A Bible Study by Jack Kelley
I will greatly increase your pains in childbearing; with pain you will give birth to children. (Genesis 3:16 NIV)
In Part One of this series we carefully considered three factors in the original language of Genesis 3:16 that allowed us to draw the following conclusions;
The words translated pain in modern versions of the passage (NIV and others) more probably mean sorrow and don’t refer to the act of childbirth as much as to Eve’s feelings of guilt and remorse over her sin in the Garden.
The word translated increase really means multiply and refers to making both Eve’s sorrows and her conceptions numerous, not making her pain in childbirth more intense.
The passage should most likely be applied to Eve and her female descendants, each of whom desired to be the mother of the Redeemer, a reward that wouldn’t come to Jewish motherhood for 4000 years. There probably isn’t a general application to all womankind and certainly not where childbirth is concerned.
What’s The Point?
If all this is true, and God never cursed womankind with painful deliveries, then why do so many women experience such pain? Oddly enough, modern medicine has been suggested as the culprit. Just a few generations ago, after thousands of years of unassisted home births, it became fashionable to have a doctor attend a birth. Soon this included anesthesia and a stay in the hospital.
Those who could afford this kind of treatment felt privileged, and naturally more women wanted it. Making childbirth less difficult was a lofty and potentially lucrative goal for the medical profession. The only thing missing was a way to pay for it. With the increased availability of health insurance to the working population, birthing a child became a medical event, taking place in a hospital like an appendectomy, instead of a natural event taking place at home like it was when the King James translators rendered the Bible into English 400 years ago.
As doctors and hospitals became a more important (and expensive) part of the process, the birth of a child had to be made more responsive to scheduling demands. In the name of efficiency, the birthing process had to be controlled through intervention to accommodate busy schedules whether baby and mother were ready or not. (And to be fair to the medical profession, after nine months of pregnancy many mothers, especially those with demanding work schedules, are impatient to have it over with and encourage their doctors to hurry things along.) Drugs and medical procedures designed to induce labor on schedule are now routinely used, and then counter balanced with other drugs necessary to relieve the pain caused by the absence of proper relaxation and preparation.
This may explain why pain isn’t considered normal in some “underdeveloped” cultures. Not being able to afford doctors and hospitals, those moms have to wait till their baby’s ready to come naturally and therefore take time to prepare themselves accordingly. They learn that their bodies and their babies know exactly what to do. The mom’s job is to stay relaxed and focused on letting them do it.
But for many, the need to make everything work according to schedule has made pain an accepted and even expected part of the process, to be treated with drugs. After all, the medical profession is built on corrective, not preventive measures. The notion of birthing a baby naturally is not encouraged, and therefore little or no effort is made to educate mothers-to-be on drug-free methods of minimizing pain, or teaching them the relaxation techniques that allow muscle groups to work together in pain-free harmony, just as the Lord created them to do.
On the contrary expectant mothers are taught to expect pain, and lots of it, by friends and family who’ve experienced it, as well as by their care providers. After just a few generations, we simply no longer know any different. Mothers who want to let their bodies and their babies do what they were specifically created to do on their own schedule and with a minimum of intervention now find themselves having to press for their right to control their own birthing experience.
Who Created This Problem?
Looking at Genesis 3:16 in the original language seems to absolve God of the responsibility. And, since the Hebrew sages didn’t say much about pain in childbirth in their writings, it probably wasn’t a bunch of jealous men of old as the pagan feminists would have you believe. So who’s to blame?
Sorry to say, it’s probably us. As we come nearer to the End of the Age, it seems we either refuse to acknowledge the Bible as the Owner’s manual for the human race altogether, or when we do consult it, we twist the meanings around to suit our own preconceived notions.
In the case of childbirth, modern scholars apparently misinterpreted the Genesis passage due to the influence of their experience; experience that came about from not preparing mothers to birth their babies in the natural way our Creator intended. Childbirth is a natural human function, designed to work without intervention, but we’ve made intervention the norm. Any wonder it doesn’t work as well?
But man has turned his back on the Bible in favor of his own solutions to the problems he encounters, and childbirth isn’t the only example; there’ve been many others. Here are a few more.
Give Me Some Examples
The Book of Deuteronomy commands parents to teach their children. But educators still won’t accept the overwhelming evidence that home-schooled children consistently out perform both public and private school pupils, in social as well as academic skills.
In the middle 1300’s the Bubonic Plague wiped out 1/3 of Europe’s population before it was finally stopped by applying quarantine procedures set forth in the Old Testament Book of Leviticus.
Good sanitation and nutrition standards, the most effective means for reducing infant mortality and preventing disease in general, have either been ignored or actively opposed throughout much of history. These measures had been taught to our earliest ancestors, were written in the Torah by Moses 3500 years ago, and gave the ancient Jews life spans 2-3 times those of their pagan counterparts. But they were abandoned with the advent of the church, that in its early years divested itself of everything Jewish, including, sadly, the Old Testament and all its accompanying commentary.
(For instance, circumcision in Jewish men has been shown to dramatically reduce the incidence of cervical cancer among their wives. Yet for centuries gentile society ignored this procedure, and today the trend is once again going away from it.)
Later the emerging secular humanists distanced themselves from the New Testament as well. When Harvard professor William James wrote that man could change his life by changing his attitudes of mind, it was hailed as the greatest discovery of his generation, yet the Apostle Paul had written the same thing in his letter to the Ephesians over 1800 years before. (Ephe. 4:22-24)
Affirmation and visualization, two powerful tools for combating pain and maintaining a positive outlook in difficult circumstances, have been described as methods of mind control recently developed in the New Age movement. But Paul taught both to the early church. Specifically, he admonished the Philippians, who were suffering intense persecution, to rejoice always, thank God for everything, and think only good, positive, wholesome thoughts. (Phil. 4:4-9) The result, he said, would be a sense of peace that transcended human understanding and would see them through their difficult times. He told the Corinthians to ignore what they saw with their own eyes and instead visualize the life to come, focusing on it as a way of rising above the discouragement they felt. (2 Cor. 4:16-18) The list goes on.
There is a way that seems right to man, says Proverbs 14:12, but in the end it leads to death. How much different would life be today if we hadn’t rejected the Bible as a source of wisdom for effective living, seeking within its pages solutions to the problems that confront us and probing the endless wisdom of God for answers, instead of relying on the trial and error methods of ignorant man?
For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities–his eternal power and divine nature–have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse. For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened. Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools … (Romans 1:20-22). Selah 05-09-04.