We can imagine the emotional impact felt by those Israelites upon learning that they were cut off from their families for contracting an infectious skin disease. There was the physical isolation of being removed from the center of communal life and worship. There was the inner desolation of the soul that required them to tear their clothes, shield the lower part of their face, and warn people away with yelps of “Unclean! Unclean!” (cf. 13:45). It was a double curse. For some, at least, there was the hope that their disease was not terminal. Maybe one day, they could be restored to their loved ones and to the worship of the living God. Chapter 14 epitomized this emblem of hope. There was a provision for their restoration to social and spiritual normalcy after their disease was cured by the Lord. What is outlined here was not a homoeopathic remedy for those afflicted but the ritual for being reinstated to the community after their healing was authenticated (1-9). The priest exited the camp and examined the expelled patient. If their healing was confirmed, the priest would initiate a complex ritual that was designed to move the person from outside the camp to the Tent of Meeting. While still outside the camp, the cleansed person took two birds, cedarwood, scarlet yarn, and hyssop and followed the steps indicated (4-7). He bathed and shaved off all his hair. This was followed by a seven-day period of observation, within the camp, while still banned from returning home. On the eighth day, the cleansed person stood at the Tent of Meeting and gave animal and grain offerings. The blood of the sacrificed lamb, or birds if impoverished, was then applied to the cleansed person from head to toe. Finally, the Israelite was reinstated to the presence of God, their family, and home. What joy must have been felt upon hearing the words, “He shall be clean.”
As it happened, the focus now moved from the laws for cleansed lepers to the laws for cleansed homes (14:33-53). Most likely, this involved an outbreak of mycological mildew. The reason that this mattered was that the infection in the home could afflict its residents and render them disqualified to worship at the Tabernacle. The priest observed the same procedure for identifying a skin disease, the discoloration of the stone and the extent of its permeation. The home was first evacuated. Then the priest examined the infection of the stones and walls. The house remained unoccupied for seven days. On the seventh day, the priest examined it for a second time. What followed were the steps taken if the fungus remained, or if it had been contained. First, if the infection had spread, the stones were ripped out and discarded. The plaster of the home was stripped off and new plaster was applied. Then the priest reexamined the home. If he determined that a stubborn blight remained, the house was demolished (demo-day!) and its rubble was tossed into the garbage dump outside the city. The residents of the home then took a long bath and put on a new set of clothes. Secondly, if, after inspection, the priest determined that the fungus had not spread, the same procedure that was established for the cleansed person was implemented for the cleansed home (48-53). Atonement was made for the house, the only difference being that no animal sacrifice was required. The home needed to be cleansed but not forgiven!
As it happened, Chapter 15 turns its focus on, well, let’s say it–bodily discharges. Oh, the humanity! The instructions covered male discharges, whether prolonged (2-15), or fleeting (16-18). The former referred to anything unusual that might be considered contagious, and thus, required a ritual procedure for cleansing. The latter was normal and only required the man to bathe. No animal sacrifice was required. Next, the law addressed the discharge of blood for women (19-30). The instructions were similar to those for men. If temporary (19-24), the woman was regarded unclean (ritually, speaking) for a week. If chronic (25-30), lasting more than a week, the same procedure was followed to prevent spreading. The similarity between the procedures for both men and women indicated that there was no discrimination between the genders (hooray!).
Holy Father, as Christians today, we understand that we are no longer bound by the ceremonial laws of the Old Covenant. We rejoice in the glorious truth that Jesus Christ fulfilled the ceremonial law for us. However, we do not take lightly the regulations that had to be followed by our spiritual ancestors because they enhance and deepen our appreciation for all that Jesus accomplished on our behalf. Thank You, oh our Father, for sending us Your Son! In His Mighty Name, we pray, Amen.