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Does #Exodus 21:22-25 teach that abortion is okay?

Um, #No, and here is why:
Politics is one of the most divisive subjects in the history of mankind. It has caused strife within societies as well as between nations. It can divide couples, families, and culture. It can influence the news channels, TV shows and movies we watch. Often, we decide who is a
good person and who is a bad person by the political beliefs they have. Even religions and theology can be divided by politics, and Christianity is no exception. This latter point is interesting, considering that the Bible itself is quite clear on many subjects that we bicker and
argue over, and its content doesn’t fully 100% agree with the positions of either the Democrat or Republican parties. Indeed, in some cases (such as eating meat and the death penalty), God held man to positions that nowadays would be described as “progressive” or “liberal”, such
(Genesis 1:29 and 4:13-15 (see also 23-24), only for him to later command mankind to take on what modern readers would consider “conservative” positions on these very subjects (Genesis 9:1-6). This doesn’t mean that God changes (Malachi 3:6), anymore than the changes he
instituted under Christ in the New Covenant (far different in many ways from the Old) mans that he changes. Instead, he is instituting new covenants between himself and mankind, new ways of life and thinking for mankind.
However, there is a serious problem that arises when we
try to read modern ideas into an ancient near eastern text. God forbidding people originally to eat meat, or have executions, would not have been considered “Left wing” ideas at the time, anymore than having the death penalty and eating meat later would have been considered
“right wing”. Indeed, the terms “Left wing” and “right wing” date back to the French Revolution (1789). Political liberalism dates back to the 17th century philosopher John Locke, and it took on its current meaning in 1920. Conservatism likewise stems from the French Revolution.
These political ideas would not have been around when the Torah was being written. Thus, there is a danger of committing eisegesis (reading one's ideas into the text) instead of exegesis (reading ideas from the text) when reading the Bible.

This does not mean that the Bible
takes no positions on political matters that are debated in the modern world, far from it. It is, however, a series of books that were written in a far different culture, and if we lose sight of that, we can make serious errors of biblical interpretation.

Case in point:
Exodus 21:22-25

Here it is in the English Standard Version:
“When men strive together and hit a pregnant woman, so that her children come out, but there is no harm, the one who hit her shall surely be fined, as the woman’s husband shall impose on him, and he shall pay as the
judges determine. But if there is harm, then you shall pay life for life, eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot, burn for burn, wound for wound, stripe for stripe.”

This passage has been used by modern progressives to show that abortion is okay with God, and
that the unborn were not seen as human by both God and the Israelites. After all, if the unborn were considered human beings, and these guys had killed the unborn by hitting a pregnant woman and causing a miscarriage, wouldn’t they have been executed (Ex 21:12, Num 35:30)? Thus,
according to their logic, abortion is okay with God.

However, there are SERIOUS problems with this idea.
#Major #Debunking #Ahead
1. Just because there is a fine instead of a death penalty here means absolutely nothing. Later in this passage (Exodus 21:28-32), it states that if a man has an ox that he knows is dangerous (and does nothing about it), and it kills a man or a woman, he is to suffer the death
penalty…unless the grieving family demands a ransom or fine instead (see verse 30). If the victim was a slave, he was to pay a fine of 30 shekels of silver to the slave’s owner (and remember, if a slave owner killed their slave, they would be executed for it (Exodus 21:20).
Both slaves and people who owned oxen were considered fully human.

2. Even if this is a miscarriage described here (which isn’t the case, as we shall see), we have to remember that these men didn’t cause a miscarriage on purpose; it was an accident. Those who killed people
accidentally were called “Manslayers” in the Bible. They committed manslaughter, not murder. Indeed, this is already seen earlier in the same chapter (Ex 21:12-13). Those guilty of manslaughter were generally not executed, instead sent to cities of refuge (Numbers 35:9-15, 22-28
, Deuteronomy 19:1-10). Thus, considering that the Israelites DID indeed think human life began before birth (as we will see), we can conclude that, if a miscarriage is described here (once again, its not. Keep reading) then this is manslaughter here, one that was seemingly
punished with a fine instead of banishment (not all rules applied the same to everyone in ancient Israelite society. Once again, remember that if a dangerous ox killed a slave, its owner was fined, but if it killed a free person, its owner was either fined or executed. Once again
, slaves were recognized as fully human). Accidentally causing a miscarriage is not the same thing as intentionally causing an abortion.

3. The passage is describing a premature birth, not a miscarriage.
The Hebrew of the passage literally reads “so her children come out”, which sounds less like a miscarriage and more like a premature birth. Indeed, the NIV, TNIV, ESV, NASB (the 1995 updated version), CSB, NLT, Berean Study Bible, KJV, NKJV, ISV, ERV, NET Bible, New Heart English
Bible, GOD’S WORD Translation, AKJV, Darby Bible Translation, Webster’s Bible Translation, Word English Bible, Young Literal Translations show a premature birth instead of a miscarriage. Some old translations may seem vague in their rendering, stating that “her fruit depart from
her, and yet no mischief follow” (KJV) or “hurt a woman with child, so that her fruit depart, and yet no mischief follow”, but even these are upon close inspection referring to a child leaving the womb. Indeed, the Geneva Bible itself (which was at one time the leading bible of
the Protestant world) cleared things up in its similar rendering of Exodus 21:22-23;

“Also if men strive and hurt a woman with child, so that her child depart from her and death follow not, he shall be surely punished, according as the woman’s husband shall appoint him, or he
shall pay as the judges determine. But if death follow, then thou shalt pay life for life.”
(Emphasis Mine)

And what did its footnotes on verse 22 (specifically about “death follow not” state?

“Of the mother or child”.

Remember that as we continue.
Now, to be fair, some translations indicate in the footnotes that the passage could be describing either a premature birth or a miscarriage. This is curious, considering that the Hebrew verb for miscarry (which can also be used for abortion) is not found in Exodus 21:22. Instead,
the word used is “ytsa’”, which means “go forth”, and it never refers to a miscarriage or abortion in the Hebrew Bible. Indeed, when it is used to refer to a birth, its to living children (Gen 25:25-26, 38:28-30). Likewise, remember that the Hebrew itself is literally rendered
“her children (yeladeyha) come out”. Repeat, “children”, not “Fetus” or “inhuman thing about to become human when passing through the birth canal”. This fact makes me chuckle a bit when I read Robert Alter’s translation of the passage, where he uses “fetus”, even though he admits
that the word in Hebrew means “children”! Indeed, he further claims that only the life and health of the mother is to be avenged in the “eye for an eye” passages, even though his translation doesn’t describe a miscarriage but a premature birth!
I want you to re-read that paragraph above after you finish reading this whole article. Read the part about the Hebrew referring to the child leaving his or her mother’s womb as “children”, and thus human.

Think long…and hard.
And that brings us to the further wording of the passage. Let’s look at it again (Verses 22-23):

““When men strive together and hit a pregnant woman, so that her children come out, BUT THERE IS NO HARM, the one who hit her shall surely be fined, as the woman’s husband shall
impose on him, and he shall pay as the judges determine. BUT IF THERE IS HARM, then you shall pay life for life,” (Emphasis mine).
Some translations will use “further mishap” or “further injury”, but “further” is nowhere to be found in the Hebrew text itself. This reinforces the
case that a premature birth is in view here, not a miscarriage.
And who exactly is being injured? Who is the one who is to be avenged eye for eye, tooth for tooth? Its pretty ambiguous, isn’t it? Considering that “further” isn’t in the passage, and harm is what is avenged by an
eye for an eye, it seems most likely that the mother or child is being indicated here, as the footnotes on the good old Geneva bible indicate with a right-between-the-eyes fashion.
We also have to remember that passages in the Bible are not in a vacuum; the Bible is a library,
not a single book, and you have to interpret scripture with scripture.

And what does the Bible say about the unborn?

This brings me to my final point.
4. The Bible teaches that the unborn are indeed human.
“Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you; I appointed you a prophet to the nations.” Jeremiah 1:5 (question; if a car is made in a factory, is it not a car until it's rolled out of the factory???)
“For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well. My frame was not hidden from you, when I was being made in secret, intricately woven in the
depths of the earth. Your eyes saw my unformed substance; in your book were written, every one of them, the days that were formed for me, when as yet there was none of them.” Psalm 139:13-16
“And when Elizabeth heard the greeting of Mary, the baby leaped in her womb. And
Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit, and she exclaimed with a loud cry, “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb! And why is this granted to me that the mother of my Lord should come to me? For behold, when the sound of your greeting came to my
ears, the baby in my womb leaped for joy.” Luke 1:41-44.

Notice, the unborn baby is never called or referred to as something inhuman; it’s a human baby. Indeed, in Luke 1:36, Gabriel relates that Elizabeth had conceived a son, not “conceived a humanoid that will attain
personhood and humanity after it leaves the magic birth canal!”

Folks, the passage in question is not an abortion, nor does it teach that abortion is okay. It’s a premature birth, not a miscarriage, and even if it was the latter, it still doesn’t mean that abortion is okay or that the unborn is inhuman, anymore than a slave’s death being
avenged by a fine means that they were not human. Indeed, the Bible teaches that the unborn are human, and the Hebrew of the passage refers to the children as…children.

To say any different is to read modern political culture into an ancient near eastern text. That’s eisegesis
, not exegesis.

Is it any wonder why Roman era Christians forbade themselves from getting abortions (one of the stark differences between Roman Christians and their pagan contemporaries), or why the early church fathers condemned abortion?
Let us remember to respect God’s word, and use it properly, to use it to glorify Christ, the Savior of the World, who once said ““Let the children come to me, and do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of God” Luke 18:16.
Reichley, A. James (2000) [1992]. The Life of the Parties: A History of American Political Parties (Paperback ed.). Rowman & Littlefield Publishers. pp. 209–210………
“1599 Geneva Bible: Patriot’s Edition”, page 82.
New Living Translation (see footnotes on the passage in question)
TNIV (see footnotes on the passage in question)
“The Hebrew Bible: A Translation with Commentary: The Five Books of Moses” by Robert Alter, 302-303.
“The Other Side of History: Daily Life in the Ancient World” Course Guidebook, by Professor Robert Garland, 232.
“A Dictionary of Early Christian Beliefs” by David W. Bercot
(Editor), 2-3
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