Childbirth is a miraculous event that brings new life into the world. However, it also carries risks, and tragically, some women lose their lives in the process of giving birth. This can be emotionally devastating for families.
- The Bible does not explicitly condemn women dying in childbirth. It is seen as a tragic consequence of the fallen world.
- Several women in the Bible die in childbirth, but their stories highlight God’s sovereignty and purposes.
- God is with women during childbirth and understands their suffering. He brings meaning out of tragedy.
- The Bible urges us to find hope and comfort in God when facing trials like childbirth deaths.
- Jesus’ resurrection enables us to have confidence that life triumphs over death.
The Curse and Fallen World
In Genesis 3, after Adam and Eve sin, God pronounces a curse on the serpent and the ground. He also tells Eve “I will greatly multiply your sorrow and your conception; In pain you shall bring forth children” (Genesis 3:16). This pronouncement indicates that pain in childbirth is a consequence of humankind’s fallen and sinful state. While not a direct punishment for women, difficult childbirths reflect the brokenness of the world. As part of this fallen world, tragic deaths from childbirth are also not unexpected.
Throughout history, many women have died giving birth. Only in recent decades with modern medicine have maternal deaths become rarer in developed countries. When understood in the Biblical framework of a fallen world, dying in childbirth, while profoundly sad, is not necessarily a surprise or condemnation from God. He grieves with those who grieve.
Examples in the Bible
Several prominent women in the Bible die in childbirth. While their deaths are heartbreaking, their stories contain hope and point towards God’s redemptive purposes.
The most well-known is Rachel, wife of Jacob:
Then they journeyed from Bethel. And when there was but a little distance to go to Ephrath, Rachel labored in childbirth, and she had hard labor…So Rachel died and was buried on the way to Ephrath (that is, Bethlehem). And Jacob set a pillar on her grave, which is the pillar of Rachel’s grave to this day. (Genesis 35:16, 19-20)
Rachel’s tragic death highlights the sorrow and pain brought by the Fall. Yet God transforms the tragedy by making Rachel’s son Benjamin an important part of the nation of Israel.
Another woman is the unnamed wife of Phinehas:
And his daughter-in-law, Phinehas’ wife, was with child, due to be delivered; and when she heard the news that the ark of God was captured, and that her father-in-law and her husband were dead, she bowed herself and gave birth, for her labor pains came upon her. And about the time of her death the women who stood by her said to her, “Do not fear, for you have borne a son.” But she did not answer, nor did she regard it. (1 Samuel 4:19-20)
Despite her devastation at losing her father-in-law and husband, this woman finds comfort in giving birth to a son before she dies. God brings meaning through her son’s birth despite the tragedy.
Therefore Michal the daughter of Saul had no children to the day of her death. (2 Samuel 6:23)
The context suggests Michal’s childlessness until death may have been a judgement from God on her pride and scorn towards David. Yet even in judgement, by preserving David’s line God shows He is sovereign over life and death.
While these stories are sad, God weaves redemption and purpose into the tragedies. He has power over life and death.
God Understands and Is With Us
Not only is God sovereign over life and death, but the Bible also tells us He is intimately aware of the pain and suffering women experience in childbirth.
The prophet Isaiah writes:
For a mere moment I have forsaken you, but with great mercies I will gather you. With a little wrath I hid My face from you for a moment; but with everlasting kindness I will have mercy on you,” says the Lord, your Redeemer. “For this is like the waters of Noah to Me; for as I have sworn that the waters of Noah would no longer cover the earth, so have I sworn that I would not be angry with you, nor rebuke you. For the mountains shall depart and the hills be removed, but My kindness shall not depart from you, nor shall My covenant of peace be removed,” says the Lord, who has mercy on you. “O you afflicted one, tossed with tempest, and not comforted, behold, I will lay your stones with colorful gems, and lay your foundations with sapphires. I will make your pinnacles of rubies, your gates of crystal, And all your walls of precious stones.” (Isaiah 54:7-12)
Though God disciplines for a time, His kindness and mercy is everlasting. Even when women feel afflicted and tempest-tossed in childbirth, God promises to gather them and comfort them, like a loving redeemer.
The Psalmist also portrays God as intimately involved and understanding of the pains of childbirth:
You have searched me, Lord, and you know me. You know when I sit and when I rise; you perceive my thoughts from afar. You discern my going out and my lying down; you are familiar with all my ways. Before a word is on my tongue you, Lord, know it completely. You hem me in behind and before, and you lay your hand upon me. Such knowledge is too wonderful for me, too lofty for me to attain. Where can I go from your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence? If I go up to the heavens, you are there; if I make my bed in the depths, you are there. If I rise on the wings of the dawn, if I settle on the far side of the sea, even there your hand will guide me, your right hand will hold me fast. If I say, “Surely the darkness will hide me and the light become night around me,” even the darkness will not be dark to you; the night will shine like the day, for darkness is as light to you. For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well. My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place, when I was woven together in the depths of the earth. Your eyes saw my unformed body; all the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be. (Psalm 139:1-16)
God intricately wove each baby in its mother’s womb and is present at every birth, intimately understanding a woman’s suffering and pain. There is nowhere we can go that God does not gently uphold us. He brings purpose even in our darkest moments.
Finding Hope in God
What is a grieving husband or friend to do when a loved one dies in childbirth? The Bible urges us to place our hope in God and find comfort in Him.
The apostle Peter writes to Christians suffering various trials:
Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you in due time, casting all your care upon Him, for He cares for you. (1 Peter 5:6-7)
Rather than bitterness, we can humbly cast our cares on Jesus, trusting He will exalt us and comfort us in His timing.
The prophet Isaiah also foretold God’s gentle care for His people:
As one whom his mother comforts, so I will comfort you; And you shall be comforted in Jerusalem. (Isaiah 66:13)
Paul writes that God is called the “Father of mercies and God of all comfort” (2 Corinthians 1:3). He comforts us in our troubles so we can comfort others.
Even in the raw anguish of tragedy, we can turn towards God for hope and embrace His promise that one day:
He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.” (Revelation 21:4)
The Resurrection Offers Hope
Ultimately, Christian hope in the face of death rests on Jesus Christ’s resurrection. Christ rose victorious over the grave, defeating the power of sin and death over our lives. Those who put their faith in Him can confidently face death, knowing eternal life awaits:
But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep… For as by a man came death, by a man has come also the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive. (1 Corinthians 15:20-22)
Because of Jesus’ sacrifice, Christians can be assured the tragedies of this life are only temporary:
We do not want you to be uninformed, brothers and sisters, about those who are asleep, so that you will not grieve as indeed the rest of mankind do, who have no hope. For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again…And so we will always be with the Lord. Therefore encourage one another with these words. (1 Thessalonians 4:13-14, 17-18)
Even when loved ones die too soon, we can dry our tears and wait expectantly for the glorious day when God resurrects the dead and restores all things. We can take heart that life has conquered death forever.
The death of a mother in childbirth is a profoundly heartbreaking event. Yet in the Bible, we find God redeems these tragedies, using them to further His purposes and draw people closer to Himself. He intimately understands and comforts those who mourn. Ultimately, we as Christians place our hope in the resurrection of Jesus Christ and the promise that one day all suffering will cease. God will wipe away every tear. Though we may not fully understand the purposes of God, we can trust His wisdom, sovereignty, and love. Even in the shadow of death, God gives life.