Leviticus 14

The Word Made Fresh

1The LORD told Moses, 2“When someone with leprosy is healed, he or she must be brought to the priest, 3and the priest will take them out of the camp to examine them. If the priest determines that the disease is gone, this ritual must be performed: 4Two living birds acceptable for sacrifices, a piece of cedar, some crimson yarn, and hyssop must be brought for the one who is healed. 5The priest will order that one of the birds be slaughtered over a clay bowl of fresh water. 6Then he will take the living bird along with the other items and dip them in the blood of the bird that was killed. 7He will sprinkle the person who is healed with the blood seven times, and then pronounce him or her restored, and then release the living bird to fly away. 8The one who was healed will then wash his or her clothes and shave off all their hair and bathe in water and be cleansed. 9After that, the one who is healed may enter the camp, but then must stay outside his or her tent for seven days. 10On the eighth day they must bring two unblemished male lambs and one unblemished female lamb less than a year old, plus a grain offering of six quarts of flour mixed with oil and two thirds of a pint of oil. 11The priest who pronounced the person well will bring the person and the offerings before the LORD at the entrance to the sanctuary. 12Then the priest will offer one of the lambs as a guilt offering along with the oil and raise them up before the LORD. 13Then he shall slaughter the lamb in the place where the guilt and burnt offerings are slaughtered. It is a guilt offering, and most sacred. It belongs to the priest. 14Then the priest will take some of the blood and mark the right ear, thumb, and big toe of the one who is healed. 15Next, the priest will pour some of the oil in his left hand, 16dip his right forefinger in it and sprinkle it seven times before the LORD. 17With the oil remaining in his hand he will mark the person’s right earlobe, right forefinger, and right big toe on top of the blood with which they have been marked. 18The oil that remains in his hand he will place on the head of the person who is healed and thus restore that person to a right relationship with the LORD. 19Then the priest will offer the guilt offering and the person who is healed will be restored to the LORD, 20then the priest will offer the burnt offering and grain offering on the altar and the person will be fully restored.

21“If the healed person is poor and can’t afford all of that, he or she may bring: one male lamb for a guilt offering; two quarts of fine flour mixed with oil for a grain offering; two thirds of a pint of oil; 22two doves or pigeons if they can afford it, one for a guilt offering and one for a burnt offering. 23They should be brought on the eighth day to the priest at the entrance to the sanctuary. 24The priest will take the lamb and the oil and raise them up before the LORD, 25then slaughter the lamb  the guilt offering, and use some of its blood to dab on the person’s right earlobe, right thumb, and right big toe. 26Then the priest will pour some of the oil in his left palm 27and sprinkle it seven times before the LORD with his right forefinger. 28Then he will dab some of the oil in his hand on the right earlobe, right forefinger, and right big toe of the one who is healed. 29Then he shall put the rest of the oil in his hand on the person’s head so that he will be restored to a right relationship with the LORD. 30Then the priest will offer 31one of the birds for a guilt offering and the other for a burnt offering and thus restore the person to a right relationship with God. 32This shall be the ritual for the one who has been healed of leprosy and cannot afford the full offerings.”

33Then the LORD spoke to Moses and Aaron: 34“When you settle the land of Canaan which I am giving you, and I put leprosy in one of your houses, 35the owner must tell the priest that there appears to be something like leprosy in the house. 36The priest will order the house emptied to keep the contents from being infected, and then enter the house to examine it. 37He will examine the disease. If there are greenish or reddish spots and it looks deeper than just on the surface, 38the priest will close the house for seven days. 39He will return on the seventh day. If the leprosy has spread in the walls 40the priest will order that the stones on which the disease appears be removed and taken outside the town. 41Then the inside of the house must be scraped, and the plaster dumped outside the town. 42They will replace the stones that were removed with fresh plaster.

43“If the disease breaks out again 44the priest will inspect the house. If the disease has spread it is leprosy, and the house is unsafe. 45The priest will have the house torn down. The stones and plaster and timbers must be carried outside the town to the designated place. 46Anyone who enters the house while it is closed must be isolated until evening, 47and anyone who sleeps in the house or eats in it must wash their clothes.

48“When the priest makes a re-inspection and the leprosy has not spread since the house was plastered, the priest will pronounce it to be safe. 49Then for the ritual cleansing of the house, he will take two birds, cedarwood, crimson yarn, and hyssop, 50slaughter one of the birds over fresh water in a clay bowl, 51dip the wood, yarn, hyssop, and living bird in the blood of the slaughtered bird and fresh water and sprinkle the house seven times. 52Then the house will be safe, 53and he will release the living bird outside the city into the open countryside.

54“These are the rituals to be observed for cleansing leprosy in a person’s skin, 55in clothing and in houses, 56or for a swollen or oozing spot, 57in order to determine whether or not there is leprosy.”

Commentary

1-9: While chapter 13 has to do mostly with diagnosis, this chapter moves on to specify the rituals of purification for skin diseases and what they considered similar maladies in articles of clothing and in the walls of houses – what we would probably call mold and mildew. A man or woman who has been pronounced by the priest to be “clean” of leprosy has to undergo a public ritual to demonstrate their new condition. They are taken out of the camp (actually, if they have been pronounced “unclean” they are already out of the camp) and examined by the priest. If they are “clean,” two birds are brought (the text doesn’t say who is responsible for purchasing the birds) along with a block of cedar, a length of crimson yarn and a branch of hyssop (a shrub that grows in arid conditions). One of the birds is to be slaughtered over a clay bowl of fresh water. The other bird, the cedar, and the hyssop are dipped in the bloody water and the subject is sprinkled with it seven times. Then the priest pronounces them “clean” and the living bird is released. They are to wash clothes and shave off all their hair and bathe. They can then return to the camp, but not to their tents. They must wait seven days, shave again, wash their clothes and bathe again, and that does the trick.

10-20: But not completely. The next day the subject must bring two male lambs and one female yearling lamb, a grain offering and a “log” of oil to the priest, who presents all of it at the tent of meeting. One of the lambs is slaughtered for a guilt offering. The subject’s ear lobe, thumb, and big toe are dabbled with the blood and also with the oil. The rest of the oil is put on the subject’s head. Then another lamb is slaughtered for a sin offering. It is very difficult to be restored to full participation in the community if you ever have the misfortune of being diagnosed with leprosy.

21-32: If the subject is poor, only one male lamb need be brought, along with two pigeons or doves and a grain offering with oil. The lamb is slaughtered for a guilt offering. The blood and oil are dabbled on the subject. The birds are offered, one as a sin offering and the other as a burnt offering.

33-42: Once they settle in the land and move into houses built with stones, certain procedures are specified if mold or mildew are found in a house.

43-47: If that doesn’t do the trick the house is to be torn apart and hauled out to the city dump.

48-57: If, upon further inspection the house remains free of the mold and mildew, a ritual is prescribed by which two birds are offered as sacrifices to signify that the house is okay to live in once again. Such are the rules when a person or a house or clothing is found to be infested with a “leprous” condition.

Takeaway

God’s instructions for maintaining cleanliness and health among the people are detailed and quaint, and we smile at such procedures today, but the rules of cleanliness given here are well ahead of other peoples in the region and will contribute to Israel’s long tenure in the Holy Land. God watches out for God’s people.