While listening to Jared Halverson’s Unshaken podcast on Leviticus (nearly 5 hours long!) I’m so edified by the amount of content he is covering and the insights and connections he’s making. I heartily recommend listening to it even if you don’t do it within Scripture Notes so you can take notes by your scriptures while you listen.
The Old Testament has long been a sealed book to me. There are sections I’ve read many times, but others I’ve only given cursory reads to. Leviticus is one of those books and listening to this podcast makes it really come alive and appreciate the symbolism and connections to other things.
I’ll share two things I found fascinating. One today, one next week.
The first is on the delicate subject of women’s issues of blood after childbirth. I don’t know what they had anciently in the way of helping women have babies. I’m really grateful for modern medical procedures. I was an emergency C-section baby as my mother was small and petite and I was over 9 pounds at birth.
When a woman gave birth anciently and a baby was too large to deliver, what did they do? Did they perform an episiotomy to allow for extra space for the baby to be delivered, or did they just have to let the tissues rupture and deal with the aftermath?
In the case of Jacob and Rachel, why was her labor so hard that she died after delivering Benjamin? Was he a large baby that broke through but left her with fatal wounds?
Whatever the case was, Rachel’s experience probably wasn’t terribly unique anciently. I can’t imagine primitive childbirth troubles and I’ll just leave it at that…
In Leviticus 12, there are procedures to follow after a woman gives birth to allow her to be purified.
If she had a son, she was to be “unclean” 7 days and on the 8th her son was to be circumcised, 8 being symbolic of a new beginning. After the 7 days she was then to continue 33 days in purification (practical time for resting up) and was not to touch any hallowed thing or come into the sanctuary.
Was this a fear of blood from a difficult delivery running out? Regardless, I’m sure it was welcomed by women after having a baby just the same as people today often wait a while to come back into society with a new baby.
If she had a daughter, the daughter would require a period of purification double that of a son because the son was made holy on the 8th day through circumcision. In this case, the mother would be unclean for 14 days, and continue in purification for 66.
The 40 total days for a son are symbolic of the time of spiritual preparation we see in other 40’s in the scriptures. The 80 days for a daughter are 40 for the mother, and 40 for the daughter. Everything is doubled for a maid child.
Now at the end of the days of purification, she was to perform 2 offerings.
1) Burnt offering [to make payment for sins in general] of a lamb of the first year (or a pigeon or turtledove if she couldn’t afford a lamb)
2) Sin offering [to make payment for unintentional sins of uncleanness, neglect, or thoughtlessness] of a young pigeon or turtledove
She would bring these to the priest at the door of the tabernacle to make an atonement for her to be cleansed from the issue of her blood.
Now moving forward a few chapters to Leviticus 15, we read about other issues of blood that occur. Men and women that have some type of wound that does not heal over, they become unclean. Specific to childbirth, if a woman has an issue of blood that doesn’t heal during this time of purification, she becomes unclean for the entire time she has this issue of blood (Lev. 15:25).
I can’t yet fathom how devastating that would be for women in ancient times but the laws that went along with this are very significant. From the joy of a new child, to the pain of separation. Her bed became unclean, whatever she sat on became unclean, anyone who touched those things became unclean and had to wash their clothes and be unclean till evening. After she finally became well, she would be able to offer those sacrifices and finally have this nightmare end.
Now fast forward to the New Testament where a woman with an issue of blood had suffered these rules for 12 long years (Matt. 9:20, Mark 5:25, Luke 8:43). I can’t imagine that life. How heartbreaking it must have been for her to deal with everything that accompanied this medical nightmare.
She knew the law dictated that something unclean wasn’t to touch something clean (Lev. 12:4). Yet there is also a provision in the law that says when something touches that which is holy, it is made holy (Lev. 6:25-27), specifically the things whereon sacrifices were performed.
Did she know this? Had she learned enough about the Savior to know he was the lamb sacrificed on the altar that made those things holy? Did her perfect faith through the principles of the law of Moses lead her to a perfect faith that if she came into contact with the Holy One, that she would be made holy and cleansed of her issue of blood? Perhaps so.
Here she was, “unclean” and not allowed to touch anything holy, until she reached out in perfect faith to touch the hem of Jesus’s robe. She probably thought she could do this and nobody would notice, but she didn’t count on the Savior’s perfect perception.
He turned and discovered her and she had to “come clean” to the Savior, even though she was now clean.
Aren’t we all unclean and have our “issues” (of blood)? We all need to offer our sacrifices and burn out the natural man [total sacrifice in a burnt offering] and make reconciliation with God [sin offering] to be made holy.
We have the same opportunity today. As unclean sinners who are literally separated from God, we all have to come to Christ to be touched by him, wrapped in his healing embrace, and made holy. When holy and unholy meet, holy wins.
(Featured image by milkos @ 123rf.com)
Heather Linchenko – How to Fight Right to Build Zion
Kerry Muhlestein – A Primer on Egyptian Religion, how it Parallels LDS Beliefs and Temples
How to be Encircled in God’s Love
How do I Obtain Eyes to See and Ears to Hear?
Leading Saints Interview on Preparing Sacrament Meeting Talks
New Lexicon Feature Added