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Leviticus 5:2-3

Context
5:2 Or when there is 1  a person who touches anything ceremonially 2  unclean, whether the carcass of an unclean wild animal, or the carcass of an unclean domesticated animal, or the carcass of an unclean creeping thing, even if he did not realize it, 3  but he himself has become unclean and is guilty; 4  5:3 or when he touches human uncleanness with regard to anything by which he can become unclean, 5  even if he did not realize it, but he himself has later come to know it and is guilty;

1 tc The insertion of the words “when there is” is a reflection of the few Hebrew mss, Smr, and LXX that have כִּי (ki, “when, if”; cf. vv. 3 and esp. 4) rather than the MT’s אֲשֶׁר (’asher, “who”). Many English versions render this as a conditional clause (“if”).

2 tn The word “ceremonially” has been supplied in the translation to clarify that the uncleanness involved is ritual or ceremonial in nature.

3 tn Heb “and it is hidden from him,” meaning that the person who contracted the ceremonial uncleanness was not aware at the time what had happened, but later found out that he had become ceremonially unclean. This same phrase occurs again in both vv. 3 and 4.

4 sn Lev 5:2-3 are parallel laws of uncleanness (contracted from animals and people, respectively), and both seem to assume that the contraction of uncleanness was originally unknown to the person (vv. 2 and 3) but became known to him or her at a later time (v. 3; i.e., “has come to know” in v. 3 is to be assumed for v. 2 as well). Uncleanness itself did not make a person “guilty” unless he or she failed to handle it according to the normal purification regulations (see, e.g., “wash his clothes and bathe with water, and he will be unclean till evening,” Lev 15:5 NIV; cf. Lev 11:39-40; 15:5-12, 16-24; Num 19, etc.). The problem here in Lev 5:2-3 is that, because the person had not been aware of his or her uncleanness, he or she had incurred guilt for not carrying out these regular procedures, and it would now be too late for that. Thus, the unclean person needs to bring a sin offering to atone for the contamination caused by his or her neglect of the purity regulations.

5 tn Heb “or if he touches uncleanness of mankind to any of his uncleanness which he becomes unclean in it.”



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