Introduction. Leviticus Chapter 14 continues the rules for leprosy that began in Chapter 13. As outlined in the prior chapter, the rules for leprosy should be read on two levels. First, they show how God protected the Old Testament Jews from deadly microorganisms that they did not even know about. Second, Jesus instructs through His many miracles that leprosy is a symbol of sin. Just as Jesus spoke through parables, God can sometimes use symbolism to convey a message. In the first half of Chapter 14, God explains the rules for a healed leper. In modern terms, this chapter explains God’s rules for what a person should do after being saved from their sin. From the New Testament, God reveals that this can only happen after a person repents of their sin and accepts Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior. The 14 steps outlined in the first half of this chapter provide a useful checklist for you to evaluate your walk with God after being saved.
God advises a healed sinner to take the following 14 steps: (1) As symbolized by the priest going outside God’s camp, all believers healed of their sin must go out into the world to be a light to the lost. (2) As symbolized by a sacrificed bird inside a clay pot, you are instructed as a believer to let your old flesh die off. (3) As symbolized by the living bird set free, God instructs that you be set apart in the Spirit or sanctified for Him. (4) As symbolized by the cedar wood, you are to live by the strength of the Holy Spirit. (5) As symbolized by the hyssop branch, you are to be meek before others by keeping your strength under control. (6) As symbolized by the scarlet wool yarn, you are to be clothed in Christ’s righteousness by living for His Kingdom and not your own. (7) As symbolized by the washing of the full body and clothes, you are to be fully baptized in the Spirit. (8) As symbolized by the shaved head, you are to be humble in your walk. (9) As symbolized by the consecration of the eighth day with the fine flour mixed with oil, you are to live your life as a living sacrifice for God. (10) As symbolized by the presentation of the healed leper to the public, you must make a public commitment to accept Christ and then be accountable to others in your walk. (11) As symbolized by the two male lambs and one ewe lamb, you are to have faith in Christ to purify you of your sins. (12) As symbolized by the blood and oil on the right ear lobe, right thumb, and right big toe, you must let the Holy Spirit dominate the decisions in your life. (13 ) As symbolized by the final sacrifices, you must constantly confess your sins before God, even after you are saved. (14) As symbolized by the different kinds of sacrifices based upon the person’s income, God expects you to give of your time, talent, and treasure out of devotion (and not obligation) according to the amount that He has blessed you with.
Go outside of the Church to bring believers into the body. God instructed His priests to venture “outside the camp” to find recovering lepers who could be reincorporated back into God’s community: “1 Then the Lord spoke to Moses, saying, 2 ‘This shall be the law of the leper in the day of his cleansing. Now he shall be brought to the priest, 3 and the priest shall go out to the outside of the camp. Thus the priest shall look, and if the infection of leprosy has been healed in the leper,’” (Lev. 14:1-3). Jesus spent most of His time outside of Jerusalem and the Temple. He suffered for everyone “outside of the camp.” (Heb. 13:11). He also did not spend His time with the powerful and the religious elite. Instead, He spent His time with the lepers, the sinners, and the down and out. You are part of God’s “holy priesthood” (1 Pet. 2:5, 9). Thus, these rules apply to you. Are you going outside the camp (i.e., your church) to minister to the down and out? Are you willing to volunteer in places that might be outside your comfort zone?
Only through Jesus can a leper or sinner be healed. In Leviticus 13, God revealed that there was nothing that a priest could do to heal a leper. A priest could only diagnose the condition and quarantine the person if signs of leprosy were present. Jesus showed that He was more than just a priest or a human. His first recorded miracle was healing a leper (Matt. 8:2-3). By healing leprosy, He showed that He was God incarnate with the unique ability to heal sin (Is. 53:4-5; 1 Pet. 2:24). To fulfill the laws of Leviticus in Chapter 14, Jesus also told the healed lepers to present themselves to the priests to show that He had healed them of their sin: “And Jesus said to him, ‘See that you tell no one; but go, show yourself to the priest and present the offering that Moses commanded, as a testimony to them.’” (Matt. 8:4; Mk. 1:41-4). As part of God’s holy priesthood, you are to be a light to the lost: “You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden.” (Matt. 5:14). Jesus directs every believer to direct sinners to the one place where they can be healed (Matt. 28:16-20). Are you sharing your testimony to those outside of God’s camp who are suffering from the disease of sin?
Be willing to accept a repentant sinner. A priest might have worried when he looked for healed lepers. He always risked the chance that he would contract leprosy from someone who was still contagious. God expects every believer to forgive those who have caused harm (2 Cor. 2:5-10). If you do not forgive others for their sins, God cannot forgive your sins (Matt. 6:15). Is there anyone that you need to forgive? If you hold grudges toward others, what kind of witness are you for Christ?
The sacrificed bird inside the clay pot over running water. If the priest discovered that God had healed the leper, the priest had the healed leper undergo a series of rituals. First, the healed leper or sinner took a bird and killed it in an earthenware or clay vessel over running water: “4 then the priest shall give orders to take two live clean birds and cedar wood and a scarlet string and hyssop for the one who is to be cleansed. 5 The priest shall also give orders to slay the one bird in an earthenware vessel over running water.” (Lev. 14:4-5). Everything in this ritual carried symbolic meaning. “We are the clay, and [God] [is] our potter.” (Is. 64:8). Jesus poured out both blood and living water for us: “But one of the soldiers pierced His side with a spear, and immediately blood and water came out.” (Jo. 19:34). “This is the One who came by water and blood, Jesus Christ; not with the water only, but with the water and with the blood. It is the Spirit who testifies, because the Spirit is the truth.” (1 Jo. 5:6). He is also the “living water” who brings abundant life: “Jesus answered and said to her, ‘If you knew the gift of God, and who it is who says to you, ‘Give Me a drink,’ you would have asked Him, and He would have given you living water.’” (Jo. 4:10). The bird which was slayed symbolizes your old flesh, which has died because Christ now dwells within you: “knowing this, that our old self was crucified with Him, in order that our body of sin might be done away with, so that we would no longer be slaves to sin;” (Rom. 6:6; Eph. 4:22; Col. 3:9). Has your old flesh died off? Or, does it continue to control your thoughts and decisions?
The living bird cleansed in running water who is then set free. The healed leper sprinkled blood on second bird seven times before it was set free: “6 As for the live bird, he shall take it together with the cedar wood and the scarlet string and the hyssop, and shall dip them and the live bird in the blood of the bird that was slain over the running water. 7 He shall then sprinkle seven times the one who is to be cleansed from the leprosy and shall pronounce him clean, and shall let the live bird go free over the open field.” (Lev. 14:6-7). The living bird is like the scapegoat who carried away the believer’s sins (Lev. 16:8-10). Like the freed bird, Jesus rose from the dead to set you free from the curse of eternal death: “and He died for all, so that they who live might no longer live for themselves, but for Him who died and rose again on their behalf.” (2 Cor. 5:15). “For the death that He died, He died to sin once for all; but the life that He lives, He lives to God.” (Rom. 6:10). What have you done with your freedom in Christ? Have you stayed close to your old prison? Or, are you serving God out of gratitude?
The cedar wood. As stated above, part of the ritual with the living bird involved cedar wood (Lev. 14:6). Cedar is referred to in the Bible as one of the strongest woods (Nu. 19:6; 24:6; 2 Sam. 5:11; 7:7; 1 Kgs. 4:33). Here, the bird symbolizes the Holy Spirit (Lu. 3:22). The cedar wood with the living bird symbolizes the fact that God has filled you with a Spirit of strength over evil and fear: “For you have not received a spirit of slavery leading to fear again, but you have received a spirit of adoption as sons by which we cry out, ‘Abba! Father!’” (Rom. 8:15). “I can do all things through Him who strengthens me.” (Phil. 4:13). A believer does not need to fear for their jobs, their needs, or their enemies. Does fear still rule any part of your life? If so, how much faith are you showing Christ? And what kind of message are you sending to others about your faith?
The hyssop branch. Another part of the ritual involving the freed bird included the use of a “hyssop branch” (origanum maru) (Lev. 14:4, 6, 49, 51-52). The hyssop branch was used to sprinkle blood on the door posts during Passover (Ex. 12:22). The hyssop branch was also used with cleansing from the red heifer (Nu. 19:6, 18). This was a small, weak branch. In the Bible, the hyssop branch symbolizes cleansing: “Purify me with hyssop, and I shall be clean; wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow.” (Ps. 51:7). The plant is of the mint family. The mint would have helped remove the odor of sin. It had a straight stalk and white flowers. The straight stalk symbolized a right path, and the white flowers symbolized purity. The leaves also had hairs that trapped liquids and made it ideal for sprinkling: “For when every commandment had been spoken by Moses to all the people according to the Law, he took the blood of the calves and the goats, with water and scarlet wool and hyssop, and sprinkled both the book itself and all the people,” (Heb. 9:19; Jo. 19:29). Christ was the righteous branch (Jer. 23:5; 33:15). Hebrews further tells us that Jesus was the one who sprinkled His blood on us (Heb. 9:21). Jesus also warns that if you do not allow Him to wash you, you can have no part of Him: “If I do not wash you, you have no part with Me.” (Jo. 13:8(b)). The symbolism of the cedar branch and the hyssop branch contrasts strength with weakness. This provides a pictogram of the word “meekness.” You are to be strong in the Spirit, like the cedar branch. At the same time, you must be humble before others, like the lowly hyssop branch. In other words, you must show strength under control. Do you avoid arguments, even when you are right? Do you stay calm in stressful situations? Are you, like the hyssop branch, spreading the blood of Christ to those around you?
The sacrificed bird, cedar wood, hyssop, and blood (image credit)3
The scarlet wool yarn. Another part of the ceremony with the living bird involves the use of scarlet wool yarn (Lev. 14:4). Scarlet is the color of sin and blood: “Though your sins are like scarlet . .” (Is. 1:18). The wool dyed red was the “blood of the lamb.” A sinner’s clothes are but filthy rags to God (Isa. 64:6). Jesus promises to clothe His believers (Matt. 6:30). In heaven, He will one day give His believers white garments of purity (Rev. 3:5). If you are doing things for your own glory, you are clothed in your own righteousness. Are you motivated to build Christ’s Kingdom or your own?
Washing the full body and clothes. Another part of the cleansing ceremony involved completely immersing both the leper’s body and the leper’s clothes in water to wash them clean: “8 The one to be cleansed shall then wash his clothes and shave off all his hair and bathe in water and be clean. Now afterward, he may enter the camp, but he shall stay outside his tent for seven days. 9 It will be on the seventh day that he shall shave off all his hair: he shall shave his head and his beard and his eyebrows, even all his hair. He shall then wash his clothes and bathe his body in water and be clean.” (Lev. 14:8, 9). As stated above, clothes in the Bible symbolize a person’s acts, fruits, endeavors, or righteousness (Isa. 64:6). If “you want to clothe yourself with Christ” instead of our own filthy rags, Paul tells you to be baptized in Christ: “For all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ.” (Gal. 3:27; See also, Ro. 6:3-7). As part of the Great Commission (Matt. 28:16-20), are you directing people to be fully immersed and baptized in Christ?
The shaved head. As stated above, another part of the cleansing ceremony involved shaving the head of the healed leper (Lev. 14:8, 9). In the Bible, the loss of hair was often associated with humiliation. Jesus, for example, had His hair plucked (Isa. 3:24; 50:6; Jer. 7:29). Humiliation is often humbling. In order to take our sins upon Him, “Christ did not glorify Himself to be a high priest . . .” (Heb. 5:5). He instead emptied Himself and made Himself a man of no reputation (Phil. 2:6-8). Here, the hair was shaved on the seventh day after the cleansing was complete (Lev. 14:9). Christ has completed the good work in every believer. The message is that a new believer must be humble. There is nothing that you did that made you worthy of being saved or healed. It is only faith in Christ that can save you (Ro. 10:9). Thus, God commands that you serve Him without selfish ambition: “Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves;” (Phil. 2:3, 5). Are you doing things for your own recognition? Do you feel that you are better than the people you interact with? If so, are you a witness for Christ or for yourself?
Consecration of the eighth day. Another part of the cleansing involved a consecration ceremony on the eighth day: “10 Now on the eighth day he is to take two male lambs without defect, and a yearling ewe lamb without defect, and three-tenths of an ephah of fine flour mixed with oil for a grain offering, and one log of oil;” (Lev. 14:10). Seven is a number of completeness in the Bible. God created the world in six days and rested on the seventh (Gen. 2:2-3; Ex. 20:11). The number eight in the Bible symbolizes a new beginning. After the seven-day ordination (Lev. 8:35-36), the priest’s duties began on the eighth day (Lev. 9:1). Likewise, a male child had to be circumcised on the eighth day (Lev. 12:3). As another example, after the seven-day festival of Tabernacles, the people were to gather on the eighth day for a holy convocation to celebrate their new beginning with God (Lev. 23:36). Christ also rose from the dead on a Sunday, the first day of the week or the eighth day (Matt. 28:1). The consecrated former leper woke up on the eighth day without any hair, like a new baby. As a new believer in Christ, your old flesh has died off (2 Cor. 5:17). There is no condemnation for any of your past sins (Ro. 8:1). If you are allowing your old sins to hold you back, the devil is guiding you. Are you condemning and refusing to deal with a person who has repented of their sins?
The fine flour. As stated above, part of the healing ceremony involved three-tenths of an ephah of fine flour (Lev. 14:10; 2:1, 7; 8:26; Nu. 28:5; 8:8; 7:13; 15:3-12). The fine flour symbolized the best that the person had to offer from his or her labors. The grain offering was given out of thanks for being freed of sin (Lev. 2:1-16; Dt. 29:8-11). If you are to be grateful for what Christ has done for you, you are urged to make your life a living sacrifice for Him: “Therefore I urge you, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship.” (Ro. 12:1; 1 Cor. 6:19-20). Have you made yourself a living sacrifice for God by giving Him the best of your time, talent, and treasure?
The oil. Also as stated above, the fine flour had to be mixed with oil (Lev. 14:10). The grain always needed to be sacrificed with oil (e.g., Lev. 2:1-2, 4, 6-7, 15). The commandment to make oil part of any offering is also repeated throughout the Torah (e.g., Lev. 8:10-11, 30; 14:18, 29; Ex. 29:1-3; Nu. 7:13, 19, 25, 31, 37, 43, 49, 55, 61, 67, 73, 79; 15:4; 6, 9). Everything in the Bible has meaning. Oil symbolizes the Holy Spirit (1 Sam. 16:13). If you serve God without His Holy Spirit, you are being led by the flesh. “For those who are according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who are according to the Spirit, the things of the Spirit.” (Ro. 8:5). Because it is natural to gravitate toward your flesh every day, you must renew your mind on a “daily” basis: “And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect.” (Ro. 12:2). Are you seeking out the Holy Spirit every day to guide you? Are you avoiding those things of the flesh that can cause you to stumble in your walk?
The presentation of the healed leper to the public. Another part of the ceremony involved the public presentation of the healed leper: “11 and the priest who pronounces him clean shall present the man to be cleansed and the aforesaid before the Lord at the doorway of the tent of meeting.” (Lev. 14:11). Jesus urged believers to make the light within them visible to others. They are not to hide it (Matt. 5:15; Lu. 8:16; 11:33; Mark 4:21). They are also to share their testimony with others (Matt. 28:16-20). They are also to accept Christ publically by professing Him to verbally be both Lord and Savior: “Therefore everyone who confesses Me before men, I will also confess him before My Father who is in heaven.” (Matt. 10:32). “And I say to you, everyone who confesses Me before men, the Son of Man will confess him also before the angels of God;” (Luke 12:8). “[I]f you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved;” (Ro. 10:9). Jesus will deny those who deny Him (Matt. 10:33). Have you been open about your faith before others?
Accountability. Another part of the public presentation of a healed leper was accountability. The leper was open about his or her prior state. If the symptoms of leprosy returned, others could report it to the priest. Likewise, a saved believer is warned not to forsake the accountability that comes from joining others in church (Heb. 10:25). If you attend a large church, this would include attending a small group where others would know where you are on your walk. Are you accountable to others in your walk?
The two male lambs and one ewe lamb. As part of the celebration of the cleansed leper, the priest sacrificed one male lamb without defect as a guilt offering and waived it before the Lord, acknowledging the leper’s connection to the blood sacrifice made on his or her behalf: “12 Then the priest shall take the one male lamb and bring it for a guilt offering, with the log of oil, and present them as a wave offering before the Lord.” (Lev. 14:12). The priest then offered the lamb without defect as a sin offering: “13 Next he shall slaughter the male lamb in the place where they slaughter the sin offering and the burnt offering, at the place of the sanctuary—for the guilt offering, like the sin offering, belongs to the priest; it is most holy.” (Lev. 14:13). At the end, the priest offered the third lamb without defect as a burnt offering (Lev. 14:19). Under God’s law, there can be no forgiveness of sin without the shedding of blood (Lev. 17:11; Heb. 9:22). Jesus was the lamb without defect who fulfilled all these sin offerings for us (Isa. 53:7; Jo. 1:29; Heb. 10:12-14; 1 Pet. 1:18-19). If God was willing to accept the sacrifice of animals on your behalf, you should have no reason to doubt Christ’s ability to atone for yours both before you were saved and afterwards (Heb. 9:14). Like the wave offering, your life should show that you are bound and connected to Christ. Yet, in the end, it all turns on the question of faith. Are you willing to have faith in Jesus’ ability to forgive your sins?
Wave offering (image credit)4
The blood on the right ear lobe, right thumb, and right big toe. After sacrificing the animals, the priest then sprinkled the blood on the right ear lobe, the right thumb, and the right big toe of the healed leper: “14 The priest shall then take some of the blood of the guilt offering, and the priest shall put it on the lobe of the right ear of the one to be cleansed, and on the thumb of his right hand and on the big toe of his right foot.” (Lev. 14:14; 8:23-24). The right side was considered the dominant side of the person because most people are right handed. The leper was agreeing that God would control the best of his or her life and actions. Do your thoughts and actions reflect the things of God or the world?
The oil on the right ear lobe, right thumb, and right big toe. After applying the blood to the healed leper, the priest then put oil on the same appendages: “15 The priest shall also take some of the log of oil, and pour it into his left palm; 16 the priest shall then dip his right-hand finger into the oil that is in his left palm, and with his finger sprinkle some of the oil seven times before the Lord. 17 Of the remaining oil which is in his palm, the priest shall put some on the right ear lobe of the one to be cleansed, and on the thumb of his right hand, and on the big toe of his right foot, on the blood of the guilt offering;” (Lev. 14:15-17). Oil symbolizes the Holy Spirit (1 Sam. 16:13). By placing the oil on these dominant appendages, the healed leper was also vowing to be led by the Spirit. Is the Holy Spirit the dominant force guiding your life?
The oil on the head. The priest then laid the palm of his hand on the cleansed leper’s head to “anoint” him or her with oil: “18 while the rest of the oil that is in the priest’s palm, he shall put on the head of the one to be cleansed. So the priest shall make atonement on his behalf before the Lord.” (Lev. 14:18, 29; 8:30). Again, the oil is a symbol of the Holy Spirit (1 Sam. 16:13). In the Bible, only four types of people received an anointing. These included a prophet, a priest, a king, and a healed leper. You are at least both a priest and a healed leper. At a minimum, you have received a double anointing. By applying this oil to your head, you agree to let the Holy Spirit control your thoughts. To do this, you must renew your mind daily (Ro. 12:1-2). Do things of the Spirit dominate your thoughts? Are you squandering the gift that God has given you?
The final sin offerings. After sacrificing the two males lambs and one ewe lamb, the priest returned again to the altar and made an additional burnt and sin offering: “19 The priest shall next offer the sin offering and make atonement for the one to be cleansed from his uncleanness. Then afterward, he shall slaughter the burnt offering. 20 The priest shall offer up the burnt offering and the grain offering on the altar. Thus the priest shall make atonement for him, and he will be clean.” (Lev. 14:19-20). To the outside reader, this must have appeared redundant. If animals were just sacrificed, why sacrifice them again? The same thing happened when the High Priest made sacrifices on the day of Atonement. After the atonement ceremonies inside the Temple were complete, the High Priest also burned a ram, a trespass offering (Lev. 16:23). The message was that sin never leaves us because of our sinful nature. This is because the human heart is wicked. “The heart is more deceitful than all else and is desperately sick; who can understand it?” (Jer. 17:9). Thus, just as Jesus explained through the Lord’s Prayer (Matt. 6:12), you should confess your sins on a daily basis.
All are equal in God’s eyes. Most lepers could not work. For this reason, most had little money. Here, God provided a less expensive way for those without money to atone for their sins. Instead of having to buy three lambs, they could buy one lamb and two doves or pigeons: “21 But if he is poor and his means are insufficient, then he is to take one male lamb for a guilt offering as a wave offering to make atonement for him, and one-tenth of an ephah of fine flour mixed with oil for a grain offering, and a log of oil, 22 and two turtledoves or two young pigeons which are within his means, the one shall be a sin offering and the other a burnt offering. 23 Then the eighth day he shall bring them for his cleansing to the priest, at the doorway of the tent of meeting, before the Lord. 24 The priest shall take the lamb of the guilt offering and the log of oil, and the priest shall offer them for a wave offering before the Lord. 25 Next he shall slaughter the lamb of the guilt offering; and the priest is to take some of the blood of the guilt offering and put it on the lobe of the right ear of the one to be cleansed and on the thumb of his right hand and on the big toe of his right foot. 26 The priest shall also pour some of the oil into his left palm; 27 and with his right-hand finger the priest shall sprinkle some of the oil that is in his left palm seven times before the Lord. 28 The priest shall then put some of the oil that is in his palm on the lobe of the right ear of the one to be cleansed, and on the thumb of his right hand and on the big toe of his right foot, on the place of the blood of the guilt offering. 29 Moreover, the rest of the oil that is in the priest’s palm he shall put on the head of the one to be cleansed, to make atonement on his behalf before the Lord. 30 He shall then offer one of the turtledoves or young pigeons, which are within his means. 31 He shall offer what he can afford, the one for a sin offering and the other for a burnt offering, together with the grain offering. So the priest shall make atonement before the Lord on behalf of the one to be cleansed. 32 This is the law for him in whom there is an infection of leprosy, whose means are limited for his cleansing.” (Lev. 14:21-32). God provides multiple messages here. One message is that no one is exempt from needing atonement before God. This is true regardless of whether you are rich or poor. Everyone needs Christ because all have fallen short “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,” (Ro. 3:23; Ecc. 7:20).
Give in proportion to what God has given you. These passages also carry another meaning. The Bible tells us that after Christ fulfilled the physical sacrifices, believers are to make “spiritual sacrifices” to thank Jesus for what He did: “you also, as living stones, are being built up as a spiritual house for a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.” (1 Pet. 2:5). You are expected to make spiritual sacrifices out of gratitude (and not obligation) according to the amount that God has blessed you: “But someone who does not know, and then does something wrong, will be punished only lightly. When someone has been given much, much will be required in return; and when someone has been entrusted with much, even more will be required.” (Lk. 12:48). In Old Testament times, three lambs would have been very expensive for someone who had money. If a rich person could sacrifice two cheap doves, he or she would not feel much of a sacrifice. Are you giving your time, talent, and treasure in proportion to what God has given you? If you are giving out of obligation or without love or gratitude, how much do you think your sacrifice means to God?