Leviticus Chapter Twelve

Days of Purification

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In our study of Leviticus chapter twelve, we look at the purpose and meaning for the days of purification associated with a woman giving birth.

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Leviticus 12:1-4

ADONAI said to Moshe, "Tell the people of Isra'el: 'If a woman conceives and gives birth to a boy, she will be unclean for seven days with the same uncleanness as in niddah, when she is having her menstrual period. On the eighth day, the baby's foreskin is to be circumcised. She is to wait an additional thirty-three days to be purified from her blood; she is not to touch any holy thing or come into the sanctuary until the time of her purification is over.

God gave instructions about the time after childbirth and here we see the laws about the birth of a son. In this case, the mother is spiritually unclean for seven days and, during this time, she is released from all duties within the community of Israel. We are told that the same thing is true each month when she has her period. Although the woman was not committing sin in giving birth or during her period, the shedding of blood relates to death and that is the reason for her purification. On the eighth day, we see that the boy is circumcised which, with the death of the flesh that is removed, the boy becomes a part of the covenant people. After the circumcision, the purification process continues for another 33 days for a total of forty days and we are reminded that the number forty is associated with a transition. In this case, the woman transitions from being spiritually unclean to being clean again. As we saw in the previous chapter, this state of being unclean excluded the women from the proper worship of God and therefore she was not allowed to touch holy things or to go to the sanctuary.

Leviticus 12:5

But if she gives birth to a girl, she will be unclean for two weeks, as in her niddah; and she is to wait another sixty-six days to be purified from her blood.

In the case of the birth of a girl, the time frame is doubled but we are not given a reason. This purification period is not looked at as a time of punishment but as a time of recovery and, for some reason, God grants the woman an extended recovery period when a girl is born.

Leviticus 12:6 & 7

"'When the days of her purification are over, whether for a son or for a daughter, she is to bring a lamb in its first year for a burnt offering and a young pigeon or dove for a sin offering to the entrance of the tent of meeting, to the cohen. He will offer it before ADONAI and make atonement for her; thus she will be purified from her discharge of blood. Such is the law for a woman who gives birth, whether to a boy or to a girl.

At the end of this recovery period, atonement is made as a covering for those days that she was not able to properly worship God. We see that a burnt offering is offered which was presented by someone desiring access to God and also a sin offering was made which speaks of her restoration to the community of witnesses.

Leviticus 12:8

If she can't afford a lamb, she is to take two doves or two young pigeons, the one for a burnt offering and the other for a sin offering; the cohen will make atonement for her, and she will be clean.'"

Again we see that this atonement was available to both the rich and the poor as, if she could not afford the lamb, a substitution was available.

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