Questions From Readers
● To what extent does the Jewish law forbidding marital relations during a woman’s menstrual period apply to Christians?—U.S.A.
The law governing sexual intercourse during a woman’s menstrual period states: “Where a man lies down with a menstruating woman and does lay bare her nakedness, he has exposed her source, and she herself has laid bare the source of her blood. So both of them must be cut off from among their people.” (Lev. 20:18; 18:19, 20) The Jewish law also made allowance for the possibility that a wife might begin menstruating during intercourse with her husband. The regulation governing this circumstance is found at Leviticus 15:24: “If a man lies down with her at all and her menstrual impurity comes to be upon him, he must then be unclean seven days, and any bed upon which he might lie down will be unclean.” Thus only deliberate intercourse during a woman’s menstrual period carried the penalty of ‘cutting off,’ that is, death.
The prohibition on sexual intercourse during a woman’s menstrual period was a purposeful restriction. It protected a man from becoming religiously unclean by contact with the blood of a menstruating woman. And it took into consideration the woman’s physical and biological limitations. When obeyed, this law evidently contributed to the health of Israelite women. Says Dr. Jacob B. Glenn in his book The Bible and Modern Medicine: “The female genital tract, especially during periods of lowered resistance (menstruation), is particularly vulnerable to irritation and stimulation; hence, the strict law among Jewish people forbidding cohabitation during this period.”
Christians are not under the Mosaic law. (Rom. 6:14) But they rightly give due consideration to the principles set forth therein and strive to live in harmony with these principles. The fact that deliberate intercourse during a woman’s menstrual period carried the death penalty reveals the seriousness with which Jehovah God viewed this matter.
Though under no law that would label him as being ceremonially or religiously “unclean,” a Christian is concerned with maintaining a good conscience before God. For instance, Christian women are urged to do what is “fitting” in matters of head covering and mode of dress. The apostle Paul also describes certain practices as “not becoming” and “not fitting” for God’s servants. (Compare Ephesians 5:3, 4; Romans 1:28; 1 Corinthians 11:13; 1 Timothy 2:9, 10.) True, marital relations are not a public matter but private. Yet the Christian may rightly ask himself, Do I find it “fitting” and “becoming” to have sex relations at the time my wife’s body is expelling blood and other wastes? Is it the “natural” thing to do? As we may recall, the fact that something can be done does not necessarily make it “natural” from a Scriptural standpoint. (Compare Romans 1:26, 27.) Christians should therefore want to consider what is natural, fitting and becoming in deciding what they can personally do in good conscience.
Moreover, Christian husbands are under command to ‘continue dwelling with their wives according to knowledge, assigning them honor as to a weaker vessel, the feminine one.’ (1 Pet. 3:7) Viewed in the light of the Mosaic law, such dwelling with a wife according to knowledge could include showing consideration to her during her menstrual period. Manifestly, if a man puts satisfying his passions ahead of his wife’s best interests, he would not be ‘assigning honor’ to her. If he failed to take his wife’s cycles and vicissitudes into consideration, he would not be ‘dwelling with her according to knowledge.’ By not controlling himself when the welfare of his marriage mate may be at stake, he would be disregarding the Bible’s command: “Each one of you should know how to get possession of his own vessel in sanctification and honor.”—1 Thess. 4:4.
The intimacies of a married couple, of course, are not something that is investigated by elders comprising the judicial committee of a Christian congregation. If approached for help about such matters, these elders may give appropriate counsel, but their authority ends there. Like all other Christians, married people will want to strengthen themselves spiritually by heeding their internal sense of what is proper. Also, they will appreciate Jehovah God’s interest in how they conduct their marital affairs.