Dealing with skin spots, house mold
Cleansing someone after skin disease1 The LORD told Moses and Aaron to give these instructions to the people of Israel: 2 This is what you need to do to get ritually cleansed after you recover from a skin disease. First, you need to see a priest.
3 The priest will take you outside the camp and examine you there. If the infection is gone, 4 the priest will perform a purification ceremony. He’ll have someone bring him two live birds that are acceptable for sacrifice. He will also need a piece of cedar wood, some crimson thread, and a hyssop branch. 5 The priest will have someone kill one of the birds while holding it over a clay pot filled with freshwater. 6 Then he’ll gather up the live bird, the piece of wood, the thread, and the hyssop branch. He’ll dip them all in the blood of the dead bird.
7 The priest will sprinkle you seven times with the blood of the dead bird. After that, he’ll let the live bird fly away. 8 Then, you’ll need to wash your clothes, shave all the hair off your body, and take a bath in water. Afterward, you’ll be clean. At this point, you can then go back into the camp. But stay outside your tent for seven more days. 9 On the seventh day, you need to shave once again. Shave all the hair off your head. That includes your beard and your eyebrows. Then you’ll need to wash your clothes again and take one more bath in water. After this, you’ll be ritually clean.
Sacrifices for cleansing10 On the eighth day you’ll need to bring offerings to the tent worship center. You’ll need two male lambs and a year-old female lamb. Make sure these animals have nothing wrong with them. You’ll also need to bring about eight pounds of fine flower and about a cup of olive oil. 11 The priest will take you to just outside the entrance into the tent sanctuary. 12 There, the priest will present one of the male lambs to the Lord as a guilt offering. And he’ll lift up the flour, displaying it as a peace offering to the Lord.
13 The priest will kill the male lamb at the spot where animals are killed for the sin offering and for the burnt offering. Meat from this guilt offering goes to the priest, just as it does with the sin offering. This offering that goes to the priest is quite holy. 14 The priest will take some blood from the guilt offering and dab it onto the lobe of your right ear, the thumb of your right hand, and the big toe of your right foot. 15 Next, he’ll take some of the olive oil and pour it into the palm of his left hand.
16 He'll take a finger from his right hand and dip it into the oil of his left hand. He'll sprinkle some of the oil toward the tent sanctuary of the LORD. 17 Then he’ll use what’s left of the oil in his hand to dab some onto the lobe of your right ear, the thumb of your right hand, and the big toe of your right foot. 18 The priest will take the last of the oil that’s still in his hand and put it onto your head. This is the ceremony of atonement that puts you on good terms with the LORD.
19 Next, to continue the purification ceremonies, the priest needs to sacrifice the sin offering and then the burnt offering. 20 The priest will burn the grain offering and burnt offering together. These are the sacrifices the priest makes to atone for you. When they are finished, you are clean.
A poor person’s discount21 If you can't afford to sacrifice three large animals, then sacrifice one male lamb as a guilt offering. The priest will lift it to the LORD. You’ll also need to bring two-and-a-half pounds of fine flour and a cup of olive oil. 22 You’ll need two doves or two young pigeons to sacrifice, as well. You'll sacrifice one as a sin offering and another as a burnt offering.
23 On the eighth day after you have returned to the camp, the priest will present these offerings to the Lord near the entrance of the tent sanctuary. 24 The priest will take the lamb that’s to be sacrificed for the guilt offering along with the cup of olive oil. He’ll hold these up on display for the LORD in a peace offering. 25 The priest will kill the lamb for the guilt offering. He'll take some of the blood and put it on the lobe of your right ear in a cleansing ceremony. He’ll also put some on the thumb of your right hand, along with the big toe of your right foot.
26 The priest will take some of the olive oil and pour it into the palm of his left hand. 27 He'll take a finger from his right hand and dip it into the oil in his left hand. He'll use his finger to sprinkle some of the oil toward the tent sanctuary of the LORD. 28 He’ll use what’s left of the oil in his hand to dab some onto the lobe of your right ear, the thumb of your right hand, and the big toe of your right foot.
29 The priest will take the last of the oil that’s still in his hand and put it onto your head. This is the ceremony of atonement that puts you on good terms with the LORD. 30 Then the priest will sacrifice one of the birds, in an offering you can afford.
31 The priest will sacrifice one bird as a sin offering and the other as a burnt offering. The grain offering goes with the burnt offering. These are the ceremonies the priest will conduct on your behalf to make you clean to get you back on track with the LORD. 32 These are the rules and procedures you need to follow after you’ve recovered from a serious skin disease and you can’t afford the regular offerings for this cleansing.
Getting mold out of the house33 The LORD gave Moses and Aaron these instructions to pass on to the people: 34 I'm giving you the land of Canaan. It belongs to you. When you get there, you might discover that I have placed some mold in your house.
35 If that happens, you need to see a priest. Tell the priest, “There's something growing in my house. It looks like the house version of a skin rash.” 36 The priest will order everyone to get out of the house so they don't become ritually unclean by the contamination. 37 Then he’ll go inside and examine the spot. If the spot looks greenish or reddish and the color seems to penetrate beneath the plastered surface of the wall, 38 the priest will have to declare a seven-day quarantine of the house. 39 He’ll go back on the seventh day and inspect the spot. If it has grown, 40 he’ll order you to take out all the affected stones and throw them outside the city in an area designated as ritually unclean.
41 Then he’ll order you to scrape off all the plaster on the walls, inside and out. You'll need to dump that plaster in the designated unclean location outside the city. 42 You'll have to find replacement stones. And you will need to replaster the house.
43 If, in spite of all this, the spot comes back, 44 the priest needs to inspect the house again. If he sees that the spot has, in fact, returned, your house can’t be salvaged. It’s permanently unclean. 45 Your house is a total loss. You have to tear down everything. Then you’ll need to haul off all the stones, wood, plaster. You’ll need to dump them into the designated unclean location outside the city.
46 Anyone who went into the house when it was under quarantine has become unclean. They'll stay that way until evening. 47 And anyone who slept or ate in the house during that time will have to wash their clothes as well. 48 If the inspection goes in the other direction, and the priest says the spot of mold did not come back, he should declare the house clean.
49 There’s a ceremony for cleansing a house that once had mold. You’ll need two birds, some cedar wood, a crimson string, and a hyssop branch. 50 The priest will kill one of the birds while holding it over a clay pot filled with freshwater. 51 Then he’ll gather up the live bird, the piece of wood, the thread, and the hyssop branch. He’ll dip them all in the blood of the dead bird. Then he’ll sprinkle the house seven times with the blood of the dead bird. 52 And that’s how the priest cleanses the house with the blood of the dead bird along with the live bird, the cedar wood, the hyssop branch, and the crimson string. 53 After that, the priest will let the live bird fly away from the city, into the fields. This is the ceremony the priest uses to atone for the house. It is then clean.
54 These are the rules you need to follow for dealing with any kind of diseased spot or scale. 55 That includes spots on clothing or houses, 56 and swelling or a scab or a bright spot on the skin. 57 I’ve told you all of this so you know when something is ritually clean or unclean. These are the rules about serious skin diseases, mildew on clothing, and mold in houses.
People with serious skin diseases were considered ritually unclean. It was a bit like being contagious. If an unclean person touched someone, that other person became ritually unclean, too. In fact, anything the unclean person touched became ritually contaminated. For that reason, people who were unclean were not allowed to go into the tent worship center. Israelites were able to get ritually clean again by following a set of procedures that included bathing, washing their clothes, getting sprinkled with “water of purification” (Numbers 19), and waiting for a stretch of time, often seven days. But people with some lingering physical problems—like skin sores or extended menstrual bleeding—might remain unclean for years, or for the rest of their lives.
Hyssopus officinalis is a wild shrub that grows throughout the Middle East. Leaves on the branches are about half an inch to an inch long (2-2.5 cm). Some farmers planted hyssop as a crop to harvest twice a year, at the end of spring and the beginning of autumn. People dried and crushed the leaves to use as medicine to treat coughing, sore throat, and digestive problems.
3.5 kg. The Hebrew measurement is “three-tenths of an ephah.” An ephah is about a bushel. So it’s roughly six quarts or six liters of flour.
About one-third of a liter. The Hebrew measurement is “one log.”
In older lingo, the guilt offering was called the trespass offering, as in, “Forgive us our trespasses” or sins. In fact, scholars can’t seem to figure out what the difference is between a “sin offering” and a “guilt offering.” The steps are identical (7:7). One guess is that guilt offerings are for more serious offenses and often involve making restitution. Leviticus 5:14-7:7 talks about when a person needs to make a guilt offering. Leviticus 7:1-10 talks about how to make the sacrifice.
This sacrificial offering goes by various names: peace offering, fellowship offering, elevation offering, symbolic offering, special offering, and wave offering. The Hebrew word can mean to wave, lift, or blow. In Exodus 29, this sacrifice represented the culmination of an ordination service authorizing priests for ministry. It was the final act, which some scholars say was mainly an expression of gratitude to God for allowing these men to be assigned to lead the worship rituals for the people of Israel.
A sin offering can refer to something the people of Israel brought to God after they realized they had accidentally broken one of God’s laws earlier. Some scholars say a better translation is the opposite of “sin” because the sacrifice is intended to “un-sin” people, to purify them. So those scholars call it a “purification offering.”
This was the most common sacrifice. Worshipers burned the entire animal. Burnt offering instructions: “Take the animal to the north side of the altar. Kill it there on this sacred site of the LORD. Aaron’s sons, the priests, will take some of the blood and splash it on all four sides of the altar. Cut the animal into pieces, including the head and the fat. A priest will set them onto the fire on the altar” (Leviticus 1:11-12). See also Leviticus 1:3-13; 6:1-6.
Perhaps a visual and symbolic way of saying, “You’re clean from head to big toe.”
About 1 kg. That’s a third of what wealthier people have to bring (14:10).
BY ROBERT V. HUBER
Once a person with a skin disease is found to be healed it is time for aftercare. But why do you think this aftercare started outside the camp? And what do you think these outdoor rituals mean? Dipping a live bird in the blood of a dead bird could seem a tad odd.
During the second part of aftercare the priest dabs blood and then olive oil onto various parts of the body of the person seeking reconciliation. The Bible doesn’t say why, perhaps because the ancients already knew why. But today, we can only guess. What’s your best guess?
Leviticus goes from dealing with spots on a person’s skin to mold on his house. How could mold in your house affect your relationship with God?
LIFE APPLICATION. The Israelites had some strange rituals for getting ritually clean and once again fit to step on the sacred ground of the worship center. The people could be spiritually contaminated by disease, contact with a corpse or a ritually unclean animal, or by eating non-kosher food. What are some of the things that Christian ministers have claimed to—right or wrong—spiritually contaminate us?