The Hebrew word ya·ladhʹ means “give birth; bear; produce; become father to.” (Ge 4:1, 2; 16:15; 30:39; 1Ch 1:10) It is related to yeʹledh (“child” [Ge 21:8]), moh·leʹdheth (birth; home; relatives [Ge 31:13, ftn]), and toh·le·dhohthʹ (history; historical origins; begettings; genealogy [Ge 2:4, ftn; Mt 1:1, ftn]). The Hebrew term chil (or, chul), though used primarily with respect to experiencing labor pains, is used in Job 39:1 and Proverbs 25:23 to refer to giving birth. (Compare Isa 26:17, 18; see LABOR PAINS.) The Greek term gen·naʹo means “become father to; become mother to; bring forth; be born.” (Mt 1:2; Lu 1:57; Joh 16:21; Mt 2:1) Tiʹkto is rendered “give birth to.”—Mt 1:21.
There is “a time for birth,” Solomon said, and normally in humans it occurs about 280 days after conception. (Ec 3:2) For parents, the day their baby is born is usually one of great rejoicing, though for the individual, according to wise King Solomon, the day of a person’s death, if he has a lifetime of good accomplishments behind him and a good name with God, is even better than the day of his birth.—Lu 1:57, 58; Ec 7:1.
From early times midwives assisted in childbirth. Birthstools of some sort were used as an assistance to the mother and as an aid to the midwife in making the delivery. Such may have been two stones or bricks upon which the mother crouched or squatted during parturition. (Ex 1:16) The Hebrew word translated “stool for childbirth” in Exodus (ʼov·naʹyim) is related to the Hebrew word for “stone” and occurs only one other time in the Bible (Jer 18:3), where it is rendered “potter’s wheels.” The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia states: “The word is used in both places in the dual form, which points, no doubt, to the fact that the potter’s wheel was composed of two discs, and suggests that the birth stool was similarly double.” (Vol. 1, 1979, p. 516) Ancient hieroglyphics confirm that such childbirth stools were used in Egypt.
Postnatal procedures, most often performed by midwives, are mentioned at Ezekiel 16:4, though in a figurative sense. The umbilical cord was cut and the baby was washed, rubbed with salt, and then wrapped in swaddling bands. The use of salt may have been to dry the skin and make it firm and tight. Wrapping the baby in swaddling bands from head to foot, as was done with Jesus (Lu 2:7), gave the infant an almost mummylike appearance and served to keep the body warm and straight; by passing the bands under the chin and around the top of the head, it is said, the child was trained to breathe through its nostrils. Caring for newborn infants in this way dates far back into antiquity, for Job was familiar with swaddling bands.—Job 38:9.
After the immediate needs of the mother and child were cared for, the baby was presented to the father, or the news of the birth was announced, and the father acknowledged the baby as his. (Jer 20:15) So too when a maidservant as a substitute had a child fathered by the husband of her barren mistress, the offspring was acknowledged as belonging to the mistress. (Ge 16:2) This is evidently what Rachel meant when she requested that her slave girl Bilhah “give birth upon my knees” so that she might “get children from her.” (Ge 30:3) It was not that the delivery was literally to be upon the knees of Rachel, but that she might dandle the child on her knees as if it were her very own.—Compare Ge 50:23.
Either when the baby was born or when he was circumcised, eight days later, the infant was named by one of the parents. If there was a difference of opinion, the father’s decision on a name was final. (Ge 16:15; 21:3; 29:32-35; 35:18; Lu 1:59-63; 2:21) The baby was ordinarily suckled by the mother (Ge 21:7; Ps 22:9; Isa 49:15; 1Th 2:7), although it appears that other women were sometimes used. (Ex 2:7) Usually the child was not weaned until it was two or three years old or older. Isaac, it seems, was five; and in his case the event called for celebration and feasting.—Ge 21:8; 1Sa 1:22, 23.
Under the Mosaic Law a woman giving birth to a boy was ceremonially unclean for 7 days, with an additional 33 days required for her purification. If the child was a girl, then the mother was considered unclean for 14 days, requiring 66 days more for purification. At the conclusion of the purification period a burnt offering and a sin offering were to be made for her: a young ram and a turtledove or a young pigeon, or two turtledoves or two young pigeons, as the circumstances of the parents allowed. (Le 12:1-8; Lu 2:24) If the son was the firstborn, he had to be redeemed by the payment of five silver shekels ($11).—Nu 18:15, 16; see FIRSTBORN, FIRSTLING.
Many times the Scriptures use terms relating to natural birth in a figurative sense. (Ps 90:2; Pr 27:1; Isa 66:8, 9; Jas 1:15) The severity of labor pangs well describes inescapable suffering coming from other sources. (Ps 48:6; Jer 13:21; Mic 4:9, 10; Ga 4:19; 1Th 5:3) In a spiritual sense, Jesus said that one must be “born from water and spirit” in order to enter the Kingdom. This involves being baptized in water and begotten by God’s spirit, thus becoming a son of God with the prospect of sharing in the heavenly Kingdom. (Joh 3:3-8; 2Co 5:17; 1Pe 1:3, 23) Revelation, in symbolic language, describes the ‘birth of a son, a male,’ in heaven after a period of agonizing pain.—Re 12:1-5.