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I was reading Leviticus and saw that a woman, after she gives birth, would be unclean.

Leviticus 12:1-2 (NIV)
1 The LORD said to Moses, 2 “Say to the Israelites: ‘A woman who becomes pregnant and gives birth to a son will be ceremonially unclean for seven days, just as she is unclean during her monthly period."

OK, that's not too surprising. The woman must wait 33 or 66 days (depending on the sex of the baby) until she can be declared clean again. To be declared clean, though, she must present a sin offering:

Leviticus 12:6 (NIV)
When the days of her purification for a son or daughter are over, she is to bring to the priest at the entrance to the tent of meeting a year-old lamb for a burnt offering and a young pigeon or a dove for a sin offering.

Since the woman is supposed to give a sin offering in order to become clean again, does this mean that giving birth (or being unclean because of that) is a sin? Or was this sin offering just the type of offering that she is supposed to give?

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The talmud addresses this but I'm not sure it's a hermeneutic response. Should I proceed? –  Gone Quiet Oct 21 '11 at 19:20
    
@GoneQuiet Yes, absolutely! –  Richard Oct 21 '11 at 19:23

4 Answers 4

up vote 11 down vote accepted

The talmud explains that this is not directly because of either giving birth or being ritually impure. (Many things can cause ritual impurity, ranging from being in the same room as a dead human to having certain bodily emissions.) The sin-offering after birth is to atone for inappropriate things she might have said during the birth (remember, no drugs to dull the pain). Not all sins are willful.

Babylonian talmud, Niddah 31b, Soncino translation:

R. Simeon b. Yohai was asked by his disciples: Why did the Torah ordain that a woman after childbirth should bring a sacrifice? He replied: When she kneels in bearing she swears impetuously that she will have no intercourse with her husband. The Torah, therefore, ordained that she should bring a sacrifice. R. Joseph demurred: Does she not act presumptuously in which case the absolution of the oath depends on her regretting it? Furthermore, she should have brought a sacrifice prescribed for an oath! And why did the Torah ordain that in the case of a male [the woman is clean] after seven days and in that of a female after fourteen days? On the birth of a male with whom all rejoice she regrets her oath after seven days, but on the birth of a female...she regrets her oath after fourteen days.

My understanding is that rather than singling out the women who did versus didn't say something actionable, everybody brings this offering.


Please note: This answer was written for a neutral, academic audience and is not intended to be interpreted in the context of a religious belief or doctrine.

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Wow, fascinating. SO, you can, to a degree, get off saying what you want during childbirth. (Hey, I'm not going to argue with that...) –  Richard Oct 21 '11 at 19:42
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Intentionally transgressing is different. :-) –  Gone Quiet Oct 21 '11 at 20:36
    
do not forget the issue of the blood being the reason for ceremonial uncleanness, which also required a sin offering to be made: there is blood issued when giving birth, too –  warren Jun 12 '12 at 14:33

R. Simeon can be challenged on the basis of:

Nu 30:12 But if her husband hath utterly made them void on the day he heard [them; then] whatsoever proceeded out of her lips concerning her vows, or concerning the bond of her soul, shall not stand: her husband hath made them void; and the LORD shall forgive her.

Since her vow may be nullified without her consent by her husband, his argument has no basis.

Nevertheless, this answer, that she may have said things or thought things which were inappropriate, may be a good inference from 'just as she is unclean during her monthly period.' Some women, certainly not my wife... dear, may be prone to saying things during that time which are inappropriate as well.

However, there are other scriptures which may speak to the issue:

Le 12:2 Speak unto the children of Israel, saying, If a woman have conceived seed, and born a man child: then she shall be unclean seven days; according to the days of the separation for her infirmity shall she be unclean.

Le 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.

If the child is a male she is unclean for a week, if a female for two weeks. The male has somehow redeemed his mother from a week of un-cleaness.

In Sensus Plenior, a Christian hermeneutic where Jesus is always the answer, when there are two things, one is earthly and one is heavenly representation of the same thing. For a female child, the woman is unclean for a week in the flesh and a week in the spirit. But for the male, she is only unclean in the flesh since it is the seed of the woman who will bruise the heel of the serpent. And she is 'saved' through childbearing. The male son is a shadow of Christ.

1Ti 2:15 Notwithstanding she shall be saved in childbearing, if they continue in faith and charity and holiness with sobriety.

The same sacrifice is made for a male or a female child, which is for the uncleaness shared in the two circumstances. Is the sin covered by the son a spiritual uncleanness or a physical one?

Ps 51:5 Behold, I was shapen in iniquity; and in sin did my mother conceive me.

Since God commanded man to multiply, and this is done through conception, the act is not sin. This must refer to the sin nature (or evil inclination) that is passed to us genetically. Therefore the sin that remains uncovered, and requires a sacrifice is the spiritual sin. Both males and females must be born again.

The sin offering is given for the sin of passing the evil inclination on to the child and causing a little one to stumble. It is a sin of the flesh, not of intention.

God desires spiritual children. The issue of blood without conception is a similar un-cleaness in that it is a symbol of not being fruitful and multiplying spiritually. It is a sin of the flesh, not of intention. This is why being barren was such a disgrace.

The direct answer to the question is Yes. We are not supposed to pass our sin nature to our children, but we do. It is a sin of the flesh, not of intention. It is a sin covered by the cross. Our responsibility, as part of our repentance is to 'train them in the way they are to go'.

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The Christian New Testament sheds some light.

The sin which Adam committed in the Garden of Eden had resulted in his separation from God's life. That is, Adam was condemned to death (Gen 2:16-17). His immediate separation from God resulted in spiritual death, i.e., his access to the tree of (eternal) life was terminated according to Genesis 3:22-23. So Adam's spiritual death eventuated in his physical death: thus we read, ". . . ashes to ashes, dust to dust" (Gen 3:19).

When human beings are born, this spiritual death is transmitted to each human being, and thus each human is born spiritually dead (Rom 5:12). Of course, like what happened to Adam, all human beings eventuate in physical death also.

In the Hebrew Bible (Old Testament) death is "dirty." Thus dead bodies (whether animal or human) are "dirty." Any creatures that thrive on dead waste --for example scavengers-- are also "dirty."

So when human beings are born, the transmission of spiritual death is "dirty." Therefore sex is not dirty in the Hebrew Bible, instead what is "dirty" is the spiritual death, which is transmitted from parents to children.

For example, the emission of semen (Lev 15:16-17) and even women's menstruation (Lev 15:19-24) are "dirty" not because they are functions of the body fluids of sexual organs, but because spiritual death is procreated through these activities of the human body. Sex therefore is not "dirty" in the Bible. What is "dirty" is spiritual death. As noted above, spiritual death eventuates in physical death, which is "dirty" as we noted. Death is "dirty."

In the Christian New Testament, spiritual death is washed away clean with eternal life (water). This living water is available, because sins/transgressions were removed through the sacrifice for sin.

That is, the eternal life of God was incarnated in flesh, but without the transmission of spiritual death--that is, the "father" of Jesus was not a spiritually dead mortal man, but the living God. As the sacrificial lamb for sin he was therefore not "dirty" because he was NOT spiritually dead. He was born the eternal life of God incarnated in human flesh, thus as the lamb he was without spot or blemish (1 Pet 1:19) -- he was not "dirty." When his body was made to be sin, it was then that he therefore had died.

But while his body was sufficient to be judged for sins, it was his eternal life that had "abolished" spiritual death (2 Tim 1:10 in NASB) and therefore his subsequent physical resurrection had followed. That is, his body was the sacrifice for sin, but his eternal life was at one and the same time "indestructible" (Heb 7:16 in NASB) -- it was therefore "impossible" for death to hold him (Acts 2:24). So the sinner, whose sins were judged through the body of Jesus, could also receive the "washing" of the living water of eternal life through him. The birth of spiritual life through him is thus termed to be "born again" (Jn 3:3-7 and 1 Pet 1:3).

This birth however is not "dirty" like the birthing of the flesh, but is clean because the birthing is eternal life through the Spirit of God, who removes spiritual death with the water of eternal life (Titus 3:5). This baptism (washing) in eternal life removes the spiritual death of Adam.

As a closing observation, when seminal emissions occurred, or when menstruation occurred (unrelated to any birth), then interestingly enough it was only "water" which was the means of cleansing (cf. Lev 15:16-17 and Lev 15:19-24, respectively). But when an actual birth occurred with the woman, there was an offering for sin (Lev 12:1-8), because the "sin" is Adam's disobedience, which creates spiritual death in the newborn baby. The condemnation of Adam's sin (spiritual death) is therefore transmitted to each and every human being (Rom 5:12). Jesus died to take away sins and transgressions, and in turn, to provide eternal life, which removes the spiritual death.

Thus the Christian New Testament sheds light why a sin sacrifice was required after the birth of a child in Leviticus 12:1-8.

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Rabbi Samson Raphael Hirsch, in his commentary to Leviticus 12, explains the sin-offering of the new mother (and the nazirite’s, in that chapter) as a sort of prophylactic offering: At the moment the woman (or the former nazirite) re-enters ordinary human interactions after her period of impurity, she brings this offering to symbolize her commitment to refrain from sin.

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