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Leviticus Chapter Fifteen


Leviticus 15

Chapter Contents

Laws concerning ceremonial uncleanness.

We need not be curious in explaining these laws; but have reason to be thankful that we need fear no defilement, except that of sin, nor need ceremonial and burdensome purifications. These laws remind us that God sees all things, even those which escape the notice of men. The great gospel duties of faith and repentance are here signified, and the great gospel privileges of the application of Christ's blood to our souls for our justification, and his grace for our sanctification.

── Matthew HenryConcise Commentary on Leviticus


Leviticus 15

Verse 2

Speak unto the children of Israel, and say unto them, When any man hath a running issue out of his flesh, because of his issue he is unclean.

A running issue — Commonly called the running of the reins, a grievous and loathsome disease, which is generally the consequence of sin.

Verse 3

And this shall be his uncleanness in his issue: whether his flesh run with his issue, or his flesh be stopped from his issue, it is his uncleanness.

His flesh be stopped — That is, if it have run, and be stopped in great measure, either by the grossness of the humour, or by some obstructions that it cannot run freely.

Verse 7

[7] And he that toucheth the flesh of him that hath the issue shall wash his clothes, and bathe himself in water, and be unclean until the even.

The flesh — That is, any part of his body.

Verse 11

[11] And whomsoever he toucheth that hath the issue, and hath not rinsed his hands in water, he shall wash his clothes, and bathe himself in water, and be unclean until the even.

And hath not rinsed — That is, the person touched, to whom the washing of his hands is prescribed, if speedily done; but if that was neglected, a more laborious course was enjoined.

Verse 13

[13] And when he that hath an issue is cleansed of his issue; then he shall number to himself seven days for his cleansing, and wash his clothes, and bathe his flesh in running water, and shall be clean.

When he is cleansed — When his issue hath wholly ceased.

Verse 15

[15] And the priest shall offer them, the one for a sin offering, and the other for a burnt offering; and the priest shall make an atonement for him before the LORD for his issue.

An atonement — Not as if this was in itself a sin, but only a punishment of sin; though oft-times it was sinful, as being a fruit of intemperance.

Verse 18

[18] The woman also with whom man shall lie with seed of copulation, they shall both bathe themselves in water, and be unclean until the even.

A man — Or, The man, that had such an issue, which is plainly to be understood out of the whole context. For though in some special cases relating to the worship of God, men were to forbear the use of the marriage-bed, yet to affirm that the use of it in other cases did generally defile the persons, and make them unclean till even, is contrary to the whole current of scripture, which affirms the marriage-bed to be undefiled, Hebrews 13:4, to the practice of the Jews, which is a good comment upon their own laws, and to the light of nature and reason.

Verse 19

[19] And if a woman have an issue, and her issue in her flesh be blood, she shall be put apart seven days: and whosoever toucheth her shall be unclean until the even.

And if a woman — Heb. And a woman when she shall have an issue of blood, and her issue shalt be in her flesh, that is, in her secret parts, as flesh is taken, Leviticus 15:2. So it notes her monthly disease.

Put apart — Not out of the camp, but from converse with her husband and others, and from access to the house of God.

Seven days — For sometimes it continues so long; and it was decent to allow some time for purification after the ceasing of her issue.

Whosoever toucheth her — Of grown persons. For the infant, to whom in that case she might give suck, was exempted from this pollution by the greater law of necessity, and by that antecedent law which required women to give suck to their own children.

Verse 24

[24] And if any man lie with her at all, and her flowers be upon him, he shall be unclean seven days; and all the bed whereon he lieth shall be unclean.

Seven days — If he did this ignorantly; but if the man and woman did this knowingly, being accused and convicted, they were punished with death, Leviticus 20:18, for as there was a turpitude in the action, so it was very prejudicial to the children then begotten, who were commonly weak, or leprous; which was also an injury to the commonwealth of Israel, and redounded to the dishonour of God and of the true religion, that the professors thereof gave such public evidence of their intemperance.

Verse 28

[28] But if she be cleansed of her issue, then she shall number to herself seven days, and after that she shall be clean.

Seven days — From the stopping of her issue. And this was for trial, whether it was only a temporary obstruction, or a real cessation.

Verse 31

[31] Thus shall ye separate the children of Israel from their uncleanness; that they die not in their uncleanness, when they defile my tabernacle that is among them.

When they defile my tabernacle — Both ceremonially, by coming into it in their uncleanness, and morally by the contempt of God's express command to cleanse themselves. The grand reason of all these laws was, to separate the children of Israel from their uncleanness. Hereby they were taught their privilege and honour, that they were purified unto God, a peculiar people; for that was a defilement to them, which was not so to others. They were also taught their duty, which was to keep themselves clean from all pollutions.

── John WesleyExplanatory Notes on Leviticus



15 Chapter 15


Verses 2-33

Leviticus 15:2-33

Because of his issue he is unclean.

Human nature unclean

1. We learn, in a very striking manner, the intense holiness of the Divine presence. Not a soil, not a stain, not a speck can be tolerated for a moment in that thrice-hallowed region.

2. Again, we learn that human nature is the ever-flowing fountain of uncleanness. It is hopelessly defiled and defiling.

3. Finally, we learn, afresh, the expiatory value of the blood of Christ, and the cleansing, sanctifying virtues of the precious Word of God. When we think of the unsullied purity of the sanctuary, and then reflect upon nature’s irremediable defilement, and ask the question, “However can we enter and dwell there?” the answer is found in “the blood and water” which flowed from the side of a crucified Christ--a Christ who gave up His life unto death for us, that we might live by Him. (C. H. Mackintosh.)

Secret uncleanness

All the uncleannesses here enumerated are such as were, for the most part, unknown except to the individual alone. They must, therefore, refer to sins of solitude and secrecy. The lesson is here taught that we may be great sinners without anybody else knowing anything about it. There may be a very correct exterior life, and yet a secret cherishing of pride, and lust, and unbelief, and a secret painting of the walls with imagery, as much unfitting us for the society of the pure and good as any open and outbreaking wickedness. “The lively imagination of a gay, poetic mind is not less sinful when it scatters forth its luscious images, than the dull, brutal feelings of the stupid, ignorant boor.” Even the quiet and involuntary exudations of natural feeling are often to be numbered with the uncleanest things. It is amazing how deep-seated the contaminations of sin are. A man may be truly penitent. He may be set to be a good servant of God; and yet, every now and then, he will find the disgusting uncleanness of sin quietly and unintentionally escaping from him, contaminating himself and those who come in contact with him or touch what he has touched. His whole nature is yet so full of remaining corruption that the least agitation causes it to trickle over. He lies down to sleep, and presently he finds it in his dreams. He puts forth his hand to welcome a friend, and the very touch sometimes awakes wrong echoes in the soul. He is accidentally thrown into the mere neighbourhood of sin, and the very atmosphere about him seems at times to be laden with excitations of impurity. His depravity cleaves to him like an old sore. Nor are these secret and involuntary outflowings of corruption mere trifles, unworthy of notice. They are here set forth under images and types among the most offensive and disgusting. They are too loathsome for public recital--too hideous even for the mind to dwell upon. God intends thus to signify His deep abhorrence of our inherent corruptions. He means to intimate to us that we have reason to be ashamed and confounded at the secret disorder which still works in us. Nay, He yet adds to these defilements a judicial sentence. They were uncleannesses which excluded from the sanctuary and everything holy. They brought condemnation with them. And some of them were so bad as to need atonement by blood. We need, therefore, to be on our guard against the beginnings of evil. It is indeed melancholy that we, as Christians, still have so much impurity cleaving to us. But still it is not without its good effects. We need something to keep us humble, to drive us continually to the throne of grace, and to keep us ever mindful of our dependence upon the mercy of God. It helps to soften us towards the failings of others, and to make us charitable in our judgments of offenders. It helps greatly to reconcile us to the idea of dying. It contributes to make our dying day a blessed day, because it will put an everlasting end to these vexations. Then we shall be delivered. “from the body of this death.” (J. A. Seiss, D. D.)

Purity required

In tins chapter the defilement of sin is the leading thought. Here again there can be no doubt that there was a sanitary element in the regulations. “Cleanliness is next to godliness” is not, as some suppose, a Bible sentence, but it is beyond all question a Bible sentiment. The first all-embracing law of the Mosaic economy is, “Be holy.” And the second is like unto it, “Be clean”: clean in person, clean in garments, clean in house, clean in camp, clean everywhere. Who can tell how much the world owes to these “health laws of Moses”? “It is certainly a curious thing,” writes one who is an authority on the subject, “worthy the notice of every student of the progress of the human race, whether his standpoint be religious or purely scientific, that the moving camp in the wilderness was governed by as strict and perfect a sanitary code as any sanitary commission could now devise.” But in the Mosaic institutes the purity of the soul was ever kept before the mind as the main thing to be desired and secured. “Our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience,” was always the first thing; “our bodies washed with pure water” was the second (Hebrews 10:22); and throughout the book of the law these two have been by God so joined together that no candid mind can put them asunder. (J. M. Gibson, D. D.)

Cleanliness a religious dut

y:--We get here an illustration of that which so often occurs in the law of Moses, viz., that duties of the lowest, humblest order are urged on the people by the highest and noblest sanctions. Common work may be dignified by great motives. It will be regarded by a wise Christian man as a part of his duty which is by no means to be neglected, to maintain order and unsullied cleanliness in person and home. (C. Clemance, D. D.)

The secret flow of sin from the natural heart, typified in the running issue

We are here taught the disgusting constancy with which our original, deep-seated corruption will naturally discover itself. In all situations, towards all persons, at all seasons, this filthiness of the secret soul may be traced. In Leviticus 15:4 the man is represented as unclean when he lieth down to sleep, or even to rest at noon. Ah! yonder lies a sinner, and the very ground under him is accursed. His very pillow may shortly become a spear under his throat; just as Jonah’s rest soon became a tempestuous sea. A friend comes to see him and gently wakes him, but touches his couch in so doing, and becomes thereby unclean (verse 5); for the man is all polluted. However amiable the friend you visit, yet, if still in his unhealed corruption, your intercourse with him spreads its baleful influence over you. You have insensibly been injured by the contact. Oh, how we should watch our souls in mingling with a world lying in wickedness l Oh, how holy, how marvellously strong in holiness was Jesus, who breathed this polluted air and remained as holy as when He came! If the man leave the spot, and another occupy it, that other has seated himself in the sinner’s place (verse 6), and the memory of his sin is not gone. He is in contact with a polluted thing. As when one of us now reads the details of a sinner’s career, and our mind rests thereon, we are involved in this sin. If a physician (verse 7) or an attendant touch the sick man’s flesh, he is in contact with sin, and becomes polluted. This legal consequence of any actual contact with the defiled shows us, no doubt, the danger and hazard of even attempting to aid the polluted. It is at the risk of being ourselves involved in their sin. Therefore it must be watchfully done, not boldly and adventurously. You breathe an impure atmosphere: proceed with caution. If (verse 8) any even accidental touch occur--as if the diseased man spit or sneeze, so as anything from him reaches the bystander, pollution is spread. An accidental word, a casual expression, an unexpected look, may suggest sin; and if it does, forthwith wash it all away ere evening comes. “Let not the sun go down upon thy wrath.” Leave no stain for a moment upon thy conscience. When the man rides forth, lo! yonder is a sinner; and his saddle is polluted; and the mattress he spread on the floor of his tent for a temporary rest in his journey (verse 10) is so polluted that the attendant who lifts it is defiled. Oh! sad, sad estate of man! In going out or coming in, in the house or by the way, his inward fountain of sin flows on unceasingly, and the Holy One of Israel follows him with His eye to mark him as a sinner. Nay, if he put his hand forth (verse 11) to touch any one-to give him a friendly welcome, or aid him in any work, he conveys pollution, unless he have first “rinsed his hands in water.” The sinner, whose natural heart is still unhealed, cannot do even a kind act without sin--his only mode of doing so would be “washing in clean water.” And the vessels he uses (verse 12)must be broken or rinsed in water; even as the earth, on which the sinner has stood as his theatre for committing evil shall be broken in pieces by the fire of the last day (“All these things shall be dissolved,” 2 Peter 3:11), the trial by water being already past. (A. A. Bonar.)

Atonement required for secret sins

A full atonement is required for our inward, secret sins, as much as for open and flagrant sins. The sinful vision that our fancy spread out before us for a moment must be washed away by blood. The tendency which our soul felt to sympathise in that act of resentment or revenge must be washed away by blood. The hour, or minutes, we spent in brooding over our supposed hard lot must be redeemed by blood. The selfish wish we cherished for special prosperity in some undertaking that was to reflect its credit on us only, is to be washed away by blood. The proud aspiration, the sensual impulse, the world-loving eye or soul cast on earth’s glories, must be washed away by blood. The darkness, ignorance, suspicion, and misconception we entertain toward God and His salvation, retest be washed in blood. “Behold, Thou desirest truth in the inward parts, and in the hidden part (hidden region of the soul) Thou shalt make me to know wisdom” (Psalms 51:6). (A. A. Bonar.)

Impurity a contagious evil

All those details of Divine precept, by which every person and article anywise brought into contact with the unclean man or woman became unclean, bring out the truth that impurity is an essentially communicable evil. It is so physically; “let sinners look to it.” It is so spiritually. How guilty in the very last degree are those who drive a nefarious trade in corrupt literature! How shameful to put indecent thought into print to pollute the young! How demoralising to the soul, how displeasing to God, how scrupulously to be avoided, the questionable conversation that borders on the indelicate and impure! (see Ephesians 5:3-4; Ephesians 5:12; Colossians 3:8). (W. Clarkson.)

Beware of contact with sinful persons

All this mystically teaches us to beware of courting or choosing the conversation of those that have received any tincture of vice, and not to contract acquaintance with any persons who we have reason to believe are not on good terms with God. There is such a venomous contagion in vice and immorality that familiarity with sinners does, of itself, make a man an associate in their practices: so saith the son of Sirach (Sirach 13:1), and thus the apostle commands (1 Timothy 5:22). (Biblioth. Bibl.)

Plain speaking on the subject of purity

That plain speaking and plain dealing, such as we find here, was necessary, is amply proved by the history of the ancient world, and of the modern world too. The Bible is the only book that has exercised any considerable effect in keeping men and women pure. There are many books, where everything offensive to the ear is studiously avoided, which nevertheless are very poison to the soul. In the Bible, on the other hand, while there is not a little that is offensive to the ear, there is absolutely nothing that is poisonous to the spirit, unless the spirit has been poisoned already; for we must remember that while “to the pure all things are pure,” “unto them that are defiled and unbelieving is m thing pure, but even their mind and conscience is defiled.” There is absolutely nothing in the entire Bible that will not exert a holy and purifying influence on those who read it in the right spirit. And as a historical fact, such has been the result among those who have made these Scriptures their companion and counsellor. The Jews alone among the nations of antiquity had even the conception of purity as we understand it now. Consider for a moment whence we derive those exalted notions of purity which are widely prevalent in modern society, especially among Christian people. Even the purest and the best of Greek philosophers, those who in other respects have come nearest to Bible ethics, are wofully behind in regard to personal purity of heart and life, some of them tolerating and others approving that which enlightened Christian sentiment utterly condemns. Let any one fairly investigate the genesis and “evolution” of our modern ideas of chastity and purity and he will find that they are traceable chiefly to the Hebrew Scriptures as their source. And so the remarkable fact will present itself that to these very Scriptures, and largely to those parts of them which the corrupt imagination of certain cavillers finds an indecency which is all its own, we owe that very sentiment of delicacy which makes it impossible for us to read them aloud in public or in the family. (J. M. Gibson, D. D.)

──The Biblical Illustrator