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BIRTH. The bringing forth of a separate life into the world. Although this is accompanied by rending pain, there is no evidence that such pain would have occurred had not sin entered the human race. (See Gen.3.16 where pain in childbearing is a part of the curse on Eve for her sin.) This pain is so uniquely severe that in nine-tenths of the forty-odd uses of the word “travail” in the KJV it is used as a figure for intense suffering (e.g., Jer.13.21; Rom.8.22; Gal.4.19). Apparently the ancient Hebrew women went through travail more easily than the Egyptians did (Exod.1.19).

The day of one’s birth is, in a sense, the most important day of one’s life, for without it the individual would not have had life in the world; and so the celebration of birthdays goes back into very ancient times (Gen.40.20; Matt.14.6). The Hebrew ceremonies connected with childbirth are given in Lev.12.1-Lev.12.8. The permission to the poor to offer “a pair of turtledoves or two young pigeons” in place of a lamb (Luke.2.24) gives touching testimony to the comparative poverty of Mary, the mother of Jesus. Our Lord, in John.3.3-John.3.6, makes a clear distinction between the first and second births of a regenerate person; and when this distinction is applied, it seems almost to make two different species of the human race: the once-born and the regenerate. The former are depraved, and unless they repent they are destined for judgment (Heb.9.27; Heb.10.31); the latter are being made partakers in the divine nature (2Pet.1.4) and are destined for glory.——ABF

BIRTH bûrth (לֵדָה, H4256, act of birth; γένεσις, G1161, origin, nativity.

The word birth is used broadly in three different ways in the Bible. First, there is natural or physical birth which automatically implies a growing up into a spiritually carnal state. Second, supernatural birth is seen once only in the Virgin Birth of Christ, while finally the whole NT abounds with the theme of the new or spiritual birth.

It is common knowledge that childbirth is a painful experience although there is more than a hint that it is far more painful than originally intended (Gen 3:16). The spiritual fall of man has marred both his physical body and natural creation, for, as Paul wrote, “We know that the whole creation has been groaning in travail together until now” (Rom 8:22). It is not necessary to believe that there would be no pain in the childbirth of unfallen humans, as a sacrificial experience would increase the bond between mother and child. Even with women who have easy births, there must be some stretching of the tissues of the birth canal to allow the passage of the baby’s head and whereever tissues containing nerves are stretched there must be pain. However, some women with a well-shaped pelvis and an efficiently contracting womb can have an easy labor even with a first child. This was apparently true of the ancient Heb. woman (Exod 1:19). It may be postulated that these women’s experiences are close to what was intended. Just as the Fall has produced other deformities and inefficiencies in the body, so could it be used to account for the unfavorably shaped pelvis, abnormally large babies, and inefficiently contracting wombs which lead to difficult and abnormal births. So universal is the experience of difficult childbirth that the word “travail” is used many times in the Bible to denote severe suffering to produce spiritual creation (Isa 53:11 and Gal 4:19).

The many references to the “new birth” in the NT illustrate, with a very apt figure of speech, the fact that until a man surrenders his will to Christ he has not even entered the true spiritual realm of life with God.

International Standard Bible Encyclopedia (1915)


(1) It was said by the angel beforehand of John the Baptist, "Many shall rejoice at his birth"; and when he was born Elisabeth said, "Thus hath the Lord done unto me .... to take away my reproach among men" (Lu 1:14,25). Among the ancient Hebrews barrenness was a "reproach" and the birth of a child, of a son especially, an occasion for rejoicing.

(2) This, no doubt, was due in part to the Messianic hope inspired and sustained by prophecy (see Ge 3:15, where it was foretold that the seed of the woman should bruise the serpent’s head; and subsequent prophecies too numerous to mention). Cases in point worth studying are found in Ge 4:1, where Eve rejoices over the birth of her firstborn and cries, "I have gotten a man with the help of Yahweh"; and 1Sa 1:20, where Hannah exults over her firstborn, calling his name "Samuel," "because," she says, "I have asked him of Yahweh."

(3) The marvelous passage in Isa 7:14, "Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel," must have intensified the longing and hope of every devout Jewish maiden to be a mother, if mayhap, under God, she might be the mother of Messiah--Immanuel! (Compare Mt 1:22,23; Lu 1:13 f.)

See Jesus Christ; Virgin Birth.

George B. Eager

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