Priesthood: 19. Birth Uncleanness

Leviticus 12:1-8
Birth Uncleanness
Jehovah here gives a moral lesson of the deepest moment. Man since the fall is radically unclean. None slower to learn, or readier to forget, than Israel, yet neither son nor daughter was born without the continual memento. The mother who in this case was immediately concerned had to feel its consequence, and was even reminded of woman's part, when sin first entered, by the added sentence awarded if the babe were a female.
Sin is not at all limited to crime, or to glaring evil. It is a mischievously and unequivocally false version which is given in the A.V. of 1 John 3:44Whosoever committeth sin transgresseth also the law: for sin is the transgression of the law. (1 John 3:4), where we read that “sin is the transgression of the law.” Millions have thence derived their notion of sin, and have thereby been misled into the great errors, on the one hand, of ignoring a vast deal of real sin, and on the other of arguing that all men must be under the law, inasmuch as it is certain that all sinned. But any such reasoning proceeds on a false principle. For the true meaning of the apostle's statement is, that “sin is lawlessness,” the far wider and subtler evil of doing one's own will without the check of divinely imposed authority. In the R.V. it is properly rendered, “sin is lawlessness,” which is absolutely true, and applies to all mankind whether they did or did not know the law. All transgression of the law is sin, but all sin is far from being transgression of the law. Hence the Jews are called “transgressors,” for they distinctively were under law; whereas scripture speaks of the Gentiles as “sinners,” not as “transgressors,” which they must have been if all men were alike under law. But this is expressively disproved by Rom. 2:1212For as many as have sinned without law shall also perish without law: and as many as have sinned in the law shall be judged by the law; (Romans 2:12), where Gentiles are distinguished from Jews on that very ground: “for as many as have sinned without law shall perish without law; and as many as have sinned under law shall be judged by law.... in a day when God shall judge the secrets of men, according to my gospel, through Jesus Christ.” If Gentiles had not law, they had conscience, which made them feel guilty in dereliction of a natural duty, as is shown in the same context.
Here it is rather uncleanness before God as the universal effect of the dark inheritance of sin. One could not speak of sinning in babes male or female, but there was uncleanness in all. And Jehovah took care that from Himself Israel should know of it as to their own offspring. Here it is not about the nations He speaks but of the chosen people, that no flesh should boast.
“And Jehovah spoke to Moses, saying, Speak to the children of Israel, saying, If a woman conceive seed, and bear a male, then (and) she shall be unclean seven days; as in the days of the separation of her infirmity she shall be unclean. And on the eighth day shall the flesh of his foreskin be circumcised. And she shall continue thirty-three days in the blood of her cleansing; no holy thing shall she touch, nor come into the sanctuary until the days of her cleansing are fulfilled. And if she bear a female, then she shall be unclean two weeks, as in her separation; and she shall continue sixty-six days in the blood of her cleansing. And when the days of her cleansing 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, to the entrance of the tent of meeting to the priest. And he shall offer it before Jehovah and make atonement for her; and she shall be clean from the fountain of her blood. This [is the] law for her that beareth male or female. And if her hand cannot find enough for a sheep, she shall bring two turtledoves or two young pigeons, one for a burnt offering, and the other for a sin offering; and the priest shall make atonement for her; and she shall be clean” (vers. 1-8).
Thus was the uncleanness of man turned to divine account and mercy withal. The evil was owned before Jehovah. On the eighth day was the male child separated to Him by the sign of death to the flesh. Such was the covenant token, even before the law, though maintained by it, till a better circumcision not made by hands. But the mother continued for thirty-three beyond the seven days, apart from holy things or place, and then brought her Burnt-offering and her Sin-offering, which the priest offered in atonement, and she became clean. In case of a female child, the time of abiding unclean was doubled. The apostle even would not have us forget that Adam was first formed, then Eve; and Adam was not deceived, but the woman having been deceived was in transgression. Grace reigns through righteousness unto life eternal through Jesus Christ our Lord. A better sacrifice, a fuller holiness, and a higher life should then be given in sovereign grace, and this to all, Greek or Jew, who believe; for all were then proved alike lost sinners, now alike saved by faith in Jesus.
What a contrast is this chapter with the Rabbinic corruption of the law by tradition of man! What contempt of women and children, to say nothing of slaves! “Gather the people together” (says Deut. 31:1212Gather the people together, men, and women, and children, and thy stranger that is within thy gates, that they may hear, and that they may learn, and fear the Lord your God, and observe to do all the words of this law: (Deuteronomy 31:12)), “men and women, and children, and thy stranger that is within thy gates, that they may hear, and that they may learn, and fear Jehovah your God, and observe to do all the words of this law.” This the oral law abjures. “A woman's wisdom,” says R. Eliezer in the Talmud (Joma, fol. 66, col. 2), is only for the distaff; “and what is worse, he cites Ex. 35:2525And all the women that were wise hearted did spin with their hands, and brought that which they had spun, both of blue, and of purple, and of scarlet, and of fine linen. (Exodus 35:25) for his unbelieving folly and presumption. Had he forgotten so many that were highly favored, and even vehicles of the Holy Spirit's power? A woman specially suffered in moral government. Jehovah here proves His gracious consideration in an ordinance expressly marking His concern that they should be purified from that which recalled sin and entailed uncleanness. Sacrifice alone could effect this; yet not a Sin-offering only but the Burnt-offering in full acceptance. And such was the tender care of God, that poverty was comforted in His receiving a pigeon or a turtledove for a Burnt-offering, whereas the richest could not boast of more than a pigeon or a turtledove for a Sin-offering. What was imperative for the atoning clearance of the evil was the same. Rich and poor stood on the same level. For the joy of acceptance the pigeon of the poor was as valid as the rich woman's sheep. What a rebuke to every form of respecting persons! What grace that the Lord of glory was born of a virgin mother, whose poverty was shown in the offering proper to it! What a chasm separates the “Daily Prayers” of the Jew from the scriptures! “Blessed art thou, O Lord our God, King of the universe, who hast not made me a heathen.” “Blessed &c. who hast not made me a slave.” “Blessed &c. who hast not made me a woman.” The inspired wisest of men says, “A foolish man despiseth his mother” (Prov. 15:2020A wise son maketh a glad father: but a foolish man despiseth his mother. (Proverbs 15:20)); indeed the Ten words commanded from the first, “Honor thy father and thy mother” (Ex. 20:1212Honor thy father and thy mother: that thy days may be long upon the land which the Lord thy God giveth thee. (Exodus 20:12)).
With such shameless contempt for women, slaves, and Gentiles, none can wonder that the sons of Israel claim for themselves exorbitant honor. Thus in the Pentecostal Prayer of their Liturgy, they are taught to believe, that at Sinai were set all the generations of the people (i.e. their souls) with those who stood before the mountain, and to say, “there was no blemish in them, for they were entirely perfect.” The Talmud seeks to explain this egregious fable in the words, “why were the Gentiles defiled? Because they did not stand upon mount Sinai, for in the hour that the serpent came to Eve, he communicated a defilement which was taken away from Israel when they stood on mount Sinai; but the defilement of the Gentiles was not removed, as they did not stand on mount Sinai.”
The oral law, as we are assured, was bold and bad in our Lord's day, when He denounced it as making void the word of God; but it did not fail, as with Gnostics and others heterodox in Christendom, to increase to greater ungodliness. Yea, the very generation, that stood and heard the Ten words, set up the calf of gold and worshipped it directly after, before the tables of stone were brought down by Moses; and he, instead of regarding them as “healed from every blemish,” told them in his closing words (Deut. 31) “I know thy rebellion and thy stiff neck. Lo while I am yet alive with you this day, ye have been rebellious against Jehovah, and how much more after my death? . . . For I know that after my death ye will utterly corrupt yourselves, and will turn away from the way which I had commanded you.”
It is in vain that the Rabbis invent such fictions and teach the Jews to believe in themselves, instead of in the Savior and redemption through His blood. Only faith supposes and produces repentance. This the natural heart abhors. From nothing does man shrink more than truly acknowledging his own badness; but God leads him to it, and Jesus gives to the laboring and burdened soul rest. But to deny uncleanness even in a babe or its mother, to deny its universality, is Satan's lie, and as opposed to the Law and the Prophets, as it is to Christianity. Grace demanded a sacrifice here, as it gave one infinitely better in Christ; but even a babe is unclean in itself through the fault of the first parents.