Q: #552. Didn't God cause abortions in (Num 5:21-22, 27), when it says that He would make a woman's “womb miscarry” her baby?
A: The belief that “God caused abortions” in women in (Num 5:21-22, 27) is the result of a VERY poor translation of these verses in a few versions of the Bible (i.e. NIV, NRSV, NLT). The NIV translation is the primary culprit. Let’s look at how it translates (Num 5:21-22):
(21) “here the priest is to put the woman under this curse–“may the LORD cause you to become a curse among your people when he makes your WOMB MISCARRY and your abdomen swell. (22) May this water that brings a curse enter your body so that your abdomen swells or your WOMB MISCARRIES.” “‘Then the woman is to say, “Amen. So be it.” (caps emphasis mine)
On the other hand, let’s look at these same verses in the NASB translation:
(21) “(then the priest shall have the woman swear with the oath of the curse, and the priest shall say to the woman), “the LORD make you a curse and an oath among your people by the LORD’S making your THIGH WASTE AWAY and your abdomen swell; (22) and this water that brings a curse shall go into your stomach, and make your abdomen swell and your THIGH WASTE AWAY.” And the woman shall say, “Amen. Amen.” (caps emphasis mine)
Pretty big difference, right? This is why it is SO important to filter the Bible through the original Hebrew and Greek languages that it was written in. So, let’s do that with (verse 22) in Hebrew (the Old Testament was written in Hebrew, and the New Testament was written in Greek). Here is what it says:
“And shall go (ubau) the water (hammayim) that causes the curse (hamarerim) this (haelleh) into your stomach (bemeayik) to swell (lasbowt) [your] belly (beten) and to rot (welanpil) [your] thigh (yarek) and shall say (weamerah) the women (haissah) amen (amen) amen (amen).”
Therefore, what we see in Hebrew is that the water would cause the woman’s “belly” (“beten”) to “swell” (“lasbowt”), and her “thigh” (“yarek”) to “rot” (“welanpil”). It should be noted that “beten” can be translated either as “belly” (30 times) or “womb” (31 times). So, the water could cause the “belly” OR “womb” to “swell.” However, it does NOT say that the water would cause the “womb” to “miscarry.” It says that the water would ALSO cause the “thigh” (“yarek”), not the “womb,” to “rot” (“welanpil”), not “miscarry.”
The original NIV Bible, which came out in 1978, actually aligns with the Hebrew, and other translations, in saying “thigh waste away” (all of the NIV Bibles I have say this). However, in a 2011 NIV update, for some odd reason, they decided to change the wording to “womb miscarry.” This is certainly unfortunate, and VERY misleading, and I hope it will be corrected eventually. This is one of the reasons why I urge people to go with a “word for word” translation of the Bible (i.e. KJV, NASB, NKJV), rather than a “thought for thought” translation (NIV), or a “paraphrase” (NLT) Bible.
I hope this helps you to understand that the Bible does not say God “causes” or “promotes” abortions.