Today’s reading begins with the cleansing ritual undertaken for those who have recovered from leprosy and concludes with the determination of who is clean or unclean based on discharges from their body.
In the conclusion to my previous post, I commented on how difficult it must have been for someone who had been diagnosed by the priest as having been infected with leprosy. Complete isolation from one’s family and friends with the only hope of return based solely in the hands of God for healing. The requirements for the offerings of those who had been afflicted with leprosy and had been healed were significant. First a sacrifice of two live clean birds, then after seven days the person was to shave all of his hair and bathe. On the eighth day, the person was required to take two unblemished male lambs and a third female lamb along with a grain offering and a portion of oil to the priest for making atonement. The requirements for those unable to afford this sacrifice were slightly less, but must have still been significant given that this person was attempting to return to society after having been absent for an extended period of time.
In addition to the regulations for making atonement for those who recovered from leprosy, there were requirements for the cleansing of a home the walls of which had been contaminated with a leprous disease. The requirements for the cleansing of a home were far less than those imposed on people, but if a leprous disease persisted in the structure of someone’s home, it was required that the dwelling be dismantled and essentially thrown away.
The final portion of today’s reading deals with discharges from both male and female sexual organs. Certainly a bit of a surprising topic, but it is discussed in some detail. To briefly summarize: discharges related to normal, healthy sexual function although they would render a person unclean until the evening were of little consequence; on the other hand, discharges that indicated some sort of disease were dealt with in a more extensive manner and required being ceremonially unclean for a period of seven days with an atoning sacrifice made on the eighth day after the discharge occurred.
The importance of these requirements is summarize in Leviticus 15:31: “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.”