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Wednesday in the Word

Second Baptist Church

December 5, 2018

Leviticus 12:1-8, 13:1-59

  1. Chapter 12, verses 1-8. This is one of the shortest chapters in Leviticus. Upon an initial reading, one might get the idea that having a baby was some sort of sinful activity. That would be a poor understanding of the text. Being ceremonially unclean simply meant one could not enter into the tabernacle and give sacrifices. Remember this word is to ancient people who don’t have an extensive knowledge of science. Many of the regulations had spiritual meanings as well as practical applications. This meant that a person couldn’t enter an area where animal blood and fluids were all over the place. The tabernacle was a bloody place. A place that might not be the best place for a person with a compromised immune system. All the sacred things were sprinkled with blood, so any new mother coming in contact with these things would inevitably contaminate their newborn child. If a woman had a son, who would be circumcised on the 8th day, her wait was around 40 days, if it was a girl her wait was about 66 days. I suspect that the number of days carries some sort of symbolism. No matter if the child were a boy or a girl; the mother would bring sacrifices to the tabernacle after the period of purification was over. The mothers would bring a burnt offering and a sin offering. These were offerings that expressed gratitude and thankfulness for the gift of a child. These were offerings that were not eaten by the giver. If she could not afford the regular offering there was a provision for her to bring an offering of a lower cost. At no point does chapter 12 say or suggest that the either the priest or God has judged the woman to have “sinned” or “brought guilt” on herself or the community. Rather, once she brings the required offerings, she is “cleansed” from a natural impurity that has only temporarily restricted her normal participation in the life and worship of the community. It is important to note that the ancient peoples did not look at this time of purification as some sort of punishment. Even today, we see that new mothers are encouraged to spend time with their babies so that the correct kind of bonding can occur and to shield the mother and child from infectious diseases.

  2. Chapter 13, verses 1-46. We should first notice that the time of purification of a new mother comes right before the section on infectious diseases that start on the outside. This should help the reader clearly see that the designation of ceremonially unclean in this text is connected to the health of the community. Someone could be declared unclean for a sin, but in this case, it is most likely connected to protecting the community from the spread of diseases that they have no treatments for them. Notice the priest fulfill the function of the community physician. When a person has a rash or the signs of an infection, they were to go to the priest. God gives some instruction on what to do depending on the way the condition looked. If the condition looked serious, they were to be quarantined (declared ceremonially unclean). This is because the risk of infection was high. If it didn’t look very serious, the priest was to put the person in a 7-day quarantine and then on the seventh day reevaluate the condition. If it had faded, they were declared clean, if it did not they would stay in quarantine for another 7 days. The goal was to determine if a person had a simple rash of something more serious. God wanted to limit contact of the sick person to just the priest. This would limit contact with anyone in the community. The priest were to look for signs of healing scabs and the like. When a person showed the signs of being healed, they would be declared clean, but if the skin stayed raw, they would be declared unclean. The idea is to keep the infection from spreading to the rest of the community. This process is done over and over again for boils, burns, and sores. The point was that the priest had to examine a person to make sure they were not carrying an infectious disease.

  3. Chapter 13, verses 47-59. We now know that mold and mildew can make people sick, it is especially damaging to a person’s lungs and airways. If mold or mildew is found on clothing and after 7 days it spreads further, the items were to be destroyed by fire. If the mold or mildew hasn’t spread after 7 days the articles can be washed. If the mold or mildew washed out the article is fine, if it doesn’t the item is to be burned. If it only faded, but not washed out completely, only the affected part needs to be torn off and burned.

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