From Leviticus 14-15
Today’s passage is a bit icky. If you dont want to read about bodily functions skip today’s reading. But if you’re curious about the day to day cleanliness and purification rigmarole the Israelites had to go through read on.
This post is part of my bible in a year series.
Passage and Comments
Leviticus has a lot of Laws. Chapter 14 was about lepers and I wrote on that the same time last year.
This year – bodily discharges.
Note; These laws were given to the people of Israel and I suspect those who resided with them. Before the law was given, no one was expected to go through this.
16 “If a man has an emission of semen, he shall bathe his whole body in water and be unclean until the evening. 17 And every garment and every skin on which the semen comes shall be washed with water and be unclean until the evening. 18 If a man lies with a woman and has an emission of semen, both of them shall bathe themselves in water and be unclean until the evening. (Lev 15:16–18)
Presumably men ejaculate during various sexual activities. I assume mainly sexual intercourse and masterbation. (This book will open your eyes to sex in the bible and quote passages you’ve probably never read before). Leviticus seems to take ejaculation in its stride without condemnation. The text seems to make no mention of husbands and their wives. Just men and women. No sin offerings are required for the men.
Sex is good and is part of God’s creation.
But they do become unclean, and as we will see being unclean makes one unfit for the presence of the LORD.
When men have an emission of semen everything it touches becomes unclean and must be washed. The uncleanness can spread and must be controlled. On a good note – provided they wash, men who have an emission of semen are only unclean till evening.
The women had it worse.
19 “When a woman has a discharge, and the discharge in her body is blood, she shall be in her menstrual impurity for seven days, and whoever touches her shall be unclean until the evening. 20 And everything on which she lies during her menstrual impurity shall be unclean. Everything also on which she sits shall be unclean. 21 And whoever touches her bed shall wash his clothes and bathe himself in water and be unclean until the evening. 22 And whoever touches anything on which she sits shall wash his clothes and bathe himself in water and be unclean until the evening. 23 Whether it is the bed or anything on which she sits, when he touches it he shall be unclean until the evening. (Lev 15:19–23)
A man who has an emission of semen is unclean till evening. When women have their monthly period they remain unclean for seven days.
Every article of clothing in on which the semen comes becomes unclean. But everything the woman touches becomes unclean. Even more, everyone who touches what she touches becomes unclean. The woman’s capacity to spread uncleanness was much greater than the mans.
I suspect for these seven days of menstrual impurity the women resided in a separate room apart from others. Perhaps they had a number of items she was allowed to touch in other areas of the household. Otherwise imagine all the work in cleaning everything she touches.
24 And if any man lies with her and her menstrual impurity comes upon him, he shall be unclean seven days, and every bed on which he lies shall be unclean. (Lev 15.24)
The text says ‘any man’. On face value it recognises the possibility a woman may have many sexual partners. I assume she is not married, otherwise this would be adultery. So the text probably takes into account married and single women. Again, no sin offerings are prescribed for the men.
If a man does lie with her, he becomes unclean for seven days. I’m guessing sexual relations with women during their menstrual impurity was discouraged.
25 “If a woman has a discharge of blood for many days, not at the time of her menstrual impurity, or if she has a discharge beyond the time of her impurity, all the days of the discharge she shall continue in uncleanness. As in the days of her impurity, she shall be unclean. 26 Every bed on which she lies, all the days of her discharge, shall be to her as the bed of her impurity. And everything on which she sits shall be unclean, as in the uncleanness of her menstrual impurity. 27 And whoever touches these things shall be unclean, and shall wash his clothes and bathe himself in water and be unclean until the evening. 28 But if she is cleansed of her discharge, she shall count for herself seven days, and after that she shall be clean. (Lev 15:25-28)
The same rules apply for women who have a discharge of blood that is not part of their menstrual cycle.
29 And on the eighth day she shall take two turtledoves or two pigeons and bring them to the priest, to the entrance of the tent of meeting. 30 And the priest shall use one for a sin offering and the other for a burnt offering. And the priest shall make atonement for her before the LORD for her unclean discharge. (Lev 15:29-30)
Here is the sin offering. Note it is only stipulated for the woman, and then only because of her unclean discharge. The women were the most adversely affected by menstruation. The men got off easy I think.
31 “Thus you shall keep the people of Israel separate from their uncleanness, lest they die in their uncleanness by defiling my tabernacle that is in their midst.” (Lev 15:31)
The LORD wanted them to take this seriously. The main point the LORD wanted to stress was that he is Holy and they needed to be careful and mindful about how they stood before him.
The LORD provided a means for them to stand before him pure and clean.
32 This is the law for him who has a discharge and for him who has an emission of semen, becoming unclean thereby; 33 also for her who is unwell with her menstrual impurity, that is, for anyone, male or female, who has a discharge, and for the man who lies with a woman who is unclean. (Lev 15:32–33)
Story of Israel
In the book of Job, Eliphaz picks up on the regular unclean state of woman and in particular during childbirth. He stresses the purity and holiness of God.
14 What is man, that he can be pure?
Or he who is born of a woman, that he can be righteous?
15 Behold, God puts no trust in his holy ones,
and the heavens are not pure in his sight;
16 how much less one who is abominable and corrupt,
a man who drinks injustice like water! (Job 15:14–16)
And so Israel kept on practicing these laws through hundreds of years. For more than a millenium.
Story of Jesus
Jesus changed all this. In the gospel he gets embroiled about various traditions of the Jews. He comes out overthrowing the whole cleanliness system and teaches people what really defiles them.
14 And he called the people to him again and said to them, “Hear me, all of you, and understand: 15 There is nothing outside a person that by going into him can defile him, but the things that come out of a person are what defile him.” 17 And when he had entered the house and left the people, his disciples asked him about the parable. 18 And he said to them, “Then are you also without understanding? Do you not see that whatever goes into a person from outside cannot defile him, 19 since it enters not his heart but his stomach, and is expelled?” (Thus he declared all foods clean.) 20 And he said, “What comes out of a person is what defiles him. 21 For from within, out of the heart of man, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, 22 coveting, wickedness, deceit, sensuality, envy, slander, pride, foolishness. 23 All these evil things come from within, and they defile a person.” (Mk 7:14–23)
Be mindful of what comes out of your heart.
Is it love, faith, hope, joy and thankfulness? Or the things Jesus mentions above? We still need to be clean to stand before the LORD. But remember – Jesus makes us clean.
Copyright © Joshua Washington and thescripturesays, 2015. All Rights Reserved.