I’m not sure why, but what I want to share with you today is strange but it’s been on my mind for a while. I want to begin by saying I am NOT a biblical scholar I am NOT an expert on Ancient Hebrew traditions. I am a Christian woman who loves to study the scripture I am also an american woman who at times is conflicted over seeming discrimination in the pages of scriptures. I have tons and tons to say on this very broad topic but today I want to talk about Leviticus 15:19-33
19 ” ‘When a woman has her regular flow of blood, the impurity of her monthly period will last seven days, and anyone who touches her will be unclean till evening.
20 ” ‘Anything she lies on during her period will be unclean, and anything she sits on will be unclean. 21 Whoever touches her bed must wash his clothes and bathe with water, and he will be unclean till evening. 22 Whoever touches anything she sits on must wash his clothes and bathe with water, and he will be unclean till evening. 23 Whether it is the bed or anything she was sitting on, when anyone touches it, he will be unclean till evening.
24 ” ‘If a man lies with her and her monthly flow touches him, he will be unclean for seven days; any bed he lies on will be unclean.
28 ” ‘When she is cleansed from her discharge, she must count off seven days, and after that she will be ceremonially clean. 29 On the eighth day she must take two doves or two young pigeons and bring them to the priest at the entrance to the Tent of Meeting. 30 The priest is to sacrifice one for a sin offering and the other for a burnt offering. In this way he will make atonement for her before the LORD for the uncleanness of her discharge.
Ok right about now your thinking I’ve lost my mind but please stick with me. This passage has always bothered me, it bugs me that we’re considered “unclean” over something we have no control over and over something God himself gave us. It bothers me that this uncleanness comes with headaches and cramps and fatigue and that if it weren’t for this whole thing there would be no new life. How can something so “vile” be the thing that brings babies into the world?
On the other hand I have always believed that most GOD ordained (not man ordained) things in scripture have a dual purpose, especially in the Old Testament, first to make God’s people visible to those around them (circumcision makes them physically different) but also to keep them physically more safe and healthy (there is less risk of infection to a sensitive area during a time when there were no daily showers). Take not eating pork for example; first other cultures notice that the Hebrews don’t eat pork but also pork can be deadly if not cooked properly which is made even more difficult if you are cooking over a camp fire.
So this is the back ground to what lead me to where we’re headed. My husband is reading through the Bible in a year and happened upon the above scripture. We talked, joked mostly, about it a little as it’s a very sensitive topic for my husband (I grew up with a biology teacher for a dad, a mom and two sisters I am not sensitive about this topic) and we happened upon the fact that in ancient Hebrew culture the women would go to “the red tent” during times of child birth and their monthly period. A day or two later I was hiding in the bathroom (did I say hiding? I meant cleaning that sounds less pathetic right?) while the children were running wild. And it occurred to me, women in ancient cultures had it a lot tougher then me. They had no bathrooms to hide in (I mean clean). I don’t think they went on many dates with their husbands. They had to sew, grind grain, make food etc, and usually had way more kids then we do with out the luxury of a basement to run and escape the noise (what did I come down here for any way? Oooh my secret chocolate stash!)
So maybe the fact that they “had” to leave their insanely small houses or tents full of children and husbands to go be alone with other women wasn’t such a bad thing. Think about it; they had to leave no one could make them feel guilty for going. They got to spend a week chatting with other women learning from other women. During the time of the month when you’re not feeling so great at least your not being demanded on by six small kids. Think back to that first scary horrifying period you had, wouldn’t it have been great to not have to face your brothers or dad and be surrounded by other older wiser women who would care for you and explain the miracle of it all? How about when you have your children? In a culture with out hospitals and epidurals who better to care for you than other women? Women who have been there, what an amazing way for a young woman to learn about life! For a good two weeks after you give birth your with other women who will help you and let you sleep and show you the ropes of breast feeding!
The term “unclean” can mean a lot of things. Let’s be real having your period isn’t very clean, especially before Tampax and Always came along. It’s in our mind that God is saying there is something spiritually unclean about menstruating but maybe he’s just saying it’s messy. Before washers and dryers and back when you were living in such close quarters you would need to be careful about spreading germs and disease, but God did not design the cycle of life to hamper our spirits. Having your period does not make you sinful! God knew that women were going to have a hard time, that the demands made on them would not always be fair and that they would not always be treated fairly, he also designed us to need fellowship with other women and that is why I think there was a wonderful joyful dual purpose in the red tent. God ordained that women would take time away from their duties as wife and mother and spend real quality time with other women. I think that is really amazing.