Introductory Note: Leviticus 8-10 is studied in Lesson 15. There’s some good lessons in there especially Chapter 10 where Aaron’s sons are killed by God when they do not follow His instructions.
Summary of passages: Leviticus 11: God tells Moses and Aaron that the people may only eat animals that have a split hoof completely divided and chews the cud. They may eat any animal that has fins and scales. God lists the birds to not eat. The people may eat only those winged insects that walk on all fours and have jointed legs for hopping. God lists the ground animals that can not be eaten and says do not touch carcasses of dead animals or you will be unclean.
Leviticus 12: A woman who gives birth is ceremonially unclean afterwards. She must wait a certain number of days so that she may quit bleeding and then offer a sacrifice to make atonement and be clean from her flow of blood.
Leviticus 13: If anyone has a spot on their skin, he is to go to Aaron to have it examined and diagnosed. Aaron will decide if the person needs to be quarantined or cleaned. If the disease is infectious, that person is to cry out “unclean, unclean” and live apart from others as long as he has the disease. If any clothing is contaminated by mildew, it must be shown to the priest who will determine if it is destructive mildew or not and burn it if it is.
Leviticus 14: If a diseased person with skin disease is cured, then he must be ceremonially cleaned by the priest who will sprinkle him with eh blood of a bird. He must then wash, bathe, and shave and bring two male lambs and one ewe lamb to the Tent of Meeting as offerings or doves or pigeons if he cannot afford the others.
The priests are to inspect homes infected with mildew and remove the infected stones and areas. If the mildew returns, then the house is unclean and most be torn down. If there is no mildew, then the house will be considered clean and purify it with the blood of a bird.
Leviticus 15: God lays down regulations for a man with a discharge, for anyone made unclean by an emission of semen, for a woman in her monthly period, for a man or a woman with a discharge, and for a man who lies with a woman who is ceremonially unclean. If you become unclean, you must atone by bringing a sacrifice to become clean again and wait seven days after the ceremony.
8 ) 11:1-47: Clean and unclean food and animals. Eating of dead carcasses could have bacteria that can kill people or make them sick. Pork carries many parasites. Dead animal carcasses lying around attract disease and can spread disease (think Bubonic Plague here).
12:1-8: Purification after Childbirth. I see this as a protection from the woman’s husband who may try to have sex with her too soon after childbirth. This regulation is to allow the woman to fully heal before sex again.
13:1-46: Regulations about Infectious Skin Diseases. To protect the people from contracting infectious diseases.
13:47-59: Regulations about Mildew. This was to prevent the spread of disease through the clothes people wore.
14:1-32: Cleansing from Infectious Skin Diseases. The only practical benefit I see here is this allowed the cured person to be accepted back into Hebrew society. It does reflect Jesus’s ritual sacrifice for us however, which may have been the point by God.
14:33-57: Cleansing from Mildew. To ensure no one gets sick from mildew from the home. If we use the translation of mildew, this is true as mildew can sicken us today if left in the home.
15:1-33: Discharges causing Uncleanness. These rules would help the Israelites avoid venereal diseases that plagued their neighbors.
9a) Jesus explains in Mark that it is what comes out of a man that makes him unclean, not what goes in–for the heart is what is reflected by evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, slander, etc. Acts says God makes things impure or unclean. They were for spiritual health and to help the people follow God’s laws for their lives. Jesus declares that all things are clean. And if you believe in him, you are clean.
b) That God is holy and His desire was for them to be holy as well, to be separate from other peoples.
c) Personal Question. My answer: We are to be mindful of what we ingest since our body is a temple to God. We are to be mindful of what comes out, so we are clean which includes words, actions, and good works. As long as I remember God’s purpose for my life and His ways, I will try to do my best to be more and more like Jesus every day.
Conclusions: For Question 8, I just used the titles my Bible had given these sections. Seemed to sum it up pretty well. Most of us cannot imagine leading such lives where we’d become unclean and have to avoid such items and people and purify ourselves with sacrifices. Yet, the lesson to learn is we must watch our own lives with just as much care and attention. God is watching us with no less.
Keep reading the Mark passage. Jesus goes on even further with specifics.
End Notes: Dietary laws were meant to keep the Israelites apart from their neighbors. Pigs were prominent in Canaanite worship; therefore the Israelites were not to eat pigs. A different dietary standard would keep the two groups from mixing socially, for a meal was always part of Middle Eastern hospitality.
Some scholars think these rules fit into what the Israelites already thought was unclean–creeping insects, scavenger birds, bodily emissions, and skin diseases.
The point was not if you became clean or unclean since it was unavoidable in life. The point was to watch your life with care in order to prepare themselves to meet God. Clear standards were laid out about what was acceptable to God and God demands purity.
Jesus declared all things clean (Mark 7:19 and Acts 10:9-16). He healed the lepers, made a bleeding woman clean. Still, God may not be approached carelessly. Your life must make sure God’s purity is not violated. Jesus is the only thing that makes clean the unclean–forever.
Leviticus 11: None of these rules are new. Noah discussed them as well (Genesis 7:2, 8:20). God was merely putting them on paper. The birds listed are either predators or scavengers, both of which eat meat that is already dead. The Jews largely avoided the plague because of their removal of dead rats. Pigs are known for tapeworms. Shellfish carry a lot of mercury in their bodies and are the more likely to be improperly stored for food and thus make one sick.
All of these laws promote cleanliness which in the ancient world no one understood germs or viruses or how diseases spread. But God did.
And all these laws set the Israelites apart from everyone else who ate whatever they could find no matter how diseased.
With Jesus, these laws are nullified as well and Christians are under no obligation to observe the kosher diet (Acts 15; 1 Timothy 4:1, 3-5). Does that mean we eat junk food all the time? Everything is permissible but that doesn’t mean it’s good for you! (1 Corinthians 6:12)
Leviticus 12: The idea is that children are good but are born sinners and God wanted the Israelites to know this and remember this. Scholars say the woman here is symbolically responsible for brining forth more sinners in the world.
The girl child was usually not wanted or valued. The extra time gave the family more time to bond with the child. Girls were also more likely to be smaller than boys, so they needed extra care. Plus, again, the mother brought forth a child who will bring forth more children/sinners.
Jesus was poor. Luke 2:22-24 tells us Mary and Joseph only brought 2 doves for Mary’s atonement.
Leviticus 13: Old versions of the Bible translated “infectious skin diseases” as “leprosy”, which was wrong. Leprosy is barely contagious. Think such diseases as smallpox, measles, mumps, scarlet fever, etc. There was no cure for such diseases back then.
Leprosy was feared because it did result in the eating away of flesh, was slow and painful, and did lead to death eventually. However, the Israelites believed it was inflicted as a punishment for sin and was thus feared. The people were outcast as they believed they were sinners and unable to stand before God as such. People’s fears led to discrimination and the lepers took the brunt of it. Today, leprosy is unknown in the modern world due to drugs to cure it, but does still exist in third-world countries.
For a great synopsis I did of Leprosy last year during our study of Matthew, click HERE for Definition of Leprosy and how lepers were treated in ancient times.
Scholars say the Hebrew people were the first to practice isolation of victims suspected of being contagious in order to stop its spread.
Most Bibles have “mildew” translated as “leprosy” and thus these two sections go together. If you read it with this translation, then it makes more sense. The Israelites wanted to make sure the clothes were not contaminated with the disease as well. Today we know clothes do carry disease and because washing was so infrequent back then it was feared the clothes could spread the disease as well.
Debate about how many people get sick from clothes goes on especially in hospitals when doctors wear the same scrubs for operations. However, the transmission rate is small but possible. Here, God says to make sure the clothes are clean as well.
[Side Note: Anyone remember The Velveteen Rabbit by Margery Williams? The Velveteen Rabbit was the favorite toy of a boy. But when he contracted scarlet fever, the boy’s doctor orders the room to be disinfected and all of the toys burnt. He was thrown out by the boy’s nurse for fear he contained the dreaded disease. Hence, he was unwanted and turned into a real rabbit and lived in the forest next to the boy’s home.
I thought of this story. In the case of scarlet fever, it can only be spread through bodily contact and cannot survive very long outside the body so the bunny here was safe. Back in 1922 when the book was written though no one knew that. However, germs and diseases can survive outside the body for quite some time so it’s better to err on the side of caution God says.]
Leviticus 14: The regulations for ceremonial cleansing seem to reflect Jesus. One bird was killed and its blood was applied to a living bird and then the living bird is freed to live out its life, which is what Jesus’s blood does for us on the cross. Even cedar wood is mentioned which scholars say reference the cross. Hyssop as you may recall from last year in Matthew 27:48 was offered to Jesus while he was on the cross. The shaving of the hair was like a rebirth like a newborn babe and live began all over again.
The leper was consecrated the same way as a priest and also anointed. This meant he or she had a special calling on his life. However, since the cure for leprosy was unknown in ancient times, this ceremony was undoubtedly rarely performed.
Scholars say here leprosy and mildew are related in the Hebrew word used here.
Leviticus 15: We are to understand this as not any discharge from the body but an abnormal one. In the case of sex or masturbation, both men and women had to cleanse themselves. God is not saying these discharges are sinful, just made you ceremonially unclean to be in His presence. He also made the distinction clear that sex was not to occur in His tabernacle or as a means of worshipping Him. This was important because in pagan cultures sex was often associated with worship of gods and occurred quite frequently. Remember the golden calf? The people engaged in sexual revelry all in the name of worship.
Semen and menstruation are connected with the seed and the blood of man.
In Mark 7:1-9, Jesus emphasized the need for internal cleanliness, not external. Our outward cleanliness does not make us right with God. Only Jesus can cleanse us spiritually. If you have him, then you are clean. Period.