Laws about the body’s plumbing
Dealing with abnormal discharges1The LORD told Moses and Aaron to give these instructions to the Israelite people: 2If a man has a health problem that produces an unusual discharge from his penis, he is ritually unclean.
3It doesn't matter if the discharge continues to flow or becomes blocked. The man is unclean either way. 4Any bed he lies on or sits on becomes unclean as well. 5If you touch that unclean bed, you become ritually unclean for the rest of the day, until evening. You'll need to wash your clothes and take a bath. 6If you sit on anything he sat on, you’ll be unclean for the rest of the day, until evening. You’ll need to wash your clothes and take a bath.
7If you touch a man who is suffering from a discharge like this, you’ll become ritually unclean until evening. You’ll need to wash your clothes and take a bath. 8If a man with a discharge spits on you, you’ll become unclean until evening. You’ll need to wash your clothes and take a bath.
9If a man with a discharge sits on a saddle or a saddle blanket, it becomes unclean. 10If you touch anything this man rested on, you’ll become ritually unclean until evening. You’ll need to wash your clothes and take a bath. 11If the man with the discharge touches you without washing his hands, you’ll become ritually unclean until evening. You’ll need to wash your clothes and take a bath. 12If the man with a discharge touches a clay pot, destroy the pot. If he touches a wooden bowl or utensil, wash it clean.
Getting ritually clean after the healing13When a man with an abnormal discharge from his penis is healed, he needs to wait seven days. It’s part of the process for becoming ritually cleansed. He’ll need to wash his clothes and take a bath in spring water. After that, he’ll be clean and no longer ritually contagious.
14Next, he needs to offer a sacrifice: either two doves or two small pigeons. He should take them to a priest at the entrance into the tent sanctuary. 15The priest should burn them as offerings to the LORD: one bird as a sin offering, and the other as a burnt offering. This is how the priest will atone for the man who had the abnormal discharge. It will put the man on good terms with the LORD.
Unclean because of semen16If a man ejaculates semen, he will remain ritually unclean until evening. He needs to bathe his entire body in water. 17Any clothing or leather that come into contact with the semen must be washed. Even then, they’ll remain unclean until evening. 18If a man and woman have sex and the man ejaculates semen, they’ll both have to take a bath. And they’ll remain unclean until the next evening.
Unclean during menstrual period19If a woman has a menstrual period, she’ll remain ritually unclean throughout that time, for at least seven days. Anyone who touches her then will become unclean as well.
20Any bed this woman lies on during her menstrual period, and anything she sits on becomes unclean. 21If you touch that unclean bed, you become ritually unclean for the rest of the day, until evening. You'll need to wash your clothes and take a bath. 22If you sit on anything this woman sat on, you’ll be unclean for the rest of the day, until evening. You’ll need to wash your clothes and take a bath.
23Anything this woman lies on or sits on during her monthly period will become unclean until evening. 24If a man has sex with a woman during her period, the man becomes ritually unclean for seven days. And any bed he lies on and everywhere he sits during that week becomes unclean, too.
Unclean during abnormal discharges25If a woman has a period that goes on too long or if she has any other abnormal discharge, she’ll remain ritually unclean until the discharge stops. She should behave as though she’s in her menstrual period. 26Anywhere she lies or sits becomes unclean, as though she’s in her period; they’re all unclean as long as she suffers from the discharge.
27If you touch anything she rested on, you’ll become ritually unclean until evening. You’ll need to wash your clothes and take a bath. 28When the abnormal discharge stops, the woman needs to wait seven days. After that, she’s ritually clean.
29Next, she needs to offer a sacrifice: either two doves or two small pigeons. She should take them to a priest at the entrance to the tent worship center. 30The priest should burn them as offerings to the LORD: one bird as a sin offering, and the other as a burnt offering. This is how the priest will atone for the woman who had the abnormal discharge. This will put her on good terms with the LORD.
Don’t bring uncleanness into worship center31Make sure the people know not to bring any ritual uncleanness into the tent worship center. This would defile the LORD’s sacred place and they would die because of their uncleanness.
32These are the laws about bodily discharges—normal and abnormal. This is so everyone knows that a man is unclean after he ejaculates semen, 33and that a woman is unclean during her menstrual cycle. In addition, anyone who has abnormal discharges is unclean, and so is anyone who has sex with that person.
The writer doesn’t say what kind of discharge he’s talking about. Scholars speculate that it must be a health-related problem because the matter of ejaculation of semen comes later, in 15:16-18. A sexually transmitted disease such as gonorrhea can produce an unusual discharge like this. So can a urinary tract infection, along with other problems connected to the plumbing of the human body.
The word in the original Hebrew language is basar. It can mean: body, skin, meat, and genitals, among other words. But this chapter deals with the sensitive topic of the private parts of a man and a woman. So, scholars guess the word the writer had in mind here is penis.
A person ritually unclean was not supposed to touch another person or go to the worship center because they ritually defiled whatever they touched. 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.
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.
Deuteronomy 23:10-12 also says nocturnal emissions, commonly called wet dreams, make a man ritually unclean. He actually has to leave the camp, wash himself, and wait out there until the next sundown. Then he can go back in the camp.
BY ROBERT V. HUBER
All of Chapter 15 of Leviticus is concerned with discharges from sexual organs. Yuck. This seems to be a lot about sex and the problems that result from it. Why all this attention? Do you think the Israelites considered sex dirty or sinful?
Leviticus 15 says a lot about the male member. Almost every type of ejaculation of semen not occurring during copulation seems to make the man ritually unclean. However, nothing is said of masturbation. Okay, we get that this is sensitive stuff. But based on what you’ve read, do you think the Israelites considered masturbation wrong?
A woman was considered unclean for the duration of her menstrual period and anything she touched, was also rendered unclean. This was bad enough, but if a woman’s period continued beyond its normal time, she remained ritually unclean until the discharge stopped. How do you think such an extended period might have affected a woman in that day?
Although much is said about an unclean person making another person or even an object unclean by simply touching it, there is an even greater fear of contamination—one that is the basis for all the others: “Make sure the people know not to bring any ritual uncleanness into the tent worship center. This would defile the LORD’s sacred place” (Leviticus 15:31). Why do you think some say this is the main reason behind all the other laws about cleanness and uncleanness?
LIFE APPLICATION. Back on a topic that’s opposite the weather because no one wants to talk about it, but everyone wants to do something about it: masturbation. Especially in decades past—perhaps more than today—church leaders have warned teenagers who were in the peak of their hormonal spike for sex, to just say no. No sex before marriage. No self-pleasuring. What kind of effect do you think that had on men and women and then later their marriages?