Last week, we looked at the issue of the woman with a continuous flow of blood, who touched Jesus cloak. She was “pinged” every day of her life. Her medical condition meant she was required to permanently self-isolate. Why?
In Israel, everything fell into one of three categories.
- The Clean which encompassed almost everything.
- The Holy which included those vessels and utensils used directly in the worship of God
- The Unclean which involved animals like pigs or dogs or camels which could be touched but not eaten. Blood is clean inside the body. Outside it becomes unclean.
The whole structure was intended as a reminder of the difference between holiness and unholiness. Israel was to be different and was not to get its moral values by copying the behaviour or practices of other nations around them.
A person who was ceremonially unclean would usually remain in that state for one day. They could make a purification offering, wash and be clean once more starting afresh the next morning. However, blood meant a seven day isolation.
Is This Not Excessively Harsh on Women?
Would this law not mean not mean that every woman would basically be untouchable for a week a month. Did they really spend a quarter of their life in this state?
Professor Gordon Wenham writes: “It is probably a recent phenomenon for women to suffer a monthly period between adolescence and menopause. This is not to do with change in female physiology but changes in society and behaviour. In ancient Israel menstruation would be less frequent for three reasons:
- Early marriage: most women would marry at 16.
- Late weaning: children were breast fed until they were two or three.
- The desire for large families (Psalm 127: 4-5) coupled with a lack of contraception.
So those most affected by this law would have been young unmarried women.