What does it say?
When a woman gives birth to a male child she was ceremonially unclean for 7 days but for an additional thirty three days she was to be considered as in mensuration. On the eighth day, the flesh of the male child’s foreskin was to be circumcised. For a female child, all of the waiting periods were doubled. At the completion of her separation, forty days for a male child and eighty days for a female child, she was to bring to the doorway of the tent of meeting a one year old lamb for a burnt offering and a turtle dove or pigeon for a sin offering, but if she was poor, she could bring two turtle doves or two pigeons instead of a lamb, so that the priest could make atonement for her.
What does it mean?
In our society there is a lot of emotion involved when males and females are considered and treated differently. Genesis 1:27-28 (NASB)
God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them. God blessed them; and God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth, and subdue it; and rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky and over every living thing that moves on the earth.”
From the beginning, God considered the male and female of equal value but different in function. A female child is not less because the waiting period for the mothers purification is double that for a male child. This is reading modern societal thinking about males and females into the text. If anything, God is giving double honor to the female. The waiting purification period for a female child is double that of a male child because the male child will never give birth or menstruate but the female child will. We should not forget, that it was through the seed of the woman that sin would be defeated. (Gn. 3:15)
What Shall I do?
I shall be careful not to apply modern societal thinking to the biblical text. I must look at the entire canon of Scripture when interpreting text that may seem strange to me living in this modern world. Child birth is holy; therefore, the woman was separated for forty days and because a female child would be able to have children, she was separated for two forty day periods. I shall consider males and females of equal value but different in function.