Make Leviticus Great Again – Part IV (Leviticus 14)

The last three blogs have weighed heavily on the Fall of humanity in the Garden of Eden. However, the author shifts gears in Leviticus 14. He is still dealing with skin diseases but gives a hyperlink to Noah and the Flood. This section, in particular, deals with the laws of cleansing skin disease and a house infected. It could not heal the disease but it would make them ritually pure again to join the worshiping community. The procedure was the same for both (14:4-7; 49-53):

  • The priest takes two clean birds and slaughters one over flowing water in a clay pot.
  • The priest takes the living bird and dips it in the blood of the sacrificed bird with cedar-wood, scarlet yarn and hyssop (a type of plant), over the fresh water.
  • The person/house to be cleansed was sprinkled seven times with the sacrificed birds blood. Seven is a number of perfection in Scripture. It means complete purification.
  • The live bird is released in an open field.

That sounds pretty awful, doesn’t it?

I like birds and I’m not crazy about having animal blood sprinkled on me once, much less seven times. And I doubt any of us would want blood tossed around our homes.

This is a good time to remind you this was a completely different world in a completely different time in history. What seems strange to us would have been considered normal to them. Just because something is different does not make it wrong. Okay, we are back in it. 

One Hebrew word of interest, is fresh (חי) water (vv. 5, 51). It is a word that means, “life, living” (Lexham Theological Wordbook). It is the same word used to describe the living (חי) bird. It is in reference to water taken from a natural, flowing body of water. The King James Version uses the word running water.

Enough of the preliminary stuff. John Sailhamer shows the story of the Flood (Gen. 6-9) with the purification laws (Lev. 14).

  • The waters of the Flood were used to cleanse the land of every creature that had corrupted its way on earth (Gen. 6:12). The primary means of cleansing diseased flesh was water. It is used seven times in Leviticus 14 (vv. 5, 6, 8, 9, 50, 51, 52). There is a system of sevens found in the laws of this book.
  • The ark was plastered with pitch inside (מבית) and out (מחץ) (Gen. 6:14). The house was plastered with clay after the soiled material was removed inside (מבית) and taken outside (מחןץ) of the city (Lev. 14:41-42).
  • Noah waited at the door of the ark for seven days (Gen. 7:4, 10). The priest waited at the door of the house for seven days (Lev. 14:38).
  • Noah waited for the bird for two sets of sevens (Gen. 8:10, 12). The one to be cleansed waited for two series of sevens (Lev. 14:7-8).
  • Two birds were sent out of the ark and flew over the dry land (Gen. 8:7-9). The raven was an unclean bird (Lev. 11:15) and the dove was a clean bird. In Leviticus 14, two “clean birds” were taken. One was slaughtered “over water” and the other was released “over the face of the field.” The slain bird, a sin offering (14:52), takes away the uncleanness; the other bird goes free.
  • A sacrifice was offered at the conclusion (Gen. 6:20). A sacrifice was offered at the conclusion (Lev. 14:10, 21).
  • Noah offered a “clean animal” and a “clean bird” on the altar (Gen. 8:20). The one to be cleansed offered a male lamb (animal) and two doves (birds) on the altar (Lev. 14:21-22).

I would say that is a lot of “coincidences.” Trust me, it is intentional. But what does it mean?

The need for purification is the overall theme of Leviticus 14 and the Noahic Flood. Both are trying to bring an end to the spread of disease – corruption (Gen. 6:12) and skin disease (Lev. 14:2). Yet, despite the purification of the earth, sin remained (Gen. 9:20-25). Not matter how many people and homes were cleansed after a skin disease, people still needed to be purified.

Running, flowing, and even turbulent, water was important in both narratives. Both were agents to purify that which was corrupt. The same with the sacrifice of animals. Blood and water run through both narratives. The continual need for water purification and blood sacrifice never ended.

Jesus came to stop corruption and death to save humanity once and for all.

He passed through the waters to fulfill all righteousness (Matt. 3:13-15). John’s baptism of repentance was to identify with the kingdom of God. By being immersed, Jesus identified with the people of this movement. The Messiah did not need to be baptized for forgiveness of sin, but by His coming death (sacrifice, offering) He took our punishment of sin/corruption so we could exchange it for His pure life. Blood and water.

The cleansing laws of Leviticus 14, could not heal someone of skin diseases, it could only make them clean once the disease was gone. But Jesus did something the law could not do, He healed those infected. In Mark 2, Jesus heals a man with a serious skin disease (v. 40) who had begged Him to make him clean. He is told to go to the priests so he could be declared pure based on Leviticus 14. The Messiah proved His power, not only to cleanse but to remove the disease that make one unclean!

And now, through the baptism of the Spirit and fire (Matt. 3:11), we are not only forgiven of our sins but we receive His Spirit in us (Acts 2:38). Living waters (Jn. 4:13-14)! The Spirit of God continues to purify as fire purifies precious metals. The Spirit continues to burn away those things in our lives that are unclean. Right after Paul say we are the Temple of the living God (II Cor. 6:16-18), he says:

II Corinthians 7:1, Therefore, dear friends, since we have such promises, let us cleanse ourselves from every impurity the flesh and spirit, completing our sanctification in the fear of God. (emphasis mine)

It is a call to holiness.

Yes, that is the theme of the book of Leviticus and that is what the Son and the Spirit came to bring in our lives so we can come into the presence of the Father.

Blood and water.

*All Scripture quoted from the Holman Christian Standard Bible

*Blog resources: The Pentateuch as Narrative by John H. Sailhamer

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