Leviticus 12


‘The LORD said to Moses, ‘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. On the eighth day the boy is to be circumcised. 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. 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.’ Leviticus 12:1-5

Purification Of Women After Childbirth

As we read through this short chapter, it would be a mistake to think that God is saying that giving birth is somehow unclean. After all, it was God who told mankind to get together to fill the earth, Genesis 1:28.

In Bible times giving birth to children was seen as a rich blessing from God, Genesis 33:5, children were seen as a gift from God in the marriage relationship, Psalm 127-128. If a woman didn’t have any children, it was widely accepted amongst the Jews that they were under some kind of curse.

This chapter along with Leviticus 15, shows us that God has the health of the mother and the child in mind, He wanted to ensure that mother and baby were well and the mother had time to recover from giving birth.

Circumcision was a sign of the covenant between God and His people, which God originally made with Abraham when He commanded him to circumcise his offspring, Genesis 17 / Exodus 4:25. The ceremony of circumcision was to be a sign of the covenant and so, everyone who was circumcised actually shared in this covenant.

Notice that God knew things back then that scientists today have not long discovered. God commands that those boys who were eight days old were to be circumcised, why eight days? Because this was the earliest safe day to be circumcised because the blood was full of vitamin K, which helps with blood clotting.

When we move into the New Testament, we see the real value in circumcision, Galatians 5:6 tells us that it had no benefit, it’s faith that counts. Colossians 2:11-12 tells us that baptism is a sign of the new covenant and if someone refuses to be baptised, they’re effectively refusing the new covenant.

Coffman suggests the time periods mentioned in this chapter are significant. He says, to each of the numbers thirty-three days, Leviticus 12:4, and sixty-six 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 and 80. When a male child was circumcised on the ‘eighth day,’ Leviticus 12:3, that day was reckoned with the 33.

He points out that the highly symbolical meaning of the number ‘forty’ is frequently apparent in the Bible. There were forty-day fasts by Elijah, 1 Kings 19:5-7, Moses, Exodus 34:28, and Christ, Matthew 4:2. There were forty years of punishment for Israel in the wilderness, Numbers 32:13. It rained for ‘forty’ days and nights during the flood, Genesis 7:12.

‘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. 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. But 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.’ Leviticus 12:6-8

When the days of purification were over, the mother was instructed to give in accordance with what they could afford. The wealthy could offer a lamb for a burnt offering, which was an expression of thankfulness and a young pigeon or a dove for a sin offering, possibly because during the birth process, in the hours of labour and agony, she may have used inappropriate words, Genesis 3:16, or more probably because during the birth process she became contaminated with blood, Leviticus 15:19-30, the poorer mother could offer two doves or two pigeons.

When we carefully read these verses, we notice that these purification requirements were carried out by Jesus’ mother, Mary. In fact, when we read Luke 2:22-24, we find the exact same words recorded. This implies that these words recorded here are prophetic in nature, looking forward to the birth of Christ, Luke 2:30.

These laws of clean and unclean are given by God not only to promote obedience but to promote healthy living for His people. It’s possible that the Israelites didn’t understand all the health benefits like we do understand today, but that’s not the point, the point is that God knew the health benefits.

Go To Leviticus 13


"Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience."