Questions From Readers
● Is sterilization of a man or a woman permitted under any circumstances, for example, to protect the life of a woman or in cases of extreme economic hardship?
What does sterilization of human creatures mean? It means an operation performed for the purpose of depriving a man or a woman of the power of reproduction. The Encyclopedia Americana tells us that many methods of sterilization might with greater propriety be called asexualization, since they have certain “harmful effects, both physical and mental.” In the case of men the general methods now employed are to remove a portion of a man’s seminal duct by means of which the seed of reproduction is transmitted to the female. In the case of women, it is generally the removal of a portion of the woman’s Fallopian tubes by which her ovum or egg cell is transported to the womb. So sterilization is a destroying of a person’s ability to reproduce his kind by inhibiting the functions of the sex organs implanted by Jehovah God or even by removing the organs.—See Americana, 1929 edition.
With whom did sterilization originate? Today in the United States of America the sterilization of certain persons is actually ordered by a positive legal enactment for reasons of eugenics or therapeutic effects or punishment. In 1907 the State of Indiana passed the first sterilization law, and other American states have since passed similar laws. What is the main object of such legislation? It is to prevent procreation by persons who are habitual criminals or who are feeble-minded or insane. The argument for it is thus seen to be the protecting of society from the breeding of criminally inclined or mentally unbalanced or incapable children. For this reason those states that enacted such sterilization laws felt justified in destroying or interfering with God-given functions to which a creature has a natural right.
Not to criticize states that operate by such sterilization laws, but for our own information we ask, Is such legislation based on God’s law given to his theocratic organization? Did sterilization originate with the organization of his people? Or does it have its origin in this world of which the above states are a part?
Why would God want to destroy a natural function that he put in man and woman for a valid purpose? How could God consistently be the author of a law that ordered or permitted sterilization when he excluded eunuchs from his congregation or forbade his chosen nation of Israel to make eunuchs, that it might have emasculated male Israelites who would be safe bedroom attendants upon Israelite women or be trustworthy in other positions of responsibility? God did not approve of that way of getting guards for the women’s quarters. “No man castrated by crushing the testicles or having his male member cut off may come into the congregation of Jehovah,” says Deuteronomy 23:1. Those organs have to do with the seed of reproduction. In harmony with this no member of high priest Aaron’s family could serve at God’s temple as a priest if he was damaged in that way. (Lev. 21:16-21) God wanted priests who could become father to other priests; he wanted Israelites who could produce other Israelites.
God is the Giver of reproductive powers to human creatures; he set the example by making laws for the protection of these powers. His law stated: “Soul will be for soul, eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot.” (Deut. 19:21) But now suppose a woman’s husband got into a fight with another man. In order to protect her husband and keep him from being whipped or defeated, she reached out and grabbed hold of the other man’s private parts in order to put him out of action! By doing this, the woman doubtless ruined the man’s reproductive powers; she violated God’s law that was against the crushing of a man’s testicles and made this man unfit for God’s congregation. This woman could not argue that she was using jujitsu and acting in defense of her husband and thus for her own self-protection. She had to be punished! How?
She had destroyed the reproductive powers of a fellow Israelite. Well, then, did God order her Fallopian tubes to be cut or her sex organs ruined to prevent her from having children? Or, on the basis of like for like, did God say that, since she had ruined the husband of another woman, so her own husband should have his private parts crushed by the wife of the man whose privates she crushed? Did God say to sterilize her or her husband in order to prevent the reproduction of criminals? God’s law respected her and her husband’s reproductive powers, for it said: “You must then amputate her hand. Your eye must feel no sorrow.” (Deut. 25:11, 12) God’s law said this thing right after it had approved of brother-in-law marriage within a family. This law specified that the man who refused to perform brother-in-law marriage toward his dead brother’s widow should be publicly disgraced, for refusing to give his brother’s widow a child in the name of his dead brother.—Deut. 25:5-10.
All this gives us some idea of how God feels when a person or a nation dedicated to him tampers with the reproductive organs, preventing their normal function. It is true that the Mosaic law containing the above provisions was done away with in Christ, but God has not changed his attitude on sterilization. The sense, the force, the basic, inherent idea and purport of the above laws remain in effect with respect to Christians, who are under a law even higher than that given through Moses. A dedicated Christian is under the law of loving Jehovah God with the whole heart, mind, soul and strength. The force and effect of sterilization is against this, as sterilization harmfully affects the asexualized person physically and mentally. A Christian is not a habitual criminal or an imbecile that needs to be sterilized.
If a doctor claims that for a wife to have another child it would mean the death of her, then what? Then there is another way to prevent her conception, which conception might bring her life in jeopardy, than by violating the law of God, the whole tenor of which is contrary to deliberate asexualizing of a man or woman. If parents are living in poverty and could not afford to have another child, then there is another way to take care of this economic situation than by ruining those organs with which the perfect man and woman were endowed and which enter so strongly into the noble purposes of married life. There is the need for exercising the spirit of the Lord God, one of the fruits of which is self-control.—Gal. 5:22, 23.
When a Christian understands the good purpose for which self-control must be exercised, then it appears to him reasonable and he is strengthened to exercise it, with the aid of God’s spirit.
● In chapter six, page 58, paragraph 15, of From Paradise Lost to Paradise Regained, the statement is made that “none of the first-born sons of Israel died because of this tenth plague” on Egypt. Does this mean that only males were reckoned as the first-born?—F. D., United States.
It is evident that the first-born denominated in the Scriptures means the males alone. Pharaoh himself was a first-born. However, he would not be involved as he had his own household, and not the head of the household but the first-born son of the household was destined to die. Accordingly, not Pharaoh, but his own first-born son perished on the fateful night of the Passover.—Ex. 12:12, 29.
It is possible that not every Egyptian household had a literal first-born son. But the term first-born could include the chief one in the house who occupied the position of a first-born. Thus the chief male in the house, next to the head of the household, would die as representative of the appropriate first-born by birth. That it was merely the male first-born ones who were designated and whose lives were endangered on that Passover night is evident from the fact that when an exchange was made by giving over the Levites to Jehovah God, only the Levite males were enumerated, and since there were not enough Levite males to account for all the first-born males of the twelve tribes that had been saved from Egypt, a ransom price had to be paid for the excess of Israelite first-born males who were not counterbalanced by the number of Levites exchanged.—Num. 3:40-51.
● Why does the New World Translation state that Joseph considered divorcing Mary, when as yet they had not been married?—H. M., United States.
Matthew 1:18, 19, reads: “The birth of Jesus Christ was in this way. During the time his mother Mary was promised in marriage to Joseph, she was found to be pregnant by holy spirit before they were united. However, Joseph her husband, because he was righteous and did not want to make her a public spectacle, intended to divorce her secretly.”
Thus the record shows that Mary was only engaged and not as yet married to Joseph. However, the word “divorce” is properly used here because among the Israelites the engaged woman was considered under the same obligation as if she were married. Thus when a single girl was found guilty of fornication she and the man, if single also, were required to get married. But if an engaged girl had relations with another man she was stoned the same as an adulteress. Because of the binding nature of the engagement back there it is proper to speak of Joseph considering divorcing Mary even though no marriage ceremony had taken place, uniting him and her in wedlock.—Deut. 22:22-29.
● Will you please explain Jeremiah 31:22 (AV): “A woman shall compass a man”?—J. B., Nyasaland.
This phrase in itself is capable of more than one rendering. Thus the Revised Standard Version reads: “A woman protects a man.” Moffatt’s translation reads: “Frail woman becomes manly!” Rotherham reads: “A female defendeth a strong man!” A number read as does the question based on the King James Version. None of these, however, take into consideration the context, which deals with Israel’s unfaithfulness.
The New World Translation of Jeremiah 31:22 reads much more understandably, namely: “A mere female will press around an able-bodied man.” This is the new thing that Jehovah God says he would create in the earth. Up till then his people, to whom he was in the relationship of marriage, were turning this way and that in unfaithfulness. Now Jehovah God invites the virgin of Israel to set up roadmarks and signposts to guide her back and to fix her heart upon the highway that leads back. Jehovah will put his spirit in her so that she will be most eager to come back. Thus as a wife would press around her husband in order to get back into good graces or relations with him, so Israel, to whom Jehovah God had been married, would press around him in order to get back into good relations with him as her husband according to the Law covenant. Incidentally, this thought is also implied in the reading of An American Translation: “The woman woos the man!”