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the Week of Proper 20 / Ordinary 25
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Bible Commentaries
Leviticus 12

Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - UnabridgedCommentary Critical Unabridged

Verses 1-8

And the LORD spake unto Moses, saying, Mankind are not only liable to defilement from without, but have internal causes of pollution lying deep in their nature. And hence, the laws which were given to restrain the Israelites from eating unclean animals, or coming in contact with those which died a natural death, were followed by a series of statutes relating to impurity connected with their own persons. These impurities are illustrated in a variety of instances in the following chapters, and traced through the successive stages of life to the period of death.

The principle which underlies the legal processes of purification appears to be to awaken a lively sense of sin, by showing how deeply it has infected the whole nature of man-its influence and penal effects appearing in procreation, at birth, in the state of the body during life and at death; insomuch that the flesh, which, when created by God, was originally good, is rendered the instrument or occasion of sinful desires in the soul and bodily impurities, which, flowing from the movements of nature, and in themselves sinless, are connected with moral defilement through evil passion or excess. The uncleannesses specified in the ensuing section had a longer or a shorter course of purification prescribed, which was determined apparently not according to the respective degrees of defilement by sin, but according to the virulence or the duration of the bodily affection to which the individual was subjected; and hence, the protracted term as well as the special offerings which were appointed for the purification of women after child-birth.

Verse 2-5. If a woman have conceived seed - literally, has become fruitful. [Septuagint, spermatisthee, become pregnant.]

According to the days of the separation for her infirmity - i:e., as the original word signifies, the languor or sickness attendant on her menstruation. The mother of a boy was ceremonially unclean for a week; at the end of that period of seclusion the child was ordered to be circumcised (Genesis 17:12; Romans 4:11-13). The mother of a girl for two weeks. Some (Keil and Delitzsch, 'Commentary,' Clark's edition) ascribe this long period of separation at the birth of a female child to a physical cause connected with puerperal hemorrhage. We prefer to consider the mother's greater uncleanness in the birth of a girl as a symbolical remembrancer that -woman was the introducer of sin, and doomed to bear its heaviest punishment-a stigma on the gender (1 Timothy 2:14-15) for sin, which was removed by Christ. Everyone who came near her during that time contracted a similar defilement. After these periods visitors might approach her, though she was still excluded from the public ordinances of religion.

Verse 6-8. The days of her purifying. The act of child-bearing was the defilement. The hemorrhage that succeeded gradually removed this impurity. Though the occasion was of a festive character, yet the sacrifices appointed were not a peace offering, but a burnt offering, which implied a renewed surrender of herself to God, and a sin offering, in order to impress the mind of the parent with recollections of the origin of sin, and that her child inherited a fallen and sinful nature. The sin offering was to consist of a pigeon, the smallest of the bloody sacrifices, because it was presented not for the expiation of an actual transgression, but of sin as manifested in the bodily state of the woman. The offerings were to be presented the day after the period of her separation had ended - i:e., forty-first for a boy, eighty-first for a girl.

Shall bring ... unto the door of the tabernacle of the congregation. This law was adapted to the circumstances of the people, when, sojourning in the desert, they were in the immediate neighbourhood of the tabernacle, and a personal appearance on the part of the mother was required then, as in such a case it continued to be after the settlement in Canaan. Dr. Colenso asks sarcastically, Where were the pigeons obtained which were required to be brought as sin offerings for the birth of children and which he calculates 'would have amounted on an average to 264 daily, or 90,000 in a year? and assuming, as he does, that there were only three priests, each priest would have had to eat 88 every day in the holy place.'

Now, without entering on the inquiry, whether or not pigeons and turtle-doves could have been procured in the neighbourhood of Sinai (and from the extensive diffusion of such birds, and their frequenting mountainous regions in vast numbers, there is great reason to believe they would be found in the locality of the Hebrew camp [cf. Psalms 55:6-7, where it is evident, from his using the term bamidbaar (H4057), the Psalmist does not refer, as Colenso alleges, to the wilderness of Judah, but to the great desert of Arabia]), or without adverting to his attempt to get rid of the difficulty by rendering yownaah (H3123), pigeon, 'a bird of the wilderness,' it is a sufficient answer to this cavilling writer, that his objections are utterly groundless.

Nowhere is it said that the priests were required to eat the pigeons brought by the Hebrew women: and besides, the birds had not to be sought for, and brought unto the door of the tabernacle; because it is manifest that this was one of the cases (cf. Leviticus 2:14; Leviticus 23:39-44) in which the law, though enacted in the wilderness, was not enforced there. It is expressly said in this chapter that these sacrifices were not to be offered until after the circumcision of the child; but as it clearly appears (Joshua 5:5-7) that the rite of circumcision was not observed during the wanderings through the wilderness, there was no occasion for pigeons.

Verse 8. If she be not able ... bring two turtles, or two young pigeons - (see the note at Leviticus 5:7.) This was the offering made by Mary, the mother of Jesus; and it affords an incontestible proof of the poor and humble condition of the family (Luke 2:22-24).

Bibliographical Information
Jamieson, Robert, D.D.; Fausset, A. R.; Brown, David. "Commentary on Leviticus 12". "Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - Unabridged". https://studylight.org/commentaries/eng/jfu/leviticus-12.html. 1871-8.
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