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. 23But if there is harm, then you shall pay life for life, 24eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot, 25burn for burn, wound for wound, stripe for stripe.
Today is Sanctity of Human Life Sunday, appointed such to mark the anniversary of the diabolical Roe v. Wade decision. Praise be to God that that decision has now been reversed and that here in the State of Idaho we have passed laws protecting the unborn. Yet the contempt for unborn life remains in much of America. Many states have voted to expand access to abortion. In addition, just this week the Biden campaign announced that one of its chief priorities for Biden’s reelection campaign would be expanding abortion rights and restoring Roe. So why should we continue to labor for the protection of the unborn? Why should we abhor abortion as wickedness and pray that it be not just illegal but unthinkable?
We find an answer to these questions in our text today. Exodus 21 demonstrates that God recognizes the personhood of unborn children and protects them. The opening admonition 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 – human beings conceived in the very image of God who ought to be precious to her and to others. Unborn children are human and to kill innocent human beings is murder.
Second, note that God’s command fosters a culture that honors pregnant women and the life they carry. Exodus specifically addresses incidental or accidental contact. If two men are striving with one another and, in their striving, intentionally or inadvertently hit a pregnant woman so that her children come out, then the men are held liable for their action. God so honors the life-giving woman that He judges these men 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 this law 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? The answer is either. 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 both the mother and her unborn child.
We see, therefore, the wickedness of the Biden campaign and the abortion lobby. And because many in our society refuse to protect the unborn, our honor for life generally has regressed. Many have sex outside of marriage with no thought to the children they may be conceiving; many couples marry with no intention of having children; Obergerfell has sanctioned perverse and fruitless same-sex unions; many States have endorsed euthanasia or asissted suicide; still others have given legal sanction to the mutilation of the healthy bodies of men and women, boys and girls. As God’s people, our calling is to reverse this trend by loving life.
So what of you? Do you thank God for fruitful marriages? Do you pray for our married couples that have not yet had children but who are praying for them? Do you praise God for making you male or female? Do you prize the unborn in the way you vote? Men and young men, are you honoring the women in our congregation, especially those with child? Opening doors, yielding your place in line, making offers of help, channeling your sexual desires to marriage? Children, we have many pregnant women in our midst: are you being careful when you are playing lest you accidentally hit them? Parents, are you training your children to recognize and honor those who are with child?
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.