Leviticus 12


Ordinances concerning the purification of women after

child-birth, 1;

after the birth of a son, who is to be circumcised the eighth

day, 2, 3.

The mother to be considered unclean for forty days, 4.

After the birth of a daughter, fourscore days, 5.

When the days of her purifying were ended, she was to bring a

lamb for a burnt-offering, and a young pigeon or a turtle-dove

for a sin-offering, 6, 7.

If poor, and not able to bring a lamb, she was to bring either

two turtle-doves or two young pigeons, 8.


Verse 2. If a woman have conceived] In the extent mentioned

here the ordinances of this chapter have little relation to us:

and to inquire into their physical reasons, as far as they

related to the Jews, could afford but little edification; and to

make such a subject sufficiently plain would require such minute

examination and circumstantial detail as could scarcely be

proper for several readers. All that is necessary to be said

the reader will find on Le 12:4.

Verse 3. And in the eighth day] Before this time the child

could scarcely be considered as having strength sufficient to

bear the operation; after this time it was not necessary to

delay it, as the child was not considered to be in covenant with

God, and consequently not under the especial protection of the

Divine providence and grace, till this rite had been performed.

On circumcision See Clarke on Ge 17:10.

Circumcision was to every man a constant, evident sign of the

covenant into which he had entered with God, and of the moral

obligations under which he was thereby laid. It was also a

means of purity, and was especially necessary among a people

naturally incontinent, and in a climate not peculiarly favourable

to chastity. This is a light in which this subject should ever

be viewed, and in which we see the reasonableness, propriety,

expediency, and moral tendency of the ceremony.

Verse 4. The blood of her purifying] A few words will make

this subject sufficiently plain. 1. God designs that the human

female should bring forth children. 2. That children should

derive, under his providence, their being, all their solids and

all their fluids, in a word, the whole mass of their bodies,

from the substance of the mother. 3. For this purpose he has

given to the body of the female an extra quantity of blood and

nutritious juices. 4. Before pregnancy this superabundance is

evacuated at periodical times. 5. In pregnancy, that which was

formerly evacuated is retained for the formation and growth of

the fetus, or the general strengthening of the system during the

time of pregnancy. 6. After the birth of the child, for seven

or fourteen days, more or less according to certain

circumstances, that superabundance, no longer necessary for the

growth of the child as before, continues to be evacuated: this

was called the time of the female's purification among the Jews.

7. When the lacerated vessels are rejoined, this superfluity of

blood is returned into the general circulation, and, by a wise

law of the Creator, becomes principally useful to the breasts,

and helps in the production of milk for the nourishment of the

new-born infant. 8. And thus it continues till the weaning of

the child, or renewed pregnancy takes place. Here is a series

of mercies and wise providential regulations which cannot be

known without being admired, and which should be known that the

great Creator and Preserver may have that praise from his

creatures which his wonderful working demands.

The term purifying here does not imply that there is any thing

impure in the blood at this or the other times referred to

above; on the contrary, the blood is pure, perfectly so, as to

its quality, but is excessive in quantity for the reasons above

assigned. The idle tales found in certain works relative to the

infectious nature of this fluid, and of the female in such times

are as impious as they are irrational and absurd.

Verse 6. When the days of her purifying] It is not easy to

account for the difference in the times of purification, after

the birth of a male and female child. After the birth of a boy

the mother was considered unclean for forty days; after the

birth of a girl, four-score days. There is probably no physical

reason for this difference, and it is difficult to assign a

political one. Some of the ancient physicians assert that a

woman is in the order of nature much longer in completely

recovering after the birth of a female than after the birth of a

male child. This assertion is not justified either by

observation or matter of fact. Others think that the difference

in the time of purification after the birth of a male and female

is intended to mark the inferiority of the female sex. This is

a miserable reason, and pitifully supported.

She shall bring-a burnt-offering, and-a sin-offering] It is

likely that all these ordinances were intended to show man's

natural impurity and original defilement by sin, and the

necessity of an atonement to cleanse the soul from


Verse 8. And if she be not able to bring a lamb, then she

shall bring two turtles, or two young pigeons] As the Virgin

Mary brought only the latter, hence it is evident that she was

not able, i. e., she was not rich enough to provide the former;

for such a holy woman would not have brought the less offering

had she been capable of bringing the greater. How astonishing

is this! The only heir to the throne of David was not able to

bring a lamb to offer in sacrifice to God! How abominable must

SIN be when it required him who was in the form of God thus to

empty and to humble himself, yea, even to the death of the

cross, in order to make an atonement for it, and to purify the

soul from all defilement!

The priest shall make an atonement for her] Every act of man

is sinful, but such as proceed from the influence of the grace

and mercy of God. Her sorrow in conception, and her pain in

bringing forth children, reminded the woman of her original

offence; an offence which deserved death, an offence which she

could not expiate, and for which a sacrifice must be offered:

and in reference to better things the life of an animal must be

offered as a ransom for her life. And being saved in childbed,

though she deserved to die, she is required, as soon as the days

of her separation were ended, to bring a sacrifice according to

her ability to the priest, that he might offer it to God as an

atonement for her. Thus, wherever God keeps up the remembrance

of sin, he keeps up also the memorial of sacrifice, to show that

the state of a sinner, howsoever deplorable, is not hopeless,

for that he himself has found out a ransom. Every where, in the

law and in the Gospel, in every ordinance and in every

ceremony, we may see both the justice and the mercy of God.

Hence, while we have the knowledge of our sin we have also the

knowledge of our cure.

Reader, whilst thou art confessing thy own misery do not

forget the Lord's mercy; and remember, be saves to the uttermost

all that come through Christ unto him.

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