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Critical Examination Of Genesis III. 16.

(Continued from p. 243.)

Having Reference to the Employment of Anesthetics in Cases of Labour.

By the Rev. Abraham De Sola, Lecturer on Hebrew Language and Literature, University of M’Gill College.

The great length to which we have already extended our observations forbids our enlarging more on this subject, yet, before concluding, we would make one or two remarks to show that even if we have failed to prove the English version incorrect in its expression, “in sorrow shalt thou bring forth,” and that the employment of anaesthetics in cases of labour is a good, a proper, and a scriptural practice; still, cannot such practice be opposed on scriptural grounds, because we cannot understand the denunciations against the woman, literally, without also receiving, as literal, those against the man, the ground, and the serpent.

We will not stop to consider here the sentence of the serpent, but in respect to that of the man, we read, “In sorrow shalt thou eat of it (the ground) all the days of thy life.” According to the literal import of this passage, they who eat of the various productions of the earth, without having experienced “sorrow” in procuring them, and they who cultivate their fields, using cattle to the plough, or, indeed, employing any machine which shall enable them to eat of these productions without “sorrow,” are transgressors against the words of Scripture. “Thorns also and thistles it shall bring forth to thee.” They, then, who labour so hard to exterminate these from their fields and gardens, act sinfully, since the literal text says, they shall be, and such persons strive that they shall not be. “And thou shalt eat the herb of the field.” If the denunciations against the sinners in the affair of the forbidden tree were to be immutably and permanently entailed on the human race, and they were not to be more so on woman than on man, how is it that we find this sentence afterwards changed and animals permitted to man for food?

“In the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread.” This applies as much to man, in the present day, as does the sentence of Eve, to woman, in the present day. He, therefore, who does not earn his daily bread by infinite bodily toil, for such, it is generally admitted, the expressive metaphor of Scripture means,—the man who, instead of toiling for his daily <<314>>food, lives without labour on those ample means with which parent or a friend may have presented him, is a sinner against the declarations of Scripture, although he may be exceedingly upright, charitable, and religious in every other respect.

“For dust thou art and unto dust shalt thou return.” Then there is no immortality for us, for man, as a punishment, is to return to dust whence he was originally taken. This passage, too, might be made to show the sinfulness of the practice of  the healing art itself, since the Scriptures teach, man “shall return to the dust,” i. e. die, and physicians try to make him live. But this insisting on the literal character of the divine denunciations against woman, in consequence of Eve’s disobedience, produces numberless other inconsistencies. Thus Adam ought to have died on the same day that he partook of the forbidden tree, because God announced to him, “For on the day that thou eatest of it thou shalt surely die,” and yet Adam lived long  after he eat of the tree. And so, also, Eve committed no sin in eating of the tree, and ought not to have been punished for so doing, because (according to the Scriptures), the prohibition of God was addressed to Adam alone, even before Eve was made, and yet, woman is always to “bring forth children in sorrow.”

If then, an accoucheur, who maintained the literal of this “sorrow,” were to attend one of those patients who “from their more natural mode of life,” and “the greater purity of the atmosphere and food” to which they are accustomed, suffered little or no inconvenience from labour, as is almost generally “the case with the Indian women of South America,”* the squaw of Canada, and many black tribes, that accoucheur would be bound, if desirous of duly carrying out the strict letter of the law, to use such means that the labour should indeed be one of “sorrow.” A black, no more than a white woman, has a right to be exempt from a curse universally and immutably entailed on the sex.

Again, “He (Eve’s husband) shall rule  over her.” No doubt weak-minded husbands may find it convenient to quote this text in its most literal acceptation to their wives as some apology for their tyranny; but few duly impressed with the dignity of the sex would venture hereby to assume undue authority. Nor will women be deterred hereby from vindicating her just rights;† but <<315>>this cannot be the case with those who clamour for the literal letter of the law. We may not, however, pursue this subject farther. But the instances already adduced, suffices to show what inconsistency and impropriety there is in the opinion that the word “sorrow” of the denunciation against the woman is literally to be accomplished on the sex in the present day, and that to prevent in any way this accomplishment is both unscriptural and irreligious.

* Dr. Elliotson’s Human Physiology, p. 819.

† The remark has been made in a deprecatory strain, by one well known for his accomplishments as a Hebrew scholar and critic, that although God said, “And he shall rule [Yimshol] (the Kal or active forth) over thee,” the text is now read by some as if it were, “And he Yimashel] (the Niphal or passive form) shall be ruled by thee.

(To be continued.)