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Leviticus 12:2-4

12:2 “Tell the Israelites, ‘When a woman produces offspring 1  and bears a male child, 2  she will be unclean seven days, as she is unclean during the days of her menstruation. 3  12:3 On 4  the eighth day the flesh of his foreskin 5  must be circumcised. 12:4 Then she will remain 6  thirty-three days in blood purity. 7  She must not touch anything holy and she must not enter the sanctuary until the days of her purification are fulfilled. 8 

1 tn Heb “produces seed” (Hiphil of זָרַע, zara’; used only elsewhere in Gen 1:11-12 for plants “producing” their own “seed”), referring to the process of childbearing as a whole, from conception to the time of birth (H. D. Preuss, TDOT 4:144; cf. J. E. Hartley, Leviticus [WBC], 164-65; and J. Milgrom, Leviticus [AB], 1:742-43). Smr and LXX have Niphal “be impregnated” (see, e.g., Num 5:28); note KJV “If a woman have conceived seed” (cf. ASV, NAB, NRSV; also NIV, NLT “becomes pregnant”).

2 sn The regulations for the “male child” in vv. 2-4 contrast with those for the “female child” in v. 5 (see the note there).

3 tn Heb “as the days of the menstrual flow [nom.] of her menstruating [q. inf.] she shall be unclean” (R. E. Averbeck, NIDOTTE 1:925-26; the verb appears only in this verse in the OT). Cf. NASB “as in the days of her menstruation”; NLT “during her menstrual period”; NIV “during her monthly period.”

sn See Lev 15:19-24 for the standard purity regulations for a woman’s menstrual period.

4 tn Heb “and in….”

5 tn This rendering, “the flesh of his foreskin,” is literal. Based on Lev 15:2-3, one could argue that the Hebrew word for “flesh” here (בָּשָׂר, basar) is euphemistic for the male genitals and therefore translate “the foreskin of his member” (see, e.g., J. Milgrom, Leviticus [AB], 1:748). A number of English versions omit this reference to the foreskin and mention only circumcision, presumably for euphemistic reasons (cf. NIV, NCV, TEV, CEV, NLT).

6 tn Heb “sit, dwell” (יָשָׁב, yashav) normally means “to sit, to dwell”), but here it means “to remain, to stay” in the same condition for a period of time (cf., e.g., Gen 24:55).

7 tn Heb “in bloods of purification” or “purifying” or “purity”; NASB “in the blood of her purification”; NRSV “her time of blood purification.” See the following note.

8 tn The initial seven days after the birth of a son were days of blood impurity for the woman as if she were having her menstrual period. Her impurity was contagious during this period, so no one should touch her or even furniture on which she has sat or reclined (Lev 15:19-23), lest they too become impure. Even her husband would become impure for seven days if he had sexual intercourse with her during this time (Lev 15:24; cf. 18:19). The next thirty-three days were either “days of purification, purifying” or “days of purity,” depending on how one understands the abstract noun טֹהֳרָה (toharah, “purification, purity”) in this context. During this time the woman could not touch anything holy or enter the sanctuary, but she was no longer contagious like she had been during the first seven days. She could engage in normal everyday life, including sexual intercourse, without fear of contaminating anyone else (B. A. Levine, Leviticus [JPSTC], 73-74; cf. J. Milgrom, Leviticus [AB], 1:749-50). Thus, in a sense, the thirty-three days were a time of blood “purity” (cf. the present translation) as compared to the previous seven days of blood “impurity,” but they were also a time of blood “purification” (or “purifying”) as compared to the time after the thirty-three days, when the blood atonement had been made and she was pronounced “clean” by the priest (see vv. 6-8 below). In other words, the thirty-three day period was a time of “blood” (flow), but this was “pure blood,” as opposed to the blood of the first seven days.

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