“The leprous person who has the disease shall wear torn clothes and let the hair of his head hang loose, and he shall cover his upper lip and cry out, ‘Unclean, unclean.’ He shall remain unclean as long as he has the disease. He is unclean. He shall live alone. His dwelling shall be outside the camp.” Leviticus 13:45-46

The word that is translated as “leprosy” is actually indicative of a spectrum of skin diseases. Having it examined by the priest and evaluated might have you quarantined. It was not a punishment for moral failure, but was done to keep it from spreading.

The question that is not unreasonable to ask is this, “If God could intervene in the lives of His people by parting the Red Sea, could He not have intervened in their lives by healing them of this disease?” Of course, this is the beginning of all questions about why God allows suffering.

Suffering was not originally planned. It came as a result of the curse of the fall of man. Suffering became the rule. But it was a rule that coexisted with God’s original rule, that man was given dominion over the earth. So man had dominion over a cursed world. He would now have thorns and weeds to contend with, but he had the authority to do it. Likewise, disease was allowed to exist, but man could concoct ways to overcome it. It was his responsibility.

God could intervene, but it is the exception to the rule. All miracles are the exception to the rule. But even those are invoked by a man. Moses did not part the Red Sea. But it parted when he extended his hand as the Lord commanded.

Women and Childbirth

The Lord spoke to Moses, saying, “Speak to the people of Israel, saying, If a woman conceives and bears a male child, then she shall be unclean seven days. As at the time of her menstruation, she shall be unclean. And on the eighth day the flesh of his foreskin shall be circumcised. Then she shall continue for thirty-three days in the blood of her purifying. She shall not touch anything holy, nor come into the sanctuary, until the days of her purifying are completed. But if she bears a female child, then she shall be unclean two weeks, as in her menstruation. And she shall continue in the blood of her purifying for sixty-six days.” Leviticus 12:1-5

It appears to us that God prefers sons over daughters. You don’t have to be good at math to see that a woman is “unclean” after having a daughter twice as long as when she has a son. Is this because God has established some intrinsically higher value for males over females? Or has God only given men and women separate functions? I am going with the second one.

Purification is about holiness. Males and females we’re made unclean after the fall of Adam and Eve, and they bore the curse in different areas of life. Women would suffer pain during childbirth. Men would have to work hard to extract food from the earth. Under the law, a woman not only suffered pain, but was unclean after childbirth. Since the daughter went through this process with her mother, she shared part of the curse with her, and required her own purification.

How we choose to feel about this is your decision. If you are resentful, maybe it is because you believe your life belongs to you, and that your self-esteem and self-actualization are of prime importance. This is the struggle of men and women alike. We believe our lives are all about us. But we are not our own creators, or our own god.

Clean and Unclean Animals

And the Lord spoke to Moses and Aaron, saying to them, “Speak to the people of Israel, saying, These are the living things that you may eat among all the animals that are on the earth. Whatever parts the hoof and is cloven-footed and chews the cud, among the animals, you may eat. Nevertheless, among those that chew the cud or part the hoof, you shall not eat these: The camel, because it chews the cud but does not part the hoof, is unclean to you. And the rock badger, because it chews the cud but does not part the hoof, is unclean to you. And the hare, because it chews the cud but does not part the hoof, is unclean to you. And the pig, because it parts the hoof and is cloven-footed but does not chew the cud, is unclean to you. You shall not eat any of their flesh, and you shall not touch their carcasses; they are unclean to you.” Leviticus 11:1-8

This was the beginning of the Jewish dietary laws. God wanted His people to be separate from the rest of the world. The men were to be circumcized, there were specific sacrifices for different purposes, laws of restoration and restitution, and foods they would not eat. I have heard various reasons over the years why these creatures could be bad for you, and some religions and Christian sects still observe them.

Today, God is after much more than this. He wants our holiness to come from within as He dwells within us. As Jesus said, it is not what goes into a man that makes him unclean, but what comes out of him (Matthew 15:11, Mark 7:15).

Aaron’s Bad Day

Now Nadab and Abihu, the sons of Aaron, each took his censer and put fire in it and laid incense on it and offered unauthorized fire before the Lord, which he had not commanded them. And fire came out from before the Lord and consumed them, and they died before the Lord. Then Moses said to Aaron, “This is what the Lord has said: ‘Among those who are near me I will be sanctified, and before all the people I will be glorified.’” And Aaron held his peace.

And Moses called Mishael and Elzaphan, the sons of Uzziel the uncle of Aaron, and said to them, “Come near; carry your brothers away from the front of the sanctuary and out of the camp.” So they came near and carried them in their coats out of the camp, as Moses had said. And Moses said to Aaron and to Eleazar and Ithamar his sons, “Do not let the hair of your heads hang loose, and do not tear your clothes, lest you die, and wrath come upon all the congregation; but let your brothers, the whole house of Israel, bewail the burning that the Lord has kindled. And do not go outside the entrance of the tent of meeting, lest you die, for the anointing oil of the Lord is upon you.” And they did according to the word of Moses.

And the Lord spoke to Aaron, saying, “Drink no wine or strong drink, you or your sons with you, when you go into the tent of meeting, lest you die. It shall be a statute forever throughout your generations. You are to distinguish between the holy and the common, and between the unclean and the clean, and you are to teach the people of Israel all the statutes that the Lord has spoken to them by Moses.” Leviticus 10:1-11

To whom much is given, much will be required. Nadab and Abihu, Aaron’s sons, find out the hard way that God wants what He wants for worship. These young men had just been ordained and been in the presence of God when they promptly failed to follow directions. Furthermore, Aaron and his other sons were not to mourn their deaths. They were not to lament the holiness of God.

Afterwards, God also spoke to Aaron, and told him it was his job to understand the difference between the holy and the common, and to teach this to the nation.

Likewise, we are to know the difference. We are not to apologize for God’s holiness to the world or share their outrage at things they neither understand nor want to. We are here to teach the truth and obedience to it.

The Glory of the Lord Appears

Then Aaron lifted up his hands toward the people and blessed them, and he came down from offering the sin offering and the burnt offering and the peace offerings. And Moses and Aaron went into the tent of meeting, and when they came out they blessed the people, and the glory of the Lord appeared to all the people. And fire came out from before the Lord and consumed the burnt offering and the pieces of fat on the altar, and when all the people saw it, they shouted and fell on their faces. Leviticus 9:22-24.

This seems to be a defining moment for Israel as a nation and a congregation. It is no longer just Moses who has seen the glory of God. It is the whole nation. God has just affirmed the priesthood and the sacrifices in an observable way that brought everyone down on their faces.

The early church had a defining moment like this when Jesus rose from the dead and appeared to his disciples, and hundreds of others. And another on the day of Pentecost. And another when Saul became the apostle Paul; and another and another and another. God has revealed Himself over and over throughout history, even until today.

To the Hebrews, the God who led them out of Egypt became the God who sustained them in the wilderness, and led them into the promised land, and delivered them from their enemies. He is a present help, not just a historical fact.