Miscarriage Or Premature Birth: Additional Thoughts On Exodus 21:22-25 -- By: H. Wayne House

Journal: Westminster Theological Journal
Volume: WTJ 41:1 (Fall 1978)
Article: Miscarriage Or Premature Birth: Additional Thoughts On Exodus 21:22-25
Author: H. Wayne House


Miscarriage Or Premature Birth:
Additional Thoughts On Exodus 21:22-25*

H. Wayne House

The interpretation of Exodus 21:22–25 has received much attention in the last few years in evangelical circles. This writer’s interest was sparked from the article “Old Testament Texts Bearing on Abortion” by Bruce Waltke in Christianity Today and another essay by Waltke in Birth Control and the Christian. In addition, the various interactions between Waltke, John Warwick Montgomery, and Jack Cottrell provided too much interest for me not to examine the area anew for myself. This paper is an exegesis of Exodus 21:22–25 with special attention given to Waltke’s position.1

Several basic studies must be done before this passage will lay itself open for the interpreter: (2) One must understand the meaning of יצאו in the text and ascertain whether the translation of the term as “miscarriage,” as found in most translations, is correct. (2) Also, one must determine whether the use of ילדיה the normal word for child, is to be understood as an unborn child of equal worth with an adult, or whether the child was only of property value in the Hebrew culture. (3) Since several Near Eastern legal documents have similar passages, should one consider the Mosaic statement dependent on these, and so to be similarly interpreted ? (4) a question of importance

* This paper was delivered at the First Annual Meeting of the Southwestern Section of the Evangelical Theological Society on April 22, 1977 at Dallas Theological Seminary.

is whether אסון (harm) refers to the mother or child, or both, and what degree of harm is involved in the word אסון. (5) How is the lex talionis of verses 24–25 related to verse 22 ? (6) One must then decide the value of the passage for study on the abortion question.

The importance of interpreting Exodus 21:22 becomes apparent when one reads a statement on the moral legitimacy of abortion such as what follows:

A second argument in favor of permitting induced abortion is that God does not regard the fetus as a soul [Hebrew nephesh], no matter how far gestation has progressed. Therefore, the fetus does not come under the protection of the fifth commandment. That he does not so regard the fe...

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