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RESTORING OF A LEPER (vv. 1-20)
Even a case of leprosy may be healed, though this is not frequently seen in the Old Testament. Miriam's leprosy was healed very soon after her infliction (Numbers 12:9-4.12.16) because of the intercession of Moses. She was shut out of the camp only seven days. Naaman was healed of his leprosy, but he was a Gentile (2 Kings 5:1; 2 Kings 5:14), and therefore the Jewish ritual would not apply to him. Many lepers were in Israel at the time, but none of them were healed (Luke 4:27). The Lord Jesus healed lepers (Matthew 8:2-40.8.3; Luke 17:12-42.17.14), and told them to show themselves to the priests.
If a leper were healed he was to be brought to the priest (v. 2), and the priest was to examine him outside the camp. The healing being confirmed, then the priest was to command that two live and clean birds should be brought, and cedar wood, scarlet and hyssop. One bird was then to be killed in an earthen vessel over running water. Then the living bird, the cedar wood, scarlet and hyssop were to be dipped in the blood of the bird that was killed. “over running water” (v. 5). The blood then was to be sprinkled seven times upon the recovered leper, and the living bird was let loose.
Both birds speak of Christ, the first one picturing His sacrifice on Calvary. The earthen vessel reminds us that He came in a human body (a vessel) of lowly humiliation to be a willing sacrifice. Running water or “living water” symbolizes the living power of the Spirit of God energizing that wonderful sacrifice, so that life would triumph over death.
Therefore the living bird is a picture of Christ in resurrection. The cedar wood represents all that is exalted and dignified in manhood, while the hyssop is the opposite, speaking of the lowliest of mankind. Whether high or low, rich or poor, Christ's work has been necessary for all, and sufficient for all; and the scarlet (in between) is the warmth of the love of God that brings all together. This is manifested only in Christ raised from the dead. The blood sprinkled on all these tells us that in resurrection the cross can never be forgotten, and the great blessing that Christ has accomplished for Himself in unity with His blood-bought people is dependent on His blood shed at Calvary. Thus, as the living bird is set free, so all believers are blessed in the liberty that belongs to Christ in resurrection.
Yet, though those things in verses 1 to 7 are basic in the restoration of the leper, there is much more added in verses 8 to 20, dealing with practical details of restoration.
To begin with, there is cleansing by water, first, of the person's clothes, and after shaving off all his hair, then he himself washed (v. 8). The sacrifice of the bird had to do with what was done for him, but the washing of water is the application of the word of God to his personal condition. We also need both. Yet even then he must stay outside his tent for seven days, though allowed inside the camp. On the eighth day he was to repeat what he had done a week earlier, shaving off all his hair, including even his eyebrows, wash his clothes and his own body. Then we are told “he shall be clean” (v. 9).
In the first cleansing the person is restored to his place in the camp, while in the second he is fully restored to God and to his accustomed dwelling among the people of God, speaking of practical fellowship restored, through “the washing of water by the word.” All of this shows us that God does provide the means of restoration that is there for the appropriation of every returning wanderer. He takes advantage of it and is thus far restored (to the camp), yet God seeks a deeper work within the person, by which restoration becomes vital to him.
Though at the end of verse 9 the leper is now said to be clean, yet on this same eighth day he must bring two male lambs, one ewe lamb of the first year, all without blemish, three-tenths of an ephah of fine flour mixed with oil as a grain offering, and one log of oil. The priest was then to take one male lamb and offer it as a trespass offering before the Lord (v. 12). The waving speaks of Christ ascended back to glory, though in the type this was done before the sacrifice was killed.
These things also are evidently connected with the cleansing process, for verse 14 speaks of one “who is to be cleansed.” The priest was to take some of the blood of the lamb and put it on the tip of the person's right ear, on the thumb of his right hand and on the big toe of his right foot. This indicates that cleansing is to have a practical effect on how and what a person hears, on what he does with his hand and how he walks.
Then the priest was to pour some of the oil into the palm of his left hand and with his right finger sprinkle the oil seven times before the Lord perhaps at the altar of burnt offering, or possibly at the door of the tabernacle. Then he was to put the oil on the tip of the right ear, the thumb of the right hand and the big toe of the right foot of the healed leper, just as he had done with the blood, and the rest of the oil on the head of the person (vv. 15-18). The oil is typical of the Holy Spirit, who is the power by which the ear takes in the truth, the power by which one's actions are made right and by which the walk is corrected. Put on the head indicates the intelligence being brought into subjection by the power of the Spirit.
The other lambs were then offered, one as a sin offering, the other a burnt offering, and with the burnt offering a meal offering (or grain offering). Thus the seriousness of leprosy is emphasized, for the trespass offering first stresses the need of meeting the details of sinful practice (which is typified in leprosy), while the sin offering deals with sin as the hateful principle of evil that has corrupted our very nature. The burnt offering is that which gives all glory to God in the sacrifice of the Lord Jesus, for God is the source of all blessing in restoration. The accompanying meal offering reminds us that the only One who could be a satisfactory offering for sin must be a true Man of sinless character, for the fine meal is typical of the purity of the details of the entire life of the Lord Jesus so totally in contrast to leprosy. All of these things are therefore involved in our being cleansed from the foul disease of sin, for when God works He does a complete work.
A PROVISION FOR POVERTY (vv. 21-32)
We have before seen an exception made on account of poverty (Leviticus 5:7), and so it is in the case of the restoring of a leper. If one could not bring three lambs, he might bring only one male lamb as a trespass offering, one tenth of an ephah of fine flour mixed with oil as a meal offering, one log of oil, and two turtledoves or young pigeons to substitute for two of the lambs.
The ritual was the same as in the first case, but the birds took the place of lambs in the sin offering and the burnt offering. In this is seen typically a poverty of apprehension as to the sin offering and burnt offering. There are many who are too poor spiritually to realize properly how sin is dealt with and condemned in the sacrifice of Christ, and they have only a small understanding of that sacrifice being above all for the glory of God (the burnt offering). How good it is then to see God's gracious care for the weak.
LEPROSY IN A HOUSE (vv. 33-47)
As in the case of a garment, it seems strange that leprosy could literally be present in a house. No example of this is recorded in scripture either. Again therefore, the spiritual significance must be the matter of real importance. If the owner of the house found evidence of such a plague in his house, he must report it to the priest, who would examine it.
On the one hand there is an application to “the whole house of Israel” in this scripture. Its condition gave cause for alarm even before the days of David. The prophets have examined it, and with one consent have found it in such a state as Isaiah 1:6 describes, “From the sole of the foot even to the head, there is no soundness in it, but wounds and bruises and putrefying sores.” There have been many efforts by God to restore the nation, even after its being taken into captivity, symbolizing its isolation. But finally, in rejecting Christ, Israel has exposed its hopeless leprous condition. Christ makes the pronouncement, “Your house is left to you desolate' (Matthew 23:38), and the whole house has been taken away. It will therefore be a miracle of God that will restore the house of Israel, as will be true in the millennium, as Ezekiel 36:36 declares, “I, the Lord, have rebuilt the ruined places, and planted what was desolate” (NKJV).
As was true of the house of Israel in its being under suspicion of leprosy, a similar application is true of the professing Church. God has dealt with her alarming symptoms in seeking to restore her, but her state has deteriorated, so that the exposure of leprosy is clearly seen in the address to Laodicea (Revelation 3:14-66.3.22). She is to be spit out of the Lord's mouth (v. 16), involving His refusal of her. For Laodicea professes to be God's Church, but is composed only of unbelievers. It is plainly a leprous house, ready to be demolished.
Yet there is an application also to a local fellowship of professed believers. If sin breaks out among them that seems to be of a serious character, the matter should be immediately put into the hands of the Lord, the One having true priestly discernment. Of course, others also from another assembly, men of spiritual experience and priestly discernment, may unite with the Lord in forming a judgment as to whether this is a case that demands rigorous action, and as to how far the action should go.
Even if the plague appeared serious to the priest, he was to wait for a week before a second examination (vv. 37-38). If then the plague had spread, the priest was to command that the stones in which the plague was should be taken out and thrown into an unclean place (v. 44). This would speak of individuals who have been guilty of positive sinful practice being excommunicated from fellowship.
The house was also to be scraped, typical of the self-judgment of all in the house in divesting themselves of any association with the evil. New stones were added in place of the old and the house was freshly plastered (v. 42). But if the plague came back after this, it was evident that the leprosy was settled into the house itself, and the priest was to break down the house, having all of it taken to an unclean place outside the city (vv. 44-45). So any assembly in which serious evil persists after proper labor with it, is totally unfit for anyone's fellowship. Other assemblies must cease all identification with it. Also, anyone who had even come into the house would be unclean till the evening, but if he had laid down in the house or if one had eaten in the house, he must wash his clothes. Thus today also, if only we are present in a location where spiritual evil is practiced, we shall be defiled by it, and more so if we linger in the place. This is a serious consideration for every Christian.
CLEANSING OF A HOUSE (vv. 48-52)
If after the house was freshly plastered there was no recurrence of any plague, the priest was to pronounce the house clean. However, he was to follow the same procedure as in the case of the cleansing of a leper (Leviticus 14:1-3.14.7), taking two birds with cedar wood, scarlet and hyssop, killing one bird in an earthen vessel over running water, then taking the live bird, the cedar wood, hyssop and scarlet, dipping them in the blood of the dead bird and in running water, and with this sprinkle the house seven times (v. 51). When this means of cleansing was complete, the priest was to let loose the live bird into the open field (v. 52). We have seen that the sacrificed bird is typical of Christ sacrificed for us, and the live bird, Christ raised from the dead. Again therefore, as with a person, so with an assembly, restoration is based on the value of the death and resurrection of the Lord Jesus.
Verses 54-57 sum up the whole matter of the law concerning leprosy, whether in a person, in a garment or in a house.
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Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.
Grant, L. M. "Commentary on Leviticus 14". Grant's Commentary on the Bible. https://www.studylight.org/
the Second Week of Advent