Archive for ‘Questions & Answers’

March 28, 2012

The Unclean Mother in Israel

by Aaron Dunlop

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The ceremonial laws for uncleanness in the Old Testament relate to three main areas: death and the dead, leprosy, and aspects of human procreation (Leviticus 12:1–8; 15:1–33). The proximity of human procreation to death and disease highlights the sinfulness and extent of sin in human nature—“all have sinned” (Romans 3:23). The command to “be fruitful, and multiply” that God gave Adam in the beginning, now, since sin entered, translates to the increase of sorrow with the birth of every child. Hence Job could say, “Man that is born of a woman is of few days, and full of trouble” (14:1). Furthermore, the woman in the pain and sorrows of childbirth is the clearest expression of fallen humanity. Her suffering was part of the original curse, and the pain of labour is used throughout Scripture as being analogous to the judgment of God (Genesis 3:16; cf. Jeremiah 22:23).

Notwithstanding the continual reminder of the curse that the pain and sorrow in childbirth is and the danger of death for both mother and baby, nowhere was the birth of a child more welcomed and rejoiced in than in Israel. Rachel cried, “Give me children, or else I die (Genesis 30:1). The reason for this was the great hope and expectation of the birth of the promised Redeemer. The laws of the sin offering (which point to Christ) in Leviticus 12 and other passages therefore show us that God has not left humanity in the sorrow of sin without hope or without a way of escape. The good news is that the child—born in uncleanness and sin and, as Andrew Bonar points out, an “heir of hell!”—can, in Christ become an heir of God and a joint heir with Christ (Romans 8:17).

The purpose of the laws of uncleanness

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