Abortion and Numbers 5: The Error that Deceives

Numbers 5:11-31 (Test for Unfaithful Wife)

Numbers 5 is far too often used by pro-choice advocates in their efforts to prove the Bible supports abortion. The atheist/pro-abortion advocate will cite Numbers 5 in the NIV which incorrectly translates the Hebrew.

The Incorrect Translation…

Numbers 5:21, 22, 27, 28 (NIV)

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.”

27 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. 28 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.

The Correct Translation…

Numbers 5:21, 22, 27, 28 (NASB)

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 [m]waste away and your abdomen swell; 22 and this water that brings a curse shall go into your [n]stomach, and make your abdomen swell and your thigh [o]waste away.” And the woman shall say, “Amen. Amen.”

27 When he has made her drink the water, then it shall come about, if she has defiled herself and has been unfaithful to her husband, that the water which brings a curse will go into her [r]and cause bitterness, and her abdomen will swell and her thigh will [s]waste away, and the woman will become a curse among her people. 28 But if the woman has not defiled herself and is clean, she will then be free and conceive [t]children.

Note: In the Hebrew, this test does NOT involve a child or a pregnant woman, but is simply a test of faithfulness v. unfaithfulness. If the Woman is guilty, her uterus will be made sterile or “waste away.” If the Woman is not guilty of adultery, she will be able to bear children…there is no mention of a miscarriage or abortion in the Hebrew…it’s simply the difference between sterility and fertility, but no child is mentioned in the text other than in v. 28 stating that the innocent Wife would be fertile and able to bear children.

See the following verses in Numbers 5 in Hebrew and note “nephal” (Strongs 5307) (waste away) is used and NOT “nephel” (Strongs 5309) (miscarriage or abortion).

v. 21 in Hebrew: https://biblehub.com/text/numbers/5-21.htm

v. 22 in Hebrew: https://biblehub.com/text/numbers/5-22.htm

v. 27 in Hebrew: https://biblehub.com/text/numbers/5-27.htm

The Hebrew word for miscarriage is “nephel” (Strongs #5309) (miscarriage or abortion) but Numbers v. 21-22 and 27 use the Hebrew word “naphal” (Strongs #5307) (to fall, lie) concerning the woman’s uterus (thigh or abdomen).  There is no mention of “miscarry” or a child in the Hebrew relevant to Numbers 5:21-22, 27.

See the Hebrew word “nephel” designating “abortion or miscarry which is NOT found in Numbers 5: https://biblehub.com/hebrew/5309.htm

See the Hebrew word “nephal” (nō-p̄e-leṯ) as used in Numbers 5 meaning “to fall or lie” or to “waste away” https://biblehub.com/hebrew/5307.htm

Note: The NIV is the ONLY version that uses “miscarriage” in v. 21 and 22, see: https://christianity.stackexchange.com/questions/17009/does-numbers-511-22-describe-sanctioned-abortion

“Got Questions” agrees that Numbers 5 is not discussing an abortion and notes that the NIV mistakenly translates “miscarriage.” See: https://www.gotquestions.org/Numbers-abortion.html

Also see: http://blog.abolishhumanabortion.com/2015/01/numbers-5-and-water-of-bitterness.html?showComment=1549839721300

Thank you,

R.D. Holtsclaw

2 thoughts on “Abortion and Numbers 5: The Error that Deceives

  1. It seems the difference between naphal and nephel is in the diacritical marks, i.e. not present in the dead sea scrolls, etc., and early torahs which were only consonants. Are the diacritical marks inspired word, i.e. added in late middle ages? Is the reason the NIV differs because they are using different hebrew source, i.e. without the added diacritical marks?


    1. Nowhere in the text are we led to believe that a child is involved. This test is simply a test of faithfulness where the unfaithful wife will be barren and the faithful will be fruitful. To use this text as advocacy for abortion is heretical and to suggest that God approves of murdering His children for the crime of the mother or the father is blasphemy. I don’t care what “translation” or manuscript you seek to justify the position taken by the liberal NIV translators, they are incorrect and have committed a grievous error. Numbers 5:21 “to rot” is the Hebrew nō-p̄e-leṯ, Strongs Hebrew #5307 = naphal: to fall, lie
      Original Word: נָפַל
      Part of Speech: Verb
      Transliteration: naphal
      Phonetic Spelling: (naw-fal’)
      Definition: to fall, lie, to fall, lie, be cast down, fail
      NAS Exhaustive Concordance
      Word Origin
      a prim. root
      to fall, lie

      The Hebrew word for miscarriage or abortion is the Hebrew nephel, Strongs #5309 = nephel: miscarriage, abortion
      Original Word: נֶפֶל
      Part of Speech: Noun Masculine
      Transliteration: nephel
      Phonetic Spelling: (neh’-fel)
      Definition: miscarriage, abortion
      NAS Exhaustive Concordance
      Word Origin
      from naphal
      miscarriage, abortion
      NASB Translation
      miscarriage (2), miscarriages (1).

      This error hinges upon the unforgivable and the publishers of the NIV should publish a statement of retraction and apology to the 61-million babies mutilated in the womb of their mommy subsequent to Roe/73 and the NIV translators spanked with a stiff pine board on their liberal butts.


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