Abstract

Most expositors have understood ויצאו ילדיה, "and her children come out," in Exod 21:22, as a reference to miscarriage, while a much smaller percentage argue for a viable premature birth. This essay examines the semantics of יצא afresh and offers a set of parameters and conditions necessary for each perspective on the meaning of יצא to succeed. Although taking exception with arguments from both sides, I, nevertheless, favor the premature birth position. This is because the Pentateuch betrays a proclivity for using יצא in vivid nativity scenes, where accompanying modifiers apply to the child and contribute to a detailed description of its delivery. If Exod 21:22 is included within this set, then "there is no harm" would serve as the modifier that specifies the condition of the child at birth. Moreover, the common judgment that the ancient Israelite would not expect an infant to survive under such conditions is undermined by high-risk but successful births in the Pentateuch and the OT. Secondary philological matters are then discussed, after which I conclude that the premature birth position has greater potential for realization than previously estimated and merits more serious consideration by OT scholarship.

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