Book of Leviticus Chapter
Fifteen Commentary by
Pastor Ron Beckham
It's interesting that the Lord would set up a world system in which the first commandment is to "Be fruitful and multiply" (Genesis 1:28) and yet so many problems fill marriages and families. Faithfulness in marriage will likely protect the husband and wife from the diseases of this chapter, but you might wonder, what if God had lessened the urgency, the physical need to obey His command? It's likely that if we didn't have a great need for sex, obstinate humans would refuse to participate, much like we have denied His other commands. Humanity might have died out a long time ago, perhaps in the first generation.
Verses 1-2: "The Lord also spoke to Moses and to Aaron, saying, 2 'Speak to the sons of Israel, and say to them, 'When any man has a discharge from his body, his discharge is unclean.'" The "discharge" here is not what is called a "nocturnal emission," but instead the reference is to one or more types of venereal disease. Such diseases were rampant in the land of the promise about to be entered, and laws were being put into place to protect God's people.
Verse 3: "This, moreover, shall be his uncleanness in his discharge: it is his uncleanness whether his body allows its discharge to flow or whether his body obstructs its discharge." It's important to see that we all come to God as diseased creatures, unfit to be in His Presence, which should tip us off that God is observing more than just our external bodies. Jesus is the only One in humanity qualified to accurately comment on the Law. He said about the command, "You shall not commit adultery," that "whoever looks at a woman to lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart" (Matthew 5:27-28). A man or woman can be outwardly unclean, but worse, humanity's uncleanness is deep inside, where it really counts. It's there, whether the problem is apparent or if the person somehow "obstructs its discharge." And notice in all these instances that the infected one must go to the priest, just as we must go to the Lord and confess our need, our sin.
Much like most venereal disease, sin is highly contagious. Even if our neighbors don't know what we have done, we are cheapened by base thoughts and actions and it affects how we treat others. The Lord knows everything about you, and your attitude indicates to your neighbor that something is wrong. Sin of all kinds is infectious, as in Verses 4-6: "Every bed on which the person with the discharge lies becomes unclean, and everything on which he sits becomes unclean. 5 Anyone, moreover, who touches his bed shall wash his clothes and bathe in water and be unclean until evening; 6 and whoever sits on the thing on which the man with the discharge has been sitting, shall wash his clothes and bathe in water and be unclean until evening." Sinful thoughts come out as sinful actions that spread like a disease. Our children are in danger because they copy us and it's time to go to the Lord and be made clean—our lives are not just about ourselves.
This portion of the chapter speaks about venereal disease, rampant then like today. Verses 7-10 urge us to keep our distance from sexual sin and all that relates to it, physically, and in our thoughts as well: "Also whoever touches the person with the discharge shall wash his clothes and bathe in water and be unclean until evening. 8 Or if the man with the discharge spits on one who is clean, he too shall wash his clothes and bathe in water and be unclean until evening. 9 Every saddle on which the person with the discharge rides becomes unclean. 10 Whoever then touches any of the things which were under him shall be unclean until evening, and he who carries them shall wash his clothes and bathe in water and be unclean until evening." Keep yourself clean. You might think you're missing out on something in life, and yes you are, but it's not what you expect. Through being chaste, clean in mind and body, you miss out on many sorrows in life.
Verse 11: "Likewise, whomever the one with the discharge touches without having rinsed his hands in water shall wash his clothes and bathe in water and be unclean until evening." The person with a venereal disease was to be an outcast, a social and religious leper, an object lesson to others—an untouchable, if only for a time. What you do is not just about yourself. The mistakes we see in people of the Bible and in ourselves, are signposts, warning others of "Danger Ahead!" The action of most people is to hide sin and at the same time promote our "good" points, but God the Holy Spirit advises, "If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness" (1 John 1:8-9). We are to trust in Him, even in those times when we must give up something or someone we hold dear, as in Verse 12: "However, an earthenware vessel which the person with the discharge touches shall be broken, and every wooden vessel shall be rinsed in water." A clay pot, the "earthenware vessel" here, would be irreplacable because the desert they were in lacked clay pot stores where they could buy another one, and the message is to trust Him more than we love our possessions.
Notice that the person in Verse 13 "becomes cleansed": "Now when the man with the discharge becomes cleansed from his discharge, then he shall count off for himself seven days for his cleansing; he shall then wash his clothes and bathe his body in running water and will become clean." Many have felt "lucky" when things get better, but the real truth is that God is sovereign in all things, and if you not have been "cleansed" from whatever is wrong, He has something better in mind. If your body is now clean from something unsettling, wash your heart with thankfulness, because He did it.
The theme, the parable we have seen before of the two birds, one to be a sin offering and the other to be utterly destroyed, represents the Lord on the cross, which continues in Verses 14-15: "Then on the eighth day he shall take for himself two turtledoves or two young pigeons, and come before the Lord to the doorway of the tent of meeting and give them to the priest; 15 and the priest shall offer them, one for a sin offering and the other for a burnt offering. So the priest shall make atonement on his behalf before the Lord because of his discharge." Note that the Lord gives us time to think about the events that have happened in our lives. If we have sinned, we are given time to think about it. If we have been delivered from a problem, time is given in which we can observe that it really was a miracle—and thank Him, 'till the "eighth day" and forever!
The events related to sex seem like a casual matter for a lot of people, but sex is God's creation and is very special. Many view it as something which makes us and the other person feel good. For Him it is a holy event, intended to bring people into the world and point us to relationship with the Lord. A sexual release that does not result in a child, is loss from God's perspective, as glimpsed in Verses 16-18, "Now if a man has a seminal emission, he shall bathe all his body in water and be unclean until evening. 17 As for any garment or any leather on which there is seminal emission, it shall be washed with water and be unclean until evening. 18 If a man lies with a woman so that there is a seminal emission, they shall both bathe in water and be unclean until evening." Note the overtone of uncleanness in the mechanism of sex. It wasn't meant to be that way. If Adam and Eve had not sinned, God would still have produced humanity through them, but without the problems that fill today's world.
In the verses that follow, consider that a woman with a "discharge" was ostrasized, excluded from society, from religious activities—everything that mattered in her culture. Then observe the woman with the "flow of blood" who met Jesus, in Mark 5:25-34. Her condition lasted for "twelve (long) years." Here are Verses 19-23: "When a woman has a discharge, if her discharge in her body is blood, she shall continue in her menstrual impurity for seven days; and whoever touches her shall be unclean until evening. 20 Everything also on which she lies during her menstrual impurity shall be unclean, and everything on which she sits shall be unclean. 21 Anyone who touches her bed shall wash his clothes and bathe in water and be unclean until evening. 22 Whoever touches any thing on which she sits shall wash his clothes and bathe in water and be unclean until evening. 23 Whether it be on the bed or on the thing on which she is sitting, when he touches it, he shall be unclean until evening." Such a woman's life was ruined. Her hopes, her dreams—she could never be the same.
At that time, even more than today, a marital relationship that produced children was considered a fulfillment in a woman's life, and here is Verse 24: "If a man actually lies with her so that her menstrual impurity is on him, he shall be unclean seven days, and every bed on which he lies shall be unclean." The woman in Mark 5, her husband and everybody else must have shunned her, thinking she displeased God, and the idea continues in Verses 25-27: "Now if a woman has a discharge of her blood many days, not at the period of her menstrual impurity, or if she has a discharge beyond that period, all the days of her impure discharge she shall continue as though in her menstrual impurity; she is unclean. 26 Any bed on which she lies all the days of her discharge shall be to her like her bed at menstruation; and every thing on which she sits shall be unclean, like her uncleanness at that time. 27 Likewise, whoever touches them shall be unclean and shall wash his clothes and bathe in water and be unclean until evening." Everyone wants to feel good about themselves and this woman did not feel good at all.
The woman in Mark 5:27-29, "heard about Jesus...and touched His garment (thinking) 'if only I may touch His clothes, I shall be made well." And she was. Jesus said to her in Mark 5:34, "Daughter, your faith has made you well." Faith is God's great gift to humanity. You may have no faith at all, and yet be healed. You may think about how "lucky" you are, not understanding that someone you hardly know who did have such faith, prayed for you, resulting in your healing.
Here's what the woman in Mark 5 was to do after she was healed, as seen here in Leviticus 15:28-30—"When she becomes clean from her discharge, she shall count off for herself seven days; and afterward she will be clean. 29 Then on the eighth day she shall take for herself two turtledoves or two young pigeons and bring them in to the priest, to the doorway of the tent of meeting. 30 The priest shall offer the one for a sin offering and the other for a burnt offering. So the priest shall make atonement on her behalf before the Lord because of her impure discharge." She would have clearly understood that it was Jesus who made atonement on her behalf, as reflected by the priest, who acted out what the Lord had already done.
Ritual is designed to reveal something deeper than the ritual itself. Rites such as passover, baptism and communion enact the substitutionary death and resurrection of our Lord—we are to see, through faith, that He died to save us and then rose again, inviting us to come alive with Him. The commands to Israel were parables that point us to the then-future Messiah, who died to make us clean in the sight of God. Here are Verses 31-33: "Thus you shall keep the sons of Israel separated from their uncleanness, so that they will not die in their uncleanness by their defiling My tabernacle that is among them. 32 This is the law for the one with a discharge, and for the man who has a seminal emission so that he is unclean by it, 33 and for the woman who is ill because of menstrual impurity, and for the one who has a discharge, whether a male or a female, or a man who lies with an unclean woman." All this was designed to show Israel, to show all of us, our need of the Lord.
Isaiah 1:18 greets us with the refreshing words, "Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow." Like the woman in Mark 5, we need the faith to reach out and touch the Lord in prayer. For those who do, the refreshing news is: "Your faith has made you well." Let's trust in Him now.
Dear Lord, I accept You and what You have done for me. I place my faith in You. I reach out and touch You with my prayer, my heart, the faith You enabled me to have, and I am washed in the sight of God. I am Yours. I am healed. I am clean. Thank You. In Jesus Name. Amen.