From Leviticus 14-15
Today’s passage is a bit icky. If you don’t 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
The law of Moses covered a wide range of activities and issues. In today’s passage we learn about the modest subject of bodily discharges.
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)
(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 as part of everyday life. The text seems to distinguish between masterbation (v16-17) and sexual intercourse (v18) in mind.
The text makes no mention of husbands and their wives, instead referring to men and women.
Sex is good and is part of God’s creation.
But they do become unclean, and being unclean makes one unfit for the presence of the LORD. When men have an emission of semen everything the semen touches becomes unclean and must be washed. The uncleanness can spread and must be controlled. Men seemed to get off easier than women.
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. 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)
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)
The LORD provided a means for them to stand before him pure and clean.
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.
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 (Job 15.14-16).
And so Israel kept on practicing these laws through hundreds of years. For more than a millenium.
Story of Jesus
In the gospel Jesus threw out the whole cleanliness system and taught what really defiles.
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.
We still need to be clean to stand before the LORD. But remember – Jesus makes us clean.
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