To be perfectly honest, I’m trudging my way through Leviticus. I’m reading and trying to grasp something that applies for me today. The thing that keeps coming to mind is how grateful I am that Jesus came as the ultimate sacrifice and we are no longer required to carry out these elaborate and bloody rituals for cleansing ourselves from sin.
If you’re new to this blog, we’re reading through the One Year Chronological Bible (NLT) this year.
Today we move from clean & unclean food to clean & unclean persons. The first part of chapter 12 talks about purification of a woman after childbirth:
2 When a woman becomes pregnant and gives birth to a son, she will be ceremonially unclean for seven days, just as she is defiled during her menstrual period. 3 On the eighth day, the boy must be circumcised. 4 Then the woman must wait for thirty-three days until the time of her purification from the blood of childbirth is completed. During this time of purification, she must not touch anything that is holy. And she must not go to the sanctuary until her time of purification is over. 5 If a woman gives birth to a daughter, she will be ceremonially defiled for two weeks, just as she is defiled during her menstrual period. She must then wait another sixty-six days to be purified from the blood of childbirth.
With a little help from Matthew Henry’s Commentary, I was able to come to an understanding about the circumcision after 7 days – because male children shared in their mother’s “pollution” (his word not mine) during the days of her separation – or her ceremonially unclean period after childbirth.
What I couldn’t grasp was why mothers were unclean for double the amount of time after giving birth to a daughter. Here’s what Mr. Henry says (click here for full page) plus some other very interesting perspectives:
There was also a longer time appointed for their purifying; thirty-three days more (forty in all) if the birth were a male, and double that time if a female, v. 4, 5. During this time they were only separated from the sanctuary and forbidden to eat of the passover, or peace-offerings, or, if a priest’s wife, to eat of any thing that was holy to the Lord. Why the time of both those was double for a female to what it was for a male I can assign no reason but the will of the Law-maker; in Christ Jesus no difference is made of male and female, Gal. 3:28; Col. 3:11. But this ceremonial uncleanness which the law laid women in child-bed under was to signify the pollution of sin which we are all conceived and born in, Ps. 51:5. For, if the root be impure, so is the branch, Who can bring a clean thing out of an unclean? If sin had not entered, nothing but purity and honour had attended all the productions of that great blessing, Be fruitful and multiply; but now that the nature of man is degenerated the propagation of that nature is laid under these marks of disgrace, because of the sin and corruption that are propagated with it, and in remembrance of the curse upon the woman that was first in the transgression. That in sorrow (to which it is here further added in shame ) she should bring forth children. And the exclusion of the woman for so many days from the sanctuary, and all participation of the holy things, signified that our original corruption (that sinning sin which we brought into the world with us) would have excluded us for ever from the enjoyment of God and his favours if he had not graciously provided for our purifying.
Reading this reminded me of the unescapable sin nature of all of us. Sin entered the world through the original Adam and is propagated through our children. Our only hope is to believe and accept Jesus’ sacrifice for our purification so that we may be rescued from our otherwise torturous separation from our loving Creator. And – I’m also grateful that I didn’t have to memorize these passages (along with the rest of the first 5 books of the Bible) as a young Jewish child. These kids have all my respect!