Bringing to Birth Relationship with YHWH

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Karen Langton


In the Hebrew Bible, YHWH controls the womb. He opens and closes the womb, controls gestation, and birth, and in Pss 22:10–11 and 71:6 there are physical descriptions, however brief, of YHWH bringing forth from the womb. The image in the text is physical. In both psalms, YHWH lays hands on the infant and in Ps 22:10 sets the infant on its mother’s breast. The image is also conceptual. Being brought forth from the womb is a movement from darkness to light, from being enclosed to being exposed and vulnerable, from submerged in protective waters where YHWH’s presence is guaranteed to being thrust into a world in which the supplicant accuses YHWH of abandoning him (Ps 22:1–3) and pleads with YHWH not to cast him off in his old age (Ps 71:9). The womb is a space of surety, existing in the same space as absolute doubt. It is the possibility of life and death, hope and devastation, great fear and overwhelming joy. It is a simultaneous knowing and unknowing. With this diverse range of physical aspects and conceptual parameters, the opening of the womb is one of the most compelling images to communicate humanity’s relationship with YHWH.

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