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Purification of Women after Childbirth


The L ord spoke to Moses, saying: 2Speak to the people of Israel, saying:

If a woman conceives and bears a male child, she shall be ceremonially unclean seven days; as at the time of her menstruation, she shall be unclean. 3On the eighth day the flesh of his foreskin shall be circumcised. 4Her time of blood purification shall be thirty-three days; she shall not touch any holy thing, or come into the sanctuary, until the days of her purification are completed. 5If she bears a female child, she shall be unclean two weeks, as in her menstruation; her time of blood purification shall be sixty-six days.

6 When the days of her purification are completed, whether for a son or for a daughter, she shall bring to the priest at the entrance of the tent of meeting a lamb in its first year for a burnt offering, and a pigeon or a turtledove for a sin offering. 7He shall offer it before the L ord, and make atonement on her behalf; then she shall be clean from her flow of blood. This is the law for her who bears a child, male or female. 8If she cannot afford a sheep, she shall take two turtledoves or two pigeons, one for a burnt offering and the other for a sin offering; and the priest shall make atonement on her behalf, and she shall be clean.

4. And she shall then continue. The uncleanness of seven days in the case of a male, and fourteen days for a female, has reference to the hemorrhage, as we shall also see elsewhere of the menstrual discharge. For the remainder of the time she is forbidden to take part in religious services, and to approach the sanctuary, (by which word the court is here meant,) and thus is accounted unholy, not only that she should herself lament her condition, but that her husband also, admonished by the sight, should learn to abhor and detest original sin. For this was a serious exhortation to repentance, when they acknowledged that they were contaminated in their offspring, wherein otherwise God’s blessing manifests itself. The question now arises, why the time of purification is double for a female child? Some ascribe this to a natural cause, viz., because the hemorrhage is then of longer continuance; and in truth it was a part of chastity and continence, that husbands should not then come near their wives. But inasmuch as the object of this ceremony was different, viz., as an indication of the curse on the whole human race, we must look more attentively in this direction. I know not whether the view is sound which some take, that the mother is more defiled by female offspring, because there is more disposition to vice in this sex. Perhaps, it is more probable, as some think, that it was because the woman was the beginning of the rebellion, when, being deceived by the serpent, she destroyed her husband with her, and drew her posterity into the same ruin. But it seems more correct to me that the punishment in regard to males was lightened and diminished by circumcision. For although in that symbol God consecrated both sexes, yet He honored males with special favor, by engraving His covenant on their flesh.

Wherefore, also, He expressly mentions their circumcision, whereby a dignity was imparted to them, which rendered them superior to females. At the end of the chapter; regard is had to the poor, lest, being burdened by too great an expense, they might be rendered less ready to obey the Law: whence we gather that God has no care for outward pomp and wealth, since the humble sacrifice of the poor, according to the measure of their poverty, is no less grateful to Him than the more valuable one of the rich.

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