Through the Bible in a Year: Leviticus 12 Through 16

Reading Schedule and Intro

Today’s Bible Reading is Leviticus 12-16
Thursday, Feb. 8: Leviticus 17-21
Friday, Feb. 9: Leviticus 22-27

Next week we will go back to the apostles’ writings, to the Gospel of Mark. The overall year’s plan is here.

My commentaries are sometimes long. The Bible is the priority. Read it first, and my commentaries are carefully sectioned so you can find the passage you may want help on. Please use the comment section of my blog if I missed something or you have something to add!

Leviticus 12:1-8: Motherhood and Purification

The time of purification for a girl was double that for the birth of a son. I’m not sure why. I looked up a couple commentaries, which suggested that because a male is circumcised, his blood is providing part of the purging.

That’s not very convincing to me, but I thought I’d pass it on.

We read here that the normal sacrifice at the end of the days of purification is a lamb, unless the family can’t afford it. This is an indication that Joseph and Mary, the mother of Jesus, were poor. They offered a pair of doves (Luke 2:24). That, of course, may have changed once they received gifts from the magi!

Leviticus 13:1-59: Laws Concerning Leprosy

Special care is taken to make sure that leprosy, an incurable disease, doesn’t set in among the congregation.

The Law speaks of fleshly things for the Israelites, but for us who walk by the Spirit under the new covenant, there are spiritual lessons. We must guard against spiritual leprosy, becoming impure before God, by watching for the first hints of impurity and compromise. James says, “Confess your faults to one another, and pray for one another, so that you may be healed” (Jam. 5:16).

You don’t wait until the leprosy has set in. At that point, you have to be cut off from the people. You watch for signs of it, and you stop all else you are doing, and find healing, asking prayer from those around you.

Tertullian, writing about A.D. 210, takes a shot at spiritually applying some of these passages in On Modesty, ch. 20.

Leviticus 14:1-57: Cleansing Lepers and Leprous Houses

Again, preventing leprosy and mold are taken very seriously in this chapter, and very specific advice is given on how to keep that from happening.

If leprosy and mold are dangerous in the physical, how much more dangerous is spiritual decay, which affects us eternally?

The fact is, when modern problems like mold, termites, or lice arise, the treatments that will eradicate these problems often require such diligent, ongoing application that most people aren’t willing to do them. God is setting laws requiring diligent, ongoing attention and treatment of leprosy and mold. God’s physical people could be destroyed by lack of diligence in taking care of things like these.

That is just as true for God’s spiritual people today.

By the two birds, Christ is denoted, both dead as man and living as God. He is compared to a bird because he is understood and declared to be from above, from heaven. The living bird, having been dipped in the blood of the dead one, was afterwards let go. For the living and divine Word was in the crucified and dead temple [of the body], taking part in the suffering, and yet unsuffering to God.
     The bloody suffering of Christ on the cross for the salvation of those who are sprinkled with the Spirit, the water, and the blood is displayed by that which took place in the running water, in which the wood and the hyssop and the scarlet were dipped.
     Therefore the material for purification was not provided primarily with reference to leprosy, but with regard to the forgiveness of sins. Leprosy should be understood to be an emblem of sin, and the things which were sacrificed an emblem of the one who was to be sacrificed for sins. (Justin Martyr, Other Fragments from the Lost Writings of Justin 10, c. A.D. 150)

Leviticus 15:1-33

This chapter covers mature issues. I searched through my collection of early Christian writings looking for references to this chapter, and I didn’t find any, except …

A couple of them quote v. 31, with the following wording, which must be Septuagint (the original Greek translation of the Hebrew Scriptures) wording:

Make the children of Israel godly.

It reads like this in the NASB, quoting the entire verse:

Thus you shall keep the sons of Israel separated from their uncleanness, so that they will not die in their uncleanness by their defiling My tabernacle that is among them.

If you are going to live with God, you should live as though you live with God. Throughout this trip to the land of Canaan, we see what happens when Israel becomes idle about following God. Judgment is sometimes huge and horrific.

Here’s what the apostle Paul has to say about their experiences:

These things were our examples, to teach us not to long after evil things the way they longed after them. Nor be idolaters, like some of them. … Nor let us be sexually impure, as some of them were, and 23,000 fell in one day. Nor let us put Christ to the test, as some of them tested him, and were destroyed by serpents. And don’t grumble, as some of them also grumbled, and were destroyed by the destroyer.
     All these things happened to them as examples. They were written for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the age have come. Therefore, let the one who thinks he stands pay attention so that he does not fall down! (1 Cor. 10:6-12)

God, in the Scriptures, does not ever dodge difficult subjects. He addresses menstruation, child birth, and the male role in child birth. In some places, the Bible is rated R!

We cannot have anything hidden from God. Our whole lives should be exposed to him, and we should put forth the effort to make sure that our lives are clean before him.

Leviticus 16:1-34: The Day of Atonement

The Day of Atonement turns up rather abruptly here, without warning. This is one of the three great feasts in Israel. All the men of Israel would appear before God three times per year in whatever city the Tabernacle, or Tent of Meeting, wound up in. (Eventually, as you probably realize, this would be replaced by the temple Solomon built in Jerusalem.) There they would celebrate:

  • Passover, along with its 7 days of unleavened bread. This happened in the spring.
  • The Feast of Tabernacles (tents or booths), which was a harvest feast in early fall. We have not been introduced to it yet.
  • The Day of Atonement, later in the fall.

This was the only day of the year that anyone entered the "holy of holies." The tabernacle had two rooms in it, and the back room held the ark of the covenant and the mercy seat, which was the lid of the ark.

The writer of Hebrews has the table of incense listed as being in the "holy of holies" with the ark (9:3-4). This has caused a bit of controversy because it seems clear from the Law that the table of incense was separated from the ark by the veil of the tabernacle (Ex. 40:2-5, 26; Lev. 4:7). This page has a thorough discussion of of why that might be that I found interesting and believable.

There were very careful rules about the high priest entering the "holy of holies," so terrifying that eventually the rest of the Levites would tie a rope around the high priest’s ankle so that he could be dragged out of the holiest place should God kill him there.

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