Leviticus 12 Devotional
by Pastor Mark Hudson
2-5 Uncleanness following birth
2-4 of a boy
5 of a girl
6-7a Sacrifice after birth
8 Additional Provision for the poor
We are in the section of uncleanness and its treatment according to the outline suggested by Wenham. Here is see how long a woman is unclean after childbirth, and what she must do during this time. Here is the outline found in other chapters in Leviticus.
Period of uncleanness 12:2ff 13:1ff 15:1ff 25ff
Sacrifice 6-7 14:1ff 15:14-15 29-30
Summary 7 13:59; 14:32, 54 32-33
Provision for the poor 8 14:21ff
You will read similar instruction to a woman in 15:19-24. We do not know why a woman was considered unclean after a birth. We do not know why her uncleanness lasted only 40 days for a baby boy but 80 days for a baby girl. But we can not conclude that a baby girl is less important or that woman are more unclean than a man. Sometimes, when the Bible does not provide us answers or resolve difficulties, we need to show caution when we conclude solutions that are not warranted. At least when we do offers conjectures we need to let others know we are exploring our own ideas and suggestions.
Regarding why the woman is unclean we look for clues in the text. Three times her blood or discharge of blood is mentioned (vs. 4, 5, 7). Postpartum bleeding or lochia can occur from 4-6 weeks after the baby is born. Could that be what the discharge refers to? It is hard to determine what Moses is referring to let alone why.
Blood is a cleansing liquid but can also make unclean. It seems the uncleanness is associated with blood or the discharge. This is interesting because childlessness is viewed as “the heighth of misfortune (Gen 15ff; I Sam 1) and sometimes as the judgment of God (Lev 20:20; Deut. 28:18), whereas a large family was looked on as a great blessing from God (Lev 26:9; Deut 28:11; Ps 127:3-5)” Wenham p. 187.
“On the more fundamental question of why any discharge should make a person unclean, the Bible gives no explicit answer. . . . For Douglas (M. Douglas, Purity and Danger (London: Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1966), a bleeding or discharging body lacks wholeness and is therefore unclean. Loss of blood can lead to death, the antithesis of normal healthy life. Anyone losing blood is at least in danger of becoming less than perfect and therefore unclean. Thus blood is at once the most effective ritual cleanser (“the blood makes atonement,” 17:11) and the most polluting substance when it is in the wrong place. This is profound. Our greatest woes results from the corruption of our highest good, e.g., speech, sex, technology, atomic power” Wehnham 188.
We must hasten to add that uncleanness, especially in this case, does not imply or suggest that the woman has done anything wrong (nor has the husband). We have to confess the idea of uncleanness may be perplexing to us. But if these concepts are new or difficult to understand, don’t give up and concede you can’t understand them. That isn’t true. You and I can keep learning, keeping pressing in and studying. This is why we read, study, write, and say “No!” to more tv watching or endless screen time. We keep asking God to help us to understand Him. God gives us teachers: some right in front of us and some long dead who have labored over books. (How I thank God for these authors!)
Father, help me when I face narratives, concepts, events in the Bible I can’t seem to comprehend. Help me at times to labor in study and at other times to lay those “problems” aside for a time. Thank you so very much for all the people who have taught me. They have spoken to me, corrected me, and encouraged me. Some have written books that speak to my heart and mind. All these have helped me. Through Your Spirit, help me to never give up. I also admit that sometimes my confusion is a harbinger of new growth and insight. Forgive my laziness and dullness. Help me be alive spiritually and love You more. In Christ, Amen.