You Can Do Better, NIV (Part 1)

In Genesis 25:19, a man named Isaac prays to YHWH for his wife Rebekah, who is barren.

Now you may not know this, but when it comes to the Bible, there is one surefire way to have a baby.

Be barren.

Sarai was barren (Genesis 11:30). Then she gave birth to Isaac.

Rachel was barren (Genesis 29:31). Then she gave birth to Joseph and later Benjamin.

Manoah was barren (Judges 13:2). Then she gave birth to Samson.

Hannah was barren (1 Samuel 1:5-6). Then she gave birth to Samuel.

Elizabeth was barren (Luke 1:7). Then she gave birth to John.

Rebekah was barren, Isaac prayed, Rebekah was barren no longer. In fact, it turns out she was pregnant with twins, and it was a rough pregnancy. Almost all English translations of Genesis 25:22 describe the children as struggling with each other inside her. The ongoing wrestling match inside of her leads Rebekah to cry out something like, "Why is this happening to me?" or "If it is to be this way, why do I live?", depending on which translation you're using. In Hebrew, it's rather terse. "If thus, why then am I?"

Under the pain of her pregnancy, the one who once was barren asks why her own mother couldn't have been barren.

So yeah. It was a rough pregnancy.

The NIV translates Genesis 25:22 differently from most other English translations: "The babies jostled each other within her."

Eh? Jostled? Who even uses that word anymore? And babies? That just softens things.

The Hebrew word used here is רצץ. It's pronounced something like rahtz-AHTZ. It shows up fairly often in the Hebrew scriptures, but this is the only time the NIV translates it as "jostled." Lots of times this word is used to describe the oppression of others, often the poor.

“Here I stand. Testify against me in the presence of the LORD and his anointed. Whose ox have I taken? Whose donkey have I taken? Whom have I cheated? Whom have I oppressed (רצץ)? From whose hand have I accepted a bribe to make me shut my eyes? If I have done any of these things, I will make it right.” “You have not cheated or oppressed (רצץ) us,” they replied. “You have not taken anything from anyone’s hand.” (1 Samuel 12:3-4, NIV)

Hear this word, you cows of Bashan on Mount Samaria, you women who oppress the poor and crush (רצץ) the needy and say to your husbands, “Bring us some drinks!” (Amos 4:1, NIV)

Note how it's translated in Amos 4:1. Not oppress, but crush. That's indicative of another way this verb is used in the Hebrew scriptures. Check out Judges 9.

Judges 9 tells the story of Abimelech, a guy who liked to do battle. Following a victory over the town of Shechem, Abimelech turns his attention to the town of Thebez. The residents of Thebez gather together inside a tower. Abimelech approaches the tower to burn it down (something he had just done in Shechem), but...well, I'll let the NRSV tell you what happened.

But a certain woman threw an upper millstone on Abimelech’s head, and crushed his skull. (Judges 9:53)

You can guess which word in Judges 9:53 is the word translated as "jostled" by the NIV in the story of Rebekah's pregnancy.

These two kids were wailing on each other. In fact, the form of the verb lets us know the actions were reciprocated. They were exchanging blows!

The boys were crushing one another inside of her, and she said, "What the actual f*@%! (Genesis 25:22, WGIV)


  1. I'm fairly certain I remember repeating something like that last line...I'm pretty biblical like that.

    Awesome post, as usual!!

  2. Replies
    1. I don't pretend to know or understand, but yeah, I agree.


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