Updated: Apr 27, 2020
Recently I was in debate with a pro-choicer online and although the depravity I witnessed was total, I believe it was not absolute. God can change her heart. Every apologist has come across people quoting Numbers 5 in a twisted context: "God loves abortion" just as they quote Matthew 7: "Judge not lest ye be judged". I was pushing the particular pro-choicer to do a little Bible study in OT and long behold she blocked me.
Not surprisingly, quoting verses are easy but asking for context is hard. Pro-choicers are keen on abusing the text where God supposedly killed a child in Numbers 5, and if you show any awareness of the text they will quickly change the topic and move along. They are gambling the chances that you're ignorant of the passage. So what does Numbers 5:11-31 say? CARM.org summarises it well:
This lengthy passage, which takes up most of the fifth chapter in Numbers, is focused on what should legally be done in a situation where a husband suspects his wife of sexual infidelity but has no witnesses to prove it (Numbers 5:11-14). The husband and wife were to come before the priest with a grain offering (Numbers 5:15), and the woman was to be presented "before the Lord" at the tabernacle, (Numbers 5:16).
The priest would then prepare holy water from the tabernacle and mix it with dust from the tabernacle's floor, (Numbers 5:17). While holding the grain offering, the woman was informed that the water would bring a curse on her if she was guilty, but would not harm her if she was innocent. She is placed under oath and must swear that she has not committed adultery, (Numbers 5:18-22). The priest writes the curse on a scroll and then washes it off into the water with the dust, (Numbers 5:23-25).
The priest offers the grain offering, and then the woman drinks the water, (Numbers 5:26). At that time, if she is guilty, the curse comes upon her; if she is innocent, she will "be free to conceive children," (Numbers 5:27-28). If the curse comes upon the woman and proves her guilt, the husband is not to be held guilty for the results, (Numbers 5:31).
When we read Numbers 5:11-31 we observe:
Nowhere is there a mention of a pregnant woman.
Nowhere is there a mention of an unborn child.
Abortion (termination) is the medical process of ending a pregnancy so it does not result in the birth of a baby.
Dusty water does not cause abortion, if that were true we would not need coat hangers, birth control pills and so forth.
Numbers 5:28 shows the opposite effect "But if the woman has not defiled herself and is clean, then she shall be free and shall conceive children."
Notice that the pro-choice advocates have an impossible task to show how dusty water can cause both abortion and conception? The matter of the fact is the curse was not in the water but the judgement of God. If God determined the loss of the child ( nowhere in the text does it mention an unborn child ) as a due penalty for adultery, that is His prerogative and well within His authority. If 'Christian' pro-choice advocates use Numbers 5 to argue pro-abortion, it raises a severe problem for them because God also took the life of a David and Bathsheba's child.
And the LORD afflicted the child that Uriah's wife bore to David, and he became sick. David, therefore, sought God on behalf of the child. And David l fasted and went in and lay all night on the ground. And the elders of his house stood beside him, to raise him from the ground, but he would not, nor did he eat food with them. On the seventh day, the child died.
2 Samuel 12:15-18 [ESV]
God struck a newborn child, therefore the pro-choice advocates have to be consistent if they think God supports abortion so does He support infanticide thereby he/she must be consistent and have no problem with infanticide too.
Whether the baby is in the womb, mother's arms, car seat or laps regardless of the geographical position the bible defines the born ad unborn with the exact words with no qualitative difference between the born and born, they are defined as "living children" therefore under the protection of the sixth commandment.
Children - Genesis 25:22.
Children - Isaiah 37:33, 2 Kings 19:3.
Sons - Ruth 1:11.
Babies - Luke 1:14, 44.
Brothers - Hosea 12:3.
Sons - Luke 1:36.
The pro-choice advocates have a dilemma to solve either:
Either abortion is morally wrong then infanticide can also be condemned by the same standard.
OR abortion is morally right and infanticide as well by the same standard.
What principle makes a distinction between a child born 2 months premature from a 7-month fetus, making it a crime to kill the first but merely an exercise of personal freedom to destroy the fetus in the womb?
Their argument gets worse as claims are made such as "if God can take the life of the baby, so can we" again this form of argument can be refuted simply by pressing a little further and asking them if they support infanticide. Nothing should stop them from being consistent and take a life well into adulthood because God did pronounce death upon several men for example:
And the people complained in the hearing of the LORD about their misfortunes, and when the LORD heard it, his anger was kindled, and the fire of the LORD burned among them and consumed some outlying parts of the camp
Numbers 11:1 [ESV]
If people complain is it, permissible burn people, just as God did?
And the earth opened its mouth and swallowed them up, with their households and all the people who belonged to Korah and all their goods. So they and all that belonged to them went down alive into Sheol, and the earth closed over them, and they perished from the midst of the assembly. And all Israel who were around them fled at their cry, for they said, “Lest the earth swallow us up!” And fire came out from the LORD and consumed the 250 men offering the incense.
Numbers 16:32-35 [ESV]
If people criticise is it, permissible kill people, just as God did? The simple answer an indisputable no. We're not God and we will never be as the God Himself makes it clear.
I am the LORD, and there is no other, besides me, there is no God.
Isaiah 45:5 [ESV]
The majority of the pro-choice advocates suppress the truth and don't believe God exists, yet conveniently use Numbers 5 which presupposes God exists. Even if the text mentions pregnancy ( it does not ), dusty water does not cause abortion neither does the priest do anything to the women's body intentionally as medical abortion requires a person to operate on a woman.
Without the supernatural intervention of God, nothing can happen. We notice no society, husband or priest is involved in the test. The consequences of the test are of God only. We do not see in the text someone poisoning the water or violently dismembering an unborn child.
The use of Numbers 5 is unrelated and unjustified when it comes to abortion. To argue in the context of intentional abortion is to support the idea that if abortion should take place then God should perform it supernaturally which only undermines the case of pro-choice advocates. Citing Numbers 5 in favour of abortion is futile. Even if the passage actually did imply that the curse included a miscarriage, that would not imply that human abortion was okay for us to do. For one thing, it would clearly be saying that a miscarriage is a curse to be avoided, else what kind of punishment would it be? What's more, the drink is just water, dust, and ink. It's not a drug that would actually induce a miscarriage. Indeed, a drug could not make a distinction between the innocent and the guilty. The water is a symbol. Whatever happens to the guilty woman, it is God carrying it out.
Through the bible, we see a particular aspect of women when it comes to reproduction.
Barrenness was considered a curse (Gen. 20:17-18; 30:1, 22-33).
Fecundity (Gen 17:6, 33:5, Ps. 113:9, 127:33-5).
Barrenness in Numbers 5 is a terrifying judgement to the Israelites for committing adultery. Even if verse says the women were pregnant or an unborn child ( it does not ) God would supernaturally take it's life and has nothing to do with "voluntary induced abortion". The whole test is about jealousy for a righteous holy relationship and God is the Witness and Judge.
This legislation also aimed at protecting the women from abuse and injustice whether she is guilty or innocent. The whole case is taken out of human hands and placed before the Judge of the universe, who promises to judge righteously read the verdict by supernatural means. [pg. 352]
Flame of Yahweh: Sexuality In The Old Testament.
Richard M. Davidson.
Most interesting to add to this analysis is that God is concerned about the union of marriage as sanctified under His law and the definition of marriage expressed both in OT and NT. The complexity of the rituals indicates the importance God places on faithfulness in marriage and the protection and dedication marriage deserves.
That is why a man leaves his father and mother and is united to his wife, and they become one flesh.
Genesis 2:24 [ESV]
He answered, “Have you not read that he who created them from the beginning made them male and female, and said, ‘Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh’? So they are no longer two but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let not man separate.”
Matthew 19:4-6 [ESV]
The test promoted unity in marriage by protecting the innocent wife from false accusations and potential harm and by exposing an unfaithful wife and protecting her husband. Although no test exists for an adulteress husband (primarily because men didn't need the same protection against potential violence and false accusations as women did), the penalty for adultery was the same for both men and women: death (see Leviticus 20:10).
When we look beyond the test's odd details, we see not only the true wisdom it conveys but also God's desire to protect marriage and ensure that justice is administered fairly.