The closest I have come to the Old Testament condition of “uncleanness” was the way I felt I was treated in the hospital during the birth of several of our children. I know that times have changed, and that fathers of newborn children are now invited into the delivery room and accepted as a key player in the team effort of child-bearing. During the birth of our first child, however, this was not the case. I remember the way that the nurses and doctors worked at keeping me out of the way. They really didn’t want me around, and they surely paid little attention to my efforts to get my wife some relief from her pain. (I must confess that after the first three or four of our children were born, I began to reflect some of the same casualness toward what was taking place.) After the baby was born, you could only get in to see your wife at rare occasions. It was as though I would contaminate the whole place. And you could only see your baby from behind a window, held by a nurse. I felt privileged to even get to hold the baby until after we got home.
If this is the closest I have ever come to the feeling of uncleanness, think of what it must have meant to a person who had a serious skin problem to be publicly declared unclean, to be banned from worship, and even banned from the camp, living outside the camp in an unclean place, removed from fellowship with God, family and friends. Even more frustrating for me is the dilemma of the woman, who, as a result of bearing a boy baby, was unclean for seven days, and then kept apart from worship for another 40 days. How could a woman be declared unclean for having a baby? Worse yet, if an Israelite woman had a girl baby, the consequences (or should I say, the penalty) was doubled, so that she was unclean for 14 days, and then separated for yet another 80 days. Imagine that, for every girl child a mother bore she was kept apart for over three months!
In our study of the Book of Leviticus, last week we came to the third major section of the book. In chapters 1-7 we learned about the sacrificial offerings and how they were to be presented. In chapters 8-10 we studied the origination and ordination of the Aaronic priesthood. Now, in chapters 11-15 we are learning about the distinction which God has defined between those things which are clean and those which are unclean. Last week we studied clean and unclean animals in chapter 11. This week we are considering the remaining chapters, chapters 12-15, which deal with other types of uncleanness. Chapters 12 and 15 deal with the uncleanness related to sexual reproduction, and the process of purification. Chapters 13 and 14 define unclean “skin”63 ailments, and the process of purification.
As I have considered these four chapters in the Book of Leviticus, I have come to the realization that the dilemma of the woman who has borne a child is not the only perplexing problem in the text. In virtually every case of uncleanness which is defined by God in these chapters the one who is declared unclean is not responsible for his or her condition. A wife could hardly be held responsible for bearing a child to her husband. A woman could hardly be guilty for having a normal monthly period. A man with a serious skin ailment can hardly be said to be guilty for his condition. A husband and wife cannot be guilty for having normal physical relations. And yet, in each of these cases God has declared that the person in these circumstances is unclean. That person is barred from participation in worship, in offering sacrifices, in having any access to the tabernacle, where God dwelled. In addition, the unclean person was removed from fellowship and communion with the congregation of Israel, and was required to live “outside the camp.”
The problem of uncleanness without personal responsibility has been recognized by Bible students,64 but their explanations often leave much to be desired and fail to come to a consensus. The more I have considered this dilemma, the more convinced I have become that the answer to this quandary is the key to our understanding of the distinction of clean and unclean in the Old Testament. The explanation also aids us greatly in appreciating the superiority of the New Covenant to the Old. Let us listen well to these words from the Book of Leviticus.
As I approach these chapters I am going to deal with them in a more general way, focusing on broad generalizations and on the particular problem which I have raised. I will deal with chapters 13 and 14 first, which deal with the matter of unclean “skin” conditions. Then we will consider chapters 12 and 15 together, since both chapters pertain to uncleanness related to the processes related to sexual reproduction. In conclusion we will attempt to find the solution to the puzzle of uncleanness for which there is no direct responsibility.
Chapters 13 and 14 declare serious skin ailments to render the individual unclean, and pronounce the process by which such ailments are identified, as well as how the recovered Israelite may be pronounced clean. The term “leprosy,” employed by most translations, is unfortunate, as it is very likely that the disease we know as leprosy is not mentioned in our text as one of the unclean skin ailments.65 The NIV better renders the original term, employed for all of these unclean skin disorders, “infectious skin disease.” This is undoubtedly a better, and more accurate rendering of the text. It is not possible, nor is it necessary, for us to identify with precision the ailments which are described as unclean by the text.
According to Wenham,66 there are 21 different cases of skin disease in chapter 13, along with 3 different cases of diseased garments. We will not attempt to deal with each of these, but we should note some of the common characteristics of these maladies:
(1) They are all visible, external (not any internal diseases). The term “skin” is used broadly here, referring not only to the skin ailments of people, but also the outer coverings of material, leather, and buildings.
(2) By and large, the ailments were not fatal, not as serious as we might have expected.
(3) These ailments affected only a part of the body, not all of it.
(4) The skin diseases are all chronic (persistent, serious), contagious, and/or contaminating.
(5) Only the priest could declare a skin condition to be clean or unclean, which sometimes required him to go “outside the camp” (cf. Lev. 14:3).
(6) The primary concern is not curing the individual, nor protecting the public health, but of protecting the sanctity of the dwelling of God in the midst of the camp: “ … so that they will not defile their camp where I dwell in their midst” (Num. 5:3; cf. Lev. 15:31-33).
“Since the LORD your God walks in the midst of your camp to deliver you and to defeat your enemies before you, therefore your camp must be holy; and He must not see anything indecent among you lest He turn away from you” (Deut. 23:14).
Things which were declared unclean in chapters 11-15 either had to be purified or destroyed: (a) Washed with water (cf. Lev. 11:32; 15:6). (b) Burned with fire (cf. Lev. 13:52, 55, 57). (c) Broken (cf. Lev. 11:33, 35). (d) Torn down and demolished (cf. Lev. 14:40-41, 45).
People who were declared unclean by the priests suffered the humiliation of being declared (and, in some cases of having to declare oneself) unclean, and then the resulting isolation from the presence of God and from association with the people of God. That which was unclean was put outside the camp, away from the presence of God and His people. “… she shall not touch any consecrated thing, nor enter the sanctuary” (Lev. 12:4). “… the priest shall isolate (lit. shut up) him” (Lev. 13:4, cf. vv. 11, 21, 26). “… send away from the camp …” (Num. 5:2). “The one to be cleansed shall then wash his clothes and shave off all his hair, and bathe in water and be clean. Now afterward, he may enter the camp, but he shall stay outside the tent for seven days” (Lev. 14:8). In some cases the unclean thing or person was viewed as being a contaminator of others (cf. Lev. 15:4-12, 23-24, 26-27).
Once the individual recovered from his or her unclean malady, there was carefully prescribed ritual of cleansing and, at times, a sacrificial ritual, which was required before the person could approach the dwelling of God, the tabernacle. These rituals include: (a) “Wash and wait” (e.g. Lev. 15:7-11, 17, 18, 22). (b) Atonement for cleansing (cf. Lev. 14:20, 31; 15:14-15). (c) The cleansing ritual, with the string, the cedar, and the birds (e.g. cleansing of house, Lev. 14:49-53). Ultimately, for the Israelite, there was the annual day of atonement (cf. 16:16, 30), which will be the topic of our next lesson.
It is relatively easy to see why the kinds of exterior maladies described in chapters 13 and 14 were offensive to God. The things which are unclean in chapters 12 and 15 are a bit more perplexing. I have chosen to call these, “Dishonorable Discharges.”
Chapter 12 describes the uncleanness which a woman acquires as the result of the birth of a child. The uncleanness is the result of the “flow of blood” following the birth of a child. The blood, while it is unclean to her and others, is the instrument of her cleansing. In the text (Lev. 12:4-5) it is called “the blood of her purification.” It is impure, I suspect, partly because it removes the impurities of the child-bearing process from her body, thus making the blood unclean and defiling. The explanation for why having a girl child results in a doubled period of uncleanness is difficult, and most efforts to solve this puzzle prove unsatisfactory.
Chapter 15 declares certain discharges as unclean. Two of the ailments pertain to men; the other two to women. Both the men and the women have what might be called normal discharges (men, 15:16-18; women, vv. 19-24), and abnormal (men, vv. 2-15; women, vv. 25-30). I think that it is safe to conclude that these chapters generally are referring to those discharges which are relative to sex and the sexual organs. While some have viewed the ailment of Leviticus 15:1-12 as that of hemorrhoids, this seems unlikely, as the context is that of sexually related discharges.67
In chapter 12 the woman who is unclean due to bearing a child must offer sacrifices, including a sin offering. The inference is clearly made that there is some kind of sin to be atoned for. In chapter 15 the unusual discharges of men and women also require a sin offering, among other things. Why is there the suggestion that sin is related to reproduction?
This is not a new concept to the Israelite. In Genesis 3 Adam and Eve were said to be ashamed, due to nakedness (3:7), even when they made coverings for themselves, they were still ashamed and hid from God (3:10).
In Exodus 19, God gave these instructions to the people through Moses: “So Moses went down from the mountain to the people and consecrated the people, and they washed their garments. And he said to the people, ‘Be ready for the third day; do not go near a woman’” (Exod. 19:14-15, emphasis mine).
In Exodus 20, God told Moses to tell these words to the people: “‘And you shall not go up by steps to My altar, that your nakedness may not be exposed on it’” (Exod. 20:26).
Again, when Moses was given instructions on Mt. Sinai concerning the garments worn by Aaron, God said,
“And you shall make for them linen breeches to cover their bare flesh; they shall reach from the loins even to the thighs. And they shall be on Aaron and on his sons when they enter the tent of meeting, or when they approach the altar to minister in the holy place, so that they do not incur guilt and die. It shall be a statute forever to him and to his descendants after him” (Exod. 28:42-43).
Thus, when we read in Leviticus chapters 12 and 15 that discharges related to sex and reproduction cause a man and/or his wife to be unclean, this should not take us totally by surprise.
The regulations of Leviticus concerning sex-related uncleanness served one very important purpose—it clearly separated sex from religious worship. If one had sexual relations with his wife this rendered both unclean until evening. This meant that the Israelites could not have sexual relations during the Sabbath, since this would cause both to be unclean, thus prohibiting their participation in worship. The effect was to encourage the Israelites to keep their minds devoted to worship. Ideally, both sexual intimacy and spiritual intimacy require the undistracted involvement of body, soul, and spirit. This means that either activity should be engaged in apart from the competition of the other. One can see a similar theme in Paul’s practical instructions to the Corinthians (1 Cor. 7).
The separation of sexual activity and worship was particularly important to the Israelites because of the pagan worship rituals of the Canaanites, whose fertility cult engaged in carnal sexual union as an act of worship (cf. Num. 25:1-9), a practice into which the Israelites had already once fallen (cf. Exod. 32:6). If the clean/unclean legislation did no more than to create a wide gap between sex and worship it did the Israelites a great favor. It distinguished their worship from that of their pagan neighbors.
The question remains, “But why was the Israelite woman punished two-fold for bearing a girl child?” I have only one explanation, which is similar in nature to the reason for separating sex from worship. The reason is not to be found as much in the cause of the uncleanness as it is in the result this uncleanness will have in the life of the Israelite woman. In my opinion, the two-fold period of uncleanness will cause the Israelite mother of a girl child to ponder the reasons for her plight. Why is a woman singled out for uncleanness in the birth of the child, and especially so when the child is a female, like her? In other words, what is that about womanhood that merits this “curse”?
Ah, but doesn’t this word “curse” supply us with the key? This long period of isolation should have given the Israelite mothers a fair period of time to ponder why women should be cursed as they were. I believe that Genesis chapter 3 supplies her with a good part of the reason. This chapter could have provided her with ample food for thought, and taught her not only the way in which a woman participated (even led) in the fall of man, but also the ways (especially involving childbirth) in which she has been cursed, due to the fall.
Let us return to the great and pressing problem which confronts us in all of these chapters on the clean and the unclean: Why is a person declared unclean and caused to suffer for something for which he or she is not responsible? Further, why, in some cases of uncleanness, was a sin offering required when no specific sin was committed by the one making the offering?
I would begin by suggesting that these questions are precisely those which God intended the Israelite to ask, and to meditate upon, as they suffered the consequences of their “undeserved” uncleanness. The demands of the Law of Moses, summarized by the Ten Commandments, demanded or forbade specific actions. The violation of any of these commandments would have been evident, and no one could question the consequences which befell the Israelite for disobedience. But why would God bring the curse of uncleanness upon an Israelite for suffering from a condition for which he or she was not responsible? Can an Israelite woman be blamed for bearing a child, or for having a monthly period? Is this a matter which falls under her control? I believe the answer is an evident “No!” How, then, can some conditions result in suffering for an Israelite, and even require a sin offering, as though a wrong was committed?
The answer to the question, “Why must the Israelite suffer when no wrong has been committed by the individual,” is answered by this principle: The fall of man, as recorded in Genesis 3, has brought chaos and suffering to all creation, including mankind. The fall has rendered man inherently sinful from birth. Thus, man sins because he is a sinner. So, too, he will suffer in life because he lives in a fallen world where the consequences of sin cause chaos and suffering.
This principle occurred to me as I was thinking about the words of David in Psalm 51. Note the terms which are similar to those we have seen in Leviticus pertaining to uncleanness:
Be gracious to me, O God, according to Thy lovingkindness; According to the greatness of Thy compassion blot out my transgressions. Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity, And cleanse me from my sin. For I know my transgressions, And my sin is ever before me. … Purify me with hyssop, and I shall be clean; Wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow (Ps. 51:1-3, 7).
David loved the law of God and meditated upon it constantly. Whether or not he authored Psalm 119, this is apparent in the psalms which he did write (e.g. Psalm 19). We know that the background to Psalm 51 is the sin of David with Bathsheba, and the murder of Uriah, her husband. As David speaks of his sin, however, he sees his specific sins as evidence of his more general sinful state. Elsewhere in this Psalm David makes the statement, “Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity. And in sin my mother conceived me” (v. 5). David acknowledged his specific sin, but he went even farther by confessing his innate, inherited sinfulness, which was the result of the fall. David understood that he was “unclean” even from birth. His specific act of sin with Bathsheba was the outgrowth of his innate sinful condition, the condition in which he was found at birth. If his own acts of sin did not render him a sinner at birth, whose sin did? The answer is, the sin of Adam.
Therefore, just as through one man sin entered into the world, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men, because all sinned—for until the Law sin was in the world; but sin is not imputed when there is no law. Nevertheless death reigned from Adam until Moses, even over those who had not sinned in the likeness of Adam’s offense, who is a type of Him who was to come” (Rom. 5:12-14).
In this passage, Paul teaches us that Adam’s sin has constituted that all of his offspring (all of mankind) are born sinners. We inherit this sin nature and are thus born sinners, just as David indicates in this psalm. Later on in Romans, Paul informs us that the entire creation has been adversely affected by the fall, and that the creatures, like mankind, suffer and groan in this fallen condition, and will continue to do so until the Kingdom of God is established, with a new heaven and a new earth:
For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory that is to be revealed to us. For the anxious longing of the creation waits eagerly for the revealing of the sons of God. For the creation was subjected to futility, not of its own will, but because of Him who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself also will be set free from its slavery to corruption into the freedom of the glory of the children of God. For we know that the whole creation groans and suffers the pains of childbirth together until now. And not only this, but also we ourselves, having the first fruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our body (Rom. 8:18-23).
The laws of uncleanness were instructive tools, by means of which God taught the Israelites those truths fundamental to their religious faith. One of those truths was what we now call the “doctrine of the depravity of man.” Man is born a sinner, by virtue of being a child of Adam. When the Israelite asked himself (or herself), “Why should I be unclean for a condition I did not cause?,” the answer, contained in the first chapters of Genesis was, “Because of the sinful condition you inherited from your forefather, Adam.”
As you stop to think about it, most of the conditions which caused the state of uncleanness were those which resulted from the fall. All sickness and death is the result of the fall. Child-bearing is at least related to the curse. Sex was distorted and diminished by the fall, to the point where Adam and Eve were ashamed of their nakedness and fled from God. This first view that sex was “dirty” and unacceptable to God originated with man, as a result of the fall, not God. Thus, we can say that uncleanness was a condition resulting from the fall, from sin, and thus uncleanness also required a sin offering. As the Israelite offered up the sin offering due to uncleanness, he or she also acknowledged their sinful condition inherited from Adam.
And so there were two different categories of sin for the Israelite. The first was that sinfulness in which the Israelite was born, that sinfulness to which David confessed. This sin was highlighted by the laws of cleanness and uncleanness. The second was that sin which was the result of the individual violating the specific commands of God.
In Psalm 51 David saw his uncleanness as much more serious than just some external offense, some physical malady which God declares to be offensive. David confesses his specific sin as a result of his sinful state, inherited from Adam. The following verses of this Psalm indicate that David understood that the act of offering sacrifices would not make him clean, but that only God could forgive when he repented in sincerity:
For Thou dost not delight in sacrifice, otherwise I would give it; Thou art not pleased with burnt offering. The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; A broken and a contrite heart, O God, Thou wilt not despise. … Then Thou wilt delight in righteous sacrifices, In burnt offering and whole burnt offering; Then young bulls will be offered on Thine altar (vv. 16-17, 19).
This same theme was resounded by the Old Testament prophets. When given a vision of the holiness of God, Isaiah proclaimed, “Woe is me, for I am ruined! Because I am a man of unclean lips, And I live among a people of unclean lips; For my eyes have seen the King, the LORD of hosts” (Isa. 6:5). Later on, Isaiah spoke of man’s best efforts as “filthy rags” (Isa. 64:6). As I understand it, these filthy rags would be the rags which are associated with the woman’s monthly flow of blood.
It is at this point that the Israelite of Moses’ day came to a very sobering realization. While the Law could pronounce a person unclean, it made no provision to make him clean. The priest could declare an unclean person unclean, and he could pronounce a clean person clean, but there was no means to cure the condition which produced the uncleanness. It was only with the coming of Christ, who inaugurated the New Covenant, that the condition of uncleanness, and the curse of Adam, would be remedied.
The scribes and Pharisees of Jesus’ day did not have this grasp of what really constituted uncleanness. They saw it merely as a matter of external things. Thus, they were greatly offended at the actions of our Lord, and considered Him to be unclean, and a law-breaker. Their opposition to Him was frequently sounding the note: “unclean.” They could not understand why He spent His time with the unclean, the publicans, the harlots, the sick, even the lepers. Their error was to fail to see Him as the One who had come to do what the Law was unable to do—to make men clean.
The Old Testament Law required that the unclean could never come into the presence of the Holy God, and yet the Holy One, the Messiah, Jesus Christ took upon Himself human flesh, and He dwelt in the midst of men. In His ministry he avoided the self-righteous, who thought themselves clean, and He sought out those who were regarded unclean. The barrier that the Old Testament Law and its sacrificial system could not break down, the New Covenant in the person of Jesus Christ did. The cleansing which the Law could not perform, but could only pronounce, was done, once and for all by the atoning death of Jesus Christ, the Lamb of God. Repeatedly, the New Testament writers speak of the cleansing which the Christian has received:
Or do you not know that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived; neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor homosexuals, nor thieves, nor the covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers, shall inherit the kingdom of God. And such were some of you; but you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, and in the Spirit of our God (1 Cor. 6:9-11).
He saved us, not on the basis of deeds which we have done in righteousness, but according to His mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewing by the Holy Spirit, whom He poured out upon us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior (Titus 3:5-6; cf. Eph. 5:25, 26; Heb. 10:22).
The consequences of sin have not yet been fully set aside. It is only in the Kingdom of God that they will be. Heaven will be that perfect place, where all of the things that are the result of the fall of man are removed. In the Book of Revelation, we are told of a number of other things which will not be there, which we have known on earth: (a) No sun or moon (21:23; cf. 22:5). (b) No sickness, sorrow, or death (21:4). (c) No curse (22:3).
But take special note of these words:
and in the daytime (for there shall be no night there) its gates shall never be closed; and they shall bring the glory and the honor of the nations into it; and nothing unclean and no one who practices abomination and lying, shall ever come into it, but only those whose names are written in the Lamb’s book of life (Rev. 21:25-27, emphasis mine).
The death of Christ provides the solution for both of the sin problems of the Old and New Testament saint. As the second Adam, Jesus Christ reversed the effect of Adam’s sin, thus removing the guilt and sinful state inherited from Adam (cf. Rom. 5:12-21). By faith in Christ’s death, men are declared clean, and thus look forward to dwelling in God’s presence forever—heaven. While the full and final remedy is yet future, it is certain, accomplished through the atonement of Jesus Christ on the cross of Calvary.
I understand that no one will go to Hell because Adam sinned. The only reason why God condemns any person to hell is because of his own acts of disobedience, his own sin. And since Christ died to remove the guilt of all sin (that of Adam, as well as that of every individual), the only reason why any person must suffer the torment of hell is because they have not accepted Christ as their Savior, their sin-bearer.
I want you to think through the Gospel accounts with me for a moment. It was the self-righteous scribes and Pharisees, who thought that they were clean, who rejected the Lord Jesus as unclean, and who considered Him worthy of death, hung upon a cross, “outside the camp,” as it were, at Calvary.
On the other hand, it was those who knew that they were unclean who came to Jesus to be cleansed. When Jesus touched the lepers and made them clean, they understood that touching the unclean could not defile the Holy God, in whom was healing and cleansing. Thus, the woman with the hemorrhage did not hesitate to touch the Master, believing the He could make her clean, and yet not be defiled by her touch. Jesus could drink water from the woman at the well and not be defiled, for He was the Holy One of Israel.
The wicked flee from the presence of God, for they cannot approach His holiness. And yet the repentant sinner can come to Him for cleansing. I was deeply stirred as I read again the account of Peter and our Lord in Luke chapter 5. When Peter saw the fishing nets overflowing with fish at the mere spoken word of the master Luke tells us, “But when Simon Peter saw that, he fell down at Jesus feet, saying, ‘Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord!’” (Luke 5:8). Do you see the paradox here? Peter fell at the feet of our Lord, but at the same time, sensing His holiness, invited Him to depart. Obviously Peter did not wish to depart, for he fell at His feet. And He did not depart, until after He had finished His work on the cross, by which all men can be clean if they but believe.
May I ask you this morning, my friend, are you clean or unclean? We all are unclean. Isaiah, the prophet of old described our best efforts at self-made cleanness as the filthy rags associated with a woman’s monthly uncleanness: “For all of us have become like one who is unclean, And all our righteous deeds are like a filthy garment” (Isa. 64:6a). For those whose sins have caused them to feel impure, unclean, I can say with the assurance of God’s word, “You can be clean. Trust in Him, who alone has died to make you clean.”
For those who have already found cleansing in the blood of Jesus Christ, there are two very important lessons to be learned which are an application of our text. The first lesson is that Christians should expect undeserved suffering in this life, as the result of living in a fallen world. Just as the clean and unclean laws of Leviticus brought undeserved suffering to the Israelites, so Christians today should expect suffering to come into their lives, even when they have committed no specific sin. Romans chapter 8 teaches us that we live in a fallen world, a world in which the saint, along with all creation, suffers and groans, waiting for the new heavens and new earth which are still to come:
But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, in which the heavens will pass away with a roar and the elements will be destroyed with intense heat, and the earth and its works will be burned up. Since all these things are to be destroyed in this way, what sort of people ought you to be in holy conduct and godliness, looking for and hastening the coming of the day of God, on account of which the heavens will be destroyed by burning, and the elements will melt with intense heat? But according to His promise we are looking for new heavens and a new earth, in which righteousness dwells (2 Pet. 3:10-13).
Second, my Christian friend, I must give this word of exhortation. Even as our Lord went “outside the camp,” seeking to save the unclean, so you and I are called to do likewise. As the writer to the Hebrews has put it, “Therefore Jesus also, that He might sanctify the people through His own blood, suffered outside the gate. Hence, let us go out to Him outside the camp, bearing His reproach” (Heb. 13:12-13). Outside the camp is the place where the unclean dwell. I know of many ministries whose goal is to reach the lost, but I must say with sadness that many, perhaps most, of these ministries are targeting the “clean” as those they seek to reach, rather than the “unclean.” All men need to hear the gospel and be saved, but our task of evangelism demands that we take the gospel “outside the camp” to proclaim the cleansing which Christ can give to those who so desperately need it, and who more often than the self-righteous and self-sufficient are willing to receive it.
63 When I use the term “skin” here I use it in a most general way, since included in this category is the “skin” of clothing, of leather goods, and of the wall of a house. In each case the exterior, visible portion of a person, place, or thing is in view. The Hebrew text uses the same term for the “skin” of a person and these other things, and thus we can legitimately reflect the original text in our terminology without reservation. Cf. also, Gordon J. Wenham, The Book of Leviticus (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1979), p. 201.
64 Cf. Wenham, pp. 187-188.
65 Wenham lists these reasons for concluding that leprosy (Hansen’s disease) is not found in these chapters of Leviticus: (a) Archaeological evidence suggests that leprosy was not a serious problem until later on in history. (b) Neither the symptoms of leprosy nor its pathognomonic features are described in our text. (c) The Greek term lepra did not refer to true leprosy, either. Ibid., p. 195. Wenham goes on (pp. 196-197) to suggest some of the skin conditions which may be referred to in the text.
66 Ibid., p. 193.
67 Wenham mentions two reasons why this ailment, like the others in chapter 15, is related to the sex organ of the individual, rather than hemorrhoids: (a) There is no mention of loss of blood, which would be likely in the case of hemorrhoids. (b) The same term (“flesh”) is employed in verse 19 with reference to the woman’s vagina. Wenham, p. 19.