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Clarke's Commentary on the Bible
Introduction to the sacrifices and ceremonies to be used in cleansing the leper, Leviticus 14:1-3. Two living birds, cedar-wood, scarlet, and hyssop, to be brought for him who was to be cleansed, Leviticus 14:4. One of the birds to be killed, Leviticus 14:5; and the living bird, with the cedar-wood, scarlet, and hyssop, to be dipped in the blood, and to be sprinkled on him who had been infected with the leprosy, Leviticus 14:6, Leviticus 14:7; after which he must wash his clothes, shave his head, eye brows, beard, etc., bathe himself, tarry abroad seven days, Leviticus 14:8, Leviticus 14:9; on the eighth day he must bring two he-lambs, one ewe lamb, a tenth deal of flour, and a log of oil, Leviticus 14:10; which the priest was to present as a trespass-offering, wave-offering, and sin-offering before the Lord, Leviticus 14:11-13. Afterwards he was to sprinkle both the blood and oil on the person to be cleansed, Leviticus 14:14-18. The atonement made by these offerings, Leviticus 14:19, Leviticus 14:20. If the person were poor, one lamb, with the flour and oil, two turtledoves, or two young pigeons, were only required, Leviticus 14:21, Leviticus 14:22. These to be presented, and the blood and oil applied as before, Leviticus 14:23-32. Laws and ordinances relative to houses infected by the leprosy, vv. 33-48. An atonement to be made in order to cleanse the house, similar to that made for the healed leper, Leviticus 14:49-53. A summary of this and the preceding chapter, relative to leprous persons, garments, and houses, Leviticus 14:54-56. The end for which these different laws were given, Leviticus 14:57.
1And the LORD spake unto Moses, saying,
2This shall be the law of the leper in the day of his cleansing: He shall be brought unto the priest:
3And the priest shall go forth out of the camp; and the priest shall look, and, behold, if the plague of leprosy be healed in the leper;
The priest shall go forth out of the camp - As the leper was separated from the people, and obliged, because of his uncleanness, to dwell without the camp, and could not be admitted till the priest had declared that he was clean; hence it was necessary that the priest should go out and inspect him, and, if healed, offer for him the sacrifices required, in order to his re-admission to the camp. As the priest alone had authority to declare a person clean or unclean, it was necessary that the healed person should show himself to the priest, that he might make a declaration that he was clean and fit for civil and religious society, without which, in no case, could he be admitted; hence, when Christ cleansed the lepers, Matthew 8:2-4, he commanded them to go and show themselves to the priest, etc.
4Then shall the priest command to take for him that is to be cleansed two birds alive and clean, and cedar wood, and scarlet, and hyssop:
Two birds alive and clean, etc. - Whether these birds were sparrows, or turtledoves, or pigeons, we know not; probably any kind of clean bird, or bird proper to be eaten, might be used on this occasion, though it is more likely that turtle-doves or pigeons were employed, because these appear to have been the only birds offered in sacrifice. Of the cedarwood, hyssop, clean bird, and scarlet wool or fillet, were made an aspergillum, or instrument to sprinkle with. The cedar-wood served for the handle, the hyssop and living bird were attached to it by means of the scarlet wool or crimson fillet. The bird was so bound to this handle as that its tail should be downwards, in order to be dipped into the blood of the bird that had been killed. The whole of this made an instrument for the sprinkling of this blood, and when this business was done, the living bird was let loose, and permitted to go whithersoever it would. In this ceremony, according to some rabbins, "the living bird signified that the dead flesh of the leper was restored to soundness; the cedar-wood, which is not easily corrupted, that he was healed of his putrefaction; the scarlet thread, wool, or fillet, that he was restored to his good complexion; and the hyssop, which was purgative and odoriferous, that the disease was completely removed, and the bad scent that accompanied it entirely gone." Ainsworth, Dodd, and others, have given many of these rabbinical conceits. Of all these purifications, and their accompanying circumstances, we may safely say, because authorized by the New Testament so to do, that they pointed out the purification of the soul through the atonement and Spirit of Christ; but to run analogies between the type and the thing typified is difficult, and precarious. The general meaning and design we sufficiently understand; the particulars are not readily ascertainable, and consequently of little importance; had they been otherwise, they would have been pointed out.
5And the priest shall command that one of the birds be killed in an earthen vessel over running water:
Over running water - Literally, living, that is, spring water. The meaning appears to be this: Some water (about a quarter of a log, an eggshell and a half full, according to the rabbins) was taken from a spring, and put into a clean earthen vessel, and they killed the bird over this water, that the blood might drop into it; and in this blood and water mixed, they dipped the instrument before described, and sprinkled it seven times upon the person who was to be cleansed. The living or spring water was chosen because it was purer than what was taken from pits or wells, the latter being often in a putrid or corrupt state; for in a ceremony of purifying or cleansing, every thing must be as pure and perfect as possible.
6As for the living bird, he shall take it, and the cedar wood, and the scarlet, and the hyssop, and shall dip them and the living bird in the blood of the bird that was killed over the running water:
7And he shall sprinkle upon him that is to be cleansed from the leprosy seven times, and shall pronounce him clean, and shall let the living bird loose into the open field.
Shall let the living bird loose - The Jews teach that wild birds were employed on this occasion, no tame or domestic animal was used. Mr. Ainsworth piously conjectures that the living and dead birds were intended to represent the death and resurrection of Christ, by which an atonement was made to purify the soul from its spiritual leprosy. The bird let loose bears a near analogy to the scapegoat. See Leviticus 16.
8And he that is to be cleansed shall wash his clothes, and shave off all his hair, and wash himself in water, that he may be clean: and after that he shall come into the camp, and shall tarry abroad out of his tent seven days.
And shave off all his hair - That the water by which he was to be washed should reach every part of his body, that he might be cleansed from whatever defilement might remain on any part of the surface of his body. The Egyptian priests shaved the whole body every third day, to prevent all manner of defilement.
9But it shall be on the seventh day, that he shall shave all his hair off his head and his beard and his eyebrows, even all his hair he shall shave off: and he shall wash his clothes, also he shall wash his flesh in water, and he shall be clean.
10And on the eighth day he shall take two he lambs without blemish, and one ewe lamb of the first year without blemish, and three tenth deals of fine flour for a meat offering, mingled with oil, and one log of oil.
Two he-lambs - One for a trespass-offering, Leviticus 14:12, the other for a burnt-offering, Leviticus 14:19, Leviticus 14:20.
One ewe-lamb - This was for a sin-offering Leviticus 14:19. Three tenth deals - Three parts of an ephah, or three omers; See all these measures explained in Exodus 16:16 (note). The three tenth deals of flour were for a minchah, meat or gratitude-offering, Leviticus 14:20. The sin-offering was for his impurity; the trespass-offering for his transgression; and the gratitude-offering for his gracious cleansing. These constituted the offering which each was ordered to bring to the priest; see Matthew 8:4.
11And the priest that maketh him clean shall present the man that is to be made clean, and those things, before the LORD, at the door of the tabernacle of the congregation:
12And the priest shall take one he lamb, and offer him for a trespass offering, and the log of oil, and wave them for a wave offering before the LORD:
Wave-offering - See Exodus 29:27, and Leviticus 7, where the reader will find an ample account of all the various offerings and sacrifices used among the Jews.
13And he shall slay the lamb in the place where he shall kill the sin offering and the burnt offering, in the holy place: for as the sin offering is the priest's, so is the trespass offering: it is most holy:
14And the priest shall take some of the blood of the trespass offering, and the priest shall put it upon the tip of the right ear of him that is to be cleansed, and upon the thumb of his right hand, and upon the great toe of his right foot:
Upon the tip of the right ear, etc. - See Clarke's note on Exodus 29:20.
15And the priest shall take some of the log of oil, and pour it into the palm of his own left hand:
16And the priest shall dip his right finger in the oil that is in his left hand, and shall sprinkle of the oil with his finger seven times before the LORD:
17And of the rest of the oil that is in his hand shall the priest put upon the tip of the right ear of him that is to be cleansed, and upon the thumb of his right hand, and upon the great toe of his right foot, upon the blood of the trespass offering:
18And the remnant of the oil that is in the priest's hand he shall pour upon the head of him that is to be cleansed: and the priest shall make an atonement for him before the LORD.
19And the priest shall offer the sin offering, and make an atonement for him that is to be cleansed from his uncleanness; and afterward he shall kill the burnt offering:
20And the priest shall offer the burnt offering and the meat offering upon the altar: and the priest shall make an atonement for him, and he shall be clean.
21And if he be poor, and cannot get so much; then he shall take one lamb for a trespass offering to be waved, to make an atonement for him, and one tenth deal of fine flour mingled with oil for a meat offering, and a log of oil;
And if he be poor - he shall take one lamb - There could be no cleansing without a sacrifice. On this ground the apostle has properly observed that all things under the law are purged with blood; and that without shedding of blood there is no remission. Even if the person be poor, he must provide one lamb; this could not be dispensed with: - so every soul to whom the word of Divine revelation comes, must bring that Lamb of God which takes away the sin of the world. There is no redemption but in his blood.
22And two turtledoves, or two young pigeons, such as he is able to get; and the one shall be a sin offering, and the other a burnt offering.
23And he shall bring them on the eighth day for his cleansing unto the priest, unto the door of the tabernacle of the congregation, before the LORD.
24And the priest shall take the lamb of the trespass offering, and the log of oil, and the priest shall wave them for a wave offering before the LORD:
25And he shall kill the lamb of the trespass offering, and the priest shall take some of the blood of the trespass offering, and put it upon the tip of the right ear of him that is to be cleansed, and upon the thumb of his right hand, and upon the great toe of his right foot:
26And the priest shall pour of the oil into the palm of his own left hand:
27And the priest shall sprinkle with his right finger some of the oil that is in his left hand seven times before the LORD:
28And the priest shall put of the oil that is in his hand upon the tip of the right ear of him that is to be cleansed, and upon the thumb of his right hand, and upon the great toe of his right foot, upon the place of the blood of the trespass offering:
29And the rest of the oil that is in the priest's hand he shall put upon the head of him that is to be cleansed, to make an atonement for him before the LORD.
30And he shall offer the one of the turtledoves, or of the young pigeons, such as he can get;
31Even such as he is able to get, the one for a sin offering, and the other for a burnt offering, with the meat offering: and the priest shall make an atonement for him that is to be cleansed before the LORD.
32This is the law of him in whom is the plague of leprosy, whose hand is not able to get that which pertaineth to his cleansing.
33And the LORD spake unto Moses and unto Aaron, saying,
34When ye be come into the land of Canaan, which I give to you for a possession, and I put the plague of leprosy in a house of the land of your possession;
When ye be come into the land - and I put the plague of leprosy - It was probably from this text that the leprosy has been generally considered to be a disease inflicted immediately by God himself; but it is well known that in Scripture God is frequently represented as doing what, in the course of his providence, he only permits or suffers to be done. It is supposed that the infection of the house, as well as of the person and the garments, proceeded from animalcula. See Clarke's note on Leviticus 13:47, and Leviticus 13:52 (note).
35And he that owneth the house shall come and tell the priest, saying, It seemeth to me there is as it were a plague in the house:
36Then the priest shall command that they empty the house, before the priest go into it to see the plague, that all that is in the house be not made unclean: and afterward the priest shall go in to see the house:
37And he shall look on the plague, and, behold, if the plague be in the walls of the house with hollow strakes, greenish or reddish, which in sight are lower than the wall;
38Then the priest shall go out of the house to the door of the house, and shut up the house seven days:
39And the priest shall come again the seventh day, and shall look: and, behold, if the plague be spread in the walls of the house;
40Then the priest shall command that they take away the stones in which the plague is, and they shall cast them into an unclean place without the city:
41And he shall cause the house to be scraped within round about, and they shall pour out the dust that they scrape off without the city into an unclean place:
42And they shall take other stones, and put them in the place of those stones; and he shall take other morter, and shall plaister the house.
43And if the plague come again, and break out in the house, after that he hath taken away the stones, and after he hath scraped the house, and after it is plaistered;
44Then the priest shall come and look, and, behold, if the plague be spread in the house, it is a fretting leprosy in the house: it is unclean.
45And he shall break down the house, the stones of it, and the timber thereof, and all the morter of the house; and he shall carry them forth out of the city into an unclean place.
He shall break down the house - "On the suspicion of a house being infected, the priest examined it, and ordered it to be shut up seven days; if he found the plague, or signs of the plague, (hollow streaks, greenish or reddish), were not spread, he commanded it to be shut up seven days more. On the thirteenth day he revisited it; and if he found the infected place dim, or gone away, he took out that part of the wall, carried it out to an unclean place, mended the wall, and caused the whole house to be new plastered. It was then shut up a third seven days, and he came on the nineteenth, and if he found that the plague was broken out anew, he ordered the house to be pulled down." See Ainsworth. From all this may we not learn a lesson of instruction? If the means made use of by God and his ministers for the conversion of a sinner be, through his willful obstinacy, rendered of no avail; if by his evil practices he trample under foot the blood of the covenant wherewith he might have been sanctified, and do despite to the Spirit of God; then God will pull down his house - dislodge his soul from its earthly tabernacle, consign the house, the body, to corruption, and the spirit to the perdition of ungodly men. Reader, see well how it stands with thy soul. God is not mocked: what a man soweth, that shall he reap.
46Moreover he that goeth into the house all the while that it is shut up shall be unclean until the even.
47And he that lieth in the house shall wash his clothes; and he that eateth in the house shall wash his clothes.
48And if the priest shall come in, and look upon it, and, behold, the plague hath not spread in the house, after the house was plaistered: then the priest shall pronounce the house clean, because the plague is healed.
49And he shall take to cleanse the house two birds, and cedar wood, and scarlet, and hyssop:
50And he shall kill the one of the birds in an earthen vessel over running water:
51And he shall take the cedar wood, and the hyssop, and the scarlet, and the living bird, and dip them in the blood of the slain bird, and in the running water, and sprinkle the house seven times:
52And he shall cleanse the house with the blood of the bird, and with the running water, and with the living bird, and with the cedar wood, and with the hyssop, and with the scarlet:
53But he shall let go the living bird out of the city into the open fields, and make an atonement for the house: and it shall be clean.
He shall let go the living bird - This might as well be called the scape-bird; as the goat, in Leviticus 16, is called the scape-goat. The rites are similar in both cases, and probably had nearly the same meaning. We have already taken occasion to observe (see the end of the preceding chapter at Leviticus 13:58 (note)) that the leprosy was strongly emblematical of sin; to which we may add here: -
1. That the leprosy was a disease generally acknowledged to be incurable by any human means; and therefore the Jews did not attempt to cure it. What is directed to be done here was not in order to cure the leper, but to declare him cured and fit for society. In like manner the contagion of sin, its guilt and its power, can only be removed by the hand of God; all means, without his especial influence, can be of no avail.
2. The body must be sprinkled and washed, and a sacrifice offered for the sin of the soul, before the leper could be declared to be clean. To cleanse the spiritual leper, the Lamb of God must be slain, and the sprinkling of his blood be applied. Without the shedding of this blood there is no remission.
3. When the leper was cleansed, he was obliged to show himself to the priest, whose province it was to pronounce him clean, and declare him fit for intercourse with civil and religious society. When a sinner is converted from the error of his ways, it is the business, as it is the prerogative, of the ministers of Christ, after having duly acquainted themselves with every circumstance, to declare the person converted from sin to holiness, to unite him with the people of God, and admit him to all the ordinances which belong to the faithful.
4. When the leper was cleansed, he was obliged by the law to offer a gift unto the Lord for his healing, as a proof of his gratitude, and an evidence of his obedience. When a sinner is restored to the Divine favor, he should offer continually the sacrifice of a grateful heart, and, in willing obedience, show forth the virtues of Him who has called him from darkness and wretchedness to marvelous light and happiness.
Reader, such was the leprosy, its destructive nature and consequences, and the means of removing it; such is the spiritual evil represented by it, such its consequences, and such the means by which alone it can be removed. The disease of sin, inflicted by the devil, can only be cured by the power of God.
1. Art thou a leper? Do the spots of this spiritual infection begin to appear on thee?
2. Art thou young, and only entering into the ways of the world and sin? Stop! bad habits are more easily conquered to-day than they will be tomorrow.
3. Art thou stricken in years, and rooted in transgression? How kind is thy Maker to have preserved thee alive so long! Turn from thy transgressions, humble thy soul before him, confess thine iniquity and implore forgiveness. Seek, and thou shalt find. Behold the Lamb of God, who taketh away the sin of the world!
4. Hast thou been cleansed, and hast not returned to give glory to God? hast not continued in the truth, serving thy Maker and Savior with a loving and obedient heart? How cutting is that word, Were there not Ten cleansed? but where are the Nine? Thou art probably one of them. Be confounded at thy ingratitude, and distressed for thy backsliding; and apply a second time for the healing efficacy of the great Atonement. Turn, thou backslider; for he is married unto thee, and will heal thy backslidings, and will love thee freely. Amen. So be it, Lord Jesus!
54This is the law for all manner of plague of leprosy, and scall,
55And for the leprosy of a garment, and of a house,
56And for a rising, and for a scab, and for a bright spot:
57To teach when it is unclean, and when it is clean: this is the law of leprosy.