Gaebelein's Annotated Bible
And the LORD spake unto Moses, saying,4. The Cleansing of the Leper
1. The cleansing of the leper (Leviticus 14:1-32)
2. Leprosy in the house and its purification (Leviticus 14:33-54)
The cleansing and restoration of the leper is full of significance, foreshadowing once more the blessed work of our Saviour. Two parts in this ceremonial are to be noticed first of all. The first thing done was to restore the leper among the people from whom he had been put away. The second part of the ceremony restored him fully to communion with God. The first part was accomplished on the first day; the second part on the eighth day. A careful distinction must be made between the healing and the cleansing. All the ceremonies could not heal the leper. Jehovah alone could heal that loathsome disease. But after the healing, the cleansing and restoration had to be accomplished. However, what was done for the leper is a most blessed illustration of the work of Christ and of the gospel in which the believing sinner is saved, and the sinning saint cleansed and restored. The leper outside the camp could not do anything for himself. He was helpless and could not cleanse himself; it had to be done for him. The priest had to make the start for his cleansing and restoration. He had to go forth out of the camp to seek the leper; the leper could not come to the priest, the priest had to come to him. Well may we think here of Him, who left the Father’s glory and came to this earth, the place of sin and shame, where the lepers are, shut out from God’s holy presence. He came to seek and to save what is lost.
Two birds which the priest commanded to be taken for the leper are a beautiful type of Christ in His death, and Christ risen from the dead. The birds are typically belonging to heaven. The first bird was killed in an earthen vessel over running water. This likewise typifies Christ. The earthen vessel stands for the humanity of Christ. The running water is the Holy Spirit, who filled Him and then He gave Himself and shed His precious blood. And that blessed blood of atonement is what cleanses from all sin, and on account of that blood the leper can be restored. The second bird did not die, but was set at liberty to take up a heavenward journey. The second bird was dipped into the blood of the bird that was killed over the running water. This bird typifies Christ in resurrection. The bird in its upward flight, singing perchance a melodious song, bearing upon its white wings the precious token, the blood, typifies Christ in His accomplished work, risen from the grave and going back from where He came. He died for our offences and was raised for our justification. But with the living bird there was also used the cedar wood, the scarlet and the hyssop; these, with the living bird, were dipped into the blood. What do these things signify? Scarlet is the bright and flashing color, which typifies the glory of the world (Daniel 5:7; Nahum 2:3; Revelation 17:3-4; Revelation 18:12; Revelation 18:16). Cedar wood and hyssop are things of nature. The cedar stands in God’s Word always for that which is high and lofty. The insignificant small hyssop typifies that which is low.
“From the lofty cedar which crowns the sides of Lebanon, down to the lowly hyssop--the wide extremes and all that lies between--nature in all its departments is brought under the power of the cross; so that the believer sees in the death of Christ the end of all his guilt, the end of all earth’s glory, and the end of the whole system of nature--the entire old creation. And with what is he to be occupied? With Him who is the antitype of that living bird, with blood-stained feathers, ascending into the open heavens. Precious, glorious, soul-satisfying object! A risen, ascended, triumphant, glorified Christ, who has passed into the heavens, bearing in His sacred person the marks of an accomplished atonement. It is with Him we have to do: we are shut up to Him. He is God’s exclusive object; He is the centre of heaven’s joy, the theme of angels’ song. We want none of earth’s glory, none of nature’s attractions. We can behold them all, together with our sin and guilt, forever set aside by the death of Christ” (C.H. Mackintosh).
It is a beautiful illustration of the great truth stated in Galatians 6:14. “God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, whereby the world is crucified unto me, and I unto the world.” The leper was sprinkled seven times with the dipped bird, scarlet, cedar wood and hyssop. It was put upon him. And thus it is upon us, redeemed by blood, to live as dead unto the world. Throughout the entire ceremony the leper did nothing. Only after the blood was sprinkled and the bird set loose began he to wash his clothes, shave off his hair, and wash himself in water. After we are saved and cleansed we must go to the Word and cleanse by it our habits and our ways.
The second part of the ceremony on the eighth day restored the leper completely to his privileges. All is done again “before the Lord,” a phrase missing in the first part of the ceremony but repeatedly mentioned in the second part. The trespass offering occupies the prominent place. And the blood of the lamb was put upon the right ear, the thumb of the right hand and upon the great toe of the right foot. The symbolical meaning is clear; the ear is cleansed and restored to hear the Word; the hand to serve and the foot to walk. The blood of atonement in its cleansing power is therefore blessedly foreshadowed in this ceremony. It has the same meaning as it had in the consecration of the priests. The leper was like one who came out of the realms of death and corruption to become again a member of the priestly nation. The oil was put then upon the blood. Where the blood was, the oil was also applied. The work of the Holy Spirit in the sanctification of the redeemed sinner is typified by this anointing. The oil was then poured upon him, the type of the unction of the Holy One, which is upon all who are redeemed by blood.
But there is still another lesson connected with all this. The delay in the full acceptance of the healed and cleansed leper and his full reinstitution and presentation before the Lord on the eighth day is of deeper meaning. The eighth day in the Word of God represents the resurrection and the new creation. We are now as His redeemed people healed and cleansed but not yet in the immediate presence of the Lord. The seven days the cleansed leper had to wait for his full restoration and to enter in, typify our life here on earth, waiting for the eighth day, the blessed morning, when the Lord comes and we shall possess complete redemption and appear in the presence of Himself and behold His glory. The eighth day came and it was impossible for the leper, upon whom the blood of the sacrificial bird had been sprinkled, to be kept out from appearing in His presence and receive the blessings of full redemption. Even so there comes for us, His redeemed people, the eighth day. May we also remember that the leper, waiting for the eighth day, had to cleanse himself by the washing of water (verse 9). “Having therefore these promises, dearly beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God” (2Corinthians 7:1). “And every man that hath this hope in Him purifies himself, even as He is pure” (1John 3:3).
Nor must we forget Israel typified in this entire ceremony. Israel blinded is morally like a leper. They are outside and separated from Jehovah on account of their condition. In the future the remnant of Israel will be cleansed and then wait for that full restoration which God in His gracious purposes has promised unto them.
Then follows a description of the plague of leprosy in a house. Leprosy, like other diseases, is caused by germs. These germs existing in the blood of the victim also may exist outside of the body, and under favorable conditions, especially in darkness, multiplying rapidly, spread the infection over a house and its contents. Bacteriology after years of laborious research has discovered these facts. Moses did not know about these bacteria in a house, but Jehovah knew.
The house with leprosy in it has often been applied to Israel. What was done to the house to arrest the plague is applied to what God did to His people. But the plague re-appeared and culminated in the rejection of Christ; then the house was completely broken down. Others apply it to the church and see that the leprosy has entered into the professing church and will some day terminate in the complete judgment of Christendom. We do not believe this to be the entire meaning of leprosy in the house. It likewise typifies the presence and working of sin in the place where man has his abode, that is, the material creation of God. All has been dragged down by the fall of man. All creation is under a bondage of corruption, made subject to vanity and therefore travaileth in pain and groaneth. But there is hope, for groaning creation is to be delivered. Then for the cleansing of the house the same ceremony with the two birds was enacted and the house was cleansed by the sprinkling of the blood. This is typical of the work of Christ as it will eventually bring blessing to all creation and all things will be reconciled (Colossians 1:20). But here is also indicated the judgment by fire which is in store for the earth (2Peter 3:10). Then there will be a new heaven and a new earth.