Leviticus 14&15: Unclean Buildings & Unclean Flesh

God summarizes a few more unclean things for us in Leviticus 14 and 15. This includes buildings and bodily secretions.


When people mention unclean, behaviors, animals, and diseases are likely to pop into your mind. Similarly, when people mention leprosy, skin problems are likely to pop into your mind. Interestingly, houses are described as both unclean and afflicted with leprosy in Leviticus 14. God's instructions concerning uncleanness conclude with a discussion of bodily discharges that make a person unclean in Leviticus 15.

Leprosy of the House

In Leviticus 14, God discusses unclean buildings. I'm sure many of us have seen building that are unkept and seem revoltingly unclean, but God seems to be describing a "plague" that appears in a house. To me, this plague sounds a bit like mold or mildew.

Photocredit: McCroskey
If the plague appeared greenish or reddish, the house was shut up for 7 days then reinspected. Both mildew and mold have a greenish appearance in their most common forms but can appear red as well. If the plague spread during those 7 days, the stones of the house were to be discarded in an unclean place outside the city. They were to patch the area with new stones and new mortar, then check back for a reemergence of the plague. If the plague came back, the priest was to pronounce the house unclean. The house was to be torn apart and the parts disposed of in an unclean place. Anyone who went in the house while it was shut up was unclean until evening, and anyone who ate or lay in the house, was to wash his clothes. If the plague did not return, the priest was to proclaim it clean.

Cleansing Leprosy in a House

Like with a person, to complete the cleansing process of the house there was a sacrifice. Just like cleansing a leper, the sacrifice required 2 clean birds, hyssop, scarlet, and cedar wood. The first bird was killed and the blood poured into an earthen vessel over running water. The hyssop, scarlet, cedar wood, and living bird were to be dipped in the water and blood. The unclean house was to be sprinkled with the blood. The living bird was to be set free outside the city as an atonement for the house.

Bodily Discharge

A range of liquids can come from our body, and we have various reactions to them. For instance, tears generally create an atmosphere of sympathy encouraging hugs, whereas sweat discourages hugs. Regardless of your beliefs, some bodily discharges just seem icky, no matter how natural they are. God specifies certain bodily discharges as unclean and anyone emitting these bodily discharges (i.e. unclean) could not participate in worship.

The first thing God declares as unclean is "a running issue" in men; though it has not been confirmed what this issue is, many believe it is either hemorrhoids or gonorrhea.[1] Not only was the person considered unclean, but anything they came into contact with was considered unclean as well. While the thought of sitting on a bench with layers (underwear and pants) on after someone with such an illness who also had on layers, doesn't make me cringe, the thought of wearing their unwashed clothes does. I'm not sure how many layers the Israelites wore during Moses' era; if it were merely the one piece of cloth for modesty or like the 1800s when people wore several layers of underwear. However, since both ailments can effect men or women, I doubt that is what God was mentioning here. Spit from the unclean person also made one unclean (though this is one of those things that even spit form a clean person seems pretty nasty). Unlike lepers, however, this type of uncleanness did not force the person to leave the camp. Perhaps this is because it was not a visual reminder of imperfection (no one should be seeing "the issue" as it should be covered with clothes). The person was unclean for 7 days after his issue cleared and was to bathe himself and his clothes in water to cleanse himself. On the 8th day, he was to offer 2 turtledoves or pigeons; one for a burnt offering and one for a sin offering.

The second unclean secretion God describes is semen ("seed of copulation"). This section does not require any sacrifices nor specify a period of uncleanness, rather it simply says that the man should wash himself and any thing the semen comes into contact with (which should seems like good hygienic practice to anyone). Also, the woman who slept with the man was to wash herself. As mentioned in the previous post, likely, God wanted to make it clear that sex was not to play part in worship as it did in many pagan religions.

The third secretion God declares to be unclean is menstrual blood—yet another thing that no matter how natural, you don't get warm fuzzy feelings about touching. During that time of the month, women were to be set apart for 7 days and anything they sat upon was considered unclean. Any man that lay with her during that time was also unclean (for 7 days). Again, if you think about the fact that pads, tampons, and menstrual cups had not been invented yet, simply bleeding through clothes does seem like it would warrant being set apart. One positive is that you would never be expected to work while you had cramps! Like the issue of semen for men, no sacrifice was necessary. I would assume that the reason the woman was set apart while the man was not is related to the heaviness and consistency of the flow.

The fourth an final unclean secretion God talks about, relates to that above. The next passage describes bleeding outside of the normal cycle. In this case, the issue of blood lasted more than the usual time, and the woman would owe a sacrifice just as in the first issue discussed.


  1. Thomas Nelson Publisher. KJV Study Bible. pg 225-227. 1998

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