Question: Our local paper published an op-ed piece trying to support the idea that the Bible doesn’t recognize that a baby is a living being until it is born and takes its first breath. They make the following points: “In Genesis:2:7, God ‘breathed into his nostrils the breath of life and it was then that the man became a living being.’ Although the man was fully formed by God, he was not a living being until after taking his first breath.” And, “In Job:33:4, it states: ‘The spirit of God has made me, and the breath of the Almighty gives me life.’” Also, “Ezekiel:37:5-6, ‘Thus says the Lord God to these bones: Behold, I will cause breath to enter you, and you shall live. And I will lay sinews upon you, and will cause flesh to come upon you, and cover you with skin, and put breath in you, and you shall live....’”
Finally [the article stated], “Most people don’t know (or want to know) that the Bible contains an abortion ritual. In Numbers:5:11-31, it involves forcing a woman accused of adultery to drink ‘bitter water’ designed to cause a miscarriage. ‘Her belly will swell, and her thigh will rot’….It can be said with absolute certainty that ancient scripture does not consider a zygote or a fetus even to be alive, because it has not yet drawn breath.”
Response: If “taking a breath,” i.e, ingesting oxygen into one’s system, is the criteria for when life begins, then the fetus clearly qualifies as a living being. There is no doubt that the fetus in the womb is ingesting oxygen (and other essential elements) through the blood circulating in its body, filtered from the mother’s blood system. Indeed, the writer’s citation of Ezekiel:37:5-6 undermines the premise they advance. In truth, the Lord has caused “breath to enter into you [even a fetus], and ye shall live.” Clearly that process begins in the womb. We must consider these things carefully and thus avoid the confused opinions generated by political positions. A similar idea is expressed in Job:33:4b: “The...breath of the Almighty hath given me life.”
In Jeremiah:1:5, the Lord clearly says, “Before I formed thee in the belly I knew thee; and before thou camest forth out of the womb I sanctified thee, and I ordained thee a prophet unto the nations.” That takes us back to before conception, where, in His foreknowledge, God recognized the existence and ministry of Jeremiah, and it was then that God “ordained” him “a prophet.” And, it was the Lord who “formed” him (not “it”) in the womb (See also Ps:139:13-16).
It is important to read the text in context and discern what the words are saying. Numbers:5:11-31 has nothing to do with miscarriage. Nothing is said about the woman being pregnant. If the unsupported assumption that the statement, “Her belly will swell,” refers to pregnancy, then what about “her thigh will rot?” The “swelling” of the belly is not with pregnancy but is rather a symptom of the physical breakdown of her body as a result of the curse if guilty. Rather than “abortion,” the end result of the curse is infertility, and if not guilty, she is promised conception: “And if the woman be not defiled, but be clean; then she shall be free, and shall conceive seed” (Num:5:28).
The author is imposing his/her interpretation onto the scriptures rather than drawing out the real meaning. Such assumptions result in a misinterpretation of Scripture, leaving no leg on which to stand.