Bible: What Does Leviticus 13-15 Teach Us About Holiness and Proper Hygiene?
This chapter begins an examination of laws regarding leprosy; the next contains the ritual for cleansing healed lepers (chap. 14); the third discusses the law concerning bodily discharges (chap. 15).
Comment: The LORD emphasizes holiness and how proper hygiene contributes to His people’s quality of life.
The responsibility for determining (through visual examination) if certain individuals’ skin sores (saraath) warrant either pronouncing such individuals unclean, or quarantining them for seven days, falls to the priests (vv. 2-4).
The factors indicating the appropriate action include the depth of the sore and the color of the hair in the sore’s bright spot (v. 4).
Signs of Leprosy
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How to Identify and Treat Leprosy
The following possibilities exist:
If the sore is . . .
Deeper than the skin, the hair is white unclean (v. 3)
Isolation for a week, then evaluation (v. 4).
If the sore has not spread,
Isolation for another week (v. 5).
If after this time the sore has not spread, the person is clean (v. 6)
If the sore has spread, the person is unclean (vv. 7-8).
Raw flesh in the swelling of an old leprous sore signals an unclean condition (vv. 9-11).
The one whose entire body is white with leprosy the priest considers clean; only when he sees raw flesh is the person unclean (vv. 12-15).
If the raw flesh turns white, and the priest examines it and finds it so, he may pronounce the person clean (vv. 16-17).
Healed boils which produce white or reddish-white spots or swellings that are more than skin deep indicate leprosy; however, if the spot appears only superficial, then the priest quarantines the infected one for a week (vv. 18-21).
If the spot spreads, it is leprous (v. 22); if it does not, then it is just a scar (v. 23).
Priests must follow the same procedure if raw flesh from a burn becomes reddish-white or white (vv. 24-28).
If a head or beard sore produces a scale with thin, yellow hair or if the scale spreads after a week’s isolation, the priest must pronounce the individual unclean.
If black hairs appear, the sore has healed (vv. 29-37).
[The investigations are very similar in all cases.
If the infected one manifests abnormalities (more than skin deep sore, spreading, unhealthy hair), the priest pronounces him unclean; if everything appears normal, the priest pronounces him clean].
Dull, white spots on the body and baldness do not signify leprosy or any other dangerous skin disease; only when the typical sores appear on the head or forehead can the priest examine them and call them leprous (vv. 38-44).
The leper is responsible to warn others of his condition by outward signs and verbal communication (v. 45), and remain isolated from the community (v. 46).
Any garment of any fabric that has a greenish or reddish fungus or mold in it is isolated for a week (vv. 47-50).
If the leprosy spreads, the examining priest burns the garment; if not, he commands that it be washed and isolated another week (vv. 51-54).
If no change occurs, he must burn it; but if the plague fades, he must tear out the affected area (vv. 55-56).
If the mold reappears, he must destroy the garment by fire; however, if the infection disappears, he must pronounce the garment clean after a second washing (vv. 57-58).
This section ends with a summary statement (v. 59).
Responsible parties must bring a cleansed leper to a priest (vv. 1-2).
Outside the camp, he examines the one healed (v. 3), and then tells those who brought him to perform the following ritual:
(1) Kill one clean bird in an earthen vessel over running water (v. 5);
(2) Dip another bird, a living one, in the dead bird’s blood (v. 6);
(3) Using hyssop, sprinkle with blood seven times the one to be cleansed, and let the second bird go free (v. 7).
The one seeking cleansing must
(1) wash his clothes;
(2) shave off all his hair; and
Although the people will allow him to return to the camp, he must stay outside his tent for a week (v. 8).
At the end of this period, he must shave and bathe again before he is clean (v. 9).
The next day he must sacrifice a combination of three unblemished lambs and a grain offering (v. 10).
In a holy place the priest who purifies him must kill one male lamb as his trespass offering (vv. 11-13).
Then the cleric puts some of the lamb’s blood on the man’s extremities (v. 14), sprinkles some oil before the LORD, and puts some on top of the blood that is on the man’s extremities (vv. 15-17).
The rest of the oil he pours (?) on the man’s head (v. 18).
He offers the sin offering, kills the burnt offering, and offers it with the grain (vv. 19-20).
If the above sacrifice is too costly for him, the healed leper may lower the amount of the grain offering (from three-tenths of an ephah to one-tenth), and he need offer only one male lamb.
Yet he must substitute two turtledoves or pigeons for the other lambs (vv. 21-22).
The priest “waves’’ the lamb and log of oil, then kills the animal, and follows the prescribed ritual (blood on extremities, sprinkle oil seven times, oil on extremities, pour oil on head of subject) [vv. 23-29].
The doves or pigeons serve as a sin offering and a burnt offering, and are offered with the grain (vv. 30-31).
Verse 32 summarizes the subject of this latter section. (See Matthew 8:4 as an illustration.)
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As for leprous housing, the LORD provides a law also (vv. 33-53).
After the owner clears the suspected dwelling of his possessions, the priest examines the areas of concern (v. 36).
If the walls have ingrained streaks, greenish or reddish, the priest quarantines the house for a week (vv. 37-38).
If the plague spreads after a week, they must remove the affected stones to an unclean area outside the city, scrape the walls thoroughly and pour out the dust outside the city, replace the stones, and plaster the house (vv. 39-42).
If, after they follow this entire procedure, leprosy reappears, they must destroy the house and carry everything to the unclean place (vv. 43-45).
Anyone entering the house remains unclean until evening and must wash his clothes (vv. 46-47).
However, if no leprosy reappears, the priest pronounces the house clean and performs a cleansing ritual—the same one he applies for the cleansing of a leprous man (vv. 48-53; cf. 14:4-7).
Verses 54-57 summarize the law of leprosy.
Moses: God's Prophet
The LORD tells Moses that any bodily discharge is unclean (vv. 1-3).
Then He lists as unclean various items or people with which this man with a discharge may be associated:
(1) A bed on which he lies, or someone who touches it (vv. 4a, 5);
(2) Everything on which he sits, even a saddle, or anyone who sits on anything that this man sits on (vv. 4b, 6, 9, 10);
(3) Anyone who touches this man, whom this man touches, or upon whom this man spits (vv. 7-8, 11).
Vessels of earth are broken, and vessels of wood are rinsed with water (v. 12).
This “man with a discharge” counts seven days for his cleansing, then washes his clothes, and bathes in running water (v. 13).
The next day he sacrifices two doves or two pigeons, one as a burnt offering and the other as a sin offering (vv. 14-15).
Reasons for Law
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Men make themselves unclean with seminal emissions as well as with women with whom they have relations, and garments on which they “spill their seed” (vv. 16-18).
Everything and everybody must be washed with water, and be unclean until evening.
Women who discharge blood are unclean for a week.
Anyone who touches her, her bed, or anything she sits on, or that is on her bed, or anything that she lies or sits on, becomes unclean (vv. 19-23).
The man who has relations with her while she is in her impurity becomes unclean for a week, as well as any bed on which he lies (v. 24).
If the discharge lasts longer than normal, or if it is a different kind of discharge of blood, she is unclean.
Any bed and whatever she sits on is also unclean; if anyone touches those items, they, too, are unclean (vv. 25-27).
One week after her discharge ends, she is clean, but must offer the same sacrifices as the cleansed man (vv. 28-30).
These laws Yahweh institutes for Israel’s protection:
First, to keep them from defiling His tabernacle with their uncleanness, and
Second, to separate them from all that is unholy.
As before, a summary statement follows (vv. 31-33).
© 2014 glynch1