22 “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. 23 But if there is harm, then you shall pay life for life, 24 eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot, 25 burn for burn, wound for wound, stripe for stripe.” (Exodus 21:22–25 (ESV)
Today’s biblical passage is cited as the definitive text for the personhood of the unborn. Moses describes the circumstances, and consequences, of both the premature birth and accidental death of an unborn child.
If a pregnant woman was hit by someone and gave birth due to the injury, but no harm came to the premature baby, then the perpetrator paid a fine as a judge determined. However, if under the same circumstances the premature baby died due to the mother’s injury, the judge would sentence the guilty party to death. The death of the unborn baby would be a capital offense. This is based upon the Fifth Commandment that says, “You shall not murder.” (“Exodus 20:13 (ESV).
“The usual Hebrew word for child is used (as in Ex. 21:4 and 1:17-18). The Hebrew verb describes the emergence of a child in Gen. 25:26; 38:28-30. There is no reason to limit the ‘harm’ spoken of to the mother. If there is no lasting harm either to the mother or the child, compensation for the hurt inflicted is to be paid to the husband, fixed by a third party. Otherwise, the penalty is proportionate to the injury to the mother or child. Although the harm to the woman or child was not intentional, there was culpable negligence in disregarding the welfare of the pregnant woman,” explains Dr. R. C. Sproul.
The Fifth Commandment is based upon a previous precept from the LORD. The LORD prescribed the inherent value of human life in His covenant with Noah. This was establish years earlier in the aftermath of the Flood.
“And God blessed Noah and his sons and said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth. 2 The fear of you and the dread of you shall be upon every beast of the earth and upon every bird of the heavens, upon everything that creeps on the ground and all the fish of the sea. Into your hand they are delivered. 3 Every moving thing that lives shall be food for you. And as I gave you the green plants, I give you everything. 4 But you shall not eat flesh with its life, that is, its blood. 5 And for your lifeblood I will require a reckoning: from every beast I will require it and from man. From his fellow man I will require a reckoning for the life of man. 6 “Whoever sheds the blood of man, by man shall his blood be shed, for God made man in his own image. 7 And you, be fruitful and multiply, increase greatly on the earth and multiply in it.” (Genesis 9:1–7 (ESV)
While neither text says, “Abortion is murder” the implication is clear. An unborn baby is a person, who God created in His image. If injured unto death, the individual causing the death of the child is guilty of murder. The punishment must fit the crime.
This is God’s truth. It is a sobering truth compared to our contemporary culture’s blatant desire to abort unborn children based upon a woman’s so-called right to choose. God places importance upon the sanctity of all human life. May we, a believers in Christ, do the same.
Soli deo Gloria!
The His Word Today Weekly Podcast begins Monday, September 5 featuring expository messages from the Epistle to the Ephesians.