Rechem/Beten: WOMB- Creation Compassion

Rechem: Womb. Masculine Noun. (Strong’s 7358).

Beten: Womb/Belly. Feminine Noun. (Strong’s 990).

Root: רחם

Root: בטן

Sounds like: rekh’em and beh’ten

As we near the Christmas season it seems fitting that we look at the Hebrew word rechem, meaning womb. Yeshua (Jesus) came to earth through Mary’s womb. As we noted last week, the Hebrew word compassion and the Hebrew word womb share the same three letter root: רחם. Interesting that compassion is a deep feeling for something with a heartbeat.

Yeshua, as Son of God, came to earth as the Saviour, or the Great Compassion, that humanity needed… and the Great Compassion (racham) came to earth through the womb (rechem) of a woman. 

The Womb Metaphor

Womb was often represented just as it was literally (a physical womb found in a woman), but it also was used metaphorically. When Jonah was in the belly of the great fish, He prayed to YHWH:

Jonah 2:2

“I called out of my distress to YHWH, and He answered me.

I called for help from the depth [mi-beten] of Sheol; You heard my voice.”

Literally Jonah was not in the “depth” of Sheol, he was in the womb (or belly) of Sheol… from which death and destruction burst forth. This was not a womb of life, it was a womb of death.

In another metaphorical representation, the womb was used to describe the dawn of the morning:

Psalm 110:1-3

YHWH says to my Lord:

“Sit at My right hand until I make Your enemies a footstool for Your feet.”

YHWH will stretch out Your strong sceptre from Zion, saying, “Rule in the midst of Your enemies.”

Your people will volunteer freely on the day of Your power; in holy splendour, from the womb of the dawn [meh-rekhem mish’khar], Your youth are to You as the dew.

This was a beautiful poetic turn of phrase… that moment where dawn breaks forth on the horizon was like giving birth to the morning, a birth of a new day.

Womb Compassion

Rechem shows up twenty-six times in the Old Testament. Five times (Genesis 20:18, Genesis 29:31, Genesis 30:22, 1 Samuel 1:5, 1 Samuel 1:6) rechem was used when God had compassion on a woman and either opened or closed wombs as a result.

Genesis 29:31a

Now YHWH saw that Leah was unloved, and He opened her womb [rach’mah].

YHWH felt compassion for Leah because she was unloved. Her husband Jacob loved his other wife, Rachel more than Leah. With compassion God opened Leah’s womb and she bore seven children: Reuben, Simeon, Levi, Judah, Issachar, Zebulun and Dinah. Other women who had their wombs opened were Sarah, Rachel and Hannah.

Womb and Depression

Seven times (Job 3:11, Job 10:18, Job 24:20, Job 31:15, Jeremiah 20:17 (twice), and Jeremiah 20:18) rechem was used during cries of depression from Job and Jeremiah.

Job 10:18-19

Why then have you brought me out of the womb (meh-rechem)? Would that I had died and no eye had seen me. I should have been as though I had not been; carried from womb to tomb.

Job was crying out to God. Ultimately he sought compassion and YHWH responded to his call!

Womb and Creative Power

Four times (Job 38:8, Psalm 22:10, Psalm 110:3, Jeremiah 1:5) God’s creative power was shown using the word womb (rechem).

After Job’s detailed musings YHWH answered Job in a whirlwind and highlighted His immense power of creation:

Job 38:4, 6b-8 

YHWH: “Where were you when I laid the foundations of the earth. Tell me if you have understanding?… Or who laid its cornerstone when the morning stars sang together and all the Sons of God shouted for joy! Or who shut up the sea with doors when bursting forth it went out from the womb [meh-rechem]?

Job, earlier, had regretted ever being born but YHWH had plans for every created thing that burst forth from the womb! 

Womb Curses

Three times (Numbers 12:12, Psalm 58:3, Hosea 9:14) rechem was associated with, or used to describe, a cursed or a sinful state.

Hosea 9:14

Give to them YHWH- oh what will you give? Give to them a miscarrying womb [rechem mash’keel] and dry breasts.

Hosea’s marriage to the adulterous Gomer has often been seen as a metaphor for God’s relationship with the sinful, adulterous, Israel. Hosea wanted Israel to have a miscarrying womb, yet God gave Gomer children and had Hosea take back his cheating wife. God showed great compassion (racham) and did not use the womb (rechem) to curse.

Womb Dedication

Seven times (Exodus 13:2, Exodus 13:12, Exodus 13:15, Exodus 34:19, Numbers 3:12, Numbers 8:16, Numbers 18:15) God asked for the first issue of rechem (a womb) to be dedicated or sacrificed to Him. This highlighted YHWH’s great payback! His first Son, Yeshua, the embodiment of Compassion, was sacrificed for our Salvation. Fittingly the name Yeshua came from the Hebrew word for Salvation”! (Strong’s 3468).

Numbers 18:16

Every first issue of the womb of all flesh, whether man or animal, which they offer to YHWH, shall be yours; nevertheless the firstborn of man you shall surely redeem…

The first born sacrifice, as a foreshadowing of Yeshua’s sacrifice on the cross, was a prevalent metaphor throughout the Old Testament. Abraham’s reluctant willingness to sacrifice his son Isaac, born of Sarah’s womb, was probably the most memorable example. God stopped the death of Isaac in time, but we felt the horror of it! How could God ask Abraham such a thing?!

YHWH did it so we could feel the weight of God sacrificing His own Son, Yeshua, who came from the womb of Mary!

There you have it… the twenty-six times rechem appeared in the Hebrew scriptures. Please keep in mind, however, that these situations were not how God saw Peace. Multiple wives, jealousy, sadness, depression, curses, adultery, sacrificial death were all part of life at that time, but these were not things that God accepted as good.

Men having multiple wives was NOT God’s plans for humans. Depression was NOT plans for humans! Curses and destruction were NOT God’s plans for humans! Sacrificing to appease was NOT God’s plans for humans! YHWH’s great plans for humans was to give one Great Sacrifice, the Great Compassion, to end it all: Yeshua HaMashiach, Jesus the Messiah, the Sar Shalom, the Prince of Peace!

Emma-Plunkett-art-Uterus-Womb
Art by Emma Plunkett: Emma-Plunkett-art-Uterus-Womb.jpg

It needs to be pointed out that there was another, more common, word for womb in the Old Testament: beten (Strong’s 990), which was sometimes translated as belly, body, abdomen, as well as womb. It was a physical body part, a place. With rechem God had control over the place and it was connected to compassion.  We were to come forth with compassion. If Yeshua was the Great Compassion He had to come through the womb.

Interestingly enough, both words for womb (beten and rechem) were often found in the same verse:

Job 3:11

Why did I not die from the womb [ma-rechem]; come forth from the womb [mi-beten]  and perish?

Job 31:15

Did not He who made me in the womb [ba-beten] make him, and the same one fashion us in the womb [ba-rechem]?

Psalm 22:10

Upon You I was cast from the womb [meh-rechem]; from the womb [mi-beten] of my mother, My God You are!

Psalm 58:3

The wicked are estranged from the womb [meh-rechem]; they go astray from the womb [mi-beten] speaking lies.

Jeremiah 1:5

YHWH: Before I formed you in the womb [ba-beten] I knew you; and before you came forth out of the womb [me-rechem] I sanctified you, and I ordained you a prophet unto the nations.

First YHWH made and formed within the womb-place (beten) and then He fashioned, sanctified, ordained with womb-compassion (rechem). He put the body together and then he gave it life… and He gave it LIFE because He has compassion on His creation!

What did He do with His Son Yeshua (Jesus) the Messiah? He formed Him in Mary’s womb and then He was brought forth from the womb, born to us, sanctified and ordained to bring Salvation, Peace and Compassion to all God’s creation!

Isaiah 9:6

כִּי־יֶ֣לֶד יֻלַּד־לָ֗נוּ בֵּ֚ן נִתַּן־לָ֔נוּ וַתְּהִ֥י הַמִּשְׂרָ֖ה עַל־שִׁכְמֹ֑ו וַיִּקְרָ֨א שְׁמֹ֜ו פֶּ֠לֶא יֹועֵץ֙ אֵ֣ל גִּבֹּ֔ור אֲבִיעַ֖ד שַׂר־שָׁלֹֽום

For to us a child is born; to us a Son is given. And the government shall be on His shoulders. And His name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.

This child born of Mary’s womb, would suffer for our salvation. He would cry out on the cross, “My God, my God, why have You forsaken me?” (Matthew 27:46, Mark 15:34) as He went through the pain of bearing our sins while YHWH turned away from Him. Those words, recited by Yeshua on the cross, came from a poem in the Tanakh:

Psalm 22:1, 7-18, 27-31

My God, my God, why have You forsaken me? Far from my help are the words of my groaning…

…All who see me deride me; they sneer, they shake their heads, saying,  “Turn him over to YHWH; let Him save him; let Him rescue him, because He delights in him.”

Yet You are He who brought me forth from the womb [mi-baten]; You made me trust when upon my mother’s breasts. I was cast upon You from birth; You have been my God from my mother’s womb [mi-beten immi].

Do not be far from me, for trouble is near; for there is no one to help. Many bulls have surrounded me; strong bulls of Bashan have encircled me. They open their mouths wide at me, as a ravening and roaring lion.

I am poured out like water, and all my bones are out of joint; my heart is like wax; it is melted within me. My strength is dried up like a piece of pottery, and my tongue clings to my jaws; and You lay me in the dust of death.

For dogs have surrounded me; a band of evildoers has encompassed me;  they pierced my hands and my feet.

I can count all my bones. They look, they stare at me; they divide my garments among them, and they cast lots for my clothing

All the ends of the earth will remember and turn to YHWH, and all the families of the nations will worship before You. For the kingdom is the YHWH’s and He rules over the nations.

All the prosperous of the earth will eat and worship, all those who go down to the dust will kneel before Him, even he who cannot keep his soul alive.

A posterity will serve Him; it will be told of the Lord to the coming generation. They will come and will declare His righteousness to a people who will be born, that He has performed it.

Yeshua (Jesus) was beaten and mocked. People cried out to Him, “Save Yourself! If You are the Son of God, come down from the cross” (Matthew 27:40). Nails pierced His hands and feet as He was nailed to the cross (John 20:25) and soldiers cast lots for His clothing (Matthew 27:35). He hung on the execution rack but none of His bones were broken (Psalm 34:20, John 19:31-36) and He did it all to save us… to pay our entrance fee back to the Garden, so that we could walk and talk with our Creator God, just as Eve and Adam did, back at the beginning.

He was born through the womb of a woman and died by the hands of men. His death paved the way to life eternal and eternal life is granted to all who are “born again” (John 3:3-8). Our destiny is no longer “womb to tomb”; it is now “womb, to tomb, to Garden” where we will see YHWH face to face and walk with Him. Praise be to the God of our Salvation!

Next week: Peace

13 thoughts on “Rechem/Beten: WOMB- Creation Compassion”

  1. This repost came right on time. Around a week ago, I was led by the Holy Spirit to make intercessory prayer based on Psalm 22, for the sake of those who feel abandoned by God. And these days I’ve been meditating a lot about the womb, Isaiah 49 and the line about compassion was given to me just yesterday! And I have been thinking so much about the process of delivering a child with great pain, but a glorious pain because you know that a baby is coming. Everything you wrote here was a confirmation that the Lord has conceived something in me (and is doing that in others, I can see), a new compassion (precisely what I’ve been praying for!), a motherly kind of love.
    Yeshua cried for Yerushalayim. Oh, how I long to gather you under my wings, my children! And we still cry for the wayward children, the prodigals who need to come home and find Abba’s compassionate embrace!

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  2. Thank you Sarah for the helpful distinction between the two words beten and rechem! Getting to the root of the Hebrew words provides such clarity and deeper understanding of the precious Word of haShem. Which of course results in greater intimacy with Him. May He continue to bless the work of your hands!

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  3. I found your website this morning at 5 am when I woke up to write. I am working on an essay on the theme of diversity and building community. I remembered that I had read somewhere about the link between “compassion” and “womb”. Your website came up when I googled those two words together… Still not sure how this all connects to what I’m writing but I really appreciate your thoughtful posts and look forward to reading more.

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    1. Thank you! There’s power in words (as a writer, you know)… and so it’s lovely to see how connected they all are to each other, especially in the Hebrew language. I read on your blog that your daughter wants to visit Prince Edward Island? That is where I’m from… She’s right. You should come! 🙂 Sarah

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  4. Thank you, Sarah, for these thoughtful posts! I am learning so much from them, and appreciate the amount of research you put into them. Blessings!

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  5. Completely wonderful and interesting! His words make clear His desires! Thank you so much for your teachings. I really enjoy them . Peace Dennis

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