Leviticus 12-13

Good morning! Today in Leviticus 12-13 we hear about birth practices for mothers of newborns, and then a variety of interventions prescribed for skin and mold diseases. While this is perhaps interesting from a medical point of view, I find little here that is resonant of the Divine and much here that makes me grateful for modern medicine!

Short chapter 12 describes how mothers of newborns are to act, depending on whether their newborns are male or female. A woman was considered unclean after childbirth, and this condition lasted twice as long for female children. This reveals blatant preference for men, but if the time of “blood purification” was anything like our modern rest and maternity leave, women were probably wishing for girls! The chapter also gives instructions for a purification ritual (burnt offering and sin offering) after the time of uncleanness was over. Perhaps the sacrifices at the end of this time were to atone for the “pollution” of blood and childbirth.

Leviticus 13 spends a significant amount of time on “leprous diseases”. Leprosy was the general term for any kind of skin disease. Here we see that priests functioned as amateur doctors as well as religious intermediaries. I would find it fascinating to hear a dermatologist’s reflection on the diagnosis and quarantine instructions for the various diseases! It’s interesting that raw flesh makes one unclean, but if the skin is uniform—all white or all of another pigment—then the person is judged clean (again). I also found myself trying to imagine if these people, out in the sun for long periods of time, developed skin cancer, so the priests were on the lookout for symptoms of that. Most troubling to me is the prohibition against socializing for people who have “leprous diseases”—they are to live alone, removed from camp, showing their status with torn clothes and unkempt appearance, plus crying out “Unclean, unclean.” In my opinion, such social isolation could only aggravate the ailment.

You probably won’t be surprised to hear that I find this section of Leviticus uninspiring. That said, if you can find some redeeming factors in these chapters, I’d welcome hearing an alternative view. Happy reading!

Read Leviticus 12-13.

Please join discussion of this passage at the Daily Bible Facebook group, or comment below. Tomorrow’s reading is Leviticus 14-15. Thanks for reading!

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