Lectionary Calendar
Monday, July 15th, 2024
the Week of Proper 10 / Ordinary 15
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Bible Commentaries
Leviticus 15

Whedon's Commentary on the BibleWhedon's Commentary



There is an intense reality in the fact of the divine law taking hold of a man by the ordinary infirmities of the flesh, and setting its stamp in the very clay of which he is moulded. The sacredness attached to the human body is parallel to that which invested the ark of the covenant itself. Thus there is foreshadowed the unspeakable dignity with which the body of the Christian is to be crowned under the dispensation of the Holy Ghost when it shall become an habitation of God through the Spirit. The successive dwellings of Jehovah among men are, first, the tabernacle in the midst of Israel; secondly, the body of Jesus Christ, in which the Word ( εσκηνωσεν ) tented is used, (John 1:14;) and lastly, the body of every believer in Jesus Christ. 1 Corinthians 3:16; 1 Corinthians 6:19. The minute and burdensome regulations of the ceremonial law relating to the purity of the body suggest some such honour as the privilege of believers when the dispensation of realities should supersede that of shadows. The principal source of both moral and physical defilement is found in the sexual nature. That the issues spoken of in this chapter are not ordinary running sores, but impurities resulting from the weakness or disease of the genitals, is evident from the division of the chapter into two parts the uncleanness of men in their issues, (1-18,) and the uncleanness of women in their issues, (19-33.)

Verse 1

1. Unto Moses and to Aaron There must have been in the mind of Jehovah a reason for sometimes addressing Moses alone and sometimes addressing both Moses and Aaron. That reason is not revealed.

Verse 2

2. Issue out of his flesh The word flesh is here a euphemism for the part on which circumcision was performed. “My covenant shall be in your flesh.” Genesis 17:13. The Targum of Palestine adds, “When the man hath seen the defluxion three times, he is unclean.” The Seventy have translated the “issue” by gonorrhea. Keil questions the existence of this disease in its syphilitic character at so early a period, and inclines to the theory of an involuntary flow, drop by drop, through weakness, and he suggests that its more appropriate name is blenorrhea urethrae, a catarrhal affection of the mucus membrane of the urethra.

Verse 3

3. Be stopped Literally, whether he stop his flesh from his issue. The uncleanness continues, though the issue be temporarily obstructed, until its perfect cure.

Verse 4

4. Every bed The inconveniences of ceremonial impurity are strikingly set forth in this and the following verses. The only posture in which the man did not communicate ceremonial impurity was standing without touching any vessel or utensil. The obstruction to social intercourse, business, and trade must have exceeded one’s conception. The man, while under this disability, could neither sit nor lie down without spreading impurity; nor could he eat or drink without defiling the vessel which he touched; while the grasp of friendship polluted the person of his friend and incapacitated him for the public offices of religion and for communion with his kindred until he had washed his clothes and bathed himself, and waited for the friendly shades of evening to emancipate him from ceremonial bondage. Till his purification he was to be excluded from the camp. Numbers 5:2. In contrast with this burdensome ritual Christianity is appropriately called “the law of liberty.”

Verse 5

5. Bathe himself in water The Targum of Palestine specifies that the quantity of water shall be forty seahs about seventy gallons.

Verse 6

6. He that sitteth on any thing whereon he sat The very stool occupied for a moment by a man afflicted with the issue was ceremonially defiled. The precautions are as great as they would have been if the issue had been a deadly contagion, except that there was no quarantine required. We should assert that the gonorrhea virulenta, or syphilitic suppuration, was under consideration, were not history against such a supposition.

Verse 9

9. Saddle The original word signifies any thing on which to ride. In

1 Kings 4:26, it is translated chariots; in Song of Solomon 3:10, covering. It occurs only in these places.

Verse 11

11. Rinsed his hands It is generally understood that this act refers to the diseased man. The Greek and Latin versions convey this meaning. The Hebrew is doubtful. The Syriac refers the hand rinsing to the person touched, though it is strange that he should be cleansed by washing his hands when some other part was touched.

Verse 12

12. The vessel of earth… shall be broken The reason for this command will be found in the fact that the earthen vessels in use among the Hebrews were unglazed, and from their porous nature, capable of defilement beyond the possibility of cleansing by washing. See Leviticus 11:33, note.

Verses 13-15

13-15. When he… is cleansed When by any means his issue was healed and his physical purity was restored he was to pass through a ceremonial cleansing after seven days by washing his clothes and bathing his flesh in running, that is, living, water, and by presenting to the priest two turtle doves, or two young pigeons, one for a sin offering and the other for a burnt offering. For the order see Introduction, (5.) The sin offering was required because all natural evil springs more or less directly from moral evil or sin.

An atonement… for his issue The physical defilement needed to be covered from the eye of Infinite Purity, and its moral cause needed expiation, in addition to the satisfaction which should be rendered for duties omitted during the period of uncleanness. Jesus Christ “bare our sicknesses.” Matthew 8:17, note. If we “are complete in him,” (Colossians 2:10,) both body and soul, diseased by sin, are to be ultimately restored by the great Physician.

Verse 16

16. Seed of copulation In the restatement of this law in Deuteronomy 23:10, the impurity is described as involuntary. It is not an infusion, but an effusion. In Luther’s version the words im schlaf, in the sleep, are added. In the light of this precept of the law it would not seem that “the sexual impulses, and their dream images in sleep, are morally wholly indifferent.” The spirit feels disgraced, as though it had lost its kingly sceptre and had been involuntarily dragged about by the wheel of nature, as Hector was dishonoured when his feet were bound to the axle of Achilles’s chariot. Antiquity, from India to Egypt, loathes the dreamer who defiles the flesh. The form of expression, go out from him, does not seem to refer to the solitary vice, masturbation, improperly called Onanism, (Genesis 38:9,) one of the most destructive crimes ever committed by fallen man; and yet it must include this vice. “In many respects,” says Dr.

A. Clarke, “it is several degrees worse than common whoredom, and has in its train more awful consequences, though practised by numbers who would shudder at the thought of criminal connexion with a prostitute. It excites the powers of nature to undue action, and produces violent secretions, which necessarily and speedily exhaust the vital energy. Appetite ceases; nutrition fails, tremors are generated; and the wretched victim, superannuated even before he had time to arrive at man’s estate, debilitated in mind to idiotism, tumbles into the grave, and his guilty soul (guilty of self-murder) is hurried into the awful presence of its Judge.”

Verse 17

17. Every skin Those inhabitants of the East who affect ancient simplicity of manners make use of goatskins for seats and beds. In some cases they take the place of carpets.

Verse 18

18. They shall both bathe There are two opinions respecting this verse. The first is, that it relates to the same pollution as Leviticus 15:16; the second, that it ascribes ceremonial impurity to the most intimate association of matrimony. Keil dissents from the latter opinion on grounds which seem to us insufficient. The design of this statute is doubtless not only to deter from polygamy and unlawful sexual intercourse, but also to set up a safeguard against conjugal excess, which is a sin against the law of the Creator written on the human body and mind. This verse intimates that David, in Psalms 51:5, did not use an Oriental exaggeration. Pravity attaches to man from his conception to his death, unless he be sanctified throughout his “whole spirit and soul and body,” (1 Thessalonians 5:23,) through faith in Christ. Every outflow of nature, even under the holiest sanctions, is not only defiled but defiling. From an impure fountain all the streams are polluting. Circumcision seems to imply that the moral impurity with which the fall of Adam had stained humanity, had concentrated itself in the sexual organs.

Verse 19

19. Seven days This is sufficient to cover the ordinary period of physical impurity. It is worthy of note that no ceremonial cleansing or atonement is required at the expiration of this normal uncleanness, as there is after the healing of an abnormal issue. See Leviticus 15:25; Leviticus 15:30.

Toucheth This word is used in its common signification, and not in the Pauline sense, (1 Corinthians 7:1,) which is treated of in Leviticus 15:24, and especially in Leviticus 20:18, where the penalty of excision is attached.

Verses 19-33


The separation of the woman during the menstrual period is so obviously a sanitary requirement that the custom was not confined to the Hebrews.

Verse 24

24. Flowers Menstrual impurity ignorantly contracted. See Leviticus 15:19, note.

Verse 25

25. Issue of blood many days For the miraculous healing of the bloody flux see Mark 5:25-34, notes. Scarcely second to the physical discomfort of this ailment was the burdensomeness of the ceremonial defilement, secluding the person from society, and putting her nurses and physicians in peril of the same defilement.

Verse 30

30. Atonement for the issue See Leviticus 15:15, note. The least of the bloody sacrifices is demanded because the uncleanness does not indicate such a deep-seated energy of evil as does the leprosy, which required two lambs.

Verse 31

31. That they die not, when they defile my tabernacle These words explain the minute requirements of this chapter. Continuance in uncleanness without the prescribed purification was followed by death, not merely in the case of the unclean man venturing into the sanctuary, but also in the case of all who persisted in defiling Israel, called to be a holy nation. The holy Jehovah had condescended to abide in the midst of Israel.

Nothing offensive or uncomely should be suffered within the sacred precincts of his presence. The trifling spot upon the person must be carefully inspected by the official custodians of the holy place. It was because of his holiness that Jehovah exercised the most jealous care over all the habits of his people, at home and abroad, by day and by night. Their food, their clothing, their most hidden privacy, were under his constant inspection. This elaborate code of ceremonialism was perpetually uttering in the ear of the spiritually-minded Hebrew the sublime cry of the seraphim, “Holy, holy, holy, is the Lord of hosts; the whole earth is full of his glory.”

Isaiah 6:3. To lovers of holiness these restraints would not be irksome, but delightful; while they would be the most intolerable burden to the carnally minded. Thus the Levitical law tested and sifted the Israelites as the requirements of faith in the atoning blood of Christ is the touchstone of character to-day. To the sceptic who declares that this chapter is derogatory to the Divine Being, we reply that it is the office of the Spirit of inspiration to reveal truth by “interpreting spiritual things to spiritual men.”

Bibliographical Information
Whedon, Daniel. "Commentary on Leviticus 15". "Whedon's Commentary on the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/whe/leviticus-15.html. 1874-1909.
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