Read Leviticus 12
Purification After Childbirth
12 The Lord said to Moses, 2 “Say to the Israelites: ‘A woman who becomes pregnant and gives birth to a son will be ceremonially unclean for seven days, just as she is unclean during her monthly period. 3 On the eighth day the boy is to be circumcised. 4 Then the woman must wait thirty-three days to be purified from her bleeding. She must not touch anything sacred or go to the sanctuary until the days of her purification are over. 5 If she gives birth to a daughter, for two weeks the woman will be unclean, as during her period. Then she must wait sixty-six days to be purified from her bleeding.
6 “‘When the days of her purification for a son or daughter are over, she is to bring to the priest at the entrance to the tent of meeting a year-old lamb for a burnt offering and a young pigeon or a dove for a sin offering. 7 He shall offer them before the Lord to make atonement for her, and then she will be ceremonially clean from her flow of blood.
“‘These are the regulations for the woman who gives birth to a boy or a girl. 8 But if she cannot afford a lamb, she is to bring two doves or two young pigeons, one for a burnt offering and the other for a sin offering. In this way the priest will make atonement for her, and she will be clean.’”
At first glance much of what we see in Leviticus looks like rules and regulations for the Israelites to follow (and more specifically, the priests). The book, however, is an unfolding of the divine-human relationship that became manifest on Sinai. This chapter continues to instruct the people how to deal with sin and impurity so that the Lord can dwell in their midst.
This chapter, on its surface, talks about rules surrounding the time after childbirth when a male child is born (v. 1-4) and circumcision, a female newborn (v. 5), and the length of time the mother is unclean and how to atone at the end of that time (v. 6-8). Going deeper, this chapter is more about having a mediator for one’s sin. From the perspective of the context of the book (within the Pentateuch) Moses has become the mediator between the people and the Lord, and the text outlines how the priests become the mediator in addition to Moses.
We see in Luke 2:22-24 that Jesus’ family still followed these rules, and as a poor family offered only a pair of turtledoves at birth. This part of His life story tells us much about who He was and what He came to give us as a living sacrifice. F.B. Meyer, the 19th century English minister said this about this passage and Jesus’ (and Mary and Joseph’s) obedience to the Law:
“What a glimpse into our Master’s humiliation! He owned the cattle on a thousand hills, yet He so emptied Himself that His parents were compelled to bring the poorest offering the law allowed. He stooped that we might rise; emptied Himself that we might be full; became poor that we might be made rich; was made human that we might be made Divine.”
Jesus became our mediator, and took away the rules surrounding our having to “do something” to earn atonement for our sins. We are simply saved by grace, and what a wonderful testimony we have thanks to Jesus.
- How can we give over areas of our uncleanliness, where we can “let go and let God”?
- What is your testimony when it comes to telling how Jesus atoned for your sin, and gave you abounding grace?
- What ritual do you have that is keeping you from God?
Make this your prayer today in response to the lessons from Leviticus:
Heavenly Father, how I praise and thank You for the cleansing blood of Jesus Christ. Thank You that He was the sacrifice for my sin and that You act on my account as my heavenly High as the full and final payment for all my sin and the sin of the world. Thank You for what the book of Leviticus helps me to understand what Christ has done for me. It is so wonderful to know that by grace through faith in Him, my sin has been forgiven, once and for all. The power of sin in my life was defeated at the Cross, and the presence of my sinful nature will be finally gone forever when I see Him face to face. Thank You, in Jesus’ name, Amen.
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7 thoughts on “Leviticus 12”
There’s a word we read page after page in Leviticus—ATONEMENT. Whatever separates us from holy God must be reconciled, even something as natural as childbirth. Through Moses, God delivers very specific instructions, leaving no room for doubt. It’s all spelled out, now comes the responsibility to follow the specifications. We must remember the Israelites were surrounded by nations with pagan practices (worship of fertility gods & temple prostitutes) they were to live totally separate from. Every ask of God was to train them and us in righteousness. We don’t have to understand, just obey. I’m deeply grateful for the atoning sacrifice of our Savior, who makes the unclean CLEAN!
It’s difficult for me to understand this text. If the couple were married, why would it be considered a sin to have a child? Please help me to grasp why atonement had to be made in this circumstance. Thank you.
My Bible study notes say the uncleanness came from the bleeding, not the birth.
Equally confused! Commentaries we have been reading show it connected to the fact that they had brought another sinner into the world. Not sure how accurate or inaccurate it is, but it’s what we found.
The commentator strikes an interesting point. In fact, I read just yesterday about restoring the Creator-Creature Relationship. “How the cause of our human miseries is radical moral dislocations, an upset in our relation to God and each other”. (Tozer) How there must be a fixed center to which everything is measured. Such a center is God. In this passage, God is the center-Moses in the mediator- until Jesus’ blood makes the atonement.
“We must begin with God. We are right when and only when we stand in the right position relative to God. We adjust our lives to ‘HE IS’ and ‘ I AM’. Every soul belongs to God and exists by His pleasure. We owe Him every honor that is in our power to give Him. We decrease that He may increase.” Tozer paraphrased
God is centering the Israelites back to Him. He’s starting from scratch,again, to bring reconciliation and restoration.
Psalm 57:5 Be thou exalted, O God, above the heavens; let thy glory be above all the earth.
This is both late and long, but I was greatly inspired by this passage, as you will read. @Lisa and @Rachel, y’all raised some good questions; I hope this helps:
Once again, I’m reminded God’s proscriptions for His people were for their protection. The commentary I found (https://enduringword.com/bible-commentary/leviticus-12/) likens this period to modern-day mat leave: “Ceremonial uncleanness relieved [mother] of many social obligations. Mothers welcomed these days of rest, seclusion, and bonding with the newborn.” I can just hear Mom now:
“Sorry dear, but I just can’t take care of the other kids, cook a meal, do the dishes… I’m UNCLEAN! Y’all are just going to have to fend for yourselves a little longer…”
When our youngest child was born, as a SAHM I wasn’t due any official maternity leave, save the two days I stayed in the hospital. But oh, how I treasured the brief time I got! Nothing to do but read and watch TV and have all my meals served when I was hungry—and my son brought in whenever he was. If I was tired, an obliging nurse returned him to the nursery so we both could get some rest.
Having a biblical prescription for postpartum care offers some serious advantages!
Moreover, at a time when most women were not likely to have much say in the matter, verses 4 and 5 are, in essence, a “hands off to hubby” sign. (“Then she shall remain [intimately separated]”, Lev. 12:4 AMP). At the risk of TMI, postpartum abstinence protected mom from the risk of infection. Dad was commanded to keep even HIS distance.
What a beautiful reflection of God’s perfect plan for righteous living. This time of marital separation required physical self-restraint AND spiritual obedience—a sacrificial offering on the part of dear husband that blessed his wife even as he honored his God.
Which brings me to my first major takeaway:
How often do I insist on serving my own flesh – only at someone else’s expense? How much sin has its roots in selfishness!
Secondly, in terms of the offerings themselves: these can be viewed as an opportunity to show proper reverence in the presence of so much blood. Bloodshed was considered serious business back then. “Because ‘life is in the blood’ (Lev. 17:11), the loss of blood required some purification to acknowledge the sanctity of life.” How fitting that God’s people would have responded to the presence of new life—produced only through human bloodshed—with an appropriate blood offering. The offerings reflected both THANKSGIVING (e.g., for safe delivery through pregnancy and childbirth) and ATONEMENT for symbolically bringing another sinner into the world.
Which brings me to my final point:
God certainly did not need people to help him make more people. Still, he chose to allow us to participate with him, fully and intimately, in the creation of human life. And in so doing, we as humans take part in something both messy and miraculous. The entire process points us BACK to original sin, and FORWARD to full intimacy with God. (That is, the act of conception itself is an earthly representation of our eternal and intimate connection with God). Our response should then be one of contrition AND celebration.
This is the paradox we live in: while we are destined for immortality, we remain in a mortal world—living amidst the messy AND the miraculous. What would life look like if we faithfully brought offerings to God that reflected this complexity?
Forgive me all my mess.
Thank you for your “miraculous.”