The Agora
Bible Articles and Lessons: A

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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 this effect.


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 18:3).

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" (Lev 18:24).

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.

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