Today’s reading begins with the defining of clean and unclean animals and concludes with defining how clothing is determined to be contaminated with leprous disease.
The subject of clean and unclean animals is one that many people have heard of from the Bible. Most don’t know the full definition of what is and isn’t considered to be clean by Levitical standards, but know that the topic exists in the Bible. The animal that most people know of as being prohibited from consumption in the Bible is the pig. Just about everyone knows that the Israelites were prohibited from eating any pork products. The group of animals for which many know of an existing prohibition is shellfish such as lobster, crab, and shrimp. There were others that were unclean including camels, badgers, and many species of birds.
What I find to be somewhat surprising are the clean and unclean insects. I suppose being an American I tend to think of any insect as being detestable and unfit for consumption. In a time of less abundance, however, it was important for the Hebrew people to know what insects were and were not acceptable to consume. Among insects, those that were deemed to be clean and acceptable for consumption included locusts, crickets, and grasshoppers. All other winged insects were considered unclean.
Another law of note in this section were the purification requirements for women who had recently given birth to children. Women having given birth to boys were considered ceremonially unclean for the first week of the child’s life and then for an additional 33 days. Women having given birth to girls were considered to be ceremonially unclean for two weeks after the birth of the child and then for an additional 66 days. At the conclusion of the period of her purification, the woman offer a burnt offering and a sin offering.
The remainder of the section for today’s reading focuses on the priestly determination of leprous infections in people and their belongings. Skin diseases must have been somewhat common as this section of the text lays out quite an extensive explanation of what was and was not considered to be leprous. The portion I considered to be a bit humorous was the discussion of men and hair loss:
“If a man’s hair falls out from his head, he is bald; he is clean. And if a man’s hair falls out from his forehead, he has baldness of the forehead; he is clean.” Leviticus 13:40-41
Good news for you bald guys out there. No sacrifices are necessary for your condition.
What a difficult life it must have been for those among the Israelites who had acquired leprosy. Banishment from their family and the subsequent loneliness that must have resulted from it.