It Won't Hold Water

Some people are teaching that Exodus 21:22 proves that God does not consider all human life equal.

Saying something "won't hold water" refers to an argument or theory that is neither reasonable nor accurate.

If someone comes to you with a teaching based on a single Old Testament law, beware! 

One such example is the false teaching that Exodus 21:22 proves that an unborn child is not fully human. 

So let’s look at the verse

“Now if people struggle with each other and strike a pregnant woman so that she gives birth prematurely, but there is no injury, the guilty person shall certainly be fined as the woman’s husband may demand of him, and he shall pay as the judges decide.”

Those who misuse this verse claim it describes a baby who is born dead, not a baby who is born prematurely. And since the verse doesn't require the death sentence for murder, they claim that the unborn child is not valued as a human life. Therefore, they claim it justifies abortion.

So let’s look at the original Hebrew translated word by word. This doesn’t flow smoothly, but it does let us know what specific words are used in the original text: 

“And if fight men and hurt a woman pregnant so that prematurely she gives birth and yet no follows harm surely he shall be punished according as imposes on him husband of the woman and he shall pay as the judges determine.”

Now let’s look at the reasons this passage does not justify abortion

1. The passage talks of premature birth, not miscarriage. 

2. The woman was an innocent bystander. The men did not intend to hurt her or her child. In no way does this resemble a pregnant woman walking into a medical clinic and having her child surgically killed.

3. To claim that God considers the life of an unborn baby less valuable than the life of an adult conflicts with the character of God and the overall message of Scripture. See What Scripture Says about Abortion.

There are misunderstandings about this passage even among scholars and you may find inaccurate explanations in some commentaries, but those who believe this passage talks about the death of the child cannot justify that with the original Hebrew wording and cannot support it with other principles in Scripture.

Some people are teaching that Exodus 21:22 proves that God does not consider all human life equal.

If you would like to read a thorough academic study of the verse using original languages, multiple translations, and multiple commentaries, you can read The Fetus in Biblical Law. It concludes: 

“A textual analysis of our passage suggests that it discusses a live premature birth for which a fine is to be paid. If harm or death comes to either mother or fetus, the lex talionis is to be invoked. Because the fetus is regarded on a par with its mother, this passage protects the sanctity of life for the unborn and gives no support whatever for the practice of abortion.” 

The les talionis is “the law of retaliation, whereby a punishment resembles the offense committed in kind and degree” and in the Old Testament that was a life for a life. If either baby or mother were killed, the one who killed them would be executed. See Leviticus 24:19-21

Nope. Claiming that Scripture supports abortion won't hold water.

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