Tough Passages #12: Bloody Difficult (Leviticus 18:19)

Tough Passages #12: Bloody Difficult (Leviticus 18:19)

In “Tough Passages,” we’re looking at the difficult verses in the Bible that are often brought up by secular people as reasons the Bible doesn’t make sense, and discovering how they actually reveal the character, love, and glory of God in a beautiful way.  Last month, we looked at a double-header about death penalties for seemingly-minor infractions.  We’re rounding out the year with something a little lighter. But also a little less…polite.

Content note: This article ventures into talk about sex and bodily fluids, but it doesn’t go any further than the Bible does. Still, we recommend parents read this article before allowing their children to.

The Verse

You shall not approach a woman to uncover her nakedness while she is in her menstrual uncleanness.

Leviticus 18:19, ESV

The Secular Response

Now we’ve uncovered the secret mission of the Bible: pit men against women. Forever.

Ivana Wynn,

Our Reply

Once again, we have the Bible making people uncomfortable. Verses like these go a long way toward explaining why people think that Christians are obsessed with sex; this seems like a particularly strange, arbitrary rule that just serves to punish women for an inescapable biological fact.

But if we start from a presumption that God is good and all-knowing, we see a reason for every seemingly-random law He gives. In a time prior to antibiotics, sexually-transmitted diseases and urinary tract infections could be quite serious problems; unprotected sexual encounters during menstruation, particularly when there’s no way to clean up effectively, can increase the risks of those (to both parties). God knew that before we did; and as part of His plan to keep His people healthy both spiritually and physically, He passed down a law to decrease that disease vector. Remember, there are different types of laws in the Bible: this law was for Israel as a nation, and it was for a short time.

The nature of uncleanness is foreign to us; partly because its very nature has changed since Jesus came to walk the world. Mark F. Rooker discusses this in his commentary on Leviticus 18:

Holiness had a spatial dimension in the Old Testament, and contact of the unclean with the sanctuary was the ultimate defilement. When Jesus touched the leper and the woman touched the hem of his garment […] Jesus did not become unclean in having contact with the unclean. The law regarding uncleanness was forever changed […] The Messiah has fulfilled these laws and their function has changed.

Yet the principle behind the purity laws, the call to holiness, has not changed for the New Testament believer. […] Just as sacrifices have been fulfilled in Christ and we are to offer spiritual sacrifices, the laws of impurity have served their purpose; but the principles behind them are still to be carried out by those God has called.

-Mark F. Rooker, The New American Commentary

The mission of the Bible isn’t to pit women against men, but it is bound up in blood. The blood of humans is counted as sacred in the Old Testament because it pointed to the blood that Jesus shed; when He came, He fulfilled the ceremonial law. He cleansed us from the uncleanness that surrounds both men and women, all month and every month. And He gave us freedom to come near to Him with the confidence of a beloved.

• • •

Next year, we’re looking at two tough passages that both end in the removal of a hand, family infighting for the glory of God, and many more. Join us!

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