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?

  • What do you make of: Mat 24:19; Luk 23:29; and 1 Cor 7:8,9,28,29? Commented Nov 6, 2018 at 0:24
  • @Richard "The woman must wait 33 or 66 days (depending on the sex of the baby) until she can be declared clean again." She must wait 40 or 80 days before she is clean again! Commented Feb 9, 2023 at 6:17

6 Answers 6


She was not unclean because she had a baby. She was unclean because there was an issue of blood that came out of her when she gave birth (see Leviticus 12:7). Its the blood, not the baby, that's deemed unclean.


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.

(By the same token, the ordinary sin-offering is not so much to repair the past but also to make concrete the final aspect of teshuva, repentance: the (former) sinner’s commitment to refrain from the acts for which he’s repenting.)


The book of Leviticus is frequently concerned with various bodily discharges. These are often the result of a variety of illnesses. In antiquity, nearly all illnesses and maladies (including physical disabilities) were considered to be a result of some type of sin. In preventing illness (such as bloodborne and other contagious illnesses), many regulations were established to ensure that washing and quarantine rituals were followed. In fact, most of the purity laws and kashrut laws were oriented around ensuring the public health of Israel. By making Israel a healthier nation (with a longer lifespan and lower death rate,) God is able to fulfill his Covenant Promise to make Israel a great nation (Gen. 12:2) through the resulting population increase. These laws would have undoubtedly made the Israelite lifespan longer and death rate lower; resulting in a more rapid growth than surrounding cultures which did not follow similar public health regulations.

It is no surprise then that Leviticus concerns itself with the discharges of new mothers. Quarantining the new mother served to ensure the health of the new mother, baby, and the general public. Many new parents in modernity will request visitors refrain from visiting during the first few weeks of a child's life while their immune system establishes itself - or at least ask visitors to wash their hands before holding baby. Quarantining a mother and child for the first few months of life may have had an effect on the staggeringly high infant mortality rate (20 to as high as 50%) for similar reasons. This also would have had the added bonus of giving the new mother time to rest (considering newborns eat every 2 to 4 hours - including at night) without also having to entertain guests (which was a much bigger ordeal in ancient middle eastern culture than it is today in western culture). As you can see, this quarantine period of "uncleanness" had a numerous benefits to mother and child.

It may also be helpful to realize that not all of that which is unclean can be considered sinful. Dr. John Hartley1 concurs with Baker, suggesting that the offering is merely to cleanse the mother to allow her back into the sanctuary. Hartley points out that the priests had to offer a prophylactic sin offering each day in order to conduct their normal daily duties:

At the end of the days of her purification, the mother has to present sacrificial offerings. She is to bring a year-old כבשׂ, “lamb,” for עלה, “a whole offering” (cf. chap. 1), and a pigeon or dove for a חטאת, “purification offering” (cf. chaps. 4–5). In this case the whole offering is greater than the offering for an abnormal discharge (15:14–15, 29–30). Dillmann (552) proposes that a greater offering is required because the offering also benefits the infant. In any case the whole offering is made in grateful praise to Yahweh for the gift of a child; Noordtzij (133) considers it an expression of “a renewed dedication of life.” But why does the mother need expiation? There is no indication, such as the need for making a confession, that either the act of conception or the process of birth was considered an act of sin. That the focus is not on some specific act of sin is evident in that a purification offering, not a reparation offering, is required and that the animal for this offering is the least expensive possible. Hoffmann (363) identifies the impurity to be expiated as that which prevents the mother from entering the sanctuary. These sacrifices then cleanse the new mother from her basic sinfulness and provide forgiveness so that she might enter the presence of the holy God with confidence. Throughout the sacrificial regulations it has been seen that mankind by the very nature of being human needs expiation from basic sinfulness; even the newly anointed priests had to offer daily sacrifices for expiation while they remained in the area of the sanctuary for a week (8:33–35).

Hartley goes on to point out:

Two very interesting facts are uncovered in this verse. First, a woman as well as a man had the privilege and the obligation to present sacrifices at the sanctuary. While a woman’s role at the sanctuary was less involved than a man’s, she was not excluded from presenting sacrifices there, and on occasion she was required to do so. Second, the offerings were the same whether the mother bore a son or a daughter. This fact undercuts any interpretation that the different lengths of impurity indicated that a baby boy had more intrinsic value than a baby girl.

Dr. Mark Rooker2 reinforces this point by noting that the offering for a newborn does not follow the normal format of a sin offering - suggesting that this is not really an offering to atone for sin:

Subsequent to the period of purification (after the birth of a son or a daughter), the new mother was to offer to the priest a year-old lamb for a burnt offering and a pigeon or dove for a sin offering at the tabernacle (12:6).86 After the priest presented these offerings the new mother was atoned for and ceremonially clean from the flow of blood (12:7). Though the passage states that the new mother presents these offerings to the priest to receive atonement, we should not consider the act of giving birth to be in any case a sinful act. This is supported from our passage in two ways. First of all, in the order of the offerings the burnt offering was offered first and then the sin offering followed. The order was reversed when sin was at issue. When an offering was made in response to the commission of sin, the sin offering preceded the burnt offering. The order of the offerings in Leviticus 12 suggests that the personal sin of the mother is not the issue. Moreover, the result of the sacrifice renders the mother “clean”; it does not say that she is forgiven (see 4:20, 26, 31, 35). The issue is thus not the sinfulness of the mother or of the process of giving birth; rather the issue seems to be that of the issuance of blood. Because life is in the blood (17:11), the loss of blood required some purification to acknowledge the sanctity of life.

The Pulpit Commentary3 notes this as well:

Two things are noticeable here: first, that the burnt offering, symbolizing self-devotion, is far more costly and important than the sin offering, which had not to be offered for any individual personal sin, but only for human sin, “which had been indirectly manifested in her bodily condition” (Keil); and secondly, that in this one case the sin offering appears to succeed the burnt offering instead of preceding it.

Dr. Samuel Balentine4 remarks that these passages on the whole are more about the human condition and that collectively there is nothing discriminatory about the requirements on balance:

Within the purity laws, chapters 12–15 shift the focus from a concern with uncleanness that has its source outside the human body—animals and carcasses—to that which has its origins in the human condition itself (cf. Kaiser, p. 1084). The concern with bodily impurities, of both males and females, is signaled by the two chapters that frame this text unit. Chapter 12 deals with the impurities females incur in giving birth. Chapter 15 addresses the impurities that both males and females incur in genital discharges. In between these two chapters, Leviticus 13–14 treats the related issue of skin diseases that may mar any person’s body, whether male or female (on the structure of chaps. 12–15, see Douglas, Leviticus as Literature, pp. 176–78). The structure of the last four chapters in this unit indicates, therefore, that the principal concern is with the impurities of the human body as a whole. Although some of the concerns are gender-specific—only females discharge menstrual blood, only males discharge semen—these instructions as a whole do not discriminate between the worth of men and women or the susceptibility of their bodies to impurity.

Dr. Balentine also points out that Israel was not alone in this practice and that many other cultures also viewed childbirth as "impure"; albeit miraculous:

Nevertheless, the fact that postpartum purification rituals are so widely attested confirms that Israel was not alone in viewing the miracle of childbirth with both awe and anxiety. As Milgrom puts it, the concern with the impurities from childbirth “cannot be traced to a creed or a ritual but must reside in some universal human condition that has evoked the same response all over the globe. In a word, we have to do with the human psyche” (Leviticus 1–16, p. 765). Given the universality of this concern, Israel’s priests would have been unique, perhaps even strange, had they not developed purification rituals for childbirth. This point deserves consideration, especially from a cultural-historical perspective, because it turns our modern suppositions on end. We may be tempted to dismiss the priestly thinking as oddly, even tragically out of step with any reasonable religious assessment of what happens when a woman gives birth. The comparative data indicate just the opposite. In a world where virtually every culture regarded purification rituals for parturients and menstruants as vital for the religious welfare of the society, Israel’s claims for its God could not have passed muster as a bona fide religion without dealing with the impurities associated with childbirth. Indeed, Douglas plausibly suggests that Israel’s priests might well have believed that in the religious pluralism of their world, “holiness was a competitive business” (Leviticus as Literature, p. 171). In the high-stakes game of proving their religious doctrines were comprehensive and sufficient for every situation in life, the priests could not afford to be silent on issues that everyone would have expected them to address.

Finally, Dr. Balentine concludes that despite dealing with the impurities of childbirth, this should not be understood as a sinful, moral failure on the part of the mother:

Further confirmation that a woman’s impurity is not a moral failure comes from observing that when her purification period is completed, she once again becomes “clean” (vv. 7, 8). Her defilement is a ritual one, not a moral one. When the priest effects expiation on her behalf, he in effect recognizes that her uncleanness has already been eliminated. She is not “forgiven” in the sense that is implied in the previous cases where “purification offerings” are required (cf. 4:1–5:13). Indeed, at no point does chapter 12 say or suggest that the either the priest or God has judged the woman to have “sinned” or “brought guilt” on herself or the community. Rather, once she brings the required offerings, she is “cleansed” from a natural impurity that has only temporarily restricted her normal participation in the life and worship of the community.

1 Hartley, John E.: Word Biblical Commentary : Leviticus. Dallas : Word, Incorporated, 2002 (Word Biblical Commentary 4), S. 168

2 Rooker, Mark F.: Leviticus. electronic ed. Nashville : Broadman & Holman, 2001, c2000 (The New American Commentary 3A), S. 184

3 Spence-Jones, H. D. M. (Hrsg.): The Pulpit Commentary: Leviticus. Bellingham, WA 2004, S. 189

4 Balentine, Samuel E.: Leviticus. Louisville : John Knox Press, 2002 (Interpretation, a Bible Commentary for Teaching and Preaching), S. 100


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

  • Is there a Non-Christian New Testament? If not could clean up your writing some.
    – skrap3e
    Commented Apr 24, 2017 at 17:50

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'.


Leviticus 12:6 may have been (in my observation certainly and indeed have been) translated wrongly.

1. {חטא} = sin???

{חטא} alef is silent, unless the alef{א} or tet{ט} is vowelized thro inflection.

The word {חטא} has been used in the Hebrew of the Bible to mean

  • separation from evil/uncleanness = consecration
  • separation that is neutral, neither good or bad
  • separation from G'd

The most obvious verses that relegates the concept of "sin" as a questionable concept is in Numbers 19:12,13,20 and 31:23.

In those passages, the inflection is {יתחטא} which is reflexive.

If {חטא} = sin, then {יתחטא} = shall sin against oneself.

I realise that translators want to slither around acrobatically around this phenomenon in the Hebrew of the Bible, but in plain grammar {יתחטא} would mean {sin against himself/itself}.

However the predicate of the story of those passages irrefutably use {יתחטא} as {purify himself}.

So, these five occurrences over four verses alone is sufficient to define (not just suggest but define) that {חטא} actually means {separation or gap} which we then idiomatically use as {shortcoming, deviation, deviance}.

And then in Numbers 8:7, {מי חטאת} = water of consecration. It would be ridiculous to translate {מי חטאת} as {water of sin}. Similarly Numbers 19:9.

We have to be Bible fundamentalists and grammatical-literalists when reading the Bible, and refrain from arbitrarily concocted rules to twist the translation suit our doctrine. The words of the Bible define the doctrine, not letting doctrine define the words of the Bible.

And if it so be, that the literal reading of the Hebrew words of the Bible is in acute misalignment with the literal reading of the Greek/English/German of the Bible, it merely proves that the Jewish Bible and the Christian Bibles are not related and are not from the same god.

(Sorry, no matter how severe ya'll downvote me again, it won't be able to hide this fact.)

2. {קרב} is the opposite of {חטא}

As proven, {חטא} merely means {gap, separation} which by itself is neither good, nor bad, nor evil. But it would take on the meaning of {deviant, deviation, shortcoming} when used negatively.

{קרב} is a similarly "strange" word. IF you search for this word in the Hebrew (and you have to ensure searching for the various inflections) you would discover that it actually means {closeness in encounter} where it is used to depict

  • closely-engaged battle (yes, strangely the Hebrew of the Bible uses {קרב} to depict battles and conflicts
  • close in intimacy
  • being internal or inherent within oneself

One of the words translated as {sacrifice} is {קורבן} which is a masculine active gerund/verbal-noun of {קרב}. So {קורבן} does not even mean "sacrifice". It actually is the gerund/verbal-noun of closing the gap.

{קורבן} is the action of closing the gap/separation/shortcoming {חטא}.

3. root {נד} = fluid excretion, dripping

The word {נד} means fluid exuding, excretion, falling as demonstrated in Exod 15, Josh 3, Ps 78, Isa 17

4. {נדה} = impurity ?

{fem=נדה, masc=נדת} is the verbal-noun/participle of {נד}.

{Impurity} is merely a placeholder word, the one that translators could grab from the buckets of their minds, that other men would readily comprehend, in a medieval (or even modern) atmosphere of acceptable misogynism.

In Leviticus and Numbers - associating someone as {נדה} is akin to saying "she is urine", or "you are a piece of excretionary material".

Therefore in Ezekiel 16 and 18 - could actually mean,

they-men give ejaculatary payment to adulterers-prostitutes, and-then you give your ejaculatary payment to all your lovers, and paying them to come to you.

Where {נדה excretion/ejaculation} might actually mean pay-per-view or pay-per-ejaculation - using the term ejaculation to actually mean the payment for having that ejaculation.

My hypothesis could be challenged with Ezra 4 and 7. However by the time of Ezra, {נדה ejaculatory/excretionary payment} would have become connotated as dirty payment, or bribes.

Such that Ezra wanted to ensure that the 2nd temple did not impose paying of bribes as had during the corrupt times of Ahab and Jezebel. In Ezra the causative-intensive form is used {מנדה} - require to pay prostitution fee = bribery-fees. Perhaps, bribes being idiomatically correlated to the temple prostitutes during the time imminent exile.

5. When she bears a girl

It is a double whammy, because {נדת} being associated to both herself and her baby girl. Also, if you have not noticed, baby girls have vaginal discharge soon after birth.

Perhaps, technically, if she had twin girls, she would need to be in {חטאת} separation/seclusion for three weeks.

6. {טמא} = unclean

It is Leviticus 12 and 15 which tell us that a woman is unclean due to her discharge, where these passages correlate {root= נד, fem=נדה, masc=נדת} to uncleanness {טמא} and disability {דוה}.

So a woman exuding {נדה = discharge} is said to be {טמא = dirty} and, also very interestingly, {דוה = disabled}.

She would also be in {חטאת} separation/seclusion.

7. {חטאת} = separation/seclusion

In Leviticus 12:6, the woman is to offer-up {לעלה} a year old lamb and a dove of either kind, for her {חטאת} separation/seclusion. Not for her "sin".

8. There is no such thing as "sin" in the Hebrew of the Bible.

There is evil, wickedness, transgression but the word translated as "sin", could be any one of {shortcoming, gap, deviation, seclusion, separation, consecration}.


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