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Bible Commentaries

Whedon's Commentary on the Bible
Leviticus 12



Verse 1-2

2. She shall be unclean — It is a mystery that marriage, a sacrament of love, prefiguring the oneness of Christ and the Church, should attain its divinely appointed end only by entailing ceremonial impurity. But nothing more impressively teaches the depravity of the human race than the early announcement that both conception (Leviticus 15:16-18) and birth are inevitably attended by pollutions which imperatively demand purgation before the person of the parent can be acceptable to the holy Jehovah. This suggests the strong assertion of David respecting the moral corruption of his nature while in embryo, Psalms 51:5. When Richard Watson was asked for the strongest proof text of inherited depravity, or original sin, he quoted John 3:6.

Seven days — This number of days makes the period of uncleanness the same length with the menstrual days of the separation. See Leviticus 15:19.

Verse 3

3. Foreskin… circumcised — The sign of the covenant (Genesis 17:11) in the excision of a portion of the genitals, expresses with painful emphasis the fact that impurity presides over the very fountain of humanity and taints all its issues. Circumcision implies depravity and symbolizes spiritual regeneration, (Deuteronomy 30:6; Jeremiah 4:4,) as does water-baptism, which takes its place in the new covenant. Colossians 2:11-12. While all are born sinful, none are born guilty, because our race is propagated under the dispensation of mercy extending from the first gospel promise (Genesis 3:15) to the day of judgment. As every Hebrew male child inherited a right to the sign of the first covenant, so, now that the middle wall is broken down (Ephesians 2:14, note) and the disabilities of sex are abolished, (Galatians 3:28, note,) every infant has a right to the seal of the new covenant, through which he is saved until he wilfully rejects it. Under both covenants God designed that grace should flow down the ages in the family relation.

Verse 4

4. Thirty-three days — At the end of seven days she ceased to be unclean, in the sense of ceremonially defiling by her contact, but she is for more than a month longer forbidden to touch any hallowed thing and to come into the sanctuary — court of tabernacle or temple. She was competent to perform secular but not religious duties. Obstetrical science suggests that the seclusion of seven days relates to the lochia rubra, the red discharge, and that of thirty-three days to the lochia alba, the white issue. Mosaism makes no discrimination against the sex in respect to public worship. The Hindoos, Parsees, and Arabs require the mother to be secluded forty days, and then to be purified by bathing. The ancient Greeks had a similar usage. They suffered neither childbirth nor death to pollute consecrated places.

Verse 5

5. Maid child… threescore and six days — It has not pleased God to disclose the ground of this different legislation for the sexes by doubling the period of purification after the birth of a female child. The sexes are equally honoured in the decalogue. Though woman was first in transgression, sin is not thereby more deeply ingrained in her nature, for St. Paul implies that Eve’s sin was less heinous than Adam’s, inasmuch as she was deceived, while he transgressed with his eyes wide open to the character and consequences of his act. 1 Timothy 2:14. We are not satisfied with Keil’s theory, that the ancients supposed that the impure discharges continued longer after the birth of a girl. Since this is an attested physiological fact, the all-wise God did not inflict a needless disability of forty additional days. It may also have been that both mother and daughter required double time for purification as all equivalent to the circumcision of the male child.

Verse 6

6. Burnt offering — Although the self-dedicatory offering is mentioned first, the real order is after the sin offering, see Introduction, (5.) We are not to suppose that a sense of guilt was in the mind of the offerer, but only the fact of ceremonial impurity, which required purgation before the woman could be an accepted worshipper. Hence the smallest of the sin offerings was required. Yet this requirement of both mother and child teaches the doctrine of original, or birth sin. On the fortieth day after his birth Jesus, in his sinless humanity, was presented at the earthly temple; on the fortieth day after his resurrection he was presented in his glorified body in the heavenly sanctuary.

Verse 7

7. Atonement… cleansed — Expiation for the soul and cleansing for the body are accomplished by the same act. Hebrews 10:22. Jehovah requires physical as well as spiritual sanctification. 2 Corinthians 7:1.

Verse 8

8. If she be not able — The law of God adjusts itself to our natural and gracious ability. Nevertheless, where grace has been slighted and withdrawn, the demand of the law continues after ability had ceased. The mother of our Lord in her poverty availed herself of this concession to the poor. Luke 2:22-24.

Turtles or pigeons — For the supply of these in the wilderness and in Palestine, see Introduction, (4.)


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Bibliography Information
Whedon, Daniel. "Commentary on Leviticus 12:4". "Whedon's Commentary on the Bible". 1874-1909.

Lectionary Calendar
Saturday, November 28th, 2020
the Week of Christ the King / Proper 29 / Ordinary 34
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