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Monday, April 10, 2006

Miscarriages in the Old Testament

You read that title right.

This verse jumped out at me:
Exodus 23:26 None shall miscarry or be barren in your land; I will fulfill the number of your days. (ESV)

What a promise! Was it conditional? I suppose so. Almost all of the promises in the Bible are conditional. God promised that the Israelites would defeat all their enemies (Leviticus 26:8, for example) but they were soundly defeated at Ai, because one person, Achan, disobeyed God's instructions about the precious metals found in Jericho. There was an "If" that went with the promise of victory. Perhaps there were miscarriages among the Israelites because they didn't obey. I don't know.

My wife once had a miscarriage. When she did, we were told, by a lot of other women, that they had also had one. A significant fraction of pregnancies, end with no baby being delivered. (I'm not including abortions here, just natural termination of some sort.) Perhaps a third or more conceptions terminate before the woman even knows that she is pregnant, probably because of some serious embryonic defect. In fact, the current version of the Wikipedia article on miscarriages says "Up to 78% of all conceptions may fail . . ., in most cases before the woman even knows she is pregnant."

There are broader promises about health, such as Deuteronomy 7:14, which says "You shall be blessed above all peoples. There shall not be male or female barren among you or among your livestock. 15 And the Lord will take away from you all sickness, and none of the evil diseases of Egypt, which you knew, will he inflict on you, but he will lay them on all who hate you." (ESV)

I am aware that Exodus 21:22-3 has two possible different interpretations, which relate to the abortion debate, depending on whether or not a phrase meant "miscarriage" or not. Compare, for example, the Revised Standard Version and the ESV. That's not why I'm posting this. (I'm not sure this passage is relevant, anyway, as it's not talking about a "natural" miscarriage, if it's talking about one at all, but about one caused by trauma. I don't know.) I'm posting this because, as so often happens when I read the Bible, something occurs to me for the first time. Here, it's the promise of no miscarriages, which means, it would seem, miraculous intervention to prevent the common type that women don't even realize they have had, as well as miscarriages at a later time.

Thanks for reading.

3 comments:

jel said...

thanks for posting !

will be back to read more of your blog. :) later


have a great day!

Julana said...

That is interesting. That happens with me, too. There's always something to learn.

Bonnie said...

Thanks for mentioning those passages, Martin; someone else mentioned Exodus 21 a little while ago and I forgot to check into it -- thanks for reminding me!

Hope you've had a very blessed Easter!