QUESTION: At Leviticus: 12:1, 2&4 Jehovah went on to say to Moses: “Tell the Israelites, ‘If a woman becomes pregnant and gives birth to a male, she will be unclean for seven days…… She will continue cleansing herself from the blood for the next 33 days.” (total of 40 days)
In the same chapter, 12:5 it states: “‘If she should give birth to a female, she will then be unclean for 14 days…. She will continue cleansing herself from the blood for the next 66 days.” (total of 80 days)
Why is there a difference for giving birth to a baby boy and a baby girl? I don’t think that God is viewing women as somewhat lower or more sinful. But why 7 and 33 days if birth is given for a baby boy, and 14 and 66 days if birth is given for baby girl?
ANSWER: There is a difference because men and women are different. And God’s law always makes the distinction between men and women. For example, the law expressly forbade men from wearing woman’s clothing and vice-versa. (Duet 22:5) And, obviously, circumcision certainly distinguished males and their relationship to God.
Although modern society has come to increasingly blur the distinction between men and women, we should not expect God to follow trends.
Besides the obvious differences in the sexes, man was created first. And not only was Eve created after Adam, but she was formed from Adam’s rib. And tragically our Mother listened to the Devil and seduced Adam into disobeying God. Paul explained this in the context of why he did not permit women to hold authority over men in the congregation. Paul wrote to Timothy: “I do not permit a woman to teach, or to exercise authority over a man, but to be in silence. For Adam was formed first, then Eve. Also, Adam was not deceived, but the woman was thoroughly deceived and came to be in transgression.”
While there may be some as-of-yet undiscovered underlying physiological reason for the law regarding postpartum sanctification being twice as long for the birth of females, the ritual ultimately underscores the need for atonement because of sin. That is why after the prescribed period of purification the new mother was to go to the priest. The law states: “When the days of her purification for a son or a daughter are completed, she will bring a young ram in its 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. He will present it before Jehovah and make atonement for her, and she will be clean from her flow of blood. This is the law about the woman who gives birth to either a male or a female.”
As Paul noted regarding Eve being the first to transgress God’s law in Eden, the law in Leviticus may be intended to emphasize the same truth; hence, just as women are made to suffer the greatly increased pangs of birth because of Eve’s sin, probably the law regarding the birth of females requiring double the length of time for purification is to remind all of the source of original sin.