The following is an excerpt from a recent article on abolitionist Seth Gruber’s blog.
Perhaps the most popular biblical defense of abortion is found in Exodus 21:22-25:
“If men who are fighting hit a pregnant woman and she gives birth prematurely, but there is no serious injury, the offender must be fined whatever the woman’s husband demands and the courts allow. But if there is serious injury, you are to take life for life, eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot, burn for burn, wound for wound, bruise for bruise.”
Abortion-advocates argue that this Scripture proves the unborn are not fully human because the penalty for accidentally killing a fetus is less than that given were its mother accidentally killed. The key to their interpretation of this verse is based off their understanding of the words “that she gives birth prematurely”. There are some versions of the Bible that interpret this as “that she has a miscarriage” which is the very interpretation that abortion-advocates claim is the correct one. It is only by claiming that the woman had a miscarriage that the abortion-advocate can claim that the penalty for killing a fetus is less than that given were its mother accidentally killed. But there are good reasons to believe that the text does not indicate a miscarriage.
To resolve this issue, it is necessary to look at the Hebrew words used in the phrase “she gives birth prematurely” or “she has a miscarriage”. Apologist Greg Koukl asks, “Is it correct to presume that the miscarriage of Exodus 21:22 produces a dead child, just like an abortion? This is the single most important question that needs to be answered here. If it does, the English word “miscarriage” is the right choice. If it does not, then the picture changes dramatically” (What Exodus 21:22 Says About Abortion). The key phrase is w˚yase û ye ladêhâ in the Hebrew. This phrase is made up of two words: The Hebrew noun, yeled and the Hebrew verb, yasa. Together, the literal interpretation is “the child comes forth”. Regarding these two words, Greg Koukl provides helpful insights:
The Hebrew noun translated “child” in this passage is yeled (yeladim in the plural), and means “child, son, boy, or youth.” It comes from the primary root word yalad, meaning “to bear, bring forth, or beget.” In the NASB yalad is translated “childbirth” 10 times, some form of “gave birth” over 50 times, and either “bore,” “born,” or “borne” 180 times.
The verb yasa is a primary, primitive root that means “to go or come out.” It is used over a thousand times in the Hebrew Scriptures and has been translated 165 different ways in the NASB–escape, exported, go forth, proceed, take out, to name a few. This gives us a rich source for exegetical comparison. It’s translated with some form of “coming out” (e.g., “comes out,” “came out,” etc.) 103 times, and some form of “going” 445 times.
According to Koukl, yasa is used 1,061 times in the Hebrew Bible and is never translated as “miscarriage”. Furthermore, the use of yasa always refers to the “coming forth” of some living thing, typically a child. As you can see, we have no reasonable basis to assume that the correct interpretation of Exodus 21:22 is “she has a miscarriage”. Therefore, the pro-choice understanding of this passage is completely undermined since the penalty for killing a fetus is not less than that given were its mother accidentally killed, since the fetus was never killed in the first place, merely delivered prematurely.
Click here to read the full article where Seth dismantles three of the most prevalent arguments for a Biblical defense of abortion.