|BIBLE STUDY SERIES #269, 270 and 271|
12 January, 1997
By Douglas C. Nesbit, B.A.
Our present series of Bible Studies began several years ago with God's Call to Abram in Genesis 12. We have followed the Biblical story of Abraham's descendants, which the Bible relates in successive Scripture passages. These drew before us the lives of Abraham's son, Isaac, of his grandson Jacob who was re-named Israel, and of the tribal family of Jacob which passed into, and later emerged from, a period of harsh learning experiences in Egyptian bondage. Upon their miraculous emergence from Egypt through The Exodus, the Israelitish tribes were constituted a national wife to their God, Yahweh, (Jehovah) at Mount Sinai.
The successive chapters of Exodus, and now, Leviticus, have been devoted to the necessary instructions and preparation of that new nation gathered at the foot of the mount while Moses receives and relays these instructions to them as aspects of The Law of The Almighty God. If these Israelites are eventually to become God's servant nation and in that capacity, to be a blessing to all the nations of the earth, as stated in God's promise to Abram, in Genesis 12:3, they must receive information which will facilitate that process by placing in their minds and hands, as a national treasure, the wisdom imparted by this divine source.
Our last study in the medical aspects of these Scriptures took us to the end of Leviticus 14, with the instructions relating to the ceremony officially declaring the cleansing of a person or a house of the disease of Leprosy. Now, with today's reading, we are approaching another chapter in the same category, Leviticus 15, wherein we will read medical instructions, for which we, today, can well understand the reasons, but in addition, the ceremonial aspects which declared a person to be cleansed.
Let us begin the reading of this chapter, keeping in mind that we are, so to speak, listening in to these instructions as they are being given to a great multitude of folk who have, until scant months before, been in bondage, gathering straw to make mud bricks, and with these, to build the treasure cities for Pharaoh. For a number of generations these people have not, in the main, been permitted official schooling in medical matters such as those relating to the transmission of disease through contact with contaminated body fluids. It may well be true that the Israelites were quite intelligent, and that, considering their circumstances, many of these Israelites would have been remarkably well instructed by their parents in what we, today, would term "home schooling." However we must keep in mind several things. The first is that in the encampment, for purposes of defence in a rather hostile setting there would be a tendency to crowd the families together and such crowding would make for a greater opportunity for diseases to spread from one person to another. Also, it would not take a great proportion of the whole populace to become careless in matters of contamination to initiate the spreading of infection to many others. Further, the normal daily requirements for hygienic provisions would have been somewhat primitive for so large a host of people had there not been a rather strict regulation of such matters instituted right at the beginning of their wilderness journeying.
Indeed, it is only in the last century or so that medical knowledge has advanced enough to show our own people why the described steps would be essential to prevent the spread of diseases. Let us see, therefore, these quite detailed instructions as a God-given pattern of life which would at that time require obedience in simple trust rather than a complete schooling in a medical faculty.
Even today, some of God's food laws might still fall into such a category, for many, even now, not realising why certain foods are forbidden in this Book of Leviticus, don't sustain enough trust in the words of their God to follow such guiding instructions. Later, to their dismay, some of these people may well find that some dread disease or affliction, which has arisen in consequence of transgression of such instructions, has overtaken them, and the reaction when that happens is often, I think, to question "Why did God allow it to happen?", and to blame Him for permitting it, rather than realising that they have transgressed God's laws which were intended for their benefit!
Let us read today's portion of Scripture, found in Leviticus 15. I shall thereafter add some appropriate comments.
1. And the LORD spake unto Moses and to Aaron, saying,
2. Speak unto the children of Israel, and say unto them, When any man hath a running issue out of his flesh, because of his issue he is unclean.
3. And this shall be his uncleanness in his issue: whether his flesh run with his issue, or his flesh be stopped from his issue, it is his uncleanness.
4. Every bed, whereon he lieth that hath the issue, is unclean: and every thing, whereon he sitteth, shall be unclean.
5. And whosoever toucheth his bed shall wash his clothes, and bathe himself in water, and be unclean until the even.
6. And he that sitteth on any thing whereon he sat that hath the issue shall wash his clothes, and bathe himself in water, and be unclean until the even.
7. And he that toucheth the flesh of him that hath the issue shall wash his clothes, and bathe himself in water, and be unclean until the even.
8. And if he that hath the issue spit upon him that is clean; then he shall wash his clothes, and bathe himself in water, and be unclean until the even.
Here, The Companion Bible notes that such spitting was "A common practice among oriental nations to express insult or contempt." It lists examples of such spitting in Numbers 12:14, Deuteronomy 25:9, Job 30:10, Isaiah 50:6 and Matthew 26:67. The passage in Numbers 12 has reference to Miriam being shut out of the camp for seven days by the LORD's direction for her sin and resultant leprosy.
9. And what saddle soever he rideth upon that hath the issue shall be unclean.
10. And whosoever toucheth any thing that was under him shall be unclean until the even: and he that beareth any of those things shall wash his clothes, and bathe himself in water, and be unclean until the even.
11. And whomsoever he toucheth that hath the issue, and hath not rinsed his hands in water, he shall wash his clothes, and bathe himself in water, and be unclean until the even.
12. And the vessel of earth, that he toucheth which hath the issue, shall be broken: and every vessel of wood shall be rinsed in water.
Here, we may remember that, once contaminant had seeped within the pores of an earthen vessel, it could not adequately be washed, and hence must be broken. However, it seems evident that a vessel of wood must have been so finished that the surface might be cleaned by scouring in running water.
13. And when he that hath an issue is cleansed of his issue; then he shall number to himself seven days for his cleansing, and wash his clothes, and bathe his flesh in running water, and shall be clean.
14. And on the eighth day he shall take to him two turtledoves, or two young pigeons, and come before the LORD unto the door of the tabernacle of the congregation, and give them unto the priest:
15. And the priest shall offer them, the one for a sin offering, and the other for a burnt offering; and the priest shall make an atonement for him before the LORD for his issue.
To this point, the secretions which have been mentioned are running issues of a man. Keil and Delitzsch comment that these issues are "not described with sufficient clearness for us to be able to determine with certainty what disease is referred to." It seems from the Hebrew that the term indicates a continuous drop-by drop secretion of a sort which would indicate some weakness or disease. On being recovered of this disease, the man was to wait seven days, and wash both himself and his clothes before presenting the required sacrifices at the door of the tabernacle.
16. And if any man's seed of copulation go out from him, then he shall wash all his flesh in water, and be unclean until the even.
17. And every garment, and every skin, whereon is the seed of copulation, shall be washed with water, and be unclean until the even.
In these last two verses, we find that the reference indicates an involuntary emission of seed, which defiled both the man and his clothing for a whole day, and which required the washing of both. This is different from the issue which might be from a running sore of some disease. The result however, is likewise the uncleanness of the man and his clothing for the day on which this contamination took place.
We may remember that, as with other ceremonial rituals outlined in such Biblical passages, there is frequently a hidden long-term prophetic sense which has application to individual people, or to the whole nation in regard to some more spiritual aspect of their circumstance, and such may be the case where a sore is continually contaminating the man's clothing. Sin also has the same effect, in that it prevents the person making a close approach to a holy God. We shall conclude an examination of the rest of the passages in this chapter on our next programme.
19 January, 1997
By Douglas C. Nesbit, B.A.
Our present series of Bible Studies began several years ago with God's Call to Abram in Genesis 12. We have followed the story of Abraham's descendants, which the Bible relates in successive Scripture passages found in the Books of Genesis and Exodus until today we have reached that portion of the Biblical account found in the Book of Leviticus 15, starting at verse 18.
Presently, the tribes of Israel are gathered at the foot of Mount Sinai where that tribal assemblage has agreed to become nationally the "wife" of Yahweh (Jehovah), and Moses, their God-appointed leader, is receiving instructions from The Almighty for the regulation of this Israelitish nucleus of His Kingdom. Specifically, at this stage, these instructions pertain to the prevention of disease within the nation.
The first part of this chapter has dealt with the secretions of the human body which a man may produce as a result of disease, or inability to contain them, and the means of establishing official ritual cleansing when the matter is corrected. The previous two verses had begun to include mention of a man's seed, and so we see that a sexual connection is to be included in the matters under consideration. As we pick up the passage today we find that the same subject is before us, but that now it is examined as it relates to a woman. These matters were all doubtless of some considerable importance in the circumstances in which these instructions were given, for the Israelites had just emerged, through The Exodus, from Egyptian bondage, and they were now in the relatively exposed conditions to be experienced while wandering in the Wilderness of Sinai where the proximity of dangers required a certain high level of concentration of the family and tribal units. Disease might spread rapidly in uncontrolled circumstances, so prevention of contamination was essential. Let us read today's Scripture passage, beginning at Leviticus 15:18.
18. The woman also with whom man shall lie with seed of copulation, they shall both bathe themselves in water, and be unclean until the even.
19. And if a woman have an issue, and her issue in her flesh be blood, she shall be put apart seven days: and whosoever toucheth her shall be unclean until the even.
20. And every thing that she lieth upon in her separation shall be unclean: every thing also that she sitteth upon shall be unclean.
21. And whosoever toucheth her bed shall wash his clothes, and bathe himself in water, and be unclean until the even.
22. And whosoever toucheth any thing that she sat upon shall wash his clothes, and bathe himself in water, and be unclean until the even.
23. And if it be on her bed, or on any thing whereon she sitteth, when he toucheth it, he shall be unclean until the even.
24. And if any man lie with her at all, and her flowers be upon him, he shall be unclean seven days; and all the bed whereon he lieth shall be unclean.
25. And if a woman have an issue of her blood many days out of the time of her separation, or if it run beyond the time of her separation; all the days of the issue of her uncleanness shall be as the days of her separation: she shall be unclean.
26. Every bed whereon she lieth all the days of her issue shall be unto her as the bed of her separation: and whatsoever she sitteth upon shall be unclean, as the uncleanness of her separation.
27. And whosoever toucheth those things shall be unclean, and shall wash his clothes, and bathe himself in water, and be unclean until the even.
28. But if she be cleansed of her issue, then she shall number to herself seven days, and after that she shall be clean.
29. And on the eighth day she shall take unto her two turtles, or two young pigeons, and bring them unto the priest, to the door of the tabernacle of the congregation.
Here, The Companion Bible explains that "turtles" means "turtle-doves."
30. And the priest shall offer the one for a sin offering, and the other for a burnt offering; and the priest shall make an atonement for her before the LORD for the issue of her uncleanness.
31. Thus shall ye separate the children of Israel from their uncleanness; that they die not in their uncleanness, when they defile my tabernacle that is among them.
32. This is the law of him that hath an issue, and of him whose seed goeth from him, and is defiled therewith;
33. And of her that is sick of her flowers, and of him that hath an issue, of the man, and of the woman, and of him that lieth with her that is unclean.
The words "This is the law" in verse 32 show that what follows in the remaining verses is a summary of the contents of the chapter. The New Bible Commentary on this passage states: "Since this chapter deals with matters of sex, it stands in close relation with chapter xii and must be interpreted on the same general principles. The conditions which are dealt with are both normal and abnormal. But in either case they are treated as defiling. In the case of the former, the uncleanness usually lasts only until sunset and is removed by washing with water. In the latter case, the uncleanness continues for seven days after normal health has been restored. Then the man or the woman shall bring to the priest an offering consisting of two birds, one of which shall be offered as a sin offering, the other as a burnt offering (14f., 29f., cf. v. 7-10). In both cases it is said that the priest shall make an atonement by means of the sacrifices. Whatever the nature of the uncleanness, every person who comes in contact with the unclean person or thing shall bathe, wash his clothes and be unclean until the evening. The law of Moses refers elsewhere to a number of diseases besides those dealt with here (cf. xxvi. 16, 25; Dt. xxviii. 22, 27f., 35). It is perhaps significant that it does not refer to them here in dealing with the subject of uncleanness. Abnormalities and deformities are dealt with in xxi. 16ff.; Dt. xxiii. 1. Thus shall ye separate (31) refers primarily to the uncleannesses mentioned in chapter xv as is indicated by the summary which follows (32f.). But it is applicable to all the defilements mentioned in chapters xi-xv.
Keil and Delitzsch devote over three pages to their more detailed and reasoned explanation of each of the circumstances listed, and the related scriptures which amplify the understanding of certain aspects thereof. Regarding verses 19-24, for example, they have several particular comments of which I shall quote a part. They explain of verse 19, "As the discharge does not last as a rule more than four or five days, the period of seven days was fixed on account of the significance of the number seven. In this condition she rendered every one who touched her unclean (ver. 19), everything upon which she lay or sat (ver. 20), every one who touched her bed or whatever she sat upon (ver. 21, 22), also any one who touched the blood upon her bed or seat (ver. 23,...) and they remained unclean till the evening, when they had to wash their clothes and bathe themselves. - Ver. 24. If a man lay with her and her uncleanness came upon him, he became unclean for seven days, and the bed upon which he lay became unclean as well. The meaning cannot be merely if he lie upon the same bed with her, but if he have conjugal intercourse..." In regard to verses 25-31, they again make a comment which might be quoted. They explain "If an issue of blood in a woman flowed many days away from (not in) the time of her monthly uncleanness, or if it flowed beyond her monthly uncleanness, she was to be unclean as long as her unclean issue continued, just as in the days of her monthly uncleanness, and she defiled her couch as well as everything upon which she sat, as in the other case, also every one who touched either her or these things..." After the issue had ceased, she was to purify herself like the man with an issue, as described in verses 13-15. Regarding verse 31, the explanation of the wording of that verse is recorded: "Cause that the children of Israel free themselves from their uncleanness, that they die not through their uncleanness, by defiling My dwelling in the midst of them." The sense is that a person is to loose himself from uncleanness because uncleanness is irreconcilable with the calling of Israel to be a holy nation, in the midst of which Jehovah the Holy One had His dwelling-place... . Continuance "in uncleanness without the prescribed purification was a disregard of the holiness of Jehovah, and involved rebellion against Him and His ordinances of grace."
We can see that there are not only physical aspects of public health involved, but also the consideration of spiritual relationship to the God of Israel, so there is apparently a spiritual lesson to be gleaned from the whole subject as well.
A great many things in the Old Testament are of a like nature. In I Corinthians 10:1-6 we find Paul, that great scholar of the Old Testament Law, stating that the things which happened to these Israelites of whom we are reading in Leviticus, and to whom the instructions of God through Moses are being relayed, were experiences, things which were also given as "examples" to those Israelitish Corinthians to whom he was writing, and, by extension, we may say, to the whole of the Church who would likewise read them and be instructed by these words. We shall continue our studies on the next programme.
26 January, 1997
By Douglas C. Nesbit, B.A.
Our present series of Bible Studies began several years ago with God's Call to Abram in Genesis 12. The Biblical story of Abraham's descendants, which the Bible relates in successive Scripture passages is essentially the family diary of one man's descendants, and their relationships to their Almighty God, and to other peoples with whom they came into contact as the centuries passed. These studies drew before us the lives of Abraham's son, Isaac, of his grandson Jacob who was re-named Israel, and of the tribal family of Jacob which passed into, and later emerged from a schooling period in Egyptian bondage. Upon their miraculous emergence from Egypt through The Exodus, the Israelitish tribes were constituted a national wife to their God, Yahweh, (Jehovah) at Mount Sinai.
We were, in our successive studies, examining the instructions which God gave to Moses in Exodus, and later, the earlier chapters of Leviticus. We had, on the last programme in this study, examined the matter of contaminating secretions which constituted the content of Leviticus Chapter 15, and which formed a part of the necessary background to an appreciation of the reason why Mary, upon the birth of Jesus, had to spend certain days apart, for, as we read in Luke 2:21-24:
21. And when eight days were accomplished for the circumcising of the child, his name was called JESUS, which was so named of the angel before he was conceived in the womb.
22. And when the days of her purification according to the law of Moses were accomplished, they brought him to Jerusalem, to present him to the Lord;
23. (As it is written in the law of the Lord, Every male that openeth the womb shall be called holy to the Lord;)
24. And to offer a sacrifice according to that which is said in the law of the Lord, A pair of turtledoves, or two young pigeons.
Today, we arrive at Leviticus 16, which speaks of the manner by which, in symbolic ritual, the High Priest is to approach the holy space before Yahweh, (Jehovah) The Almighty God, in The Tabernacle.
As an introduction to that passage which we shall be reading shortly, I might first read something which is contained in The New Bible Commentary about the whole of this Levitical chapter. It says: "The day of atonement (xxiii. 27f., xxv. 9) is the most important of all the holy ordinances with which the book of Leviticus is concerned, for it was the day on which atonement was made for all the sins of all the congregation of Israel (see verses 16f., 21f., 30, 33f.), In this respect it stands apart from all other private and public ordinances connected with the worship of Israel. It is also signalized by the fact that it is the only day in the year for which fasting is required: ye shall afflict your souls (29, 31, xxiii. 27, 32; Nu. xxix. 7). This phrase might also be rendered 'humble yourselves. Arrogant self-sufficiency and self-will were characteristic of Israel from the beginning (cf. Dt. viii. 2, 3, 16 where the same verb is used), and it was met with constant reproof and chastening. Fasting would be the outward expression of their sorrow and repentance. In this regard the day of atonement stands in marked contrast to the annual feasts which were times of rejoicing, especially the feast of tabernacles (xxiii. 40; cf Dt. xii. 7, 12). In view of this, its position in the book may properly be regarded as significant. The fact that the full description of its ritual is given here instead of in Lv. xxiii which describes all the feasts, or in Nu. xxviii, xxix, which prescribe the special offerings for each of them, seems to be intended to emphasize both its importance and its uniqueness. It stands by itself among all the public ordinances prescribed for Israel. On the other hand, like many of the other ordinances, it is given a definite occasion or historical setting, the death of Nadab and Abihu for sacrilege (1). In fact some scholars regard the words 'after the death of the two sons of Aaron' (1) as implying so close a connection between this chapter and chapter x that they are inclined to regard xi-xv as an insertion. Were this the case, it is difficult to understand why this insertion should consist only of these chapters and not include xvii-xxii, especially since it is in them that the moral element predominates over the ceremonial. The chapter has both a backward and a forward reference. the one concerns especially Aaron and the priests (cf. Nu. iv. 17f.) and is to warn them against sacrilege and the frightful danger which attends it. The other is the application to the people. The grace of God in providing an all-sufficient atonement for sins of ignorance and frailty is set forth before the more heinous transgressions are described. The sins for which there is no forgiveness, which are to be punished by excision or death (see especially chapter xx), stand out in all their moral hideousness in the light of the seven times repeated 'all' of this chapter. The implication is clear that such sins as those for which there is no forgiveness (sins of presumption, of 'the high hand') prove the perpetrator to be no true Israelite at all, but a moral leper unworthy of the covenanted mercies of the God of Abraham and Moses. The tendency in Rabbinical Judaism has been to make this atonement all-inclusive. But such an interpretation is clearly excluded by the fact that the entire generation of wrath perished for disobedience in the wilderness (cf. Heb. x. 28). Whatever the explanation, the position of this chapter is certainly a significant one."
The New Bible Commentary here takes up each of six portions of the passage for separate attention but before we examine this further information, perhaps this would be a good point at which to read the first two verses from the first portion of that Scripture itself, as our remaining time will only allow us to start our comments with those first two verses at this time. It says:
1. And the LORD spake unto Moses after the death of the two sons of Aaron, when they offered before the LORD, and died;
2. And the LORD said unto Moses, Speak unto Aaron thy brother, that he come not at all times into the holy place within the vail before the mercy seat, which is upon the ark; that he die not: for I will appear in the cloud upon the mercy seat.
The Companion Bible explains of the word "offered" in verse 1 that this means "brought near", and in verse 2, the words "at all times" mean "any time", which it indicates to mean "just at any time of Aaron's own choosing." The "holy place" is, of course, the Sanctuary, or Holy of Holies, in the innermost recess of The Tabernacle. The Companion Bible adds that in this whole chapter, wherever the word "holy" is used, the Holy of Holies is to be understood. Further, the words of verse two "...I will appear" mean "where I am wont to appear", or in other words, "the usual place of my appearing."
Here, our time permits us only to make a general observation, and we shall leave for the next study those comments which we cannot add at this time. The whole passage found in Leviticus 16 is one which many people who might glance casually at the first chapters in their Bible might never happen to examine. This is because many who start reading The Bible approach it with the intention of trying to get all the way through the book in a steady progression, as they would with an ordinary novel or other work. they find in the earliest chapters in the Book of Genesis, some stories which they perhaps half remember from their youthful experience in a Sunday School years before. After they skim through the more popular or familiar stories concerned with the Creation, they may find some interest in the sense of personal identification which they feel on reading about the active personal lives, the familiar inter-personal stresses and joys in the accounts of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and the tribal family scene of their immediate descendants as they passed through adversity to experience a meeting with the power of God at Mount Sinai. Soon, however, such readers enter the passages of Leviticus which deal with laws and still more laws, and they are inclined to drop the whole section and move to a few familiar accounts about the life of Jesus instead. This is natural, but it is a mistake to ignore such parts of Scripture, for there are gems of knowledge and wisdom to be had if we take the trouble to find them. This passage in Leviticus 16 is one such passage, as we will find when we later consult the New Testament epistle to the Hebrews, for it teaches about the deep meaning of Christ's work at His First and Second Advents. Most of the descendants of ancient Israel are, we maintain, to be found today among the Anglo-Celto-Saxon and kindred peoples of the world, and to them especially these passages ought to be most meaningful. We hope and trust that you will allow our comments to set some of these truths before you in succeeding broadcasts.
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