The Need For Atonement — Pulling Apart Leviticus 12

Does uncleanness automatically equal sinful?
If childbirth is not sinful in and of itself, cialis sale but it is the blood that renders the woman unclean, stuff much like semen renders a man unclean, is the bleeding actually sinful?
Why would a biological process that there is no way to control be a means of sin?
If there is a difference between uncleanness and sin, why then does Leviticus 12 require an atoning sacrifice?

The inherent mystery of childbirth points to an event in which the woman enters into a space that functions between life and death. In bringing life into the world, there is the danger of death, not only for herself, but also for the child. The woman, in giving birth, participates in a process of redemption, and thus the need for atonement is not so much to cover over sin, as it is “an occasion for establishing in the heart of the mother herself and her community, a more accurate assessment of that process’ character.” (see Ephraim Radner, Leviticus, Brazos Theological Commentary, pg 128).

While Kiuchi argues that childbirth brings a woman under God’s wrath, he does also see the time of uncleanness and the corresponding atonement as a time of reflection on the general condition of humanity. Childbirth is, then, “…actually appointed by the Lord as one to remind the mother of her spiritual condition…Thus the prescription reaffirms the reality of the Fall and its ongoing nature, which tends rarely to be considered by humanity.” (see Nobuyoshi Kiuchi, Leviticus, Apollos OT Commentary, 219).

On the other hand, perhaps a distinction should be made between sin and impurity. The requirement for a sin offering does not automatically mean that a sin has been committed. As Levine notes, “All impurity, however contracted, could lead to sinfulness if not attended to, and failure to deal properly with impurity aroused God’s anger.” (see Baruch Levine, Leviticus, JPS Torah Commentary, 74)

Of course it is possible that the need for a sin offering arises from actual sin. Milgrom points to the writings of Rabbi Simeon, who suggests that the need for an offering is not because the act of childbirth is inherently sinful, but because during her labour pains, the woman “uttered a rash oath, which she never intended to keep.” (see Jacob Milgrom, Leviticus 1-16, Anchor Bible, 759).

Regardless, the instruction to present an offering demonstrates two things. First, the sin offering and burnt offering are the same regardless whether the child born is male or female, thus demonstrating some measure of equality.

Second, this is one of the only places where a woman is given instruction and is specifically demonstrated to have an active role in the life of the Temple (tabernacle) sacrificial system.

Next up: Leviticus 12 and Luke 2:22-24

  • “Regardless, the instruction to present an offering demonstrates two things. First, the sin offering and burnt offering are the same regardless whether the child born is male or female, thus demonstrating some measure of equality.”

    Well stated. Have never saw it that way until now.