Leviticus 11-15: Holy, Clean and Unclean

We have dealt so slightly with the understanding of what it means to be ‘holy’, ‘clean’ and ‘unclean’.  I had initially made the mistake of thinking that ‘holy’ and ‘clean’ were synonymous – but that isn’t the case.  It is almost as if that assumption is true of our sinful fallen minds, which is why God provides through Leviticus 11-15 an extremely detailed and clear explanation of true holiness being more than just ‘clean’.

1.  Food (Leviticus 11)

2.  Birth of a child and menstruation (Leviticus 12)

3.  Leprosy: a spiritual truth (Leviticus 13-14)

4.  Bodily discharges (Leviticus 15)

Intro:  What is Holy, Clean and Unclean?

Paul Blackham created a helpful table in his Book-by-Book series.  Here is just a quick rendition:

Holy

Clean

Unclean

LORD God, heaven, new creation, Garden of Eden, Tabernacle, Tabernacle furniture, anointed priests, sacrificed animals

Israel (the congregation), the camp, ordinary equipment/utensils, a clean Israelite, clean animals

Outside of Israel, outside of the camp, defiled & decaying buildings, defiled equipment, unclean animals, unclean Israelites, Gentiles (who have not joined Israel), hell, disease, death, devil

Some have used a different diagram to help understand the distinctions of holy, clean, unclean.  Here is my rendition of what was used in the New Bible Commentary’s Leviticus commentary (with Gordon Wenham as a guide):

1.  Food (Leviticus 11)

Concerning Holy and Clean and Unclean categories, you have the sacrificial animals, the clean animals, and unclean animals; and then you move onto the separate categories within the three – creatures on earth, water and sky (the distinctions made in Genesis 1:20-30).  Finally, everything we know about these animals relate not only to animals – they also relate to men.  Exodus 3:2, and v.12-13 strongly imply this:

Exo 13:2  “Consecrate to me all the firstborn. Whatever is the first to open the womb among the people of Israel, both of man and of beast, is mine.” …

… 12 you shall set apart to the LORD all that first opens the womb. All the firstborn of your animals that are males shall be the LORD’s. 13  Every firstborn of a donkey you shall redeem with a lamb, or if you will not redeem it you shall break its neck. Every firstborn of man among your sons you shall redeem.

So we begin, again, with the Angel, Son of God, speaking to them starting at v.2 concerning the:

(a)  Edible Animals on Earth (v.2-8 )

v.3 – whatever parts the hoof, and cloven-footed, chews the cud:  but, among those which chew the cud/part the hoof – you cannot eat: CAMEL – because it chews the cud but does not part the hoof (v.4);

ROCK BADGER (v.5) and HARE (v.6) for the same reasons; PIG (v.7) because it parts the hoof but doesn’t chew the cud.

So camel, rock badger, hare and pig are the exceptional animals.  Thus, v.2 & 8 act as the bookends for the edible animals on earth.  Not only can they not eat from them, but they are unclean and their carcasses should not be touched (v.8 ).

(b)  Edible creatures in the waters (v.9-12)

Edible: v.9 – Everything that has fins and scales, whether in the seas or rivers, you may eat! By contrast, everything without fins and scales, of the swarming and living creatures in the waters is detestable to us (v.10-11) – again, none of their flesh should be eaten, and their carcasses detested.  v. 12 AGAIN re-iterates this point (in a space of 4 verses this is stated three times!).

(c)  Edible creatures of the heavens/skies (v.13-25)

Detestable (i.e. inedible)  and edible birds (v.13-19)

Lev 11:13  “And these you shall detest among the birds; they shall not be eaten; they are detestable: the eagle, the bearded vulture, the black vulture,
Lev 11:14  the kite, the falcon of any kind,
Lev 11:15  every raven of any kind,
Lev 11:16  the ostrich, the nighthawk, the sea gull, the hawk of any kind,
Lev 11:17  the little owl, the cormorant, the short-eared owl,
Lev 11:18  the barn owl, the tawny owl, the carrion vulture,
Lev 11:19  the stork, the heron of any kind, the hoopoe, and the bat.

Detestable and edible insects (v.20-25)

v.20 – All winged insects on all fours are detestable, v.21 – among these, you may eat those that have jointed legs above their feet, with which to hop on the ground; of them, you may eat (v.22) the locust of any kind, the bald locust of any kind, the cricket of any kind, and the grasshopper of any kind (all of which have jointed legs above their feet).

But v.23 reiterates v.20 – all winged insects on all fours are detestable.  Again, v.24 states what has been stated with the other creatures: whoever touches their carcass shall be unclean until the evening, and v.25 – whoever carries any part of their carcass shall wash his clothes and be unclean until evening.

(d) Flesh on Skeleton of v.1-25, and the contagious nature of the unclean creatures (v.26-47)

v.26 doesn’t exactly start on a new note, but we are given flesh to the skeleton of the previous 25 verses.

Again, v.27 now states that for all that walk on their paws, anything on all fours is unclean to man.

Then for the swarming things:

Lev 11:29  “And these are unclean to you among the swarming things that swarm on the ground: the mole rat, the mouse, the great lizard of any kind,
Lev 11:30  the gecko, the monitor lizard, the lizard, the sand lizard, and the chameleon.

After these further explanations, Adam Clarke’s commentary provides a good summary of the contagious nature of the unclean creatures from v.31-44:

All that touch them shall be unclean, Lev_11:31; and the things touched by their dead carcasses are unclean also, Lev_11:32-35. Large fountains, or pits of water, are not defiled by their carcasses, provided a part of the water be drawn out, Lev_11:36. Nor do they defile seed by accidentally touching it, provided the water which has touched their flesh do not touch or moisten the seed, Lev_11:37, Lev_11:38. A beast that dieth of itself is unclean, and may not be touched or eaten, Lev_11:39, Lev_11:40. All creeping things are abominable, Lev_11:41-44.

There is much necessity in understanding the creeping things of Lev 11:41-44. v.41-42 acts as if they are summary verses for everything spoken of in Leviticus 11:

Lev 11:41  “Every swarming thing that swarms on the ground is detestable; it shall not be eaten.
Lev 11:42  Whatever goes on its belly, and whatever goes on all fours, or whatever has many feet, any swarming thing that swarms on the ground, you shall not eat, for they are detestable.

And then Leviticus 11:45 is the famous verse explaining the purpose of the law.  “For I am the LORD who brought you up out of the land of Egypt to be your God. You shall therefore be holy, for I am holy.” This verse is interesting.  The word representing God changes firstly between LORD (“Jehovah”), and then says “to be your God” which in Hebrew is Elohim.  It is the LORD, Jesus, who brought the Israelites out of the land of Egypt to be our GOD, Elohim, the GOD who created the heavens and the earth.  I have gone through the implications of the word “Elohim” for it is a plural word indicating two implications: one of the Trinity, and one of magnificence.  I think both are applicable, it would be arrogant to restrict the semantic range to the meaning of ‘magnificence’ because it may lead to mono-theistic implications when the Trinity has been so clearly shown up to this point.

Christological expressions of food, ‘creeping things’, ‘unclean until evening’, and Leviticus 11:45

The problem with Leviticus 11 is that people primarily see it as a set of commandments concerning hygiene.  I believe that argument holds little water – there is no explanation why certain creatures are seen as unclean; furthermore there is no explanation why being cloven footed is a requirement for land animals.  However, that is the implication of Leviticus 11 – that there are certain creatures, good for food, which are completely clean under any circumstance!  This brings me to verses like Romans 1:23, in the ESV which says that we exchanged the glory of the immortal God for “mortal man, and birds and animals and creeping things”.  Yet, I like the KJV’s faithfulness to the Greek here: “uncorruptible (aphthartos meaning immortal and non-decaying) God into an image made like to corruptible man (phthartos meaning decaying), and to birds, and fourfooted beasts (tetrapous meaning quadruped), and creeping things.”  These two details are crucial in understanding what Paul is writing.  The juxtaposition of exchanging a undying, eternal God for a decaying man, birds, fourfooted beasts and creeping things seem to relate directly to Leviticus 11.

Exodus 3:2 and 3:12-13 already self-explanatory in the sense that man and beast are treated alike, in the symbolism of the latter.  Thus, the birds of v.13-19 make much sense.  These are all birds of prey, which eat carrion and insects and flesh from which blood is not properly drained.

Contrarily, the clean land animals were those that chew the cud, meaning that they are vegetarian.  These clean land animals should ALSO be cloven-footed, and not only chew the cud, rather than having claws/talons.  Finally, the clean water creatures are those with fins and scales.  I stumbled across an interesting comment on a dietary website commenting on the Jewish laws:

Interestingly kosher dietary laws prohibit the eating of fish without both scales and fins. That eliminates a number of delicious sea foods, including shellfish, shrimp, catfish, lobster, mussels, eels, sharks, sturgeons, and swordfish, just to name a few.

Clearly their law-giver knew something that has taken scientists years to discover. Now we know that fish with scales AND fins are equipped with a digestive system that prevents the absorption of poisons and toxins into their flesh from the waters they call home. Flounder, cod, haddock, and salmon are a few examples of fish with scales and fins.

Catfish have fins, but do not have scales. These scavengers are primarily bottom feeders and have digestive systems designed to absorb toxins from the water. Clams, lobster, shrimp, crabs, mussels and squid do not have scales or fins and are believed to be highly toxic. They naturally absorb all the toxins in the water they live in. Interestingly, lobster and crabs are crustaceans and are a part of the arthropod family, which include caterpillars, cockroaches, and spiders!

For the comment in the second paragraph, the logic is undoubtedly inverted (the assumption being that the ‘scientists’ know better).  Other than that, I find the rest of the writer’s observations very interesting, and no doubt this supports much truth behind the cleanness of the animals thus far.  God doesn’t want us to eat of birds of prey which eat flesh without the blood drained properly; and similarly, he doesn’t want us to eat fish without scales and fins, lest we consume fish without a proper digestive system and eat of all types of carcasses underwater.  Finally, only certain vegetarian insects are clean, and anything four-footed (on all fours) is unclean except those which have jointed legs and hop (thus not remaining on the ground).

There is much to be said about these three categories which tie them together – the model of Genesis 1:27.  Only green plants were given as food for all animals.  Furthermore, in the Garden, there was no death, no predatory behaviour, no bloodshed, no disease, no dead bodies (v.24-25 and Numbers 5:2 indicates that any touching of dead carcasses renders the toucher unclean) above all, and no decay.  This isn’t the only model of unfallen creation – but also of new creation (Isaiah 11).  However, Leviticus 11 deals exactly with all these themes, all of which symbolise the parallelling truth to men.

An animal which is cloven-footed and chews the cud is an example of the Edenic animal – both vegetarian and without capacity to harm (unlike the ones with claws or talons).  Not only that, they are not on all fours, which is a mock-representation of the snake, the animal epitomising the Fallen Angel who crawls not only on all fours but entirely swarming and slithering on the ground cursed by God (Genesis 3).  This emphasises the importance of animals not being on all fours, but being joint-legged so they can hop or at least not remain on the ground entirely.  This explains Paul’s reason for writing Romans 1, who most likely refers to corruptible man; corruptible birds (i.e. birds of prey), and corruptible quadruped beasts.  He was referring to the uncleanness represented by each animal.  Romans 1:23 thus no longer is making the normal comparison between God and the common and clean.  He is saying that our fallen minds naturally turn away from the most holy, and turn to the most DEBASED.  Any Catholic thought of not having an entire corruption of natural powers is immediately revoked: Paul is essentially saying that without the Spirit, we are entirely useless and Godless.

This finally brings me to v.45.  The significance of the usage of the term is important: Jesus is defining himself in two offices.  One – that of Jehovah, of LORD, who brought the Israelites out of Egypt; and then becoming the God, the Elohim, the one who partook with the Creator Father and the Powerful Spirit.  This is akin to Philippians 2:9-11:

Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, 10 so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11 and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father

Yet, Christ has already been at the right hand of the Father, and has been slain before the foundations of the world, as explained by the seemingly mysterious verse in Revelation 13:8.  This therefore intrigues me to the most, that God’s identity has been eternal and true, but revealed to us in his becoming.  That we must be portrayed a process of death, decay and resurrection before we fully understand the truth of Jesus Christ on the cross.  This presentation has already been portrayed in Genesis 1 in the days of creation, and fleshed out in different ways in their dispensations but they refer very much to the same covenant established in Genesis 3:15, which was true even prior to Genesis 3:15.  Thus, as the events in OT play out to the NT, we learn how God’s usage of Israel as a priesthood, a holy nation (Exodus 19:6) never meant for the Gentiles to be seen as ‘unclean’ either – hence the implications of Acts 10:

Act 10:9  The next day, as they were on their journey and approaching the city, Peter went up on the housetop about the sixth hour to pray.
Act 10:10  And he became hungry and wanted something to eat, but while they were preparing it, he fell into a trance
Act 10:11  and saw the heavens opened and something like a great sheet descending, being let down by its four corners upon the earth.
Act 10:12  In it were all kinds of animals and reptiles and birds of the air.
Act 10:13  And there came a voice to him: “Rise, Peter; kill and eat.”
Act 10:14  But Peter said, “By no means, Lord; for I have never eaten anything that is common or unclean.”
Act 10:15  And the voice came to him again a second time, “What God has made clean, do not call common.

After the ascension of Christ, when the Spirit was given to the world, Christ’s identity was cemented a la Philippians 2.  But was the Spirit not given in the OT?  He was! but restricted to the physical land of Israel.  Was Christ not given in the OT to the OT saints?  He was!  But again, the LORD appeared to the saints of Israel.  But remember that the land of Israel is merely a physical restriction of Exodus 20, a covenant on Sinai, represented by Hagar (Galatians 4) – but the true covenant was not made at Sinai, but to Abraham (Genesis 12).  Because Genesis 12 precedes Exodus 20, the physical boundaries between Israel and the world were always going to be destroyed.  Yet, Jonah 3 displays that unless the sign of Jonah is complete (i.e. the success of Jonah’s evangelism is symbolically shown after he was in the “pit” of the whale for 3 days, only to ‘resurrect’ and rise again on the third day), the division would still be there – until the giving of the Spirit, there is no physical manifestation of the Gentiles being included.  Thus, Peter’s conversation with God is important:   “What God has made clean (i.e. what was ‘unclean food’ prior to the cross and the Pentecost), do not call common (in the Greek, ‘common’ is koinos which can mean defiled and polluted, whereas the Hebrew word “tahor” which is translated to ‘common’ in the English actually means pure and clean).  What God really means is that the division between the Gentiles and the Israelites is now destroyed – to fulfill the true meaning of Genesis 12, that the law and the gospel is no longer restricted to the physical land of Israel!  In the NT, both Jews and Gentiles, wherever they are, stand before God as clean men.  The symbolism of Gentiles as unclean in the OT is due to the awaiting of the fulfillment of the covenental law of Exodus 20, completed on the cross.

There is much to be said about God’s being in becoming, yet that is the implication of Leviticus 11:45, which in turn is the true implication of the food.  What you eat is really what you are – and what we are is clean, and what we need to be is more than just clean.  We need to be holy, and sanctified like the priests in the preceding chapters (Leviticus 8-10) – and only the blood of CHRIST, not any other blood can do that.  This is why touching the carcasses and eating flesh which consumed other flesh without drained blood has such huge implications.  Are we to becomes creatures of uncleanness by nailing our God to the cross and causing him to bleed?  Indeed, that is who we were.  But we are to be in Him, so we no longer crucify Him but to partake in His holy glory.

2.  Birth of a child and menstruation (Leviticus 12)

Son:  Lev 12:1; after the birth of a son, who is to be circumcised the eighth day, (Lev 12:2, Lev 12:3) the mother is seen as unclean for forty days, Lev 12:4.

Daughter:  After the birth of a daughter, eighty days, Lev 12:5.

Menstruation:  this isn’t strictly related to children, but it also concerns the flow of the woman’s blood – and this is also seen as unclean (Lev 12:2).

When the days of her purifying were ended, she must bring a lamb for a burnt-offering, and a young pigeon or a turtle-dove for a sin-offering, Lev 12:6-7. If she is too poor to bring a lamb, she must bring either two turtle-doves or two pigeons v.8.

What is implied in v.7 is that she is unclean from the flow of her blood whether she bears a male or a female child, or is in the time of menstruation.

Christological expressions of the flow of the blood and birth of children

The importance of blood is again emphasised in Leviticus 12.  Genesis 3:15-19 states that one of the curses of woman is that child-bearing is now painful, and in this pain will the Promised Seed come.  In these very verses, the coming of the Son of God is already implicated to be one where he will suffer by incarnating into this world – the Second Adam suffering by the sin contributed by First Adam.

Again, like the way we look at food, even the way we look at childbirth affects man, beast AND creation.  Romans 8:19-22 reminds us that this curse is not restricted to man, for man’s sin has wrought such a turbulent effect on whole of creation.  It is worth quoting the section from Romans 8 here:

Rom 8:18  For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us.
Rom 8:19  For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God.
Rom 8:20  For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it, in hope
Rom 8:21  that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God.
Rom 8:22  For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now.
Rom 8:23  And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies.
Rom 8:24  For in this hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what he sees?

Thus, the pain of childbirth, represented most well by the flow of the blood, is an example of this groaning.  Romans 8:23 expresses it best: us, with the firstfruits of the Holy Spirit, also groan inwardly awaiting eagerly for adoption as sons and redemption of our bodies.  We are now physically adopted and redeemed?  Not yet.  Yet, every law laid down in Leviticus 11 and 12 pertaining to blood is to point to that groaning, point to that pain since Genesis 3 thus pointing towards a renewal and a re-creation by the Seed born from pain and blood, but conquered death with His blood.

There are two smaller details we should not overlook – the fact that only the male are circumcised; and secondly, the difference of being unclean for 40 days (for male) and 80 days (for female).  The latter has an implication of the woman not needed for work for 40 days and 80 days respectively (thus resting and awaiting to be established as ‘clean’ once again), making it especially fortunate if she bore a female.  Yet, if the distinctions of men and women remain clear – that men represent Christ the Head, and women represent the church.  That men represent the heavens from which Christ was sent, and women represent the terra which receives the Seed.  That Jesus Christ, the Seed, is sent by the power of the Spirit into Virgin Mary, who received the Seed.  So, the bearing of the male in one set of forty days represents the suffering and the temptation of Christ for forty days, a theme explored when it rained for forty days and forty nights in the story of Noah and the flood.  Yet, 80 days – twice of forty, is to look further on.  Bearing the male represents Second Adam; bearing the FEMALE represents Second Eve – the second mother of all living.  And this will leave the mother 80 days unclean – thus the time of TESTING is longer than the awaiting of Christ fulfilling his work on the cross.  40 days represent the first advent of Christ; and 80 days represent the second advent of Christ when creation will no longer groan and will bear NEW creation, represented by the “second female ‘terra'”, born of the “first female ‘terra'”.

The former I have already explained: menstruation of the woman preaches the message of creation, of the groaning female terra (c.f. my commentary on Genesis 1 – the creation of heavens and earth).  It is the female terra that has been groaning from Day 8, and will continue to groan until our Resurrection Day.  If the menstruation of women preaches that message (and indeed, that sign of the curse remains on them in both Old and New Testament, meaning the message preached by menstruation is NOT yet fulfilled until creation ceases its groaning), then the circumcision of men preaches a message already fulfilled (hence the lack of necessity to circumcise; and instead, to baptise infants today after the cross and the giving of the Spirit).  It is important not to view sacraments as more important than they are – menstruation can be seen also as a sacrament from God, a sign of his curse, just as the rainbow (or more biblically, the “bow”) is a warrior bow preaching the truth of God’s judgment on everyone not in the ark of Jesus.  The monthly menstrual cycle which makes a woman unclean for 7 days also preaches the truth of the first creation, which lasted 6 days plus 1 day of Sabbath.  But she is clean after the 7 days.  So we look forward to new creation born of the groaning creation (Romans 8 ), that meanwhile we look forward to the eighth day of cleanness, and we’ve passed through the 40 days leading to the first advent, and we await the new city after the symbolic second advent after 80 days of testing.  The significance of the birth of the boy leading to a 7 day uncleanness, and awaiting further purification for 33 days, versus 14 days of uncleanness, and further purification for 66 days should not be overlooked either.

We are now in the symbolic second week of creation.  The first seven days saw the heavens and earth as we know it now.  The second seven days, since the first 8th day, involves the LORD working towards new creation (John 5:17) in this new week.  But in this second week, while the LORD is working towards new creation, the world is still groaning.  We now look forward to the symbolic second 8th day of the second new week, working from the 1st advent to the 2nd advent of Jesus.

3.  Leprosy: a spiritual truth (Leviticus 13-14)

When one approaches chapters 13 and 14 of Leviticus, it is quite easy to be discouraged on two levels: the detail given for the handling of leprosy and the seeming lack of mercy for those who are unclean and leprous (the two are not synonymous as you will later find).  This is unsurprisingly, given the spiritual significance of leprosy overweighing the ‘hygienic’ and purely physical and material significances.  This is especially shown in v.12-13, where the most common form of infectious skin diseases would not have been classified as unclean!

Leprosy, some have said, is an example of sin spreading in our hearts to the neighbouring factions – and indeed, that is the overarching principle of this skin disease (and leprosy does not refer to one type, but many types of skin diseases).  The example of decay is manifested in not only the diseases on the body, but diseases spread to the clothes and the buildings causing their decay.  This is where the English translation is especially unhelpful: in the Hebrew tsaah’rath, while it refers to the decaying flesh for the skin, it is actually translated as ‘mildew’ if found on clothing and buildings.  Thus, “leprosy” is inappropriately limited in the English translation of the Hebrew word.

The two chapters are relatively long, so it is important to summarise each segment.

Chapter 13:1-59 – speaks of the different types of skin diseases on both humans and clothing

14:1-32 – the cleansing of the skin diseases

14:33-57 – Disease in buildings

There are also several refrains in these two chapters:

“Symptoms are displayed on the surface” (13:3, 49; 14:37)

“but more than skin deep” (13:3, 14:37)

“in a specific area” (13:9-13; 14:37, 42, 55)

“but spreading further” (13:7, 51; 14:44)

On that note, let’s start with chapter 13.

Leviticus 13:  Different Skin Diseases on both Humans and Clothing

Clarke is unsurprisingly helpful here and I’ve edited it for better reading:

13:1-2 It is to be known by a rising in the flesh, a scab, or a bright spot

13:3  When the priest sees these signs he shall pronounce the man unclean, infected with the leprosy, and unfit for society

13:4-8  Dubious or equivocal signs of this disorder, and how the person is to be treated in whom they appear

The interesting thing about v. 2-8 is the way of dealing with the potential leprous disease:  the treatment and waiting is always in sets of weeks, in sets of 7 days.  And on the 7th day, the priest checks whether the disease is leprous or temporary.  If the disease is ‘checked’ and not spread in the skin, then the man/woman is locked up for seven days again.  v. 6 explains it quite clearly – if the diseased area has faded and disease has not spread in the skin, then the priest shall pronounce him as clean.  Contrarily, if this ‘eruption’ does not subside, but spreads in the skin, he is now seen as unclean with a leprous disease.

Firstly – it is the priest who announces one as unclean, and NOT the person himself.  This shows something of the truth of Christ – HE is the one who announces whether we are righteous or not.  Leprosy is not something we can control.  The sets of 7-day waiting is a good example of exactly what we can do nothing about.  Rather, these 7-day waiting periods are again to show the progression between the initial creation in the first 7 day week, awaiting new creation with a new week starting on the 8th day.  Something similar is of course preached here: the priest is awaiting a new week before making a new discernment of leprosy.  Ideally, the leprosy will be gone by the end of the second week; and also, for us, our leprosy will be gone by the end of the second week when we look forward to the second advent of Christ.

13:9-13  In what state of this disorder the priest may pronounce a man clean or unclean

13:14-15  Of the raw flesh, the sign of the unclean leprosy

13:16-17  Of the white flesh, the sign of the leprosy called clean

I find the parallel between ‘raw flesh’ and ‘white flesh’ quite interesting.  Raw flesh is a sign of flesh uncooked – for the Israelites never sacrifice any flesh without fire; it must be burnt!  Similarly, food must be cooked with its blood properly drained.  The message here clearly relates to blood.  If it is raw flesh, then there is blood and there is sign of life being drained.  It is thus unclean – for in God’s future kingdom, there is no life being drained.  Which is why, if the leprosy spreads to the whole body then it is no longer seen as ‘unclean’.  Which is why, when the raw flesh recovers and turns white again (v.16), it is pronounced clean once more.  The ‘white flesh’ and ‘raw flesh’ are thus the points of comparison.

13:18-20  Of the leprosy which succeeds a boil

13:21-22  Equivocal marks relative to this kind of leprosy

13:23  Of the burning boil

13:24-25  Of the leprosy arising out of the burning boil

13:26-28  Equivocal marks relative to this kind of leprosy

With boils, the comparison is now different: either the boil leads to a spreading of the disease, or whether there is white hair and it appears deeper than the skin, and this will lead to the priest announcing his uncleanness.  On the contrary, everything else is seen as clean.

There is quite a bit to be said here.  Why the ‘white hair’ and the ‘deeper than the skin’ and the ‘spreading of the disease’?  Because all relate to the same truth – death, and the progression towards it.  White hair is a sign of aging and otherwise caused by skin diseases; if the sign of ‘sin’ and ‘death’ is deeper than the skin and it is spreading, it is undoubtedly seen as unclean.  Everything else points to new life, new creation and regeneration, which is why they are pronounced as clean.  In the healing of the boil, we see Jesus’ rejoicing in the regneration of the skin – which points to the regeneration of our soul and our flesh.

13:29  Of the plague on the head or in the beard

13:30-37  Of the itch, and how it is to be treated

The same truth is preached here – the 7-day periods of waiting, and the regeneration of the black hair as opposed to thin yellow hair.  If the itch is healed, unchanged and not more than skin-deep, it is seen as clean.  The ESV translation says “itch”, but the KJV says “scall or scurff” which is the original Hebrew.

13:38-39  Of the plague of the bright white spots

13:40-41  Of the bald head

13:42-44  Of the white reddish sore in the bald head

If the spots on the skin of the body are of a dull white, it is leukoderma that has broken out.  He is clean.  This again, is not seen by the LORD as unclean – what the LORD considers unclean is very specific: again, listen to the refrain.  “More than skin-deep”, “spreading disease”, “reddish-white”, “raw flesh”, “white hair”, “yellow hair”.  In comparison, a breaking out of white-spots is not seen as unclean.

13:45  The leper shall rend his clothes, put a patch on his upper lip, and cry unclean

13:46  He shall be obliged to avoid society, and live by himself without the camp

Verses 45-46 serves as a summary for everyone classified in the last 44 verses to be ‘unclean’.  They live alone, they wear torn clothes, hair is hung loose, covered upper lip, crying out “Unclean, unclean“, and he shall dwell outside of the camp.

Can you imagine the pain and the suffering of being obliged to avoid society?  Yet – that is the truth of skin-disease; it points to what sin does to you and what God will not tolerate.  In New Jerusalem, we will be dwelling outside of the camp of Zion if we continue to bear these skin diseases.  If our Jesus Christ, our Priest, does not pronounce his righteousness upon us, so that we gain a spiritual regeneration and sanctification and renewed bodies, then we will remain outside the camp.  Yet, in Christ, we recover new bodies which will not decay, nor degenerate, and is better than ‘clean’ flesh.  The passages in v.1-46 clearly preach that even clean flesh can have outbreak of white-spots and other deformities; but only the sanctified flesh and spirit can withstand the holiness of the LORD and partake in the intimacy of the Trinity without mourning outside the camp which is forever proclaimed as unclean.

13:47-52  Of the garments infected by the leprosy, and the signs of this infection

13:53-58  Equivocal marks relative to this infection, and how the garment is to be treated, by washing or by burning

13:59  Conclusion relative to the foregoing particulars

There is of course much distinction between ‘garments’ and ‘men’ with leprous diseases.  The 7-day lock-up period still persists, even with garments, ever so proving that this theme is possibly the most concurrent theme throughout Leviticus – the theme of first creation, then new creation.  The specific different of garments is that if the disease has not faded from the garment, it shall be burnt up (v.52-57).  Only if the diseased area has faded after being washed, and then washed a second time will it be seen as clean (v.58 ).

This is quite interesting – the first and second waiting periods.  This has occurred throughout the other parts of Leviticus 13.  I believe this undoubtedly refers to the first advent and second advent of Christ again; the first advent, which leads to some renewal and giving of the Spirit to the world; and the second advent where true cleansing and restoration occurs.  We are in the period of the firstfruit of the Spirit; but some people may lapse and return to the dog faeces from which they came.  Some may continue to look to Christ and persist in the fight of faith to see the second advent and to be washed anew with new bodies.

Leviticus 14:1-32  The Cleansing

When a leprous person is healed, after being outside the camp however long it takes for the healing to occur, then the priest will command the person to be cleansed with two live clean birds and cedarwood and scarlet yarn and hyssop.

Scarlet yarn is one of the materials used in the tabernacle (Exodus 26:1, v.31), and the purging by the hyssop is symbolic of cleansing (Psalm 51:7).  Cedarwood is seen as a material for kings: read 1 Kings and you realise how much ‘cedar’ is the centre of the story, then Ezekiel 17:23, 31:3, and the house of Solomon in Songs of Solomon is made of cedar (Songs of Sol 1:17; 8:9).

The command is then to kill one of the birds in an earthenware vessel over fresh water; and take live bird with the cedarwood and scarlet yan and hyssop, dipping the bird in blood of the bird killed over fresh water. (v.1-6)

Fresh water is symbolically of new creation water which is not salty.  The waters of punishment were salty (the waters above the heavens) – but the waters in new Jerusalem will be fresh (Ezekiel 47:9); earthenware vessels, besides the focus on the ‘earth‘ (i.e. naturally made), is a vessel for good preservation (Jeremiah 32:14).  Whatever is in the vessel will last for a long time.  The implications of v.1-6 of Leviticus 14 is therefore one of the gospel re-displayed.  The death of the bird, representing an Angel of God, in an earthenware vessel over fresh water, meaning the preservation of such a sacrifice over new creation waters – in exchange for the life of the other bird with the material of kings, the tabernacle and of purification.  The living bird is then escaped to the open field, granted new life by the blood of the first bird, now free from decay.  This is a picture of Christ’s preserved and persisting death for us so we can live in new waters, partake in purification and to be imputed the blood and righteousness of the King.

This is sprinkled seven times on him who is cleansed of leprous disease – he is then pronounced as CLEAN and the living bird goes to the open field. (v.7)

The cleansed person shall wash his clothes, shave off all his hair and bathe himself in water (v.8 ).  He will stand outside his tent seven days; he must then shave all the hair off his head/beard/eyebrows, and wash again in water.  The SHAVING is important: so that nothing growing from the time of decay would be brought forth to new creation of the eighth day, and from the eighth day forward everything that stems from our flesh will be new and clean.

The following procedure is akin to the anointing of the priest prior to priestly work.

Lev 14:10  “And on the eighth day he shall take two male lambs without blemish, and one ewe lamb a year old without blemish, and a grain offering of three tenths of an ephah of fine flour mixed with oil, and one log of oil.
Lev 14:11  And the priest who cleanses him shall set the man who is to be cleansed and these things before the LORD, at the entrance of the tent of meeting.
Lev 14:12  And the priest shall take one of the male lambs and offer it for a guilt offering, along with the log of oil, and wave them for a wave offering before the LORD.
Lev 14:13  And he shall kill the lamb in the place where they kill the sin offering and the burnt offering, in the place of the sanctuary. For the guilt offering, like the sin offering, belongs to the priest; it is most holy.
Lev 14:14  The priest shall take some of the blood of the guilt offering, and the priest shall put it on the lobe of the right ear of him who is to be cleansed and on the thumb of his right hand and on the big toe of his right foot.
Lev 14:15  Then the priest shall take some of the log of oil and pour it into the palm of his own left hand
Lev 14:16  and dip his right finger in the oil that is in his left hand and sprinkle some oil with his finger seven times before the LORD.
Lev 14:17  And some of the oil that remains in his hand the priest shall put on the lobe of the right ear of him who is to be cleansed and on the thumb of his right hand and on the big toe of his right foot, on top of the blood of the guilt offering.
Lev 14:18  And the rest of the oil that is in the priest’s hand he shall put on the head of him who is to be cleansed. Then the priest shall make atonement for him before the LORD.
Lev 14:19  The priest shall offer the sin offering, to make atonement for him who is to be cleansed from his uncleanness. And afterward he shall kill the burnt offering.
Lev 14:20  And the priest shall offer the burnt offering and the grain offering on the altar. Thus the priest shall make atonement for him, and he shall be clean.

Notice again the focus on the 8th day, and the focus on the right-hand-side.  Leviticus 14 thus shows the sanctification of the clean man – he isn’t merely cleansed.  He is made like a priest!  And that is the picture of Exodus 19:6.  We are not to leave some as priests, and some as ‘clean’.  No – the symbolism of sin spreading in our lives, will be healed not by merely waiting.  On the symbolic 8th day of new creation, we too will become exactly like Christ – the High Priest of all ages.

v.21-32 covers the same procedure, but with two pigeons/turtledoves and one male lamb.  The male lamb seems to be the concurrent sacrificial animal whether you are poor or rich – same as Christ is to us, whether we are either poor or rich.

Leviticus 14:33-57 Disease in Buildings

This part of Leviticus is actually one of the most intriguing aspects of the book.  v.53 says it all: “So he shall make atonement for the house”.  One can make atonement for a house?

The procedures in v.33-57 actually resembles the cleansing of the leprous person in v.1-33.  The LORD is actually teaching us that one cannot over-spiritualise the truth of Leviticus 14; whatever happens to man will spread to creation, whether birds, animals, swarming things or even to apparently ‘dead’ things like buildings.  This supports the truth of new creation being physical.  We are not entering a merely spiritual heaven; but we are entering a heaven of new buildings, of new roads, of a new river of fresh water, of new trees which do not die, of new animals who will sleep alongside men.  If these are the truths preached in Revelation, then undoubtedly, the disease on tents and buildings represents the renewal necessary of ALL things within God’s kingdom.

Isaiah 6:3-5 displays it clearly – God’s presence with his people is dependent on uncleanness being excluded from Israel:

Isa 6:3  And one called to another and said: “Holy, holy, holy is the LORD of hosts; the whole earth is full of his glory!”
Isa 6:4  And the foundations of the thresholds shook at the voice of him who called, and the house was filled with smoke.
Isa 6:5  And I said: “Woe is me! For I am lost; for I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, the LORD of hosts!”

4.  Bodily discharges (Leviticus 15)

Leviticus 15:31-33 summarises this chapter.  Ultimately, the LORD’s dwelling-place must be clean.  Any truth of God joining us in the community of holiness must start with the renewal of everything – the buildings, the city, the animals, the people (Revelation 21).  Paul Blackham gives the structure for this chapter:

Male bodily discharges (15:2-18 )

Female bodily discharges (15:19-30)

Long term discharge (15:2-12)

Menstrual cycle (15:19-23)

Cleansing by sacrifice (15:13-15)

Sexual intercourse (15:24)

Temporary discharge (15:16-17)

Long term (15:25-27)

Sexual intercourse (15:18 )

Cleansing by sacrifice (15:29-30)

What is clear from this chapter is the uncleanness is transferred to people, even beds and even chairs.  We have already established that this is no personal matter – sin spreads everything and everything.

Natural bodily discharges makes a person unclean, but the passage of time will remove the uncleanness, therefore no sacrifices are needed for such discharges.  Our bodies which leak fluids of semen and blood is an example of life falling from our flesh.  Our bodies should be given immortality and corruption (1 Corinthians 15), and our bodies now preach anything but.

Which brings me to ‘sexual intercourse’ which is seen as unclean.  Why?  Firstly, because of the curse of Genesis 3, which shows that we have disordered sexual desires (c.f. Romans 1 and Paul’s argument which starts with sexual immorality).  Secondly is the loss of bodily fluids when having sexual intercourse, and Genesis 9:4 and Leviticus 17:11 show that there is life in blood and semen.  The life comes as a Seed, and in Christ, the Seed of all seeds, can we have true eternal life.  Most importantly it is a temporary period of washing, and the period of impurity is short, for this is the body which we inherit from Adam’s sin which we committed in his loins (Hebrews 7:9-10).

What say you about the distinction between sacrifices made for leprous flesh, but none needed for the uncleanness of our leaking bodies?

Conclusion

Throughout this chapter, we see that human sin has huge implications for both mankind and creation (Genesis 3:17-18, Deuteronomy 28:25, Amos 4:7, Romans 8:20); the Israelites had recognised in the OT that healing from such diseases should be coupld with the same offerings made to sinners.  The connection therefore between the man with skin disease and the man with sin becomes synonymous, for both need the same sacrifice – Christ.  Even before this Levitical law was given, skin diseases may already have been prevalent; and no doubt, this would have already stirred much thinking concerning the truth behind skin diseases.  What the Mosaic law does is display our transgressions with a beamlight, yet at the same time pointing out with much clarity the cure for such scrutinised transgressions.  It is important to remember time and time again that diseases is not necessarily a cause of our sins (John 9:1-3) – many times, it is simply a result of our fallen flesh and nature.  Praise be to God for these ordinances which point out our utter fallenness, and his magnificent holiness and grace in dealing with our corruption and decay, wrought by the first Deceiver Satan, and first man Adam.  It is by his Son, who was also thrown outside the camp (Hebrews 13:12-13) that he can sympathise and die for us sinners for he became the representation of the one cursed on the tree (Deut 21:22-23), thrown outside the city, made unclean for oursake so we can be the bird who escapes from decay.

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Leviticus 11-15: Holy, Clean and Unclean

3 thoughts on “Leviticus 11-15: Holy, Clean and Unclean

  1. Today, I went to the beach front with my children. I found a sea shell and gave
    it to my 4 year old daughter and said “You can hear the ocean if you put this to your ear.” She
    put the shell to her ear and screamed. There was a hermit crab inside and it pinched her ear.

    She never wants to go back! LoL I know this is completely off topic but
    I had to tell someone!

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