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Sex During Menstruation
You shall not approach a woman to uncover her nakedness as long as she is in her customary impurity. (Leviticus 18:19)
I. God hates it.
Indeed the marriage bed is undefiled (Hebrews 13:4), but there is something that can defile the marriage bed. Besides "strangers with you" (Proverbs 5:17), sexual intercourse during menstruation also defiles. Even though Leviticus 18:19 is in the law, and Christ is the end of the law for righteousness for everyone who believes (Romans 10:4), it nonetheless reveals that sex during menstruation is an abomination to God.
Several other sins are listed off in Leviticus 18, sex with near of kin, marrying a woman and her sister, adultery, idolatry, homosexuality, and bestiality. These are all identified as things that defile and are things that God hates, as the following verses declare:
Do not defile yourselves with any of these things; for by all these the nations are defiled, which I am casting out before you. For the land is defiled; therefore I visit the punishment of its iniquity upon it, and the land vomits out its inhabitants. You shall therefore keep My statutes and My judgments, and shall not commit any of these abominations, either any of your own nation or any stranger who dwells among you (for all these abominations the men of the land have done, who were before you, and thus the land is defiled), lest the land vomit you out also when you defile it, as it vomited out the nations that were before you. For whoever commits any of these abominations, the persons who commit them shall be cut off from among their people. Therefore you shall keep My ordinance, so that you do not commit any of these abominable customs which were committed before you, and that you do not defile yourselves by them: I am the Lord your God. (Leviticus 18:24-30)
Before this law was given to Moses (Leviticus 18:1), the nations and their land had already been defiled by these things, and the land had already vomited out nations that practiced them. This makes it clear, that these practices, which includes sex during menstruation, are, according to God, evil (i.e. sinful) and He viewed them as evil before the law was given to Moses.
Furthermore, the decree God gave the Israelites for anyone who had sex during the menstrual cycle was death.
If a man lies with a woman during her sickness and uncovers her nakedness, he has exposed her flow, and she has uncovered the flow of her blood. Both of them shall be cut off from their people. (Leviticus 20:18)
The Lord obviously takes this very seriously and instructed the Israelites to kill anyone who did such a thing (cut off = put to death, see e.g. Exodus 31:14; Leviticus 20:1-5; Daniel 9:26).
Therefore, God's condemnation of the wicked people of Jerusalem, although under the law at that time, is nonetheless a warning to all. In the context of a list of some very wicked things, the Lord says,
In you men uncover their fathers' nakedness; in you they violate women who are set apart during their impurity. (Ezekiel 22:10)
God hates this practice.
II. It's a Matter of Righteousness and Life and Death
Ezekiel 18 further reveals that sex during menses is indeed ungodly. Notice how the Lord describes a "just" man (vs 9) in Ezekiel 18:5-9:
But if a man is just and does what is lawful and right; if he has not eaten on the mountains, nor lifted up his eyes to the idols of the house of Israel, nor defiled his neighbor's wife, nor approached a woman during her impurity; (Ezekiel 18:5-6)
Along with several other things that depict a "just" (righteous) man, is one who does not approach "a woman during her impurity." God says this man "shall surely live!" (Ezekiel 18:9) Conversely, after this the Lord says if this just man,
begets a son who is a robber or a shedder of blood, who does any of these things . . . (Ezekiel 18:10)
What is in view with the words, "who does any of these things"? One of those things is approaching "a woman during her impurity." God says of this man,
If he has done any of these abominations, he shall surely die; his blood shall be upon him. (Ezekiel 18:13)
The death God speaks of here is one of eternal death (Revelation 20:14). This is made clear later in the chapter where He says,
"The soul who sins shall die. The son shall not bear the guilt of the father, nor the father bear the guilt of the son. The righteousness of the righteous shall be upon himself, and the wickedness of the wicked shall be upon himself."
"But if a wicked man turns from all his sins which he has committed, keeps all My statutes, and does what is lawful and right, he shall surely live; he shall not die. None of the transgressions which he has committed shall be remembered against him; because of the righteousness which he has done, he shall live. Do I have any pleasure at all that the wicked should die?" says the Lord God, "and not that he should turn from his ways and live?"
"But when a righteous man turns away from his righteousness and commits iniquity, and does according to all the abominations that the wicked man does, shall he live? All the righteousness which he has done shall not be remembered; because of the unfaithfulness of which he is guilty and the sin which he has committed, because of them he shall die." (Ezekiel 18:20-24)
All men die, the righteous and the wicked (Ecclesiastes 2:14-16; 9:2-3), but not all men will be dead (Matthew 22:31-32; John 8:51; 11:26). The Lord is not speaking of simply physical death in Ezekiel 18. He is indicating their eternal home, life or death (Isaiah 66:24). Sexual intercourse during a period is a serious matter.
So, how long should one wait? In the law, the woman was unclean for seven days (Leviticus 12:2). This is a typical cycle, somewhere around seven days for it to be complete. Leviticus 20:18 describes the concern to be with the flow of blood. Actually, the answer to how long one should wait is quite simple. When the period is over, when there is no blood flow, then clearly there is no abomination before God if sexual intercourse is resumed (Hebrews 13:4).
Now, some may wonder about Leviticus 15:19-24, 32-33.
If a woman has a discharge, and the discharge from her body is blood, she shall be set apart seven days; and whoever touches her shall be unclean until evening. Everything that she lies on during her impurity shall be unclean; also everything that she sits on shall be unclean. Whoever touches her bed shall wash his clothes and bathe in water, and be unclean until evening. And whoever touches anything that she sat on shall wash his clothes and bathe in water, and be unclean until evening. If anything is on her bed or on anything on which she sits, when he touches it, he shall be unclean until evening. And if any man lies with her at all, so that her impurity is on him, he shall be unclean seven days; and every bed on which he lies shall be unclean. (Leviticus 15:19-24)
This is the law for one who has a discharge, and for him who emits semen and is unclean thereby, and for her who is indisposed because of her customary impurity, and for one who has a discharge, either man or woman, and for him who lies with her who is unclean. (Leviticus 15:32-33)
Is the issue here having sex, or simply lying down with a woman during this time? It appears to be the latter. In Leviticus 20:18, five chapters later, sex is definitely the context, and the practice is seriously condemned. Here, in Leviticus 15, there is no such language of condemnation, but simply an uncleanness for seven days, and not even a sin-offering for the man is required.
Thus, for a practical application for today, it is not that a man can't sleep (sleep, that is) with his wife during her time, or even enjoy her breasts (Proverbs 5:19 "at all times"). It's the sexual intercourse and the exposure of the flow of blood that God forbids (Leviticus 20:18).
Finally, what if a husband were to demand to have intercourse during his wife's menstrual cycle? Should the wife submit to this (1 Peter 3:1-6)? No, it is an abomination to God (Leviticus 18:19-30). She should resist this even to her own death (Revelation 12:11). As it is written,
For consider Him who endured such hostility from sinners against Himself, lest you become weary and discouraged in your souls. You have not yet resisted to bloodshed, striving against sin. (Hebrews 12:3-4)
Resisting and striving against sin, even to the point of bloodshed, is Biblical. The people of faith in Hebrews 11 knew this well, that is, those who were tortured, scourged, stoned, slain with the sword, and sawn in two (Hebrews 11:35-37).
Of course, if a woman was overpowered by her husband, and the woman was an unwilling participant, then she has not sinned. The husband sinned, but the woman would be as one who was raped as in Deuteronomy 22.
If a man finds a betrothed young woman in the countryside, and the man forces her and lies with her, then only the man who lay with her shall die. But you shall do nothing to the young woman; there is in the young woman no sin deserving of death, for just as when a man rises against his neighbor and kills him, even so is this matter. For he found her in the countryside, and the betrothed young woman cried out, but there was no one to save her. (Deuteronomy 22:25-27)
III. God's View of Menstruation
In addition, God's view of menstruation, even though He is the one who made it (Romans 11:36), is not one of pleasantries. He uses the woman's monthly cycle as an illustration of severe disgust and hatred. Ezekiel 36:17 illustrates this:
Son of man, when the house of Israel dwelt in their own land, they defiled it by their own ways and deeds; to Me their way was like the uncleanness of a woman in her customary impurity. (note also verse 18)
Israel's sin was seriously wicked (e.g. 2 Kings 17:7-18), and the Lord hated their ways so much, He likened it to menses.1
Even men's own righteousness God likens to a rag of menstruations.
But we are all like an unclean thing, and all our righteousnesses are like filthy rags; (Isaiah 64:6; in the Hebrew text it is Isaiah 64:5)
A more literal translation of this is, "all our righteousnesses are like a rag of periods." The Hebrew word בֶגֶד (beged) for "rag" (or "rags" as the NKJV has it) is actually in the singular, and the Hebrew word עִדִּים (`iddiym) translated "filthy" is actually in the plural, and is more akin to our word "period" or "time" than "filthy" (see Lexicons, Brown, Driver, and Briggs, p. 723 or Koehler and Baumgartner, p. 790).
The Bible makes it clear that God's view of a woman's monthly cycle is one of disgust and an unclean thing, and intercourse during this time is something He hates. It's an abomination to Him. So, be warned, those who practice what God hates will spend forever in eternal torment in the lake of fire (Revelation 21:8), because they are abominable and unclean (Ephesians 5:5).
1. Lamentations 1:17 in the KJV reads,
Jerusalem is as a menstruous woman among them.
The NKJV reads,
Jerusalem has become an unclean thing among them. (Lamentations 1:17)
The Hebrew noun translated "menstruous woman" (KJV) and "unclean thing" (NKJV) is נִדָּה (niddâh) and is used for the "impurity" of menstruation (Leviticus 12:2, 5; 15:19-20, 24, 25 [3x], 26 [2x], 33; 18:19; Ezekiel 18:6; 22:10; 36:17) and also other impurities, taking a brother's wife (Leviticus 20:21), or the water of "purification" (Numbers 19:9, 13, 20-21 [2x]; 31:23); "rubbish" (2 Chronicles 29:5 KJV; NKJV); "unclean" & "uncleanness" (Ezra 9:11 [2x]; KJV "unclean"; "filthiness"); "unclean thing" (Lamentations 1:17; KJV "a mentruous woman"); "refuse" (Ezekiel 7:19; "removed" KJV), 20 ("far" KJV); "vile" (Lamentations 1:8; "removed" KJV); and "uncleaness" (Zechariah 13:1). The related verb, נָדָה (nâdâh), is found only in Isaiah 66:5 ("cast . . . out" KJV; NKJV) and Amos 6:3 ("put far away" KJV; "put far off" NKJV).
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