The offering that women bring to the temple after having a children is not a ‘sin’ offering. They have not sinned by giving birth. The offering that they give takes away ritual impurity. A dead body has not sinned. It is dead. However, it is impure. The process of giving birth needs ‘cleansing’ and this is performed by the sacrifice in this chapter. The fact that giving birth to a girl brings a greater length to the time of impurity reflects that newborn girls can have emissions of blood themselves for a while after birth. Their impurity is cleansed by the act of their mother.
1 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 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.’
- Who is the subject of this chapter?
- How long is a mother ceremonially unclean after giving birth to a son or a daughter?
- What two things might she offer to become cleansed?
- How do we think of blood and uncleanliness today? Why do girls use ‘sanitary’ towels? Why do doctors wear gloves?
- How do the cycles of birth and death create a distinction between humans and God? How might we remember the contrast of our mortality with God’s immortality?