Feb. 5 Reading: Leviticus 14-15 Commentary
“You must keep the Israelites separate from things that make them unclean, so they will not die in their uncleanness for defiling my dwelling place, which is among them.” (Lev. 15:31)
In today’s reading, there are more laws concerning leprosy and some issues related to sexual purity. As is the case with all the other issues we have read about, these brought uncleanliness into the camp. The uncleanliness needed to be removed for the people to have a right relationship with each other and with God.
Our uncleanliness today works a little different than in Israel’s time. Now, when we sin, we get right with God through confession. Thankfully, we do not need to offer a sacrifice or go through some ritual. I John 1:9 tells us that if we simply confess our sins he is faithful to forgive us and cleanse us from our unrighteousness. Thanks be to God!
Leviticus 14 – Cleansing from Skin Disease
As we saw in previous chapters, God gave priests the responsibility of conducting examinations to determine a person’s wellness when it came to a skin disease (v. 3). If the individual’s leprosy had passed, the priest conducted a sacrifice to declare the person clean.
Additionally, the person cleansed was required to wash his clothes, shave off his hair and wash himself to be recognized as clean. He was allowed to come back into the camp but not enter his tent for seven days (vv. 8-9).
Then, on the eighth day, the person would present himself to the priest at the door of the tabernacle. He brought “two male lambs without blemish, one ewe lamb of the first year without blemish, three-tenths of an ephah of fine flour mixed with oil as a grain offering, and one log of oil” (v. 10). The priest took these animals and conducted a trespass offering, a sin offering, a burnt offering and a grain offering (vv. 10-19), all of which made atonement for the person before the Lord.
God gave additional instructions for those who were too poor to afford the traditional cleansing process (vv. 21-32). The ritual is essentially the same, except for the expense of the animal offered. This is one of many instances in the law that shows God cares about the poor.
Laws About Leprous Houses
We usually only think of skin disease when we hear the word leprous. However, the same term for leprous used in Lev. 13:2 is used in Lev. 14:34 in relation to a house. In this case, leprous for a house describes a growth of mold, mildew or other infectious substance somewhere in the dwelling.
If a suspicious substance was found, the owner would let the priest know about it. Before the priest conducted his inspection, they cleared the house of all personal belongings so that they would not also be declared unclean (v. 36). Then the priest would inspect the house and make a declaration about the substance. If it showed certain characteristics, the house was shut up for seven days and reinspected to see if the substance had dissipated or spread.
It’s important to note the house was not immediately destroyed. Instead, they tried to remove the infected sections of the house to see if they could stop the spread of the substance. Only after all other options had been tried would the house be torn down and its materials removed so that the rest of the town would not become infected (vv. 40-45).
The ritual for cleansing a house and declaring it clean were the same as for cleansing an individual (vv. 49-53).
The symbolism here is powerful. What unclean areas need to be torn out and rebuilt in your life? Will you let it spread so far that it leads to your destruction?
Leviticus 15 – Uncleanliness from Bodily Discharges
In this chapter, God laid out standards for cleanliness in regards to a bodily discharge. In this case, a discharge meant any abnormal bodily flow. Not only was the man with the discharge unclean, so was any object he touched or any person who touched him (vv. 4-12). And again we see the seven day period being observed, with full restoration from uncleanliness being given after sacrifices on day eight.
It’s important to realize that uncleanliness didn’t necessarily mean sinful. We read that word in today’s language and jump to that conclusion. But not all uncleanliness was the result of sin.
For example, a man and woman were considered unclean if they were sexual active with one another. Bodily fluids are exchanged during this act by both parties, so that fits the definition of bodily discharge. However, God ordained sexual activity as part of his plan for Adam and Eve in Genesis 1 and 2. So the unclean designation here in Leviticus does not mean sex is sinful.
Likewise, a woman experiencing her monthly cycle was considered unclean for a time (vv. 19-24). So was a woman who had a discharge of blood for many days, like the woman Jesus healed in Luke 8:43-48. But again, neither of these were considered sinful.
So why all the big fuss about cleanliness? In context we must remember that God was outlining hygiene protocols for the people. We can’t discount that many of these regulations were all about God keeping the people healthy in an age when they didn’t have science or medical knowledge to know better.
But ultimately, these regulations were about God’s holiness and protecting the tabernacle space from being defiled. It was the place they met with their holy God. It had to remain ritually pure.
Questions to Consider:
God cares about your physical health. After all, He created you. So it makes sense to take our prayers for physical healing to Him. And it makes sense to manage our health well so that we have the strength to serve Him. Are you living a healthy lifestyle? Do you offer prayers to God for healing?
What do you need to confess today to get spiritually clean before God?
What other points would you want to know about in our Leviticus 14-15 commentary? Email us here with questions or comments.