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Bible Commentaries
Leviticus 12

Preacher's Complete Homiletical CommentaryPreacher's Homiletical

Verses 1-8



Leviticus 12:2.—If a woman hath conceived … she shall be unclean. Thus at the very entrance into life uncleanness clings to us. Not a child is born without defilement surrounding its birth. “Behold, I was shapen in iniquity, and in sin did my mother conceive me” (Psalms 51:5). “How can he be clean that is born of a woman?” (Job 25:4). How humbling is this Scripture presentation of our case. From the cradle to the grave man’s life is pronounced unclean. Surely it should arrest all self-elation and boasting. Pitiable indeed sounds the vain panegyric upon the dignity of human nature; melancholy is the haughty assumption of excellence and worthiness, in the light of this vision of man’s defilement from birth till death. He should rather “abhor himself, and repent in dust and ashes” (Job 42:6). Instead of the too common flattery of human nature, be this mirror of his humiliating impurity held up to the face of the self-satisfied sinner, that he may see the “hole of the pit whence he was digged” (Isaiah 51:1), and cry in penitential lowliness, “We are all as an unclean thing, and all our righteousnesses are as filthy rags” (Isaiah 64:6).

Leviticus 12:6.—She shall bring a lamb. Always, in God’s graciousness, the remedy rises for the malady. Defilement has its antidote in atonement. The two grand aspects of the sacrificial death of Christ stood out here in the “lamb for a burnt offering,” in which He offered Himself without spot to God; and in the “sin offering,” in which He substituted Himself as the victim for men. From the humbling spectacle of human helplessness and defilement here given what can be more assuring and consolatory than to gain a view, in type, of the perfect merits of Jesus—who in Himself concentrated the unsullied grace and dignity of humanity, and in His sacrifice effectually atoned for the guiltiness and degradation of our fallen race. “Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world.”

Leviticus 12:2; Leviticus 12:5.—If the woman have born a man child … If she bear a maid child. The mother’s defilement was ceremoniously less for the male child than for the female. Is not this a perpetuated memorial of the fact that sin entered the world through the woman, she being the first transgressor? Certainly this is the basis of Paul’s argument for her inferior position in the Christian Church (1 Timothy 2:11-14) Or, in this shorter banishment from sanctuary privileges when her child was a male, there may be found an intimation of the blessed privilege coveted by all Hebrew mothers, of giving birth to THE “MAN CHILD,” who was to be “born of a woman,” to redress the woes of the fall. Every suggestion of the coming Emmanuel was cherished as the soft radiance of that promised “MORNING STAR.” And so the heavier penalty fell on the birth of the female child, since woman was a remembrance of sin, whereas the ameliorated penalty was attached to the birth of a male, since the Man Child was the herald of the promised Saviour.

Leviticus 12:8.—If she be not able to bring a lamb. However poor the woman might be, there could be no exemption from the presentation of an atonement offering. Poverty must come, though with meek aspect, trusting in reconciling blood. And the “poor in spirit,” whose faith is tremulous, whose apprehension is feeble, must, nevertheless, lay hope on the merits of sacrifice. None can be allowed, through lowliness of station or poverty of soul, to evade the propitiatory atonement. All must place trust in Christ whatever our lot in life, whatever our spiritual mood. Yet how tender is God’s consideration! He will allow the turtle dove to suffice for the poor, and regard it as equally efficacious as the richer offerer’s lamb, so that the humblest Israelite should be harassed by no fear lest she forfeit privilege by her lowlier gift. God’s perfect grace comes to the very condition in which the “poor and needy” are to be found. And so, in this Christian dispensation, the lowest and the feeblest have the atoning blood brought within their reach, and through its merits may recover all the privileges from which “uncleanness” excludes them. “To the poor the gospel is preached.”



Scripture shows that God thinks much of mothers. Allusions to a mother’s sufferings, perils, relationship, affection, are very numerous. She passes through no experience which has not been noticed, described, and used by the Lord as a simile of spiritual truth. Motherhood, in all its aspects, is the reiterated theme of God’s Word. This must afford a wealth of consolation and support to a believing mother in her trials and solicitudes; her watchful Father has shown that He minutely considers all her various cares, her mysterious pangs, her heart struggles between dread and delight, her yearnings and her love.

The birth of a child is also an event which constantly engages inspiration. The Word makes frequent reference to the incident. A new life ushered into the world, is a fact which touches the heart of God. Another being launched upon the floods of possibility; another factor in the intricate sum of human existence, whose results must affect the ultimate reckoning; another soul added to the millions whose destiny is bliss or woe. There is no room for doubting that the divine Father is concerned for each human offspring. He notes the child’s entrance, gives directions concerning it, sends counsels for its career desires its salvation and sanctification, calls it to the immortal Home made ready by Christ. “It is not the will of your Father in heaven that one of these little ones should perish” (Matthew 18:14).

I. How observant is Scripture of the HUMILIATIONS incident to MOTHERHOOD.

This chapter is a witness.

1. Scripture has sanctioned and sanctified wifely relationship (Psalms 113:9).

2. Scripture recognises every stage of physical suffering which motherhood entails (Jeremiah 4:31).

3. Scripture forewarns of the tender sorrows and distresses incident to maternity (John 16:21; Isaiah 26:17).

4. Scripture contains special messages of compassion and hope for mothers in their period of solicitude (Isaiah 40:11).

II. How emphatically does Scripture pay tribute to the HONOURS of MOTHERHOOD.

In making a mother the symbol of the Church of God (Galatians 4:6; Ephesians 5:32).

In comparing Jehovah’s consolatory ministries to those of a mother (Isaiah 66:13).

In using motherhood as the channel of Christ’s advent (Luke 1:35).

In the tender consideration for His mother manifested by Jesus (Luke 2:52; John 19:26-27).

In the command given to children to pay their mothers reverence (Matthew 15:4, etc.). [See Addenda to chap. xii., Maternity.]

III. How watchfully does Scripture guard the HAPPINESS which should be the crown of MOTHERHOOD.

1. Conjugal loyalty is scrupulously demanded (Malachi 2:15-16; Ephesians 5:25; Ephesians 5:28).

2. A mother’s place in the family is carefully indicated (Ephesians 6:1-2).

3. The grace which flows through mothers to their children is recognised with emphatic approval (2 Timothy 1:5).

4. The blessedness of a mother’s privilege is indicated in Christ’s welcome of the mothers who brought their children to Him (Luke 18:15-17).

“And say to mothers, What a holy charge
Is theirs; with what a kingly power their love
Might rule the fountains of the new-born mind;
Warn them to wake at early dawn, and sow
Good seed before the world has sown its tares.”—Mrs. Sigourney.

Though her child is “born in sin,” and she is humiliated by her own “uncleanness,” yet can a mother retrieve her humiliation by uplifting her child in prayer to God, by training her offspring in the faith of Christ, and at last, with her children saved in the Lord, appearing in the glory of the Eternal Presence with the glad cry, “Behold me, and the children which thou hast given me!” [See Addenda, Childhood.]

Topic: BIRTH

I. In its pangs there survives the MEMORIES OF THE WOEFUL FALL.

Our ancestress Eve sinned, therefore, “unto the woman God said, I will greatly multiply thy sorrow and thy conception; in sorrow thou shalt bring forth children” (Genesis 3:16).


Physical impurity, amid which a babe is ushered into the world, is but a sign of that corruption, moral and spiritual, which parents pass on to their offspring: “Altogether born in sin” (John 9:34).

III. In its transports there reappears the JOYOUSNESS OF THE MESSIAH’S INCARNATION.

Sang the angels, “Unto you is born a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord” (Luke 2:11). A woman, “as soon as she is delivered of the child, remembereth no more the anguish for joy that a man-child is born into the world” (John 16:21).


The birth of a child should be an event of gratitude and delight. It is never wholly so; for a shadow falls on every new-born life.
(a) It is “born in sin,” and, therefore may perish in sin!

(b) It is born amid travail, and may—dread possibility that!—occasion death through the anguish of birth.

(c) It is an event marked by God as qualified with “uncleanness.” For He sees in every birth, since Eve’s fall, the perpetuation of sin, the propagation of a sinning race.


God has here written the word pollution upon the very entrance of a babe into existence.

1. It brands the mother as “unclean,” and excludes her from social fellowship and sanctuary privileges. We are not now judged by this ceremonial standard; but a principle underlies this banishment of the mother. It declares that there is taint in the blood. There has never been a sinless mother on this earth. Certainly not Eve; nor even the Virgin Mary—for she had equally to observe “the days of her purification” (Luke 2:22). Womanhood is defiled; therefore maternity is not pure.

2. It brands the child as defiled. The tender babe holds in its physical form the germs of foul disease, of corrupt affections and passions. “Who can bring a clean thing out of an unclean?” From a poisoned fountain there can flow only vitiated streams. Leave that babe to follow its inbred desires and it will degenerate into evil. Goodness is never self-evolved, but only badness. “They go astray as soon as they be born” (Psalms 58:2).


Here upon the mother only, because the ceremonial directions deal with the mother. But the demand is equally enforced upon all; each sex, every life. The male child was unclean till “circumcised” (Leviticus 12:3).

1. Until cleansing is effected there is banishment: the door is closed upon social life, for she must be separate: and closed upon sacred scenes, for she must “not come into the sanctuary.” Defilement excludes us from all that is happiest, purest, best.

2. Until cleansing is effected there is degradation: the woman forfeited her place of dignity in her own home and in God’s temple. Impurity is a degradation. We sink thereby from our honoured place in creation; we grovel instead of triumph; we are bowed into shame before God instead of joying in His favour; and we are refused the blessedness which is the right of sinless man, of treading God’s courts with acceptance, and abiding in the delights of holy privilege.


1. Womanhood sanctified (Leviticus 12:7). In the Christian dispensation there is a richer purifying than the ceremonial; it “cleanses from all sin.” Look in upon the Bethany home—“Mary sat at Jesus’ feet.” See the apostles’ list of consecrated women in the Christian church at Rome (Romans 16:0). Lift your eyes to the pure souls, “an hundred and forty and four thousand” with the Lamb on Mount Sion: virgin saints, all undefiled (Revelation 14:1; Revelation 14:4).

2. Childhood consecrated (Leviticus 12:3), thereby enrolled as a member of the Israel of God: and now placed in the hands of Jesus who, blessing the children, declares, “of such is the kingdom of heaven.”

There is merit in Christ’s “atonement” which purges all sin’s stains. There is grace in His heart by which all may be rejoiced. There is beauty in His righteousness with which all may be clothed in sacred comeliness.


This chapter records the rites to be observed by Hebrew women in connection with their new experiences of maternity. The period of ceremonial restrictions would differ according to the sex of the child; but, in both cases, the mother would be permitted to present her offering before the Lord, and, eventually, be restored to her former status among the people. The statute suggests the following reflections:


Through the Fall the sorrows of conception were greatly multiplied, and the pangs of childbirth became intensified. The whole period of conception, with many, is a burden; and the time of travail one of most excruciating pain. Though the mother experiences one of nature’s keenest joys when she knows that to her a child is born, yet there are accompanying sorrows which only the feelings of maternity can know, as no stranger can intermendle with the joy.


Although the procreation of children is normal and of divine ordination, yet, where there is virtuous womanly modesty, there is always a sense of shyness and reserve during period of preparation for advent of the little stranger, especially at the season of delivery. The instincts of nature suggest withdrawal from public observation and general familiar intercourse even with friends. Hence, even among heathen nations, special rites and customs have always been associated with the experiences under consideration. Such restraints and reserve do not degrade the gentler sex in the sight of God or the eyes of rightminded men; woman rather rises thereby in honour and esteem.


Maternity, under honourable conditions, is no sin: yet, by it, depravity is communicated; as the Psalmist expresses the fact, “Behold I was shapen in iniquity, and in sin did my mother conceive me.” There is a hereditary tendency in human nature to sin; so that giving birth to a child is the propagation of sinfulness, and an extension of the consequences of transgression, entailing moral, as well as ceremonial defilement. The rite of purification, under these circumstances, is both symbol and type of purification of the children of men by atonement of our great High Priest on Calvary. Responsibilities, commensurate with the honour of maternity, suggested by the statute. Imperative, that children born in sin, with inherent depraved propensities, should be taught the law of the Lord, and trained in holiness and righteousness all their days.


Though for a while the mother was kept secluded from society, the restrictions were only of a temporary character. She was soon seen presenting her appointed offerings before the Lord at the door of the tabernacle of the congregation. The burnt offering was the basis of all other offerings; and signified, not only the sovereign claim of Jehovah upon all we have and are; but, also the disposition of the worshipper to become a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable unto God. Behold the goodness of God in promising to accept “two turtles, or two young pigeons” if the offerer were not able to present a lamb; one for the burnt offering, the other for the sin offering. The intention and frame of mind were of more importance than the offering itself, as the Scriptures elsewhere declare, “Behold! to obey is better than sacrifice, and to hearken than the fat of rams.” This rite—being for the Jews, and associated with the Levitical economy—is abrogated now; a more minute examination, therefore, would not minister to edification—is not necessary. Some moral teachings have been indicated, and they may, when convenient, be reiterated in public as part of the didactic function of preaching; for principles, gathered from divine laws, have undying roots, and inexhaustible meanings. This, as well as other rights, was observed down to the advent of our blessed Lord; for Mary, the mother of Jesus, offered in the Temple the least offering allowed at thanksgiving and sacrifice after child-birth; an irrefutable proof of the abject poverty of her worldly circumstances. On national, as well as on religious grounds, no objection can be offered under the gospel to women, having been delivered in the time of maternal solicitude and sorrow, publicly paying their vows in the courts of the Lord, and with grateful hearts re-dedicating themselves to the service of the Most High. If womankind reflect with sorrow upon the fact that it was through Eve’s seduction that Adam fell and sin entered our world, they may reflect with joy upon the fact that it was through their own sex that the second Adam came, who has reversed the curse of sin and redeemed the human race. If in connection with the first man shame seems to cover womanhood, the second man, the Lord from heaven, placed a wreath of undying glory on her brow, as we see lying in the arms of Mary at Bethlehem, “the holy child Jesus.” Paul asserts, in his first Epistle to Timothy (Leviticus 5:15), that women shall be saved through the child-bearing; salvation has come through its ordinance, and if women abide in faith, love, sanctification, and holy self-control, they shall be cleansed from all moral impurity, shall be not only sanctified, but saved, through the Child born, the Son given.—F. W. B.



“There is no mother like the mother that bore us.”—Spanish Proverb.

“A mother is a mother still,
The holiest thing alive.”—COLERIDGE.

“… A mother’s love

Is an undying feeling. Earth may chill

And sever other sympathies, and prove

How weak all human bonds are; it may kill
Friendship, and crush hearts with them; but the thrill

Of the maternal breast must ever move

In blest communion with her child, and fill

Even heaven itself with prayers and hymns of love.—PATTERSON.

Monica, Augustine’s mother. Never did mother struggle more earnestly than she. From her son’s nineteenth to his twenty-eighth year, while he was revelling in all sin’s foulness, she persisted in resolute hope and fervent prayer. In his twenty-ninth year she was still “instant in prayer,” when he left her and journeyed to Rome. From Rome he went to Milan, and thither the praying mother followed him. And there the answer to her prayer and reward of her Christian influence came. In Ambrose’s preaching contrition came to Augustine, and that event made Monica’s happiness complete.


“Children are what their mothers are.
No fondest father’s fondest care
Can fashion so the infant’s heart
As those creative beams that dart,
With all their hopes and fears, upon
The cradle of a sleeping son.”—LANDER.

“The mother’s heart is the child’s schoolroom.”—BEECHER.

Cecil, who had adopted infidel sentiment in his youth, and prided himself upon his strong arguments against religion, said, long afterwards: “There was one argument I could never get over, the influence and life of a holy mother.”

Bibliographical Information
Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on Leviticus 12". Preacher's Complete Homiletical Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/phc/leviticus-12.html. Funk & Wagnalls Company, 1892.
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