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Does God Approve of Surrogate Mothers and Fathers?

Dear family,

I was recently asked in chat if God would approve of two gay men using a surrogate woman to bear a child for them. The one asking also thought it might be a good issue for discussion for a future "Hot Topics".  I thought it was an interesting question and though I felt God would have no problem with it, I wanted to get a biblical foundation for it if I could.  The result is the study you will find here.  As always the views expressed here are my own and don't necessarily reflect Christian Gay's views or those of Mary or anyone associated with them.  They are intended as food for thought and discussion and should a future "Hot Topics" be done on the subject, then this study could be a foundation for our discussions at that time. As always any comments are welcomed. Hope you all enjoy.

The idea of surrogates is a biblical concept. Surrogacy was used to ensure that a barren woman could have children that would be counted as hers and her husband's. Levirate marriage is similar to surrogacy in that it provided an heir to a man who had died without one.

So how does this apply to us in the 21st century? More specifically, how does it apply to gay couples who are unable to have children of their own with their partner but still desire to have and raise children? Although marriage equality, same sex marriages and/or unions, are modern ideas, I believe we can draw some general principles from the scriptures that will show what God thinks of surrogate moms and dads.


Surrogate Mothers In the Scriptures

A. Abram and Sarai

The first place we find the use of a surrogate mother is in Genesis 16. We are told that Sarai, Abram's wife is unable to have children so she gives her servant Hagar to Abram as a wife so that Sarai could have children by her. As Hagar was a slave girl, the children she would bear would be considered the legal heirs of Abram and Sarai. (Genesis 16:1-16)

B. Jacob and Rachel

"Now when Rachel saw that she bore Jacob no children, Rachel envied her sister, and said to Jacob, "Give me children, or else I die!" And Jacob's anger was aroused against Rachel, and he said, "Am I in the place of God, who has withheld from you the fruit of the womb?" So she said, "Here is my maid Bilhah; go in to her, and she will bear a child on my knees, that I also may have children by her." Then she gave him Bilhah her maid as wife, and Jacob went in to her. And Bilhah conceived and bore Jacob a son. Then Rachel said, "God has judged my case; and He has also heard my voice and given me a son." Therefore she called his name Dan. And Rachel's maid Bilhah conceived again and bore Jacob a second son. Then Rachel said, "With great wrestlings I have wrestled with my sister, and indeed I have prevailed." So she called his name Naphtali." (Genesis 30:1-8)

Rachel's sister Leah is having lots of children while Rachel is having none. So she gives her handmaid Bilhah to Jacob. Bilhah conceives twice producing two sons for Jacob, which Rachel sees as vindication of her, and through Bilhah she now has children. Under the customs of the time, Bilhah would have sat on the knees of Rachel during childbirth thus making the children she bore Rachel's. Later on in the same chapter, when Leah sees that she is no longer able to bear children she gives her maid Zilpah to Jacob and Zilpah conceives and bears children for Leah. (Genesis 30:9-13)


The Law of Surrogates

The law for surrogates was intended to make sure that no woman would die childless and no man be left without a male heir. Let's look at this idea a bit closer.

"If brothers dwell together, and one of them dies and has no son, the widow of the dead man shall not be married to a stranger outside the family; her husband's brother shall go in to her, take her as his wife, and perform the duty of a husband's brother to her. And it shall be that the firstborn son which she bears will succeed to the name of his dead brother, that his name may not be blotted out of Israel." ~ Deuteronomy 25:5-6

This is the law given to Moses by God. It was to remedy a situation in which a man dies without a male heir. His brother was then to go and take his brother's wife as his own and the first son they would have would take the name of the brother who died so that his name would not perish from the earth. This was important as the inheritance was passed through the eldest son. In the division of a man's estate among his children, the firstborn son received a double portion of his father's estate. (Deuteronomy 21:15-17) If a man had no sons, the inheritance passed on to his daughters. (Numbers 27:8) If he had no children at all, the inheritance passed to the man's brother or, if he had no brother, the inheritance passed to the nearest relative within the family. (Numbers 27:9-11) However, if any of these last three scenarios happened, the man's line would end and his name would perish. The law called a brother to marry his brother's widow and have a son by her that would be accounted as his brother's son so his brother's name would not perish and his inheritance would be kept in the family.


Surrogate Father

Perhaps the most famous example of this is found in the book of Ruth. Ruth, a Moabite, marries a Jewish man in Moab who dies leaving her childless. Her mother-in-law, Naomi, encourages her to go back to her own people. Ruth refuses and insists on returning with Naomi to Bethlehem in Judah. Upon her return to Bethlehem, Naomi, in accordance with the law mentioned above, seeks to find a close kinsman who can fulfill that duty towards Ruth, her daughter-in-law. Boaz is finally chosen for the task and ultimately he marries Ruth and has a son by her named Obed, the father of Jesse who was the father of King David from whose line comes Jesus. Thus Ruth is an ancestor of Jesus.

Boaz's responsibility did not end with the birth of Obed. It was his responsibility to raise him, provide for him, and take care of all his needs until Obed reached the age of maturity.


Penalties for Refusing To Be a Surrogate

Being a surrogate and raising up a son for your dead brother was considered to be a very important responsibility and dire consequences were imposed for those who refused to do their duty.

A. Onan

"And Judah said to Onan, "Go in to your brother's wife and marry her, and raise up an heir to your brother." But Onan knew that the heir would not be his; and it came to pass, when he went in to his brother's wife, that he emitted on the ground, lest he should give an heir to his brother. And the thing which he did displeased the Lord; therefore He killed him also." ~ Genesis 38:8-10

Many churches try to use these verses to condemn masturbation, claiming Onan was killed for letting his seed fall to the ground. However a closer examination of the passage indicates that is not the case, but that Onan was killed because he refused to raise up an heir for his brother. Instead, when he went into his brother's wife to fulfill his duty, he would withdraw before emitting his seed into his brother's wife to impregnate her and spilled it upon the ground instead. In the original Hebrew, the verse infers that this happened several times and that is why God killed him.

B. The Man Who Had His Sandal Removed

"But if the man does not want to take his brother's wife, then let his brother's wife go up to the gate to the elders, and say, "My husband's brother refuses to raise up a name to his brother in Israel; he will not perform the duty of my husband's brother.' Then the elders of his city shall call him and speak to him. But if he stands firm and says, "I do not want to take her, then his brother's wife shall come to him in the presence of the elders, remove his sandal from his foot, spit in his face, and answer and say, "So shall it be done to the man who will not build up his brother's house.' And his name shall be called in Israel, "The house of him who had his sandal removed." ~ Deuteronomy 25:7-10

In these verses, a woman would approach her brother-in-law and ask him to marry her so that she could have a son for his dead brother. A man could refuse; however, if he did that, his sister-in-law, after speaking with the elders, would come to him and remove his left sandal and spit in his face. He would bear a curse from then on as the man who had his sandal removed. Please note that this is because they have not had sex together. In Onan's case he had already agreed to marry her and fulfill his obligation by having sex with his brother's wife in order to create an heir for his brother. Instead he was pulling out just before ejaculation and spilling his seed on the ground in order to not impregnate her. By doing this, he broke his promise to produce a son/heir for his brother, breaking God's commandment, resulting in his death.

Going back to the story of Ruth, we see an example of this. Ruth approaches Boaz and asks to be taken under his wing as he is a close relative; however, Boaz informs her that there is a closer kinsman than himself who has first rights to marry Ruth. So he goes to see the man, at the gates of the city, who has first claim to Ruth. The man demurs because he wants to keep his family line pure. Boaz removes the sandal from off the foot of the close relative thus buying everything Naomi's sons had owned previously as well as Ruth so that he can keep the name of her late husband alive forever. (Ruth 4:1-13)

In summation, surrogates were used for two purposes in the Old Testament. They were to bear children for women who couldn't bear children and they were to father children for those who died without a male heir. In the New Testament, neither Jesus nor the New Testament writers have anything to say on the subject.


How Does All of This Apply To Us In The 21st Century?

While there may be no direct correlation, there are some principles in the Old Testament laws that may help us now. Artificial insemination and many of our other modern practices would have been unknown then; however, we see that God always has concern for women who have not conceived children and men who have no male heirs to keep their name alive after their deaths and to inherit their property. Given these two scenarios, since Gay and Lesbian couples cannot produce children within Gay or Lesbian relationships, then God might be open to there being a surrogate to produce children for them. This is provided these children are to be brought into a loving and affirming relationship where the child can be loved, nurtured, and taken care of until they reach the age of maturity (18 in the USA). Given the overwhelming number of kids being abandoned by their natural parents or without parents for whatever reason, I believe adoption would be a better option than bringing another soul into an already overpopulated world. However, if you are called to have a child of you own flesh and blood, then I believe surrogates may be an answer and see nothing in the scriptures that would prohibit the practice.

I realize the ideas that I have just shared here are controversial and many will disagree with me, which is fine. I also realize that I haven't looked at all the possible legal and financial ramifications from surrogacy. This study simply looks at what God might think of surrogacy and suggests what I believe may be God's answer to surrogates. I hope that I have given you some food for thought so that you can make up your own minds for yourselves. As always, all comments are welcomed.

God Bless You All Family,
Brother Lawrence Damien

Edited by Pat Brush