Why Does the Bible Require New Mothers to Atone after Childbirth?

The law in Leviticus seems morally questionable, not to mention out of line with the Bible’s otherwise encouraging stance toward the bearing of children. What’s it really about?

From The Poor Widow’s Offering by Frederick Goodall, 1904. Wikimedia.

From The Poor Widow’s Offering by Frederick Goodall, 1904. Wikimedia.

Observation
April 27 2017
About the author

Sarah Rindner teaches English literature at Lander College in New York and blogs at Book of Books.


The sections on purity and impurity in the book of Leviticus—which make up nearly a quarter of the book—are some of the most difficult for the modern reader of the Bible. The laws are complicated, the terminology obscure, the theological or moral message (if there is one) far from obvious, and some of the details (leprous houses, impure females) seeming logically or morally suspect. Even for the religiously observant Jewish reader, these passages, dealing with areas of halakhah rendered moot until the ultimate restoration of the Temple, may have little resonance.

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More about: Hebrew Bible, Leviticus, Religion & Holidays, The Monthly Portion