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Tuesday, July 23rd, 2024
the Week of Proper 11 / Ordinary 16
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Bible Commentaries
Leviticus 14

Sutcliffe's Commentary on the Old and New TestamentsSutcliffe's Commentary

Verses 1-57

Leviticus 14:3. The plague of leprosy. This loathsome disease rendered the body torpid, and severely depressed the spirits, as is affirmed by our learned travellers in the east. It commences with white spots on the hands and feet, or on the face, assuming gradually a scaly appearance. It spreads up the arms and legs; in its progress the joints become less active, the skin swells, and the pulse is lowered. In more stubborn cases the flesh looks like that of horses, when said to have greasy heels. The disease having exhausted the more vital principles of the part affected, dries up, and afterwards breaks out in fresh places; so that its whole progress is the slow and certain march of death.

Leviticus 14:4. Two birds. Two sparrows, as many copies read.

Leviticus 14:5. Running water. In the west of Africa men are often slain over running water. During the insurrection at St. Domingo, some blacks, as well as French, were slain at the seaside. 1 Kings 18:40.

Leviticus 14:7. Let the living bird loose, as in the case of the scape-goat.

Leviticus 14:10. One log of oil. The twelfth part of a hin, or the measure of six hen’s eggs.

Leviticus 14:19. Sin-offering and make atonement. In the Hebrew Theocracy all sicknesses and uncleannesses were accounted as sins. Psalms 103:3. Isaiah 38:17. The leprosy was often inflicted as a punishment for sin. The case of Ahaziah, and of several others, are instances of divine displeasure for presumptuous sins.


The cleansing of the healed leper is the subject of a new revelation; and it contains some peculiar circumstances, highly admonitory to purity and holiness. The priest must go forth to the tent, or house of the leper, and examine his case. Ministers in like manner should examine the state of those desirous of being purged from sin, and who are seeking fellowship and communion with the church of God. Theirs is the right to preach deliverance to the captives, and to comfort all that mourn. The cleansing of the leper was with great ceremony, and to the rich it was attended with expensive oblations. One of the birds was to be killed over running water, or over water taken from a stream, to indicate that the disease was occasioned by sin, and that there is no remission but by the shedding of blood. The sprinkling was with a rod of cedar, to indicate incorruption; and with hyssop, to show that the bitterness of God’s displeasure was past. The dying bird would indicate to the leper, the death to which he had been exposed; and the living by its escape, the health and liberty to which he was now restored. But evangelically we see in the former a figure of our Saviour dying for man; and in the living one sprinkled with gore, we see his escape from death by the resurrection, and his flight to the mansions of eternal joy. Hence to be cleansed from the leprosy of guilt and sin is no easy task; but all things are possible, and all things are easy with God.

By the ceremony of washing and anointing, we are farther instructed in the operations of grace to sanctify and adorn the soul, as well as to cleanse it from sin; as the garments were washed, the pans scoured or broken, if earthen vessels, so let us learn from this process to defile ourselves no more with any allowed or presumptuous transgression. Let us hate the garments spotted with the flesh, and not shrink from burning that which is fretted by the leprosy.

The blood of atonement, and the anointing oil, were applied to the ear, to the thumb, and to the toe of the cleansed leper. We farther learn, that whatever is cleansed from sin, is at the same time anointed to God. Our members are no more to be yielded as instruments of unrighteousness unto sin, but as instruments of righteousness unto God. Our ears must no more listen to temptation and vain discourse, but to the words of divine truth. Our feet being cleansed must henceforth walk in the ways of holiness; and no iniquity must be found in our consecrated hands. Oh Lord, purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean; wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow. And as to the daily impurity we may contract by intercourse with the world, we have every moment a fountain open, every moment the sprinkling of blood before the throne, and every moment the anointing of the Spirit to keep us right with God, free from condemnation, and in the glorious liberty of his children. Romans 8:1; Romans 8:21.

But if the Lord have cleansed our souls from the foul leprosy of sin, let us next cleanse our houses; for the house which is not cleansed must be demolished, and removed to an unclean place. Eli’s household, uncleansed by admonition from adultery and sacrilege, was totally demolished. Saul’s household, not obeying the Lord, was rejected. He will spare neither the priest nor the prince, where sin is indulged and spared. Let us therefore fear this God of sanctifying truth, and never exalt our children above submission to his law. Joshua, apprized of this, resolved that he and his house should serve the Lord; and David, dreading the contagion of a moral leprosy, determined that no liar should be near his person.

How mistaken then are those who compare the leprous house to indwelling sin, for which there is no cure but by dissolution; so that the grave, or the unclean place, is the sepulchre of the unruly desires which have had the dominion over us in life! Do they mean to say that this is the case with all good men? What then do they make of those houses, which were actually cleansed? Do they mean to say that some good men are cleansed from sin in this life, and others not? Surely that is not their design. And if so, can the unclean place make us clean! Can corruption produce incorruption? For the bodies of the saints shall be glorious as the body of Christ. If then it be dangerous to make the grave a source of purity, let us adhere most strictly to the language of the new covenant, and expect pardon and holiness from the blood of atonement, and from the efficacious operations of the Holy Spirit. Let us expect those blessings from the Redeemer, and in an instantaneous way; for he is still able to say, I will, be thou clean.

Lastly, if the plague of leprosy was so dreadful in a man’s flesh, and in a house; how much more dreadful is it when the leprosy of sin infects a whole nation. The whole house of Israel became so infected with idolatry, and with reigning crimes of every kind, that there was no remedy but to take it down by sickness, famine and the sword; and to remove the remnants left of successive invasions to Babylon, till a new generation was born, and the polluted land had enjoyed her sabbatical years. How dreadful are thy judgments, oh Lord!

Bibliographical Information
Sutcliffe, Joseph. "Commentary on Leviticus 14". Sutcliffe's Commentary on the Old and New Testaments. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/jsc/leviticus-14.html. 1835.
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