If you have not yet read Did God Order an Abortion? Part I – please go there and read it now. It is more important than Part II. Here is the original blog post that I am addressing in this series.
In my first post I began to address the problematic nature of the question posed in the original post, “God ordered an abortion?” Well, no He didn’t. And here’s why.
Previously I discussed the cultural connotation we have of what an abortion is, so I’m not going to revisit that in detail here. Suffice it to say that in the text being discussed the translation used by the author clearly says “miscarry” not abortion. Let’s take a look at the text again (taken from the original post):
Numbers 5:21 “here the priest is to put the woman under this curse—“may the LORD cause you to become a curse[d] among your people when he makes your womb miscarry and your abdomen swell.”
In our world, a miscarriage and an abortion are two very different things. What is different about them? When we say a woman had a miscarriage we mean that natural causes terminated the pregnancy and caused the child to die. When we say a woman had an abortion we mean that a person used artificial methods to kill and/or remove the child from the mother’s womb.
In our text the woman does not have an abortion, she miscarries. It is not the drink itself that kills the child, but the curse of her sin brought upon her by God. Regardless of the scientific subtleties here, the most important phrase to note is this: “when he makes your womb miscarry”. He, meaning God, makes the woman miscarry. God is taking the life, not the woman.
Regardless of whether or not a miscarriage was a result of the curse, (and it does well to note here that this is the only translation that uses that specific word) this was not an abortion in the strict sense of the term, because it’s not a human choosing to take the life of the child – it’s God. This is a miscarriage. Just as when David’s infant son was taken from him after his infidelity with Bathsheeba, God’s discipline was placed on these women in Israel when they were unfaithful.
When reading the Old Testament we must always remember the difference between God taking a life and us taking a life. God DOES take human life. The Lord giveth and the Lord taketh away. Not only does God take away our life, but he takes the life of each and every person who dies. That is who He is. Only the Author and Creator of life has the authority to take life; none of us can make that decision. And so, when we murder or abort our children or commit suicide – we are putting ourselves in the place of God. We are claiming that which belongs solely to Him. This is the sin.
God can kill without sin, because that is His place to do so. But God does not work in the same ways that He used to. He promised never again to destroy the world with a flood, and he no longer commands war to be waged against a people group or for a priest to give to a woman what might be a curse on her or her child.
We are working in a different time, under the New Covenant in Christ. And so, we cannot take into our own hands what God has not given us – namely the life of another human being. This is the sin, taking the life of another and putting it into our own hands – putting ourselves in the place of God.
So, in the case of our text, God is choosing to take the life of the child, not the priest. Therefore, it is not an abortion, because not one of those people involved is choosing to murder that unborn child. This brings me to the next clarification that needs to be made. The original questions asks, if God “ordered” an abortion. Above I explained why this is not an abortion, and now I am going to explain why God did not “order” the death of the child.
God’s instructions here are to the priest, explaining to him what to do if a husband comes to him and says that his wife’s child is the result of an infidelity. The priest is to perform the ceremony, not to punish the adultery, but to bring to light the truth of what happened. The woman is a willing participant here. If she is telling the truth, it is a benign ceremony that will bring no harm on anyone and will restore her marriage. If she is lying and covering up her sin, she has the option to confess it to her husband before he takes the drastic measure of bringing her to the priest.
In drinking the cup, she is testifying to her innocence. If, however, she drinks the cup knowing her guilt and the death it will bring to her child – this is on her conscience. No one forces her to drink; she brings the curse upon herself and on her child for her own foolish pride. God does not command her to do this – she does it as a rejection of God’s will and as a refusal to turn from her sin.
Is this an abortion? In a way… yes, if the woman knowingly curses her child to death – she is choosing to kill that child and it can be called an abortion in a stricter sense of the term. But it is not an abortion commanded by God; it is an abortion resulting from the woman’s sin – her second sin.
Not the sin of adultery, but her sin of deceit and her refusal to go to her husband and receive mercy. Her pride and reputation are more important to her than the life of her child. Not unlike, I would wager, the case in many abortions performed today.
Now, you might say, that’s ridiculous! If she told her husband the truth he would have her killed and the baby would die anyway. She’s protecting herself. You would, of course, be referring to the Old Testament law that adulterers be put to death. And you might be right. Perhaps, she and the baby would die anyway… but is this a good reason to kill your child? Many women feel that a baby would ruin their life, and so they have an abortion. Others believe that they will be bad mothers, perhaps abusive or impoverished, and so they have abortions to “protect” the baby from that life. Again, none of these are good reasons to kill your baby. None of these give us the right to take another human’s life into our own hands. We are not God! We don’t know what this child’s life will be or do, and so we cannot determine when it should end. It is not our place.
And so, when you pull out the harsh law of death in the Old Testament, which is really only in accord with God’s spiritual law – that the wages of sin is death – I will say, yes! That is a possibility, but there is another. Remember reading the nativity story in the New Testament?
Joseph knew the law, and when Mary turned up pregnant he knew that he could bring her to public shame and have her killed for infidelity. But that was not what he was going to do. The Bible says that Joseph was a “righteous man” and that he had a mind to “divorce her quietly”. What does this mean? It means that he was going to show mercy on his wife to be, that he was not going to sentence her to death, but that he was going to be gracious.
Again we find ourselves in the midst of earthly situations that mirror God’s great love and mercy on us. Even while we were still enemies of God, sinners, God died for us. He has forgiven our sin; He is righteous and does not wish that anyone should perish. And so our Lord has mercy on us, just as the husband could choose to have mercy on his wife. If she repented of her infidelity to him, he could choose to spare her the public shame and certain death – he could be merciful.
Did it always happen that way, or even often? Maybe not. But this is where our vision becomes fuzzy, where the falleness of our world and our humanity no longer perfectly reflect God’s perfect love. Now we see in a glass darkly… but this darkness does not reflect inconsistencies on the part of God, rather it is our inconsistencies that cause death – both in the case of the woman and her child in the Numbers text and in the case of death in all the world. For, just as it was not God’s will for that baby to die, it is not God’s will that anyone should perish eternally.
After having answered the initial question, I still feel compelled to address the issues brought forth in the remainder of the original post. I will be adding one last post to finish up my response in which I will address some of the other concerns of our first author.
Read Part III