Cherry Picking

Cherry Picking

Reading Time: 11 minutes

Above Photo by Taryn Elliott: 

Isolating scripture by a particular verse is not how any Christian or non-Christian should read the bible. All scripture should be read in context.  Anyone who is trying to figure out the meaning of a particular verse should always read what comes before and what verses follow. 

It is also fundamental to look at the broad backdrop of the particular book. Since scripture is composed of 66 books written by over 30 different authors over a period of 1500 years, understanding the author’s intent is essential. Scripture contains documented history, songs, poetry, words of wisdom that you might find in psalms or proverbs, and prayers. Understanding what the chapter is about, who the author is writing to, and what idea the author is trying to relay is key to understanding what we read. 

Christian apologist Greg Koukl puts it this way, “Remember, meaning always flows from the top down, from the larger units to the smaller units. A reflection on a Bible passage from a sermon or a devotional may be edifying, encouraging, and uplifting. If it is not the message of the text, though, it lacks biblical authority even when the quote comes right out of the Word of God.”1

If you would like an excellent source on how to read scripture, I would highly recommend How to Read the Bible for All Its Worth: Fourth Edition.

I came across this meme on Facebook a couple of weeks ago from someone who is pro-choice. As you can see, it contains bible verses that seem to support a pro-choice view or, at the very least, imply that scripture, the bible, or God endorses the murder of the unborn. 

The translations in this meme are laughable if not for the large number of people that would view such a meme and take it at face value without digging a little deeper. 

For simplicity, I used the NIV (New International Translation) and referenced the Bible Hub, which gives upwards of 20 other popular translations.  

The NIV is a contemporary translation and, like many of the translations today, had a rigorous process before publishing. “This involved assigning each book of the Bible to a translation team consisting of two translators, two translation consultants and, if necessary, an English style consultant. Another team of five Bible scholars reviewed their work, comparing it to the original biblical text and assessing its readability. Next, each book went to a committee of eight to 12 scholars and was also reviewed by outside critics. And finally, samples were tested by pastors, students and laypeople.”2

None of the translated scripture in the meme even come close to what you see below in bold. I don’t know where Caity found these particular translations, but it is blatantly reworded to put a pro-choice spin on the verse or paint God as baby killing, homicidal, murder. 

Let’s look at each of the verses she quoted one at a time. What she quoted or used is bold, and the following is the NIV translation in blue. I quote the whole scripture referenced, and some are quite long.

Life begins at birth-with the first breath (Gen 2:7)

Then the LORD God formed a man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being. (Gen 2:7)

It says God breathed life into man’s nostrils. It says nothing about life beginning at the first breath but that God breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and at that moment, man became a living being. From this passage, suggesting that life only begins for the unborn when they take their first breath is absurd. 

Before birth, the unborn requires nutrition and oxygen, just as we all do after birth. However, for the unborn, that all comes from the mother via the umbilical cord. It is then the use of lungs that marks the value of the unborn? You can see how ridiculous this would be. 

Fetuses are not persons (Ex 21:22-25)

If people are fighting and hit a pregnant woman and she gives birth prematurely but there is no serious injury, the offender must be fined whatever the woman’s husband demands and the court allows. But if there is serious injury, you are to take life for life, eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot, burn for burn, wound for wound, bruise for bruise. (Exodus 21:22-25)

How on earth did someone get “fetuses are not persons” from those passages? What a pathetic, misleading, and deceitful translation. If anything, those passages suggest there is some value to the unborn since fines are involved if she gives birth prematurely. 

Exodus 21 is about judgments and laws placed before the Israelites, which include: the treatment of servants, murder, manslaughter, assault, liability, theft, rape, idolatry, the treatment of the poor, and money, just to list a few of the subjects. However, it says nothing about fetuses not being persons. 

Fetuses should be aborted as proof of adultery (Numbers 5:11-31)

Then the Lord said to Moses, “Speak to the Israelites and say to them: ‘If a man’s wife goes astray and is unfaithful to him so that another man has sexual relations with her, and this is hidden from her husband and her impurity is undetected (since there is no witness against her and she has not been caught in the act), and if feelings of jealousy come over her husband and he suspects his wife and she is impure—or if he is jealous and suspects her even though she is not impure— then he is to take his wife to the priest. He must also take an offering of a tenth of an ephah of barley flour on her behalf. He must not pour olive oil on it or put incense on it, because it is a grain offering for jealousy, a reminder-offering to draw attention to wrongdoing.

“‘The priest shall bring her and have her stand before the Lord. Then he shall take some holy water in a clay jar and put some dust from the tabernacle floor into the water. After the priest has had the woman stand before the Lord, he shall loosen her hair and place in her hands the reminder-offering, the grain offering for jealousy, while he himself holds the bitter water that brings a curse. Then the priest shall put the woman under oath and say to her, “If no other man has had sexual relations with you and you have not gone astray and become impure while married to your husband, may this bitter water that brings a curse not harm you. But if you have gone astray while married to your husband and you have made yourself impure by having sexual relations with a man other than your husband”— 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. 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.”

“‘The priest is to write these curses on a scroll and then wash them off into the bitter water. He shall make the woman drink the bitter water that brings a curse, and this water that brings a curse and causes bitter suffering will enter her. The priest is to take from her hands the grain offering for jealousy, wave it before the Lord and bring it to the altar. The priest is then to take a handful of the grain offering as a memorial offering and burn it on the altar; after that, he is to have the woman drink the water. If she has made herself impure and been unfaithful to her husband, this will be the result: When she is made to drink the water that brings a curse and causes bitter suffering, it will enter her, her abdomen will swell and her womb will miscarry, and she will become a curse. If, however, the woman has not made herself impure, but is clean, she will be cleared of guilt and will be able to have children.

 “‘This, then, is the law of jealousy when a woman goes astray and makes herself impure while married to her husband, or when feelings of jealousy come over a man because he suspects his wife. The priest is to have her stand before the Lord and is to apply this entire law to her. The husband will be innocent of any wrongdoing, but the woman will bear the consequences of her sin.'” (Numbers 5:11-31)

Two considerations when reading these passages should be weighed in. First, the principal focus in this chapter is purity within the camp of Israelites before they are to enter the promised land of Canaan. Second, a wife was regarded as a possession of her husband, so the greater burden was placed on the wife. 

In many ancient cultures, women were second-class citizens and suffered because of that belief. So, for example, a woman could be divorced if the husband even suspected infidelity. On the surface, this seems to be an unfair and harsh judgment toward women, but it actually eased the laws concerning unfaithfulness. 

Having this law allowed a provision to prove innocence before a jealous or angry husband when there was none before. Before this law, accusations could have been made against a wife, and she could have even been murdered with no recourse. This law ameliorated women’s harsh realities in ancient cultures and limited the oppressive claims made against women in ancient Israel. 

Life is not sacred (Deuteronomy 28:18-24)

The fruit of your womb will be cursed, and the crops of your land, and the calves of your herds and the lambs of your flocks.

You will be cursed when you come in and cursed when you go out.

The Lord will send on you curses, confusion and rebuke in everything you put your hand to, until you are destroyed and come to sudden ruin because of the evil you have done in forsaking him. The Lord will plague you with diseases until he has destroyed you from the land you are entering to possess. The Lord will strike you with wasting disease, with fever and inflammation, with scorching heat and drought, with blight and mildew, which will plague you until you perish. The sky over your head will be bronze, the ground beneath you iron. The Lord will turn the rain of your country into dust and powder; it will come down from the skies until you are destroyed. (Deuteronomy 28:18-24)

This is after Israel entered the Promised Land, and Moses commanded them to renew their covenant and reviewed the blessings and curses they could expect depending on their behavior. 

The first part of this chapter lists blessings, but starting in verse 15, you read about what will happen if they are disobedient. Despair would invade the people and God’s blessings would disappear. It says nothing about life not being sacred. Again, a complete misrepresentation of scripture.  

God will rip open pregnant mothers-to-be (2Kings 8:12)

“Why is my lord weeping?” asked Hazael.

“Because I know the harm you will do to the Israelites,” he answered. “You will set fire to their fortified places, kill their young men with the sword, dash their little children to the ground, and rip open their pregnant women.” (2Kings 8:12)

What is in bold is a typical misapplication of scripture and deliberately misleading. If you read what comes before and after for yourself, you will see that for yourself. 

This passage is an extract from a conversation between Elisha and Hazael, a servant to the king of Aram. Elisha was weeping because God showed him what Hazael would do to the people of Israel after king Aram died. The verses say nothing about God ripping open mothers to be, but a warning what an enemy kingdom will do to the people of Israel. 

Israelite King Menahem ripped open pregnant women (2 Kings 15:16)

At that time Menahem, starting out from Tirzah, attacked Tiphsah and everyone in the city and its vicinity, because they refused to open their gates. He sacked Tiphsah and ripped open all the pregnant women. (2 Kings 15:16)

2Kings is about the divided kingdom of Israel and it briefly covers the reign of about 30 kings of Israel and Judah; many of them were evil and acted wickedly in the sight of God. Their deeds and actions are recorded in history, and the author evaluated the monarchy by the Mosaic Law. This is one example. And one focus seems to have been pointing out the blessings offered to the obedient and the punishment for disobedience. Many evil kings were listed in the two books of first and second Kings and here you have one. 

God will kill unborn fetuses (Isaiah 13:18)

Their bows will strike down the young men; they will have no mercy on infants, nor will they look with compassion on children. (Isaiah 13:18)

Isaiah was a prophet, and he spoke for God. Therefore, if you read Isaiah’s book, you will find words of exhortation, hope, and promise, but many words of warning, accusation, and confrontation, which made him unpopular. 

In the first 39 chapters, he condemned the eighth-century Israelites and charged them for their immoral and idolatrous lifestyles. No translation says God will kill unborn fetuses. In chapter 13, the Hebrew word used is na’ar which translates to a boy or adolescent. Chapter 13 are Prophecies about Babylon, and verse 18 is about Babylon falling to the Medes (translated middle land) northwest of Persia and what the Medes will do to Babylon. Once again, an example of misrepresenting scripture. I wonder if Michael Sussmann wrote this meme. 

God will destroy fetuses in utero (Hosea 9:10-16)

“When I found Israel,

    it was like finding grapes in the desert;

when I saw your ancestors,

    it was like seeing the early fruit on the fig tree.

But when they came to Baal Peor,

    they consecrated themselves to that shameful idol

    and became as vile as the thing they loved.

11 Ephraim’s glory will fly away like a bird—

    no birth, no pregnancy, no conception.

12 Even if they rear children,

    I will bereave them of every one.

Woe to them

    when I turn away from them!

13 I have seen Ephraim, like Tyre,

    planted in a pleasant place.

But Ephraim will bring out

    their children to the slayer.”

14 Give them, Lord—

    what will you give them?

Give them wombs that miscarry

    and breasts that are dry.

15 “Because of all their wickedness in Gilgal,

    I hated them there.

Because of their sinful deeds,

    I will drive them out of my house.

I will no longer love them;

    all their leaders are rebellious.

16 Ephraim is blighted,

    their root is withered,

    they yield no fruit.

Even if they bear children,

    I will slay their cherished offspring.” (Hosea 9:10-16)

Hosea lived in the Northern Kindom of Israel about 200 years after the Northern Kingdom broke off from southern Judah. The book of Hosea is almost all poetry and has three main sections. The first section is about marriage to a woman named Gomer. The second section is about her unfaithfulness, and the third section is about Hosea’s attempts to restore the marriage to Gomer despite her unfaithfulness. 

All these parts are symbolic of God’s relationship with Israel. First is God’s Covenant (Marriage) with Israel. Then God brought Israel to the Promised land, and Israel took all the prosperity experienced and began to worship the Canaanite God Baal. God then has two options; He could end his Covenant with Israel or continue to love and pursue them despite their unfaithfulness. 

The last two parts of the book of Hosea have accusations and warnings for Israel because they are looking to Assyria and Egypt for protection. However, in the near future, the Assyrian Empire swoops in and destroys the northern empire of Israel. Both parts end with more poetry about God’s mercy and hope for Israel’s future, but no one would point that out, only that God will destroy fetuses.

Like so many I see on Facebook, this meme is absolute rubbish. But the good side is I occasionally see one worth responding to two, and I have a new post for my blog. 

If you ever see anyone post this meme, you can now point it out for the misleading and disingenuous trash it is. 

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Cherry Picking by James W Glazier is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.

  1. Koukl, Greg. “Never Read A Bible Verse.” Stand To Reason, str.org, 4 February 2014, https://www.str.org/w/never-read-a-bible-verse []
  2. Biblica Staff. “The Inspiring Story of How the NIV Bible Became a Reality.” Biblica The International Bible Society, biblica.com, 20 March 2018, https://www.biblica.com/articles/history-of-the-niv-bible-translation/ []

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