All too often the Bible is twisted to suit anyone’s political or religious belief, no matter how outlandish it is. In the battle on abortion, many activists on the Left are quick to point out that the Bible condones abortion even as on the other side many Christians are quick to counter with the Bible to condemn abortion and support the sanctity of life as it was made in the image of God’s likeness.
The most recent battle in the case of Hobby Lobby refusing to pay for abortifacients as required by the contraceptive mandate under Obamacare brought up a favorite point by pro-abortion activists ridiculing Hobby Lobby (and other Christian businesses) by claiming that there is an abortion recipe in the Bible.
Where this so-called abortion recipe can be found in the Bible? It is found in Numbers 5:11-31. It describes the trial by ordeal of jealousy that a wife accused of adultery but without evidence whatsoever must undergo to either prove her innocence or guiltiness. The trials by ordeal were fairly common among the ancient people, and still are practiced today in some cultures, notably in Africa. It may be that God ordained this trial by ordeal to prevent His people from using pagan trials by ordeal; but whatever the reason, there is no other mention of any kind of trial by ordeal in the rest of Bible. Furthermore, the cited passage is simply a set of instructions in how to carry out the ordeal of jealousy. Nothing in the Bible seems to suggest that this ordeal was actually carried out. It may be that the jealous husband could ask for divorce under Mosaic Law rather than risking public shame if the accused wife was found to be innocent, thus vindicating her fidelity.
How is the ordeal of jealousy carried out? The jealous husband had to take his accused wife before the priest at Tabernacle with an offering, an ephah of barley meal. He was not to pour out oil on it, nor to put frankincense on it. This offering is referred to as an offering of jealousy and a memorial to bring iniquity to remembrance. The priest was to set the accused wife before the Lord and uncover her head, a public display of shame and a sign that she was no longer under her husband’s protection. The priest had to take a cup and fill it with water (most likely from the laver) then add dust from the floor of Tabernacle to the cup, making the water bitter. The accused wife was made to swear an oath that if she had not lain with another man, she would be free from the curse, but if she had lain with him, then her thigh (private parts) will rot and her belly will swell. The priest wrote down the curse in a book (actually a piece of paper) and blot out with the bitter water, as to pass on the effects of curse to the bitter water.
It is at this point the divine intervention is required in order to make the curse work as the bitter water contains no known substances that will cause abortion or harm a person on its own. Interestingly enough, it is the only ordeal in the Bible that requires God’s co-operation in forcing out the truth, and nowhere else is this ordeal mentioned again. According to Numbers 5:22 and 27, when the suspected wife drinks the bitter water, if she is guilty of infidelity then her private parts (thigh) will rot and her belly will swell. But if she is found innocent of accusation, then the curse will not harm her at all and in time she will conceive a seed.
A literal reading of this passage mentions nothing about abortion or even causing a miscarriage. The Hebrew word for swell is tsâbeh and it is found only 2 times in the entire Bible, both in Numbers 5:11-31. It is described as growing turgid; to distend a part of body beyond its natural state. The Hebrew word for rot is nâphal and it is found 439 times in the Bible. In fact, various English words have been used to describe nâphal, such as fall, fell, overthrown, cast, slay, accepted, and divided. It can be read as either literally or figuratively. Yet, nothing in the passage suggests the Hebrew word was used figuratively. The accused wife guilty of adultery will see her own body literally disfigured, which is what the plain reading of the passage says.
Serious biblical scholars will debate over the nature of this passage, but for the purpose of this article, let us suppose what the pro-abortion activists say is true, that there is a such thing as abortion recipe in the Bible. If that be the case, then there are several things that we must keep in our mind in order to expose their claim as completely false and a blatant misunderstanding of what the Bible teaches on abortion.
First, the purpose of trial by ordeal isn’t to induce a miscarriage or cause an abortion, rather it’s designed to either expose a suspected wife of adultery or to vindicate her innocence. Obviously sometimes adultery can carry a terrible consequence, like getting pregnant which creates difficulties for all involved parties. This is very different from abortifacients which are designed to kill a human embryo, and can be done on a woman’s whim. There is no other purpose behind the abortifacients other than allowing the woman to kill fertilized eggs and avoid taking responsibility for engaging in sex that carries a risk for her to get pregnant.
Furthermore, it is implied in the ordeal of jealousy that any kind of sex outside the sanctity of marriage is frowned upon. Among the biblical scholars, there is some debate on whether a guilty wife who drinks bitter water filled with curse would never again be able to conceive, which demonstrates God’s holy judgment and power, teaching us that sin always carries devastating consequences. Again, contrast this with abortifacients, which allow women to continue with their sexual activities outside of marriage unhindered. So it doesn’t make any sense for a pro-abortion activist to use this passage as evidence of the Bible condoning abortion. The Bible’s so-called abortion recipe if carried out to its fullest extent may mean a guilty wife’s ability to engage in sex and conceive a seed will cease at once. It doesn’t say anything about allowing a woman to kill unborn babies again and again as if nothing bad would happen to her, a direct contradiction of a typical pro-abortion activist’s naive view on the Bible’s so-called abortion recipe. The guilty wife was to be considered a curse among her own people, so would pro-abortion activists be in favor of stigmatizing those women who went through with abortifacients or abortions if they were to use the Bible to justify such things? I think not.
Lastly, it’s comical to see many pro-abortion activists citing the passage as evidence of abortion recipe when most of them don’t believe in God themselves. How could they use the Bible to justify a heinous crime against humanity when they openly mock God? They wrestle with the Bible to their own destruction (2 Peter 3:16).
The Bible’s so-called abortion recipe seeks to expose a wife’s sin in adultery, while abortifacients and abortions, for some women and pro-abortion activists, hide their sin. The cited passage seeks to stigmatize any woman who disobeys God and engage in risky behavior that may cost her ability to enjoy sex and have children while pro-abortion activists seek to celebrate sex (outside of marriage) by easing its consequences. The ordeal of jealousy openly demonstrates God’s power and holy judgment, while pro-abortion activists actively seek to rebel against God’s moral authority as the Creator and puts the man above God.
For every point raised by pro-abortion activists in pushing their claim that the Bible does have an abortion recipe, it is shot down each time. The only thing they can hope to accomplish in using the Bible to support their outlandish claim is by making themselves look ignorant and downright stupid, which is kind of funny since they think Christians are also ignorant and stupid. See 1 Corinthians 1:19, “For it is written, I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and will bring to nothing the understanding of the prudent.”