Thursday, September 6, 2012

LIII - Leviticus 11-17 - Provisions for Cleansing

Leviticus Chapters 11-17

The first five chapters of today's post deals with those things that make an Israelite unclean and the intructions to cleans oneself when these situations occur.  The discernment between "clean or unclean" was important to an Israelite.  To be unclean separated one from God and his fellow man.  The possibility of becoming defiled by uncleanness and being unable to participate in the corporate worship of God kept one constantly aware of God and His demands on one's life.  Through these regulations, God taught important priciples.  Remember the time period in the History of civilization and these will become both less demanding and less punitive in your mind.

In Leviticus 11:1 - 16:33 the empasis is on cleansing.  Four broad areas are specified in which cleansing must take place after defilement:

1)  The Contamination of Certain Animals
2)  Childbirth
3)  Leprosy
4)  Bodily Discharge

The Scripture deals with animals to such detail as to even specify which animals can be eaten and which ones cannot.  Simply put, any animal can be eaten if it has a split hoof and chews a cud.  For example, cattle have split hooves and chew cuds, therefore they are clean to eat.  On the other hand, a camel and a rabbit both chew a cud, but do not have split hooves, therefore neither of them are to be eaten.  A pig has a split hoof but does not chew a cud, therefore it is not to be eaten either.  It goes on to say which sea cretures are clean and which are not.  Simply put, all fish can be eaten, but all things that crawl on the bottom of the ocean cannot (lobster, shrimp; etc).  It then lists the birds that are not to be eaten (eagles, buzzards, and many more as listed in chapter 11, which also lists unclean insects.  Also, you should note that noone is to eat carcasses of any kind.  {A carcass is a dead animal that was not butchered for food, but was killed some other way or for some other reason.}  The Scripture also borbids the drinking of an animal's blood, noted in chapter 17.  As you read this chapter you will soon discover what an abomination to God this must be.

There is no nice way to say this, but defilemant took place in one of life's most cherished experiences.  Cleansing after a woman delivers a child is specified in detail in chapter 12.

Leporsy was a feared desease.  It still is in many parts of the world.  So serious was leprosy that any open sore or skin discoloration was automatically placed under the same scrutiny as leprosy.  Chapters 13 and 14 go into painstakingly lengthy detail of dealing with potential skin deseases, then the rituals of cleansing.  The infected person goes through these steps knowing that even after all the steps are taken that the priest can still declare the person unclean and they would have to live in isolation for the rest of their lives.  It was believed that molds (in houses, fabric, etc) were causes of many of the skin deseases, therefore these molds are addressed in the Scripture in chapters 13 and 14.

In chapter 15, bodily discharges are discussed and how one is to be cleansed from being in contact with them.  These bodily discharges covered everything from the discharge from an open wound to urination.

I was going to cover much more Scripture in this post, but I must pause and take some time with chapter 16, which deals with atonement and The Day of Atonement.  We are Christians.  Atonement is no small issue with us.  And niether is it with God.  Remember back in Genesis:  God created man so He could enjoy the fellowship that we can offer Him.  Without atonement we are not able to have that status.  This Scripture from the beginning points right at Jesus the Messiah; the Christ; our Savior and Redeemer.  On of the values of studying the Levitican Law is to realize that man could not do it.  In spite of all our sincere effort to live by God's standards, we're just not capable.  God had to provide a way for atonement in such a way that did not comprimise His original standards to which we must live.

Chapter 16  -  The Day of Atonement was a significant observance in ancient Israel.  The Jewish Rabbis called it "The Day", which took place once a year.  Note in the Scripture that only the High Priest could enter the Holy of Holies, but even he was limited to that one day a year.  This day was a day that dealt with the forgiveness of ALL sins committed by  ALL the people for the entire year.  Before the High Priest could enter the Holy of Holies, he must  make atonement for his own personal sins in order to make himself presentable to God as a representative of the rest of the people.  This
required a cleansing process as described.  Two goats and one ram (all unblemished) were to be presented for the atonement sacrifice.  One goat was to be sacrificed unto God, and the other gaot was to be used as a "scapegoat", which was to carry the sins of the people on himself.  Which goat was which was determined by (remember these?) the Urim and Thummim.  The Urim and the
Thummim were two stones.  Tradition has it that when the priest could not make a decision based on any prescribed standards, he would reach into a container with the two stones and blindly choose on.  God said He would see to it that the correct stone would be pulled out by the priest.  This was the method used to chose the scapegoat.  The scapegoat would be taken out of the camp, so far that he could not possibly find his way back.  And with that scapegoat went all of Israel's sins.  Then the sacrifice of the remaining goat was made in the more traditional manner.

I've taught out of this chapter before and have chosen this time to mention about the fact that not all sins are of equal severity in the sight of God.  The only thing in common is that all sins must be atoned for.  I must revert temporarily to the King James, which uses three words for sin: Sins, Iniquities, and Transgressions.  To sin is to miss the mark, more specificly to fall short of the mark, as in shooting an arrow at a target.  To sin is to fall short of living up to the standards set forth by
God Himself.  These sins include sins of thought, of word, and of deed, committed by commission and by omission.  We all commit these sins and as frequently as every day. 

Iniquities or iniquitous behavior is an act or acts committed with absolute contempt for moral standards or common decency toward our fellow man.  These iniquities almost always leave a path of victims, whether they are members of one's own family, neighbors, or complete strangers.  Iniquities are committed with disregard to God and His laws. 

Transgressions, on the other hand, are acts committed in direct rebellion against God and His laws.  Imagine the risk one must take in even thinking about committing a transgression or a series of transgressions.  This is really flirting with disaster.  We'll get into these more later, but as you ponder these three words and their definitions, you might begin to get a bit concerned for our modern society.

We'll try to wrap up Leviticus in the next post.


  1. What are your thoughts on the dietary laws today? Have we messed up as a society by ignoring these original laws set forth here in the Bible?

  2. Does the Bible explain these three words for sin in Leviticus in the NIV version? If so, where?

  3. I don't think so. I'll look more closely and get back to you

  4. Adam, I've researched this a bit but less than completely. Thus far, I've found the KJV uses these terms many many times. In cross-referencing those verse with the NIV, I've found that the NIV uses "sin" and "wickedness" and a few other words where the KJV uses "iniquities". As for the word "transgression", the NIV seems to use the word "rebellion" more than others. Hope this helps.

    Now I need you to look something up if you have time: From what was the NIV translated? Was the KJV used at all? and if so, to what extent? This can be very useful knowledge for our journey.