Does the Bible Provide Unnecessary Details?
“Now it came to pass, when she was in hard labor, that the midwife said to her, ‘Do not fear; you will have this son also.'”
Sometimes the Bible seems to offer unnecessary or even impossible details as it recounts a historical event. Take, for example, the Genesis account of Rachel’s death while giving birth to Benjamin.
This account offers a very curious detail. When Rachel’s labor is at its peak – with the baby not yet fully born – Rachel’s midwife makes a seemingly impossible statement. She announces to Rachel that Rachel should take comfort in the fact that she is having another boy. In a normal birth, the head emerges first, so it’s impossible to tell whether the child is a boy or a girl until it is fully born. This detail might be enough for some to dismiss the account as nothing more than a fanciful legend. But a London physician has suggested that this account describes a breech birth. He suggested that Benjamin was born feet first, thus allowing the midwife to identify Benjamin as a boy as the largest part of his body was still emerging from the birth canal. This also explains why he was identified as a boy during the peak of labor. The physician further explains that in Rachel’s day breech births commonly resulted in the death of the mother.
Knowledge is lost when we question the accuracy of the Bible’s account of history. Details in the Bible that seem unnecessary have often proven to be correct. Details in the Bible that seem impossible are only so because they are beyond our understanding.
Lord, grant me understanding and insight into Your Word. Amen.
Bible Review, 2/98, p. 18, “Did Rachel Have a Breech Birth?” Photo: 1910 postcard showing Rachel’s tomb. (PD)