Chapter 12 – The Ritual After Childbirth
Leviticus 12- the big points
1) Seclusion didn’t mean punishment. This was a time for mother and baby to bond. A time free of chores to heal and recover: Wilderness Maternity Leave.
2) Even a newborn baby needed to be covered under the blood. This shows the long-reaching effect of sin.
3) Babies are a gift from God.
4) The poor were allowed to take a lesser offering and still receive forgiveness and grace. Two turtledoves or two pigeons are all it took. We realize that Jesus’ parents were poor because of what they were able to offer.
This chapter is all about a woman who has given birth. She will be “unclean” 7 days for a male child but must remain in “the blood of her purification” another 33 days. For a female child, she is “unclean” 14 days and remains “in the blood of her purification” 66 days.
So for 40 days after the birth of a male and 80 days after the birth of a baby girl a woman was considered unclean and had to be separated from all she held dear (except maybe the child).
As a former feminist, I couldn’t understand this chapter. The first few times I read this (before I accepted Jesus as Lord of my heart), I was upset!
I thought God hated women and couldn’t understand why a woman would be treated so poorly. She wouldn’t be able to eat with her family or prepare their meals. She couldn’t even go to the sanctuary. How cool was that?
This time though when I read it, all I saw was grace. Having children is traumatic y’all. I remember when I had my son, all I wanted to do for the first few days was sleep.
I fed him because – well he needed to be fed. I did all the other things – diaper changes and whatnot at the pace of sloooow.
It hurt to walk. It hurt to sit. It hurt to cough, laugh or sneeze. Now I’m not trying to scare you non-mothers out there – just stay with me here. I’m going somewhere.
During those first few weeks, I was grateful to have a strong support system – someone to prepare my meals (and sometimes bring them to me).
I was glad I had someone to help wash baby clothes and take care of the baby, who would remind me to sit over a tub of hot salty water (but that’s a story for another day). And we live in the technological age!
Now follow me back to the wilderness. It was really hot during the days and really cold at night. Preparing dinner did not mean putting a dish in the microwave and pressing a few buttons.
It didn’t even mean turning on a stove to prepare store-bought rice or flour. If the Israelites woman wanted flour she had to make it herself.
This meant kneeling on the ground (which would have been the dirt floor beneath the tent) and kneading the barley or the wheat until it became flour. Then she had to kindle the fire which was most likely stones and sticks…
How she made a fire – I do not know. But I strongly suspect that she may have used some type of flint and generated friction to create a spark I know she did not have matches or a lighter. I get tired just thinking about it.
Graphic designed by Marco C.
Washing clothing would not be in a machine. It would be a hand wash – done with her hands! I don’t even want to think about the amount of work involved in that… but, imagine doing that after an epidural-free, completely natural childbirth. Ouch!
According to WebMD: “bleeding and vaginal discharge (lochia) may last for 2 to 4 weeks and can come and go for about 2 months”. Are you seeing the grace now? The separation time after labor was for the benefit of both the mother and the child.
The mother got time to rest, heal and bond with her child. The child got the undivided attention of his mother and a chance to grow up a bit before being exposed to a whole tribe of strangers.
During this time his immune system would be strengthened so he would be less prone to contract illness from those around him. I’m definitely seeing the grace now…how about you?
Abba Father, thank You for caring enough about humanity that You have Your hand in every aspect of our lives. In Jesus’ name. Amen.