The MT reads,

וּשְׁלֹשִׁים יוֹם וּשְׁלֹשֶׁת יָמִים תֵּשֵׁב בִּדְמֵי טָהֳרָה בְּכָל-קֹדֶשׁ לֹא-תִגָּע וְאֶל-הַמִּקְדָּשׁ לֹא תָבֹא עַד-מְלֹאת יְמֵי טָהֳרָהּ.

Then she shall continue for thirty-three days in the blood of her purifying. She shall not touch anything holy, nor come into the sanctuary, until the days of her purifying are completed. (ESV)

What is the meaning of this ambiguous phrase "blood of her purifying"? We know that vaginal blood contracts impurity upon the woman, so why would the bible call the impure blood here "blood of her purification"? Are we supposed to read this as "purification of her blood"? It is hard to see how impure blood would be considered in any way part of her purification process. The NJPS translates, "She shall remain in a state of blood purification", which I think agrees that the intended meaning is purification of the blood, not the other way around. I would appreciate some insight on this.

I'm asking because Jewish tradition has developed its own interpretation of this phrase which led to a principle called dam tohar. I was wondering, is the text cryptic enough, exegetically speaking, as to justify the Rabbinic hermeneutical methods and means taken to explain it (whether one agrees with it or not), or has the text been complicated needlessly?


I think a better translation would be (de-Hebraising and phrasing it, perhaps, in more recognizable legal language):

And not before thirty-three days in the uncleanness caused by the issuing of her blood shall she become pure; and she shall touch nothing sacred, nor enter the sanctuary, until the time of her purification is complete.

"She shall remain in a state of blood purification" is not helpful and even misleading.

The 'genitive'/construct phrase in Hebrew can be used in various ways, such as "the mountain of my holiness" (Ps. 2:6) meaning "my holy mountain," and not referring to God's own personal holiness, but the favored, holy mountain upon which He choses to make His dwelling with man. Or "Daughter of Zion," i.e. "Ideal Israel[ite]" (Isa. 1:8). We even see this Hebraic use in the New Testament, despite its being written in Greek. Jesus calls Judas "the son of destruction," which more or less means, "Damned Wretch" in virtual any context, but especially Jn. 17:12 (cf. Thess. 2:3). See also Mk. 3:17.

Colossians 1:13 (DRB) Who hath delivered us from the power of darkness, and hath translated us into the kingdom of the Son of his love,

This "son of his love" is a Hebraic phrase meaning "His beloved Son." In fact, "son of his love" not unpacked is not really an English or Greek phrase, but is quite untranslated. There is reason to leave it untranslated, too, and that might be because you want to retain the distinction present in the Hebrew because (e.g.) in Hebrew, "the mountain of my holiness" is more poetical, whereas "my holy mountain" is more prosaic. The distinction is not as great in Hebrew as it is in English, though!

As you can see, it is the relationship of the two words "x of x" is context-dependant. Here, "the blood of her purification" means two things: "the blood" refers to the blood which has defiled her ritually for this set period of time, and the "of her purification" refers to the fact that this ritual purity can only be restored by enduring this period of ritual uncleanness—this "blood."

Put in the simplest terms, "she shall continue in the blood of her purification" means "she shall endure the ritual uncleanness and thereby be purified from it."

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