Pre-Born in the Old Testament

In this article we will first be examining how the pre-born were viewed in the Old Testament excluding the Psalms (which is addressed in another article). Then finally, we will see if the old law addressed the status of the pre-born infant.

I was able to find five verses that address the pre-born infant. Three of those verses are in Job. In Job 3:16, Job is cursing his current condition in life and (draws parallel to "infants which never saw light") is referring to a pre-born that dies in the womb and this pre-born is identified as an infant. In Job 10:11-12, Job declares he talks about his development and preservation of spirit through his birth. In these two references in Job, we see the writer views Job as a human in the womb.

Another verse we will mention is in Hosea 9:11, where the prophet Hosea tells Ephraim that God will destroy their future (children) and then identifies the three stages of the pre-born child: birth, womb, and in conception. In doing this, he identifies them as children. The last scripture is Ecclesiastes 11:5. In Ecclesiastes 11:5, Solomon references the development of the pre-born and refers to woman who is with "child." The Hebrew used here is the same word used for a nursing infant or a child. I believe we can see a trend where the Old Testament writers looked upon the pre-born the same as a child after birth.

Now let us look at the pre-born and the Mosaic law. The only place I could fine was in Exodus 21:22-25 involving men fighting and they hurt a woman with child. It reads as follows, "If men strive, and hurt a woman with child, so that her fruit depart from her, and yet no mischief follow: he shall be surely punished, according as the woman's husband will lay upon him; and he shall pay as the judges determine. And if any mischief follow, then thou shalt give life for life, Eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot, Burning for burning, wound for wound, stripe for stripe." Most commentators felt the woman in this incident suffers a miscarriage (her fruit depart) and that the death of the fetus is the injury for which a guilty party is fined but it is not serious enough for the application of an eye for eye and tooth for tooth. However, a careful reading and examination of the Hebrew terms leads one to a different conclusion. In a literal translation of verse 22 where in the King James Version it states, "and fruit depart" it would read "her children come out." The term "YELED" that is translated "fruit" in the King James is the common word for child or offspring. The word "YATZA" translated "depart" usually refers to the ordinary birth of children and never a miscarriage. Thus, I would follow that if injury occurred, then the law of eye for eye, tooth for tooth would apply.

I submit to you that the examination of these Old Testament verses leads us to conclude that the pre-born child was considered to be human and not a mass of tissue. Is it any wonder that after years of legal abortions and death of millions of children, we have seen our culture devolve into violence and lack of feeling for our fellow humans?

 Charles Royal, Decatur, AL