22 And when the time came for their purification according to the Law of Moses, they brought him up to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord 23 (as it is written in the Law of the Lord, “Every male who first opens the womb shall be called holy to the Lord”) 24 and to offer a sacrifice according to what is said in the Law of the Lord, “a pair of turtledoves, or two young pigeons.” (Luke 2:22-24)
Not only were Mary and Joseph obedient to God’s Word regarding Jesus’ circumcision eight days following His birth, but they also were obedient with respect to the purification law. What exactly was the Law of Purification?
The purification laws involved the process’ by which an unclean person, according to the Levitical law, and therefore cut off from the sanctuary and the festivals, was restored to the enjoyment of all these privileges. The great annual purification of the people was on the Day of Atonement (Leviticus 16).
According to Easton’s Bible Dictionary, there were special causes of ceremonial uncleanness which were provided for by ceremonial laws enacted for each separate case. For example, the case of the leper (Lev. 13, 14), and of the house defiled by leprosy (14:49–53; see also Matt. 8:2–4). Uncleanness from touching a dead body (Num. 19:11; Hos. 9:4; Hag. 2:13; Matt. 23:27; Luke 11:44). The case of the high priest and of the Nazarite (Lev. 21:1–4, 10, 11; Num. 6:6, 7; Ezek. 44:25).
Purification was effected by bathing and washing the clothes (Lev. 14:8, 9); by washing the hands (Deut. 21:6; Matt. 27:24); washing the hands and feet (Ex. 30:18–21; Heb. 6:2, “baptisms”, R.V. marg., “washings;” 9:10); sprinkling with blood and water (Ex. 24:5–8; Heb. 9:19), etc. Allusions to this rite are found in Ps. 26:6; 51:7; Ezek. 36:25; Heb. 10:22.
The ceremonial laws of purification applied to the Jews before the Passover (John 11:55), and for those who were slain in battle (Num. 31:19–24). They also applied to women before marriage (Esth. 2:12), after menstruation (Lev. 15:19–33; 2 Sam. 11:4), and after childbirth (Lev. 12:6–8; Luke 2:22).
As one Bible scholar explains, “A woman who bore a son was ceremonially unclean for 40 days (twice that if she bore a daughter—Lev. 12:2–5). After that she was to offer a yearling lamb and a dove or pigeon (Lev. 12:6). If poor, she could offer two doves or pigeons (Lev. 12:8). Mary’s offering indicates that she and Joseph were poor (Luke 2:24). The dedication of the firstborn son was also required by Moses’ law (Luke 2:23, cf. Ex. 13:2, 12–15).”
This scene provides us with a window as to what Mary and Joseph were occupied with doing immediately following Jesus’ birth. In short, they were dedicated to serving the Lord and being obedient to His revealed Word.
The immediate aftermath of Jesus’ birth, the angelic announcement to the shepherds and the shepherds visit to the manger scene had given way to the regular, day to day discipline of living obediently before the Lord and other people. Truly, Mary and Joseph were what God calls all of His children to be: holy before the Lord (I Peter 1:16; Leviticus 11:44). Let it be said of us.
May the Lord’s truth and grace be found here.
Soli deo Gloria!