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Bible Commentaries
Leviticus 12

Peake's Commentary on the BiblePeake's Commentary

Verses 1-8

Leviticus 12. Uncleanness after Childbirth and Circumcision.— The period of uncleanness lasts twice as long after the birth of a girl (see on Leviticus 11). After the first week, when the uncleanness may be said to be milder, the child, if a boy, must be circumcised. At the end of the period of “ her purifying,” for a child of either sex, sacrifices are to be offered, a combination of burnt and sin offering, to “ make atonement for her” ; a lamb, and a pigeon or a dove, except in case of poverty, when two pigeons or doves may be substituted.

These provisions go back as far as those of Leviticus 9. Birth, like menstruation, is naturally regarded as uncanny, and sometimes as demon-caused. Hence, the woman must be set apart. The results are doubtless hygienic, though the emotional effect must often have been dangerous in early times; the code, which keeps up the restriction, says nothing about the original reason. Parallels for the period of forty days, and for a longer period for girls than for boys, are quoted from Greece, Egypt, Russia, etc. On circumcision, see pp. 99f., also Genesis 17*, Genesis 21:4; Genesis 34:15, Exodus 12:44, Joshua 5:2 ff*. In the codes, its existence is assumed, not definitely commanded; nor is a priest necessary ( cf. the history of Baptism)— sufficient proof of the antiquity of the custom. The fullest commentary is Luke 2:21-23, which also shows that the Jewish usage interpreted Leviticus 12:6 of the first period of uncleanness only. The language of Lev. implies the reverse. Among modern Jews the rite is generally performed by a member of a recognised society of Mohelim or circumcisers. Eerdmans asks whether a woman could in all cases be expected to journey all the way to Jerusalem at such a time, and suggests that the section properly refers to an earlier law of a local shrine at Jerusalem; it must be noticed, however, that circumcision does not take place at the Temple, that the mother need not be present at the rite, that the sacrifice need not immediately follow the end of the period of “ uncleanness,” and that for the inhabitants of Judah, for whom P was primarily intended, the journey would never be greater than traversing an average-sized English county.

Bibliographical Information
Peake, Arthur. "Commentary on Leviticus 12". "Peake's Commentary on the Bible ". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/pfc/leviticus-12.html. 1919.
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