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Purification of Lepers and Leprous Houses

14

The Lord spoke to Moses, saying: 2This shall be the ritual for the leprous person at the time of his cleansing:

He shall be brought to the priest; 3the priest shall go out of the camp, and the priest shall make an examination. If the disease is healed in the leprous person, 4the priest shall command that two living clean birds and cedarwood and crimson yarn and hyssop be brought for the one who is to be cleansed. 5The priest shall command that one of the birds be slaughtered over fresh water in an earthen vessel. 6He shall take the living bird with the cedarwood and the crimson yarn and the hyssop, and dip them and the living bird in the blood of the bird that was slaughtered over the fresh water. 7He shall sprinkle it seven times upon the one who is to be cleansed of the leprous disease; then he shall pronounce him clean, and he shall let the living bird go into the open field. 8The one 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. After that he shall come into the camp, but shall live outside his tent seven days. 9On the seventh day he shall shave all his hair: of head, beard, eyebrows; he shall shave all his hair. Then he shall wash his clothes, and bathe his body in water, and he shall be clean.

10 On the eighth day he shall take two male lambs without blemish, and one ewe lamb in its first year without blemish, and a grain offering of three-tenths of an ephah of choice flour mixed with oil, and one log of oil. 11The priest who cleanses shall set the person to be cleansed, along with these things, before the Lord, at the entrance of the tent of meeting. 12The priest shall take one of the lambs, and offer it as a guilt offering, along with the log of oil, and raise them as an elevation offering before the Lord. 13He shall slaughter the lamb in the place where the sin offering and the burnt offering are slaughtered in the holy place; for the guilt offering, like the sin offering, belongs to the priest: it is most holy. 14The priest shall take some of the blood of the guilt offering and put it on the lobe of the right ear of the one to be cleansed, and on the thumb of the right hand, and on the big toe of the right foot. 15The priest shall take some of the log of oil and pour it into the palm of his own left hand, 16and dip his right finger in the oil that is in his left hand and sprinkle some oil with his finger seven times before the Lord. 17Some of the oil that remains in his hand the priest shall put on the lobe of the right ear of the one to be cleansed, and on the thumb of the right hand, and on the big toe of the right foot, on top of the blood of the guilt offering. 18The rest of the oil that is in the priest’s hand he shall put on the head of the one to be cleansed. Then the priest shall make atonement on his behalf before the Lord: 19the priest shall offer the sin offering, to make atonement for the one to be cleansed from his uncleanness. Afterward he shall slaughter the burnt offering; 20and the priest shall offer the burnt offering and the grain offering on the altar. Thus the priest shall make atonement on his behalf and he shall be clean.

21 But if he is poor and cannot afford so much, he shall take one male lamb for a guilt offering to be elevated, to make atonement on his behalf, and one-tenth of an ephah of choice flour mixed with oil for a grain offering and a log of oil; 22also two turtledoves or two pigeons, such as he can afford, one for a sin offering and the other for a burnt offering. 23On the eighth day he shall bring them for his cleansing to the priest, to the entrance of the tent of meeting, before the Lord; 24and the priest shall take the lamb of the guilt offering and the log of oil, and the priest shall raise them as an elevation offering before the Lord. 25The priest shall slaughter the lamb of the guilt offering and shall take some of the blood of the guilt offering, and put it on the lobe of the right ear of the one to be cleansed, and on the thumb of the right hand, and on the big toe of the right foot. 26The priest shall pour some of the oil into the palm of his own left hand, 27and shall sprinkle with his right finger some of the oil that is in his left hand seven times before the Lord. 28The priest shall put some of the oil that is in his hand on the lobe of the right ear of the one to be cleansed, and on the thumb of the right hand, and the big toe of the right foot, where the blood of the guilt offering was placed. 29The rest of the oil that is in the priest’s hand he shall put on the head of the one to be cleansed, to make atonement on his behalf before the Lord. 30And he shall offer, of the turtledoves or pigeons such as he can afford, 31one for a sin offering and the other for a burnt offering, along with a grain offering; and the priest shall make atonement before the Lord on behalf of the one being cleansed. 32This is the ritual for the one who has a leprous disease, who cannot afford the offerings for his cleansing.

33 The Lord spoke to Moses and Aaron, saying:

34 When you come into the land of Canaan, which I give you for a possession, and I put a leprous disease in a house in the land of your possession, 35the owner of the house shall come and tell the priest, saying, “There seems to me to be some sort of disease in my house.” 36The priest shall command that they empty the house before the priest goes to examine the disease, or all that is in the house will become unclean; and afterward the priest shall go in to inspect the house. 37He shall examine the disease; if the disease is in the walls of the house with greenish or reddish spots, and if it appears to be deeper than the surface, 38the priest shall go outside to the door of the house and shut up the house seven days. 39The priest shall come again on the seventh day and make an inspection; if the disease has spread in the walls of the house, 40the priest shall command that the stones in which the disease appears be taken out and thrown into an unclean place outside the city. 41He shall have the inside of the house scraped thoroughly, and the plaster that is scraped off shall be dumped in an unclean place outside the city. 42They shall take other stones and put them in the place of those stones, and take other plaster and plaster the house.

43 If the disease breaks out again in the house, after he has taken out the stones and scraped the house and plastered it, 44the priest shall go and make inspection; if the disease has spread in the house, it is a spreading leprous disease in the house; it is unclean. 45He shall have the house torn down, its stones and timber and all the plaster of the house, and taken outside the city to an unclean place. 46All who enter the house while it is shut up shall be unclean until the evening; 47and all who sleep in the house shall wash their clothes; and all who eat in the house shall wash their clothes.

48 If the priest comes and makes an inspection, and the disease has not spread in the house after the house was plastered, the priest shall pronounce the house clean; the disease is healed. 49For the cleansing of the house he shall take two birds, with cedarwood and crimson yarn and hyssop, 50and shall slaughter one of the birds over fresh water in an earthen vessel, 51and shall take the cedarwood and the hyssop and the crimson yarn, along with the living bird, and dip them in the blood of the slaughtered bird and the fresh water, and sprinkle the house seven times. 52Thus he shall cleanse the house with the blood of the bird, and with the fresh water, and with the living bird, and with the cedarwood and hyssop and crimson yarn; 53and he shall let the living bird go out of the city into the open field; so he shall make atonement for the house, and it shall be clean.

54 This is the ritual for any leprous disease: for an itch, 55for leprous diseases in clothing and houses, 56and for a swelling or an eruption or a spot, 57to determine when it is unclean and when it is clean. This is the ritual for leprous diseases.


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58. And the garment. This kind of disease, God, in his infinite clemency, has willed to be unknown to us. He has indeed subjected woolen garments and furs to the ravages of the moth, and vessels of various kinds to rust, and other corruptions; in fact, has surrounded the human race with rottenness, in order that everywhere our eyes should light on the punishment of sin; but what the leprosy of garments may be, is unknown. But its expiation under the Law admonished his ancient people that the must carefully beware of even external uncleanness, so as to cleanse themselves “from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit.” It has appeared to me sufficient to touch upon the sum of the matter, because it would be almost superfluous labor to insist upon the words, although I should be unwilling to condemn the diligence of those who examine these points also; but it is not my purpose to perform the office of the grammarian.

2 This shall be the law of the leper. Moses now treats of the manner in which those who were cured of leprosy were to be cleansed and restored. Thus far he had shewn whom the priest was to admit into the holy congregation, and account to be clean; he now prescribes the rite of expiation, whereby the people might learn how greatly God abominates the uncleanness, which He commands to be purified by a solemn propitiation; and also that he who is healed may acknowledge that he is rescued from death by God’s special blessing, and may in future be more diligent in seeking to be pure. For there were two parts in the sacrifice here demanded-purification and thanksgiving. But we must ever keep in view the object which I have stated in the last chapter, that the Israelites were instructed by this ceremony to serve God in chastity and purity, and to keep far away from those defilements, whereby religion would be profaned. Since, then, leprosy was a kind of pollution, God was unwilling that those who were cured of it should be received into the holy congregation, 1313     “Rentrassent au rang de ses enfans;” should be restored to the rank of His children. — Fr. except after the offering of a sacrifice; as if the priest reconciled them after excommunication. It will now be well to discuss the points which are worthy of consideration. The office of cleansing is imposed on the priest; yet he is at the same time forbidden to cleanse any except those who were already pure and clean. In this, on the one hand, God claims for Himself the honor of the cure, lest men should assume it; and also establishes the discipline which He would have to reign in His Church. To make the matter clearer, it belongs to God only to forgive sins; what, then, remains to man, except to be the witness and herald of the grace which He confers? God’s minister can, therefore, absolve none whom God has not before absolved. In sum, absolution is not in the power or will of man: the minister only sustains an inferior part, to endorse God’s judgment, or rather to proclaim God’s sentence. Hence that remarkable expression of Isaiah, “I, even I, am he that blotteth out thy transgressions, O Israel, and none but me.1414     The words in italics seem to be added paraphrastically by C. (Isaiah 43:25.) In which sense, too, God everywhere promises by the prophets that the people shall be clean, when He shall have cleansed them. Meanwhile, however, this does not prevent those who are called to the office of teaching from purging the uncleanness of the people in a certain peculiar way. For, since faith alone purifies the heart, in so far as it receives the testimony which God proffers by the mouth of man, the minister who testifies that we are reconciled to God, is justly reckoned to take away our pollution. This expiation is still in force, though the ceremony has long ceased to be in use. But, since the spiritual healing, which we receive by faith, proceeds from the mere grace of God, the ministry of man does not at all detract from His glory. Let us, then, remember that these two things are perfectly consistent with each other, that God is the sole author of our purity; and yet that the method, which He uses for our justification, must not on that account be neglected. And this is properly referred to discipline, that whosoever has been once cast out of the holy congregation by public authority, must not be received again except upon professing penitence and a new life. We must observe, too, that this jurisdiction was given to the priests not only on the ground that they represented Christ, but also in respect to the ministry, which we have in common with them.

3 And the priest shall go forth. This is the examination, which was more fully treated of in the last chapter, without which it was not lawful to receive him who had been once rejected. The priest’s command, which is mentioned immediately afterwards, I refer to the Levites, some one of whom probably accompanied the priest to prepare the sacrifice, that thus the priests might only discharge the principal duty. The sum of the rite respecting the two birds tends to this, that the cleansing from leprosy was a kind of resurrection Two birds were placed before their eyes; the liberty of one was purchased by the blood of the other; because the former was not let go until it had been first dipped in the blood and the water; and thus the matter of sprinkling was prepared for the man’s purification. The sevenfold repetition was intended to impress more deeply on men’s memories a continual meditation on God’s grace; for we know that by this number perfection is often expressed in Scripture. With the same object, he who had been cured shaved his hair, and washed in water. Yet he did not return home on the first day, but on the eighth. Meantime, on the seventh day he shaved his beard, and his eyebrows, and all the hair of his head; he washed himself and his garments, and then proceeded to the sacrifice. So difficult is it to accustom men to a serious acknowledgment of the two points, to hold their vice in detestation, and worthily to estimate the grace of God whereby they are delivered.

10. And on the eighth. As infants on the eighth day after they were cleansed from the uncleanness which they had brought from the womb, were grafted into the Church, and made members of it; so now the eighth day is prescribed for the restoration of those who, in the cure that they have received, are as it were born again; for they are accounted dead whom the leprosy had banished from the holy congregation. A sacrifice is therefore appointed which may renew the circumcision that had been in some measure effaced. Now, the meaning of all the things here mentioned is not clear to myself, and I would not have my readers too curious respecting them. Some may be probably accounted for; the right ear, the thumb of the right hand, and the great toe of the right foot, were sprinkled with the blood of the offering, because the leper was restored to the ordinary habits and customs of life, so as to have freedom of walk and action, and free conversational intercourse; for in the ear there is a mutual correspondence between speaking and hearing. The head is anointed, or cleansed with the oil, that nothing impure should remain in his whole body 1515     Addition in French, “mais d’esplucher tout par le menu, je ne l’oserois entrependre, et ne voundrois;” but I dare not, and would not undertake to explain the whole in detail. God spare the poor and lowly, and does not compel them to offer the two lambs, lest they should be burdened beyond their means; whence it appears, that sacrifices are not estimated according to their intrinsic value, but according to the pious feeling which disposes each on liberally to offer in proportion to what is given him.

34. When ye be come into the land. Another sort of leprosy is here treated of, as to which we may not unreasonably rejoice that it is now unknown to us. But, as God had honored that people with extraordinary privileges, so it was consistent that their ingratitude should be punished by more severe penalties, if they defiled the gifts in which they excelled. It is not to be wondered at, therefore, that punishments were inflicted upon them, which it fills us with surprise and horror to hear of. It was a sad sight to behold the leprosy invading the human body; but there was something portentous to perceive it affecting their houses also, and driving out the owners and their families; for if they wittingly and voluntarily remained there, the contagion spread to themselves and all their furniture. But, since God marked with public ignominy those whose houses were struck with leprosy, He commands them to confess their guilt, and not only when the evil had made much advance, but when any suspicion of it had begun to exist. It appears, too, from the Law, that some were but lightly chastised: for, if after the priest’s inspection, in seven days the plague did not increase on the scraped walls, the possessor returned to his house. God punished others more severely, and it was necessary that the building should be utterly destroyed, because the pollution was incurable. But, although these were tokens of God’s wrath, yet, inexpiating the uncleanness, He exercised His people in the study of purity; for it was just as if He drove away from approaching His sanctuary those who came from an unclean house. The sense, then, was that. they should each of them diligently endeavor to keep their houses pure, and chaste, and free from every stain. But if, through God’s mercy, the plague ceased, a sacrifice of thanksgiving was to be offered, as for the human beings (who had been healed.) The next chapter, in which general pollutions and their purifications are not treated of, but only one kind of pollution is glanced at, which has reference to fleshly lust, would perhaps be suitably introduced under the Seventh Commandment; but it will presently appear from the context that it must be brought under this head.




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