Biblical Archaeology Review 35:1, January/February 2009

Twins: A Dangerous Pregnancy

To the woman he said,

“I will make most severe

Your pangs in childbearing;

In pain shall you bear children.”

(Genesis 3:16)

Bearing twins can be especially painful—and dangerous. The vulnerability of a twin pregnancy and the anxiety it could cause is vividly reflected in Rebekah’s cry as the twins Jacob and Esau struggle in her womb (Genesis 25:22). Although the implication of the Hebrew verb describing the two babies inside Rebekah’s womb is somewhat ambiguous, the thrust is plain: “Why do I live?” (NRSV); “Why do I exist?” (NJPS). It is hardly surprising to find that ancient religious practices addressed the special concerns of the mother pregnant with twins.

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