In the beginning, God created man (and woman, for that
matter), in His image, and said unto them, "Be fruitful, and multiply". This
being so, why were so many women in Scripture unable to bear children? It was
obviously not an uncommon condition in Bible times, and today much medical
attention is devoted to seeking cures for it.
At least seven women are specifically mentioned as suffering
from barrenness: Sarah, Rebekah, Rachel, the mother of Samson, Hannah, the
Shunammite, and Elizabeth. In several of these cases there is particular comment
on the cause of sterility:
Sarah believed her condition was of God: "Behold now, the Lord
hath restrained me from bearing" (Gen 16:2). Rachel was taught by her husband
Jacob that God was the Source of her condition: "Am I in God's stead, who hath
withheld from thee the fruit of the womb?" (Gen 30:2). Were these patriarchs
right in thinking that this affliction of barrenness was from God? Clearly God
could do this, and in the case of Hannah it is explicitly stated that "the Lord
had shut up her womb" (1Sa 1:6). In fact, in the time of Abraham there was a
clear demonstration of God's power in this matter. When Sarah was taken into the
house of Abimelech, all the women in his household stopped bearing children, and
at the end of the incident the record states: "So Abraham prayed unto God: and
God healed Abimelech, and his wife, and his maidservants; and they bare
children. For the Lord had fast closed up all the wombs of the house of
Abimelech, because of Sarah..." (Gen 20:17,18).
By contrast with all these cases, Israel as a nation was
promised that if they would keep God's laws, He in turn would bless the fruit of
their wombs, and none would be barren among them (Deu 7:13,14).
He who has power to shut the womb is clearly able also to open
it -- sometimes with unexpected results. Thus Sarah at the age of 90 "received
strength to conceive seed" (Heb 11:11)! It is stated of both Leah and Rachel
that God "opened" their wombs (Gen 29:31,32; 30:22,23); but the case of Ruth is
even more specific. She was married to Mahlon for anything up to ten years
without any child, but when she married the older man Boaz, "the Lord gave her
conception, and she bare a son" (Rth 4:13).
Every aspect of the whole wonderful process of childbearing is
mentioned in the Bible, including gestation: "For thou hast formed my reins:
thou hast knit me together in my mother's womb. I will give thanks unto thee:
for I am fearfully and wonderfully made... Thine eyes did see my imperfect
substance, and in thy book all my members were written, what days they should be
fashioned, when as yet there was none of them" (Psa 139:13-16).
The Scriptures leave their reader in no doubt as to what words
should be used to describe that which is developing in the womb of a pregnant
woman: in Rebekah's case, they are called "children" (Gen 25:22), and in
Elizabeth's, it is called "the babe" (Luk 1:44). These two passages show that
even before birth there is in some sense a personality and individuality
developing, all known to God.
"Before thou camest forth out of the womb I sanctified thee,
and I ordained thee a prophet unto the nations" (Jer 1:5). This is how God
speaks of Jeremiah when in modern medical terms there was no Jeremiah, just some
impersonal cells multiplying in the womb of a woman.
Again there is no doubt that God is involved at this stage:
"Thou art he that took me out of the womb" (Psa 22:9); "Thou art he that took me
out of my mother's bowels" (Psa 71:6); and "God, who separated me from my
mother's womb" (Gal 1:15) are three examples of the testimony of Scripture to
The clear evidence of the above passages is that Israel, and
by extension the saints of all ages, were taught that God, having created the
first man and woman and commanded them to reproduce, did not "rest from his
work", but on the contrary is actively involved at all stages and in every case
of the formation of a new life. He "withholds from bearing" or "gives
conception" according to His will. He "knits together" the developing members
and organs in the womb, and ultimately He "brings forth" the perfectly-formed
child from its mother at the appointed time.
The worship of the Canaanites
While Israel was in the wilderness, God solemnly warned them
of the depths of depravity to which the nations of the land had sunk, and of the
necessity for Israel to keep themselves separate from these things:
"After the doings of the land of Canaan, whither I bring you,
shall ye not do: neither shall ye walk in their ordinances" (Lev
The worship of Ashtaroth and the Baalim, the gods of the
Canaanites, was very much fertility worship: the worship of sex in all its forms
and even of the sex organs. Tablets, statues and other information from
archaeological digs have revealed the utter depravity of Canaanite "religion",
and the need for such warnings as "Defile not yourselves in any of these things"
Yet above all these dreadful things (pornography, incest,
prostitution, homosexuality, and even bestiality), there was a practice held so
abominable in God's sight that it defiled not only the people if they committed
it, but it also defiled their land as well as God's sanctuary and holy name!
This was the sacrifice of children to the abomination Moloch (or Molech). So
hideous was this practice that the Israelites were forbidden even to inquire as
to how it was carried out (Deu 12:30,31; Lev 20:1-5).
God condemns all idolatry; but this particular perversion is
singled out for special and precise divine reprobation. Why? In Eze 16 there is
an extended allegory concerning the unfaithful behavior of the people of
Jerusalem: "Moreover thou hast taken thy sons and thy daughters, whom thou hast
borne unto me, and these hast thou sacrificed unto them to be devoured. Is this
of thy whoredoms a small matter, that thou hast slain my children, and delivered
them to cause them to pass through the fire?" (vv 20,21).
Two points are obvious: (1) They were sacrificing their
children to an idol; and (2) The children were not, in fact, theirs to do with
as they pleased; but rather they belonged to God!
Nothing remotely approaching this horrible and abominable
practice of Molech-worship would be tolerated today in Western society. Yet all
the other elements of Canaanitish fertility worship are abundantly manifest in
all their depravity in the Western "Christian" nations, where sex is a
multi-billion dollar industry. The churches around us, having departed from a
healthy attitude to the Scriptures, have progressively retreated on moral issues
also, until several of the sexual abominations of the Canaanites are considered
by them to be quite compatible with a good "Christian" life.
What is perhaps not quite so clear, is that along with all the
other filth of Canaan has come the modern "Molech", discreetly called "legalized
abortion" or "freedom of choice". The parallel between an Israelite family
sacrificing a child to Molech and a brother and sister having a pregnancy
terminated by abortion is very powerful. In both cases knowledge of the Bible
should be sufficient to cause realization that: (1) conception is given by God;
(2) He oversees the development of the child in the womb; and (3) that child is
an inheritance from Him. The only real difference is that in the one case the
child emerges naturally from the womb before being cast into the fire, while in
the other it is taken unnaturally from the body of its mother before being
disposed of. In both cases there is a deliberate intention to destroy a child
created by God. It offers no solution to dismiss that child as a mere "fetus" or
"embryo" -- such is not the language of the Bible, as has been shown. Thus we
must conclude that to destroy human life willfully, whether legal or not
according to man's laws, is in God's sight quite simply murder.