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Leviticus 14-15: Unclean Buildings & Unclean Flesh

Original Publication Date
January 30, 2016
Updated
Jan 10, 2023 1:24 AM
Tags
LeviticusChapter StudyClean and Unclean
Bible References
Leviticus 14; 15
Status
Done
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Table of Contents
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This page was originally posted on my Blogger version of the blog on January 30, 2016 The content below has a few minor tweaks for clarity, and additional references, and some updated information.

Introduction

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.

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.

β€œRunning Issue”

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] However, since both ailments can effect men or women, I doubt that is what God was mentioning here.

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 on (underwear and pants) 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' eraβ€”one piece of cloth for modesty or like the 1800s when people wore several layers of underwear. 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 eighth day, he was to offer 2 turtledoves or pigeons; one for a burnt offering and one for a sin offering.

Semen

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.

Menstrual Blood

The third secretion God declares to be unclean is menstrual bloodβ€”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.

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Reading this in 2022 I’d like to add two more thoughts: 1. Both men and women were considered unclean for natural bodily emissions (semen and menstrual blood); people often focus on women but there is equality in stating both are unclean. 2. Another possible reason for women being set apart even though men were not is to give us an excuse to relax during that time. Now that I have a job that has unlimited sick days, I always take the first day off and it has helped my less pleasant symptoms.

Extra Menstrual Blood

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

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There are natural causes for bleeding outside of the usual cycle, like Endometriosis, cysts, or hormone fluctuations. Other causes of irregular bleeding could be from sickness (e.g., cancer), man-made interventions (e.g. contraception), or miscarriage. (This is not an exhaustive list.) My best guess is that the irregular bleeding required a sacrifice because it is a reminder of us living in a fallen world.

References and Footnotes

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

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