Leviticus 12:1-8 Birth Regulations
We are continuing to learn God’s laws on clean and unclean situations and circumstances. Today’s reading focuses on childbirth.
I am VERY glad we are not subject to the Laws given to Moses. As a Gentile I wouldn’t be subject to them anyway but then neither would I be included in the Lord’s family. Instead we all are under His laws of grace. I’m using that grace a LOT lately as I struggle through this book of the bible. I DON’T enjoy going through these passages on dos and don’ts. I especially don’t like reading about how women in bible days were treated. I’m certain there was a reason for God’s decrees and I KNOW that He loved them as much as any man.
One thing I was thinking about when I was “meditating” on our reading was the difference in lifestyle that God’s Law required the mother take from how society handles this issue today. Also interesting are recent changes to the laws in the United States of America regarding this issue. I know other countries offer assistance or incentives to pregnant couples.
In the days of the Law, a mother and baby were isolated from society for at least one week. With a son it was seven days but a daughter required fourteen days. I have a feeling that the difference was so that the son could receive circumcision on the eighth day and allow the mother to attend the ceremony. A two week span was the standard for a woman’s monthly flow as it was expected to last on week and she remained unclean until seven days AFTER her flow had ceased. This protected the child from exposure to others’ germs during this time.
During this first term of the mother’s “convalescence” anyone who touched the woman and anything she touched was considered “unclean” and had to be purified. She was essentially cut off from all visitors including her husband. She was probably allowed visits from her midwife or another woman who were supporting her, but those visitors had to adhere to the “unclean” and “clean” regulations too including their own ritual cleanliness.
The mother continued in a modified involvement role after her initial “uncleanness” for 33 days for a son and 66 days for a daughter. During this second “season” she was not completely untouchable. However, she was still not allowed in the sanctuary or allowed to touch anything holy. I would hazard to guess that she was still fairly secluded from society but expected to return to her normal daily chores. I don’t know how this would play out in her ordinary day. I have searched but have received no answer beyond the delivery room. I do know from previous reading that the woman is untouchable by her husband for seven days after her “flow” stops. With childbirth the flow lasts a longer time and therefore precludes the couple resuming normal marital relations until her “uncleanness” has been resolved with purification. I don’t know if that extends to cover this full period or not.
In today’s society many women return to “society” very quickly. Visits from friends and family usually happen even in the hospital setting. But there is a growing concern about exposing baby to too many germs too early in life. With my husband’s daughter EVERYONE was instructed not to kiss the baby on the face for the first year. The top of the head was acceptable though.
When considering how long the Israelite mother was to be ritually secluded I was prompted to look at our customs today. I looked at the Family and Medical Leave Act for the United States. The piece of legislation that preceded it was the Pregnancy Discrimination Act. This law guaranteed a pregnant woman that she could not be fired on the basis of being pregnant and that her job would be there when she returned from leave after delivery. It didn’t specify a time frame for this leave though. The FMLA did. It gave new mothers, by adoption or delivery 12 weeks of leave time in which the employer had to during this time. That was up to the individual employers. There is also the loophole of the size of the organization that allows small businesses to not offer this protection at all. When calculating the number of days required by federal law I came up with the total of 84 days. This is four days longer than the time required by God’s Law to observe for the birth of a girl, which is the longer of the two required observances. Interesting how God gets man to adopt His standards even when they don’t realize it.
One major change between bible days and our time is the role of the woman in the workplace. Women didn’t work “outside the home” in bible times IF they had a husband or living male relative. That doesn’t mean they “sat around eating bonbons.” They worked HARD. They were the hands behind all that happened in the home. They did ALL the cooking, cleaning, and caring for the family. This usually included tending to the household animal’s needs. If ever in doubt of their daily tasks, check out the prosperous wife in Proverbs. NO, they (and we) DON’T all live up to this example but it shows some of the daily life tasks of the bible wives.
In today’s society there are more women working “outside” of the home than dedicated to work “inside” of it. Many are expected to fill both rolls. Some manage it but most requires some form of assistance from their family, husbands included. I wonder how much the husbands pitched in during those early months following baby’s birth in bible times. My ex-husband was told point blank that he was expected to help with one of the children after work when our second was on the way. I was and am still very grateful for that help.
Father God, I know You have reasons for ALL You do and I trust Your reasons. But I would like to understand some of them a bit better. Why the difference in observances between male and female baby deliveries and postpartum recovery? Was it a cultural or physical reasoning? Thank You for showing me the little insight today. I don’t understand the 33 and 66 days portion but I better understand the first season.
I just realized that I didn’t even touch on the sacrifice at the conclusion of the “unclean” time. That portion was at least the same regardless of gender of the baby. Thank You for the restorative allowances for the woman. I would have brought an offering of thanksgiving for the new life You had entrusted to me. Maybe that was part of the burnt offering’s meaning.
Thank You for the four lives You allowed me to bring into this world. Thank You also for the new life of my granddaughter that is soon to join the numbers in our family. Thank You for letting us be a part of each of our children and grandchildren’s lives, no matter how big or small that part is. For the part that is soon to be “bigger” please allow our animals to mesh quickly and easily. Allow them to accept one another without ANY fear or fighting. This is crucial to our time with our daughter in law and the two babies. Help the people too to find a comfortable daily relationship. I’m SO looking forward to being part of their lives even for a short time while daddy is away.