According to Genesis, Jacob and Esau struggled with each other while they were still in the womb.
Apparently, it was quite a struggle!
Many women pregnant with twins have experienced the same thing, but now we have motion video of unborn children doing just this.
Here's the story . . . and the video.
Jacob and Esau
First, here's the biblical story of Jacob and Esau:
21 Isaac prayed to the Lord on behalf of his wife, because she was childless. The Lord answered his prayer, and his wife Rebekah became pregnant.
22 The babies jostled each other within her, and she said, “Why is this happening to me?” So she went to inquire of the Lord.
23 The Lord said to her,
“Two nations are in your womb,
and two peoples from within you will be separated;
one people will be stronger than the other,
and the older will serve the younger.”
24 When the time came for her to give birth, there were twin boys in her womb (NIV).
Other translations render Rebekah's question a bit differently, and in ways that bring out the intensity of the struggle:
But the children jostled each other in the womb so much that she exclaimed, “If it is like this, why go on living!” (NAB:RE).
The children struggled together within her; and she said, "If it is thus, why do I live?" (RSV).
Why Do They Do This?
The particularly intense struggle between Jacob and Esau may have had prophetic overtones, as Rebekah learned upon consulting the Lord, but this is not a phenomenon unique to them.
Lots of twins appear to struggle in the womb.
No doubt, they do it partly for the same reason that babies kick and punch in the womb, in general: To exercise their limbs.
This is actually very important to childhood development.
The joints need to be exercised in order to get the muscles to develop properly and to get the bones to develop properly.
Without all the kicking and punching, as distracting as it can be, the babies' bones might grow in ways that would cause their joints to lock up. They need to keep them moving to prevent this from happening.
If there are twins in a womb, at some point in their development they presumably reach a stage in which they don't particularly like being kicked or punched, and they may reflexively strike back at the source of annoyance, giving rise to even more vigorous activity in the womb.
Even in cases where there is only one baby, though, a good amount of kicking and punching is inevitable--and historically it played an important role in determining whether a woman was pregnant.
Although missing a monthly cycle could be an indication of pregnancy, it was not a sure sign, as not all women have regular cycles--something that would have been even more the case in a world with dodgy nutrition and medical care.
Without modern pregnancy tests, the point at which pregnancy was certain was the point at which the baby became strong enough that the mother could feel it kicking.
Actually, it had been doing this for even longer, but it was not strong enough to make its motions felt.
The point at which this happened became known as the "quickening," because it was now certain that there was a new life in the mother. ("Quick" meant "alive," as in "the quick and the dead"--the living and the dead).
And now, through the marvels of modern technology, we can see into the womb and observe what the children are doing!
Here's the video:
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