Then the Lord spoke to Moses, saying, 2 “Speak to the children of Israel, saying: ‘If a woman has conceived, and borne a male child, then she shall be unclean seven days; as in the days of her customary impurity she shall be unclean. 3 And on the eighth day the flesh of his foreskin shall be circumcised. 4 She shall then continue in the blood of her purification thirty-three days. She shall not touch any hallowed thing, nor come into the sanctuary until the days of her purification are fulfilled.
5 ‘But if she bears a female child, then she shall be unclean two weeks, as in her customary impurity, and she shall continue in the blood of her purification sixty-six days.
6 ‘When the days of her purification are fulfilled, whether for a son or a daughter, she shall bring to the priest a lamb of the first year as a burnt offering, and a young pigeon or a turtledove as a sin offering, to the door of the tabernacle of meeting. 7 Then he shall offer it before the Lord, and make atonement for her. And she shall be clean from the flow of her blood. This is the law for her who has borne a male or a female.
8 ‘And if she is not able to bring a lamb, then she may bring two turtledoves or two young pigeons—one as a burnt offering and the other as a sin offering. So the priest shall make atonement for her, and she will be clean.’ ”
Childbirth was not sinful. The reason a woman became unclean as a result of childbirth has to do with the bodily fluids that were brought forth as a result of child birth. The life of the individual was found in the blood. When blood is examined it not only is the means by which oxygen is carried to the body, but when blood is discharged from the body it also carries with it diseases that can be passed on if proper percussions are not taken. We must remember that at this point in history they didn’t understand microbiology. God put all things in place for the nation of Israel through His law not only to set Israel a part as a people but also to protect them and bless them.
The period of seven days was a fullness of time. The period of thirty-three days after a male child was born would give the mother sufficient time to rest and recover. Because she would be unclean for that period of time, she would not be responsible for any housework, but instead would be isolated and able to rest. She would have time to spend with the baby to nurse and recover.
Circumcision was very important to the Jews. Circumcision was an outward sign that the Jewish people were God’s covenant people. Medical science has confirmed that circumcising a child on the eighth day as opposed to any day before is the right course of action. Also because circumcision takes place on the male sexual organ it sends a message and is a reminder that God would bless the descendants of Abraham and multiply them.
If a female child is born the time period doubles to sixty-six days. We are not given a clear answer in scripture as to why this is. But examining the whole of scripture we know that God has created them male and female. Sexual gender and orientation is determined by God. We also know that God has called men to be the head of the household and Paul even tells us that elders in the church are called to be men. It doesn’t diminish the value of a woman, but simply shows that God makes a distinction between male and female. Sadly, in many eastern cultures women are not valued on a whole and are often treated as property. But we know that in Christ, whether male or female all have equal value in the eyes of Almighty God.
Because a woman has become unclean as a result of a bodily discharge during pregnancy, she is required to bring a burnt offering and sin offering to the tabernacle. The system of sacrifices was put in place until Christ would come so that God’s covenant people would be able to draw near to Him and their sins and uncleanliness be atoned for. Having a child in itself was not sinful or wrong but it had more to do with the bodily discharged that made the mother unclean.
God understood that Israel was made up of all types of people at different economic levels. To not exclude anyone the Lord put in place an ordinance that if the woman is not able to bring a lamb for her offering, then two turtle doves or two young pigeons could be brought. These were very inexpensive to purchase and would not cost the family a great deal. One of the ways we know Jesus was born into poverty and a poor family is this was the sacrifice that Mary brought to the temple.
The book of Leviticus often scares many Christians. But when we begin to study Leviticus, we understand it focuses on the holiness of God. Because God is holy, we as His people are called to be holy. It also gives us a greater appreciation for what Jesus has done for us. Because Christ did not come to destroy the law, but to fulfill it, all of us who come to Christ are not bound by the demands of the law. Every time we sin, we no longer must bring different sacrifices to the tabernacle. We simply can draw near to the throne of grace without fear, confess our sin, and know that our Father in Heaven is faithful and just to forgive us. The more that we simply walk with Him and abide in Him, the more we simply become like Him and freedom and victory over sin becomes a reality in our lives.