Exodus 21:22-25 (ESV)
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.
Today is Sanctity of Human Life Sunday, appointed such to mark the anniversary of the diabolical Supreme Court decision Roe v. Wade. For 45 years now our nation has given legal sanction to the murder and dismemberment of the unborn, the most vulnerable members of our society. The death toll has now topped 60 million in the United States alone and, through our influence on the rest of the world, many millions more than that. Our hands are covered with the blood of innocents and God is and will continue to exact vengeance upon us as a people for our evil.
In contrast with our law which does not recognize the personhood of the unborn child, the case law in Exodus 21 clearly identifies the unborn child as a person and affords that child protection under the law. Consider the opening admonition. Verse 22 declares: 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.
Note, first, that this law recognizes the personhood of the unborn. The ESV accurately captures the Hebrew and identifies the baby or babies in the mother’s womb as her “children” – not her property, nor her bodily tissue, but her children.
Second, note that this legal protection fosters a culture that honors pregnant women and the life they carry. This law specifically addresses incidental or accidental injury to a pregnant woman or her child. If two people are striving with one another and, in their striving, hit a pregnant woman, then they are held guilty for their action. God so honors the life-giving woman that it is a crime to strike her incidentally and precipitate her delivery. Those who do so are culpably irresponsibile. And note that this is the case even if no harm happens to the woman or child – if they strike her so that her children come out but there is no harm, then they shall pay as the husband demands and the court allows. In other words, God demands that people honor a pregnant woman by restraining their rage in her presence.
Finally, note that the Scripture adds additional consequences in cases when harm does occur. Verse 23 declares, if there is harm, then you shall pay. If there is harm – harm to whom, we ask? The woman or the child? Yes. The ambiguity of the text indicates that both woman and child are protected by the law. And what shall be paid? The lex talionis is applied: life for life, eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot, burn for burn, wound for wound, stripe for stripe. Biblical law protects the mother and her unborn child.
We see, therefore, how perverse our law has become. And because our law refuses to protect the unborn, our honor for life generally has regressed. As God’s people, our calling is to reverse this trend by loving pregnant women, loving the unborn, and loving little ones. So thank God for the baby showers, for the regular prayers, for the love of life. May these continue. And, children, we have many pregnant women in our midst. You need to exercise care when you are running around lest you accidentally hit them. And, parents, you need to train your children to recognize and honor those who are with child.
And so reminded this morning that God honors and protects the women who bear children and the children themselves, let us confess that we have betrayed the unborn and that we are guilty as a people. And as we confess, and as you are able, let us kneel before the Lord.