Leviticus: the clean and the unclean…

Cover to Cover

Reading: Leviticus 14:1-15:33

Focus: Leviticus 15:1-32

Probably one of the most difficult things to understand about the Israelites was the matter of cleanliness and uncleanliness. The picture that is perceived by our account of the Gospels is that it related to one’s spiritual state: cleanliness indicating a right standing with God and uncleanliness the opposite. However, a proper understanding of cleanliness and uncleanliness is far from the case.

The chapter in focuses discusses the nature of bodily discharges and how it affects one’s cleanliness and uncleanliness. In points to natural and abnormal discharges of bodily functions, outlining that such things cause one to be unclean. Yet, it makes no connection to such discharges as sinful, just unclean. Uncleanliness is best understood as a state which required careful attention in one’s personal matters.

In the event of a bodily discharge, a person was declared unclean, also indicating that it is in the best interest of others to avoid direct contact. Why? To avoid infection and potential health concerns due to the discharge. As a prescription, those who had bodily discharges were only required to wash themselves in water. Again, there is no connection made between discharges and sin. It is merely a matter of social etiquette; just as you wouldn’t shake hands with someone who didn’t wash their hands after going to the bathroom.

Such things which are recorded in Leviticus and the Law are generally common sense for us today. You wash your hands before you eat. You don’t shake hands, or come into physical contact with someone, if you haven’t bathed after doing something ‘unclean’ (going to the bathroom, gardening, fixing something under the car, crawling through your dust-filled attic, etc.) Social etiquette simply dictates that you are clean and presentable before other people…and a little deodorant never hurt anyone either.

Next Reading: Leviticus 16:1-19:37