I’m having trouble understanding Hosea 9. A nonbeliever used them as proof that God doesn’t care about abortion. In verse 14 (NIV), it says... “Give them Lord—what will you give them? Give them wombs that miscarry and breasts that are dry.” It doesn’t say prevent conception; it says miscarry, which means God would create life and then take it away. Then, in verse 16, it says, “...even if they bear children, I will slay their cherished offspring.” I know there’s a specific context to these passages, but how does a Christian reconcile these verses when challenged about abortion?
Yes, this Hosea passage has been used by pro-choice advocates to make the claim that God is pro-abortion (for example, see this article).
In the context of Hosea, this prophetic passage outlines God’s severe punishment against Israel for their idolatry and rejection of Him. Hosea 9:11 says, “Ephraim’s glory shall fly away like a bird—no birth, no pregnancy, no conception!”
The ESV Study Bible says this of Hosea 9:10-14:
When Israel spurns God’s grace, they are left to their own devices. Judgment is dramatic, for there will be no birth, no pregnancy, not even conception. If the nation does not change, it will soon head toward extinction. …A miscarrying womb would be the opposite of the fruitfulness the people sought in Baal worship.
Michael Spielman of Abort73 writes this about Hosea 9:14:
In Hosea’s day, God punished the wickedness of Israel by causing Israelite women to miscarry. Barrenness was an utter reproach and so this was a grave punishment indeed. Today in America, and across the globe, women choose to miscarry their own children. They choose barrenness! Such masochistic behavior would be almost incomprehensible to Hosea’s audience, and yet it has become tragically normal for us.
So how do we understand this passage? We need to start by remembering God has exclusive prerogatives over life and death that no human has:
“See now that I myself am He! There is no god besides me. I put to death and I bring to life, I have wounded and I will heal, and no one can deliver out of my hand.” (Deuteronomy 32:39)
“The LORD brings death and makes alive; he brings down to the grave and raises up.” (1 Samuel 2:6)
Still, some people make the argument that since there is a high rate of miscarriage in the natural reproductive process, God in essence “performs abortions.”
Randy Alcorn writes this in his book ProLife Answers to ProChoice Arguments, which applies well to this passage: “But the difference [between spontaneous miscarriage and human-induced abortion] is profound. What God does is up to Him, but we are not God. We do not have His prerogatives over human life and death. Spontaneous miscarriages are not our responsibility. What is our responsibility is child deaths caused by [abortion].”
That miscarriages happen does not minimize God’s love for children, and His overseeing of each child’s conception, which are clear truths from Scripture (see this article). Those truths are not antithetical to God’s prerogatives over life and death.
Gotquestions.org has a helpful Q&A on this. They say:
We did not start that tiny heart beating, create the blood that is flowing through the fetus’s veins, or preordain the days of a child’s life as God has done. Therefore, when human beings induce an abortion, we are destroying God’s creative work without His permission. However, when God chooses, through miscarriage, to take a child’s life early, He has the right to do so. It is His child, His work, His masterpiece (Ephesians 2:10; Mark 10:14).
In answering those who question you about this passage, I would emphasize that abortion is the intentional taking of a human life by other humans and is therefore prohibited in Scripture: “You shall not commit murder” (Exodus 20:13). Though God allowed these miscarriages as part of His judgment on Israel (and judgment is the key theme in this passage), these verses in Hosea do not endorse abortion, nor is God in any sense “performing an abortion.”
This article has some helpful talking points about miscarriages in general:
The difference between abortion and miscarriage is exactly the same as the difference between murder and accidental death. One is a deliberate, intentional killing of a person. The other is an unintended death resulting from chance circumstances. One involves people taking it upon themselves to end a life, the other is a death resulting from inadvertent situations. An abortion is a deliberate action, taken with the specific intent of ending a human life. There is no moral comparison to a miscarriage, any more than there is one between arson and an accidental house fire. It would be ridiculous to excuse an arsonist on the grounds that some houses burn down by accident. Abortion is not made any more moral by referring to miscarriage, any more than murder can be justified by referring to accidental deaths.
Miscarriages occur when something triggers a premature birth. Often, this happens early enough in the pregnancy that the unborn child does not survive. The cause might be an illness, an injury, or some genetic issue with the child itself. It may even be due to the negligence or carelessness of the mother or some other person. Miscarriages are unintentional, and this makes all the difference. God designed the universe to operate under a set of rules and natural laws. He only interferes with the “normal” operation of nature under extraordinary circumstances. The question of why God does not prevent miscarriages is not much different than the question of why God does not prevent any other evil—or all evil, for that matter.
Stephanie Anderson is the communications and graphics specialist at Eternal Perspective Ministries.