Childbearing, God’s Blessing, and the Restoration of Israel
Those who have ever attempted to find out what the Biblesays about abortion know that it is never specifically mentioned. As true asthis may be, since pregnancy and childbirth are presented as a blessing, itbecomes quite clear that any person attempting to shape his or her life aroundthe Bible should find abortion (the deliberate ending of a pregnancy) to beboth immoral and unthinkable. Starting as early as Genesis 1, God’s blessingand pregnancy/childbearing are put together. After creating humans in hisimage, the very first thing God does is bless them and command them to “befruitful and multiply.”
This idea of childbearing as a blessing is continuedthroughout the Bible (see Gen 49:25-26; Ex 23:26; Deut 7:13-14; Ps 127:3). Oneoften overlooked way the Bible demonstrates the blessing of childbearing is itsconnection to the promised restoration of Israel. Then end of Deuteronomy laysout a simple outline of Israel’s history. Before Israel entered the PromisedLand, Moses promised the people blessing if they obeyed and curse if theydisobeyed. The blessing included a successful and long stay in the land, inwhich woman would have fruitful wombs (Deut 28:4, 11). The curse includeddifficulty in land, in which woman have unfruitful wombs and even be forced toeat their own children (Deut 28:18, 53-57). The curse also included an eventualremoval from the land by a foreign nation. In chapter 30, Moses foretold thatboth the blessing and the curse would come upon Israel (Deut 30:1) – the booksof Joshua, Judges, Samuel, and Kings spell out how Israel occupied by thePromised Land but was eventually taken away into exile by a foreign nation,namely Babylon. However, also in Deuteronomy 30, Moses promised that if Israelreturned to he Lord with all their heart and soul, God would once again restorethem to the land and bless them. Again, this blessing included fruitful wombs(Deut 30:9, 16).
When Israel was in exile in Babylon, the Prophets spoke aboutthis promised return. In Isaiah 54:1-3, Isaiah prophecies, “’Sing, O barrenone, who did not bear; break forth into singing and cry aloud, who have notbeen in labor! For the children of the desolate one will be more than thechildren of her who is married,’ says the Lord. ‘Enlarge the place of yourtents, and let the curtains of your habitations be stretched out; do not holdback; lengthen your cords and strengthen your stakes. For you will spreadabroad to the right and to the left, and your offspring will possess thenations and will people the desolate cities.’” In other words, Isaiah speaksfor the restoration of Israel in terms of a great reversal within the womb,from barrenness to fruitfulness and many offspring. In Jeremiah 31:15-17,Jeremiah prophecies, “Thus says the Lord: ‘A voice is heard in Ramah,lamentation and bitter weeping for her children; she refuses to be comfortedfor her children, for they are no more.’ Thus says the Lord: ‘Keep your voicefrom weeping, and your eyes from tears, for there is a reward for your work,declares the Lord, and they shall come back from the land of the enemy. Thereis hope for the future declares the Lord, and your children shall come back totheir own children.’” In other words, Jeremiah speaks of the restoration ofIsrael as a reversal from childlessness to a land full of children. Finally, inEzekiel 36, Ezekiel is told to prophecy to the mountains of Israel, which wereempty and desolate at the time. He prophesies in Ezek 36:9-11, “Behold, I amwith you, and I will turn to you, and you shall be tilled and sown. And I willmultiply people on you, the whole house of Israel on it. The cities shall beinhabited and the waste places rebuilt. And I will multiply on you man andbeast, and they shall multiply and be fruitful.” The chapter ends with: “Thussays the Lord: This also I will let the house of Israel ask me to do for them:to increase their people like a flock. Like a flock for sacrifices, like theflock at Jerusalem during her appointed feasts, so all the waste cities will befilled with flocks of people. Then they will know that I am the Lord.” In otherwords, Ezekiel speaks of the restoration of Israel as a reversal, from andempty land to one of man and beast inhabiting the land, while being fruitfuland multiplying (which is language similar to that of Genesis 1).
Whether or not these passages are to be interpretedliterally or metaphorically, Israel’s return from exile is presented inlanguage of reversal from curse to blessing. And while this blessing includesmany things, one prominent way Israel will experience promised blessed isthrough abundant childbearing. If childbearing is so powerfully associated withblessing, it is difficult to see how someone trying to be faithful to the Biblecould think that terminating a pregnancy is in any way good.