GOD’S ABIDING PRESENCE WITH HIS PEOPLE DEPENDS ON BOTH MEN AND WOMEN ADDRESSING THE UNCLEANNESS DERIVING FROM BODILY DISCHARGES (WHETHER HEALTHY OR DISEASED) FROM THEIR GENITAL ORGANS
Mark Rooker: Leviticus 15, which deals with the purity laws regarding bodily discharges, divides into four sections, each beginning with the formula (“when [any] man/ woman”; 15:2, 16, 21, 25). The sections of the chapter include abnormal discharges of men (15:2–15), normal discharges of men (15:16–18), normal discharges of women (15:19–24), and abnormal discharges of women (15:25–30). The chapter forms an inclusio with an AB-BA pattern with natural discharges occupying the central position. A final summary marks the unit and closes the chapter (15:32–33).
Allen Ross: Leviticus 15 focuses on those things in human life that are incompatible with the holiness of God. The chapter makes no judgments about the bodily emissions, except to indicate that they suspend intimate relations in marriage and make communion with God in the sanctuary impossible. Normal bodily functions are minor difficulties of life, requiring only washing; prolonged diseases are more serious, requiring washing and sacrifices for restoration. In no case is confession of sin necessary. Here again the expositor must focus on the theology of the fallen condition of the human race and explain how this must be treated before one can enter the presence of the Holy One.
God demanded that those defiled by chronic discharges or seminal or menstrual discharges separate themselves until their condition changed, bathe for ritual purification, and bring the appropriate sacrifices for the ritual, in order that the people might not die by defiling the tabernacle with their impurity.
Roy Gane: Discharges from genital organs are private matters. Thus, in Leviticus 15, determination of ritual impurities from these sources requires no examination by priests (contrast chs. 13–14). Individuals are responsible and accountable before the Lord to take proper precautions, notify each other as necessary, and avail themselves of any required ritual remedies.
Wiersbe: The key word in this chapter is “issue,” used twenty-four times. It simply means a flow of liquid, whether water in nature or a fluid discharged from the human body. The human discharge may be natural (vv. 16-1, 25-30) or unnatural (vv. 1-15, 19-24), but it’s still considered unclean and must be dealt with according to the law of God. Personal hygiene and God’s concern for women are certainly involved in these regulations, but the main thrust seems to be that of enforcing personal sanctity. Not everybody is a leper, but all of us have occasion “discharges” that defile us and could defile others.
I. (:1-18) MALE BODILY DISCHARGES FROM GENITAL ORGANS
“The LORD also spoke to Moses and to Aaron, saying,
2 ‘Speak to the sons of Israel, and say to them,’”
A. (:2b-15) Abnormal (Chronic / Diseased) Male Discharges
1. (:2b-10) Scope of Uncleanness
a. (:2b-3) Result = Uncleanness
“When any man has a discharge from his body, his discharge is unclean. 3 This, moreover, shall be his uncleanness in his discharge: it is his uncleanness whether his body allows its discharge to flow, or whether his body obstructs its discharge.”
R. K. Harrison: From the information given it is far from easy to be certain about the nature of the emission. The most obvious diagnosis would be that of gonorrhea, which is an infection of the genital tract by the organism Neisseria gonorrhoeae. The disease is acquired normally through sexual contact with an infected person, although ophthalmia neonatorum results when the newborn baby comes into contact with its mother’s gonorrhoeal discharge. A purulent secretion follows an incubation period varying from two to ten days, and unless the condition is treated it can result in arthritis of one or two joints. Other complications such as endocarditis and skin lesions are rare, and the mortality from the disease is negligible. Spontaneous recovery can occur in an otherwise healthy male within a period ranging from a few months to a year. Another form of secretion or ‘issue’ which must be borne in mind is that of infectious pus from a tubercular lesion.
Constable: According to Hess, gonorrhea did not exist before the 15th century A.D., so a parasitical infection of the urinary tract is probably in view here.
b. (:4-6) Uncleanness Spreads to Items Contacted
“Every bed on which the person with the discharge lies becomes unclean, and everything on which he sits becomes unclean. 5 Anyone, moreover, who touches his bed shall wash his clothes and bathe in water and be unclean until evening; 6 and whoever sits on the thing on which the man with the discharge has been sitting, shall wash his clothes and bathe in water and be unclean until evening.”
c. (:7-8) Uncleanness Spreads to People Contacted
“Also whoever touches the person with the discharge shall wash his clothes and bathe in water and be unclean until evening.
8 Or if the man with the discharge spits on one who is clean, he too shall wash his clothes and bathe in water and be unclean until evening.”
d. (:9-10) Uncleanness Spreads to Items Contacted
“And every saddle on which the person with the discharge rides becomes unclean. 10 ‘Whoever then touches any of the things which were under him shall be unclean until evening, and he who carries them shall wash his clothes and bathe in water and be unclean until evening.”
2. (:11-12) Special Circumstances
“Likewise, whomever the one with the discharge touches without having rinsed his hands in water shall wash his clothes and bathe in water and be unclean until evening. 12 However, an earthenware vessel which the person with the discharge touches shall be broken, and every wooden vessel shall be rinsed in water.”
3. (:13-15) Process of Purification
“Now when the man with the discharge becomes cleansed from his discharge, then he shall count off for himself seven days for his cleansing; he shall then wash his clothes and bathe his body in running water and shall become clean. 14 Then on the eighth day he shall take for himself two turtledoves or two young pigeons, and come before the LORD to the doorway of the tent of meeting, and give them to the priest; 15 and the priest shall offer them, one for a sin offering, and the other for a burnt offering. So the priest shall make atonement on his behalf before the LORD because of his discharge.”
Mark Rooker: The fact that the offerings were birds, often the offering of the poor who could not offer the larger animals, indicated that the uncleanness from a discharge was a less severe uncleanness than an uncleanness caused by an infectious skin disease.
B. (:16-18) Normal (Intermittent / Healthy) Male Discharges
1. (:16-17) Seminal Emissions
“Now if a man has a seminal emission, he shall bathe all his body in water and be unclean until evening. 17 As for any garment or any leather on which there is seminal emission, it shall be washed with water and be unclean until evening.”
R. K. Harrison: Temporary male discharges were discussed in terms of the emission of semen, principally in relationship to sexual activity, though other situations including spontaneous nocturnal emissions (cf. Deut. 23:10) could have been envisaged.
Wenham: The practical effect of this legislation was that when a man had religious duties to perform, whether this involved worship or participation in God’s holy wars, sexual intercourse was not permitted.
2. (:18) Intercourse
“If a man lies with a woman so that there is a seminal emission,
they shall both bathe in water and be unclean until evening.”
This verse is at the center of the chiastic structure.
R. K. Harrison: A final touch of literary artistry has been seen in the mention of coition at the central point of the case discussions. In this act both male and female can express their sense of physical and emotional unity as they demonstrate the oneness of their humanity.
Mark Rooker: The declaration of semen as unclean in this passage illustrates the sharp distinction between Israelite religion and the pagan religions of the ancient Near East. In pagan religion sexual activity among worshipers was believed to activate the gods into fertilizing the soil with rain. This activity was often performed within the sacred precincts of the pagan god’s shrine (see Hos 4:12–14). This practice and the mythological role of sex was shown to be ungodly by this legislation because sexual activity in fact placed one in the category of uncleanness. Thus it would be an abomination to engage in sexual activity in the tabernacle precinct (see 15:31). This demythologizing of sex thus has a polemical role; the legislation does not indicate that sex was sinful and without value.
II. (:19-30) FEMALE BODILY DISCHARGES FROM GENITAL ORGANS
A. (:19-24) Normal (Intermittent / Healthy) Female Discharges
1. (:19) Duration of Uncleanness Due to Menstruation
“When a woman has a discharge, if her discharge in her body is blood, she shall continue in her menstrual impurity for seven days; and whoever touches her shall be unclean until evening.”
Mark Rooker: The prohibition of sexual intercourse during menstruation would certainly be one way of indicating that sexual involvement should not be an obsession in life. Restraint would have to play a part in sexual activity. The laws would also provide the woman a break from housework, caring for children, and marital relations.
2. (:20-23) Spread of Uncleanness
“Everything also on which she lies during her menstrual impurity shall be unclean, and everything on which she sits shall be unclean. 21 And anyone who touches her bed shall wash his clothes and bathe in water and be unclean until evening. 22 And whoever touches anything on which she sits shall wash his clothes and bathe in water and be unclean until evening. 23 Whether it be on the bed or on the thing on which she is sitting, when he touches it, he shall be unclean until evening.”
3. (:24) Special Circumstance of Sexual Intercourse
“And if a man actually lies with her, so that her menstrual impurity is on him, he shall be unclean seven days, and every bed on which he lies shall be unclean.”
F. Duane Lindsey: Since sexual intercourse was forbidden during a woman’s period (18:19; 20:18), 15:24 probably means that if a woman’s period commenced while she was having intercourse with her husband, he would be unclean like her and would also be a source of secondary pollution (as in vv. 2-12).
B. (:25-30) Abnormal (Chronic / Diseased) Female Discharges
1. (:25-27) Scope of Uncleanness
“Now if a woman has a discharge of her blood many days, not at the period of her menstrual impurity, or if she has a discharge beyond that period, all the days of her impure discharge she shall continue as though in her menstrual impurity; she is unclean. 26 Any bed on which she lies all the days of her discharge shall be to her like her bed at menstruation; and everything on which she sits shall be unclean, like her uncleanness at that time. 27 Likewise, whoever touches them shall be unclean and shall wash his clothes and bathe in water and be unclean until evening.”
2. (:28-30) Process of Purification
a. (:28) Duration
“When she becomes clean from her discharge, she shall count off for herself seven days; and afterward she shall be clean.”
b. (:29-30) Offerings
“Then on the eighth day she shall take for herself two turtledoves or two young pigeons, and bring them in to the priest, to the doorway of the tent of meeting. 30 And the priest shall offer the one for a sin offering and the other for a burnt offering. So the priest shall make atonement on her behalf before the LORD because of her impure discharge.”
Mark Rooker: The reason offerings had to be made for these discharges and not for the discharges of semen and menstruation was because they were considered abnormal.
Kenneth Mathews: The parallel between the male and female conditions and their ritual purifications show that the woman’s discharges were not viewed as any more unclean than that of the man.
(:31-33) CONCLUSION ON DISCHARGES
A. (:31) Purpose of the Regulations
“Thus you shall keep the sons of Israel separated from their uncleanness,
lest they die in their uncleanness by their defiling My tabernacle
that is among them.”
Mark Rooker: This verse provides the theological underpinning for the understanding of the issue of clean and unclean. The verse indicates that it is not uncleanness brought about by discharges that evokes God’s punishment but failure to rectify the condition by which individuals would be permitted to enter God’s presence. These conditions were thus not evil in themselves; they only prevented one from entering into the worship of God with other members of the covenant community. The presence of uncleanness in the tabernacle precinct would defile the dwelling place of God.
B. (:32-33) Target of These Regulations
“This is the law for the one with a discharge, and for the man who has a seminal emission so that he is unclean by it, 33 and for the woman who is ill because of menstrual impurity, and for the one who has a discharge, whether a male or a female, or a man who lies with an unclean woman.”