One of the things I really enjoy doing with the ministry the Lord has blessed me with is answering questions of believers and unbelievers alike. The questions people have never cease to amaze me; most I have never even considered myself.
This QFTBOC (Questions From the Body of Christ) series are articles from these questions I have received and will be in a question and response format.
If you or someone you know has a question pertaining to the Word of God – theology, difficult passages, eschatology, etc. – I would really like to hear from you.
If I end up using your question, and you would like to have your name and/or place of residence listed on the question in the article, please specify with your submitted question; otherwise, if I use your question, it will be listed as “Anonymous.”
Regardless, I will make every attempt to answer every person’s questions in a response to the emails I receive. Depending on volume, it may be a little while until you hear back from me, but my intention is to respond to all inquiries.
Other articles in this series are: QFTBOC: Civil Disobedience and Patriotism, QFTBOC: Memory – Fully Retained or Total Reset?, QFTBOC: Psalm 91, Protection, & God’s Will, QFTBOC: God’s Chastisement of His Children, QFTBOC: What’s Satan’s Problem?, and QFTBOC: Can We Know Another’s Salvation?
I have decided to take up the challenge and pose a question…
Firstly, for the reading…
Luke 2:21-24 – in speaking about Mary, “… when the eight days were completed for the circumcision of the child.”
This, according to Leviticus, is for the cleansing of the mother and child from contact with blood. Then they can enter into the presence of the Priest for circumcision (Leviticus 12:1-3).
Continuing… “when the days of her purification were completed, she offered a sacrifice accordingly, a pair of turtle doves or two young pigeons.”
So jumping back to Leviticus 12, the purification from blood for a male child was 33 days. As she was not able to bring a lamb, she brought two birds — one as a burnt offering and one as a sin offering.
Leviticus 1 says the burnt offering is a sweet aroma to the Lord. Leviticus 4 says the sin offering is to make atonement for a committed sin.
What then is the sin she has committed in childbirth (especially in giving birth to the sinless one)?
Is it as Leviticus 15 describes – the discharge of uncleanness, or is it due to her normal menstrual cycle – a death in the womb?
Thanks so much for your very interesting question. One that I believe many have had, including myself.
The very first thing that I would like to point out, in regard to the Mosaic Law, is that when it comes to these ordinances and laws for the nation of Israel there are five topics that I consider when studying these passages. They are: biological, historical, spiritual, symbolical, and Messianic considerations. In other words, some laws are biological, some are historical, some are spiritual, some are symbolical, and some are Messianic, or a combination of these properties. For example, within laws of ritual purification, we should be able to see these components or, at the very least, be able to make possible connections to these considerations and what they were possibly meant to convey.
There are certainly biological considerations for these laws; the health of the mother, the baby, and the community. We should also see spiritual applications to these laws when we consider sin and salvation through the shed blood of our precious Lord and Savior. Therefore, symbolic and Messianic themes should be present as well.
I’ll try to cover a few of them in this article, but I urge the reader to consider these connections in their own Bible study time. I have no doubt that looking at the many Old Testament ordinances and laws in this way – that so many Christians seem to pass over, thinking them obsolete – will produce a new and exhilarating appreciation of the Mosaic Law than they once had. Especially when looking for connections to the Messiah within them!
I must also stress this fact: In regard to your questions, we’ll have to do much speculation – with common sense and a good understanding of Scripture – as we aren’t told in the Word of God why and for what purposes these particular childbirth purification laws were incorporated by the Lord.
Passages of Study
Let’s look at the verses you have cited with some comments.
“And when eight days were accomplished for the circumcising of the child, his name was called Jesus, which was so named of the angel before he was conceived in the womb. And when the days of her purification according to the law of Moses were accomplished, they brought him to Jerusalem, to present him to the Lord; (As it is written in the law of the Lord, Every male that openeth the womb shall be called holy to the Lord;) And to offer a sacrifice according to that which is said in the law of the Lord, A pair of turtledoves, or two young pigeons” (Luke 2:21-24).
Jesus, as a faithful Jew, fulfilled the law even in His infancy. As he said:
“Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfil” (Matthew 5:17).
Therefore, in everything that He did, from birth to death, He was fulfilling the law at every step. And only in this way could He, as the perfect and sinless Son of God and son of man, pay for the sins of the world.
You are correct that the purification was for both the mother and the child from the contact of blood. The blood in the veins of Jesus was pure and undefiled and is why His shed blood on the cross could accomplish salvation for fallen humanity — once for all. But the blood of Mary was not pure, and this is the blood that would need the purification process described in the law.
“And the Lord spake unto Moses, saying, Speak unto the children of Israel, saying, If a woman have conceived seed, and born a man child: then she shall be unclean seven days; according to the days of the separation for her infirmity shall she be unclean. And in the eighth day the flesh of his foreskin shall be circumcised” (Leviticus 12:1-3).
As we read these verses, on the surface, there seem to be multiple issues at play here: biological, spiritual, and/or symbolic cleanliness.
“And she shall then continue in the blood of her purifying three and thirty days; she shall touch no hallowed thing, nor come into the sanctuary, until the days of her purifying be fulfilled. But if she bear a maid child, then she shall be unclean two weeks, as in her separation: and she shall continue in the blood of her purifying threescore and six days. And when the days of her purifying are fulfilled, for a son, or for a daughter, she shall bring a lamb of the first year for a burnt offering, and a young pigeon, or a turtledove, for a sin offering, unto the door of the tabernacle of the congregation, unto the priest: Who shall offer it before the Lord, and make an atonement for her; and she shall be cleansed from the issue of her blood.
“This is the law for her that hath born a male or a female. And if she be not able to bring a lamb, then she shall bring two turtles, or two young pigeons; the one for the burnt offering, and the other for a sin offering: and the priest shall make an atonement for her, and she shall be clean” (Leviticus 12:4-8).
The obvious thing to note in these verses is the purification duration differential between having a male child (7 days & 33 days = 40 days) and a female child (14 days & 66 days = 80 days) – exactly double. I would also note that 40 is a significant number for God’s people.
I would like to offer, using the method of study application I’ve outlined above, some possibilities for this subject. But as we move on, it is imperative for me to stress that we just don’t know for sure why the childbirth purification is double for the mother after giving birth to a girl as they are for a boy. Scripture is silent as to the why – only that this was God’s instructions for the childbirth purification laws for the mothers. So, please, keep this in mind moving forward as we are only able to speculate due to a lack of Scriptural support for the reasons God incorporated these childbirth purification laws.
Possible Biological Applications
Even today, we may not fully understand, biologically, the differences in a mother having a male child versus a female child. It’s possible that there may be something that modern science is unaware of. In any case, as our hospitals and health-care would be considered superior to that provided thousands of years ago, we can be sure that if there is a “biological” consideration here, that God was well aware of this as the Creator, and this may be one reason for the difference.
There’s no doubt that the menstrual cycle was a part of the curse and would be a consideration of the purification process; if nothing else, as a memory device.
A possibility for the extended length of purification for a female child is that females might have been larger at birth than the male children in ancient Israel – at least in general. In both cases, of course, there would be major tearing of the mother, and this would leave her susceptible to infections and/or disease, which could pose a threat to the community. This would certainly be at least one of the biological reasons for purification – the healing of the mother physically and protection for a vulnerable community.
Possible Historical Application
There may be a historically pragmatic application when one considers the two sexes. Logically, the female sex should be considered more valuable to the reproduction of the human race. Obviously, both sexes are needed, but allow me to clarify my point.
I really don’t know how to say this other than to say this: Hypothetically, in a catastrophic planetary event, let’s consider that only 10 people survive: nine were men, and one was a woman. In the other hypothetical, it was reversed: nine women and one man. Which scenario would be best suited for the survival and multiplication of the human race and why?
Without going into too much detail, I believe we all would agree that the nine women and one man would be the optimal situation of the two scenarios. Women are the bearers of the human race when it comes to the birthing process and are the more valuable in procreation. Again, both are necessary, but women have the greater role. And, let’s be honest, if the scenario were reversed – nine men and one woman – the human race may be doomed as it would be very possible that the nine men would kill each other before procreation would have ever advanced!
Therefore, there may be the possibility that the longer childbirth purification for the female child could be due to the value of women in the procreation process.
Possible Spiritual Application
“For Adam was first formed, then Eve. And Adam was not deceived, but the woman being deceived was in the transgression” (1 Timothy 2:13-14).
Adam was the first to be created and formed by the Lord God, and Eve was created for Adam and from Adam. This is not a statement of superiority on any level – just a fact of creation. As we know:
“There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus” (Galatians). 3:28).
And, of course, the man and woman become one flesh. Each are a unique creation of God, yet with differing roles within their relationship, the family unit, and the plan of God.
But “Adam was not deceived, but the woman being deceived was in the transgression.” This is a very real possibility for the longer duration of childbirth purification for the mother who gives birth to a female child. A memory device of sorts, reminding the woman that Eve – who evidently didn’t rely on or consult her husband in her temptation by Satan – took it upon herself to be deceived and eat of the forbidden fruit.
Possible Symbolical Application
“And the woman said unto the serpent, We may eat of the fruit of the trees of the garden: But of the fruit of the tree which is in the midst of the garden, God hath said, Ye shall not eat of it, neither shall ye touch it, lest ye die” (Genesis 3:2-3). (emphasis mine)
Just as Eve added to the Word of God, so too did God add to her labor and, possibly, her purification ritual in female childbirth in the nation of Israel:
“Unto the woman he said, I will greatly multiply thy sorrow and thy conception; in sorrow thou shalt bring forth children… ” (Genesis 3:16a).
Again, symbolically, the length of purification for the birth of a female child may be directly associated with the addition to God’s Word and the curse that Eve incurred.
“… and thy desire shall be to thy husband, and he shall rule over thee” (Genesis 3:16b).
Because Eve didn’t render authority to her husband’s role as spiritual leader of the family – and, let’s be honest here, it appears that Adam didn’t attempt to fulfill this role as he should have – she would be required, from this moment on, to submit to his “rule over” her as that spiritual leader.
This would be a supreme test for women down through the ages as women have a natural tendency to want to take their God-given abilities of nurture and child-rearing into the marriage relationship. Yes, men, we do have a childlike quality that naturally produces this effect on women! This conflict for the woman of God, of course, isn’t really a struggle when the man of God carries out his duties to love his wife as Christ loved the church and gave Himself for her:
“For the husband is the head of the wife, even as Christ is the head of the church: and he is the saviour of the body. Therefore as the church is subject unto Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands in every thing. Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it” (Ephesians 5:23-25).
I bring all of this up only to show that there may be a symbolical application to the length of childbirth purification and the fall of Adam and Eve. At least it may be worth considering.
Possible Messianic Application
This all may be tied in with the Protoevangelium – the first gospel – as well:
“And I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed; it shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise his heel” (Genesis 3:15).
The length of purification for childbirth may also be a Messianic memory device, meant to remind the people of God that the Messiah would be male. In other words, the couple would be reminded that her purification from bearing a male child was cut in half due to the possibility that that male child could be the promised “seed of the woman” who would cause the curse that was plaguing all of creation due to sin entering into the human race to ultimately come to an end.
Of course, Adam and Eve and their early descendants didn’t fully understand that the promise made of the coming Messiah would be without human agency as Christ would need to be born of a virgin – a special creation – with no inherent sin nature passed down from either father or mother. Even though these details were made evident by the phrase “her seed,” this unique declaration would need to be expounded upon by the prophets of Israel, centering on this original gospel message made to Adam and Eve after their fall.
Blood and Sin
In answer to your question: “What then is the sin she has committed in childbirth (especially in giving birth to the sinless one)? Is it as Leviticus 15 describes – the discharge of uncleanness, or is it due to her normal menstrual cycle – a death in the womb?”
There’s no doubt that the menstrual cycle was a part of the curse and would be a consideration of the purification process. But I don’t think the cycle describes “a death in the womb” as the egg is unfertilized by the seed of the man. From what I can gather, the idea of the menstrual cycle being a representation of death, rebirth, creativity, and fertility is a purely shamanic and pagan idea.
David, in Psalm 51 (the Psalm David wrote regarding his sin with Bathsheba and murder of Uriah), makes this confession of the human situation:
“Behold, I was shapen in iniquity; and in sin did my mother conceive me” (Psalm 51:5).
The fact is, we were all “shapen in iniquity and in sin” when we were “conceive[d].” Since the fall of Adam and Eve, inherited sin has been passed down upon all of mankind. No one is exempt, except our Lord, of course, as He was a special creation of God and was without inherent sin. Therefore, the blood of all men and women is corrupt with inherent sin while in our natural bodies here on earth.
“Now this I say, brethren, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God; neither doth corruption inherit incorruption” (1 Corinthians 15:50).
Paul goes on to reveal the mystery of the rapture of the church and the resurrection immediately after this verse. Amen!
“Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that, when he shall appear, we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is” (1 John 3:2).
Thank you for your great questions, Peter. There are some answers we seek from the Scriptures to questions we have that just don’t seem to have any solid Biblical conclusions available to us. This would be one of those situations. Sometimes, I really think that the Lord leaves these questions unanswered just for the purpose of allowing us to think these things through for ourselves in a sort of Spiritual “treasure-hunt” using Biblical common sense and logic.
I think it similar to Paul’s “thorn in the flesh” (2 Corinthians 12:7-9). I’m really thankful that the Lord didn’t reveal what exactly Paul’s physical trial was because we are now able to insert our own physical infirmities into the passage and make it personal, allowing us to grow in the same way that Paul did – trusting God in our weakness.
“And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me” (2 Corinthians 12:9).
While there are no absolute answers to this QFTBOC, I pray we have gained a little more insight into how to study the Mosaic Law regarding these childbirth purification laws for Israel and the message that God may have been trying to teach His people concerning them.
May you all be blessed by our Lord and Savior, and continue to love and serve Him with all of your heart, soul, mind, body, and strength. Keep reaching the lost for Christ!
Love, grace, mercy, and shalom in Messiah Yeshua, and Maranatha!
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