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GENESIS ---EXODUS--- LEVITICUS 1.1-7.38 --- 8.1-11.47 --- 12.1-16.34--- 17.1-27.34--- NUMBERS 1-10--- 11-19--- 20-36--- DEUTERONOMY 1.1-4.44 --- 4.45-11.32 --- 12.1-29.1--- 29.2-34.12 --- THE BOOK OF JOSHUA --- THE BOOK OF JUDGES --- PSALMS 1-17--- ECCLESIASTES --- ISAIAH 1-5 --- 6-12 --- 13-23 --- 24-27 --- 28-35 --- 36-39 --- 40-48 --- 49-55--- 56-66--- EZEKIEL --- DANIEL 1-7 ---DANIEL 8-12 ---

NAHUM--- HABAKKUK---ZEPHANIAH ---ZECHARIAH --- THE GOSPEL OF MATTHEW ---THE GOSPEL OF MARK--- THE GOSPEL OF LUKE --- THE GOSPEL OF JOHN --- THE ACTS OF THE APOSTLES --- 1 CORINTHIANS 1-7 --- 8-16 --- 2 CORINTHIANS 1-7 --- 8-13 -- -GALATIANS --- EPHESIANS --- COLOSSIANS --- 1 THESSALONIANS --- 2 THESSALONIANS --- 1 TIMOTHY --- 2 TIMOTHY --- TITUS --- HEBREWS 1-6 --- 7-10 --- 11-13 --- JAMES --- JOHN'S LETTERS --- REVELATION

--- THE GOSPELS

Commentary on Leviticus (3)

By Dr Peter Pett BA BD (Hons-London) DD

Chapter 12 The 'Uncleanness' of Women.

For the next four chapters concentration (with a few exceptions) is on 'uncleanness' as it applies to men and women in connection with discharges from, or diseases in, their physical bodies. They had little scientific understanding of the various discharges from their bodies, and these regulations were certainly hygienically helpful in helping them to cope with them. But at the root of the regulations lay questions of life, and death, and wholesomeness, and a falling short of wholeness, and a providing of comfort and hope to those suffering from these conditions. At least they then felt that they understood what their problem was, rather than being afraid of it.

We have seen already that the cleanness and uncleanness of living creatures as described in chapter 11 was connected with creation in Genesis 1 and with man's fall in Genesis 3. Creation was seen as no longer 'very good', but as marred and spoiled. Disease and death had entered it. But in chapter 11 we saw that ensuring 'cleanness', by partaking only of that which was approved by God, would help to prevent the worst effects of the fall. By avoiding the dust of death, and what was involved in it and connected with it, and looking only to the positively good things that God had placed in the world, they could be 'clean' and could then maintain the possibility of life before God, and of fellowship with God through their offerings and sacrifices. This would then help towards being 'holy', separated to God, belonging to Him and pleasing to Him.

And the whole book has revealed that when they failed, whether physically or morally, because they lived in a world affected by sin, provision was made for their restoration, both in the provisions for ridding themselves of individual 'uncleanness', and through the offerings and sacrifices God had provided as a way of purification from sin, atonement and rededication. In both cases there was a way back to God from both uncleanness and sin, except in the case of presumptuous sin, sin with a high hand.

The same principle applies to childbirth here. Apart from God two things dominated man's life. The provision of his basic bodily needs, and the production of children to carry on his name, and inherit his land. From the point of view of the beginning of things the provision of food was man's responsibility, which is why it came first in chapter 11. And when he had sinned that was the sphere in which God punished him, although there it had been by cursing the ground (Genesis 3.17). It had not directly affected the cattle, as we discover from the fact that Abel was a shepherd, although indirectly all was affected by it. And in that sphere he was to seek what was clean. He was to avoid what was cursed and seek what was blessed.

But next to the provision of food, which was man's responsibility, came God's command to 'Go forth and multiply' (Genesis 1.28), and that was very much seen as the woman's obligation. Indeed women themselves saw this as their main function in life. Bringing children into the world and bringing them up brought them fulfilment and joy, and gave significance and meaning to their lives.

But all had to recognise that it was not the same world as it had been when God had first given the command to multiply, for the first woman, along with her husband, had been responsible for having brought sin into the world, and there was no greater continual reminder of this than women's problems in connection with birth. They were part of her punishment. (Genesis 3.16 - women still call them 'the curse' although the Bible does not).

Chapter 11 had been a reminder of a fallen world and of man's dealings with it, a world of clean and unclean, a world of which part could be accepted because it was wholesome, and of much which must be shunned because it was not. But through its gloom had shone out the fact that God had from the beginning provided clean food for man, and that if he was discerning and obedient, and rejected the unclean, he could, once he had obtained purification and atonement through offerings and sacrifices, enjoy a life that was full and blessed. He could avoid the unclean. He could be 'holy', set apart to God and to some extent like Him. And he could obtain 'clean' food. For the curse had not fallen on the cattle, or on the grain, or on Adam himself, but on the ground that produced the grain, on the dust of the earth, and on what lurked in that ground. And provision had been made to counter the effect of the fall as far as man was concerned.

But now in chapter 12 comes a reminder of the next consequence of the fall, the way in which womankind was affected. Childbirth was now inevitably connected with 'uncleanness'. For, as far as the woman was concerned, it was in the discomforts of childbirth that God had found a way of punishing her because of her part in the fall (Genesis 3.16). It would be a reminder every time a child was born that a sinner was being born into a sinful world.

So in every case of childbirth there was no avoiding uncleanness. It was not a question of choice. It was something that had to be endured. Birth inevitably involved sin because the birth process had been affected by sin, and the child being born into the world was now subject to sin. Indeed he or she would be a sinner (compare Romans 5.14; Psalm 51.5; 58.3). And therefore the very process of birth came short of 'perfection and must be 'unclean'. And that is why the woman, being in the process of producing a sinner, was during that process prevented from being able for a while to approach the holiness of God.

And men and women saw this as being made visibly quite clear. When the child was born it was covered with blood and mucus. It came out 'unclean'. (This does not contradict the statement that every child which opens the womb shall be called holy to Yahweh (Luke 2.23). The latter means that it is seen as set apart for Yahweh's service, not that it is 'ritually holy' at that point. In the mercy of God while it enters the world 'unclean' it is, if an Israelite, also set apart as His).'

But because of the grace of God it was recognised that that uncleanness would be temporary and not permanent, and therefore that through following due processes the woman and the child could come out of their period of uncleanness in childbearing, back into cleanness and the light of God's holiness, with all traces of sin being put behind them. That is the process described here.

This uncleanness in childbirth includes a woman's discharges after childbirth, indeed they were a main part of it. They are seen here in Leviticus as the next example of uncleanness. They are seen as part of the consequences of that same foolish act that had rendered so much of the world unclean. That woman was to suffer in childbearing had been determined then, and she was aware that that suffering would in childbearing continually bring her down from her life of cleanness and fellowship with God, into the realm of uncleanness, that she might remember continually what had been done. She was, as it were, continually to relive the fall.

If she was to produce children this uncleanness was something that she would have to undergo. There was no avoiding it. In order to produce new life she must be willing to go through the uncleanness of childbirth. It was intended to bring home to all the awfulness of sin.

So the woman's problems after birth were to be seen as part of God's indictment of the first woman (Genesis 3.16) from whom she was descended. She was to recognise that the reason that she was no longer in the sphere of painless and untroubled birth, and that her body would manifest that fact during the process of birth and after, was both because of the sin that was past, and because even more sin was by it seen as coming into the world, and even more death by sin. Every unclean new birth shouted out and proclaimed the sinfulness of man, and stressed that God does judge sin, even though that judgment might have been partially delayed. It was the explanation of all the pain and unpleasantness that the woman went through.

Fruitfulness in childbearing would rightly be seen as fulfilling God's purpose for women at creation (Genesis 1.28). All was going on as it should. But the result of sin would also be seen as intervening and could not be overlooked and thrust aside. It would result in that fruitfulness coming about in unpleasant ways as a result of God's judgment.

The discharges were thus seen as being a reminder of the result of the fall, as being an indication of woman's coming short of God's 'perfection' because of that fall, and therefore as 'uncleanness'. They were a reminder not only of the sinfulness of men and women, but of the certainty of judgment and of the fact that God did take note of sin, and that without God's grace man would have no hope.

They were also a reminder of what birth meant. It meant that another sinner had been born into the world (Psalm 51.5; 58.3). This especially comes out in the need for the spilling of blood through the circumcision of a male child, and in the need for the whole burnt offering and purification for sin offering which were to be made whether the child was male or female (verse 6). It could not be overlooked that this babe from her womb shared in the sinfulness of Adam and Eve.

And yet it also testified that both she and the child still had a future because of the mercy of God. And that was why, once the discharges had cleared up, due offerings of gratitude, dedication, tribute and repentance would be made. It should be noted that the uncleanness of the child resulted from that of the mother. It was not unclean in itself, nor is it said to specifically require atonement. Its uncleanness came from contact with the mother. But it would certainly require atonement, along with all Israel, in the future, once it was a part of the congregation of Israel.

Indeed we may possibly take this process further. The flow of blood may well have been intended to be seen as a reminder of the sentence of death under which the first woman had been, and the sentence of death under which, but for the mercy of God, the woman and her child would be. Even as the blood flowed it was the reminder that she was mortal and through producing a child she was diminishing herself so that she became less than 'perfect', and was even putting herself in danger of death. Death in childbirth was then not uncommon. And it may even be that the subsequent discharges of 'waters' may have been seen as an indication of the new life that both were receiving, having been as it were 'brought from death to life' (Isaiah 48.1). This might have been seen as the explanation as to why the seven/fourteen day period of severe uncleanness, when blood might flow more copiously, was followed by the longer period of milder uncleanness and purification when the lochia (after birth flow) flowed and the body was being restored.

So this period of uncleanness in child bearing was a period of joy because a child had been born into the world, a period of remembrance and endurance because of what had been lost because of man's first sin, and a period of restoration and hope as they contemplated the future. It was a reminder that God's judgement against sin was real, and would continue, and yet a period of gratitude to God that there was a way out of the uncleanness. God had not left them in despair. Every day, somewhere in Israel, this reminder would be proclaimed forth when the birth of a child was announced.

So what the woman went through each time there was a birth was a reminder of the first sin of her ancestress, and that that sin (and those done since), were something that God looked on with severity. And even the child who was thus born, while welcomed and rejoiced over, would also have to be redeemed, along with all Israel. For each child born, while a reason for rejoicing, was also to be a reminder of man's sinfulness, and that man's only hope lay in redemption.

But the law of uncleanness was also a declaration of the fact that that redemption was available for God's holy people, that God had provided a way back to Himself, that man could become clean, and even holy.

Through the fall womankind had fallen from her proper sphere in the presence of God, and in that fallen sphere in every childbirth she would no longer be 'clean', would no longer whole. The child would be born in blood and tears, and even sometimes in death. The position of cleanness would only be restored through the goodness of God once she had fully recovered from the childbirth. Then she and the child could be clean and holy. It was not a childbirth in Paradise, it was a childbirth in a very sinful world, but with their hope set in God.

Practically speaking, of course, there was another benefit to these regulations. The after-birth regulations gave the woman a much needed rest, and freedom from intercourse, and from work, until her body had recovered from its exertions, seen as being a recovery from ritual 'uncleanness'. She could rest up until she had recovered.

Furthermore, in days when the forms of protection women have today were lacking it also meant that she need not seek to laboriously protect herself against losing blood or lochia when outside her tent, and especially on approaching the tabernacle, which would have disgraced her. She had to do neither the one nor the other. Even the most careless or cruel of husbands could not force that upon her. His compatriots would never have forgiven him for bringing them into contact with uncleanness, and the priests would not have overlooked it. Her period of uncleanness confined her to her tent thus preventing such embarrassments. The law of uncleanness may therefore also be seen as God acting for the wife's protection. It was an act of God's goodness.

But the ritual reason was that in losing blood she was seen as at this time blemished, and not fully 'whole', as in a state of living death, as diminished, and therefore as not in a condition to approach the tabernacle, and all this as a result of the fall. Indeed she may even have been seen as being at the beginning of a death process, something to be successfully averted in most cases by the obedient waiting on God and the offered sacrifices that followed.

We can see why such a thought might be there. Immediately after birth the placenta would be discharged along with a flow of blood, a horrific circumstance at any time, and made even worse here. And it might well have been intended to convey the reminder that death had only been averted by the mercy of God. Then would follow puerperal discharges which might include some blood, and which in the case of a male child may last over a month, and in the case of a female child even longer. They would find this length of time difficult to comprehend. They would ask, why should it take so long? And the ritual answer would be, because of the gravity of sin, because being once again made clean can only occur through genuine cost, and through sacrifice. The family and all connected with them would thus have brought home to them the seriousness of sin. And in fact, what was suggested by all this, would be genuinely true. It was indeed only through the mercy of God that women could now bring children into the world at all.

But why the lengths of time? The puerperal discharges do not necessarily take that long. But the puerperal discharges may then in some cases have been followed by puerperine fever. This would extend the woman's suffering and its often occurrence would make it seem a part of the process and may have affected the length of the period of uncleanness for both boys and girls. Furthermore we know that the puerperal discharges for a girl are in fact by nature for a longer period than for a boy, and on top of them we should consider that if shortly after these had died down menstruation began, as would often be the case, that too would be seen as being a continuation of the discharge. As there would have been numerous cases of this, it would have given an indication that a much longer period of 'purification' (a purification evidenced only by final recovery) was needed in the case of a girl as opposed to a boy.

Thus when we look at the periods allocated we must take all this into account. They had had to allow for all the possible complications that could arise so that at the end of the prescribed period every woman was truly 'clean'.

It was not worked out scientifically. They would think by rule of thumb and what they observed, and would already have worked out that girls needed longer than boys, and this was the basis on which God therefore made His provisions. In the event twice as much time was allocated for a girl baby as opposed to a boy baby, because they were aware of all the problems that could arise. And the men at least would have seen that as totally unsurprising, as most would think that girls were after all twice as much trouble as boys, and only half as important (compare 27.2-7)

However, forty days was also a significant period for another reason. Moses had been in the Mount for forty days (Exodus 24.18), bringing the nation to birth, a good reason in itself for seeing forty days as a good period for defining the birth pattern, and the rain and flood had come for forty days on the ark (Genesis 7.12), with the ark delivering those within, which again might be seen as a picture of the arduous 'deliverance' process following birth. Thus as 'forty days' had in the past been connected with 'birth' and 'deliverance', it might well for that reason have been seen by God as a period which would convey a suitable message, and by those involved have been seen as being a suitable round number in order to ensure that the discharges had assuaged. Eighty days would then be seen as forty doubled and therefore intensified because of the longer recovery in the case of a girl.

Thus the message that would come from the application of the law of uncleanness would be that the wages of sin is death, that God does bring every work into judgment, that blood must be poured out, at least in token, but that God has provided redemption for His people, so that each child born into Israel can be restored from the 'foreign' atmosphere of the fall, to the life of one who has been redeemed, accepted among God's redeemed people, and living in cleanness and holy to God. It is a message of the way that God constantly acts in restoration.

12.1 'And Yahweh spoke to Moses, saying,'

Once again it is stressed that this command came from Yahweh through Moses. But when we consider 11.1 and 13.1 we must ask, why only to Moses? The answer is probably because in this case the priests are not called on to judge anything. No one is required in order to declare that there has been a birth, the midwives would declare on the sex of the baby, and all would know the position with regard to cleanness and uncleanness. The expertise of the priests was not required.

Again we have to note that the only limit on this section timewise is the death of Moses. But whenever it was given the mention of circumcision, which was not practised in the wilderness, was seen as preparation for a future in the land of Canaan (as specifically with houses later (14.34)). As the people waited in Kadesh almost on the border of the land, they still lived in expectancy of finally entering the land, and the Law was designed to encourage them in their expectation.

12.2 "Speak to the children of Israel, saying, If a woman conceive seed, and bear a man-child, then she shall be unclean seven days, as in the days of the impurity of her sickness shall she be unclean."

Firstly it is emphasised that the woman who gave birth was to be seen as unclean 'for seven days', as she was in the case of menstruation (the days of her impurity - see 15.19, another case where a sacrifice was also required). After all similar blood flows came from her in both cases. The flow of blood was a constant reminder of the woman's mortality. It also rendered her untouchable at the time, especially by men.

Whether it was seen as a reminder of prospective death, only averted by the later intended sacrifice, or whether rather it was seen as indicating that the woman was in an 'imperfect' and life diminishing state, and therefore at the time a blemished state, is something that cannot be demonstrated. But clearly she was seen as at that time 'not her whole self', and in no condition to approach God. Through childbirth she was undergoing the consequences of the fall afresh. She was unclean.

So a divinely perfect period, seven days (or for a girl twice seven days), the number of days connected with creation, was to be allowed for her first recovery. It was a period of severe uncleanness. She was enduring all the consequences of the fall. The number seven was a number used of divinely perfect and completed activity, and 'seven days' was the period of creation, Thus it may here have been seen as being in order that God might do His re-creating work in restoring her. Or it may simply be because seven was for all nations seen as a divine number of completeness. And it was after all in a sense already prescribed for in the covenant of circumcision (Genesis 17.10-14). It fitted in with circumcising a boy child on the eighth day.

This period then emphasised man's fallen state. During this period of serious uncleanness the woman would be left relatively alone, helped only by those women (such as her mother) who were prepared to become unclean by helping her. And the child too would be unclean, if only because of contact with its mother. But at the end of the seven days, in the case of a boy, the severe uncleanness would be seen as at an end, to be followed on the eighth day with a ceremony in which blood was spilt, and in which the child was welcomed into the people of God. Hopefully by this stage the blood flow would have ceased, to be followed by the continuing discharge of lockia which would not be seen as outwardly as serious, and therefore was seen as occurring in a period of lesser uncleanness.

12.3 "And in the eighth day the flesh of his foreskin shall be circumcised."

At the stage in fact when this law was first communicated, circumcision could not take place. It would have been unwise while constantly on the move. The instructions were thus in the final analysis for when they settled in the land. They were in the light of the soon anticipated entry into Canaan. (These instructions may have been given prior to the disobedience that cancelled that entry, thus with its full application being delayed, or it may have been shortly before Moses' death, and used as an incentive to press the people to go forward).

Looked at in practical terms the seven days would also be necessary because time had to be given to her for recovery before she attended at the circumcision of a male child (see Genesis 17.10-14; 21.4). While circumcision was mainly seen as the father's responsibility, unless he was too ill for it (Exodus 4.24-26), God graciously provided so that the woman could be fit enough to be present. He was her son too.

The circumcision would be performed, usually by the father, using a flint knife, by removing the foreskin. It was the shedding of covenant blood to seal the child in the covenant. It is probable that it was also seen as acting as a kind of blood offering, declaring the redemption of the child, and thus lessening the time needed for recovery in the case of a male child. They would have noticed that discharges of lochia did not occur for so long a period in the case of a male child.

The use of a flint knife for circumcision, following ancient tradition (see Exodus 4.25), was in fact much safer than using a metal knife, for the flint was naturally sterilised. It is also an interesting medical fact that the eighth day was probably the best and most painless period after birth for carrying out this operation. Up to about the fifth day the newborn babe was susceptible to haemorrhage, later the nerves would have become more sensitive.

Circumcision was a sign of the covenant that God made with Abraham in Genesis 17. Every male child who was to be seen as a true born Israelite had to be circumcised, and by it he became a member of the covenant people. It was also open to 'strangers' who wished to eventually become 'true born Israelites' (Exodus 12.48). But it was not carried out during the travels in the wilderness, presumably precisely because they were travelling, and it would be inconvenient, and then because of the breach with God which resulted in the stay at the oases around Kadesh. In one sense the covenant was seen as pending.

This non circumcision of the people may have been significant even though it is never explained, especially as it continued in the long period at Kadesh. It would seem that it was linked with the future hope. At first it was probably practical. Circumcision could be tricky while on the move. But it then probably became theological. They would be circumcised once they entered the land of Promise. And until that they were not worthy. The covenant was temporarily partly in suspense until contempt had been purged by the dying out of those who had refused to obey God's command to enter the land (Numbers 14).

All the people who entered the Promised Land who had not been circumcised in Egypt (including the mixed multitude of Exodus 12.38) would in fact be circumcised on reaching it (Joshua 5.2-9). And the blood that was shed in the act of circumcision would almost certainly have been seen in sacrificial terms as making atonement. It was certainly seen as vital for a servant of God (compare Exodus 4.24-26). And from that day on these provisions would apply at every birth.

So the childbearer was through this law of uncleanness going through a repeat of the curse. And that is why sacrifices would have to be offered. Then God would normally give back to her the gift of life, and she would be clean, and her ordeal would be over. So was it indicated that in every birth a sinner was born, affected by the fall, and so was it revealed that he/she would be graciously received by God and be made 'clean', restored to the state intended for God's people. And so would it also be revealed that she was delivered by God in her childbearing (compare 1 Timothy 2.15).

12.4-5 "And she shall continue in the blood of her purifying three and thirty days; she shall touch no hallowed thing, nor come into the sanctuary, until the days of her purifying are fulfilled."

Then would follow a period, in the case of a male child of a further thirty three days, making forty days in all (see above), probably seen as a period of lesser uncleanness. But she was certainly seen as unclean for she was excluded from the tabernacle and could not touch any hallowed thing. Thus she could not partake of peace sacrifices. These were the days of her purifying when hopefully the discharges would eventually cease. Most women would be grateful for this period during which they could rest and recover.

Thirty and three may conveniently have been seen as intended to signify 'intensive three' (compare Genesis 4.24), indicating the perfectly complete period provided by God for purification.

The lesson that comes over sharply in all this is the emphasis on the sinfulness of man as a result of the fall. It stressed that even when born into the world a baby comes, not into an innocent world, but into a world of sin. It is, of course, a great joy, but because of sin in the human race it is born to labour in the sweat of its brow, and it must be redeemed. The other lesson is God's goodness in looking after the woman's wellbeing. No husband would dare to force his wife back to work or to engage in intercourse during this period of uncleanness.

12.5 "But if she bear a maid-child, then she shall be unclean two weeks, as in her impurity; and she shall continue in the blood of her purifying threescore and six days."

However, in the case of a female child she would first be severely unclean for two sevens. And then her purifying was to take twice as long. This last period does in fact reflect the fact that the discharges in the case of a female baby would invariably be longer than for a male, and may then indeed become confused with her first menstruation after childbirth.

A number of reasons have been suggested for why girls should require a longer period for being made clean than males.

  • 1). Some have based it on the idea that women were supposedly subject to stronger attacks by evil spiritual forces (see Genesis 6.1-4), and therefore required longer purification. But there is little evidence for the idea in Scripture.
  • 2). Others have looked at it on the basis that it reflects the woman's role as the first to transgress in the garden of Eden, and therefore as being more blameworthy. The idea was that when the baby was identified as a girl it was a solemn reminder that once more there had been born into the world one of those who were responsible for the original sin. She represented the one who was deceived and who became the transgressor (1 Timothy 2.14). Thus double purification was required. But this is not supported by the fact that the Scripture elsewhere tends to firmly fix the blame on Adam (Romans 5.12 onwards). It is in Adam that men die, not Eve.
  • 3). Others have seen it as a provision that took notice of the fact that baby girls might be less welcome than boys and might otherwise receive inferior care from dismissive husbands. She was therefore to be doubly pampered.
  • 4). Others have seen it as indicating that circumcising the male baby on the eighth day would somehow reduce the attendant uncleanness. Although even if that were so it could not apply until circumcision actually began again, which reduces the force of the argument.
  • 5). Others have suggested that the distinction reflects the lower social status of women in ancient Israel. There is probably some truth in this, but it is doubtful if this is the full explanation.
  • 6). Others have suggested that it indicates that girls are destined to become a source of menstrual and maternal uncleanness in the future, and therefore required more intensive purification. Or that there was a tendency in women to lead men astray which had to be guarded against by longer purification. Furthermore uncleanness in birth and sexual activity would have been a strong riposte to cultic prostitution. It could not claim to be 'holy' when it rendered 'unclean'.
  • 7) Others have suggested that the natural longer puerperal discharges after the birth of a girl, as compared with those for a boy, and the periodic vaginal bleeding of baby girls themselves, (for the withdrawal of maternal hormones at birth causes roughly one in ten female babies to experience vaginal bleeding), demanded a longer period of uncleanness, especially if the combination of the mother's vaginal bleeding and the daughter's possible vaginal bleeding was seen as requiring double purification.

    It is possible that we have to recognise that a combination of some of these is the most likely. Thoughts on this matter would have been extremely complicated and it may well have been seen in a number of ways. But everything points finally to the importance of purification from uncleanness.

    12.6-7 "And when the days of her purifying are fulfilled, for a son, or for a daughter, she shall bring a lamb a year old for a whole burnt offering, and a young pigeon, or a turtledove, for a purification for sin offering, to the door of the tent of meeting, to the priest, and he shall offer it before Yahweh, and make atonement for her; and she shall be cleansed from her blood-flow. This is the law for her who bears a child, whether a male or a female."

    Once the woman had safely reached the end of her period of purification she was then to bring a one year old lamb (as for the daily sacrifice) and a young pigeon or turtledove to the priest for him to offer on the altar before Yahweh, 'to make atonement for her'. This makes clear the connection with required atonement. And note the emphasis on her blood-flow. It is that primarily that has to be cleansed. By giving birth she has released blood, and that has made her unclean. But what it signified was also in mind.

    The lamb was for a whole burnt offering. It was an act of gratitude, tribute, dedication and atonement. The bird was for a purification of sin offering. She needed forgiveness and reconciliation with God. By bringing her child into the world she had introduced further sin into the world and increased the burden of sin. She shared the responsibility of Eve.

    12.8 "And if her means do not suffice for a lamb, then she shall take two turtledoves, or two young pigeons, the one for a whole burnt offering, and the other for a purification for sin offering: and the priest shall make atonement for her, and she shall be clean."

    However provision was made for a lesser whole burnt offering for those who were unable to afford a lamb, a bird could be offered as a replacement (see 1.14-17). It was this that Mary offered for Jesus (Luke 2.24), but there is reason to think that by New Testament times that had become the standard offering.

    It should be noted finally that neither the woman or the child were seen as 'unclean' in themselves. (We are not talking about sin but about ritual uncleanness). They were unclean because of the processes through which they went. But the requirement for sacrifices demonstrates that in uncleanness sin was also in mind.

    Chapter 13 Uncleanness Caused By Skin Diseases.

    Up to this point the cleanness and uncleanness described has firstly related to the whole of Israel, and then to the whole of the womenfolk of Israel. Now it comes down to individual cases. Once again we detect a look back to the Genesis story. Chapter 11 has looked at the effects of the curse on men and food provision, chapter 12 has looked at the effects of the curse on women and child-birth, now we see the effects of the curse on individuals because of sin, sin not necessarily wholly their own. When Adam and Eve sinned they were expelled from the Fruitful Plain of Eden. They were excluded because now they were mortal, dying people, because they were diseased with sin, because they were no longer fit to meet with God and walk with Him daily.

    In a similar way those who had serious skin disease were to be declared unclean, were to be declared to be the living dead, were to be expelled from the camp of Israel. For that serious skin disease rendered them 'unclean', unfit to return to the camp of Israel, unfit to approach God in the tabernacle. They were seen as like Adam and Eve once they had sinned. They were cast out from God's intimate presence.

    In this case the few suffered visibly as representatives of the whole. All Israel were dressed in polluted garments (Isaiah 64.6). Spiritually all were unclean. But the plague only came on some as a warning to the whole. That it was the consequence of the fall no one would doubt. They would see in this diseased remnant of the children of Israel the particular mark of the fall, and that the whole were only spared by the grace of God.

    For the world having been affected by man's fall, it was inevitable that disease would raise its head, and disease is regularly seen in the Old Testament as the punishment on the world due for sin. And certain special types of disease, as outlined in this chapter, were seen as marking the sinner off as outside the 'perfection' of God. The disease that resulted from sin was seen to have laid its visible mark on those involved. The diseases were a diminishing of the life that was in that person. They rendered him 'unclean'. There were thus always going to be those whose sickness drew attention to the deserved consequence of the fall, to the fact that unwholeness excluded men from God. It may be that this was seen as illustrating the 'mark of Cain' (Genesis 4.15). Some have seen that as referring to some terrible skin disease. He was the one who was 'cast out of the camp' and then formed his own camp.

    Such skin diseases were in fact specifically threatened as a punishment for those who failed to walk faithfully in the covenant (Deuteronomy 28.27, 59-61; Isaiah 1.6; 3.17; Psalm 38.3), and thus those who had them were looked on as though they must be especially sinful, even though it might not be so. They were actually the few who were the warning to the many. The diseases, if he had them, could prevent a priest from entering into the Holy Place to 'offer the bread of his God' (21.20). They made people 'unclean' because they were blemished, coming short of God's requirement of 'perfection'. They diminished men and women and were a sign of decay, and dying flesh. When Miriam was stricken with skin disease because of her sin Aaron pleaded for her with Moses and asked that that she should 'not be as one dead, of whom the flesh is half consumed when he comes out of his mother's womb' (Numbers 12.11-12). He did not want her to be half a person.

    Thus the prime significance of this uncleanness to Israel was that the unclean person was excluded from the sphere of holiness all the time that they were unclean. They were blemished, they were not fully alive, they were outside the state in which they should have been, the state of the normal. Like Adam and Eve they were thrust out from God's holy place and God's holy camp. The central thought was not that they were infectious and might pass the disease on, although that was often true, it was that they in themselves came short of God's required 'perfection', and were thus excluded from holy places, and in the worst cases from the holy camp. In this they were not being punished, or even treated medically, they were being judged religiously. Their presence would defile holiness. This brought home the terrible nature of the judgment it expressed. The sin that was responsible for such diseases excluded men from the presence of God.

    The sinfulness was not necessarily that of the person involved, although all were in fact sinners. The point was not so much of punishing the individual, but as seeing skin diseases in general as evidence of God's displeasure and judgment on men as a whole, and on Israel in particular. They were the result of living in a fallen world. The whole of Israel and the whole of the world should have been plagued. It was only God's extreme mercy and grace that enabled them to become a people separated off for God, a 'holy nation', because He had chosen to love them, and because it was a part of the plan that would lead up to His Son, the Messiah, coming into the world. In His mercy God restrained the plague to the few so that they could be an example and a warning to the many.

    Specific examples are given in Scripture where the disease was related to specific sin (Numbers 12.10; 2 Kings 5.27; 2 Chronicles 26.19-21). But this does not signify that all such related to specific sin. There was no suggestion of blame in the case of Naaman. In its central message the individual was unimportant. When the house of Pharaoh was plagued it was not for deliberate sin of which they were aware, but it was for sin nevertheless (Genesis 12.17). And Solomon related the coming of plagues on Israel to sin, which he connected with the plague of men's hearts (1 Kings 8.37-39), from which God would deliver them. The plagues revealed that for all men sin would keep them from God.

    To Israel the resulting way in which those affected were treated was an indication that those who bore the sign of Yahweh's displeasure (not necessarily for their own sin), and whose insufficiency defiled in any way the holiness of God, would be 'expelled from the camp' until that sign was removed. They were thus seen as continual evidence to those who came in and out of the camp of God's judgment against sin, and a dreadful warning to others of what sin could bring about in men's lives. Their condition cried out, 'we have been expelled from the camp because of our unfitness, our lack of perfectness, our uncleanness', as God will one day expel all who disobey Him. Every person with serious skin disease who left the camp was an example of what too would happen to Israel if they did not obey God's covenant and walk in His ways.

    Thus the emphasis of this law of uncleanness on the consequences of becoming 'unclean' was a 'gee up' message to Israel to ensure that this did not happen to them.

    However there can be no question but that the law also served another purpose. Unknowingly in acting as priests the priests were also acting as medical specialists. They were discerning infectious diseases and quarantining, either temporarily in a safe place in the camp, or more permanently by putting out of the camp, those who might pass such diseases on. Thus as with other cases of cleanness and uncleanness a double purpose was served. But they were not doctors. Nor did they treat all infectious diseases in such a severe way, for they did not know of them. They had no cures and they simply followed their instructions letter by letter. Their main purpose was to protect the holiness of Yahweh and of His people. Skin diseases were useful for the purpose because they were plainly visible.

    The word used for skin disease is sara'ath. It means 'becoming diseased in the skin' and therefore covers a variety of scaly skin diseases. It would be quite wrong to limit it to what we know of today as leprosy, and some deny that leprosy was in mind at all. We have translated it 'suspicious skin disease', for that summed up what it was. No one would actually know what it was, they would simply know whether or not it was a type that made the man permanently unclean, and act accordingly, although no doubt as they gained in experience they would give names to different types and begin to recognise them more easily. But all were seen as the mark of sin.

    Seven types of infectious skin diseases have been discerned in verses 1-44: skin eruptions (vv. 2-8), chronic skin disease (vv. 9-17), boils or ulcers (vv. 18-23), burns (vv. 24-28), sores (vv. 29-37), rashes (vv. 38-39), and baldness (vv. 40-44). Most who came for such examination would have minor skin complaints and would go away relieved. Others would find themselves put in isolation to see if the complaint healed up, and would wait in dread for the priest's next visit and his verdict. If they were then found to be clean they would be overjoyed. But the unfortunate ones would find that they had a serious and permanent skin disease, and that for them life was as good as over.

    There is much disagreement about the particular types of disease represented by the symptoms. Agreement is hard to find, and we must remember that they are not necessarily identifiable with modern skin diseases. But that does not really matter except as a sop to our curiosity. The message comes over whatever they were.

    In seeking to identify the different conditions some do point to leprosy as being one probability, and some of the symptoms would tie in with this, but there are numerous other possibilities, and although cases of leprosy are known in the area in ancient times, modern opinion is in general against it being so prevalent, and we would probably be wrong to see this as central to the conditions described, although it may well be seen as among them.

    Others have identified in the later diseases described, among other things psoriasis, a chronic, non-infectious skin disease characterised by the presence of well-demarcated, slightly raised reddish patches of various sizes covered by dry greyish-white or silvery scales, and favus, a much more severe and damaging infection connected with ring-worm in which the fungus invades both the hair and the full thickness of the skin. Others refer to leucoderma, a slightly disfiguring condition in which patches of otherwise normal skin lose their natural colouring and become completely white. All three are possibly in mind, along with other skin diseases.

    But it must be recognised that the priest is not trying to identify the particular skin disease. He is simply following divine instructions to discover whether a man's symptoms show him to be 'clean' or 'unclean', and whether he has to be quarantined or excluded from the camp. His whole concern is strictly with maintaining the greater holiness of the tabernacle and the lesser holiness of the camp.

    Behind the laws we may see a reference to man in his sinfulness. All of us from birth are diseased with sin. It is a disease that grows and spreads and penetrates deep within, and it produces its scars without. And the choice is laid before each one of us. Either we come to Christ, the One Who can cleanse us from sin and root it out from within us, presenting us perfect before God (Hebrews 10.14), or we will be 'cast out of the camp', with no place in God's presence. And once we are His the situation continues. The Christian cannot again allow sin to penetrate deep within, or spread. It must be dealt with immediately. For the sin that penetrates deep and spreads is deadly and if not dealt with will result in our rejection.

    It is thus necessary for all of us to continually come to our great High Priest, Jesus Christ, for examination. But the difference between ourselves and the Israelites is that we have a Great Physician Who is able to heal that is wrong within us. For the Israelite the examinations were in order to keep Israel as a whole 'holy'. They had no means of healing those with serious skin diseases. They were there as a warning to the whole of what sin could do. But for us the situation is different. We can each come personally and not only discover our state but have it dealt with. Not one of the new 'Israel' ever needs to be cast out, only their sin.

    13.1 'And Yahweh spoke to Moses and to Aaron, saying,'

    Here Aaron is for the second time included with Moses in receiving the word of Yahweh (compare 11.1), and will be again in 14.33 and 15.1. This suggests that at times he approached Yahweh in Moses' company, although never as the prime person. In spite of his status he could not outrank Moses. But here he was present as a witness to what God said. Judging by the Book of Numbers, where Aaron is not conjoined with Moses in this way until after the confirmation of Aaron's position in Numbers 18, it was prior to the arrival in Kadesh.

    Dealing With Skin Eruptions (13.2-8).

    13.2-3 "When a man shall have in the skin of his flesh a rising, or a scab, or a bright spot, and it become in the skin of his flesh the plague of a suspicious skin disease, then he shall be brought to Aaron the priest, or to one of his sons the priests, and the priest shall look on the plague in the skin of the flesh, and if the hair in the plague be turned white, and the appearance of the plague be deeper than the skin of his flesh, it is the plague of a suspicious skin disease, and the priest shall look on him, and pronounce him unclean."

    If a man discovers that he has a skin eruption he is required to report it to the priests. This is because it, temporarily at least, makes it dangerous for him to enter the tabernacle court in case he is not a whole person, in case he is 'unclean'. The priests will then examine it, and if the hair in the eruption or spot has turned white and the eruption or spot appears to be more than skin deep they are to declare it a suspicious skin disease, possibly a type of leprosy.

    13.4-6 "And if the bright spot be white in the skin of his flesh, and the appearance of it is not deeper than the skin, and its hair is not turned white, then the priest shall shut up the one who has the plague seven days, and the priest shall look on him on the seventh day, and, behold, if in his eyes the plague be at a standstill, and the plague be not spread in the skin, then the priest shall shut him up seven days more, and the priest shall look on him again the seventh day, and, behold, if the plague be dim, and the plague be not spread in the skin, then the priest shall pronounce him clean. It is a scab: and he shall wash his clothes, and be clean."

    On the other hand if the hair in the plague spot is not white, and the eruption or spot does not appear to go deep they are to put him in quarantine for seven days and then view it again. Then they must re-examine it, and if it has still not changed they must quarantine him for a further seven days, and if after the fourteen days it appears no worse, but rather a little better, he declares it to be only a scab and declares the man clean. All the man has to do then is to wash his clothes and be clean. One reason for this, of course, is in case the scab has affected the clothes while he has been waiting. But the ritual reason would be in order to remove from him the taint of the place where he was in quarantine, and to reveal him as 'clean'.

    13.7-8 "But if the scab spread abroad in the skin, after he has shown himself to the priest for his cleansing, he shall show himself to the priest again, and the priest shall look; and, behold, if the scab be spread in the skin, then the priest shall pronounce him unclean: it is a suspicious skin disease."

    On the other hand, if the scab spreads while he is in quarantine, or even after he has been released, the man must immediately call for the priest, who will re-examine it, and if he sees that it has spread he must declare the man unclean.

    The main point of this process as far as the priests were concerned was that it protected the holiness of the Sanctuary, and of Israel, but the second benefit as far as Israel was concerned was that a man with a suspicious skin disease would either be cleared, or would be removed from the camp so as to prevent infection.

    Daily we too should bring ourselves for examination before our great High Priest, Jesus Christ. We must ask ourselves, 'if I come up for examination before Him with Whom we have to do, what is there in me that will reveal me as unwhole, imperfect, unclean, fit only to be cast out of His presence? And if there is present sin which goes deep or is spreading we must bring it to Him for Him to deal with. We must seek for the blood of Jesus Christ, God's Son, to cleanse us from all sin (1 John 1.7). Then we can come for our further examination without fear. The plague will have been stayed and we will have been made clean. It will turn out that our sin, while disfiguring, was but a scab on something quickly healed by the Great Physician and as quickly dealt with. Although in many cases the scab may remain.

    Dealing With Chronic Skin Diseases (13.9-17).

    13.9-11 'When the plague of a suspicious skin disease is in a man, then he shall be brought to the priest, and the priest shall look, and, behold, if there be a white rising in the skin, and it has turned the hair white, and there be quick raw flesh in the rising, it is an old suspicious skin disease in the skin of his flesh, and the priest shall pronounce him unclean. He shall not shut him up, for he is unclean."

    In this case the man or his relatives are suspicious about some symptom that has occurred in someone who has previously been cleared of skin disease, because it look so inflamed, so they bring him to the priest. The priest will then check it and if he discovers that there is a white rising in the skin which has turned the hair white, and also an inflamed rising elsewhere in the skin, he must immediately declare him unclean. Quick action needs to be taken. He is not to be quarantined within the camp but immediately put out of the camp.

    13.12-13 'And if the suspicious skin disease breaks out abroad in the skin, and the suspicious skin disease covers all the skin of him who has the plague from his head even to his feet, as far as appears to the priest, then the priest shall look, and, behold, if the suspicious skin disease has covered all his flesh, he shall pronounce him clean who has the disease: it is all turned white. He is clean."

    On the other hand if in fact he discovers that the skin disease has spread to cover the whole of his body from head to foot it is clearly something harmless and he can be declared clean. It may simply be due to a lack of pigmentation.

    13.14-15 "But whenever raw flesh appears in him, he shall be unclean. And the priest shall look on the raw flesh, and pronounce him unclean. The raw flesh is unclean. It is a suspicious skin disease."

    But whenever raw flesh appears the situation changes, the man is declared unclean.

    13.16-17 "Or if the raw flesh change again, and be changed to white, then he shall come to the priest, and the priest shall look on him, and, behold, if the plague be turned into white, then the priest shall pronounce him clean who has the disease. He is clean."

    But if the raw flesh then changes again and becomes white the priest can alter the diagnosis and proclaim him clean. So 'raw flesh' that remains raw flesh and gets worse is clearly the test. If it does so the man is unclean, if it dies down the man is clean.

    The constant repetition stresses the need for us to continually examine ourselves before our Great High Priest. There are many different types of sin by which we can be affected. What is there about us that would draw attention to our plagued condition? Let us quickly respond to it and rid ourselves of it that we might be truly 'clean'.

    We must distinguish between what is superficial and does not really affect us at all, giving only an appearance of sin, what is not truly sin within (although we should still avoid the appearance of sin - 1 Thessalonians 5.22), not filling our thoughts with trivialities, and what is more serious and becomes 'raw flesh', inflamed and deep. If the latter is at all true of us we need quickly to ensure that we come to the Great Physician and seek His remedy. Then we will be able to be declared clean.

    Dealing With Boils/Ulcers (13.18-23).

    13.18-20 "And when the flesh has a boil in its skin, and it is healed, and in the place of the boil there is a white rising, or a bright spot, reddish-white, then it shall be shown to the priest, and the priest shall look; and, behold, if the its appearance be deeper than the skin, and its hair be turned white, then the priest shall pronounce him unclean. It is a suspicious skin disease. It has broken out in the boil."

    If a man has a boil (or ulcer) he also must come to the priest with it. No man must enter the court of the tabernacle with such a boil unless it has been checked. And if the boil has subsided and has been replaced by a white rising or a bright reddish-white spot, and it goes deeper than the skin and the hairs have turned white, the priest must declare him unclean. He has a suspicious skin disease as a result of the boil.

    13.21-23 "But if the priest look on it, and, behold, there are no white hairs in it, and it is not deeper than the skin, but is uninflamed, then the priest shall shut him up seven days, if it spread abroad in the skin, then the priest shall pronounce him unclean: it is a suspicious disease. But if the bright spot stay in its place, and be not spread, it is the scar of the boil; and the priest shall pronounce him clean."

    On the other hand if there are no white hairs in it, and it is not deeper than the skin, but appears uninflamed, then the priest must quarantine him for seven days, and if he then finds it has spread abroad he must declare the man unclean, but if there is no spread it is merely the scar of the boil. The man can then be declared clean.

    We are all aware how quickly a boil can spring up. One moment we seem to be well and whole, and then suddenly there it is, often a sign that all is not really well with us. And sin springs up just as quickly, and often that too is evidence of even more sin. We must be as quick to take our 'boils' to the Master, as these men were to take themselves before the priest, for if we do not our boil may become worse, and end in marring our whole lives.

    Dealing With Burns (13.24-28).

    13.24-25 "Or when the flesh has a burn from a fire on its skin, and the live part of the burn becomes a bright spot, reddish-white, or white, then the priest shall look on it, and, behold, if the hair in the bright spot is turned white, and its appearance is deeper than the skin; it is a suspicious skin disease. It has broken out as a result of the burn, and the priest shall pronounce him unclean. It is a suspicious skin disease."

    When a man has a severe burn which results in a bright reddish-white or white spot, he must again consult the priest. The priest will then examine it. If the hair on the bright spot has turned white, and appears to be more than skin deep, it is a suspicious skin disease. It has arise because of the burn, and he will be declared unclean.

    13.26-28 "But if the priest looks on it, and, behold, there is no white hair in the bright spot, and it is no deeper than the skin, but is uninflamed, then the priest shall shut him up seven days, and the priest shall look on him on the seventh day, and if it spread abroad in the skin, then the priest shall pronounce him unclean. It is a suspicious skin disease. And if the bright spot stay in its place, and is not spread in the skin, but is uninflamed; it is the rising of the burn, and the priest shall pronounce him clean. For it is the scar of the burn."

    On the other hand if the priest examines it and there is no white hair in the bright spot, and it is no more than skin deep, and is uninflamed, then the priest must quarantine him for seven days, and if then the spot has spread abroad the man must be declared unclean. But if it has not spread abroad but remains as it is and is uninflamed, it is merely the rising of the burn and he can be declared clean. It is simply the scar of the burn.

    A burn is regularly the result of carelessness. But one moment of carelessness has resulted in this person having to go into quarantine and live in fear of an adverse verdict. How careless are we about sin? That makes us unwhole as well. How grateful we should be that the result is not for us a period of doubt as to whether all will be well, because for us there is instant forgiveness if our repentance is genuine. We can come immediately to the Great Physician and He will make us whole, but it means avoiding 'burns' in the future.

    Dealing With Sores (13.29-37).

    13.29-30 "And when a man or woman has a plague on the head or on the beard, then the priest shall look on the plague, and, behold, if its appearance is deeper than the skin, and there is yellow thin hair in it, then the priest shall pronounce him unclean. It is an itch. It is a suspicious skin disease of the head or of the beard."

    This is not just a 'suspicious skin disease' but a suspected 'plague'. It could be favus or psoriasis. The person has an itch on their head or beard. If it seems to go below the skin and there is yellowish thin hair in it, then the person is proclaimed unclean. It is a suspicious skin disease, the suspicion being that it will be permanent.

    13.31-34 "And if the priest look on the plague, and, behold, its appearance is not deeper than the skin, and there is no black hair in it, then the priest shall shut up the one who has the plague for seven days, and on the seventh day the priest shall look on the disease, and, behold, if the itch has not spread, and there is no yellow hair in it, and the appearance of the itch is not deeper than the skin, then he shall be shaved, but will not shave the itch, and the priest shall shut up the one who has the itch for seven days more, and on the seventh day the priest shall look on the itch, and, behold, if the itch has not spread in the skin, and its appearance is not deeper than the skin, then the priest shall pronounce him clean, and he shall wash his clothes, and be clean."

    But if the plague does not go deeper than the skin, and there are no black hairs in it the person is to be quarantined for seven days, after which the priest will look at it again, and if the itch has still not spread and there are no yellowish hairs in it, and it does not go more than skin deep, the person may shave everywhere but where the itch is. Thus up to this time they have not been allowed to shave, and the men at least would be feeling very uncomfortable and shabby. But once they have shaved something of their self-confidence will be restored. This is another indication of God's concern for the details of our lives.

    Then they will be quarantined for another seven days. If on this second viewing the itch has still not spread in the skin, and it does not appear to be more than skin deep, the person is pronounced clean. They must wash their clothes and will then be clean.

    13.35-37 "But if the itch spreads abroad in the skin after his cleansing, then the priest shall look on him; and, behold, if the itch has spread in the skin, the priest shall not seek for the yellow hair, he is unclean. But if in his eyes the itch is at a standstill and black hair has grown up in it, the itch is healed, he is clean, and the priest shall pronounce him clean."

    But if the person comes back and says that the itch is spreading that is all that is required for him to be declared unclean and excluded from the camp. The priest, however, with his experience may consider that the itch has not spread, and if he sees that new black hair has grown on the itch the person will be pronounced clean.

    Sin can be like an itch. And when it begins to itch it is in order to remind us to go to our great High Priest, Jesus Christ, for the itch may be the symptom of something deeper. It needs to be examined before Him so as to ensure what is its cause and that it is properly dealt with. This person may in fact have judged his own position harshly, but the priest with his experience had saved him from the consequences of his error. We too sometimes judge ourselves too harshly. How good it is then when we learn from the Master that He is satisfied with us as we are. We often think that we have become so unclean, that there is little hope for us now, but He assures us that He has dealt with any uncleanness, and that really He is pleased with our progress, and that if we will but trust Him He will see us through. He is the One Who makes holy (Hebrews 2.11). We need to be able to learn to accept forgiveness and to respond to His work within (Philippians 2.13).

    Dealing With Rashes (13.38-39).

    13.38-39 "And when a man or a woman has in the skin of the flesh bright spots, even white bright spots, then the priest shall look; and, behold, if the bright spots in the skin of their flesh be of a dull white, it is a minor skin disease, it has broken out in the skin. He is clean."

    This kind of skin complaint can be dealt with quickly. If the person has white bright spots and they are a dull white it is simply a minor skin disease and can be ignored. The person is clean. It may be impetigo, or acne, or eczema. It would be a different matter if they were the inflamed white vesicles of clinical leprosy.

    It matters not how small and insignificant something is, Jesus Christ is still interested in it. It is by constantly coming to Him that we make sure that any 'spots' we have are not signs of something which could destroy us. Fortunately much of the time our 'spots' turn out not to be too important, and can be removed by our own decisions. But we would be foolish to ignore them.

    Dealing With Baldness (13.40-44).

    13.40-41 "And if a man's hair has fallen off his head, he is bald; yet he is clean. And if his hair has fallen off from the front part of his head, he is forehead bald; yet he is clean."

    The falling out of the hair, which some might have seen as disastrous, is nothing to be concerned about as far as cleanness is concerned. The bald man is as 'clean' as the man with plenty of hair.

    13.42-44 "But if there is on the bald head, or the bald forehead, a reddish-white plague, it is a suspicious skin disease breaking out on his bald head, or his bald forehead. Then the priest shall look on him; and, behold, if the rising of the plague be reddish-white on his bald head, or on his bald forehead, as the appearance of a suspicious skin disease in the skin of the flesh, he is a diseased man, he is unclean. The priest shall surely pronounce him unclean. His plague is in his head."

    On the other hand if there is a reddish-white plague on his head or forehead, it is a suspicious skin disease. Then the priest must examine him and if the reddish-white plague on his head has the same appearance as the suspicious skin disease on the skin of the flesh elsewhere (compare verse 19), he is a diseased man. He is unclean. The plague is in his head and he will be pronounced unclean.

    Baldness is a reminder of things that we might have in our lives and can do nothing about. We wish they were not there but we have to endure them. But we can be sure that such things, if we can do nothing about it, do not prevent our fellowship with God. But let those things once become signs of a plague and they must be dealt with instantly. Then must we do what the Israelite could not do, turn to the Great Physician. Then we can be sure that He will sustain and heal us, putting right any wrong within and making us whole.

    The Sad Consequences For The Permanently Unclean (13.45-46).

    13.45-46 "And the leper in whom the plague is, his clothes shall be rent, and the hair of his head shall go loose, and he shall cover his upper lip, and he shall cry, Unclean, unclean. All the days during which the plague is in him he shall be unclean. He is unclean. He shall dwell alone. His dwelling shall be outside the camp."

    And what is to happen to those who turn out to have a serious and genuine suspicious skin disease? They must go into mourning, they must tear their clothes, they must let their hair hang loose, they must cover their upper lips, and they must cry, 'unclean, unclean' (compare 10.6; 21.10; Ezekiel 24.17, 22; Genesis 37.34; Numbers 14.6; 2 Samuel 1.11; 2 Kings 11.14; 19.1; 22.11, 19; Ezra 9.5; Micah 3.7). As long as the plague is on them they shall be unclean. They must dwell outside the camp. They must dwell alone (or presumably with others in the same condition).

    Theirs was a terrible fate, a terrible predicament. They could no longer enjoy the normal society of men, they could not enter the camp, and of course they had no opportunity to approach the tabernacle. Theirs was a living death.

    And the fact that they were to go into permanent mourning brings out how their diseases were seen. They had to mourn because in a sense they were bearing their own sins and the sins of Israel. They had been smitten as a warning to others.

    But one day One was to come Who would also be smitten. He too would be like one plagued. But He would be being plagued because He was bearing the sin of many. His face would be marred by suffering more than is usual for the sons of men. As One from Whom men hide their faces He would be despised and we would not esteem Him. He would have no beautiful form nor comeliness, and when men saw Him He would have no splendour that they should desire Him. He would be a man of sorrows, humiliated by grief. But He would be wounded for our transgressions, He would be bruised for our iniquities, the chastising of our peace would be on Him, and with His stripes would we be healed (Isaiah 51.13-53.12).

    And we too were once spiritually in the same condition as those poor diseased men and women. We too were like that. And one day, if we are Christ's, God awoke us and enabled us to see that we were unclean, unworthy, hopeless, bowed down with the disease of sin. All we could do was mourn and cry 'unclean' unclean' as Isaiah did of old (Isaiah 6.5). Are we sufficiently aware of how grateful we should be that the Master came our way, and suffered so, and seeing us in our uncleanness stretched out His hand and touched us and said, 'Be made whole'? And thus were we able to arise and enter not only the camp, not only the tabernacle, but Heaven itself with Him. And our filthy garments were taken off us, and replaced with His garments of righteousness of glistening white. And we no longer had to cry, 'unclean, unclean', but 'holy, holy, holy, is the Lord of hosts Who has delivered us from so great a death, and does deliver, and will yet deliver us'. Thanks be to God for His unspeakable gift.

    Deliverance From A Fungoid Plague In What We Wear (13.47-59).

    The laws of uncleanness now move on to uncleanness in clothing. It is quite possible from what follows that in the conditions under which they lived in the wilderness, and possibly even continuing into Canaan, there were types of fungus that could infest clothing which were especially dangerous to men and women. It may have been a type of fungus unknown to us, although we are, of course, familiar with types of mould which are toxic when eaten. This fungus was distinguished by being 'greenish or reddish', somewhat similar to the plague that can affect a building (14.37). The very fact of the definition suggests that other types of mould were not looked on in quite the same way.

    However from the point of view of the ritual the significant thing was that such fungus, whether mould or mildew or whatever it was, was seen as defiling, possibly even death-dealing. It marred the 'perfection' required in the camp, and must be dealt with ritually. It jarred on God's holiness and even on the holiness of Israel. So provision was made for the way that it could be discerned and if necessarily dealt with. For most of the people could not afford just to throw away clothes because they had become stained. Thus it was ensured that they only had to get rid of them if absolutely necessary.

    It may seem a little trivial to introduce the idea of fungus in clothing in between the description of skin diseases in men and women that could result in their being cast out of the camp, and the restoration of such people if their skin disease was healed, but the intention was probably to indicate that there was indeed the hope of healing for some. The clothing was not totally condemned. Some could be restored. It was a prelude to hope. And it does bring out how important clothing was seen to be.

    Thus there is probably a greater significance to the introduction of clothing here. In Israel's view religiously speaking clothes were vital for fallen mankind. They were part of the reason why he could be accepted before God. They covered man's nakedness. For there may be in mind here the coats of skins in Genesis 3.21.

    We have already observed the slow movement through from Genesis 1 to Genesis 3 in chapter 11 & 12, and in Genesis 3.21 clothing was an epoch making event for mankind. Up to this point man had been naked, but man now wore clothes for the first time and was clothed before God. His nakedness was covered. He was again acceptable in God's eyes. And he must never again go naked. Indeed a further curse would come when Noah's nakedness was revealed (Genesis 9.25).

    This vital covering of nakedness is also stressed with regard to the altar of burnt offering and the sanctuary. There were to be no steps to the altar lest the nakedness of the offerer be revealed (Exodus 20.26). Indeed the priests must wear breeches for this very reason (Exodus 28.42). If that be so then the warning now comes that even such clothing as Adam and Eve received could become 'unclean'. It was not a once for all provision. Uncleanness could get in anywhere. And if they do become unclean they must once more be made clean. Our clothing before God must be 'clean'.

    13.47-52 "The garment also that a fungous plague (actually the same word as for suspicious skin disease) is in, whether it be a woollen garment, or a linen garment; whether it be in warp, or woof; of linen, or of woollen; whether in a skin, or in anything made of skin; if the plague be greenish or reddish in the garment, or in the skin, or in the warp, or in the woof, or in anything of skin; it is a fungous plague, and shall be shown to the priest. And the priest shall look on the plague, and shut up that which has the plague seven days, and he shall look on the plague on the seventh day. If the plague be spread in the garment, either in the warp, or in the woof, or in the skin, whatever service the skin is used for; the plague is a fretting fungus; it is unclean. And he shall burn the garment, whether the warp or the woof, in woollen or in linen, or anything of skin, wherein the plague is: for it is a fretting fungus. It shall be burnt in the fire."

    The description of possible garments is comprehensive even though some of the technical terms in Hebrew are unknown to us. It applies to woollen garments, linen garments or clothing made of skins. We do not know what the Hebrew words behind 'warp and woof' mean, but they probably technically signify every part of the garment inside and out. No matter where the fungous plague is it must be dealt with, because it is a 'fretting fungus' and is 'unclean'.

    The garment must first be shown to the priest who must shut it up for seven days. Then it must be looked at again, and if the fungus is spreading through the garment it is clearly a 'fretting fungus' and must immediately be burned in fire.

    13.53 "And if the priest shall look, and, behold, the plague is not spread in the garment, either in the warp, or in the woof, or in anything of skin, then the priest shall command that they wash the thing in which the plague is, and he shall shut it up seven days more, and the priest shall look, after that the plague is washed, and, behold, if the plague has not changed its colour, and the plague is not spread, it is unclean. You shall burn it in the fire. It is a fungus whether the bareness be within or without."

    If the fungus has not spread the garment must be washed and then shut up for another seven days. If the plague still retains its colour it must be burned with fire no matter whether it is on the inside or the out, it must be burned. It is a suspicious disease.

    13.56-57 "And if the priest look, and, behold, the plague be dim after its washing, then he shall rend it out of the garment, or out of the skin, or out of the warp, or out of the woof, and if it appear still in the garment, either in the warp, or in the woof, or in anything of skin, it is breaking out. You shall burn that in which the plague is with fire."

    However, if the mark of the plague has faded through washing then the particular patch can be torn out of the garment and replaced by a good patch. But if signs of the plague still continue it is 'breaking out', the garment must be burned.

    13.58 "And the garment, either the warp, or the woof, or whatever thing of skin it be, which you shall wash, if the plague be departed from them, then it shall be washed the second time, and shall be clean."

    But if there are no further effects the garment should be washed a second time and will be clean.

    13.59 "This is the law of the plague of leprosy in a garment of woollen or linen, either in the warp, or the woof, or anything of skin, to pronounce it clean, or to pronounce it unclean."

    This may well have been a colophon to the original tablet or other record, enabling the tablet to be quickly identified, or it may simply be a summarising statement.

    The whole lesson for us from the above is quite clear. Our moral lives are regularly looked at in terms of garments. Isaiah could say, 'all our righteousnesses are as a polluted garment', menstrually unclean, something similar to fungoid garments (Isaiah 64.6). Joshua the High Priest after the Exile had his 'filthy garments' (befouled with man's uncleanness) removed from him (Zechariah 3.3-4), in readiness for God's coming action. And in contrast the bride of the Lamb is to be clothed in linen clean and white, which represents the righteousnesses of God's people, God's 'holy ones' (Revelation 19.8). Compare also Ezekiel 16.10 and Zechariah 3.5. Thus we have in this passage a warning that we must deal quickly and severely with any sin, especially such as has a tendency to spread. If our moral garments become plagued they must be destroyed, and we must put on new garments of righteousness. Sin must not be dallied with, it must be cast off and burnt.

    It is especially a reminder that by nature we are all clothed in polluted garments, which must be cast off, destroyed, and replaced by the righteousness of Christ (2 Corinthians 5.21), as a man puts on a wedding garment when invited to a wedding (Matthew 22.11-12). Our only hope is to be clothed in the righteousness of Christ (see Ephesians 5.26-27).

    Chapter 14 The Day of Deliverance.

    Chapter 13 left the skin diseased people in total despair. The unclean persons who had the suspicious skin disease were cast out of the camp with seemingly no future hope ahead. And as they symbolised Israel in its sinful condition it might also have been seen as indicating that there was no hope for Israel. But things could not be allowed to go on like that. It was true that Adam and Eve were similarly cast out of the Garden, but that was not the end. We soon find Abel offering tribute to Yahweh, a tribute which is graciously accepted and responded to (Genesis 4.4). And then in Genesis 4.26 we are told that men began to call on the name of Yahweh. It is clear that God had not turned away from man and that there was in this some kind of reconciliation, as there had been with the coats of skins for Adam and Eve (Genesis 3.21). There was a new beginning.

    So here also in chapter 14 therefore we have an indication of the possibility of restoration and full cleansing, purification and atonement, although only for the minority. Being cast out was not necessarily the end. For many there could be restoration, there could be a return to the favour of God. There could be a new beginning.

    But that would all depend on the suspicious skin disease being healed. This would in fact probably seem to happen many times in different individuals because of wrong diagnosis, or because the skin disease was of such a type that healing took place naturally. But that would not be how it would be seen. It would be seen as the unclean becoming clean again, the smitten being restored to God's favour. They knew that God could choose to wound, and He could choose to heal (Deuteronomy 32.39), and many would have cried for healing both for themselves and for their loved ones, (compare Psalm 41.4; 103.3-4), and now they saw their beloved one healed, and they would rejoice in God's goodness and deliverance.

    The prophets had a similar vision for Israel. Israel was like someone desperately ill and polluted (Isaiah 1.5-6; 9.13; 64.6; Jeremiah 5.3; compare Psalm 38.3) but one day Yahweh would bring about their healing (Isaiah 57.17-19; Ezekiel 47.9; Jeremiah 8.22). Then they would rejoice indeed. And Jesus Himself spoke of the restoration to God of 'the unclean' (for that was how the Pharisees saw them) in terms of healing (Mark 2.17). In Christian terms chapter 13 portrays the suffering of the Servant, chapter 14 rejoices in His coming through His suffering and in His resurrection by which He offers healing and atonement to many.

    The Return Of Some Who Were Smitten (14.1-32)

    14.1 'And Yahweh spoke to Moses, saying,'

    It is interesting that the law of the smitten in the day of his cleansing should be spoken to Moses alone (contrast 13.1; 14.33; 15.1), for Moses was the deliverer of Israel. Aaron is involved with him in controlling the ritual of the cult, but Moses is the prophet of deliverance. Although in view of the general pattern of these headings in this section it may be that we must not read too much significance in it. However, had God not actually spoken this to Moses, had it been a later invention, it would be passing strange in context that Aaron was not mentioned as well.

    The Law of The Skin-Diseased In The Day Of His Cleansing (14.2-20)

    14.2-4 "This shall be the law of the skin-diseased in the day of his cleansing, He shall be brought to the priest, and the priest shall go forth out of the camp, and the priest shall look, and, behold, if the plague of suspicious skin disease be healed in the diseased person, then shall the priest command to take for him who is to be cleansed two living clean birds, and cedar wood, and scarlet, and hyssop."

    The first point here is the expectancy that some would recover from their suspicious skin disease. In the mercy of God it was not necessarily to be seen as the end. And then the person could send a message to the priest claiming healing. He would have been living alone outside the camp, probably provided with assistance by friends and relatives, who would, however, beware of coming too close. But now they could be messengers of the joyous news. He was healed. His skin disease had subsided.

    They would hasten to the priests who would send one of their number out of the camp to check out the true situation. We have an illustration of this in Mark 1.44 where Jesus told the leper whom He had healed to show himself to the priests and make his offerings as demanded in the Law of Moses.

    The priest would approach the hopefully no longer diseased man and would examine him in accordance with the criteria laid down in the previous chapter, and if he was satisfied that the man was truly healed he would command the correct procedures to begin. 'Then shall the priest command to take for him who is to be cleansed two living clean birds, and cedar wood, and scarlet, and hyssop.' This is the first stage in the process.

    'This shall be the law of the skin-diseased in the day of his cleansing.' The procedures were strictly laid down. For this phrase compare 11.46; 12.7; 13.59; 14.32, 54, 57; 15.32 also 6.9-7.37; Numbers 5.29; 6.13, 21; 19.14. We note that included in his cleansing are all the offerings described in detail in chapter 1-7. He is coming from the most appalling of conditions to total restoration by the grace of God. But first there is to be a unique ceremony.

    14.5 "And the priest shall command to kill one of the birds in an earthen vessel over running water."

    Two 'living clean birds' had been called for and now one was to be killed in an earthen vessel in which there was water taken from a spring. The water was to be totally pure, 'running water', coming from unspoiled nature. The clean bird (it was not just any bird, which confirms its sacrificial intent) would be killed in such a way that the blood mingled with the water.

    The killing was a type of sacrifice, almost certainly for atonement and purification, a preliminary type of purification for sin offering. It stresses that the man's healing and cleansing and re-acceptance can only take place through the shedding of blood. It is not complete for it is not offered on the altar (which it could not be, for until this was done the man could not enter the camp). But it was the first stage before he could enter into the camp. He could not enter the camp without some purification through the shedding of blood.

    14.6-7 "As for the living bird, he shall take it, and the cedar wood, and the scarlet, and the hyssop, and shall dip them and the living bird in the blood of the bird which was killed over the running water, and he shall sprinkle on him who is to be cleansed from the suspicious skin disease seven times, and shall pronounce him clean, and shall let go the living bird into the open countryside,"

    Then the living bird which remained, together with the cedar wood, the scarlet and the hyssop will be dipped in the blood of the bird which was killed over running water, and the blood of the dead bird would be sprinkled by means of the hyssop and the scarlet wool seven times over the man who was being cleansed.

    Comparison with verse 51 demonstrates that they are at the same time dipped in the water, for the blood and water will have mingled.

    The sevenfold sprinkling was an indication of the total application of the blood (compare 4.6, 17; 8.11; 16.19), and was used only on very solemn occasions.

    The hyssop was a plant that absorbed liquid and would be the main agent in the sprinkling. The cedar wood probably signified long and permanent life ahead, for the cedar was famed for its long life. It may also signify that he was 'standing tall', with his life now having again become valuable and useful. It is possible also that the hyssop was tied to it with the scarlet wool to make a 'sprinkler'. The scarlet was a reminder of the blood shed so that all could see that it was sprinkling blood. The living bird signified a new release, and the total removal of all the man's past uncleanness away from the camp. Its release should be compared with 16.21-22. It would thus seem to signify that the healed man's sins which had been responsible for his disease, along with his disease, were now seen as despatched into 'the open country' so that he would no more be troubled with his disease. Now he could enter the camp, but he was still a long way from being able to come into the presence of Yahweh and become fully acceptable to Him.

    14.8 "And he who is to be cleansed shall wash his clothes, and shave off all his hair, and bathe himself in water, and he shall be clean. And after that he shall come into the camp, but shall dwell outside his tent seven days."

    The man was then to remove all the earthiness and defilement of living outside the camp. He had to wash his clothes, shave off all his hair, and thoroughly wash himself, before he could enter the camp. But even then he could not go to his own tent. He was not yet purified. He was still, as it were, 'on probation'. It removed from him all outward uncleanness including that from contact with other skin diseased people. The benefits hygienically are quite clear, but to the priests and the Israelites it was only his first step towards being 'cleansed'. He was not yet 'clean'. It may be that this symbolised his first step in being reborn into Israel. Then he had to wait there for seven days.

    We should note that the washing of himself comes last. We must not seize on that as the main picture, it is part of a whole. It is a total process of removal of all dirt, of all earthiness and hopefully of all transmittable 'uncleanness', ready for the coming process of cleansing.

    14.9 "And it shall be on the seventh day, that he shall shave all his hair off his head and his beard and his eyebrows, even all his hair he shall shave off, and he shall wash his clothes, and he shall bathe his flesh in water, and he shall be clean."

    Then on the seventh day, after a divinely complete period in which he would no doubt be meditating on Yahweh's deliverance, and rejoicing in the fact that he was once more in the holy camp of Israel, he had to shave all the hair of his head, and shave his beard and his eyebrows, all his hair. This was presumably so that it would be quite clear that no trace of disease remained. It may also have been because hair might have been seen as able to pass on uncleanness like the hyssop could pass on the blood. It was certainly hygienically sensible. Then he had to wash his clothes with water and wash himself, after which he would be 'clean', ready for the cleansing process. Clean here probably means again declared clean from his skin disease after examination (13.6, 13, 17 etc), for he has yet to be cleansed before Yahweh (verse 11). Note again that his bathing is only a part of the process, and not the most important part. It is part of a total removal of dirt and earthiness and uncleanness.

    We can compare how the new born babe has to wait seven days, before on the eighth day being circumcised (12.2-3). This man was also being reborn. He would be, as it were, 'born again' on the eighth day.

    14.10 "And on the eighth day he shall take two he-lambs without blemish, and one ewe-lamb a year old without blemish, and three tenth parts of an ephah of fine flour for a grain offering, mingled with oil, and one log of oil."

    The greatness of his deliverance is expressed by the fact that he must bring all four offerings, a guilt offering, a purification for sin offering, a whole burnt offering and a grain offering, together with oil for anointing. These are made up of two he-lambs and a ewe lamb, all 'perfect' or without blemish, grain and oil. The grain offering is to be mingled with oil as usual, which suggests that it was to be offered along with the whole burnt offering (contrast 5.11). The young age of the sacrifices stresses the new beginning (compare 9.2-3).

    Thus he requires the removal of specific guilt for any particular sin of which he may have been guilty, the purification for sin which will bring overall forgiveness and atonement, a rededication of himself in praise and thanksgiving and tribute to Yahweh, again accompanied by the making of atonement, and the offering of praise and gratitude for the fact that he would now once again receive God's blessing in the receiving from God of grain and oil. He was again a whole man.

    14.11 "And the priest who cleanses him shall set the man who is to be cleansed, and those things, before Yahweh, at the door of the tent of meeting."

    The priest who is performing the cleansing will then set the man and all his offerings 'before Yahweh' at the door of the tent of meeting, that is, they will be brought into the tabernacle court where the altar of burnt offering is. This was only made possible because of the offering of the birds eight days before.

    14.12 "And the priest shall take one of the he-lambs, and offer him for a guilt offering, and the log of oil, and wave them for a wave-offering before Yahweh,"

    He then offers one of the he-lambs (young rams) as a guilt offering. This demonstrates quite clearly that in the mind of all and in the eyes of God his disease is linked with guilt for some particular sin, without necessarily defining it too closely. It may also be that he is admitting to the fact that while he has been cast out he has not been able to bring to Yahweh His dues (5.15-17). At the same time the 'log' (almost a pint, a little more than a litre) of oil is waved before Yahweh along with the flesh of the guilt offering. They are Yahweh's.

    'Offer him for a guilt offering.' We should note here that the methods previously described in chapters 1-7 were no doubt carried into effect here, before being followed by the special symbolism connected only with this ceremony.

    14.13 "And he shall kill the he-lamb in the place where they kill the purification for sin offering and the whole burnt offering, in the place of the sanctuary. For as the purification for sin offering is the priest's, so is the guilt offering. It is most holy."

    The guilt offering is slain in the place where the purification for sin offering and the whole burnt offering would be slain, to the north of the altar, in the place of the sanctuary (1.11). It shares with them in its seriousness. For as with the purification for sin offering, its flesh belongs to the priest, it is most holy.

    14.14 "And the priest shall take of the blood of the guilt offering, and the priest shall put it on the tip of the right ear of the one who is to be cleansed, and on the thumb of his right hand, and on the great toe of his right foot."

    We may probably presume that the blood is first applied to the side of the altar of burnt offering, and thrown at its base to make atonement (5.9). It is involved in the purification of a sinner. The blood of the guilt offering is then put on his extremities, the tip of his right ear, his right thumb and his right big toe. By this the whole of the newly received man is made once more fit to serve Yahweh, to hear His voice, to do His will and to walk in His ways. It is a new beginning.

    14.15-16 "And the priest shall take of the log of oil, and pour it into the palm of his own left hand, and the priest shall dip his right finger in the oil that is in his left hand, and shall sprinkle of the oil with his finger seven times before Yahweh,"

    A similar pattern is followed with the oil. It is poured by the priest into his left hand and then he dips his right finger in the oil and sprinkles it seven times before Yahweh. This is a presentation of the oil in a divinely perfect way for Yahweh to authenticate it for its use. It is directly connecting Yahweh with what is to follow.

    14.17 "And of the rest of the oil that is in his hand shall the priest put on the tip of the right ear of him that is to be cleansed, and on the thumb of his right hand, and on the great toe of his right foot, on the blood of the guilt offering,"

    Then the rest of the oil is used to be put on the tip of the right ear, the right thumb and the right big toe which had previously had the blood of the guilt offering applied to them. Having been forgiven with regard to all his activities he is now set apart for Yahweh, the ear for hearing God's will, the hand for doing God's will and the toe for walking in God's way. Anointing above all signifies being set apart to God. There are similarities between this ceremony and those of the setting apart to God of the High Priest and the priests (chapter 8).

    The right hand and the right foot will have been seen as indicating a man's supreme strength and ability. Most were right handed. The thumb and the toe were recognised as being essential to a man's full ability. If you wanted to disable someone permanently you cut of his thumbs and his toes (Judges 1.6-7).

    (While anointing is sometimes accompanied by the Holy Spirit it is not necessarily so. There is never any connection between oil and the Holy Spirit in the Pentateuch. nor is there any suggestion later that anointed priests received the Holy Spirit. Anointing represented being set apart to God for a holy purpose. It would necessarily result in the Holy Spirit coming on someone when it was necessary for the fulfilment of his anointed function but it was not seen as inevitable. Of course in this present age any anointing would be accompanied by the Holy Spirit precisely because this is the age of the Spirit).

    14.18 "And the rest of the oil which is in the priest's hand he shall put on the head of him who is to be cleansed, and the priest shall make atonement for him before Yahweh."

    Then what remains of the oil is poured on his head. He is now completely set apart in the whole of his being, from head to toe, even to his furthest extremity. After this the priest sets about making atonement for him.

    14.19 "And the priest shall offer the purification for sin offering, and make atonement for him who is to be cleansed because of his uncleanness, and afterwards he shall kill the whole burnt offering,"

    For after this the purification for sin offering is offered, in order to make atonement for the one who is to be cleansed, 'because of his uncleanness'. He is being purified from sin. This is then followed by the whole burnt offering.

    14.20 "And the priest shall offer the whole burnt offering and the grain offering on the altar, and the priest shall make atonement for him, and he shall be clean."

    The whole burnt offering and the grain offering are then also offered to make atonement. The whole is needed in order that the man might not only be cleansed and purified, but also atoned for completely. He is now back in full fellowship with God as one of His people, with his past wholly behind him, ransomed, healed, restored, forgiven. He is at one with God and with God's people.

    This whole vivid picture is a glorious illustration of the salvation of a sinner. It commences with his state as one who is sinful and defiled, diseased and disfigured by sin. One who is unclean and cast out. It illustrates that he can only come to God through the blood of Christ, and the all sufficiency of that blood, for Christ is slain bird, guilt offering, purification for sin offering and whole burnt offering all in one. Until that is applied he is not 'clean'. The hyssop symbolises the fact that His blood must be applied to us by His hand, as we come for cleansing. The shaving and the washing symbolises that the whole of the old life must be put aside and replaced by 'ceasing to do evil, learning to do well' (Isaiah 1.16). The oil symbolises our being totally set apart to Him. The grain offering stresses that for those who become His life begins again, that they may once again rejoice in the grain and the oil. It also symbolises the fact that we who become His priests may partake of Him, as the priests partake of the guilt offering, the sin offering and the grain offering. The live bird stresses that our sins are carried away never to return. It may also be seen as a symbol of the everlasting life that we receive, as one side of the bird partnership dies and the other is released alive, signifying life and freedom through death. So do we see what our Saviour has accomplished for us when we were so unworthy.

    There are other parallels also that we can see here. The priest went to the diseased person outside the camp. So did Jesus offer Himself for us outside the camp (Hebrews 13.10-13), that we may enter the true camp, not the camp of an earthly Israel but the 'continuing city' which is to come (Hebrews 13.14). The second parallel is that the whole of the cleansing and redeeming work was done by the priest. In the same way we recognise that in our sinfulness we can do nothing for ourselves, He must do all. Salvation is the work of Christ from start to finish.

    There Is None Too Low That God Will Not Cleanse Them If They Come To Him (14.21-32).

    But many a skin diseased cast-off would find it difficult to provide three animals for sacrifice together with the accompanying grain and oil, and for them God has provided a substitute offering which he may better be able to afford.

    14.21-29 "And if he is poor, and cannot get so much, then he shall take one he-lamb for a guilt offering to be waved, to make atonement for him, and one tenth part of an ephah of fine flour mingled with oil for a grain offering, and a log of oil, and two turtle-doves, or two young pigeons, such as he is able to get, and the one shall be a purification for sin offering, and the other a whole burnt offering."

    If the person to be cleansed is poor then instead of two he-lambs and a ewe lamb he may offer one he-lamb and two turtle doves or two young pigeons. We note in this the centrality of the guilt offering. There can be no change there. The he-lamb for a guilt offering must be offered under any circumstance. The guilt of the sin that lay behind his condition must be dealt with at all costs, and it is a heavy guilt for there, in his case, even in his poverty, there can be no reduction in cost (contrast 5.7-13). But the purification for sin offering and the whole burnt offering may be reduced to two clean birds, as with the normal whole burnt offering (1.14-17). Compare also 12.8.

    We are reminded by this that there was no alternative to the offering of the Lamb Who takes away the sin of the world (John 1.29), to the offering of the suffering Servant Who was led like a lamb to the slaughter (Isaiah 53.7). Significantly the latter was also a 'plagued, afflicted and rejected person' (52.14; 53.3-5), a guilt offering (Isaiah 53.8 compare 53.10). For Isaiah 53.8 literally ends with 'for the transgression of My people He was plagued'.

    14.23 "And on the eighth day he shall bring them for his cleansing to the priest, to the door of the tent of meeting, before Yahweh, and the priest shall take the lamb of the guilt offering, and the log of oil, and the priest shall wave them for a wave-offering before Yahweh, and he shall kill the lamb of the guilt offering, and the priest shall take of the blood of the guilt offering, and put it on the tip of the right ear of the one who is to be cleansed, and on the thumb of his right hand, and on the great toe of his right foot. And the priest shall pour of the oil into the palm of his own left hand, and the priest shall sprinkle with his right finger some of the oil which is in his left hand seven times before Yahweh, and the priest shall put of the oil that is in his hand on the tip of the right ear of him who is to be cleansed, and on the thumb of his right hand, and on the great toe of his right foot, on the place of the blood of the guilt offering, and the rest of the oil which is in the priest's hand he shall put on the head of him who is to be cleansed, to make atonement for him before Yahweh."

    Exactly the same procedure is followed with the guilt offering as was described in verses 10-18, only slightly abbreviated.

    14.30-31 "And he shall offer one of the turtle-doves, or of the young pigeons, such as he is able to get, even such as he is able to get, the one for a purification for sin offering, and the other for a whole burnt offering, with the grain offering, and the priest shall make atonement for him who is to be cleansed before Yahweh."

    But for the purification for sin offering and the whole burnt offering he can use 'such as he is able to get' which he offers with a grain offering in the form of two clean, sacrificial birds.

    14.32 "This is the law of him in whom is the plague of a suspicious skin disease, who is not able to get that which pertains to his cleansing."

    And this particular aspect of the Law is for the one who is unable to get the full provision as previously laid down. It is equally a law in parallel with the others.

    The Law Of Cleansing In Respect of a Plagued House (14.33-53).

    Dealing with plagued garments was included after the descriptions with regard to discerning of the clean and the unclean with regard to skin diseases in 13.1-46, now dealing with plagued houses is dealt with after the descriptions of the restoration of the unclean who were healed of a skin disease. In the camp He plagued their clothes, in the land He would plague their houses.

    Yet we saw in the first the first indication of hope, for the diseased person. With the garments some could be restored! Was it not then so with people? And this had indeed then led on to the description of the triumphant restoration of some of the skin diseased people.

    Now we see in the second that if a whole house is diseased once they have come into the land, the whole must be destroyed. But on the other hand that in some cases, with drastic treatment, it might be restored. It would depend on the severity of the plague. It thus follows that if the whole of a man's house is involved in evil, using the term in both senses of the word 'house', hope has gone, unless full restoration and rebuilding takes place.

    The restoration of Israel was regularly spoken of in terms of a rebuilding (2 Samuel 7.13; Psalm 69.35; 102.16; Isaiah 58.12; 60.10; 61.4; Jeremiah 24.6; 31.4; 33.7; Ezekiel 28.26; Amos 9.11, 14), a theme continued in the New Testament. The house would have to be destroyed and rebuilt because it would become unclean.

    In view of the early Genesis theme that runs through these laws on uncleanness we are probably to see in this house that was discovered to be unclean, a reminder of Cain who 'built a city' (4.17). Cities always tended to be seen as 'unclean', they were ever illustrative of rebellion against God, and the great cities were regularly used as examples of those totally depraved. If so this passage carries the message that even the plagued city can be made clean by a rooting out of uncleanness and a rebuilding under God.

    But in this example there is an even deeper import. In all the previous descriptions there has been no suggestion that it was Yahweh Who had made the person or clothing diseased. But here God specifically says, 'If I put the plague of mould in a house.' There is here thus an indication that in the end this, and all plague, comes from God. It is He Who forms the light and creates darkness, Who makes peace and creates catastrophe (Isaiah 45.7) which is then followed by the assurance of abundant salvation resulting in righteousness (Isaiah 45.8). But as with the curse in the Garden it is not here depicted as being directed at man, although man cannot help being involved.

    Thus there is here the delicately stated reminder that behind all that happens is God. The writer had not wanted to say that every skin-diseased person had been made so by God, as though they were worse than all others, but he does want us to recognise that in fact, that, along with all else, is in the last analysis from God. Nothing can happen without it being drawn in as part of His plan, and it all happens on the basis of the principles which God has established for the running of the world. He does not shy from bringing God into the equation.

    14.33 "And Yahweh spoke to Moses and to Aaron, saying,

    This message too comes to both Moses and Aaron, and is specifically from Yahweh. Firstly it contains the assurance that they will come into the land of Canaan which He will give them for a possession. This is so certain that He is already declaring what will be in that day. But it then contains the warning that when they do so come into possession of the land He will be watching over them in order to plague their houses if they are unfaithful to Him, as previously their clothes had been allowed to be plagued. Like the camp the land will be holy to God. But that means that all seen as deserving of the plague will have to be cast out.

    (We note that God is not said to have plagued the clothing, but is said to have plagued the houses. Was this because God was seen as having provided the clothing for man, but man (like Cain) as having provided the houses? Because clothing was seen as 'natural' for man, but housing was not? That housing was rather seen as being in danger of being the beginnings of man's rebellion as he gathered into cities).

    14.34 "When you are come into the land of Canaan, which I give to you for a possession, and I put the plague of mould in a house of the land of your possession,"

    In a way this is an astonishing statement. In the land to be given to them by God as a possession there will be plagued houses! And when this happens they are to recognise that He has done it. It is He who will have put the plague of mould into their houses. The message is that if they misuse what God gives them to possess, it will be taken away from them. Again it is not so much a case of individual sin, but of the sin of the whole (there is no suggestion of purification for sin and guilt offerings on the altar of burnt offerings). Each plagued house will be a reminder of the sin of the whole of Israel, and of what could happen to all.

    Their houses would be of stone, mud-brick, timber and plaster (compare Amos 5.11) but in many cases would simply look like a small huddle; although the more wealthy had more sophisticated houses, mainly in the western quarter so as to escape the effect of the prevailing wind. Apart from the more sophisticated cities they would usually be crowded together without much planning, with the only space being the 'square' in front of the town gates, and possibly a 'street' running round the wall, which would also have houses built on it. The houses of the poor would comprise one room, with a small courtyard. Cooking, sleeping and storage would all occur within it, and domestic animal might be kept there. The larger houses would have a main room with surrounding small rooms.

    14.35 "Then he who owns the house shall come and tell the priest, saying, There seems to me to be as it were a plague in the house."

    Once a 'plague' is spotted in a house, whether it be mould, mildew or rot, or whatever, the owner must go to the priest, for if the house is 'unclean' it affects the holiness of all. It is thus a bounden duty. There will be a temptation not to do so. A house was then, as now, a valued property. It could even be all that they had, and they would not be sure of the outcome. It would not be insured!.

    14.36 "And the priest shall command that they empty the house, before the priest goes in to see the plague, that all that is in the house be not made unclean, and afterwards the priest shall go in to see the house,"

    The priest's first step is to command them to empty the house, for anything that is in the house once it is declared unclean, will itself be unclean. The assumption is that the plague will not really yet have taken hold. It is a merciful provision. They may lose the house, but at least not their treasured possessions.

    14.37-38 "And he shall look on the plague, and, behold, if the plague is in the walls of the house with hollow streaks, greenish or reddish, and its appearance is lower than the wall, then the priest shall go out of the house to the door of the house, and shut up the house seven days."

    The priest will then examine the house. This may well involve the scraping off of some of the plaster to see how deep the plague has gone, which again makes us realise why the possessions in the house needed to be removed lest they be defiled. Scraped plaster goes everywhere. The plague that is to be condemned is one that produces greenish or reddish hollow streaks and has penetrated below the surface (is 'lower than the wall'). We do not know what exactly this was, but it was clearly something very unpleasant and no doubt with equally unpleasant effects.

    If the priest found it he would lock or seal the door and the house would be shut up for seven days.

    14.39-40 "And the priest shall come again the seventh day, and shall look, and, behold, if the plague is spread in the walls of the house, then the priest shall command that they take out the stones in which the plague is, and cast them into an unclean place outside the city,"

    After seven days the priest will come to check the house again. If the plague has spread on the stones, all the affected stones are to be removed, and put in an unclean place outside the city, probably in this case a recognised rubbish dump.

    We too need to examine our lives carefully, and must learn to be equally drastic with the sins that beguile us.

    14.41 "And he shall cause the house to be scraped within round about, and they shall pour out the mortar that they scrape off, outside the city into an unclean place,"

    Then he will cause all the mortar on the walls inside the house to be scraped off, and that too will be taken to the unclean place outside the city. Later in Jerusalem it would be the Valley of Hinnom.

    14.42 "And they shall take other stones, and put them in the place of those stones, and he shall take other mortar, and shall plaster the house."

    After which the stones that have been taken out will be replaced with other stones, and the house will be replastered. The hope is that the plague has been got rid of by the drastic action taken. There has been a new rebuilding.

    14.43-45 "And if the plague come again, and break out in the house, after he has taken out the stones, and after he has scraped the house, and after it is plastered, then the priest shall come in and look, and, behold, if the plague is spread in the house, it is a fretting mould in the house, it is unclean. And he shall break down the house, its stones, and its timber, and all the mortar of the house; and he shall carry them forth out of the city into an unclean place."

    But if the plague comes again after this thorough treatment it is clearly a spreading plague, and the house is therefore 'unclean'. It is unsuited to the holiness of God or of Israel. The whole of the house from top to bottom is to be pulled down, broken up and carried to the tip outside the city in an unclean place.

    14.46 "Moreover he who goes into the house all the while that it is shut up shall be unclean until the even."

    Moreover anyone who goes into the house while it is shut up will also be unclean, but only until the evening. The aim is to stop people going into it, lest in some way they are affected by the uncleanness of the house and carry it with them.

    14.47 "And he who lies in the house shall wash his clothes, and he who eats in the house shall wash his clothes."

    And anyone who lies in the house or eats there is not only made unclean until the evening because they have entered the house, but must also wash their clothes. They have been affected by uncleanness, and must rid even their clothing of it. It would also be hygienically wise, but they did not know this.

    14.48 "And if the priest shall come in, and look, and, behold, the plague has not spread in the house, after the house was plastered, then the priest shall pronounce the house clean, because the plague is healed."

    But if the priest discovers on examination that his work has been successful, and that the plague has not spread after the replastering of the house, he will declare the house clean. It will mean that the plague is healed.

    14.49-51 "And he shall take to cleanse the house two birds, and cedar wood, and scarlet, and hyssop, and he shall kill one of the birds in an earthen vessel over running water, and he shall take the cedar wood, and the hyssop, and the scarlet, and the living bird, and dip them in the blood of the slain bird, and in the running water, and sprinkle the house seven times."

    We note that for the house the ritual is only the initial part of that for the cleansing of a man or woman. There are no offerings made in the sanctuary in this case. There is no question here of guilt, or direct human sin. Nevertheless atonement has to be made demonstrating that as ever sin is lurking in the background.

    The same procedure as before is carried through only this time it is the house that is sprinkled. It would seem probable that this was an ancient rite of purification.

    14.52 "And he shall cleanse the house with the blood of the bird, and with the running water, and with the living bird, and with the cedar wood, and with the hyssop, and with the scarlet,"

    The combination of all parts of the ritual, each part being important, will successfully cleanse the house. It is now acceptable again for use by God's holy nation without defiling them.

    14.53 "But he shall let go the living bird out of the city into the open countryside, so shall he make atonement for the house, and it shall be clean."

    Here the letting go of the living bird is again an essential part of the atoning work. The bird carries away all taint of uncleanness. Thus do we see the ritual for the house as very similar for that to the healed man. This would seem to stress the connection of this plagued house with sin. The plagued man and the plagued house are seen as especially tainted by sin to such an extent that this unusual treatment is required, almost parallel to that on the Day of Atonement.

    We may note in this regard that a family were always described in terms of their 'house'. Thus it would be simple for the Israelite to make a transference of thought. The idea of the plaguing of 'houses', signifying people, is used and described in Genesis 12.17. They could therefore see in these descriptions a hidden message that more than the stonework was in mind. They must watch their houses well, in both senses, or God would visit them with the plague.

    Final Summary.

    14.54-57 "This is the law for all manner of plague of leprous disease, even for an itch, and for the mould of a garment, and for a house, and for a lump, and for a scab, and for a bright spot, to teach when it is unclean, and when it is clean. This is the law of leprous disease."

    This reads like a colophon on a tablet, or as ending a series of tablets. It describes the contents of all the tablets containing the laws of uncleanness on these matters.

    Chapter 15 The Uncleanness Related To Sexual Activity and Sexual Flows

    This chapter concentrates on the fact that emissions from the sexual organs result in uncleanness. This meant that those who had in one way or another been in contact with or had emitted sexual flows were unable to approach God direct because they were unclean. They were also unable to enter the tabernacle court that day. This would be a complete answer to the Canaanite emphasis on sex as a religious exercise. To Yahweh sex and religion were unrelated, and sexual activity prevented the deepest level of religious experience from occurring on the same day as the sex was partaken of.

    As far as Israel was concerned it is probable that they saw all male emissions from the sexual organs as life implanting, without recognising the difference between semen and the emissions from venereal and other diseases. It was God's laws of uncleanness, in this case unique in the ancient world, which saved them from the worst results of such a belief by preventing excessive contact with infectious flows on the grounds that they would make a man 'unclean'.

    We have earlier suggested that Moses may well have in mind in this law of uncleanness a continuation of the Genesis theme. This may be so here with the emphasis here on Genesis 5 where there is the continual birth one after another of the patriarchs in the list, and of their sons and daughters. These were men and women born in the image of Adam (5.3), although there was still something of the image of God in them (9.6). Here was a triumphant picture of the continual birth of men and women after the fall, a flow of life, but counteracting it was the equally emphatic fact of final death for each one. The imperfection of their birth was the death sentence on them as soon as they were born. They were born, they bore children and they died. Their birth systems were 'unclean'. They were not 'perfect'.

    And it is therefore reasonable to see there a reason why sexual emissions were seen as 'unclean', as not 'perfect'. For while they did produce new life, it was always life that resulted in death. And this on top of the fact that in the Garden the woman's reproduction had been rendered painful as a punishment.

    Note in passing the careful structure of the passage.

    • 1). A man's unusual emissions.
    • 2). A man's usual emission.
    • 3). A woman's usual emission.
    • 4). A woman's unusual emissions.

      15.1 "And Yahweh spoke to Moses and to Aaron, saying,"

      The variation between Yahweh speaking just to Moses and sometimes to both Moses and Aaron, is a sign of the authenticity of the narrative. It is unlikely that an inventor would have introduced such variation so spasmodically. Again it is emphasised that we have here Yahweh's words, but here to both Moses and Aaron. Since Aaron's advancement to High Priest Moses wanted him more involved, especially with matters related to the tabernacle.

      The Uncleanness Resulting From Exceptional Emissions From The Male Sexual Organ (15.2-15).

      15.2-3 "Speak to the children of Israel, and say to them, "When any man has an issue out of his flesh, because of his issue he is unclean. And this shall be his uncleanness in his issue, whether his flesh run with his issue, or his flesh be stopped from his issue, it is his uncleanness."

      The ancients had their own way of disguising sexual language. Bald openness in such matters was seen as indecent. Thus here the reference to 'flesh' was a disguise for 'penis'. What is being referred to is any emission from the penis. This could include the effect of venereal diseases as well as over exuberant sex glands. Any 'lifegiving' flow was to be seen as unclean, in the same way as for the woman birthflow was unclean. They lacked the perfection that God had intended for them. And they produced sinners fated to die.

      There may also be the thought that in losing the discharge they were losing some of their life force and were therefore not 'whole'.

      15.4 "Every bed on which he who has the issue lies shall be unclean, and everything on which he sits shall be unclean."

      When a man has such an issue fairly constantly any bed he lies on is unclean and everything on which he sits is unclean. This would, of course, at first only be known to those who knew him well enough to be aware of it. But it would help to prevent his family, apart from his wife, from possibly catching the disease. However, no doubt he had to inform the priest and others in order to explain why he could not go into the court of the tabernacle and partake of peace offerings, and why he must not even be touched. Thus it would become gradually known.

      15.5-7 "And whoever touches his bed shall wash his clothes, and bathe himself in water, and be unclean until the evening. And he who sits on anything on which he who has the issue sat shall wash his clothes, and bathe himself in water, and be unclean until the evening. And he who touches the flesh of him who has the issue shall wash his clothes, and bathe himself in water, and be unclean until the evening."

      All who come in contact with anything that might have been affected by his sexual emission, whether his bed, his chair or his flesh (and here it probably means his body), become unclean and must wash their clothes and themselves and be unclean until the evening. Speaking medically the hope was that any discharge which was on their clothes would thus be removed without infecting them, and the same with the discharge which had actually touched their bodies. But the ritual reason was in order to remove the cause of uncleanness.

      15.8-11 "And if he who has the issue spits on him who is clean, then he shall wash his clothes, and bathe himself in water, and be unclean until the evening. And whatever saddle he who has the issue rides on shall be unclean. And whoever touches anything that was under him shall be unclean until the evening. And he who bears those things shall wash his clothes, and bathe himself in water, and be unclean until the evening. And whomever he who has the issue touches, without having rinsed his hands in water, he shall wash his clothes, and bathe himself in water, and be unclean until the evening."

      Spitting was a way of conveying a deliberate insult (Numbers 12.14; Deuteronomy 25.9; Job 30.10; Isaiah 50.6; Matthew 26.67; 27.30, etc.). But if the man spits on someone who is clean that person must follow the usual cleansing procedures. This may especially have occurred when someone joked about his condition so that the spitting was a retaliation (such a possibility would therefore probably save him from many ribald and unkind comments, for he had a speedy way of riposte). It may also result from a man coughing accidentally and excessively.

      Any saddle he rides on is unclean, and anyone who touches anything that has been under him will be unclean until the evening. And anyone who carries anything which has been in contact with him or who has been touched by him when he has not rinsed his hands in water, must wash their clothes, and themselves, and be unclean until the evening.

      We note especially here the idea that the infection can be passed on through the spittle, and the fact that washing the hands helps to prevent the spread of the infection, both matters of only comparatively recent medical knowledge. Yet it is here, over three thousand years ago, specifically mentioned. It is true of course that an element of avoiding 'uncleanness' is involved, but it would not really seem necessary to have mentioned it for any other reason than hygiene, especially the washing of hands. This must be considered quite remarkable.

      15.12 "And the earthen vessel, which he who has the issue touches, shall be broken; and every vessel of wood shall be rinsed in water."

      Any earthenware vessel he touches shall be broken, and presumably seen as unclean, every wooden vessel has to be rinsed with water. Again the purpose is to stop the spread of uncleanness. The broken vessel will presumably be thrown out into the unclean place outside the camp.

      It is quite clear from all this how 'unclean' the emission was seen to be. It was an emission that produced life which would result in death, and weakened the one from whom it came. To touch it was possibly especially unclean because it might be seen as partaking of someone else's life force.

      15.13 "And when he who has an issue is cleansed of his issue, then he shall number to himself seven days for his cleansing, and wash his clothes; and he shall bathe his flesh in running water, and shall be clean."

      When the disease has run its course, which may take some time, even years, and the man appears to be healed, then he must wait seven days, after which he must wash his clothes, and himself in running water, at which point he will be 'clean', that is no longer seen as 'unclean'. He can now enter the tabernacle court to make his offerings.

      The seven day wait is probably so as to ensure that his hope is not premature, although it may simply be a time of waiting on God in gratitude. The washing of his clothes will remove past stains (clothes were not necessarily washed all that often). Washing himself in running water will ensure that anything left on his flesh is removed, and that the water will not be touched by anyone else. After this he is no longer 'unclean'. All traces of the uncleanness have been removed.

      15.14-15 "And on the eighth day he shall take to him two turtle doves, or two young pigeons, and come before Yahweh to the door of the tent of meeting, and give them to the priest, and the priest shall offer them, the one for a purification for sin offering, and the other for a whole burnt offering; and the priest shall make atonement for him before Yahweh for his issue."

      The unusual nature of the emissions will have drawn attention to the fact that these were no ordinary emissions. They are thus recognised as being connected with sin and requiring spiritual purification. That is why he has to make a purification for sin offering, and a whole burnt offering, of two turtle doves or two young pigeons. He has to be fully atoned for, reconciled to God and purified.

      But with all this it is noteworthy that the man is not excluded from the camp. While this probably indicated an infectious disease the purpose was to contain it, not to fully quarantine him.

      The Uncleanness of a Man's Natural Emission (15.16-18).

      15.16-17 "And if any man's seed of copulation go out from him, then he shall bathe all his flesh in water, and be unclean until the evening. And every garment, and every skin, whereon is the seed of copulation, shall be washed with water, and be unclean until the evening."

      More remarkably a man's natural emissions are seen as rendering the man unclean. For they too are seen as producing imperfect life, life which will die, and as reducing his strength and his 'perfection'. There is no way here that a man's sexual relationship with a woman can be seen as anything but secular. Far from connecting him with God, it is seen to keep him at a distance. He cannot enter the tabernacle court, nor can he partake of peace offerings on the same day as he engages in sexual relations. So whatever else it is sex is not an aid to spirituality. It is therefore significant that the angels in Heaven do not engage in it, they 'neither marry nor are given in marriage' (Matthew 22.30).

      And as a result of his emission he must wash himself thoroughly and will be unclean until the evening. Note that as ever it is the passage of time that finally cleanses. The washing removed the earthiness and the semen, the passage of time makes clean. (Old Testament ritual washing never cleanses on its own).

      Under special circumstances sexual relations have to be abstained from altogether by a man for they prevent his approach to God, and his effectiveness as a soldier of God. See Exodus 19.15; Leviticus 22.4; Deuteronomy 23.10; 1 Samuel 21.4-5; 2 Samuel 11.11. Indeed any time he would approach God in the tabernacle court or partake in peace offerings he must abstain from sexual relations that day..

      This view of the semen as being polluted was a regular one outside Canaan, both in Babylon and Egypt and among certain Semites.

      15.18 "The woman also with whom a man shall lie with seed of copulation, they shall both bathe themselves in water, and be unclean until the evening."

      The same is true for the woman. Once she has had contact with the man's semen she too is unclean until the evening.

      It should, however, be noted that these things are not seen as especially unclean. The requirement for their removal is at the lower level, even in the case of the necessary offerings for the unusual emission. We should note here that no offerings are required in respect of normal emissions. They were not seen as sinful in themselves, only as a men and women losing something of their wholeness, and being connected with sin indirectly.

      A Woman's Menstruation (15.19-24).

      The next aspect of uncleanness is a woman's menstrual period. We can imagine how strange and even alarming this monthly flow of blood would have seemed to be in ancient times. But at least in Israel they could connect it with the fall of man. It would seem like a flowing out of life, and a period when the woman was losing some of her wholeness. It was thus a time of 'uncleanness', a coming short of God's perfections. Furthermore to come in contact with the blood would be to come in contact with the woman's life force, and God wanted it to be known that this was disapproved of. That is the second reason why the blood was therefore declared 'unclean'.

      15.19 "And if a woman have an issue, and her issue in her flesh be blood, she shall be in her impurity seven days: and whoever touches her shall be unclean until the evening."

      When a woman is having her monthly period and blood flows she is to be seen as 'in her impurity' for seven days. Thus anyone who touches her becomes unclean until the evening. This would, at least to some extent, result in her not being pressed into work among others who might be affected by becoming unclean, and would protect her from the attentions of her husband. It would also assist with the problem of protecting herself against the problem of losing blood and how to cope with it.

      15.20 "And everything that she lies on in her impurity shall be unclean. Everything also that she sits on shall be unclean."

      Whatever she lies on or sits on becomes unclean. It is feasible that this law may well be the carrying on of an old custom. Rachel may well have made use of it to ensure that Laban did not examine her saddle. If this was the custom then within the Terah tribes he would not want to be rendered 'unclean', See Genesis 31.34-45.

      15.21-22 "And whoever touches her bed shall wash his clothes, and bathe himself in water, and be unclean until the evening. And whoever touches anything that she sits on shall wash his clothes, and bathe himself in water, and be unclean until the evening."

      Thus anyone who touches her bed and anything she sits on becomes unclean. Those who touch either must wash their clothes, wash themselves thoroughly with water, and be unclean until the evening. The very nuisance of this would form an envelope of protection around the woman.

      15.23 "And if it be on the bed, or on anything on which she sits, when he touches it, he shall be unclean until the evening."

      Also to touch any blood that falls on the bed or on a seat will mean to be rendered 'unclean' until the evening.

      15.24 "And if any man lie with her, and her impurity be on him, he shall be unclean seven days, and every bed on which he lies shall be unclean."

      To lie with a woman so that her blood comes on him will render a man unclean for seven days, and this will result in any bed on which he lies becoming unclean. This would seem to refer to a situation which is 'unwitting', for 20.18 makes a deliberate lying with a menstruous woman a ground for being 'cut off', and Ezekiel lists it as a sin parallel to idolatry and adultery (Ezekiel 18.6; 22.10).

      An Unusual Issue of Blood (15.25-30).

      The final case deals with a woman's unusual emissions of blood. These would indicate that she was ill, and could often lead to death.

      15.25 "And if a woman have an issue of her blood many days not in the time of her impurity, or if she have an issue beyond the time of her impurity, all the days of the issue of her uncleanness she shall be as in the days of her impurity. She is unclean."

      Whenever a woman's blood is flowing for an unusual period she is to be unclean over the whole of that period. We note that they were not unaware of the difference between the time of her impurity and the unusual flow.

      15.26-27 "Every bed on which she lies all the days of her issue shall be to her as the bed of her impurity, and everything on which she sits shall be unclean, as the uncleanness of her impurity. And whoever touches those things shall be unclean, and shall wash his clothes, and bathe himself in water, and be unclean until the evening."

      The same rules apply as for her usual menstrual period. What she lies on and what she sits on becomes unclean, and anyone who touches these things must wash their clothes, wash themselves in water and be unclean until the evening. This would help to protect against any infection she might have. But the ritual purpose was the avoidance of contact with her life force, and the indication of a period of 'imperfection', which would be countered by the religious prescription.

      15.28 "But if she be cleansed of her issue, then she shall number to herself seven days, and after that she shall be clean."

      Once the flow of blood permanently stops the woman can begin the period of restoration to 'cleanness'. She must wait seven days, and then she will be clean.

      It is interesting that in her case no washing is required, either of clothes or body. It may be that it is assumed.

      15.29-30 "And on the eighth day she shall take to her two turtle-doves, or two young pigeons, and bring them to the priest, to the door of the tent of meeting, and the priest shall offer the one for a purification for sin offering, and the other for a whole burnt offering, and the priest shall make atonement for her before Yahweh for the issue of her uncleanness."

      At that point she must make atonement, a necessity for restoration to normal worship. As in much else a sin element is seen in what has happened. As is common in the Old Testament her disease is related to sin. She needs to be purified from sin and rededicated to God. Suffering came into the world because of sin, and the disease of mankind as a whole is the result of the sin of mankind as a whole. But the disease and the sin are not necessarily present in the same proportions. Those who are most diseased are not always the most sinful. But all need atonement.

      This atonement is again achieved by the offering of two turtle doves or two young pigeons. We are reminded in all this of the woman with the abnormal issue of blood who came up behind Jesus in the crowd and touched his robe (Mark 5.25-34). She should not have been in the crowd, far less have touched Jesus, but it would seem that she believed that His holiness would be sufficient to cancel out her uncleanness. She knew His power to heal and hoped that somehow it might help her. When power went out of Him and she was healed she was overjoyed. But her joy turned to fear when Jesus turned in the thronging, pressing crowd and asked who had touched Him. But she need not have feared. It was not in order to rebuke her but to commend her faith, for He recognised in her touch an acknowledgement by her of Who He was.

      Final Summary (15.31-33).

      15.31 "Thus shall you separate the children of Israel from their uncleanness, that they die not in their uncleanness, when they defile my tabernacle that is in the midst of them."

      The purpose of these laws was in order to continually separate the people of Israel from their uncleanness. God wanted them to be as wholly clean as possible, given the limitations. They were also in order to prevent Israel defiling the tabernacle by anyone from the High Priest downwards entering its court in a ritually unclean state. Limited uncleanness was allowed in the holy camp, but not in the holy sanctuary precincts, for the sanctuary was of a superior holiness. This would result in the people regulating their lives in such a way that this was prevented. The whole camp would regulate matters so that men and women could avoid uncleanness as far as possible.

      This would 'incidentally' prevent much spreading of disease, and ensure the respectful treatment of women at difficult times. It made men and women constantly in mind of the fall, and of their own sinfulness, and in mind that death, which the pouring out of blood pointed to, was ever at hand. But the possibility of restoration to cleanness, and the resulting worship of God that could result, was a reminder that in their sin God had provided a way back to Himself, and that they could be restored into His favour. For they were the people of His covenant.

      There is no suggestion in all this that normal sex is sinful within the marriage relationship, only that it comes short of what man was intended to be in his 'perfection', in his wholeness as in the image of God There will be no sex in Heaven.

      15.32-33 "This is the law of him who has an issue, and of him whose seed of copulation goes from him, so that he is unclean by it, and of her who is sick with her impurity, and of him who has an issue, of the man, and of the woman, and of him who lies with her who is unclean."

      Again we have what might well be a colophon to this record. It describes the content of the record, and what it is about for filing purposes.

      Chapter 16 The Great Day of Atonement

      We now come to a description of that great Day to which all that has gone before looked forward, Israel's great Day of Atonement. Once every year this Day was to take place in order to cancel out all of the past sins and uncleannesses of Israel that had occurred since the previous Day of Atonement that were not already seen as fully atoned for. All that remained unatoned for, whether secret or public, would be dealt with on this Day. Israel would, as it were, begin the coming year with a clean sheet.

      This in itself spells out the failure of past offerings and sacrifices to deal fully with sin, and the fact that the Day of Atonement had to be kept every year demonstrated that its effect too was temporary. But it was on that Day, and only on that Day, that the High Priest was allowed to pass through the veil into the inner sanctuary of the Holy of Holies in order to present the blood of offerings in the actual earthly sanctum of Yahweh, His throne room.

      The description of the Day fits aptly after the chapters on uncleanness. Five chapters on uncleannesses prepare us for the significance of this day. Patterned on Genesis they had spoken of what was clean and unclean, with regard to cattle, clean birds and fish, unclean animals, unclean birds and sea creatures, and creeping things with which men came in contact (Genesis 1-3); they had pointed to women in childbirth suffering through Eve's sin and producing children in uncleanness (Genesis 3.16); to man's sinfulness and uncleanness as portrayed in those with suspicious skin diseases which meant that they were cast out of the camp as Adam was cast out of the Garden (Genesis 3.17); to man's clothing which covered his nakedness (Genesis 3.21) and which could become defiled; to the resultant triumphal return to God of the unclean (Genesis 4.4, 26) made possible by God's mercy; to the establishing of houses in a city (Genesis 4.17) which too could become unclean; and to the fact that through death, resulting from the fact that man was now a sinner, springs up life (Genesis 5). There would have been many instances of uncleanness in the camp which had not been dealt with correctly and fully, and may even have been hidden or overlooked, but all these would now be covered by the Day of Atonement.

      And after Genesis 5 was to come the great new beginning when the world was swept clean of sin in the flood and man began again (Genesis 6-9). This was also the yearly function of the Day of Atonement for Israel. Man in his uncleannesses could find purification and atonement before God. The uncleannesses resulting from Genesis 1-5 and from constant failure to apply the laws of uncleannesses could be swept away. And this along with all the sins of Israel that previous sacrifices had not been able to atone for. It was the day of purification when the very presence of God was itself approached.

      The Day followed exactly six months after the setting aside of the lambs for the Feast of the Passover, and was followed five days later by the Feast of Tabernacles/Booths, but unlike the day of the setting aside of the Passover lambs and of the three great feasts it was a day of solemnity and mourning for sin. It was the supreme day of getting right with God. The acceptance of the offerings by God on that day was seen as a symbol of hope for the future.

      16.1 'And Yahweh spoke to Moses, after the death of the two sons of Aaron, when they drew near before Yahweh, and died,'

      These words of Moses are timed as taking place after the death of the two sons of Aaron in 10.1-2. They had drawn near before Yahweh and died because they offered what was false and behaved foolishly. Now it was necessary that the High Priest offered what was true, otherwise he too would die. But the laws of uncleanness had previously been expounded on in order to fill out the need for this day by stressing the daily uncleannesses of Israel. It explained how a holy God could continue to 'dwell' in a camp of such uncleannesses. For in spite of the extreme efforts made to preserve the holiness of the Sanctuary, it could not avoid being to some extent tainted by surrounding and sometimes hidden and/or unconscious uncleanness.

      16.2 'And Yahweh said to Moses, "Speak to Aaron your brother, that he come not at all times into the holy place within the veil, before the mercy-seat which is on the ark, that he die not. For I will appear in the cloud on the mercy-seat." '

      God's first warning is that Aaron recognise that the High Priest does not have the right to enter the Holy of Holies, 'the holy place within the veil', except by strict permission, that permission being given only on the Day of Atonement. He does not have unrestricted access. For while God appears in the cloud on the mercy-seat, man may approach Him, apart from on the Day of Atonement, only from the other side of the veil. He cannot enter the throne room. To approach the mercy-seat direct could only be a once in the year experience. 'The Holy Spirit signifying this, that the way into the Holy of Holies was not yet opened up, while the first tabernacle was still standing' (Hebrews 9.8). The veil said, thus far shall you come and no further.

      The cloud was presumably the cloud that had accompanied Israel from Egypt, the cloud of His presence which by night became a fire (Exodus 13.21-22 and often).

      We are reminded here of how when God revealed His glory on the face of Moses the people were afraid to come near him, and he had to veil his face. None but Moses could cope with the glory of God, until One came whose face also shone like the sun revealing His Father's glory (Matthew 17.2; John 1.14, 18). Thus the need for the veil and the cloud.

      The 'propitiatory' or mercy-seat was the covering on the Ark of the Covenant of Yahweh, where atonement could be made and man become reconciled to God. It was the 'kapporeth', literally the place of propitiation, the place where reconciliation and atonement was finally performed. This was a solid gold slab on which were the two cherubim at either end looking inward. It was the same size as the chest which it covered. It comes from the root 'kpr' (to cover) and the conjugation used signifies the place where sins are 'fully covered' so that they are no longer seen by God and held against the sinner (Jeremiah 18.23). It is the place of propitiation and expiation, the place where the punishment for sin was met by the shedding of blood, the place of atonement, of reconciliation, where He and His people were made at one. There is also a suggestion behind it that it is the earthly throne of Yahweh between the cherubim.

      The writer to the Hebrews in the New Testament very much has this Day in mind in Hebrews 9-10, seeing its real fulfilment in the offering up of Jesus Christ on our behalf by Himself as our great High Priest. That once-for-all offering of Himself would replace for ever this Day of Atonement, and all the other offerings, sacrifices and rituals of this earthly tabernacle.

      16.3 "With this shall Aaron come into the holy place, with a young bull ox for a purification for sin offering, and a ram for a whole burnt offering."

      On this day, after the morning whole burnt offering (a lamb of the first year) had been offered with its accompanying grain offering, Aaron's approach to Yahweh had to commence with offerings for himself and the priests. These would consist of a young bull ox for a purification for sin offering and a ram for a whole burnt offering. He must make sacrifices first for himself (Hebrews 5.3; 9.7). He too was a sinner in need of atonement.

      How much different was this from our great High Priest, the Lord Jesus Christ, Who was without sin, Whose perfections and Whose perfect life and Whose total obedience fitted Him for His office with no need of sacrifice (Hebrews 7.26-27).

      16.4 "He shall put on the holy linen coat, and he shall have the linen breeches on his flesh, and shall be girded with the linen girdle, and with the linen mitre shall he be attired. They are the holy garments. And he shall bathe his flesh in water, and put them on."

      But before presenting these the High Priest had to divest himself of his normal Priestly garments and, after thoroughly washing himself, put on the special garments only used on the Day of Atonement. These were pure white, and consisted of the holy linen coat, the linen breeches covering his 'flesh' (his unseemly parts), the linen girdle, and the linen headdress. These were the holy garments. And before donning them he had to wash himself thoroughly with water, this is spite of the fact that he had already offered the morning sacrifice and had probably not left the tabernacle since. All traces of earthiness had to be removed. He was about to enter the Holy of Holies.

      The reason for having to wear these special garments was probably: 1). Because they had to be pristine in order for him to enter the Holy of Holies. His 'every-day' High Priestly clothes, in all their splendour, were not sufficient. They were tainted. 2) Because he could not enter God's presence on that day in garments 'for glory and for beauty' because he was coming as a penitent sinner and a suppliant. 3). Because this was a day on which he and Israel would be made 'white'. 4). To emphasise the holiness of life required of the High Priest.

      16.5 "And he shall take of the congregation of the children of Israel two he-goats for a purification for sin offering, and one ram for a whole burnt offering."

      For the congregation of the children of Israel, the whole people, he was to take two he-goats and a ram. The two he-goats were 'for a purification for sin offering'. As we shall see shortly the two were seen as one. The ram was for a whole burnt offering.

      They were types and shadows of the great He-Goat and Ram, the Lamb of God, Who would offer up Himself once-for-all that He might offer Himself without spot to God, purging our consciences from dead works to serve the living God (Hebrews 9.14) and perfecting for ever those whom He sanctified (Hebrews 10.14).

      16.6 "And Aaron shall present the bull ox of the purification for sin offering, which is for himself, and make atonement for himself, and for his house."

      First of all Aaron has to make atonement for himself and for his house by offering the bull ox for a purification for sin offering. At this stage, however, he merely 'presents' it, although it is pointed out that its final purpose is that it might make atonement.

      16.7 "And he shall take the two goats, and set them before Yahweh at the door of the tent of meeting."

      Then he takes the two goats and sets them before Yahweh at the door of the tent of meeting. They too are being 'presented'.

      16.8 "And Aaron shall cast lots on the two goats; one lot for Yahweh, and the other lot for 'azazel."

      Then he casts lots for them, selecting between the two, for one is to be for Yahweh, and one is to be for 'azazel. The word 'az'azel is a puzzle to us. Some see it as meaning 'the goat of a complete going away' (from the piel of 'azal - to go away and 'ez - a goat), thus indicating the complete going away of sin. Others that it means 'in order to completely remove' (compare Arabic 'azala), thus indicating the complete removal of sin. Still others consider that it refers to a desolate region, a stark and deserted place, or a precipice as in later Talmudic tradition (compare verse 22), and others see it as representing the name of a demon of the desert named 'Azazel (a name, however, that is found nowhere else until the much later tradition derived from its use here).

      This he-goat is somewhat like the living bird in the ritual of cleansing from suspicious skin disease (14.7; also 14.53) which went into 'the countryside', where there was no suggestion of a demon. Thus the indication would seem to be that the he-goat also is sent away to some far place where it can disappear for ever, not that it is sent to a demon. However, those disposed to accept such an interpretation need to recognise that the idea would be that their sins were sent back to the one responsible for them (one connected with the serpent), not that an offering is being made to him. This is made clear by the significance of the ritual and by the fact that it is not slaughtered. But in view of its close link with the other he-goat with which it is identified as part of a purification for sin offering (verse 5) this interpretation just does not fit the bill. The two he-goats were seen as one combined purification for sin offering, and all of a purification for sin offering goes to Yahweh in one way or another.

      Thus one of the remaining three explanations for the word is more likely. The idea behind the other three is really the same. The goat and the sins will be gone for ever from the camp to return no more (see verse 16), as with the living bird. The whole purpose is that Israel might know that their sins and uncleannesses up to that point have gone for ever. Many centuries later the tradition would grow that it was taken to a precipice and thrown off, but that would conflict with the parallel of the freed bird.

      16.9 "And Aaron shall present the goat on which the lot fell for Yahweh, and offer him for a purification for sin offering."

      This is a summary description of what is to happen to the two he-goats, preparing for the detail which would follow. It is a favourite device in the Pentateuch for preparing the listener for what is coming and implanting the idea in the mind. Then as the reading of the narrative goes on the hearer is prepared for the important points coming. The goat selected for Yahweh is now offered for a purification for sin offering, but note that the other he-goat is seen as part of that offering (verse 5). The two must be seen as part of the one offering, and the way they are dealt with connected together in one picture. (If the High Priest had been able to take one he-goat and divide it in two while keeping half alive, that is what he would have been called on to do).

      16.10 "But the goat, on which the lot fell for 'azazel, shall be set alive before Yahweh, to make atonement for him, to send him away for 'azazel into the wilderness."

      The second he-goat, a part of the purification for sin offering, is to be sent live into the wilderness where it would be left with God for Him to do with as He will. It is given into His hands. For it is part of the purification for sin offering and makes atonement. It is probable therefore that we are to see the two he-goats as 'one', and to see the second as having been 'sacrificed' in its clone, the first he-goat, for it is the blood that makes atonement, and then being dismissed with all the sins of Israel as a visual evidence of the sins of the whole of the sins and uncleannesses of Israel having gone. It was intended to be as close a picture as was obtainable of the effects of purification for sin on this one great day of the year.

      16.11 "And Aaron shall present the bull ox of the purification for sin offering, which is for himself, and shall make atonement for himself, and for his house, and shall kill the bull ox of the purification for sin offering which is for himself,"

      The detail of the 'presenting' of the bull ox is repeated from verse 6, in order to remind us what the offering is for, and then amplified into the actual offering up of it by slaughter. There is a certain repetition in the following verses in order to make quite clear precisely what happens and what its significance is. Such repetition was common in ancient writings.

      16.12 "And he shall take a censer full of coals of fire from off the altar before Yahweh, and his hands full of sweet incense beaten small, and bring it within the veil,"

      The next step before the blood can be presented within the veil is to prepare the way for his entry. He has already sacrificed the bull ox for his own sins. Now, prior to taking its blood behind the veil into the Holy of Holies, he must first take a censer full of coals from the altar into the Holy of Holies, with the sweet incense beaten small in his other hand, of the type laid down by Yahweh and specially prepared.

      16.13 "And he shall put the incense on the fire before Yahweh, that the cloud of the incense may cover the mercy-seat that is on the testimony, that he die not,"

      And there he must burn the incense on the coals of fire so that the cloud from the incense covers the mercy seat that is over the tables of the Law, hiding it from his gaze. The implication is that otherwise he would die. The censer is then left in the Holy of Holies so as to continue producing the cloud.

      16.14 "And he shall take of the blood of the bull ox, and sprinkle it with his finger on the mercy-seat on the east, and before the mercy-seat shall he sprinkle of the blood with his finger seven times."

      Then he must retire to collect the blood of the bull ox and make a second entry into the Holy of Holies in order to sprinkle the blood on the mercy seat on the east, and before the mercy seat seven times. Note that he sprinkles on the nearest side only, not on all four sides. He is only a temporary visitor here with restricted rights, and even now must not come too close. The 'seven times' indicates completeness. He then retires again.

      The Holy of Holies would be in complete darkness lit only by the coals from the censer and a very faint light coming through from the golden lampstand through the gap in the veil through which the High Priest comes. And there in the dark shadow would be the famed and revered Ark of the covenant of Yahweh. (After the Exile all that would be there was a large stone put there to serve as a substitute until the Ark could be returned. Or at least the latter was what many believed). But the Priest would not be gazing. He would be carrying through his ministry as discreetly as possible, probably with his head bowed.

      16.15 "Then shall he kill the goat of the purification for sin offering, which is for the people, and bring his blood within the veil, and do with his blood as he did with the blood of the bull ox, and sprinkle it on the mercy-seat, and before the mercy-seat,"

      His third entry into the Holy of Holies on that Day is after the killing of the he-goat for a purification for sin offering on behalf of the people. He also brings that blood within the veil and deals with it in the same way as with the blood of the bull ox.

      16.16 "And he shall make atonement for the holy place, because of the uncleannesses of the children of Israel, and because of their transgressions, even all their sins, and so shall he do for the tent of meeting, which dwells with them in the midst of their uncleannesses."

      And the purpose of all this is to make atonement for the holy place because it has been polluted by the uncleannesses of the children of Israel (as depicted in the previous five chapters) and also because of their transgressions and their sins revealed by consideration of the Law, both evil doings and evil thoughts. Thus on this day is the pollution removed from the holy tent of meeting which is dwelling with them in their uncleannesses.

      This special Day above all days is in order to allow the dwellingplace of God to be able to still continue to dwell among them, by dealing with all their uncleannesses and their sins which have affected it. The holiness of God is such that even with all the precautions for the prevention of the defilement of that holy place, they have not been enough. But on this Day He will remedy that by these ceremonies, despatching the uncleannesses and the sins into the far off wilderness. It is because this will be done on the Day of Atonement that He can deal so lightly with their uncleannesses during the year.

      But these were all but shadows until He should come Who would in Himself fulfil all this and more, making a way open for ever into the full presence of God for all who are in Him. He would enter but once and remain there for ever, for His sacrifice was eternally complete, and nothing else remained to be done. It was a completed and eternal work.

      16.17 "And there shall be no man in the tent of meeting when he goes in to make atonement in the holy place, until he come out, and have made atonement for himself, and for his household, and for all the assembly of Israel."

      And while all this was going on there was to be no one else in the tent of meeting. Throughout the whole process the High Priest was to act alone. Purified, atoned for, clothed in holy white garments, he alone was in a state to enter the tabernacle at this crucial time. Humanly speaking the task was his from start to finish. No other could take part. None could enter the sanctuary until atonement had been made for the Priest himself, for the other priests, for all his household, and for all the assembly of Israel.

      This is a reminder to us that Christ's great work of atonement was also wrought by Him and by Him alone. No other was worthy to take part, nor could. The work was His and His alone. No priest, nor any other, could have any part in it. The work was total and complete.

      16.18 "And he shall go out to the altar that is before Yahweh, and make atonement for it, and shall take of the blood of the bull ox, and of the blood of the goat, and put it on the horns of the altar round about."

      After the presentations of blood in the Holy of Holies, 'the altar that is before Yahweh' was to be atoned for. The blood of both bull ox and goat was to be put on its four horns. There is divided opinion on whether this unique description refers to the golden altar of incense or the altar of burnt offerings. The phrase would have been clear at the time (see 4.6-7, 17; Exodus 30.8). In view of the fact that the purpose here is of the purification of the whole sanctuary, and the work was being done by the High Priest alone with no other present, some argue that it was the golden altar of incense. Others argue equally that it was the altar of burnt offering which in its own way was 'before Yahweh' (compare 1.3), for it stood in the court before the entrance to the tabernacle. But Israel then would have known what the description referred to. Some would see verse 20 as pointing to the altar of burnt offering.

      16.19 "And he shall sprinkle of the blood on it with his finger seven times, and cleanse it, and hallow it from the uncleannesses of the children of Israel."

      Then the blood of both sacrifices will be sprinkled on the altar with the High Priest's finger 'seven times' in order to indicate complete cleansing. The purpose is in order to 'make it holy', re-separating it off to God from all uncleanness, by removing all traces of the uncleannesses of the children of Israel (compare 4.6-7; 8.11).

      16.20 "And when he has made an end of atoning for the holy place, and the tent of meeting, and the altar, he shall present the live goat,"

      Having made atonement for the Holy Place, the tent of meeting and the altar he will then present the live goat, presumably before Yahweh. The separate mention of the altar here in this way seems to some to confirm that the altar previously mentioned was the altar of burnt offering.

      16.21-22 "And Aaron shall lay both his hands on the head of the live goat, and confess over him all the iniquities of the children of Israel, and all their transgressions, even all their sins, and he shall put them on the head of the goat, and shall send him away by the hand of a man that is in readiness into the wilderness, and the goat shall bear on him all their iniquities to a solitary land, and he shall let go the goat in the wilderness."

      Having presented the live he-goat before Yahweh, Aaron is now to lay both hands on its head and confess over it 'all the iniquities of the children of Israel, and all their transgressions, even all their sins'. The description is all encompassing. Included within it were their inner sins and their outward behaviour, sins in both thought and deed, and failure to do what God required, including rebellions of the heart (pesa'). But not sins done with a high hand. These last, if to be forgiven, required special mercy from God individually given as in the case of David with Bathsheba. But usually they received the death penalty.

      The laying on of one hand would have demonstrated representation, the laying on of two either demonstrated transference, or that he was indicating that it represented both priest and people (or both may have been intended).

      The sins and transgressions of Israel are seen as 'put on' the head of the live he-goat. It is to be seen as carrying all their sins with it. Then the live goat is sent away into the wilderness by the hand of a man already selected and waiting in readiness, 'bearing on it all their iniquities to a solitary land', and there he is to let it go. Clearly the intention was that this would be far enough away from the camp to ensure that it never returned. It is to be a place where no men dwell. The wilderness was to them a place where God rules without interference (Genesis 16.7; Exodus 5.1 and often). There was Sinai, the mountain of God (Exodus 3.1 with 12; 19.2-3, 20 and often). The goat was being left for God to do with as He willed.

      The idea is clear. All the sins of Israel have been borne away and are carried by another. With both the living bird (14.7) and the he-goat there seems to be the emphasis that they remained alive. They could not be offered to Yahweh, and any way of killing them would have been seen in that way. They were thus banished from Israel for ever, and left with God. (This incidentally make clear that offerings and sacrifices were not themselves usually seen as being infused with men's sins. They were rather offered in death on behalf of men's sins, a different concept).

      There is in this a vivid reminder here that earthly ritual could not finally deal with sin. There was no way that sin could be destroyed. It would be left to wander in a desolate place. Its destruction would await the coming of One Who would put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself (Hebrews 9.26), and Who would destroy him that had the power of death, the Devil (Hebrews 2.14; 1 John 3.8).

      We have in this vivid picture of the live he-goat the reminder that our Lord Jesus Christ too was 'made sin for us' (2 Corinthians 5.21). He took on Himself our sin, that we might be imbued with His righteousness. He was not only an offering and sacrifice for our sins, bearing their deserved punishment, but actually took them on Himself and bore them away with Him. He bore them to that must desolate of places, His grave. But such was His holiness and the sufficiency of His once-for-all sacrifice that those sins were neutralised, nay were destroyed, so that He did not need to remain in a solitary place, but was raised from the dead and glorified as the firstfruits of His own work.

      16.23 "And Aaron shall come into the tent of meeting, and shall put off the linen garments, which he put on when he went into the holy place, and shall leave them there,"

      The work of atonement having been completed for another year, Aaron divests himself of the holy garments, which remain in the Holy Place. These are too holy to leave that place.

      16.24 "And he shall bathe his flesh in water in a holy place, and put on his garments, and come forth, and offer his whole burnt offering and the whole burnt offering of the people, and make atonement for himself and for the people."

      Then he must wash his flesh thoroughly in water in a holy place. The special holiness which he has carried with him must be removed before he can again have dealings with men. This would probably be done in a specially set off place in the court of the sanctuary made accessible directly from the Holy Place so that his nakedness could not be seen. Then he puts on his priestly garments. One more he is the representative of the people before Yahweh. After which he offers up the whole burnt offerings, both for himself and for the people. This seals their oneness with God. They are renewed as His covenant people, rededicated and in submission. Atonement is made both for himself and the people.

      16.25 "And the fat of the purification for sin offering shall he burn on the altar."

      Then he offers the fat of the purification for sin offering by burning it on the altar. The fat is always Yahweh's, an indication that the best was for Him.

      16.26 "And he who lets go the goat for Azazel shall wash his clothes, and bathe his flesh in water, and afterward he shall come into the camp."

      Meanwhile the man who let the live goat go in the wilderness must wash his clothes, wash his flesh thoroughly in water, and may then return to the camp. Whether this is to wash off the taint of sin borne by the goat, or the desert dirt and earthiness, or to wash of holiness emanating from this most holy of offerings (compare verse 28) we are not told. But in fact we may see it that all of his part in the ceremony is to be washed off, with all its ramifications. The he-goat has taken all with it. Nothing must return to the camp.

      16.27 "And the bull ox of the purification for sin offering, and the goat of the purification for sin offering, whose blood was brought in to make atonement in the holy place, shall be carried forth without the camp; and they shall burn in the fire their skins, and their flesh, and their dung."

      Finally the remains of both purification for sin offerings, skins, flesh and dung, must be taken outside the camp and burned. We can assume that this is 'in a clean place' as in 4.12, 21 which deal with ox bulls offered as purification for sin offerings on behalf of the Priest and the whole people. They are not suffused with sin. They are extremely holy. Through them God has done His merciful work and they are offered back to Him

      16.28 "And he who burns them shall wash his clothes, and bathe his flesh in water, and afterward he shall come into the camp."

      Then the one who burns them has to wash his clothes, wash himself thoroughly, after which he can return to the camp. Here we must almost certainly see the need to wash off the contact with holiness which must not be carried into the camp (compare verse 24).

      16.29 "And it shall be a statute for ever to you. In the seventh month, on the tenth day of the month, you shall afflict your souls, and shall do no manner of work, the home-born, or the stranger who sojourns among you, for on this day shall atonement be made for you, to cleanse you; from all your sins shall you be clean before Yahweh."

      It is now stressed that this is a statute to be carried out into the distant future. On the tenth day of the seventh month (the month of Tishri/Ethanim in the Autumn when the early rains were due) the day of Atonement must be observed, and it was so, with a short break after the destruction of the first temple, until the final destruction of the temple in 70 AD for well over a thousand years.

      On this day they were to 'afflict themselves'. This probably represented some form of indicating penitence, although we are not told what it was. It may have been the loosening of the hair, the ritual tearing of clothes, and the covering of the upper lip (13.45). (Compare 10.6; 21.10; Ezekiel 24.17, 22; Genesis 37.34; Numbers 14.6; 2 Samuel 1.11; 2 Kings 11.14; 19.1; 22.11, 19; Ezra 9.5; Micah 3.7). It would later be related to fasting, but there is no hint of that here. In Isaiah 58.3-5 it is related to fasting but rather as something done while fasting, possibly 'bowing down his head as a rush, and spreading sackcloth and ashes under him'.

      They were also to do no manner of work, and this not only applied to Israel but to anyone who was living among them. It was to be a strict sabbath, for on that day atonement was made for them and they were made clean from all their sins as far as Yahweh was concerned. It was a day when all attention must be on God and all must have the opportunity to take part without restrictions of work.

      16.31 "It is a sabbath of solemn rest to you, and you shall afflict yourselves. It is a statute for ever."

      This is repeated for emphasis. It is a sabbath of solemn rest in which they should afflict themselves in order to demonstrate penitence for sin and uncleanness. And this was a permanent statute 'for ever', that is, into the distant future. In Israel there was the weekly sabbath which was the last day of a regular seven day period, what we call 'a week', and special sabbaths for special occasions. This was a sabbath for a special occasion and could occur any day of the week.

      16.32 "And the priest, who shall be anointed and who shall be consecrated to be priest in his father's stead, shall make the atonement, and shall put on the linen garments, even the holy garments,"

      The responsibility for the maintenance of this ritual lay with each descendant of the High Priest who took on his office. The one who was anointed and consecrated in his father's place would be the one who had to make atonement and would be permitted to put on the especially holy garments, the linen garments. But sometimes it would require a deputy, because of possible illness or infirmity, or because in some way the High Priest became unclean in such a way that there was not time for him to be made clean. For the laws of uncleanness applied to him as much as to all. By the time of Jesus elaborate precautions were taken to prevent this happening.

      16.33 "And he shall make atonement for the holy sanctuary; and he shall make atonement for the tent of meeting and for the altar; and he shall make atonement for the priests and for all the people of the assembly."

      The solemn responsibility of 'The Priest' is made clear. On this Day he is to make atonement for the sanctuary, for the tent of meeting and for the altar, and for the priests and all the people as described above.

      16.34 "And this shall be an everlasting statute to you, to make atonement for the children of Israel because of all their sins once in the year." And he did as Yahweh commanded Moses.

      And it is repeated that this statute should be applied into the distant future so as to make atonement for the children of Israel because of their sins once a year. In the final analysis it was 'the children of Israel' whom God wanted to bless and save. And the writer finishes the record with a confirmation of Aaron's obedience to what God had said. presumably this is speaking of his first observance of the Day of Atonement, and the point is that he carried it out to the letter.

      As we cease our study into the Day of Atonement we, as Christians, have much to glory in. This Day was one that had to be repeated every year, it was carried through by a sinful High Priest who had first to offer purification for sin offerings for himself, on the basis of what was involved its effect could only be partial (no he-goat could bear all the sins of Israel, nor were they totally annihilated), it only allowed the High Priest into Yahweh's presence once a year, and the remainder not at all.

      But we as Christians know that Christ has made for us a total and complete sacrifice offered once-for-all (Hebrews 10.12), has no need to offer a purification for sin offering for Himself (Hebrews 7.26-27), made a sacrifice that was truly sufficient for all sin for all time (Hebrews 9.14; 10.10, 12, 14), has borne all our sin for us and has removed it for ever, and has made a way for each individual Christ to enter into the Holiest of all, into the very presence of God, by His blood and through His death and resurrection (Hebrews 10.19-21) so that they may be presented perfect before Him without spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing, but holy and without blemish (Ephesians 5.27).

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      GENESIS ---EXODUS--- LEVITICUS 1.1-7.38 --- 8.1-11.47 --- 12.1-16.34--- 17.1-27.34--- NUMBERS 1-10--- 11-19--- 20-36--- DEUTERONOMY 1.1-4.44 --- 4.45-11.32 --- 12.1-29.1--- 29.2-34.12 --- THE BOOK OF JOSHUA --- THE BOOK OF JUDGES --- PSALMS 1-17--- ECCLESIASTES --- ISAIAH 1-5 --- 6-12 --- 13-23 --- 24-27 --- 28-35 --- 36-39 --- 40-48 --- 49-55--- 56-66--- EZEKIEL --- DANIEL 1-7 ---DANIEL 8-12 ---

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      --- THE GOSPELS

      Clean,unclean,cleanness,uncleanness,flow,blood,menstruation,plague,
      disease,skin,Aaron,Leviticus,commentary,whole,burnt,offering,grain,
      meal,cereal,sin,guilt,sacrifices,peace,thanksgiving,freewill,Jacob,Israel,
      Genesis,Canaan,Egypt,Aaron,Levite,Yahweh,God,Sinai,tabernacle,
      tent,meetingpriest,high,fat,altar,blood,memorial,oblation,elders,congregation,
      clean,unclean,uncleanness,turtledoves,pigeons,holy,most 1