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Barnes' Notes on the Bible
Leviticus 12-15. Ceremonial Purifications
The Purifications of the Law fall under three heads;
(1). Those for defilement arising from secretions;
(2). Those for the leprosy;
(3). Those for pollution from corpses.
The first and second classes are described in these chapters; the last, as relates to human corpses, in Numbers 19:11, etc., and as relates to the bodies of dead animals, in Leviticus 11:24-28, Leviticus 11:31-40.
1And the LORD spake unto Moses, saying,
This chapter would more naturally follow the 15th chapter of Leviticus. See the note to Leviticus 15:1.
2Speak 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.
3And in the eighth day the flesh of his foreskin shall be circumcised.
On circumcision, see Genesis 17:5 note.
4And she shall then continue in the blood of her purifying three and thirty days; she shall touch no hallowed thing, nor come into the sanctuary, until the days of her purifying be fulfilled.
The Levitical law ascribed impurity exclusively to the mother, in no degree to the Child.
5But 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.
Some have thought that this doubling of each of the two periods was intended to remind the people of the fact that woman represents the lower side of human nature, and was the first to fall into temptation. 1 Timothy 2:13-15; 1 Peter 3:7. The ancients had a notion that the mother suffers for a longer time after the birth of a girl than after the birth of a boy. The period required for the restoration of her health in the one case was thirty days, and in the other, it was 40 or 42 days. This notion may have been connected with a general custom of observing the distinction as early as the time of Moses.
6And when the days of her purifying are fulfilled, for a son, or for a daughter, she shall bring a lamb of the first year for a burnt offering, and a young pigeon, or a turtledove, for a sin offering, unto the door of the tabernacle of the congregation, unto the priest:
The sacrificial act expressed an acknowledgment of sin and a dedication of herself to Yahweh. See Leviticus 8:14.
Of the first year - literally, as in the margin, "a son of his year." This expression is supposed to mean one less than a year old, while the "son of a year" is one that has just completed its first year.
7Who shall offer it before the LORD, and make an atonement for her; and she shall be cleansed from the issue of her blood. This is the law for her that hath born a male or a female.
8And if she be not able to bring a lamb, then she shall bring two turtles, or two young pigeons; the one for the burnt offering, and the other for a sin offering: and the priest shall make an atonement for her, and she shall be clean.
A lamb - Rather, one of the flock; either a sheep or a goat; it is not the same word as in Leviticus 12:6.
Two turtles, or two young pigeons - See the note at Leviticus 1:14. The Virgin Mary availed herself of the liberty which the Law allowed to the poor, and offered the inferior burnt-offering Luke 2:24.