Over and above all the lessons connected with the different classes of sacrifices already glanced at, there were special purifications, because special impurities, in detail, which may reward consideration. A peculiar one was connected with childbirth. A woman having given birth to a son was to be “unclean seven days” (Lev. 12:2), and on the eighth day, the child was to be circumcised. At the end of thirty-three days, the mother was to offer certain sacrifices, and then she was to be eligible for contact with holy things and attendance at the tabernacle, from which she was cut off during that period.
We must look at this in the two characters that belonged to it. It was a literal regulation of Israel’s natural life, and it was one of the many types finding their ultimate significance in Christ.
As a literal ordinance of family life, it presents more than one easily seen feature of beauty. It screened the mother in an acceptable and wholesome seclusion, in a way permitting of a more thorough recovery from the supremest ordeal of her life, than if she merely trusted to her own feelings as to how far and how soon she might venture on the resumed intimacies of friendship. It formally recognized the natural uncleanness attaching to the whole experience, and therefore tended to rescue the children of the covenant from the degradation and effeminacy that result in some races from the acceptance of uncleanness as a normal and pleasing condition.
Further, it stamped the mere function of propagation with a mark of the inferiority that inherently belongs to it. In the perfect state to which God invites us, there is “neither marrying nor giving in marriage”. Christ, the firstborn of that state, was an unmarried man, even during his mortal experience. It is an inferior and inferiorizing function that leads to the increase of man upon the earth—essential to the work of God in its place—still outside the perfection and individuality of being, illustrated to us by the angels, to whom we are promised equality. It is the one function that runs riot in the world to its utter debasement. It has a place, but it is an obscure place, and an inferior place, and a temporary place, and will at last be abolished. That the fruits of it in childbirth should be attainted as a cause of uncleanness to be atoned for, was one of the many excellences of a law designed to produce a holy people.
It has not been without is effects. Between the scrupulosities of child-bed and the care in diet prescribed by another part of the law, the Jews to this day remain the superiors of all other races in type and condition. A royal people they will be yet, when the Lord returns in favour to them, and brings them back to all the conditions which the law contains.
But it is the typical significance of the ordinance that more particularly concerns us now. One significance strikes us at once: seven days’ uncleanness and then circumcision; what can this be but the history of the world in miniature from the divine point of view: seven days of a thousand years each, the earth unclean; and on the eighth day, the flesh cut off, and the covenant sealed in truth for ever. But there are details not so easy to work out.
The woman was to “continue in the blood of her purifying three and thirty days”, during which she was to touch no hallowed thing nor come near the sanctuary. On the thirty-fourth day, she was to offer a lamb of the first year for a burnt offering, and a young pigeon or turtle-dove for a sin offering; and she was to stand “cleansed from the issue of her blood”, Was this an intimation that he upon whom the Lord laid the iniquities of us all, and therefore, as representing us all, should be in the unclean state for thirty-three whole years, and in the thirty-fourth, be cleansed by the offering up of himself, in the first year of his new state, as both the offered lamb and the offering priest? We might say “perhaps”, if it were not for the fact that in the case of the child being a daughter, the mother was to be unclean fourteen days instead of seven, and to continue in the blood of her purifying “three score and six days”, instead of thirty and three (just double the number required in the case of a male child).
Here is a difference palpably made between male and female, pointing rather to moral relations than to chronological fore-shadowings. It is in keeping with what we have already seen of the position of woman in the whole work of God with man, in the consideration of “the male element in sacrifice” Still, it may not exclude the chronology observed in the case of the man. Brother Harvey, of London, has sent us some good remarks on the subject, from which we make the following extracts:
In the man-child, I apprehend, we have a type of Christ himself, personally born of a woman, and consequently a partaker of our condemned nature; and in the female child, a type of all the redeemed born of the flesh, first of the “bride of Christ’ the “Lamb’s wife’ and then of the whole host who will be cleansed from the defilement of the flesh-nature and attain to immortality in virtue of the death and resurrection to eternal life of Christ. In the man-child born of a woman and circumcised on the eighth day, we have one made of our own identical nature, yet not born of the will of man, or of the will of the flesh in any sense, but of God, for God was the Father of Christ by His Spirit operating upon his mother, who probably did not know what had occurred within her for a considerable time. By this means of paternity, Christ escaped the hereditary moral and mental bias of the race, and received such a divine intellectual impress as made him strong in spirit or mind, and of quick understanding in the fear and word of the Lord. He was therefore enabled to overcome all the promptings and desires of his unclean nature derived from his mother, and maintained his moral perfection without blemish and undefiled. Such being the case, he required no justification or cleansing pertaining to the conscience as we do: he needed only a cleansing or justification by spirit of his physical nature—sin’s flesh—which he bore. This cleansing took place, as we see in the type, at the end of thirty-three days, or years. Luke tells us that at his baptism, he “began to be about thirty years of age “. His ministry lasted about three-and-a-half years, so that Christ, when he offered himself to the Father, through the eternal Spirit, as a sacrifice for the sin of the world, was between thirty-three and thirty-four years of age. It was after thirty days (or years) that the sacrifice was offered. It is argued by some that Christ was justified at his baptism from the condemnation ruling upon his flesh-nature before he could go on probation, but the type emphatically teaches that he was not justified or cleansed from his physical uncleanness until the end of his life, or after the thirty-third day. Christ required no justification morally, and the only other justification, which the Scriptures teach he did require, was justification by spirit from the condemnation of mortality resting upon his flesh-nature, and this could not be effected until he had made reconciliation for iniquity in death and resurrection. If Christ were justified at his baptism, then the offering for the cleansing of the mother should have been made on the thirtieth, and not on the thirty-fourth day.
With regard to the cleansing of a mother after the birth of a maid-child, it will be seen that she was legally unclean for fourteen days on account of her infirmity, and then had to continue sixty-six days in the blood of her purification before she could bring her sacrifice and be cleansed. What does this mean? Some have thought that the double number of days of uncleanness in connection with the birth of a woman-child indicates that woman, in consequence of Eve having been the first in the transgression in Eden, has a double portion of natural evil. Experience does not bear out this idea, but rather the reverse. There is, indeed, no difference between man and woman in God’s sight in this respect. All are equally defiled by sin, men and women both alike: if anything, I would rather say that man is the worse because the stronger. The woman-child represents, I apprehend primarily, the “bride of Christ’ the “Lamb’s wife’ and secondarily, the whole multitude of redeemed from among men at the end of the seventh thousand year, when the flesh-nature will be done away with, either by a return to dust, or by being changed to spirit, when none but immortal ones will remain on earth. This will be effected on the ground of the sacrifice for sin offered by Christ on the thirty-third day or year of his life. We are forgiven and shall be saved for Christ’s sake. He required no forgiveness. Hence the difference between the man-child and woman-child. Christ was undefiled in mind, absolutely pure, therefore he required no cleansing as pertaining to the conscience at baptism, for there never was a moment in his life when God was displeased with him; he always did and said what pleased his Father. He only required cleansing in nature, which was done, as said, after resurrection, but all others have to be cleansed both in mind and body before they can live for ever in God’s presence. The mental and moral cleansing takes place at baptism, when we are baptized into the death of Christ, which took place after the thirty-third year of his life. The double number of days in the cleansing for the woman-child represents, I take it, the double cleansing process all believers must be the subjects of before they can attain to eternal life, but both the moral and physical purification is in virtue of the one sacrifice. There could not have been represented two sacrifices, one on the thirty-third day and one on the sixty-sixth day, in connection with the cleansing of the woman-child, because Christ was only offered up once for all: therefore two sacrificial cleansings would have been out of harmony with the truth: it is therefore shown, as I conceive, in the double number of days.
“It will be observed that only the burnt offering and the sin offering were presented. There is no mention of trespass offering or peace offering. The burnt offering represented God’s estimate of Christ’s perfectly voluntary obedience even unto death; he was, as it were, wholly burnt up and devoted to God upon the altar—a sacrifice of a sweet-smelling savour —the sin offering represented and ritually prophesied that aspect of the death of Christ by which he atoned for sin. Christ himself did no wrong, and was never alienated from God, but always did that which pleased Him, both prior to and after his baptism. Thus was foreshadowed in this beautiful type, the cleansing of the human nature of Christ by his own death, and of our own cleansing on account of the same, by favour of God through faith.
“There is possibly another element in the “sixty-six’ days required for the cleansing of the woman-child. In this number, I think we have the basis of “the number of the Beast“, six hundred three score and six (Rev. 13:18). The Papal system, of which this is the numerical symbol, is also spoken of as a woman, “that woman Jezebel“, the adulteress, who is identical with the woman upon the scarlet beast. This unfaithful woman professes to be the bride of Christ, but is in truth nothing but a spiritual strumpet, committing fornication with the kings of the earth. It is an institution of an essentially fleshy nature, born of the will of the flesh and of the will of man, not of the will of God, and is defiled in every member of its body, both morally and physically. I can’t see how to make it plain, but the matter is worth thinking about.”
Whether or not all these details are involved in the veiled significance of the type, we cannot err in the interpretation of its main features, literal and typical: 1. Neither mother nor child was eligible for approach to the sanctuary till circumcision, lapse of time, and sacrifice, had opened the way: the teaching, that God is holy and man unclean: that God will be sanctified in them that approach to Him: therefore, that in its natural state, human nature is disqualified for divine relations, but may attain to this qualification by conformity to the divine appointments that have been made for the purpose. 2. That the whole human race considered as the woman in the transgression and separated by uncleanness, “shall be clean” in the upshot of things, when the provision made to that end shall be fully applied, in the justification of a sufficient number to inherit the earth under the last Adam, as his antitypical help-meet, with fulness of love and joy everlasting.