Category Archives: Leviticus 11-15

Leviticus 15:16-33

Scripture: verse 18

If a man goes to bed with a woman and has sexual relations, both are to bathe themselves in water; they will be unclean until evening.

Observation:  Having sex with your spouse renders you unclean until evening.  Presumably the following evening, but I’m not sure.  It’s possible that couples who have sex just before sundown didn’t have to be unclean for very long.

I have to admit that this mystifies me.  Couples who only have sex a few times a month won’t be unduly bothered by it, but most couples (today, at least) have sex at least once a week.  High-drive couples and newlyweds and such would just never get to be clean.  Which would make sense if God were anti-sex, but He isn’t.

On the other hand, there’s a rule about newlyweds: they aren’t supposed to be given heavy responsibilities.  A new husband was free for one year, to make his wife happy (Deut 24:5).

So we have two sides here: ceremony, and intimacy.  And intimacy detracts from ceremony.  Intimacy with other people is also likely to result in uncleanness, for that matter, since it was the people who were closest to sick and mourning people who would be most likely to be made unclean.

And intimacy trumps ceremony.  Someone who was unclean couldn’t participate in Temple worship, but we also know that God wanted His people to love each other more than He wanted them to perform the ceremonies (Isaiah 58.)

And then in Luke 10, we have the story of Miriam and Marta.  Marta bustled around doing the work of preparing for a feast.  Miriam chose to sit at Yeshua’s feet and gaze into His face, and Yeshua said that she had chosen the one thing that is essential.

We are relational creatures.  We need intimacy far more than we need ceremony.

Application:  Prioritize intimacy above duty.  Intimacy with God, with family, with friends, is more important than most of the other stuff we “should” be doing.

Prayer:  Father, thank you for creating us to be intimate with each other.  Help me to see the opportunities you are giving me to know others and be known.  Amen.

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Leviticus 15:1-15

Scripture: verse 8

If the person with the discharge spits on someone who is clean, the latter is to wash his clothes and bathe himself in water; he will be unclean until evening.

Observation:  This passage is discussing the uncleanness of someone with a bodily discharge: anything they touch is unclean and needs to be washed and/or quarantined.  This passage sounds less like a matter of divine judgement and more an attempt to introduce basic hygienic practices to control the spread of sickness.  (They didn’t have soap, of course, but washing with water alone is considerably better than nothing.)

(Huh.  The internet says that ancient Egyptians did have a soap-like substance, after all.  I don’t know whether the Israelites would have used it.  Probably not.)

I mostly picked this verse because I was amused by the image of the sick person terrorizing everyone around him with the threat of being spat upon – or, possibly, offering to spit on a friend who is looking for an excuse to take a bath.

To the people who heard this, these laws were just as irritating and arbitrary as the ones about mildew and leprosy.  They didn’t see the point.  Nowadays we know about germs and infection and contagion and incubation rates, and keeping away from someone who is contagious is just common sense.

Which raises the question, of course, of the other rules that seem irritating and arbitrary to us today.  God knows more than we do.  He may have some mystical reason for telling us to do or not do certain things – or He may just want to protect us from getting spat on by sick people.

Application:  Trust God’s word.  He knows more than we do, and He’s not trying to hurt us.

Prayer:  Father, thank you for protecting me.  Thank you for making secrets for us to discover and delight in and use.  Thank you for giving me eyes to see and a brain to think with, and for keeping me safe while I do it.  Amen.

Leviticus 14:33-57

Scripture: verse 36

The cohen (priest) is to order the house emptied before he goes in to inspect the infection, so that everything in the house won’t be made unclean; afterwards, the cohen is to enter and inspect the house.

Observation:  We now turn to the laws for an infected house.  Houses can’t get leprosy, so this was probably some sort of mildew or mold.  And it was a royal pain if your house was infected, because you had to empty it and live elsewhere while it was quarantined and eventually might have to build an entirely new house.

It seems to me that the only way to put up with some of these Laws was to hold material possessions very lightly.  You couldn’t attach emotion to clothes or pots or houses or anything else that might become unclean and need to be destroyed.  The more stuff you had, the more inconvenient these laws were.

In Matthew, Yeshua talks about throwing away even very precious and important things if doing so will help you stay closer to God (Matthew 5:29-30.)  I think God was pushing His people to hold things lightly, so they could spend more time talking to Him.

I have plenty of stuff.  Probably more than I need.  And I’m very grateful that Yeshua’s death has cleaned my house as well as me and obviated the need for me to empty my house and show it to a priest every time I find something suspicious.  But I do have to remember that God needs to be the center of my life, and that includes the way I use my stuff.

Application:  God is more important than stuff.  Period, end of statement.  He needs to be at the center of our spending habits and our hobbies and our daily routine.

Prayer:  Yeshua, thank you for making my stuff clean.  Help me to use it to glorify you.  Amen.

Leviticus 14:1-32

Scripture: verses 6 and 7

As for the live bird, [the priest] is to take it with the cedar-wood, scarlet yarn and hyssop and dip them and the living bird in the blood of the bird slaughtered over running water, and sprinkle the person to be purified from the tzara‘at [leprosy] seven times. Next he is to set the live bird free in an open field.

Observation:  The rituals for purifying someone from leprosy have got to be one of the most elaborate sets of rituals in Leviticus – certainly it seems more complicated than consecrating the priests did.  This is the first ritual, done after the priest has examined the person and determined that he is clean again.

We see numerous symbols of purification and preservation here.  Cedar wood was probably used then, as it is now, to keep critters away from clothing.  Isaiah 1 promises that our scarlet-dyed sins will be as white as snow.  Hyssop is a purgative, as mentioned in Psalm 51.  Running water was used for washing, and the live bird was freed after being dipped in sacrificial blood.  (Incidentally, I would not want to try dipping a live, healthy bird into blood.  That seems like something that would go horribly!)

But what gets me is that these things don’t make the person who had leprosy clean.  He still has to spend another seven days outside his tent (though he can be inside the camp) and then offer more sacrifices before he is truly clean.  These things are the promise of being clean.

We aren’t given purgatives and bleach so we can make ourselves perfect.  It doesn’t work that way.  God gave us those things as a picture of what He offers.

Living clean and doing good things and being generous to others and all the good things we do are not things that make us holy.  God gave us those things to be a picture of His grace and His will.  But if we spend all our time looking at the picture, we’ll never accept His offer.  We’ll never be clean.

There’s only one way to be clean: through the sacrifice of the Lamb.  Everything else is just a promise of what’s to come.

Application:  Don’t spend all your time and energy on the picture.  Claim His blood and His gift.  Seek His face.  See the rest for what it is: a set of useful tools and helpful pictures, but not salvation.

Prayer:  Yeshua, thank you for being my Lamb.  Thank you for making me clean when nothing else could.  Help me not to get distracted by things that don’t work.  Amen.

Leviticus 13:29-59

Scripture: verse 40

If a man’s hair has fallen from his scalp, he is bald; but he is clean.

Observation:  We’re still in the skin disease section, detailing what infections and changes do and don’t render people unclean.  And in the middle of it comes the case of hair falling out, which renders one bald, but still clean.

And it’s refreshing in the middle of endless discussion of sickness and contagion and God’s wrath to have a reminder that we’re still human.  Not every misfortune is a manifestation of God’s wrath or a big problem.  Sometimes we’re just still human and still living in a fallen world, in bodies that don’t quite work the way God originally intended.

We all have stuff happen that’s embarrassing or awkward or irritating.  It’s nice to know that it doesn’t make God feel that way.  He loves us anyway.

Application:  Relax.  God doesn’t see our failings the way we do.  He’s beyond time, after all, so it’s not like getting old (or sick, or depressed, or whatever) changes anything from His perspective.

Prayer:  Father, thank you for loving me even in my most human moment.  Help me to see myself the way you do.  Amen.

Leviticus 13:1-28

Scripture: from verse 13

If [the priest] sees that the tzara‘at (leprosy) has covered his entire body, he is to pronounce the person with the sores clean — it has all turned white, and he is clean.

Observation:  Leprosy (which appears to be an umbrella term for all malignant skin disease, not just what we know as leprosy today) was a curse from God, a sign of His wrath.  Logically, someone who has had leprosy in the past, while no longer contagious, is still someone to be rejected as having earned God’s wrath.  But this is the Father of Light we’re talking about, and human logic doesn’t measure up.

While the leprosy is expanding and contagious, the person is unclean and can’t be a part of the community.  But if the disease goes into remission, and the sores turn into scars, then he’s allowed back in.  He’s clean.  He may still look terrible, but God has declared him clean again.

Holiness isn’t about outward appearances.  My journey is not your journey.  We are all sinners and we all need to be healed.  So just because one set of sins is more visible or even more hurtful than another doesn’t mean God isn’t at work.  It just means He has his own plan.

We’ve all earned God’s wrath.  None of us are especially pretty inside.  But He’s made us clean, and He’s declared us family.

Application:  Don’t judge others by the sins that are showing.  We’ve all got some.  Don’t judge others by their past mistakes, either, because we’ve all got those too.  The fact that some have larger consequences on Earth doesn’t mean they look any different in Heaven.

Prayer:  Yeshua, thank you for making me clean.  Help me to understand that the others around me are just as clean in you, despite their past mistakes or current habits.  Help me encourage and love others instead of snarking at them.  Amen.

Leviticus 12

Scripture: verse five

If she gives birth to a girl, she will be unclean for two weeks, as [during her period]; and she is to wait another sixty-six days to be purified from her blood.

Observation:  This chapter deals with a woman’s time of uncleanness after the birth of a baby: she was unclean for forty days after the birth of a boy, and eighty after the birth of a girl.  Once the time was over, she brought a burnt offering and a sin offering, and then she was clean.

Despite the presence of the sin offering, it seems highly unlikely that God considered childbirth sinful.  I’m going to guess that the offering was to cover the time she’s spent being unclean, or possibly to cover herself and her child as sinful people, which all humans are, with one exception.

And being unclean for a time was probably just as well; after the birth of a baby, she’s not going to want to get up and get back to normal life.  The rest is important.

But I haven’t the faintest idea why she was unclean for twice as long after a girl.  Girls aren’t more stressful.  God didn’t consider them inherently more sinful.  They were considered less valuable by the society, though, so perhaps God was giving her time to avoid the gossip?  Perhaps God was giving her extra time to bond with her baby and feed her well, so the baby would have a head start in a less-friendly environment?

I love that God sees everyone and all their needs, from Moses and his tendency to overwork to the newborn baby girl who needed some extra time with her mother.  I love that God understands that we live in a society that is not always friendly or fair.  I love that God has a plan for every need, from food in the desert to protection from gossip.

“My God will supply all your needs according to his glorious wealth, in union with the Messiah Yeshua.” (Philippians 4:19)  Every. single. need.  He’s got it covered.

Application:  Trust Him with your needs.  Trust Him to understand that even needs that are objectively quite minor still feel big to you.  He has a plan for them.  He has a plan for you.

Prayer:  Father, thank you for filling all of my needs.  Thank you for giving me grace in the times that I need it.  Help me to trust you.  Amen.

Leviticus 11:24-47

Scripture: from verse 24

Whoever touches the carcass of [an unclean animal] will be unclean until evening, and whoever picks up any part of their carcass is to wash his clothes and be unclean until evening…

Observation:  So here we have this “uncleanness” thing.  Lots of things rendered people temporarily unclean, including touching dead things, giving birth, and cleaning up after certain sacrifices.  It doesn’t appear to be a state of sin, since sin requires sacrifice to be cleared, but it does prevent the person affected from participating in worship and society.  In many cases, this was probably a practical benefit: it helped keep germs and other contaminants from spreading, and it gave women a period of rest after childbirth and during their periods.

I’m never sure what to do with this rule.  Sooner or later I have to handle the bodies of dead things (usually worms and flies and the like), unless I can get my husband to do it for me.  Naturally I use a tissue, but the law doesn’t say whether it still applies if you pick it up with something.  Admittedly we’re no longer condemned by the Law, but I’m still relieved whenever I discover that the worm I found is actually still alive and therefore not part of this commandment.

And that’s probably the real purpose of these rules: to remind us that the world that exists is not the world that God desires.  Death is the result of sin in the world, and so is the pain of childbirth and the difficulty of making a living.  God plans to redeem His creation, and once He does nothing will be unclean anymore.

So we acknowledge that this world is broken, and we are grateful that we only spend a short time on it.  Our home is with Him for eternity.  Uncleanness lasts until evening, but joy awaits in the morning.

Application:  Look forward to eternity rather than getting swamped by this life.  Our current troubles will not last.  Light is coming.

Prayer:  Father, thank you for building a home for me.  Thank you for preparing joy and peace that I can look forward to when life on Earth is difficult and chaotic.  Help me to trust you when you say the all will be well.  Amen.

Leviticus 11:1-23

Scripture: verse 20

All winged swarming creatures that go on all fours are a detestable thing for you…

Observation: Lore Sjoberg once commented that he likes the simpler classifications given in Leviticus: “Does it fly? Does it creep? It’s a flying , creeping thing, don’t eat it, end of story.”  Simple enough.

Although even in Leviticus there are exceptions to the rules, since locusts and grasshoppers are explicitly excluded from this law in the next verse.  Not that I’m likely to eat crickets (every so often my father gets enthusiastic about tasting freeze-dried or candied crickets for some reason, but I’ve never yet participated) but it’s nice to know I could do so without breaking the eating laws.

Life is complicated.  There’s never one rule that applies in all situations.  There’s no way to encompass the whole of human experience in simple, easy-to-understand terms.  And God knows life is complicated, and that’s why His rules are complicated sometimes.  God sees the complexity even more clearly than we do.

I think that’s why God promises to write His law on our hearts (Jer 31:33).  Because He knows we can’t keep track of it all.  So He makes His word and integral part of our spirits, so that we can ask Him any time we need to.

Application:  Always assume the situation is more complicated than it looks.  Ask God for guidance, because He’s the only one who can see the whole picture.

Prayer:  Father, I praise you for knowing the summation of every series and the integral of every function.  Thank you for seeing life as it truly is so that I don’t have to.  Please guide me as I walk forward, since I’m blind to most of what you can see so clearly.  Amen.