Here in Leviticus we have the Lord’s regulations for the purification of a woman after she gives birth to a child.
First, a bit of annoying but necessary housekeeping. We need to address the fact that in Leviticus twelve the amount of time of uncleanness for a daughter born is twice as long as for a son born. Why? Of course, some people say it is because the religion of the Bible is sexist. Girls are more unclean than men because male chauvinism.
Obviously, that is not true. The Lord who created man and woman in His image declared them both very good. He never said that a man because of his maleness is superior to a woman. Although sinful men sometimes think such stupid thoughts, it is not from the Lord who gave us His revelation.
But why the difference, then? We do not know. The Lord does not say. There are some possible guesses. Perhaps the circumcision of the boy decreased the amount of time, as a kind of cleansing by blood. Or perhaps the daughter’s future, potential motherhood required the mother to spend more time for purification. Perhaps it was an enduring sign of Eve’s sin. But these are simply guesses. We are not sure.
Of course, the daughter does not cause the uncleanness. It is the act of giving birth and the accompanying blood. Leviticus twelve specifically compares this uncleanness with the uncleanness of a woman’s menstruation. So in no way can this be considered a devaluing of daughters.
If anything, the increased purification time should lead us to conclude that daughters are MORE valuable than sons. After all, you pay a higher price for something that is more valuable. You give more time for a more momentous event.
But enough of that. Now for something much better.
When Adam and Eve fell into sin, childbirth became a dangerous and unclean event. The Lord God said to Eve, “I will surely multiply your pain in childbearing; in pain you shall bring forth children.” Of course, this was not a word only for Eve. It is for all women after her. Under sin, trouble and pain and sorrow come from pregnancy and delivery. We might wonder how easy pregnancy would have been without sin. No morning sickness? No labor pains? No risk of death, at the very least, since death entered the world through sin.
Sin is so invasive and destructive. Even the blessed miracle of procreation is stained by the corruption that mankind brought upon ourselves.
Leviticus twelve shows some of the spiritual dimension of uncleanness that comes along with childbirth. This wonderful event, that should give nothing but joy and beauty according to God’s will, instead causes uncleanness. The mother had to spend one or two weeks isolated from others because of it. Even after that, she was not fully clean, but in a more neutral state. She was not outright profane, yet still not declared clean before the Lord.
Now, this is not talking about a lack of salvation before God. By faith in the coming Messiah, every person was saved. Whether they had a temporary uncleanness by coming into contact with blood or something else, the Lord still forgave all their sins. So we do not say that the mother lost her salvation because of her uncleanness.
For forty or eighty days total, the mother was not fully clean. After sacrifice was offered in the Tabernacle or Temple, she was declared clean again.
Now what’s the big deal with childbirth? We get a hint in Genesis, just before the words He spoke to Eve. He promised that the Seed of woman would bruise the serpent’s head. A Seed of woman would come who would destroy satan’s power and rescue men from the destruction of sin and death.
We know that this Seed is Jesus Christ, who has accomplished these things. The phrase “Seed of woman” hints at the virgin birth, that most wonderful and beautiful birth of all. This means that the tremendous mysteries of the Word made flesh and the virgin conception in Mary are central to God’s salvation plan. Childbirth is a key element in how God would redeem you.
Childbirth is important. The exact place that sin caused pain and sorrow and even death became the entrance point for our Savior to emerge into our world.
He was willing to bear the uncleanness and messiness of human life, including our birth. Although we do not know precisely in what ways His holiness affected the way He was born, we still know that He did not spurn the Virgin’s womb. He did not reject the fleshiness of human biology. He embraced a birth like your birth because He had to be like you to save you.
Whatever uncleanness came His way, He did not shy away from it. Could anything make the holy Son of God unclean? Our grasp of such mysteries remains small. But we know that He did not avoid uncleanness but willingly came into contact with it. He touched lepers and other sick people. He touched a funeral bier. He was not above it all, but He reached out to unclean people.
He also allowed Himself to experience the uncleanness of bleeding. He was circumcised on the eighth day. He surely suffered many times in His life with ordinary wounds that we encounter. Most importantly, He was wounded for our transgressions. He let His Blood flow freely so that He could pay the price for all our sins.
On the Cross, He was the most unclean One. Of course, He was never unclean in Himself. He was always the holy Son of God. But He carried on himself all the uncleanness and corruption of an entire world of sinners, including our profane and ugly sinfulness that leads to death and eternal destruction.
In the Presentation of our Lord and Purification of Mary we see the beginning of our Lord embracing our uncleanness. We see Him beginning to walk the messy, corrupt path of our lives. We see the miracle of His birth and early life interrupted by the observance of ritual cleansing, even though He could neither cause nor need purification.
And He walked the path, the Creator of the Law putting Himself under the Law, for our sake.
All glory be to Him. Amen.
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