A famous politician made some ghastly remarks some years back when he spoke of the need for easy access to abortion since he wouldn't want to "punish his daughter with a baby" if she accidentally got pregnant. I was reminded of those remarks as I was pondering over a passage in Leviticus which spoke of the legal requirement for a woman who had recently given birth to offer a sacrifice to God. Since Protestants (particularly Calvinists) understand the Biblical sacrificial system to be a matter of transferring punishment from the sinner onto an innocent animal, this came off as suggesting that having a baby automatically merited a punishment (worthy of death, in fact) that had to be atoned for.
The passage I had in mind was Leviticus 12:
2 If a woman conceives and bears a male child, then she shall be unclean seven days. As at the time of her menstruation, she shall be unclean. ... 6 And when the days of her purifying are completed, whether for a son or for a daughter, she shall bring to the priest at the entrance of the tent of meeting a lamb a year old for a burnt offering, and a pigeon or a turtledove for a sin offering, 7 and he shall offer it before the Lord and make atonement for her. Then she shall be clean from the flow of her blood. This is the law for her who bears a child, either male or female.
Clearly, at least two animals must die for what this woman did, give birth to a child. But does it make sense to think that in this situation what the woman did was sinful, especially so sinful that it warranted the death penalty? Could a baby really be a punishment, with the alternative being abortion? I suppose that twisted conclusion can be made if one espoused the theory of Penal Substitution. But clearly this conclusion (abortion) is so absurd that the premise (Penal Substitution) must be faulty.
Really, there's no reason to think that giving birth to a child is a sin at all, and thus this 'burnt offering' and 'sin offering' must not be about punishing an 'innocent' animal in the place of the woman. And thus neither is this atonement about satisfying God's wrath by transferring it to a substitute. This means that the sacrifice and atonement must be about cleansing/expiation, making the person ceremonially clean again to be in the presence of God. This of course would 'map over' to the spiritual realm and indicate that a person's soul must be cleansed in order to be worthy to be in God's presence.
This proper understanding would also explain the need for those with diseases or bodily discharges to make atonement, as instructed in Leviticus 14-15. Clearly having a disease or bodily discharge is not a sin, especially not a grave one.
This is yet another good proof for why the Levitical sacrifices did not operate in a Penal Substitution framework. If you'd like to know more about the error of the Protestant doctrine of Penal Substitution, start with this link and search the blog for others.