As I read through my Bible, searching for instructions I could personally apply to my life, I came to the book of Leviticus, with its chapters of sacrifices and instructions for the priesthood.
I continued reading through Leviticus 11, with its listing of clean and unclean animals, as we have already discussed. However, the following chapters seemed just… well, disgusting.
In fact, I had planned to read the entire Bible aloud to my children – every single chapter in order – but I couldn’t even fathom discussing Leviticus 12-18, with topics like bodily discharges and unlawful sexual relations, around the kitchen table.
I thought about what it would mean to actually obey these instructions – and this was where I first made the mistake of searching for answers on Google rather than just reading my Bible and carefully doing it.
In Judaism, the laws of niddah and other rules of cleanliness can be quite cumbersome! I found out that women could not touch men at certain times or even hand objects to each other. They were not permitted to attend synagogue at certain times, and I even found that entire sections of the Torah were determined to not apply to women, simply because women were “unclean” once a month or so.
I emailed a Torah-observant friend in frustration, and she reminded me of one of the key verses in Torah:
“You shall not add to the word which I command you, nor take from it, that you may keep the commandments of YHVH your God which I command you” (Deuteronomy 4:2).
She told me to look back to see why these instructions were included in the Torah.
“Now YHVH called to Moses, and spoke to him from the tabernacle of meeting, saying, ‘Speak to the children of Israel, and say to them: “When any one of you brings an offering to YHVH…”‘” (Leviticus 1:1-2).
The context of the book of Leviticus is how all people were to conduct themselves when they came to the Tabernacle to bring offerings to YHVH and to approach His presence.
“Among those who approach me
I will be proved holy;
In the sight of all the people
I will be honored” (Leviticus 10:3, NIV).
We have learned that YHVH is holy, or set apart, and all who approach Him must be holy. In the book of Leviticus, we learn that some things in our world are unclean and disgusting, just out of necessity – bodily fluids, excrement and waste, blood, infectious diseases, and dead things. These all exist in our world, but when we want to approach the presence of God, we must be clean from these things – holy and set apart, like YHVH is.
My friend reminded me that the priesthood, who served in or near the presence of YHVH on a daily basis, had more rules for cleanliness than the average person who lived in one of the tents around the Tabernacle, and these people had more rules than those who were outside the boundaries of the camp, who had more rules than the Gentile nations who lived around them.
The closer we get to the presence of YHVH, the more set-apart from the world we must be.
Sometimes the clean and unclean laws of Leviticus don’t make sense to my modern sensibilities, so I catch myself trying to find reasons for all of them before deciding to obey. However, I need to remember that my Heavenly Father and Creator knows what’s best for me, His daughter. Just as my young children learn to obey “because I said so,” I also need to step out in faith and obedience to even the seemingly unimportant commands. When my children are older, I explain more complex things to them, and as I grow in my understanding of God’s Word, I start to see the beautiful reasons why He made certain rules for me.
“Distinguish between holy and unholy, and between unclean and clean… teach the children of Israel all the statutes which YHVH has spoken to them by the hand of Moses” (Leviticus 10:10-11).
Since my friend wanted me to “just stick to the facts, ma’am” on the Torah’s commands, she advised me to read through these chapters, one verse at a time, and to make a list of rules I saw.
Other Types of Uncleanness
Leviticus 13-14 talk about infections skin infections. The Hebrew word is tsa’arat, and although it is translated as “leprosy” in English Bibles, most scholars agree that they aren’t sure what type of disease this actually is. One thing that seems apparent is that this is a God-inflicted disease, not a common disease that we have in our world today.
As you study through the Torah, you will learn how this tsa’arat could be cleansed.
“Then the priest shall command to take for him who is to be cleansed two living and clean birds, cedar wood, scarlet, and hyssop…” (Leviticus 14:4).
We learn about a process involving a red heifer, and I won’t go into great detail about that here, but I recommend that you study it out, by reading Numbers 19. Compare the symbolism of the wood, scarlet, and hyssop to the sacrifice of Yeshua our Messiah, whose blood makes us “clean” from the disease of sin and death that is upon us.
“Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean;
Wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow…
Hide Your face from my sins,
And blot out all my iniquities.
Create in me a clean heart, O God,
And renew a steadfast spirit within me” (Psalm 51:7, 8-10)
“But the Messiah came as High Priest of the good things to come, with the greater and more perfect tabernacle not made with hands, that is, not of this creation. Not with the blood of goats and calves, but with His own blood He entered the Most Holy Place once for all, having obtained eternal redemption. For if the blood of bulls and goats and the ashes of a heifer, sprinkling the unclean, sanctifies for the purifying of the flesh, how much more shall the blood of the Messiah, who through the eternal Spirit offered Himself without spot to God, cleanse your conscience from dead works to serve the living God?” (Hebrews 9:11-14).
There are still other kinds of uncleanness in Torah. Most are rather obvious.
Notice one way the men were to keep their camp clean, while away from home fighting a battle.
“Designate a place outside the camp where you can go to relieve yourself. As part of your equipment have something to dig with, and when you relieve yourself, dig a hole and cover up your excrement.
“For YHVH your God moves about in your camp to protect you and to deliver your enemies to you. Your camp must be holy, so that he will not see among you anything indecent and turn away from you” (Deuteronomy 23:12-14, NIV).
Just as a battle camp is to be “holy,” our homes should also be clean. Here are some things you can teach your children! “In our house,” tell them, “we are to keep the bathroom clean, take baths, clean up after our animals, and do the laundry.”
Truly, cleanliness is next to godliness!
More abominations (such as incestuous relationships and homosexuality) can be found in Leviticus. We learn that these things are an “abomination” to YHVH, detestable in His sight, a stench in His nose, as disgusting to Him as bodily fluids or excrement.
- Not following His instructions when eating of His sacrifices (Leviticus 7:18)
- Unclean foods (Leviticus 11)
- Homosexual relationships (Leviticus 18:22; 20:13)
- Idol worship (Deuteronomy 7:25)
- Sacrificing our children on the fires of Molech (Deuteronomy 12:31)
- Blemished offerings (Deuteronomy 17:1)
- Cross dressing (Deuteronomy 22:5)
- Prostitution (Deuteronomy 23:18)
- Remarrying one’s former spouse (Deuteronomy 24:4)
- Graven images (Deuteronomy 27:5)
Sacrifices of Cleansing
The Apostles teach us that the clean laws are to be followed because they picture the clean heart that we are to also have.
“These six things YHVH hates, yes, seven are an abomination to Him: a proud look, a lying tongue, hands that shed innocent blood, a heart that devises wicked plans, feet that are swift in running to evil, a false witness who speaks lies, and one who sows discord among brethren” (Proverbs 6:16-19).
Sin in our heart is an abomination in His sight, yet He wants us to be clean and holy, set apart unto Him.
The following verses would be great to study with your family as you study the Torah’s clean and unclean laws together.
“How can a young man cleanse his way? By taking heed according to Your word” (Psalm 119:9).
“Wash yourselves, make yourselves clean;
Put away the evil of your doings from before My eyes.
Cease to do evil,
Learn to do good;
Rebuke the oppressor;
Defend the fatherless,
Plead for the widow.
““Come now, and let us reason together,”
“Though your sins are like scarlet,
They shall be as white as snow;
Though they are red like crimson,
They shall be as wool” (Isaiah 1:16-18).
Notice that obedience to the Word of God (all of it, including the Torah) is what cleanses us.
“You are already clean because of the word which I have spoken to you” (John 15:3).
“Therefore, having these promises, beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God” (2 Corinthians 7:1).
“Husbands, love your wives, just as the Messiah also loved the church and gave Himself for her, that He might sanctify and cleanse her with the washing of water by the word, that He might present her to Himself a glorious church, not having spot or wrinkle or any such thing, but that she should be holy and without blemish. So husbands ought to love their own wives as their own bodies; he who loves his wife loves himself. For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as YHVH does the church” (Ephesians 5:25-29).
“But in a great house there are not only vessels of gold and silver, but also of wood and clay, some for honor and some for dishonor. Therefore if anyone cleanses himself from the latter, he will be a vessel for honor, sanctified and useful for the Master, prepared for every good work. Flee also youthful lusts; but pursue righteousness, faith, love, peace with those who call on YHVH out of a pure heart” (2 Timothy 2:20-22).
“Draw near to God and He will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners; and purify your hearts, you double-minded” (James 4:8)
“But also for this very reason, giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue, to virtue knowledge, to knowledge self-control, to self-control perseverance, to perseverance godliness, to godliness brotherly kindness, and to brotherly kindness love. For if these things are yours and abound, you will be neither barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Master Yeshua the Messiah. For he who lacks these things is shortsighted, even to blindness, and has forgotten that he was cleansed from his old sins. Therefore, brethren, be even more diligent to make your call and election sure, for if you do these things you will never stumble; for so an entrance will be supplied to you abundantly into the everlasting kingdom of our Master and Savior Yeshua the Messiah” (2 Peter 1:5-11).
“And to her it was granted to be arrayed in fine linen, clean and bright, for the fine linen is the righteous acts of the saints… And the armies in heaven, clothed in fine linen, white and clean, followed Him on white horses” (Revelation 19:8, 14).
Sometimes the clean and unclean laws can be confusing, especially since we are separated so far from the Temple and Nation that YHVH intended. In our Messiah’s coming Kingdom, we will learn how to keep His laws perfectly. Won’t that be a blessing?
“‘But the priests, the Levites, the sons of Zadok, who kept charge of My sanctuary when the children of Israel went astray from Me, they shall come near Me to minister to Me; and they shall stand before Me to offer to Me the fat and the blood,’ says YHVH God. ‘They shall enter My sanctuary, and they shall come near My table to minister to Me, and they shall keep My charge… And they shall teach My people the difference between the holy and the unholy, and cause them to discern between the unclean and the clean’” (Ezekiel 44:15-16, 23)
All Scripture in this blog post taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson. Used by permission. All rights reserved.