cleansing of the leper

I was just channel flipping tonight looking to see what was on TV, and I stumbled on the very last part of a talk being given on BYU TV about types of Christ. I didn’t catch very much, but the speaker did go over something really cool that just blew me away — he covered a few verses from a chapter in Leviticus and showed their symbolic and spiritual significance. It was just so cool I couldn’t sleep and just had to document what he said as best as I can recall.

The passage was from Leviticus 14:1-9. If you read the verses, you’ll see that they seem rather boring and plain from the offset:

1. AND the LORD spake unto Moses, saying,

2. This shall be the law of the leper in the day of his cleansing: He shall be brought unto the priest:

3. And the priest shall go forth out of the camp; and the priest shall look, and, behold, if the plague of leprosy be healed in the leper;

4. Then shall the priest command to take for him that is to be cleansed two birds alive and clean, and cedar wood, and scarlet, and hyssop:

5. And the priest shall command that one of the birds be killed in an earthen vessel over running water:

6. As for the living bird, he shall take it, and the cedar wood, and the scarlet, and the hyssop, and shall dip them and the living bird in the blood of the bird that was killed over the running water:

7. And he shall sprinkle upon him that is to be cleansed from the leprosy seven times, and shall pronounce him clean, and shall let the living bird loose into the open field.

8. And he that is to be cleansed shall wash his clothes, and shave off all his hair, and wash himself in water, that he may be clean: and after that he shall come into the camp, and shall tarry abroad out of his tent seven days.

9. But it shall be on the seventh day, that he shall shave all his hair off his head and his beard and his eyebrows, even all his hair he shall shave off: and he shall wash his clothes, also he shall wash his flesh in water, and he shall be clean.

Now, I’ve read the Old Testament, and it is full of stuff like this that on first glance seems completely uninteresting and just plain weird, to be honest. And the speaker mentioned that reading this late at night, it would be easy to miss out on the significance of the message.

Take a look now at the same verses, but this time with a perspective on the spiritual side instead of the physical. I’ll try and document as much of his comments as I can remember, and add my own in as well.

2. This shall be the law of the leper in the day of his cleansing: He shall be brought unto the priest:

In this case the leper represents not really a person, but the sinner, or someone who has sinned and is seeking repentance. He must go unto a judge in Israel (the priest) who has the priesthood from God.

3. And the priest shall go forth out of the camp; and the priest shall look, and, behold, if the plague of leprosy be healed in the leper;

Sometimes the priesthood brethren must go out and seek the sinners. Going out of the camp also illustrates that the sinner in this case has been disfellowshipped, and cannot fully participate with the congregration. The priest then looks, and as judge, can determine if the sinner has fully repented or not.

4. Then shall the priest command to take for him that is to be cleansed two birds alive and clean, and cedar wood, and scarlet, and hyssop:

One of the two birds represent Christ, which will be made more clear pretty soon here, and the other the repentant sinner. The cedar wood is a symbol of the cross, the scarlet of the scarlet robe that was put around Him, and the hyssop the sponge given him when He thirsted on the cross.

5. And the priest shall command that one of the birds be killed in an earthen vessel over running water:

Christ came to earth to die for our sins.

6. As for the living bird, he shall take it, and the cedar wood, and the scarlet, and the hyssop, and shall dip them and the living bird in the blood of the bird that was killed over the running water:

7. And he shall sprinkle upon him that is to be cleansed from the leprosy seven times, and shall pronounce him clean, and shall let the living bird loose into the open field.

It is Christ’s blood again that saves us. He also mentioned in his talk that seven is, symbolically, a number representing perfection … something I’ve heard before, but I’m not really clear on the concept, or even understand how or why (though you definately see it used often).

Once the leper is pronounced clean, he is set free and welcomed back into the congregation (I think … probably muddling that one up, I remember it slightly differently .. he said something about the open field I can’t properly recall).

8. And he that is to be cleansed shall wash his clothes, and shave off all his hair, and wash himself in water, that he may be clean: and after that he shall come into the camp, and shall tarry abroad out of his tent seven days.

9. But it shall be on the seventh day, that he shall shave all his hair off his head and his beard and his eyebrows, even all his hair he shall shave off: and he shall wash his clothes, also he shall wash his flesh in water, and he shall be clean.

Now this is the part I really didn’t understand, and couldn’t wait for him to explain. The other stuff made some sense (sacrifice, a priest intervening) but shaving off all your hair? I couldn’t imagine.

The answer is that a newborn is typically born without any hair, and this symbolizes the leper becoming born again as a baby. I never saw that one coming.

Absolutely fascinating stuff. I love reading the Old Testament, and it’s such a cool set of scriptures to read. There have been so many plain and precious truths removed from the Bible, but there is so much symbolism still there, and it’s always an awesome treat to find it and understand what it means. This is the stuff in studying scripture that I get really excited, is finding the types and shadows of Christ. Absolutely fascinating stuff. I wish that I had the ability to look past what I’m reading about and see the symbols more clearly. It’s so difficult to do, but it would just make everything make so much more sense if I could do it.

I hope I didn’t sound preachy on this post, that certainly wasn’t my intention. In fact, if anything, I completely butchered the presentation that was much nicer. I do just love studying the scriptures though, and it’s one habit I really need and want to get back into. There’s so much cool stuff to learn.

It looks like I found a copy of the talk, too. It’s called “The Power of the Atonement to Cleanse and Heal: Atonement Symbolism in the Old Testament”, and it was given by David Ridges at BYU Education Week on 8/19/02. You can find it here on their broadcasting site. They don’t have an individual link just for the talk, so you’ll have to search for it. I did find a direct RealPlayer audio link though, here. Good stuff

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5 Comments

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5 responses to “cleansing of the leper

  1. Greg

    cool. I should study this stuff more myself.

  2. Steph

    that’s cool, Steve. I’ll check out the talk. Here’s another one like that with symbolism you would love. Listen to the broadcast.
    True Doctrine, Understood, Changes Attitudes and Behaviors
    Speaker: Todd Parker
    Event: BYU Education Week 1999
    Date Given: August 16, 1999

  3. jessica

    David Ridges has some awesome books. They are the old testament made easier. He has books for all the scriptures. I am currently reading the new testiment ones.

  4. It is beautiful, when I was reading about Jesus Healing the Leper quoted in mark 1:40 – 45 BY GRACE and read it in the net. Thanks i am using it in my evening sermon tomorrow 10/02/2008. Praise God and thanks to you. marcus

  5. Anthony

    Thanks Greg. Your obedience to the Lord in blogging proved to be very fruitful and benefiting to the Body of Christ. This morning in Chicago I am studying the symbolism of the Levitical ministry to lepers and was led I believed by the Spirit of God to your blog. This colliding of our faith I believe to be significant. How terribly sectarianism has created leper like beliefs in our hearts that inhibits the grace of God from being fully realized. I solute you Greg, there is a stream of grace that is evident in your life and flows outwardly watering the lives of many.

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