Recently, I engaged in a social media conversation about abortion. The civil discourse revolved around the question, “When does life begin?” This person shared Genesis 2:7,
“And the Lord God formed man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and man became a living being.”
By this verse, she interpreted Scripture to teach life begins when a baby takes his first breath outside of the womb. She wasn’t alone. I Googled the topic and found many bloggers and pro-choice advocates embrace this view of Scripture. She asked if I believed that this verse settled the issue of when life commences. I assured her I’d research the topic and post a blog about my answer. After doing a bit of research, I’m even more convinced life begins at conception.
Genesis 2:7, though used as a verse to validate the pro-choice view, cannot be quoted as a verse to okay abortion. This verse does not apply to a baby developing in the womb, because in this case it’s used to describe the creation of the first human being. God created humanity, not as babies, but as adults to be stewards and caretakers of the Garden and to enjoy fellowship with Him. As one blogger wrote, “The key here is that Adam was lifeless prior to the breath of God whereas a baby is not lifeless prior to his/her breath.”
Every time my wife scheduled the ultrasound to learn the sex of our children, I made plans to be away from the office. The first three times, we watched images of our boys…the last two, our girls. On no occasion did any of the babies In utero sit completely still. Occasionally, they wriggled out from under the pressure of the transducer as the technician rubbed it around my wife’s belly. At other times, the babies kicked at the handheld device feistily. At no time did I consider the images flashing before my eyes as lifeless. And besides the black and white pictures, my wife and I witnessed one of the most beautiful sounds on the planet, the rhythmic thumping of our baby’s heartbeat.
Job 33:4 shares,
“The Spirit of God has made me; the breath of the Almighty gives me life.”
After Elihu listened to Job’s friend address him, he took his turn to talk to Job. In verse four of chapter thirty-three, Elihu reminds Job they are both created by the same God. He then says,
“the breath of the Almighty gives me life.”
The word breath, here, comes from the Hebrew word, “neshahmah” meaning divine inspiration. Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible interprets the latter portion of the Scripture in this manner,
in God‘s stead” to thee; a “daysman,” umpire, or mediator, between God and thee. So Elihu was designed by the Holy Ghost to be a type of Jesus Christ
Elihu saw himself as a man created in the image of God as Job, but also a man inspired by God to relay a timely message to Job. In no way does this verse apply to a baby in the womb.
Ezekiel 37:5 says,
“This is what the Sovereign Lord says to these bones: I will make breath enter you, and you will come to life.”
The “I will” speaks of God’s sovereignty and omnipotence. The word “Breath” in the Hebrew is the word “Ruah/Ruach which is also translated spirit. Life from the dead bones requires divine intervention, so in this Scripture God is describing a supernatural event. This Scripture is not addressing breathing life into a person or persons, but this is a portion of the message Ezekiel delivered about the rebirth of the nation of Israel. This verse has to be considered not individually but as a part of a whole…in this case, a prophecy delivered in both Chapters 37 and 38 of Ezekiel.
So, does the Bible give any indication as to when life begins?
Psalm 139:13-16 reads,
“For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; you works are wonderful, I know that full well. My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place. When I was woven together in the depths of the earth, your eyes saw my unformed body. All the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be.”
The phrase “your eyes saw my unformed body” in other translations reads “saw my substance.” The word substance comes from the Hebrew word “golem,” and is only found one time in the Bible, here in Psalm 139. A related word, the verb form “galam” is found in II Kings 2:8 where it is used in reference to Elijah’s mantle.
“And Elijah took his mantle, and wrapped it together.”
That is, Elijah rolled it up, or he folded it. The noun form “golem” then means, “that which is folded up.” Therefore, the noun refers to anything folded up or undeveloped.
Picture the infant stages of the baby in the womb. All of the members of the body are folded up and undeveloped. It will take weeks and months before the differing members of the body assume their distinct form and proportions. The commentary Notes, Critical, Explanatory, and Practical, on the Book of Psalms shares:
“This is undoubtedly the idea here. Before the embryo had any such form that its future size, shape, or proportion could be marked by the eye of man, it was clearly and distinctly known by God.”
And according to the rest of this passage, even before mom and dad knew of the child’s conception, all of that baby’s future was known by God, and was written down in His book.
Do any other texts suggest life before that first gasping and wailing breath?
In Jeremiah chapter one, we see the call of God on Jeremiah’s life. Verses four and five say the following:
The word of the Lord came to me, saying, “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I set you apart; I appointed you as a prophet to the nations.”
But possibly the greatest example of all comes from the Gospel of Luke, chapter one. After receiving the announcement she was going to carry the Son of God, Mary hurried to visit her cousin Elizabeth. The account shares that when Mary greeted Elizabeth, the baby in Elizabeth’s womb responded. At that instant, Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit and she exclaimed:
“Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the child you will bear! But why am I so favored that the mother of my Lord should come to me? As soon as the sound of your greeting reached my ears, the baby in my womb leaped for joy.”
The Bible clearly teaches life begins prior to that of baby’s first breath, and based upon Psalm 139, I believe the Bible teaches life begins at conception. Why? Because according to the Scripture, before that baby is a twinkle in his parents’ eye, God’s orchestrating a beautiful plan for that child’s life….a plan summed up in Jeremiah 29:11,
“For I know the plans I have for you declares the Lord, plans to prosper you and not to harm you. Plans to give you hope and a future.”