that woman had died, they shall put his daughter to death.”
- Hittite Laws, (1.17): “If anyone causes a free woman to miscarry [literally, drives out the embryo]-if (it is) the 10th month, he shall give 10 shekels of silver, if (it is) the 5th month, he shall give 5 shekels of silver…” The phrase “drives out the embryo” appears to relate to a miscarriage rather than to a premature birth.
Author Brian McKinley, a born-again Christian, sums the passage up with: “Thus we can see that if the baby is lost, it does not require a death sentence — it is not considered murder. But if the woman is lost, it is considered murder and is punished by death.” 2
“Thou shalt not delay to offer the first of thy ripe fruits, and of thy liquors: the firstborn of thy sons shalt thou give unto me.”
Many Old Testament theologians believe that this is another remnant of the time when the ancient Hebrews and Canaanites ritually murdered their first son, sacrificing him to their god.
“For the life of the flesh is in the blood: and I have given it to you upon the altar to make an atonement for your souls: for it is the blood that maketh an atonement for the soul.“
It is a bit of a stretch, but this passage might possibly be interpreted as implying that personhood begins as an embryo when blood first becomes present. Since the heart starts beating about 21 days after conception, then one might argue that the embryo becomes a human person at that stage of pregnancy, or slightly earlier.
“And if it be from a month old even unto five years old, then thy estimation shall be of the male five shekels of silver and for the female three shekels.”
A child was only given a value after the age of one month; boys were worth five shekels; girls were of less value at three shekels; below that age, (and presumably before birth) they were assigned no monetary value.
An alternate explanation is that there was such a high infant mortality rate that one could only be confident that there was a reasonable chance of a newborn surviving after its first month had passed and it was still alive.
“Take a census…including every male a month or more old. “
Only male babies over one month of age were considered persons for the purposes of enumeration. One explanation of this policy was that an infant under one month of age and a fetus were apparently not worthy of being counted as a human person. Another is that the death rate among newborns was so high, that one could not have a reasonable certainty that the child would live until it was at least a month old.
“Then he shall take some holy water in a clay jar and put some dust from the tabernacle floor into the water…..”
This passage describes a ritual that a husband could force his wife to endure if he suspected that she had engaged in an adulterous relationship. He would take her and an offering of barely meal to the tabernacle, where the priest would make a magical drink consisting of holy water and sweepings from the tabernacle floor. He would have the woman drink the water while he recited a curse on her. The curse would state that her abdomen would swell and her thigh waste away if she had committed adultery. Otherwise, the curse would have no effect. If she were pregnant at this time, the curse would certainly induce an abortion. Yet nobody seems to have been concerned about the fate of any embryo or fetus that was present. Needless to say, there was no similar magical test that a woman could require her husband to take if she suspected him of adultery.
“Now, kill all the boys. And kill every women who has slept with a man, but save for yourselves every girl who has never slept with a man.”
This occurred at end of the genocidal campaign against the Midianites. Moses, presumably under orders from God, ordered the soldiers to kill every boy and non-virgin girl or woman. Presumably, a significant percentage of the latter would be pregnant. So, their fetus was killed along with the mother-to-be. The fetuses would be destroyed, presumably because they were perceived to have had no value. The female virgins would be spared, because they were considered to have significant value.
“At that time we took all his towns and completely destroyed them – men, women and children. We left no survivors.”
The Israelites tried to negotiate peaceful passage through the land of Heshbon. They were unsuccessful. So, apparently under the instruction of God, they exterminated all of the people, including innocent children. This undoubtedly included killing the fetuses of pregnant women . This is an early example of genocide based on religious belief, not unlike the genocides perpetrated by Christians against non-Christians in Nazi Germany during World War II, and in Bosnia Herzegovina in the 1990s. It demonstrated no regard for the life of the fetuses who were destroyed.
“I call heaven and earth to record this day against you, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing: therefore choose life, that both thou and thy seed may live.” The segment “choose life, that…thy seed may live” at first glance might be interpreted as referring to the choice to not have an abortion. It is even clearer in the Living Bible which says “Choose life, that…your children might live.”
It is always important to consider the context of any isolated quotation. Verses 15 to 18 clearly state that the choice referred to in verse 19 is whether to worship either Jehovah, or the gods of the Canaanites, whose land they were about to invade. Verse 20 picks up the same theme. Verse 19 thus relates to religious choices and is unrelated to abortion. However, the two-word phrase “choose life” from this verse is often quoted by pro-life groups. Michigan Christians for Life offered a free, 3″ x 6″ bumper-sticker which says simply “Deuteronomy 30:19.” 3 Automobile license plates that carry the “choose life” message are available in several Southern U.S. states, although their constitutionality has been challenged.
“I will heap mischiefs upon them; I will spend mine arrows upon them. They shall be burnt with hunger, and devoured with burning heat, and with bitter destruction: I will also send the teeth of beasts upon them, with the poison of serpents of the dust. The sword without, and terror within, shall destroy both the young man and the virgin, the suckling also with the man of gray hairs. I said, I would scatter them into corners, I would make the remembrance of them to cease from among men.”
God is here describing how he will commit genocide against a specific nation. He will murder of persons of all ages and both genders, from infants to old people. It also involves erasing the memory of them as a nation. Presumably, fetuses would also die during the genocide.