corner graphic   Hi,    
ver. 2.0.19.11.17
Finding the new version too difficult to understand? Go to classic.studylight.org/

Bible Commentaries

Expositor's Bible Commentary
Leviticus 14

 

 

Verses 1-32

THE CLEANSING OF THE LEPER

Leviticus 14:1-32

THE ceremonies for the restoration of the leper, when healed of his disease, to full covenant privileges, were comprehended in two distinct series. The first part of the ceremonial took place without the camp, and sufficed only to terminate his condition as one ceremonially dead, and allow of his return into the camp, and his association, though still under restriction, with his fellow Israelites. The second part of the ceremonial took up his case on the eighth day thereafter, where the former ceremonial had left him, as a member, indeed, of the holy people, but a member still under defilement such as debarred him from approach to the presence of Jehovah; and, by a fourfold offering and an anointing, restored him to the full enjoyment of all his covenant privileges before God.

This law for the cleansing of the leper certainly implies that the disease, although incurable by human skill, yet, whether by the direct power of God, as in several instances in Holy Scripture, or for some cause unknown, might occasionally cease its ravages. In this case, although the visible effects of the disease might still remain, in mutilations and scars, yet he would be none the less a healed man. That occasionally instances have occurred of such arrest of the disease, is attested by competent observers, and the law before us thus provides for the restoration of the leper in such cases to the position from which his leprosy had excluded him.

The first part of the ceremonial (Leviticus 14:3-9) took place without the camp; for until legally cleansed the man was in the sight of the law still a leper, and therefore under sentence of banishment from the congregation of Israel. Thus, as the outcast could not go to the priest, the priest, on receiving word of his desire, went to him. For the ceremony which was to be performed, he provided himself with two living, clean birds, and with cedar wood, and scarlet, and hyssop; also he took with him an earthen vessel filled with living water, -i.e., with water from some spring or flowing stream, and therefore presumably pure and clean. One of the birds was then killed in such a manner that its blood was received into the vessel of water; then the living bird and the hyssop-bound, as we are told, with the scarlet band to the cedar wood-were dipped into the mingled blood and water, and by them the leper was sprinkled therewith seven times by the priest, and was then pronounced clean; when the living bird, stained with the blood of the bird that was killed, was allowed to fly away. Thereupon, the leper washed his clothes, shaved off all his hair, bathed in water, and entered the camp. This completed the first stadium of his restoration.

Certain things about this symbolism seem very clear. First of all, whereas the leper, afflicted, as it were, with a living death, had become, as regards Israel, a man legally dead, the sprinkling with blood, in virtue of which he was allowed to take his place again in the camp as a living Israelite, symbolised the impartation of life; and, again, inasmuch as death is defiling, the blood was mingled with water, the uniform symbol of cleansing. The remaining symbols emphasise thoughts closely related to these. The cedar wood (or juniper), which is almost incorruptible, signified that with this new life was imparted also freedom from corruption. Scarlet, as a colour, is the constant symbol, again, like the blood, of life and health. What the hyssop was is still in debate; but we can at least safely say that it was a plant supposed to have healing and purifying virtues.

So far all is clear. But what is the meaning of the slaying of the one bird, and the loosing afterward of the other, moistened with the blood of its fellow? Some have said that both of the birds symbolised the leper: the one which was slain, the leper as he was, -namely, as one dead, or under sentence of death by his plague; the other, naturally, then, the leper as healed, who, even as the living bird is let fly whither it will, is now set at liberty to go where he pleases. But when we consider that it is by means of being sprinkled with the blood of the slain bird that the leper is cleansed, it seems quite impossible that this slain bird should typify the leper in his state of defilement. Indeed, if this bird symbolised him as under his disease, this supposition seems even absurd; for the blood which cleansed must then have represented his own blood, and his blood as diseased and unclean!

Neither is it possible that the other bird, which was set at liberty, should represent the leper as healed, and its release, his liberation; however plausible, at first thought, this explanation may seem. For the very same ceremony as this with. the two birds was also to be used in the cleansing of a leprous house (Leviticus 14:50-53), where it is evident that the loosing of the living bird could not have any. such significance; since the notion of a liberty given would be wholly inapplicable in the case of a house. But whatever the true meaning of the symbolism may be, it is clear that it must be one which will apply equally well in each of the two cases, the cleansing of the leprous house, no less than that of the leprous person.

We are therefore compelled to regard the slaying of the one bird as a true sacrifice. No doubt there are difficulties in the way, but they do not seem insuperable, and are, in any case, less than those which beset other suppositions. It is true that the birds are not presented before Jehovah in the tabernacle; but as the ceremony took place outside the camp, and therefore at a distance from the tabernacle, this may be explained as merely because of the necessity of the case. It is true, again, that the choice of the bird was not limited, as in the tabernacle sacrifices, to the turtledove or pigeon; but it might easily be that when, as in this case, the sacrifice was elsewhere than at the tabernacle, the rules for service there did not necessarily apply. Finally and decisively, when we turn to the law for the cleansing of the leprous house, we find that atoning virtue is explicitly ascribed to this rite with the birds (Leviticus 14:53): "He shall make atonement for the house."

But sacrifice is here presented in a different aspect from elsewhere in the law. In this ceremonial the central thought is not consecration through sacrifice, as in the burnt offering; nor expiation of guilt through sacrifice, as in the sin offering; nor yet satisfaction for trespass committed, as in the guilt offering. It is sacrifice as procuring for the man for whom it is offered purity and life, which is the main thought.

But, according to Leviticus 14:52-53, the atonement is made with both the dead and the living bird. The special thought which is emphasised by the use of the latter, seems to be merely the full completeness of the work of cleansing which has been accomplished through the death of the other bird. For the living bird was represented as ideally identified with the bird which was slain, by being dipped in its blood; and in that it was now loosed from its captivity, this was in token of the fact that the bird, having now given its life to impart cleansing and life to the leper, has fully accomplished that end.

Obviously, this explanation is one that will apply no less readily to the cleansing of the leprous house than of the leprous person. For the leprosy in the house signifies the working of corruption and of decay and death in the wall of the house, in a way adapted to its nature, as really as in the case of the person; and the ceremonial with the birds and other material prescribed means the same with it as with the other, -namely, the removal of the principle of corruption and disease, and impartation of purity and wholesomeness. In both cases the sevenfold sprinkling, as in analogous cases elsewhere in the law, signified the completeness of the cleansing. to which nothing was lacking, and also certified to the leper that by this impartation of new life, and by his cleansing, he was again brought into covenant relations with Jehovah.

With these ceremonies, the leper’s cleansing was now in so far effected that he could enter the camp; only he must first cleanse himself and his clothes with water and shave his hair, -ceremonies which, in their primary meaning, are most naturally explained by the importance of an actual physical cleansing in such a case. Every possible precaution must be taken that by no chance he bring the contagion of his late disease into the camp. Of what special importance in this connection, besides the washing, is the shaving of the hair, will be apparent to all who know how peculiarly retentive is the hair of odours and infections of every kind.

The cleansed man might now come into the camp; he is restored to his place as a living Israelite. And yet he may not come to the tabernacle. For even an Israelite might not come, if defiled for the dead; and this is precisely the leper’s status at this point. Though delivered from the power of death, there is yet persisting such a connection of his new self with his old leprous self as precludes him from yet entering the more immediate presence of God. The reality of this analogy will appear to anyone who compares the rites which now follow (Leviticus 14:10-20) with those appointed for the Nazarite, when defiled by the dead. {Numbers 6:9-12}

Seven days, then, as in that case, he remains away from the tabernacle. On the seventh day, he again shaves himself even to the eyebrows, thus ensuring the most absolute cleanness, and washes himself and his clothes in water. The final restoration ceremonial took place on the eighth day, -the day symbolic of the new creation, -when he appeared before Jehovah at the tent of meeting with a he-lamb for a guilt offering, and another for a sin offering, and an ewe-lamb for a burnt offering; also a meal offering of three tenth-deals, one tenth for each sacrifice, mingled with oil, and a log (3.32 qts.) of oil. The oil was then waved for a wave offering before the Lord, as also the whole lamb of the guilt offering (an unusual thing), and then the lamb was slain and offered after the manner of the guilt offering.

And now followed the most distinctive part of the ceremonial. As in the case of the consecration of the priests was done with the blood of the peace offering and with the holy oil, so was it done here with the blood of the guilt offering and with the common oil-now by its waving consecrated to Jehovah-which the cleansed leper had brought. The priest anoints the man’s right ear, the thumb of his right hand, and the great toe of his right foot, first with the blood of the guilt offering, and then with the oil, having previously sprinkled of the oil seven times with his finger before the Lord. The remnant of the oil in the hand of the priest he then pours upon the cleansed leper’s head; then offers for him the sin offering, the burnt offering, and the meal offering; and therewith, at last, the atonement is complete, and the man is restored to his full rights and privileges as a living member of the people of the living God.

The chief significance of this ceremonial lies in the prominence given to the guilt offering. This is evidenced, not only by the special and peculiar use which is made of its blood, in applying it to the leper, but also in the fact that in the case of the poor man, while the other offerings are diminished, there is no diminution allowed as regards the lamb of the guilt offering, and the log of oil. Why should the guilt offering have received on this occasion such a place of special prominence? The answer has been rightly given by those who point to the significance of the guilt offering as representing reparation and satisfaction for loss of service due. By the fact of the man’s leprosy, and consequent exclusion from the camp of Israel, God had been, for the whole period of his excision, defrauded, so to speak, of His proper dues from him in respect of service and offerings; and the guilt offering precisely symbolised satisfaction made for this default in service which he had otherwise been able to render.

Nor is it a fatal objection to this understanding of the matter that, on this principle, he also that for a long time had had an issue should have been required, for his prolonged default of service, to bring a guilt offering in order to his restoration; whereas from him no such demand was made. For the need, before the law, for the guilt offering lay, not in the duration of the leprosy, as such apprehend it, but in the nature of the leprosy, as being, unlike any other visitation, in a peculiar sense, a death in life. Even when the man with an issue was debarred from the sanctuary, he was not, like the leper, regarded by the law as a dead man; but was still counted among them that were living in Israel And if precluded for an indefinite time from the service and worship of God at the tabernacle, he yet, by his public submission to the demands of the law, in the presence of all, rendered still to God the honour due from a member of the living Israel. But in that the leper, unlike any other defiled person, was reckoned ceremonially dead, obviously consistency in the symbolism made it impossible to regard him as having in any sense rendered honour or service to God so long as he continued a leper, any more than if he had been dead and buried. Therefore he must bring a guilt offering, as one who had, however unavoidably, committed "a trespass in the holy things of the Lord." And so this guilt offering, in the case of the leper, as in all others, represented the satisfaction of debt; and as the reality or the amount of a debt cannot be affected by the poverty of the debtor, the offering which symbolised satisfaction for the debt must be the same for the poor leper as for the rich leper.

And the application of the blood to ear, hand, and foot meant the same as in the case of the consecration of the priests. Inducted, as one now risen from the dead, into the number of the priestly people, he receives the priestly consecration, devoting ear, hand, and foot to the service of the Lord. And as it was fitting that the priests, because brought into a relation of special nearness to God, in order to be ministers of reconciliation to Israel, should therefore be consecrated with the blood of the peace offering, which specially emphasised the realisation of reconciliation, -so the cleansed leper, who was reestablished as a living member of the priestly nation, more especially by the blood of the guilt offering, was therefore fittingly represented as consecrated in virtue, and by means of that fact.

So, like the priests, he also was anointed by the priest with oil; not indeed with the holy oil, for he was not admitted to the priestly order; yet with common oil, sanctified by its waving before God, in token of his consecration as a member of the priestly people. Especially suitable in his case was this anointing, that the oil constantly stands as a symbol of healing virtue, which in his experience he had so wondrously received.

Remembering in all this how the leprosy stands as a preeminent type of sin, in its aspect as involving death and corruption, the application of these ceremonies to the antitypical cleansing, at least in its chief aspects, is almost self-evident. As in all the Levitical types, so in this case, at the very entrance on the redeemed life stands the sacrifice of a life, and the service of a priest as mediator between God and man. Blood must be shed if the leper is to be admitted again into covenant standing with God; and the blood of the sacrifice in the law ever points to the sacrifice of Christ. But that great Sacrifice may be regarded in various aspects. Sin is a many-sided evil, and on every side it must be met. As often repeated, because sin as guilt requires expiation, hence the type of the sin offering; in that it is a defrauding of God of His just rights from us, satisfaction is required, hence the type of the guilt offering; as it is absence of consecration, life for self instead of life for God, hence the type of the burnt offering. And yet the manifold aspects of sin are not all enumerated. For sin, again, is spiritual death; and, as death, it involves corruption and defilement. It is with special reference to this fact that the work of Christ is brought before us here. In the clean bird, slain that its blood may be applied to the leper for cleansing, we see typified Christ, as giving Himself, that His very life may be imparted to us for our life. In that the blood of the bird is mingled with water, the symbol of the Word of God, is symbolised the truth, that with the atoning blood is ever inseparably united the purifying energy of the Holy Ghost through the Word. Not the water without the blood, nor the blood without the water, saves, but the blood with the water, and the water with the blood. So it is said of Him to whom the ceremony pointed: {1 John 5:6} "This is He that came by water and blood, even Jesus Christ; not with the water only, but with the water and with the blood."

But the type yet lacks something for completeness; and for this reason we have the second bird, who, when by his means the blood has been sprinkled on the leper, and the man is now pronounced clean, is released and flies away heavenward. What a beautiful symbol of that other truth, without which even the atonement of the Lord were naught, that He who died, having by that death for us procured our life was then released from the bonds of death, rising from the dead on the third day, and ascending to heaven, like the freed bird, in token that His life-giving, cleansing, work was done. Thus the message which, as the liberated bird flies carolling away, sweet as a heavenly song, seems to fall upon the ear, is this, "Delivered up for our trespasses, and raised for our justification." {Romans 4:25; see Gr.}

But although thus and then restored to his standing as a member of the living people of God, not yet was the cleansed leper allowed to appear in the presence of God at the tent of meeting. There was a delay of a week, and only then, on the eighth day, the day typical of resurrection and new creation, does He appear before God. Is there typical meaning in this delay? We would not be too confident. It is quite possible that this delay of a week, before the cleansed man was allowed to present himself for the completion of the ceremonial which reinstated him in the plenary enjoyment of all the rights and privileges of a child of Israel, may have been intended merely as a precautionary rule, of which the purpose was to guard against the possibility of infection, and the defilement of the sanctuary by his presence, through renewed activity of the disease; while, at the same time, it would serve as a spiritual discipline to remind the man, now cleansed, of the extreme care and holy fear with which, after his defilement, he should venture into the presence of the Holy One of Israel; and thus, by analogy, it becomes a like lesson to the spiritually cleansed in all ages.

But perhaps we may see a deeper significance in this week of delay, and his appointed appearance before the Lord on the eighth day. If the whole course of the leper, from the time of his infection till his final reappearing in the presence of Jehovah at the tent of meeting, be intended to typify the history and experience of a sinner as saved from sin; and if the cleansing of the leper without the camp, and his reinstatement thereupon as a member of God’s Israel, represents in type the judicial reinstatement of the cleansed sinner, through the application of the blood and Spirit of Christ, in the number of God’s people; one can then hardly fail to recognise in the week’s delay appointed to him, before he could come into the immediate presence of God, an adumbration of the fact that between the sinner’s acceptance and the appointed time of his appearing, finally and fully cleansed, before the Lord, on the resurrection morning, there intervenes a period of delay, even the whole lifetime of the believer here in the flesh and in the disembodied state. For only thereafter does he at last, wholly perfected, appear before God in the heavenly Zion. But before thus appearing, the accepted man once and again had to cleanse his garments and his person, that so he might remove everything in which by any chance uncleanness might still lurk. Which, translated into New Testament language, gives us the charge of the Apostle Paul {2 Corinthians 7:1} addressed to those who had indeed received the new life, but were still in the flesh: "Let us cleanse ourselves from all defilement of flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God."

But, at last, the week of delay is ended. After its seventh day follows an eighth, the first-day morning of a new week, the morning typical of resurrection and therewith completed redemption, and the leper now, completely restored, appears before God in the holy tabernacle. Even so shall an eighth-day morning dawn for all who by the cleansing blood have been received into the number of God’s people. And when that day comes, then, even as when the cleansed man appeared at the tent of meeting, he presented guilt offering, sin offering, and burnt offering, as the warrant for his presence there, and the ground of his acceptance, so shall it be in that day of resurrection, when every one of God’s once leprous but now washed and accepted children shall appear in Zion before Him. They will all appear there as pleading the blood, the precious blood of Christ; Christ, at last apprehended and received by them in all His fulness, as expiation, satisfaction, and righteousness. For so John represents it in the apocalyptic vision of the blood-washed multitude in the heavenly glory: {Revelation 7:14-15} "These are they which come out of the great tribulation, and they washed their robes, and made them white in the blood of the Lamb. Therefore are they before the throne of God; and they serve Him day and night in His temple."

And as it is written {Romans 8:11} that the final quickening of our mortal bodies shall be accomplished by the Spirit of God, so the leper, now in God’s presence, receives a special anointing; a type of the unction of the Holy Ghost in resurrection power, consecrating the once leprous ear, hand, and foot, and therewith the whole body, now cleansed from all defilement, to the glad service of Jehovah our God and our Redeemer.

Such, in outline at least, appears to be the typical significance of this ceremonial of the cleansing of the leper. Some details are indeed still left unexplained, but, probably, the whole reason for some of the regulations is to be formal in the immediate practical necessities of the leper’s condition.


Verses 33-53

OF LEPROSY IN A GARMENT OR HOUSE

Leviticus 13:47-59;, Leviticus 14:33-53

"The garment also that the plague of leprosy is in, whether it be a woollen garment, or a linen garment; whether it be in warp, or woof; of linen, or of woollen; whether in a skin, or in any thing made of skin; if the plague be greenish or reddish in the garment, or in the skin, or in the warp, or in the woof, or in any thing of skin; it is the plague of leprosy, and shall be shewed unto the priest: and the priest shall look upon the plague, and shut up that which hath the plague seven days: and he shall look on the plague on the seventh day: if the plague be spread in the garment, either in the warp, or in the woof, or in the skin, whatever service skin is used for; the plague is a fretting leprosy; it is unclean. And he shall burn the garment, whether the warp or the woof, in woollen or in linen, or any thing of skin, wherein the plague is: for it is a fretting leprosy; it shall be burnt in the fire. And if the priest shall look, and, behold, the plague be not spread in the garment, either in the warp, or in the woof, or in any thing of skin then the priest shall command that they wash the thing wherein the plague is, and he shall shut it tip seven days more: and the priest shall look, after that the plague is washed: and, behold, if the plague have not changed its colour, and the plague be not spread, it is unclean thou shalt burn it in the fire; it is a fret, whether the bareness be with n or without. And if the priest look, and, behold, the plague be dim after the washing thereof, then he shall rend it out of the garment, or out of the skin, or out of the warp, or out of the woof: and if it appear still in the garment, either in the warp, or in the woof, or in any thing of skin, it is breaking out: thou shalt burn that wherein the plague is with fire. And the garment, either the warp, or the woof, or whatsoever thing of skin it he, which thou shalt wash, if the plague be departed from them, then it shall be washed the second time, and shall be clean. This is the law of the plague of leprosy in a garment of woollen or linen, either in the warp, or the woof, or any thing of skin, to pronounce it clean, or to pronounce it unclean And the Lord spake unto Moses and unto Aaron, saying, When ye be come into the land of Canaan, which I give to you for a possession, and I put the plague of leprosy in a house of the land of your possession; then he that owneth the house shall come and tell the priest, saying, There seemeth to me to be as it were a plague in the house: and the priest shall command that they empty the house, before the priest go in to see the plague, that all that is in the house be not made unclean: and afterward the priest shall go in to see the house: and he shall look on the plague, and, behold, if the plague be in the walls of the house with hollow strakes, greenish or reddish, and the appearance thereof be lower than the wall; then the priest shall go out of the house to the door of the house, and shut up the house seven days: and the priest shall come again the seventh day, and shall look: and, behold, if the plague be spread in the walls of the house; then the priest shall command that they take out the stones in which the plague is, and cast them into an unclean place without the city: and he shall cause the house to be scraped within round about, and they shall pour out the mortar that they serape off without the city into an unclean place: and they shall take other stones, and put them in the place of those stones; and he shall take other mortar and shall plaister the house. And if the plague come again, and break out in the house, after that he hath taken out the stones, and after he hath scraped the house, and after it is plaistered; then the priest shall come in and look, and, behold, if the plague be spread in the house, it is a fretting leprosy in the house: it is unclean. And he shall break down the house, the stones of it, and the timber thereof, and all the mortar of the house; and he shall carry them forth out of the city into an unclean place. Moreover he that goeth into the house all the while that it is shut up shall be unclean until the even. And he that lieth in the house shall wash his clothes; and he that eateth in the house shall wash his clothes. And if the priest shall come in, and look, and, behold, the plague hath not spread in the house, after the house was plaistered; then the priest shall pronounce the house clean, because the plague is healed. And he shall take to cleanse the house two birds, and cedar wood, and scarlet, and hyssop: and he shall kill one of the birds in an earthen vessel over running water: and he shall take the cedar wood, and the hyssop, and the scarlet, and the living bird, and dip them in the blood of the slain bird, and in the running water, and sprinkle the house seven times: and he shall cleanse the house with the blood of the bird, and with the running water, and with the living bird, and with the cedar wood, and with the hyssop, and with the scarlet: but he shall let go the living bird out of the city into the open field: so shall he make atonement for the house: and it shall be clean."

There has been much debate as to what we are to understand by the leprosy in the garment or in a house. Was it an affection identical in nature with the leprosy of the body? or was it merely so called from a certain external similarity to that plague?

However extraordinary the former supposition might once have seemed, in the present state of medical science we are at least able to say that there is nothing inconceivable in it. We have abundant experimental evidence that a large number of diseases, and, not improbably, leprosy among them, are caused by minute parasitic forms of vegetable life; and, also, that in many cases these forms of life may, and do, exist and multiply in various other suitable media besides the fluids and tissues of the human body. If, as is quite likely, leprosy be caused by some such parasitic life in the human body, it is then evidently possible that such parasites, under favourable conditions of heat, moisture, etc., should exist and propagate themselves, as in other analogous cases, outside the body; as, for instance, in cloth, or leather, or in the plaster of a house; in which case it is plain that such garments or household implements, or such dwellings, as might be thus infected, would be certainly unwholesome, and presumably capable of communicating the leprosy to the human subject. But we have not yet sufficient scientific observation to settle the question whether this is really so; we can, however, safely say that, in any case, the description which is here given indicates a growth in the affected garment or house of some kind of mould or mildew; which, as we know, is a form of life produced under conditions which always imply an unwholesome state of the article or house in which it appears. We also know that if such growths be allowed to go on unchecked, they involve more or less rapid processes of decomposition in that which is affected. Thus, even from a merely natural point of view, one can see the high wisdom of the Divine King of Israel in ordering that, in all such cases, the man whose garment or house was thus affected should at once notify the priest, who was to come and decide whether the appearance was of a noxious and unclean kind or not, and then take action accordingly.

Whether the suspicious spot were in a house or in some article it contained, the article or house (the latter having been previously emptied) was first shut up for seven days. {Leviticus 13:50, Leviticus 14:38} If in the garment or other article affected it was found then to have spread, it was without any further ceremony to be burnt. {Leviticus 13:51-52} If it had not spread, it was to be washed and shut up seven days more, at the end of which time, even though it had not spread, if the greenish or reddish colour remained unchanged, it was still to be adjudged unclean, and to be burned. {Leviticus 13:55} If, on the other hand, the colour had somewhat "dimmed," the part affected was to he cut out; when, if it spread no further, it was to be washed a second time and be pronounced clean. {Leviticus 13:58} If, however, after the excision of the affected part, the spot appeared again, the article, without further delay, was to be burned. {Leviticus 13:57}

The law, in the case of the appearing of a leprosy in a house, {Leviticus 14:33-53} was much more elaborate. As in the former case, when the occupant of the house suspects, "as it were a plague in the house," he is to go and tell the priest; who is, first of all, to order the emptying of the house before he goes in, lest that which is in the house, should it prove to be the plague, be made unclean (Leviticus 14:36). The diagnosis reminds us of that of the leprosy in the body; greenish or reddish streaks, in appearance "lower than the wall," i.e., deep seated (Leviticus 14:37). Where this is observed, the empty house is to be shut up for seven days (Leviticus 14:38-39); and at the end of that time, if the spot has spread, "the stones in which the plague is" are to be taken out, the plaster scraped off the walls of the house, and all carried out into an unclean place outside of the city, and new stones and new plaster put in the place of the old (Leviticus 14:40-42). If, after this, the plague yet reappear, the house is to be adjudged unclean, and is to be wholly torn down, and all the material carried into an unclean place without the city (Leviticus 14:44-45). If, on the other hand, after this renewal of the interior of the house, the spots do not reappear, the priest "shall pronounce the house clean, because the plague is healed" (Leviticus 14:48). But, unlike the case of the leprous garment, this does not end the ceremonial. It is ordered that the priest shall take to cleanse (lit. "to purge the house from sin") (Leviticus 14:49) two birds, scarlet, cedar, and hyssop, which are then used precisely as in the case of the purgation of the leprous man; and at the end, "he shall let go the living bird out of the city into the open field: so shall he make atonement for the house: and it shall be clean" (Leviticus 14:50-53).

For the time then present, one can hardly fail to see in this ceremonial, first, a merciful sanitary intent. By the observance of these regulations not only was Israel to be saved from many sicknesses and various evils, but was to be constantly reminded that Israel’s God, like a wise and kind Father, had a care for everything that pertained to their welfare; not only for their persons, but also for their dwellings, and even all the various articles of daily use. The lesson is always in force, for God has not changed. He is not a God who cares for the souls of men only, but for their bodies also, and everything around them. His servants do well to remember this, and in this imitate Him, as happily many are doing more and more. Bibles and tracts are good, and religious exhortation; but we have here left us a Divine warrant not to content ourselves with these things alone, but to have a care for the clothing and the homes of those we would reach with the Gospel. In all the large cities of Christendom it must be confessed that the principle which underlies these laws concerning houses and garments, is often terribly neglected. Whether the veritable plague of leprosy be in the walls of many of our tenement houses or not, there can be no doubt that it could not be much worse if it were; and Christian philanthropy and legislation could scarcely do better in many cases than vigorously to enforce the Levitical law, tear down, replaster, or, in many cases, destroy from the foundation, tenement houses which could, with little exaggeration, be justly described as leprous throughout.

But all which is in this law cannot be thus explained. Even the Israelite must have looked beyond this for the meaning of the ordinance of the two birds, the cedar, scarlet, and hyssop, and the "atonement" for the house. He would have easily perceived that not only leprosy in the body, but this leprosy in the garment and the house, was a sign that both the man himself, and his whole environment as well, was subject to death and decay; that, as already he would have learned from the Book of Genesis, even nature was under a curse because of man’s sin; and that, as in the Divine plan, sacrificial cleansing was required for the deliverance of man, so also it was somehow mysteriously required for the cleansing of his earthly abode and surroundings, in default of which purgation they must be destroyed.

And from this to the antitypical truth prefigured by these laws it is but a step; and a step which we take with full New Testament light to guide us. For if the leprosy in the body visibly typified the working of sin and death in the soul of man, then, as clearly, the leprosy in the house must in this law be intended to symbolise the working of sin in the material earthly creation, which is man’s abode. The type thus brings before us the truth which is set forth by the Apostle Paul in Romans 8:20-22, where we are taught in express words that, not man alone, but the whole creation also, because of sin, has come under a "bondage of corruption." "The creation was subjected to vanity, not of its own will, but by reason of him who subjected it For we know that the whole creation groaneth and travaileth in pain together until now." This is one truth which is shadowed forth in this type.

But the type also shows us how, as Scripture elsewhere clearly teaches, if after such partial purgation as was effected by means of the deluge the bondage of corruption still persist, then the abode of man must itself be destroyed; "the earth and the works that are therein shall be burned up." {2 Peter 3:10} Nothing less than fire will suffice to put an end to the working in material nature of this mysterious curse. And yet beyond the fire is redemption. For the atonement shall avail not only for the leprous man, but for the purifying of the leprous abode. The sprinkling of sacrificial blood and water by means of the cedar, and hyssop, and scarlet, and the living bird, which effected the deliverance of the leper, are used also in the same way and for the same end, for the leprous house. And so "according to his promise, we look for new heavens and a new earth, wherein dwelleth righteousness"; {2 Peter 3:13} and it shall be brought in through the virtue of atonement made by a Saviour slain, and applied by a Saviour alive from the dead; so that, as the free bird flies away in token of the full completion of deliverance from the curse, so "the creation itself also shall be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the liberty of the glory of the children of God". {Romans 8:21}

But there was also a leprosy of the garment. If the leprosy in the body typified the effect of sin in the soul, and the leprosy in the house, the effect of sin in the earthly creation, which is man’s home; the leprosy of the garment can scarcely typify anything else than the presence and effects of sin in those various relations in life which constitute our present environment. Whenever, in any of these, we suspect the working of sin, first of all we are to lay the case before the heavenly Priest. And then, if He with the "eyes like a flame of fire" {Revelation 1:14; Revelation 2:16} declare anything unclean, then that in which the stain is found must be without hesitation cut out and thrown away. And if still, after this, we find the evil reappearing, then the whole garment must go, fair and good though the most of it may still appear. In other words, those relations and engagements in which, despite all possible care and precaution, we find manifest sin persistently reappearing, as if there were in them, however inexplicably, an ineradicable tendency to evil, -these we must resolutely put away, "hating even the garment spotted by the flesh."

The leprous garment must be burnt. For its restoration or purification the law made no provision. For here, in the antitype, we are dealing with earthly relationships, which have only to do with the present life and order. "The fashion of this world passeth away". {1 Corinthians 7:31} There shall be "new heavens and a new earth," but in that new creation the old environment shall be found no longer. The old garments, even such as were best, shall be no longer used. The redeemed shall walk with the King and Redeemer, clothed in the white robes which He shall give. No more leprosy then in person, house, or garment! For we shall be set before the presence of the Father’s glory, without blemish, in exceeding joy, "not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing." Wherefore "to the only God our Saviour, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, dominion, and power, before all time, and now, and forevermore. Amen."

 


Copyright Statement
These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.

Bibliography Information
Nicoll, William R. "Commentary on Leviticus 14:4". "Expositor's Bible Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/teb/leviticus-14.html.

Lectionary Calendar
Sunday, November 17th, 2019
the Week of Proper 28 / Ordinary 33
ADVERTISEMENT
Commentary Navigator
Search This Commentary
Enter query in the box below
ADVERTISEMENT
To report dead links, typos, or html errors or suggestions about making these resources more useful use our convenient contact form
Powered by Lightspeed Technology