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Does God Really Say, 'I Knit You Together in Your Mother’s Womb'?

Just what does the Psalmist mean when he says to God, "you knit me together in my mother's womb"? Is he being metaphorical, or making a statement that God plans and knows us before we're even born?

Contributing Writer
Updated Jul 29, 2022
Does God Really Say, 'I Knit You Together in Your Mother’s Womb'?

Does God Really Say, 'You Knit Me Together in My Mother’s Womb'?

People tell us that God knows and sees us. We hear that Jesus died for us—personally. But at times, when we feel small or insignificant or suffer a loss or setback, we find it harder to believe the Psalmist’s words, “You knit me together in my mother’s womb” (Psalm 139:13 NIV).

The Psalmist, David, was confident God had known and designed him even before he was born. How can we have that same faith—especially when it’s tested during challenges, hardships, and trials?

The truth is that we do each matter to God. Every one of us began with God. As big as He is, one of His great and wonderful mysteries is that He also knows us personally and individually, even from our mother’s womb.

Where Does the Bible Say, 'You Knit Me Together In My Mother’s Womb'?

There is significant Scriptural evidence that God knows us and forms us before birth. The phrase is most familiar from David’s words in Psalm 139. It appears in the middle of a Psalm where David recorded his thoughts about knowing there is nowhere he can go that God will not follow or isn’t already there.

For you formed my inward parts;

you knitted me together in my mother's womb.

I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.

Wonderful are your works; 

my soul knows it very well.

My frame was not hidden from you,

when I was being made in secret,

intricately woven in the depths of the earth.

Your eyes saw my unformed substance;

in your book were written, every one of them,

the days that were formed for me,

when as yet there was none of them.” Psalm 139:13-16 ESV

David spent many years as a shepherd alone out under the stars with his flocks. He was also a warrior for Israel and would have encamped with other warriors, reflective before battles. Then, there were years when he ran from King Saul to distance himself from Saul’s spear. He was often in caves or the wilderness with his band of mighty men. David had many opportunities to wonder if God saw him or remembered him, and this Psalm is a reminder to him and us that we will never be away from God’s presence. We are known to Him and were known before we emerged from the womb.

But, David was not alone. Other biblical writers were clear that God knows us before we are even aware of ourselves.

One of the earliest books of the Bible, Job, records Job reflecting on this understanding. Job 31:15 ESV says, “Did not he who made me in the womb make him? And did not one fashion us in the womb?” 

The prophets Isaiah, Jeremiah, and Zechariah also operated under the belief that God knew them from and formed them in the womb.

Jeremiah 1:5 ESV: “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you; I appointed you a prophet to the nations.”

Isaiah 49:1 ESV: “The Lord called me from the womb, from the body of my mother he named my name.”

Zechariah 12:1 ESV: “The oracle of the word of the Lord concerning Israel: Thus declares the Lord, who stretched out the heavens and founded the earth and formed the spirit of man within him.”

These Old Testament writers lived filled with the Holy Spirit and full of purpose, so dismissing their words as specific to Old Testament prophets would be easy. But, we see it also in John the Baptist’s birth announcement. Luke 1:15 ESV records that “he will be filled with the Holy Spirit, even from his mother's womb.”

Again, lest we think this is a situation unique to God’s prophets, the Apostle Paul teaches that it is true of all believers in Ephesians 1:4 ESV—"even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him,” and Galatians 1:15 ESV—"But when he who had set me apart before I was born, and who called me by his grace.” God’s Holy Spirit is in each of us through Jesus Christ, and Revelation 19:10 says, “For the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy.” We all participate in that testimony and so can be assured, in many ways, that God knew us, even in the womb.

It should be reassuring that many giants of our faith operated under the idea that God knows us before we are born and forms us in our mother’s wombs, but what does that mean?

What Does it Mean that God Formed Us in Our Mothers’ Wombs?

As advanced as we are in medicine and science, issues of life and death remain a mystery on many levels. We know how a child is conceived, and we can even watch, through ultrasound and other technology, as that child develops biologically. Still, there is a mystery in how each child has a unique personality and skills, as well as a soul. The soul of a person or their spirit is what we consider God-breathed, just as God breathed life into the first humans He created in Eden. We can put cells together but creating a soul is not in our purview.

Many doctors will admit that while they have many amazing interventions available, they still have their limitations. There is much they can do to preserve life, but it’s still surprising to them who defies medical predictions and succumbs to death unexpectedly. Also true is that as much as we know about the formation of human life, even being able to fertilize eggs outside the womb, there is still much we can’t control about the process and about knowing which new life will survive. 

Overall, humans remain much better at devising ways to end life than we are at initiating life itself. We can manipulate biology, but a soul’s formation is in God’s hands. So, even though Christians understand the biology of reproduction, we affirm with the writer of Psalms that God is at work in our formation, even from the womb.

What Does God Plan for Our Lives?

The Apostle Paul was a serious scholar and, before coming to Christ, was a man of great respect and standing in his community. His letters clearly show that he’s brilliant, able to teach, and unafraid of conflict, confrontation, and danger. He was shipwrecked three times, flogged, robbed, arrested, imprisoned, chased out of town, and often in great danger. He appears to be a no-nonsense sort of man. 

So, when Paul tells us that God chose us before the foundation of the earth or that “we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them” (Ephesians 2:10 ESV), we expect to take him literally and not imagine he’s simply waxing poetic.

God designed us to be in relationship with Him and to walk with Him as Adam and Eve originally walked with Him in the Garden of Eden. In Genesis, we begin in the Garden, walking with God, and then the Bible ends in Revelation with God dwelling with us. Jesus’ name, Emmanuel, means “God with us.” That is what we were designed for and destined to live out—life with God. 

Micah 6:8 ESV says the following about our purpose: “He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?” And Peter said this about our purpose, “But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light” (1 Peter 2:9 ESV).

Jesus-followers have a shared purpose or calling, but the apostles taught that we also receive individual gifts from the Holy Spirit intended to build up the body of Christ. Each of us has a shared calling and a unique purpose depending on our skills, our faith, and our geography. Following God into our particular calling benefits us, those closest to us, and the world.

Most often, we identify this calling in obedience to God’s commands in His Word—through Bible study, prayer, and interacting with our faith community. We can help one another name what is unique about us and assist in finding God’s leading into our earthly destiny.

What Else Does the Bible Say about God’s Love for Us?

Some Christians express fear about stepping into God’s purpose for themselves. They worry that God will send them to do something they’ll hate. It helps to remember that God’s love for us is like that of a good father for his children.

God is a God who initiates. He created us. We were His idea and each of those ideas is original. He loved us before we knew Him. He loved us before we were born. He died for us while we were still sinners. Everything about creation, every word in Scripture, and the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus all testify to His love.

That love isn’t just for everyone else. It’s also for you. Like David, you can believe it, and allow that belief to ground you through everything you face in life.

Further Reading:

Did God Really Know Me Before I Was Born?

30 Pro-Life Bible Verses and Christian Quotes

5 Inspiring Pro-Life Movies to See Today

What Does the Bible Say about Abortion?

Photo Credit: Getty Images/Zffoto

Lori Stanley RoeleveldLori Stanley Roeleveld is a blogger, speaker, coach, and disturber of hobbits. She’s authored six encouraging, unsettling books, including Running from a Crazy Man, The Art of Hard Conversations, and Graceful Influence: Making a Lasting Impact through Lesson from Women of the Bible. She speaks her mind at www.loriroeleveld.com


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