Lectionary Calendar
Friday, December 1st, 2023
the Week of Christ the King / Proper 29 / Ordinary 34
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Bible Commentaries
Leviticus 12

Coffman's Commentaries on the BibleCoffman's Commentaries

Verse 1

This little chapter is big in the difficulty of its interpretation. We have discovered practically no help from any source whatever in our efforts to unravel the mysteries of this remarkable chapter.

"And Jehovah spake unto Moses, saying, Speak unto the children of Israel, saying, If a woman conceive seed, and bear a man-child, then she shall be unclean seven days; as in the days of the impurity of her sickness shall she be unclean. And in the eighth day the flesh of his foreskin shall be circumcised. And she shall 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 impurity; and she shall continue in the blood of her purifying threescore and six days."

The appearance here of the "forty" and "double forty" time periods is interesting. To each of the Numbers 33 days (Leviticus 12:4) and 66 days (Leviticus 12:5), one must add the seven days of Leviticus 12:2 and the fourteen days of Leviticus 12:5, making totals of 40,80. When a male child was circumcised on the "eighth day," that day was reckoned with the 33. The highly symbolical meaning of the number "forty" is frequently apparent in the Bible. There were forty-day fasts by Elijah, Moses and Christ. There were forty years of penalty inflicted upon Israel in the matter of their wilderness sojourn. "Forty" days and nights of rain brought the Great Deluge upon mankind.

However, the matter of surpassing interest in this passage is the question of WHY double the days of purification were required for the mother of a female child, contrasting with only half that time for the mother of a man-child! A number of commentators such as Clements, Noth, and Gordon mentioned the diminished values that ancient societies placed upon girl children. Yes, it is true that ancient societies downgraded and despised female children, but there is no way to persuade a believer in Jesus Christ that Almighty God approved of such gross errors and honored them in the establishment of the rules mentioned here. No! That cannot be the case at all.

This is true, first of all, because the text itself forbids such a view. There was no difference in God's sight between the value of a male or female child. Why? Exactly the same offering was to be brought to God for either, a lamb a year old, or in cases of poverty, two-turtle doves, or two young pigeons. This equality in the required offering (Leviticus 12:6) proves that God held male and female children EQUALLY PRECIOUS in His holy sight!

In view of the naturalness, necessity, beauty and joy of childbirth, the question arises as to WHY any purification at all was required of the mother. Such a requirement must be lodged in the general sinfulness of mankind, who, in every pivotal relationship of life has always been required to acknowledge his sin and need of forgiveness from God. Note that in the purpose of the offering of the lamb, or the turtle-doves, that the object was not that of forgiving the infant, but of forgiving the mother (Leviticus 12:7). Failure to understand this vital fact has led to all kinds of wild speculations about ORIGINAL SIN. McGee and Kellogg, as well as others, have erred by their acceptance of such ideas. No sin of any kind attaches either to the female, or to the male child in this passage.

Although there is no trace whatever here of original sin, there is nevertheless, a connection and a remembrance of the original transgression, namely, that of the Fall of Mankind, and of the leading part taken in that primeval disaster by our mother Eve. It will be remembered that a part of the double curse placed upon Eve had to do with the pains of childbirth, and the 80-day period of purification here (twice that for a male child) required for purification of the mother in case of the birth of a female child, is merely an effective and perpetual reminder of the penalty executed upon Eve and upon her gender. Was it appropriate that this penalty should thus have been in remembrance throughout the days of the Mosaic law? Certainly, because when it was forever removed in Jesus Christ, the contrast would appear glorious. It is the glory of the Son of God that he was "born of woman," "born under the law." The shorter period of purification for the male child was an eloquent manner of speaking to all generations of that salvation which would still come to humanity through the birth of that One referred to in Revelation as "a son, a He-Man child!" (Revelation 12:5).

Efforts to de-sex the Bible have appeared in the current era, but the possibility of such efforts ever proving successful is nil. Sex is that of which life comes, and getting rid of it is impossible as long as life exists. The law of childbirth has not changed throughout the life of the race of Adam, and it is a safe postulation that it will never change.

"As in the days of the impurity of her sickness ... as in her impurity ..." These expressions in Leviticus 12:3 and Leviticus 12:5, are reference to the woman's menstrual cycle which also imposed upon her a period of uncleanness, and the double reference to it here indicates the connection between these ceremonies and the whole subject of childbearing.

Verse 6

"And when the days of her purifying are fulfilled, for a son, or for a daughter, she shall bring a lamb a year old for a burnt-offering, and a young pigeon, or a turtle-dove, for a sin-offering, unto the door of the tent of meeting, unto the priest: and he shall offer it before Jehovah, and make atonement for her; and she shall be cleansed from the fountain of her blood. This is the law for her that beareth, whether a male or a female. And if her means suffice not for a lamb, then she shall take two turtledoves, or two young pigeons; the one for a burnt-offering, and the other for a sin-offering: and the priest shall make atonement for her, and she shall be clean."

The fulfillment of the Mosaic requirements here listed were meticulously observed by Mary the blessed Mother of Jesus. Luke gives the account thus:

"And when the days of their purification according to the law of Moses were fulfilled, they brought him up 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 turtle-doves, or two young pigeons." (Luke 2:22-24)

The very fact that the exact words of this chapter are quoted in the Lukan version of the Nativity proves that the ceremonies here were in some way prophetic of the eventual revelation of Jesus Christ to mankind. For countless generations, women, in case of the birth of a male child, were granted a bonus, so to speak, in the shorter period of purification, suggesting the ultimate time when the True Deliverer would be born, and that he would be a man. And then, in the case of Mary and her son Jesus Christ, there suddenly appeared the One who would abolish all of those rules forever! Sure enough, Simeon, under the power of the Holy Spirit, was on hand to shout, "Mine eyes have seen thy salvation!" (Luke 2:30).


You know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that, though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, that ye through his poverty might become rich (2 Corinthians 8:9). The chapter before us, along with the N.T. account of Mary and Joseph's careful observance of it puts a mighty emphasis upon the poverty of Jesus Christ who was born into a family so POOR that they could not even afford a lamb to redeem their firstborn. Our Lord never, during his whole life, moved outside that circle of poverty. He grew up in an ancient carpenter shop. He was familiar with patching old clothes, attempting to use old wineskins, and with many other devices of the poor (as proved by his parables). There is no proof that Jesus ever even possessed such a thing as a coin. He once said, plaintively, "The Son of Man hath nowhere to lay his head." And when he died upon Calvary, only a single item of his clothes was worth a throw of the dice to see who would have it.

In this light, therefore, what could Paul have meant in the bold declaration, "Though he was rich?" The riches of Christ consist of only one thing - HIS STATUS "in the beginning, with God" (John 1:1). The command of an innumerable host of angels, the splendors of heaven, "The glory," as Jesus put it, "that I had with thee (God), before the world was!" That was the riches of Christ, all of which Jesus forsook to bring mankind "through his poverty" the eternal riches of life everlasting! Therefore, Paul's statement in 2 Corinthians 8:9 takes its place along with Ephesians 4:9 and Philippians 2:6-9 as a member of that matchless triad of Great Parabolas reaching from infinity in the past to the brief earthly ministry of Christ, and then again reaching all the way to infinity in the future!

Bibliographical Information
Coffman, James Burton. "Commentary on Leviticus 12". "Coffman's Commentaries on the Bible". https://studylight.org/commentaries/eng/bcc/leviticus-12.html. Abilene Christian University Press, Abilene, Texas, USA. 1983-1999.
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