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Bible Commentaries

The Pulpit Commentaries

Leviticus 14



Verses 1-32


THE FORM OF PURIFICATION OF THE LEPER (Leviticus 14:1-32). This is the most minute of all the forms of purification, those for purification from contact with a dead body (Numbers 19:1-22) and for the cleansing of a defiled Nazarite (Numbers 6:1-27) being alone to be compared with it in this respect. Some purifications were accomplished, as we have seen, in a very summary manner: one who touched the carcass of a beast that had died a natural death had only to wash his clothes (Leviticus 11:40). The greater and more significative the defilement, the more careful and the more significative must be the cleansing. Leprous uncleanness excluded the leper both from the camp and from the sanctuary, from the rights both of citizen. ship and of Church-membership, with which the rights of the family were also associated; consequently there had to be a double form of restoration, each with its special ceremonies. The manner of the first reconciliation is detailed in Leviticus 14:1-8, of the second in Leviticus 14:9-32.

Leviticus 14:2

This shall be the law of the leper in the day of his cleansing. The ceremonies in the first stage of cleansing, which restored the outcast to the common life of his fellows, were the following:

1. The priest formally examined the leper outside the camp, and made up his mind that he was clean.

2. An earthen vessel was brought with fresh water, and one of two birds was killed, and its blood was allowed to run into this water.

3. The other bird was taken and dipped in the vessel, with a piece of cedar wood and hyssop, which had first been tied together by a band of scarlet wool; and the leper was sprinkled seven times with the blood and water dripping from the feathers of the living bird.

4. The priest pronounced the man clean.

5. The bird was let fly into the open field.

6. The man washed his clothes, shaved his whole body, and bathed.

7. He returned within the camp, but not yet to his tent.

Leviticus 14:3

The priest. The agent is stilt the priest, not the physician. The priest shall go forth out of the camp. "May we not (as Hesychius suggests) see a figure here of the compassion of our Great High Priest, who has gone forth out of heaven itself, the camp of angel hosts, and has come down to earth, not only to examine but to heal tile moral leprosy of sin, 'to seek and to save the lost' (Luke 19:10), and who carefully examines and scrutinizes all the secrets of all hearts (Hebrews 4:12)? And he was exempt from all contagion of sin while he lived and moved among sinners (Matthew 9:11; Luke 15:1), and was 'holy, harmless, and undefiled' (Hebrews 7:26)" (Wordsworth). And the priest shall look. In later times it was ordered that the examination was not to take place on the sabbath, nor in the early morning, nor in the late afternoon, nor inside a house, nor on a cloudy day, nor in the glare of midday, and that the priest must have good eyesight, and only determine one case at a time; nor was he allowed to pronounce judgment on his own kindred. And, behold, if the plague of leprosy be healed in the leper. The plague of leprosy is healed before the ceremony of purification begins, but the leper is not pronounced clean until he has been sprinkled with the blood and water (Leviticus 14:7).

Leviticus 14:4

Cedar wood, and scarlet, and hyssop. "Cedar wood, and hyssop, and scarlet ' are also to be burnt with the red heifer for the ashes for the water of separation (Numbers 19:6), and they appear to have been commonly employed in purifications (Hebrews 9:19). The antiseptic properties of cedar made it peculiarly suitable for such occasions. The hyssop "was probably not the plant which we call hyssop, the Hyssopus officinalis. for it is uncertain whether this is to be found in Syria and Arabia, but a species of origanum resembling hyssop, the Arabian zater, either wild marjoram, or a kind of thyme" (Keil on Exodus 12:21). The Psalmist's cry, "Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be chart" (Psalms 51:7), shows the common use to which it was put. In the present case, the sweet smell both of the wood (one cubit's length of which was used) and of the herb would have still further adapted them for symbolizing the redemption of the leper's flesh from corruption and putrefaction. The scarlet was probably a band of scarlet wool with which the cedar and the hyssop were tied—not to the bird (for we have no account of their being after, wards removed), but (as in the burning of the red heifer) one to the other. The colour of the wool was appropriate, not only because it was about to be dipped in the blood and water, but also because it symbolized the purified and now healthy blood.

Leviticus 14:5

One of the birds be killed in an earthen vessel over running water. A small quantity of water was placed in an earthenware dish, and one of the birds was killed over the dish in such a way that the blood dripped into the water. The water was needed, as there would not have been sufficient blood in the bird for the seven sprinklings which were to be made. It was to be running, literally, living, water; that is, fresh water taken from a fountain or a running stream, in order that it might be as pure as possible. Symbolically, the cleansing power of water as well as of blood is indicated.

Leviticus 14:6

As for the living bird, he shall take it. The wings and tail of the bird were extended, and in this position it was dipped into the blood and water in the earthenware dish, and with it, the bunch made up of cedar, hyssop, and scarlet wool.

Leviticus 14:7

And he shall sprinkle upon him that is to be cleansed from the leprosy seven times. It is not certain whether the seven sprinklings were made upon the forehead of the person to be cleansed, or on the back of his hand. The feathers of the bird and the bunch of hyssop would be specially instrumental in the seven sprinklings. And shall pronounce him clean. Having assured himself that he was healed (Leviticus 14:3), the priest now pronounces him to be clean, he looses as well as binds. It had been his office to declare the man a leper, and thereby to shut him out from the people of the Lord (Leviticus 13:8, Leviticus 13:15, Leviticus 13:22, Leviticus 13:25, Leviticus 13:36, Leviticus 13:44, Leviticus 13:46). Now he pronounces him to be no leper, and therefore, after some further ceremonies, readmits him (Leviticus 14:8, Leviticus 14:20, Leviticus 14:31). And shall let the living bird loose into the open field. The symbolism of the two birds, which has been much misinterpreted, is essentially the same as that of the two goats on the day of atonement, though each ceremony has its distinctive features. The killing of the living bird was not a true sacrifice, as was the offering of the goat to Jehovah, but by its death it represented the state in which the leper had legally been, and to which he would have been physically reduced had not a remedy been found. The deathly and unclean state of the leper having been symbolically transferred from the dead bird to the living bird by the latter's being sprinkled in the former's blood, the living bird stands in the position of the scapegoat, on whom the sins of the people were laid. The bird is then let loose into the open field; literally, upon the face of the field; and it flies off, carrying with it the leper's uncleanness, and assuring him by every forward movement that it makes that the living death has passed from him, just as each step or' the scapegoat appeared to the Israelites to remove their sins from them. A large number of commentators, on the other hand, consider the released bird to symbolize the health and freedom now given back to the leper, and they dwell on the rapid and uncontrolled movement of birds as being peculiarly suitable for representing this recovered liberty. But this interpretation, to which there are many objections, appears to be altogether incompatible with the fact that the same ceremony is used in the cleansing of the leprous house, whereas the house could certainly not be represented as "recovered to unrestrained liberty" (Lunge). The common patristic view, that the two birds represent the two natures of the one Great Sacrifice offered to redeem man from sin, seems to be out of place here.

Leviticus 14:8

After the healed leper has washed his clothes, and shaved off all his hair, and washed himself with water, so as to leave no remnant of his former defilement that can be removed, the first stage of his purification is over. He is restored to the camp, but not yet to the sanctuary, nor to his position as head or member of his family. He has still to undergo another week's purgation, and until that time has elapsed he may not live in his tent.

Leviticus 14:9-32

The ceremonies in the second stage of cleansing, which restored the late outcast to his home and to his covenant-right, were the following;

1. At the end of seven days he repeated the process of washing, shaving, and bathing.

2. On the eighth day he brought a lamb for a trespass offering, a leg of oil, a meat offering, a sin offering, and a burnt offering.

3. The priest that officiated at the cleansing presented him and his offerings at the door of the tabernacle.

4. He offered the trespass offering and the log of oil for him.

5. He slew the trespass offering and put some of the blood of it on different parts of the man's body.

6. He poured some of the oil into his left hand, and having sprinkled some of it seven times before the Lord, he placed some of it on those parts of the man's body on which the blood had been placed, and poured the rest upon his head.

7. He offered the sin offering, the burnt offering, and the meat offering.

Leviticus 14:9

But it shall be on the seventh day. The pause for seven days, followed by placing the blood on the tip of the right ear, and on the thumb of the right hand, and on the great toe of the right foot, and the subsequent anointing with off, irresistibly call to mind the ceremonies of the consecration of priests (Leviticus 8:35, Leviticus 8:23, Leviticus 8:24, Leviticus 8:12, Leviticus 8:30), and no doubt they are intended to do so. The whole nation was in a sense a priestly nation, and the restoration of the lapsed member to his rights was therefore a quasi-consecration.

Leviticus 14:10

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. Every sacrifice is to be provided and offered by the restored leper, except the peace offering. It is certainly singular that the peace offering should be omitted, and that the trespass offering should be required. The former fact may be accounted for by the supposition that though the peace offering was not required, the late leper was, after his other sacrifices, put in a position where he might offer it when he would of his own free will. But the requirement of the trespass offering is more difficult to explain. What wrong had the leper done? and what satisfaction had he to make? The usual answer to this question is that he had wronged Jehovah in that, however involuntarily, he had failed to bring him the offerings and service which he would have brought had he not been excluded from the camp. But this is a very forced explanation, and it is incompatible with other parts of the Law. For the leper was not the only unclean person who, owing to his uncleanness, was prevented from offering his gifts and worship at the tabernacle or temple. The woman who had an issue of blood for twelve years (Luke 8:43) during that time would have been excluded from the sanctuary. But no trespass offering is required of those that have been unclean through issues. We must therefore, look for some other explanation of the requirement in the case of the cleansed leper. And a simpler one is at hand. Leprosy was the type of sin—or all sin whatsoever. When, therefore, the expiatory sacrifices were demanded, both kinds—the trespass offering and the sin offering—had to be offered, because expiation had to be made for the uncleanness which represented all unrighteousness—trespasses as well as sins. It might be that the man had not committed a trespass; he might also not hive committed sin; but he had been stricken with the foul disease which symbolized both one and the other, and therefore he had to offer on his cleansing the sacrifice appropriate to each. There is a difference in the ritual of the trespass offering in the present ease, intended perhaps to distinguish it from those trespass offerings which were made when a man had in his mind a certain wrong or injury which he had committed, and for which he wished to make compensation. On this occasion

Leviticus 14:12

The log of oil, amounting to something more than half a pint, is waved by the priest, together with the lamb for the trespass offering, as a wave offering before the Lord, in order that a special consecration may be given them. They thus become qualified for the purposes for which they are presently used.

Leviticus 14:14

And 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. The Mishna describes the ceremony as follows:—"The leper stands before the trespass offering, lays his hand upon it and kills it. Two priests catch up the blood one in a vessel, the other in his band. He who catches it up in the vessel goes and throws it on the side of the altar, and he who catches it in his hand goes and stands before the leper. And the leper who had previously bathed in the court of the lepers, goes and stands in the gate of Nicanor. Rabbi Jehudah says he needs not bathe. He thrusts in his head, and the priest puts of the blood upon the tip of his ear; he thrusts in his hand, and he puts it upon the thumb of his hand; he thrusts in his foot, and he puts it upon the great toe of his foot" ('Negaim,' 14.7, quoted by Edersheim, 'Temple Service,' Leviticus 18:1-30.). No doubt, the ear, the thumb, and the great toe are selected for the purpose of showing, as in the case of the consecration of the priest, that the senses and the active powers of the restored Israelite must be dedicated hence, forth to God.

Leviticus 14:15-18

And the priest shall take some of the log of oil, and pour it into the palm of his own left hand. This ceremony is altogether peculiar to this purification. The joint use of blood and oil is not singular (see Le Leviticus 8:30), but elsewhere there is no sprinkling of the oil … seven times before the Lord, and in the consecration of priests there was no anointing of the different members with oil as well as with blood. The Mishua (as before cited) continues the description of the ceremony as follows:—"The priest now takes from the log of oil and pours it into the palm of his colleague, though if he poured it into his own it were valid. He dips his finger and sprinkles seven times towards the holy of holies, dipping each time he sprinkles. He goes before the leper, and on the spot where he had put the blood he puts the oil, as it is written, 'Upon the blood of the trespass offering.' And the remnant of the oil that is in the priest's hand, he pours on the head of him that is cleansed, for an atonement; if he so puts it, he is atoned for, but if not, he is not atoned for. So Rabbi Akiba. Rabbi Jochanan, the son of Nuri, saith, This is only the remnant of the ordinance, whether it be done or not, the atonement is made; but they impute it to him (the priest), as if he had not made atonement." The double sprinkling with blood and oil betokened dedication as in the case of the priests, the blood specially denoting reconciliation, and the oil the strengthening power of God by which the new life was to be led.

Leviticus 14:19, Leviticus 14:20

The priest shall offer the sin offering. The sin offering is due, according to the regulation given in Leviticus 5:3, in consequence of the man having been in a state of uncleanness. It is followed by the burnt offering and the meat offering, and then the man is restored to his state of legal cleanness, and of communion with God as well as with his fellows

Leviticus 14:21-32

And if he be poor, and cannot get so much. The concession to poverty consists in the substitution of two turtledoves, or two young pigeons, for the two lambs required for the sin offering and the burnt offering, and one tenth-deal of flour for three tenth-deals of flour in the meat offering. But no difference is made as to the lamb required for the trespass offering, or the log of oil. These must be provided by the poor as well as by the rich, and the ceremonies used at their offering must be the same for poor and rich, as they are essential to the rite,


Leviticus 14:1-32

The cleansing of the leper represents the absolution of the sinner,

as his exclusion from the camp represented spiritual excommunication.

I. THE LAW OF CHRISTIAN EXCOMMUNICATION AND ABSOLUTION, "I will give unto thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt bind on earth shall be bound in heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven" (Matthew 16:19). "Whatsoever ye shall bind on earth shall be bound in heaven: and whatsoever ye shall loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven" (Matthew 18:18). "Whose soever sins ye remit, they are remitted; and whose soever sins ye retain, they are retained" (John 20:23).


1. To admit.

2. To shut out.

3. To readmit.

1. The spiritual keys are used by God's ministers for the purpose of admission, whenever they introduce into Christ's kingdom, the Church, a new member by the use of the initiatory rite of baptism, which they are commissioned to employ for that end.

2. They are used for the purpose of exclusion, whenever the Church, or any duly constituted section of the Church, following the example of the Corinthian Church, as instructed and guided by St. Paul, shuts out from its fold one who has been guilty of gross immorality (1 Corinthians 5:1-13) or of depraving the faith (1 Timothy 1:20), and continues obstinate in his sin.

3. They are used for the purpose of readmission, when the Church has become satisfied that the sinner whom she had excluded from her fold has ceased to be a sinner, and thereupon, like the Corinthian Church, once more under the direction of St. Paul, "forgives him and comforts him, lest such an one should be swallowed up with overmuch sorrow," and confirms its love towards him (2 Corinthians 2:7, 2 Corinthians 2:8).

III. THE FORMS FOR ADMISSION, EXCLUSION, AND READMISSION IN THE OLD AND NEW DISPENSATIONS. The form of admission into covenant with himself is, as we should expect, fixed by Divine authority in both dispensations. In the old dispensation it was circumcision. "Every man child among you shall be circumcised. And ye shall circumcise the flesh of your foreskin; and it shall be a token of the covenant betwixt me and you. And he that is eight days old shall be circumcised among you, every man child in your generations,… and my covenant shall be in your flesh for an everlasting covenant" (Genesis 17:10-13). In the New Testament it is baptism in the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. "Go ye therefore, and teach (make disciples of) all nations, baptizing them in the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost" (Matthew 28:19). "Ye are all the children of God by faith in Christ Jesus. For as many of you as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ" (Galatians 3:26, Galatians 3:27). These forms are unchangeable by any human authority.

The form of exclusion from the covenant people was not so definitely fixed under the old as the new dispensation. In the former it is ordained that for various transgressions a soul shall be cut off. "The uncircumcised man child whose flesh of his foreskin is not circumcised, that soul shall be cut off from his people; he hath broken my covenant' (Genesis 17:14). "If a man shall lie with a woman having her sickness, both of them shall be cut off from among their people" (Leviticus 20:18). But it is only in the case of leprosy that the method of exclusion is given in detail. There we have seen that it is to consist of a careful examination on the part of God's priest, and a pronunciation by him of the undoubted existence of the uncleanness in the person suspected, after which the latter is to exhibit all the signs of one mourning for himself as dead, to dwell alone, and" without the camp shall his habitation be" (Leviticus 13:45, Leviticus 13:46). So in the New Testament the power of "binding" as well as of "loosing," and of "retaining" bound as well as of "forgiving," is granted, and the obligation of exerting this power is involved in its grant; but no especial form by which it is to be done is given. It is only in the case of the incestuous Corinthian that we have an example of the way in which St. Paul judges that it shall be done. From thence it appears that the decision is to be passed by the chief Church officer, in the name of Jesus Christ, and promulgated by the assembled Church, the result being that the offender is translated from the kingdom of Christ to the outer world, the kingdom of Satan, "for the destruction of the flesh, that the spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus" (1 Corinthians 5:3-5).

Nor is there any form definitely appointed either in the old or in the new dispensation for the readmission of those that had been cast out. No doubt in the old dispensation, it was always effected by the means of sacrifice, but we have a definite statement of the form adopted only in the case of reconciliation after leprosy. This form we have seen to be very elaborate and significative. Similarly in the new dispensation, we find no form authoritatively given for the restoration of the penitent; only we have, as before, the instance of the incestuous Corinthian, from which we learn that after sufficient punishment such a one is to be forgiven and taken back to the love of the brethren; and we have the general principle laid down elsewhere, "If a man be overtaken in a fault, ye which are spiritual, restore such an one in the spirit of meekness; considering thyself, lest thou also be tempted" (Galatians 6:1).

The fact of a divinely authorized form being given for admission into covenant with God, but none for exclusion from it by excommunication or readmission to it by absolution, is significant. The first is under the new dispensation a sacrament ordained of Christ; the others are ecclesiastical rites, valuable for the well-being of the Church, but not appointed by its Founder as a necessary condition of its existence.


1. He did not cure the leprosy.

"If the plague of leprosy be healed in the leper" (Leviticus 14:3), then the priest shall begin the cleansing ceremonies. The healing of the disease was the work of God.

2. The action of the priest is necessary for the cleansing. If the healing is the work of God, the cleansing is the work of the priest. It is a complex ceremonial act, the result of which is not to deliver from the leprosy, but to serve as an assurance to the man himself and to the whole community that he is delivered from it, and therefore fit to be reinstated, and by that act reinstated, in the position of full communion which he had lost. So with absolution; it is God alone that forgives and heals sin. But after this has been accomplished, still it is necessary that a solemn ecclesiastical ceremony should reinstate in the communion of the faithful one who has been formally severed from it. And where the formal act of severance has not taken place, but a man's distressed conscience tells him that he has separated himself from God, and can hardly allow him to believe in his forgiveness, the solemn declaration of that forgiveness by God's minister serves as an assurance to the trembling soul, and restores to him the sense of peace which was lost.


Leviticus 14:1-57

The cleansing of sin as illustrated in the cleansing of the leper.

cf. 2 Kings 5:1-27; Matthew 8:1-4; Luke 5:12-15. We have seen the possibility of a cure of leprosy in the directions for its diagnosis given to the priests. The cured leper had also to be cleansed before admitted to the society of the faithful. In this chapter we have the cleansing of the leper detailed. In this we are to discern the cleansing of sin.

Naaman's case is instructive upon this point. He was cured by Divine power. But be was not ceremonially cleansed or received into the fellowship of the Church of God. In his case the two elements of cure and cleansing were separated. But when our Lord directed the cured leper to go and offer for his cleansing, the gift that Moses commanded for a testimony unto them, the elements were united. In the case of the cure of the leprosy of sin and its concomitant, the cleansing, the Great Physician who cures and the Priest who cleanses are one. It is our Divine Saviour who accomplishes both.

I. WE MUST NOT CONFOUND THE CURE WITH THE CLEANSING OF SIN. The cure of sin is the sanctification of the inward nature, the imparting of the principle of righteousness, the regeneration of the once unholy nature. This is quite distinct from the cleansing which proceeds from the blood of Jesus Christ. In the latter case there is a justification through faith in his blood, so that we are accepted as well as pardoned on the ground of his merits. The one is a work of God in us, the other is a work of God on us. We are not accepted because we are regenerated; we are accepted "in the Beloved." The leper was not accepted on the ground of his cure, but on the ground of his sacrifice. The ritual of the leper is, therefore, admirably adapted to keep the two ideas distinct of justification and sanctification.

II. THE RESTORATION OF THE LEPER EMBRACED TWO STAGES, WHICH HAVE THEIR COUNTERPART IN THE EXPERIENCE OF THE SINNER. These stages are first, the restoration of the leper to the society of the living, and, secondly, his restoration to the society of the saints.

1. Restoration to the society of the living. The priest was directed to go to the leper outside the camp, and if he was satisfied about his cure, then he was to receive on the leper's behalf "two live birds, and cedar wood, and scarlet, and hyssop," One of these is to be killed in an earthen vessel over running water, and its blood mingled with the water in the vessel. Of the cedar wood, scarlet wool, and hyssop the priest is to make a brush, in which he is temporarily to tie the remaining live bird, and having dipped them in the blood and water, he is to sprinkle therewith the leper seven times, pronouncing him clean, and then let the live bird free, The leper is then to wash his clothes, shave off all his hair, wash himself carefully, and come into the camp, waiting, however, a week before taking up his permanent abode in his own tent.

Now, it seems clear that in this first stage of the leper's restoration the live bird, baptized with water and blood, and then let loose to join its mates in the open fields, was a symbol of the healed leper, now to be restored to the fellowship of men. It has been, indeed, said that the live bird here is parallel to the live goat on the Day of Atonement, and should rather be supposed to carry the leper's sin away. But, inasmuch as the live bird here receives a similar baptism to the leper himself, the first interpretation is preferable. Living water and blood, therefore, are the elements of the leper's purification—symbols of the Spirit and the blood of Jesus Christ. The brush of hyssop was the means by which these were applied to the leper, and might fittingly represent the Word of God, immortal like the cedar, humiliating like the hyssop, and invigorating like the "coccus-wool," by which the atonement and Spirit of Christ are applied to the sinful soul. It is thus by the blood of Jesus and the Spirit of Jesus that the soul, dead through the leprosy of sin, is restored to the society of the living. "And you hath he quickened, who were dead in trespasses and sins" (Ephesians 2:1).

2. Restoration to the society of the saints. After seven days' sojourn in the camp, but not in his own tent, the leper was allowed to approach the tabernacle with two he-lambs without blemish, one ewe-lamb without blemish of the first year, and three tenth-deals of fine flour for a moat offering, mingled with oil, and one log of oil. These were to be used as a trespass offering, a sin offering, and a burnt offering. These suggest respectively a sense of unprofitableness or shortcoming, atonement, and personal consecration. The blood of the trespass offering is to be applied to the right ear, thumb of right hand, and great toe of the right foot, and the oil of consecration to be added thereto. This corresponds exactly to the consecration of the priests (Luke 8:1-56). It suggests that it is out ode a sense of past unprofitableness that future consecration comes (cf. Luke 17:5-10). It is when we realize how we have wronged our Lord that we are prepared to live, not unto ourselves, but unto him who died for us, as our atoning Sacrifice, and rose again (2 Corinthians 5:14, 2 Corinthians 5:15). In case of the poverty of the leper, he is instructed to bring one lamb for the trespass offering, with turtle-doves or young pigeons, in place of two additional lambs, for the sin offering and burnt offering, and a smaller meat offering, But the emphasis being laid on the trespass offering is surely to show that a sinner, when quickened by the Lord, is to sincerely lament the profitless, isolated life he lived, and to resolve to dedicate himself with full purpose of heart to the service of the Saviour whose blood has taken away his sin. The saints are those who begin in a sense of trespass a life of grateful devotion.

III. MAN'S HOME IS TO BE CLEANSED AND RESTORED IN THE SAME SPIRIT AS HIMSELF. The priest is directed to investigate a plagued house, and if by the use of prompt measures the plague is stayed and extirpated, then the first part of the ritual is to be carried out. One live bird is to be killed over the running water, and the house sprinkled with the blood and water as before, and then the other live bird liberated. Thus was the restoration of the house to the society of its mates, so to speak, symbolized. We have already taken this to indicate the careful purification of our environment, and there is no more important duty attaching to the religious man. Atonement is due, not only for the sin as it affects the person, but for sin in its ravages in the world. This blighted world of ours has need of atoning blood, and purification even by fire, before it can be restored to the favour of God. Christ has consecrated it through his blood, and his providence and Spirit will yet make the requisite arrangement for its complete purification and restoration to the holy.—R.M.E.


Leviticus 14:1-20

Restoration suggestions.

The ceremonies here enjoined in the event of leprosy being healed suggest four things.

I. AN INTERESTING PASSAGE IN THE LIFE OF OUR LORD. Our Saviour's experiences may be divided into:

Of these the last may be the least important, but they will never be unimportant. They will always remain one strong, convincing proof of his Godhead. And of these works the healing of leprosy—incurable by human art—was one of the most decisive. In this work of mercy, more vividly than in any other, we see him before us as the Divine Healer of the sin-smitten heart of man. Great interest belongs, therefore, to the incident related in Luke 5:12-15. And in the instruction given in Luke 5:14 we see our Divine Lord:

II. THE CONSIDERATION WE OWE TO OUR FELLOW-MEN. In virtue of the Divine precept the leper might not enter human society. But this was not the only ground of exclusion; by reason of the character of his malady he was wholly unfit to enter. Once exiled, therefore, he might not return until every guarantee had been given that he was "whole," until numerous and prolonged ceremonies of cleansing had removed all stigma from him, and made him likely to receive a cordial welcome back. Hence the elaborate ceremonial of the text:

When by any folly or guilt of ours we have incurred the distrust or dislike of our brethren, it is due to them that we should give them every possible guarantee of our "cleanness," our integrity of heart and life, before they abandon their suspicion and give us again their cordial confidence. Society has a right to require that the man whom it has necessarily shunned is pure of his moral and spiritual malady. We may be unable to gain any certificate of character, but we may, to regain confidence and readmission to human fellowship,

III. THE OBLIGATIONS OF OFFICE. Those who hold high office have sometimes uninviting duties to discharge. The priests of Israel held honourable rank in the nation; doubtless they received a large share of public deference, and were regarded as those who occupied an enviable position. But their duties embraced some offices from which the humblest in the land might shrink. They had to make a most careful examination of the man who believed himself healed of leprosy. Probably, in their eagerness to return to the camp, these afflicted ones often sought readmission when the disease was still upon them. But the priest must examine all who came, clean or unclean. Those who now hold honourable positions in society (the minister, the medical man, etc.) must hold themselves ready, not only to do those duties which are inviting and congenial, but those also which are unpleasant and even painful, whether to the flesh or to the spirit.

IV. THE OUTLOOK OF HUMAN MISERY. What was the prospect of the exiled leper? Human art had given him up as incurable, and human fellowship had cast him out as unworthy. What could he hope for? There were only two possible remedies—a Divine cure or the grave; the one blessed enough but sadly improbable, the other sad enough but a welcome certainty. If for a while we look at leprosy as the picture, not of human sin, but of human misery, we may be reminded that, for a Christian man, there are two remedies:

Leviticus 14:4-9

Admission (or readmission).

When leprosy had departed from the flesh, he who had been, but no longer remained, a leper was, in the sight of Jehovah and of his people, still ceremonially unclean. He was in a bodily condition which made him readmissible to Divine and human fellowship, but he must first "be cleansed" (Leviticus 14:4) before he would be readmitted. The ceremonies here prescribed give a picture of our readmission to the favour of God and the fellowship of his people.

I. SACRIFICE OF ANOTHER'S LIFE. As a "clean bird" (Leviticus 14:4) was taken and its blood was shed (Leviticus 14:5), as the life-blood of the pure and innocent creature was poured out that the leper might be clean and pure in the sight of God, so is the life-blood of the spotless Lamb shed for us. There must be for our acceptance and admission, or readmission after backsliding, a "sacrifice for sin."

II. PERSONAL APPLICATION OF THAT SACRIFICE. "He shall sprinkle upon him that is to be cleansed … seven times" (Leviticus 14:7). "The living bird" was to be "dipped in the blood of the bird that was killed." Here is the truth that if the "blood of Christ" is to be effectual for our salvation, it must be applied to our individual conscience. We who seek to be cleansed from all iniquity and condemnation, must ourselves personally apply for mercy through the shed blood of the Redeemer. By an act of living faith we must bathe in the "fountain opened for sin and for uncleanness."

III. PERSONAL PUTTING AWAY OF DEFILEMENT, The leper was to "wash his clothes, and shave off all his hair, and wash himself in water, that he may be clean." And again, after a week's interval, was to shave and to wash, removing all his hair, even to the eyebrows (Leviticus 14:9); everything about him that could in any possible way be defiled by the plague was to be carefully removed. So, if we are to be admitted (or readmitted) to God's favour and man's communion, we must deliberately put away from ourselves, from heart and life, every evil way, everything which is, or may be, tainted with iniquity (2 Timothy 2:19).

IV. DIVINE ACKNOWLEDGMENT OF OUR INTEGRITY. Everything here pointed to the fact that the Divine Ruler of Israel was prepared to acknowledge the cleanness of the leper. The water was to be "running water" (Leviticus 14:5)—pure, as opposed to that which was stagnant and foul; "cedar wood" was to be used (Leviticus 14:6), type of that which is fragrant and healthful; the "scarlet" wool (Leviticus 14:6) hinted the red and healthy blood, which had been impure but was so no longer; "hyssop" (Leviticus 14:6) was suggestive of fragrance; but that which, above all, was indicative of God's acknowledgment of the wholeness of the leper was the action respecting the living bird: that was released, let "loose into the open field" (Leviticus 14:7). This either signified that the uncleanness of the leper was borne away on the wings of the bird, where it should never be found again (a similar institution to the scapegoat, Le Leviticus 16:22, Leviticus 16:23), or that the leper was thenceforth free to go whithersoever he pleased. Either way, it expressed symbolically the truth that there was reinstatement for the man who had been healed in the privileges he had forfeited. We have in the Scriptures every possible assurance that "repentance toward God, and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ," are followed by fullness of Divine favour. The returned prodigal has the kiss of reconciliation, the ring and robe of honour, and the feast of joy. "Being justified by faith, we have peace with God … and rejoice in hope of the glory of God" (Romans 5:1, Romans 5:2). The soul that is healed of its sore disease is pronounced clean in the sight of God, and is free of its Father's house, to enter its many rooms and partake of its many joys.—C.

Leviticus 14:10-20

Final rites of readmission.

By the series of final rites of restoration recorded in these verses, the leper once more took his place as one of a holy nation admitted to the presence of God: he was "presented before the Lord at the door of the tabernacle," etc. (Leviticus 14:10). His formal acceptance at the house of the Lord, and entrance again on the privileges of the peculiar people, reminds us that our entrance, whether in the first instance or after backsliding and return, upon the fullness of sacred privilege must be—

I. ATTENDED WITH HUMILITY. The leper was to bring his sin offering, which must be slain in the holy place (Leviticus 14:13, Leviticus 14:19). Over the head of the animal he was to confess his sin, and then, with his guilt thus transferred, the blood of the sin offering atoned for past wrong. All approaches to God by the human spirit should be accompanied with a sense of unworthiness. "Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven" (Matthew 5:3).

II. IS THE SPIRIT OF CONSECRATION. The leper was to bring his burnt offering as well as his sin offering (Leviticus 14:13, Leviticus 14:19, Leviticus 14:20). By this he symbolically presented himself wholly unto the Lord, laid himself on the altar of sacred service. When we turn, or return unto God it must be in the sprat' ' of full, unreserved dedication. We are to present our bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, our reasonable (i.e. rational, spiritual) service" (Romans 12:1).

III. IN THE SPIRIT OF THANKFUL JOY. The leper was to bring "three tenth deals of line flour for a meat offering, mingled with oil" (Leviticus 14:10, Leviticus 14:20). This was a sacrifice of praise and thanksgiving, rendered under a sense of deep indebtedness for Divine bounty. It was certainly suitable enough in the case of the leper, whose malady had been removed by the healing hand of God. Nor is the consciousness of our deep indebtedness, the presentation of our utmost thanks, one whit less becoming, less demanded and required of God, when we come to his house, or to the table of the Lord, after months or years, or a life of absence, negligence, estrangement, it should be with hearts overflowing with holy gratitude and. sacred joy that we present ourselves before him.

IV. WITH A SENSE OF GOD'S FULL ACCEPTANCE OF OUR WHOLE HEART AND LIFE. There was one very significant ceremony through which the leper who was being cleansed had to pass: the priest was to put some of the blood of the trespass offering upon the tip of the right ear, and the thumb of the right hand, and the great toe of the right foot (Leviticus 14:14). Afterwards the priest did the same thing with the oil, pouring the remnant of the oil upon the leper's head (Leviticus 14:17, Leviticus 14:18). The application of the blood of atonement to these bodily extremities indicated God's acceptance of the leper throughout the entire man; every part of him was now holy unto the Lord; even every part of that bodily frame which had been the very picture and type of all uncleanness. The application of the oil denoted that the leper was thenceforth to regard himself as God's accepted servant in every sphere of human action; he was to be:

1. A reverent waiter and watcher before God, eagerly learning his will.

2. An active, industrious minister, doing his work in every way open to him.

3. A conscientious exemplar, walking in the ways of the Lord blameless. We, too, returning unto God, pleading the blood of the Lamb, offering ourselves unto him, reverently rejoicing in his mercy, are to understand and realize that

Leviticus 14:21-32

Divine considerateness.

If there had been one parenthetical verso introduced or added intimating that Divine allowance would be made for the poor, we should have thought that sufficient for the purpose. But we have more than that here. We have legislation for the poor fully stated, and the whole body of injunctions restated for their especial benefit (Leviticus 14:21-32). This brings out into hold relief God's mindfulness of the peculiar necessities of men—his Divine considerateness. We see illustrations of this in—

I. SACRIFICES BROUGHT TO HIS ALTAR. Notably this kindly provision for the poor in the case of the healed leper; but not this alone (see Le Leviticus 5:7; Leviticus 12:8).

II. GIFTS BROUGHT TO HIS TREASURY. The widow with her two mites cast in more, weighed in the balances of heaven, than did the rich with their abundance (Mark 7:1-37 :41-44; see 2 Corinthians 8:12).

III. OUR POWERS IN CHRIST'S SERVICE. To him who having received two talents gained two others beside them, was accorded by the Lord, when he returned and reckoned with his servants, approval quite as cordial as that rendered to him who having received five talents gained five talents more (Matthew 25:19-23). Equally cordial would have been the welcome to him who had been entrusted with only one, if he had gained one talent beside that.

IV. OUR STRUGGLE WITH TEMPTATION. When the agonizing Master returned and found those he left to watch and pray "asleep, for their eyes were heavy," he gently rebuked them; but he considerately extenuated their fault by saying, "The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak "(Matthew 26:40, Matthew 26:41). "He knoweth our frame; he remembereth that we are dust."

V. OUR ENDURANCE OF EVIL. God sends us privation, sickness, disappointment, perplexity, loss, bereavement, exceeding great sorrows, burdens grievous to be borne; he calls upon us to "endure as seeing him who is invisible," to be "in subjection to the Father of spirits." He expects that we shall not repine and rebel, but submit and serve. Yet he who knows all men, and who knows "what is in man" (John 2:25), who created us and made us what we are, understands and weighs our peculiar personal difficulties, temperaments, dispositions; he knows how much we strive to yield and acquiesce, and "judges righteous judgment." He is just, yet merciful, we say. We may also say, He is just, and therefore merciful. He has the requisite justice of Divine considerateness.

Let us—

1. Take heart to serve so gracious and considerate a Lord.

2. Feel impelled to serve him all the more faithfully and devotedly because he is so worthy and righteous a Master.

3. Try to copy his grace and his righteousness in our dealings with our fellows (Luke 6:36).—C.


Leviticus 14:1-20

Thorough purification.

Spiritual disease is often neglected by persons who are extremely anxious respecting some disease of the physical frame. For the former they seek no remedy, and display no concern as to its ultimate issue, whereas the latter is viewed with unceasing distress. Would that every spiritual leper entertained just conceptions regarding his state! The ceremonies of this chapter are pregnant with interest for us today. Two stages in the leper's cleansing are set before us.


1. The supposition that the leper might recover from his leprosy and be clean shows man's superiority to inanimate nature. When endeavours are being made to confound matter and mind, and to reduce man to a level with the earth on which he lives, it is not unworthy of notice that the legislator here marks a vital distinction between a man and a dwelling. The latter, if on investigation pronounced utterly unclean, was destroyed (Leviticus 14:45), and so with garments (Leviticus 13:52), but the leprous man ever contained possibilities of recovery. Let us hold fast to the truth here imaged, and delight in the thought that no sinner is beyond hope of amendment.

2. As the priest journeyed outside the camp to the leper (Leviticus 14:3), we are reminded of him who "suffered without the camp," who in his condescending love left his Father's throne to dwell with the outcasts of earth, and who in his abode with men selected not the richest and purest, but the poor and the sinful, as the recipients of his intimacy and favour.

3. The death of the one bird showed forth the condition from which, by God's grace, the leper had been rescued; the flight of the other bird, previously dipped in the blood, symbolized the enjoyment of life granted through the death of the appointed victim. How aptly does this apply to our deliverance through Jesus Christ, so that "we have passed from death unto life"! Delight in our present position should be combined with thankful remembrance of the means by which it has been secured to us.

4. The concomitants indicated the completeness of the new life received. There is no reason to reject the general interpretation that the cedar wood was an emblem of uncorruptness, the scarlet wool or braid of freshness and fullness of life, and the hyssop with its detergent properties of cleanness. These were employed in the preparation of the "water for separation" (Numbers 19:1-22). Jesus Christ came that we might "have life, and have it more abundantly." He brought "life and incorruption to light through the gospel." He quickens those "dead through trespasses and sins." Life that invigorates the entire spirit is his "free gift."

5. What trouble was necessary, and would be willingly incurred, in order to regain temporal advantages! Unless cleansed by ablution of himself and clothes, and the removal of hair from the head, no entrance into the assembly of his brethren was permissible. Yet how readily would all be performed, just as today no efforts are deemed too great to allow of participation in valued social or political movements! But for the cleansing from sin any commandment is accounted vexatious! Few care to sacrifice time or labour to become citizens of the heavenly commonwealth.


1. The provision for restoring the leper proves that God has no desire to exclude men unnecessarily from religious privileges. The seven days' interval served to guard against a possible error on the part of the priest, and impressed the leper with a deeper conviction of the holiness of God. It is only sin that bars men from the light of God's presence, and only obstinate persistence in sin that need cause despair of forgiveness. "Ye will not come unto me that ye might have life" was our Lord's indictment of men's impenitent folly.

2. See, once more, the function of the priest to appear between man and God. "The priest that maketh him clean shall present the man before the Lord," and "the priest shall make an atonement for him before the Lord." We have our Advocate with the Father, in whose name, and sheltered by whose intercession, we may approach boldly the throne of grace. Hereafter he shall present us holy and without blemish, and unreprovable before him (Colossians 1:22; Jud Colossians 1:24). Having Christ to introduce us, who can be afraid?

3. The cleansing not complete without an atonement. All marks of disease may have disappeared, or at least the fear of infection may have vanished, and yet to enter upon the fresh period of existence is not sufficient unless the past transgressions be remembered and atoned for. To forsake sin is well, but, in addition, the sin of the past must be confessed and pardoned. The sacrifice of Jesus Christ enables the sinner to start upon his pilgrimage with shoulders eased from the burden of guilt. A gulf separates him from the land of iniquity and stumbling; he is free to commence again under happier auspices. The old score is wiped out; a clean tablet marks the returned prodigal's position.

4. The purification must be coextensive with the disease. Leprosy affected the whole man; hence the tips of the ear, the hand, and the foot must be touched with the atoning blood, that all parts may be redeemed from corruption. All spheres of activity must be brought under the power of the cross of Christ.

5. The cleansing becomes a consecration of the entire man. The resemblance of this rite to that enjoined at the setting apart of the priests to their holy office cannot fail to be observed. The leper offered a trespass offering to compensate for breaches of the commandment committed by reason of his absence through sin from the sanctuary, a sin offering because of transgressions inadvertently committed, a burnt offering as an act of individual worship in which there was self-surrender to the Lord, and a meat offering, the natural accompaniment testifying grateful homage. And, besides blood, oil also was sprinkled upon the leper, and poured upon his head, and sprinkled seven times (the covenant number)before the Lord, so that we have here a recognition of the truth that Israel was intended to be a "kingdom of priests." Typical of the sanctification required in the people of God, reaching to every part of their character, until all is brought into captivity to the obedience of Christ. "As ye presented your members servants to uncleanness and to iniquity unto iniquity, even so now present your members servants to righteousness unto sanctification.''

6. The consecrated man is fit for the discharge of ordinary duties and the enjoyment of lawful pleasures. After the sacrifices, the man could once more enter his tent and mingle with his family, and pursue his wonted avocation. Jehovah proved himself in these regulations the God of the families of Israel. He protected their relationships and imparted to them his blessing. It is a mistaken idea to place affection for our kindred before love to God. Regard for God is the surest guarantee for the performance of human obligations. Well for the land if this were oftener remembered in the establishment of households and in the contracting of domestic ties!

CONCLUSION. Only when "clean" could the leper send for the priest. We go to Jesus Christ with all our guilt; he looks upon us and pronounces us clean, he touches us, and lo! we are healed; for there is sanatory power in his look and touch. What the Saviour exemplified when on earth, he is constantly effecting now from heaven.—S.R.A.


Leviticus 14:1-9

The cleansing of the leper-ceremonies outside the camp.

As leprosy is evidently a remarkable emblem of sin, so must the cleansing of the leper represent the purification of the sinner, and the laws of the cleansing, the provisions of the gospel. The text brings under our notice—


1. That the leprosy be healed.

2. That the priest certify the fact.


1. The sacrifice.

2. Its treatment.


1. Through the sprinkling of blood.

2. Through the washing of water.

3. By the ministry of the word.

Leviticus 14:10-32

The cleansing of the leper-ceremony in the tabernacle.

The ceremonies for the cleansing of the leper were distributed into two series. The first were conducted "outside the camp." This suggests that the leper must be taken not only as a type of sinners in general, but of the "sinners of the Gentiles" in particular (comp. Hebrews 13:10-12). The ceremony in the tabernacle, therefore, must refer to the reception of the Gentiles by the gospel into the fellowship of the saints. We notice—


1. This took place on the eighth day.

2. He was introduced by the priest.

3. The leper did not appear empty.


1. The sacrifices were of all the kinds.

2. The baptisms were ample.

3. The circumstances of the poor are considered.

Verses 33-57


THE LEPROSY OF A HOUSE, AND ITS CLEANSING (Leviticus 14:33-53). The subject of leprosy in houses must be regarded from the same point of view as that of leprosy in clothes. The regulations respecting it are not sanitary laws, as Lange represents them, but rest, as Keil argues, upon an ideal or symbolical basis. The same thought is attached to all species of uncleanness. Something—it matters not what—produces a foul and repulsive appearance in the walls of a house. That is in itself sufficient to make that house unclean; for whatever is foul and repulsive is representative of moral and spiritual defilement, and therefore is itself symbolically defiling and defiled. It has been suggested that the special cause of the affection of the houses in Canaan was saltpetre exuding from the materials employed in their building, or iron pyrites in the stone used. This may have been so, or more probably it was the growth of some fungus. Whatever it was, the appearance created by it was so similar to that of leprosy in the human body, as to derive its name from the latter by analogy.

Leviticus 14:34

When ye be come into the land of Canaan, which I give to you for a possession. This is the first instance of a law being given which has no bearing on the present condition of the Israelites. but is to regulate their conduct when they had come into the promised land. From the time of Abraham downwards, the assurance of their entrance into that land had been possessed by the people of Israel (Genesis 17:8), and the expectation of the speedy fulfillment of that promise had been quickened by their exodus from Egypt, and the preparations made to march through the wilderness. There would, therefore, be nothing surprising to them in receiving instructions to guide their conduct when the entrance should have been effected. As the question is one of leprosy, it is natural that it should be treated of with the leprosy of the human subject and the leprosy of garments; but as it is not of immediate application, it is placed at the end, and dealt with after the rest of the subject has been discussed, being appended to the law of cleansing the leper, instead of preceding it. And I put the plague of leprosy in a house of the land of your possession. This expression has led to the idea that the leprosy of houses was a special infliction at God's hand in a manner different flora other inflictions or diseases; but the words do not mean that. All that is done is in a sense done by God, inasmuch as his providence rules over all; and, therefore, by whatever secondary cause a thing may be brought about, it is he that does it. It is God that feeds the birds (Luke 12:24), God that clothes the grass (Luke 12:28), nor does one sparrow fall to the ground without him (Matthew 10:29). It is he, therefore, that puts the plague in a house, as the Lord of all things (cf. Isaiah 45:6, Isaiah 45:7, "I am the Lord, and there is none else. I form the light, and create darkness: I make peace, and create evil: I the Lord do all these things"). The expression militates, though not strongly, against the notion that the house caught the leprosy from the leper that lived in it.

Leviticus 14:35-44

The examination of the suspected house by the priest. First, the house is to be emptied of its furniture, lest the latter should contract a ceremonial uncleanness in case the house were found to be leprous, but not, it will be noted, lest it should convey contagion or infection. Then the priest is to examine the discolouration, and if it bear a suspicious appearance, the house is to be shut up for seven days. It at the end of that time the spot has spread, he is to have the part of the wall in which it shows itself taken down and carried away, and built up again with new stones and mortar and plaster, the parts adjoining to the infected place having been first well scraped. If this treatment does not succeed in getting rid of the mischief, the priest is to determine that it is a fretting leprosy in the house: it is unclean.

Leviticus 14:45

As the leper was removed from the camp, so the leprous house is to be utterly pulled down; the house, the stones of it, and the timber thereof, and all the morter of the house; and all its materials carried forth eat of the city into an unclean place.

Leviticus 14:46, Leviticus 14:47

The leprous house conveys uncleanness to those that enter it, but of so slight a nature that it ceases with the evening, and requires only that the clothes of the wearer be washed. Such a regulation would have been ineffectual for preventing the spread of infection, if that had been its purpose.

Leviticus 14:48-53

The ceremony of cleansing the house is as similar to that of cleansing the leper as circumstances will permit. In case there is no reappearance of the mischief after the new stones and plastering have been put in, the priest shall pronounce the house clean, because the plague is healed. First, the priest assures himself that the plague is healed, then he pronounces the house clean, and still after that the cleansing is to take place (cf. Leviticus 14:3, Leviticus 14:7, Leviticus 14:8). The cleansing is effected by the same ceremony as that of the leper himself, by the two birds, and cedar wood, and scarlet, and hyssop. The use of this ceremony in the cleansing of a house shows that, in the case of the leper, the symbolical meaning of letting go the living bird out of the city into the open fields cannot be, as has been maintained, the restoration of the cleansed man to his natural movements of liberty in the camp. If a bird's flight represents the freedom of a man going hither and thither as he will, it certainly does not represent any action that a house could take.

Leviticus 14:54-57

These verses contain the concluding formula for Leviticus 13:1-59, Leviticus 14:1-57. The various names of leprosy and its kindred diseases are resumed from Leviticus 13:2.


Leviticus 14:33-53

On uncleanness in houses.

There are two metaphors commonly used in Holy Scripture for designating God's covenant people. They are

I. GOD'S HOUSEHOLD. As the household of God the Father," of whom the whole family in heaven and earth is named" (Ephesians 3:15), they are the members of that august brotherhood gathered together in Christ, of which God himself is the spiritual Father, into which all that are adopted in Christ are incorporated, ceasing to be "strangers and foreigners," and becoming "fellow-citizens with the saints and of the household of God" (Ephesians 2:19).

II. GOD'S HORSE. The representation that God's people form his house is of a more singular character, and less capable of bring immediately grasped. It is even more commonly employed than the other. In the Epistle to the Corinthians, we read of Christians, that is, the collective body of Christians, being "God's temple" (1 Corinthians 3:16); "for ye are the temple of the living God; as God hath said, I will dwell in them, and walk in them; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people" (2 Corinthians 6:16). In the Epistle to the Ephesians, St. Paul dwells at length on the idea of the Christian Church being built up of living stones into a temple for God's Spirit: "Ye are built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ being himself the chief corner stone; in whom all the building fitly framed together groweth unto an holy temple in the Lord: in whom ye also are builded together for an habitation of God through the Spirit" (Ephesians 2:20-22). And in the Epistle to Timothy, he speaks of "the house of God, which is the Church of the living God, the pillar and ground of the truth" (1 Timothy 3:15). Similarly, the writer of the Epistle to the Hebrews, having described Christ" as a Son over his own house," continues, "whose house are we" (Hebrews 3:6); and St. Peter writes, "Ye also, as lively stones, are built up a spiritual house" (1 Peter 2:3). Just as God's Spirit dwells within the heart of each individual Christian, so, and in a more special manner, he dwells within the Church, his house not being made by hands, or constituted of wood and stone, but of the spirits of those who form the Church.

III. GOD'S HOUSE MAY NEVER BE DESTROYED, BUT IT MAY BE DEFILED. "Upon this rock" (that is, upon himself as confessed by St. Peter), "I will build my Church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it" (Matthew 16:18). But though not destructible by the power of evil, it may yet be defiled. "If any man defile the temple of God, him shall God destroy; for the temple of God is holy, which temple ye are" (1 Corinthians 3:17). That which defiles God's house is unrighteousness and falsehood, just as physical and ceremonial uncleanness defiles the camp (Deuteronomy 23:12). If the latter be allowed to continue in the carol, God will symbolically "turn away" from it; "for the Lord thy God walketh in the midst of the camp, to deliver thee, and to give up thine enemies before thee; therefore shall thy camp be holy: that he see no unclean thing in thee, and turn away from thee" (Deuteronomy 23:14). If the former be found, "the Holy Spirit of God" will be "grieved" (Ephesians 4:30), and "vexed," so that God is turned into an "enemy" (Isaiah 63:10).

IV. THE CLEANSING OF GOD'S HOUSE. As soon as there is a prima facie appearance of immorality, or irreligiousness, or superstition in a National Church, a diligent examination should be made by those placed in authority by God. Perhaps it is only an appearance, which will die away of itself. If it does so, no further measures are needed. But "if the plague spread in the walls of the house; then 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: and 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." Those whose office it is, must not shrink from removing the stones in which the mischief is found, that is, of casting out those who are incurably affected with irreligion, immorality, or superstition. "And 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." Discipline must be exercised by substituting sound teachers and members of the flock for those that have become unsound. This is the work of reformation. This is what was done for the Jewish Church by Joash, when he "was minded to repair the house of the Lord So the workmen wrought, and the work was perfected by them, and they set the house of God in his state, and strengthened it" (2 Chronicles 24:4-13); and by Hezekiah, when he said unto the Levites, "Sanctify now yourselves, and sanctify the house of the Lord God of your fathers, and carry forth the filthiness out of the holy place. For our fathers have trespassed, and done that which was evil in the eyes of the Lord our God, and have forsaken him And the priests went into the inner part of the house of the Lord, to cleanse it, and brought out all the uncleanness that they found in the temple of the Lord into the court of the house of the Lord. And the Levites took it, to carry it out abroad into the brook Kidron" (2 Chronicles 29:5-16); and by Josiah, when "he began to purge Judah and Jerusalem … when he had purged the land and the house he sent … to repair the house Of the Lord his God … and they gave the money to the workmen that wrought in the house of the Lord, to repair and amend the house: even to the artificers and builders gave they it, to buy hewn stone, and timber for couplings, and to floor the houses which the kings of Judah had destroyed" (2 Chronicles 34:3-11). And this is what was done for the greater part of the Christian Church in the West in the sixteenth century. But if these measures prove ineffective, "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; then 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. And 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." So it was with the Jewish Church. The reformations of Joash, of Hezekiah, of Josiah, were ineffectual, and the Babylonian captivity followed. And so it will be with the various National Churches of Christendom: any one of them to which the taint of impurity in life or doctrine obstinately adheres, will be destroyed utterly when God's forbearance shall have at length come to an end.

V. WARNING. "Remember therefore from whence thou art fallen, and repent, and do the first works; or else I will come unto thee quickly, and will remove thy candlestick out of his place, except thou repent" (Revelation 2:5). "Repent; or else I will come unto thee quickly, and will fight against them with the sword of my mouth" (Revelation 2:16). "Remember therefore how thou hast received and heard, and hold fast, and repent. If therefore thou shalt not watch, I will come on thee as a thief, and thou shalt not know what hour I will come upon thee" (Revelation 3:3). "As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten: be zealous therefore, and repent. Behold, I stand at the door, and knock: if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me" (Revelation 3:19, Revelation 3:20).


Leviticus 14:33-53

Cleansing the corrupt house.

That the Divine Lawgiver should, in this tabernacle period of Israel's history, anticipate a time when their future houses would be affected by some disorder similar to leprosy in the human skin, and that he should direct a treatment of such houses closely corresponding with that of the human leper, is exceedingly remarkable. Nothing could possibly impress the Hebrew mine[ more powerfully with the idea that "the face of the Lord was against' that spiritual evil of which leprosy was the chosen type. How direct the argument and forcible the conclusion that, if not only every remotest particle of leprosy itself was to be ruthlessly put away but also anything which to the bodily eye had even a near resemblance to it, and was thus suggestive of it,—how offensive, how intolerable, in the sight of God must that evil thing itself be held! Here are—

I. THREE MAIN PRINCIPLES ON THE SUBJECT OF CORRUPTION. In God's view, as we gain it from his Word,

1. Corruption (impurity) may attach to the "house" or community as well as to the individual. We read of "the iniquity of the house of Israel," and of "the iniquity of the house of Judah" (Ezekiel 4:5, Ezekiel 4:6); of "the house of Israel dealing treacherously with God" (Jeremiah 3:20), etc.

2. That earnest effort should be made to cleanse it from corruption. The leprous house of stone was to be cleansed: the stones in which the plague was were to be taken away (Leviticus 14:40); the house was to be scraped round about, and its unclean dust cast out of the camp (Leviticus 14:41); other stones were to be placed and other mortar used instead (Leviticus 14:42): the leprous part was to be removed and the house renovated. So must the contaminated community purify itself, removing that from it which is evil and corrupting its Achan, its Ananias and Sapphira, its Simon the sorcerer, its guilty member (1 Corinthians 5:1-13), etc.

3. That, all efforts failing, the house will be destroyed. "He shall break down the house, the stones of it," etc. (Leviticus 14:45). A community of any kind that is incurably corrupt

II. THREE MAIN APPLICATIONS OF THE PRINCIPLES. To any leprous "house," to any community into which seeds of corruption have been introduced, these principles will apply. They may with peculiar appropriateness be referred to:

1. The nation. The "house of Judah" and the "house of Israel" were continually warned that they had erred from the ways of the Lord and become corrupt, that they must cleanse themselves from their impurities, or that they would be abandoned by God to their doom. Assyria, Judaea, Egypt, Greece, Rome, the Ottoman Empire, provide striking and eloquent illustrations.

2. The family. The "house of Eli" and the "house of Saul" illustrate the principles of the text; so also many a "house" in Christian times that has risen to honour and influence, that has grown leprous (corrupt), that has not heeded the warnings of the Word of God to put away the evil of its doings, and that has fallen into decay and has disappeared.

3. The Church. This is the "house of God" on earth (1 Timothy 3:15; 2 Timothy 2:20; Ephesians 2:19; Hebrews 3:6). This house may show signs of leprosy; and in individual Churches corruption may break out—in doctrine (Galatia), in public worship (Corinth), in morals (Pergamos, Thyatira), in spiritual life (Ephesus, Sardis, Laodicea). The corrupt Church must be cleansed, or it will be disowned of the Divine Lord, and it will perish in his high displeasure (Revelation 2:5, Revelation 2:16, Revelation 2:23, Revelation 2:27; Revelation 3:3, Revelation 3:17-19).—C.


Leviticus 14:33-57

Leprosy in a house.

From the first of these verses it is concluded that leprosy was not an ordinary disease, but a plague inflicted immediately by a judgment from God. That it was so inflicted in some instances upon persons cannot be disputed (see Numbers 12:10; 2 Kings 5:27; 2 Kings 15:5), and God threatens to curse the house of the wicked with such a plague (Zechariah 5:4). The Jews view it in this light, and consequently regard leprosy as incurable except by the hand of God. But in Scripture, what God permits is often represented as his doing; and evils that Satan inflicts may require the power of God to remove.


1. There is the obvious literal meaning. It is an ordinary habitation (differing, indeed, from the tents in which the Israelites sojourned in the wilderness), composed of stones, and mortar, and wood, and plaster.

2. It must also have a moral interpretation.

3. It should be taken to represent a community.

4. A leprous house is a demoralized community.


1. The leprosy should be reported to the priest (Leviticus 14:34, Leviticus 14:35).

2. Warning should be given to those concerned.

3. It will be duty inspected.

4. It will be shut up for seven days.

5. Efforts towards a reformation should be made.

6. The sequel.


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These files are public domain.
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Bibliography Information
Exell, Joseph S; Spence-Jones, Henry Donald Maurice. "Commentary on Leviticus 14:4". The Pulpit Commentary. 1897.

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