Have you seen those dishwasher magnets with two words on them: “Dirty” and “Clean”? They help us know when it’s okay to add dirty dishes to the racks and when it’s time to put clean dishes away.
In Leviticus, we read many laws about what is considered clean or unclean. These categories may seem strange to us today. But it is important to realize that uncleanness did not necessarily equate with sinfulness. Many non-sinful aspects of life could make you unclean.
Welcoming a child into the world was one such event. A woman was considered ceremonially unclean after giving birth (v. 1). She could not enter the sanctuary or participate in the normal duties of life until she was purified. There was nothing sinful about having children. In Scripture it is clearly considered a blessing (Ps. 127:3). But the loss of blood in childbirth rendered the woman unclean.
Things associated with death, such as losing bodily fluids or touching a corpse, were nonmoral reasons why a person might be rendered unclean. A practical benefit was that it gave a new mother time to recover from labor before returning to normal life. Some may wonder why having a girl rendered the mother unclean for twice as long as a boy (vv. 1, 5). The length did not have anything to do with perceived value.
Both male and female were created in the image of God (Gen. 1:27). The sacrifice for both was also the same (vv. 6–8). Some think the shorter length for the male baby could be so the woman could participate in the ceremony related to circumcision (v. 3).
When Jesus was born, Mary and Joseph obeyed these regulations, including offering a sacrifice (Luke 2:22–24). As a poor family, they offered pigeons or doves instead of a lamb. Reading through these laws may make you wonder how anyone could ever achieve holiness. But we know that because of Jesus’ death and resurrection, we are clean before God (John 15:3).