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Leviticus 14:7-9

Context
14:7 and sprinkle it seven times on the one being cleansed 1  from the disease, pronounce him clean, 2  and send the live bird away over the open countryside. 3 

The Seven Days of Purification

14:8 “The one being cleansed 4  must then wash his clothes, shave off all his hair, and bathe in water, and so be clean. 5  Then afterward he may enter the camp, but he must live outside his tent seven days. 14:9 When the seventh day comes 6  he must shave all his hair – his head, his beard, his eyebrows, all his hair – and he must wash his clothes, bathe his body in water, and so be clean. 7 

1 tn Heb “the one cleansing himself” (i.e., Hitpael participle of טָהֵר [taher, “to be clean”]).

2 tn Heb “and he shall make him clean.” The verb is the Piel of טָהֵר (taher, “to be clean”), here used as a so-called “declarative” Piel (i.e., “to declare clean”; cf. 13:6, etc.).

3 sn The reddish color of cedar wood and the crimson colored fabric called for in v. 4 (see the note there, esp. the association with the color of blood) as well as the priestly commands to bring “two live” birds (v. 4a), to slaughter one of them “over fresh water” (literally “living water,” v. 5b), and the subsequent ritual with the (second) “live” bird (vv. 6-7) combine to communicate the concept of “life” and “being alive” in this passage. This contrasts with the fear of death associated with the serious skin diseases in view here (see, e.g., Aaron’s description of Miriam’s skin disease in Num 12:12, “Do not let her be like the dead one when it goes out from its mother’s womb and its flesh half eaten away”). Since the slaughtered bird here is not sacrificed at the altar and is not designated as an expiatory “sin offering,” this ritual procedure probably symbolizes the renewed life of the diseased person and displays it publicly for all to see. It is preparatory to the expiatory rituals that will follow (vv. 10-20, esp. vv. 18-20), but is not itself expiatory. Thus, although there are important similarities between the bird ritual here, the scapegoat on the Day of Atonement (Lev 16:20-22), and the red heifer for cleansing from corpse contamination (Num 19), this bird ritual is different in that the latter two constitute “sin offerings” (Lev 16:5, 8-10; Num 19:9, 17). Neither of the birds in Lev 14:4-7 is designated or treated as a “sin offering.” Nevertheless, the very nature of the live bird ritual itself and its obvious similarity to the scapegoat ritual suggests that the patient’s disease has been removed far away so that he or she is free from its effects both personally and communally.

4 tn Heb “the one cleansing himself” (i.e., Hitpael participle of טָהֵר [taher, “to be clean”]).

5 tn Heb “and he shall be clean” (so ASV). The end result of the ritual procedures in vv. 4-7 and the washing and shaving in v. 8a is that the formerly diseased person has now officially become clean in the sense that he can reenter the community (see v. 8b; contrast living outside the community as an unclean diseased person, Lev 13:46). There are, however, further cleansing rituals and pronouncements for him to undergo in the tabernacle as outlined in vv. 10-20 (see Qal “be[come] clean” in vv. 9 and 20, Piel “pronounce clean” in v. 11, and Hitpael “the one being cleansed” in vv. 11, 14, 17, 18, and 19). Obviously, in order to enter the tabernacle he must already “be clean” in the sense of having access to the community.

6 tn Heb “And it shall be on the seventh day.”

7 tn Heb “and he shall be clean” (see the note on v. 8).



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