Verse-by-Verse Bible Commentary

Leviticus 12:5

But if she bears a female child, then she shall be unclean for two weeks, as in her menstruation; and she shall remain in the blood of her purification for sixty-six days.
New American Standard Version

Bible Study Resources

Concordances:
Nave's Topical Bible - Defilement;   Sanitation;   The Topic Concordance - Uncleanness;  
Dictionaries:
Baker Evangelical Dictionary of Biblical Theology - Jesus Christ;   Woman;   Worship;   Easton Bible Dictionary - Birth;   Week;   Fausset Bible Dictionary - Number;   Unclean and Clean;   Holman Bible Dictionary - Birth;   Clean, Cleanness;   Leprosy;   Leviticus;   Purity-Purification;   Separation;   Woman;   Hastings' Dictionary of the Bible - Clean and Unclean;   Smith Bible Dictionary - Children;   Uncleanness;  
Encyclopedias:
Condensed Biblical Cyclopedia - Law of Moses, the;   International Standard Bible Encyclopedia - Bear;   Defile;   Joseph, Husband of Mary;   Law in the New Testament;   Leviticus;   Sanctuary;   Separation;   Uncleanness;   Kitto Biblical Cyclopedia - Birth;   The Jewish Encyclopedia - Jubilees, Book of;   Medicine;   Pharisees;   Week;  

Albert Barnes' Notes on the Whole Bible

Some have thought that this doubling of each of the two periods was intended to remind the people of the fact that woman represents the lower side of human nature, and was the first to fall into temptation. 1 Timothy 2:13-15; 1 Peter 3:7. The ancients had a notion that the mother suffers for a longer time after the birth of a girl than after the birth of a boy. The period required for the restoration of her health in the one case was thirty days, and in the other, it was 40 or 42 days. This notion may have been connected with a general custom of observing the distinction as early as the time of Moses.

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Barnes, Albert. "Commentary on Leviticus 12:5". "Barnes' Notes on the Whole Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/bnb/leviticus-12.html. 1870.

John Gill's Exposition of the Whole Bible

But if she bear a maid child,.... A daughter, whether born alive or dead, if she goes with it her full time:

then she shall be unclean two weeks; or fourteen days running; and on the fifteenth day be free or loosed, as the Targum of Jonathan, just as long again as for a man child:

as in her separation; on account of her monthly courses; the sense is, that she should be fourteen days, to all intents and purposes, as unclean as when these are upon her:

and she shall continue in the blood of her purifying sixty and six days; which being added to the fourteen make eighty days, just as many more as in the case of a male child; the reason of which, as given by some Jewish writers, is, because of the greater flow of humours, and the corruption of the blood through the birth of a female than of a male: but perhaps the truer reason may be, what a learned manF16Scheuchzer. Physic. Sacr. vol. 2. p. 314,315. suggests, that a male infant circumcised on the eighth day, by the profusion of its own blood, bears part of the purgation; wherefore the mother, for the birth of a female, must suffer twice the time of separation; the separation is finished within two weeks, but the purgation continues sixty six days; a male child satisfies the law together, and at once, by circumcision; but an adult female bears both the purgation and separation every month. According to HippocratesF17Apud Grotium in loc. , the purgation of a new mother, after the birth of a female, is forty two days, and after the birth of a male thirty days; so that it should seem there is something in nature which requires a longer time for purifying after the one than after the other, and which may in part be regarded by this law; but it chiefly depends upon the sovereign will of the lawgiver. The Jews do not now strictly observe this. BuxtorfF18Synagog. Jud. c. 5. p. 120. says, the custom prevails now with them, that whether a woman bears a male or a female, at the end of forty days she leaves her bed, and returns to her husband; but Leo of Modena relatesF19History of Rites, Customs, &c. of the Jews, par. 4. c. 5. sect. 3. , that if she bears a male child, her husband may not touch her for the space of seven weeks; and if a female, the space of three months; though he allows, in some places, they continue separated a less while, according as the custom of the place is.

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The New John Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible Modernised and adapted for the computer by Larry Pierce of Online Bible. All Rights Reserved, Larry Pierce, Winterbourne, Ontario.
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Bibliographical Information
Gill, John. "Commentary on Leviticus 12:5". "The New John Gill Exposition of the Entire Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/geb/leviticus-12.html. 1999.

Geneva Study Bible

But if she bear a maid child, then she shall be unclean two e weeks, as in her separation: and she shall continue in the blood of her purifying threescore and six days.

(e) Twice as long as if she gave birth to a boy.
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Beza, Theodore. "Commentary on Leviticus 12:5". "The 1599 Geneva Study Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/gsb/leviticus-12.html. 1599-1645.

Keil & Delitzsch Old Testament Commentary

But if she had given birth to a girl, she was to be unclean two weeks (14 days), as in her menstruation, and then after that to remain at home 66 days. The distinction between the seven (or fourteen) days of the “separation for her infirmity,” and the thirty-three (or sixty-six) days of the “blood of her purifying,” had a natural ground in the bodily secretions connected with child-birth, which are stronger and have more blood in them in the first week ( lochia rubra ) than the more watery discharge of the lochia alba, which may last as much as five weeks, so that the normal state may not be restored till about six weeks after the birth of the child. The prolongation of the period, in connection with the birth of a girl, was also founded upon the notion, which was very common in antiquity, that the bleeding and watery discharge continued longer after the birth of a girl than after that of a boy ( Hippocr. Opp. ed. Khn. i. p. 393; Aristot. h. an. 6, 22; 7, 3, cf. Burdach, Physiologie iii. p. 34). But the extension of the period to 40 and 80 days can only be accounted for from the significance of the numbers, which we meet with repeatedly, more especially the number forty (see at Exodus 24:18).

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The Keil & Delitzsch Old Testament Commentary is a derivative of a public domain electronic edition.
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Keil, Carl Friedrich & Delitzsch, Franz. "Commentary on Leviticus 12:5". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/kdo/leviticus-12.html. 1854-1889.

Hawker's Poor Man's Commentary

Whatever cause in the divine mind led to this double period of separation, the believer in the LORD may learn therefrom his happiness and privilege, that there is now no difference neither bond nor free, neither male nor female, for his people are all one in CHRIST JESUS. Galatians 3:28.

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Hawker, Robert, D.D. "Commentary on Leviticus 12:5". "Hawker's Poor Man's Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/pmc/leviticus-12.html. 1828.

Wesley's Explanatory Notes

But if she bear a maid child, then she shall be unclean two weeks, as in her separation: and she shall continue in the blood of her purifying threescore and six days.

Threescore and six days — The time in both particulars is double to the former, not so much from natural causes, as to put an honour upon the sacrament of circumcision, which being administered to the males, did put an end to that pollution sooner than otherwise had been.

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These files are public domain and are a derivative of an electronic edition that is available on the Christian Classics Ethereal Library Website.
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Wesley, John. "Commentary on Leviticus 12:5". "John Wesley's Explanatory Notes on the Whole Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/wen/leviticus-12.html. 1765.

John Trapp Complete Commentary

Leviticus 12:5 But if she bear a maid child, then she shall be unclean two weeks, as in her separation: and she shall continue in the blood of her purifying threescore and six days.

Ver. 5. But if she bear a maid child.] To intimate, it may be, the woman’s being first in the transgression. [1 Timothy 2:14]

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Trapp, John. "Commentary on Leviticus 12:5". John Trapp Complete Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/jtc/leviticus-12.html. 1865-1868.

Matthew Poole's English Annotations on the Holy Bible

The time in both particulars is double to the former, not so much from natural causes, because the purifications in female births are longer and slower, which if it were true, yet doth not extend to any such time as here is mentioned, as for moral reasons; either to be as a blot upon that sex for being the first in man’s transgression, 1 Timothy 2:14, or to put an honour upon the sacrament of circumcision, which being administered to the males, did put an end to that pollution sooner than otherwise had been; or to show the privilege of the man above the woman, and that the women were to be purified, sanctified, and saved by one of the other sex, even by the man Christ Jesus, without whom they should have still continued in their impurity.

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Poole, Matthew, "Commentary on Leviticus 12:5". Matthew Poole's English Annotations on the Holy Bible. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/mpc/leviticus-12.html. 1685.

Peter Pett's Commentary on the Bible

“But if she bear a maid-child, then she shall be unclean two weeks, as in her impurity; and she shall continue in the blood of her purifying threescore and six days.”

However, in the case of a female child she would first be severely unclean for two sevens. And then her purifying was to take twice as long. This last period does in fact reflect the fact that the discharges in the case of a female baby would invariably be longer than for a male, and may then indeed become confused with her first menstruation after childbirth.

A number of reasons have been suggested for why girls should require a longer period for being made clean than males.

1). Some have based it on the idea that women were supposedly subject to stronger attacks by evil spiritual forces (see Genesis 6:1-4), and therefore required longer purification. But there is little evidence for the idea in Scripture.

2). Others have looked at it on the basis that it reflects the woman’s role as the first to transgress in the garden of Eden, and therefore as being more blameworthy. The idea was that when the baby was identified as a girl it was a solemn reminder that once more there had been born into the world one of those who were responsible for the original sin. She represented the one who was deceived and who became the transgressor (1 Timothy 2:14). Thus double purification was required. But this is not supported by the fact that the Scripture elsewhere tends to firmly fix the blame on Adam (Romans 5:12 onwards). It is in Adam that men die, not Eve.

3). Others have seen it as a provision that took notice of the fact that baby girls might be less welcome than boys and might otherwise receive inferior care from dismissive husbands. She was therefore to be doubly pampered.

4). Others have seen it as indicating that circumcising the male baby on the eighth day would somehow reduce the attendant uncleanness. Although even if that were so it could not apply until circumcision actually began again, which reduces the force of the argument.

5). Others have suggested that the distinction reflects the lower social status of women in ancient Israel. There is probably some truth in this, but it is doubtful if this is the full explanation.

6). Others have suggested that it indicates that girls are destined to become a source of menstrual and maternal uncleanness in the future, and therefore required more intensive purification. Or that there was a tendency in women to lead men astray which had to be guarded against by longer purification. Furthermore uncleanness in birth and sexual activity would have been a strong riposte to cultic prostitution. It could not claim to be ‘holy’ when it rendered ‘unclean’.

7). Others have suggested that the natural longer puerperal discharges after the birth of a girl, as compared with those for a boy, and the periodic vaginal bleeding of baby girls themselves, (for the withdrawal of maternal hormones at birth causes roughly one in ten female babies to experience vaginal bleeding), demanded a longer period of uncleanness, especially if the combination of the mother’s vaginal bleeding and the daughter’s possible vaginal bleeding was seen as requiring double purification.

It is possible that we have to recognise that a combination of some of these is the most likely. Thoughts on this matter would have been extremely complicated and it may well have been seen in a number of ways. But everything points finally to the importance of purification from uncleanness.

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Pett, Peter. "Commentary on Leviticus 12:5". "Peter Pett's Commentary on the Bible ". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/pet/leviticus-12.html. 2013.

Whedon's Commentary on the Bible

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.

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Whedon, Daniel. "Commentary on Leviticus 12:5". "Whedon's Commentary on the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/whe/leviticus-12.html. 1874-1909.

Joseph Benson's Commentary of the Old and New Testaments

Leviticus 12:5. Threescore and six days — The time in both particulars is double to the former; the law, as some think, being adapted to a received opinion that women are sooner purified after the birth of males than of females; an opinion which, however questioned, Grotius shows to be supported by no less authority than that of Aristotle and Hippocrates. Others, however, suppose that this difference was made to put an honour on the ordinance of circumcision, which, being administered to the males, put an end to that pollution sooner than otherwise would have been the case.

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Benson, Joseph. "Commentary on Leviticus 12:5". Joseph Benson's Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/rbc/leviticus-12.html. 1857.

George Haydock's Catholic Bible Commentary

Days. In all 80, double the time required for a male child, as they infirmities of women continue so much longer when they bear a female. (Vales. sac. Philos. c. xviii.) Hippocrates allows forty-two days for the one, and thirty for the other. --- Purification. Some copies of the Septuagint read, in her pure, others, in her impure blood; which Origen attempts to reconcile by observing, that she is deemed less impure during the last thirty-three or sixty-six days, than in the preceding ones. (Calmet) --- During these, she was treated almost like those who were under the greatest legal uncleanness. (Chap. xv.; Numbers v.) Those who were under the less, might enter the court of the Gentiles, and did not infect others by their touch. (Josephus, contra Apion 2.) (Tirinus)

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Haydock, George Leo. "Commentary on Leviticus 12:5". "George Haydock's Catholic Bible Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/hcc/leviticus-12.html. 1859.

E.W. Bullinger's Companion Bible Notes

purifying = purification, i.e. pure blood as distinct from the other.

threescore and six days. Double that after a man child. See Leviticus 12:4 (14 + 66 = 80). This ordinance was not on account of any disparity between the sexes, but was in order to regulate them, so that the birth-rate of females might not be in too great excess, as it otherwise would have been, and is, where this ordinance is not known or observed.

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Bullinger, Ethelbert William. "Commentary on Leviticus 12:5". "E.W. Bullinger's Companion bible Notes". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/bul/leviticus-12.html. 1909-1922.

Ellicott's Commentary for English Readers

(5) But if she bear a maid child.—Better, but if she giveth birth to a female child. (See Leviticus 12:2.)

As in her separation.—Better, as in the time of her monthly courses. (See Leviticus 12:2.) In the case of a daughter the days of purification in both stages is exactly double that prescribed at the birth of a son. The reason for this difference is probably owing to the fact that the ancients believed that the physical derangement of the system is far greater at the birth of a girl than at the birth of a boy, and that it requires a longer time for the effects to pass away. Similar laws obtained among other nations of antiquity, and exist to this day among many Eastern tribes. The Greeks held that the man who had been near a woman in childbirth defiled the altar if he approached it. One of the means adopted during the Peloponnesian war for purifying the island of Delos was to proscribe women keeping their confinement on the island. The Hindoos go so far as to regard all the relations of a new-born child as impure; the father has to undergo lustrations, and the mother remains unclean till the tenth day, when the child receives its name. Among the Arabs the mother continues unclean for forty days.

In the blood of her purifying.—Better, in the blood of purification, that is, pure blood. (See Leviticus 12:4.) It will be seen that the law here only legislates for ordinary cases, and that it passes over in silence cases of twins. The administrators of the law during the second Temple had therefore, in this instance, as in many other points, to supplement the Mosaic legislation. They therefore enacted that when a mother had twins, and if they were a boy and a girl, the two stages of her uncleanness were those for a girl. If one of the twins was a boy and the other sexless, or bi-sexual, she continued unclean for both male and female. If, on the contrary, one was a female and the other of neither sex, or bi-sexual, her separation was only for a female.

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Ellicott, Charles John. "Commentary on Leviticus 12:5". "Ellicott's Commentary for English Readers". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/ebc/leviticus-12.html. 1905.

Treasury of Scripture Knowledge

But if she bear a maid child, then she shall be unclean two weeks, as in her separation: and she shall continue in the blood of her purifying threescore and six days.
2,4; Genesis 3:13; 1 Timothy 2:14,15
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Torrey, R. A. "Commentary on Leviticus 12:5". "The Treasury of Scripture Knowledge". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/tsk/leviticus-12.html.