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Leviticus: Chapter 15

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1The LORD spoke to Moses and Aaron, saying: 2Speak to the people of Israel and say to them:

When any man has a discharge from his member, b Traditionally rendered a scapegoat his discharge makes him ceremonially unclean. 3The uncleanness of his discharge is this: whether his member b Traditionally rendered a scapegoat flows with his discharge, or his member b Traditionally rendered a scapegoat is stopped from discharging, it is uncleanness for him. 4Every bed on which the one with the discharge lies shall be unclean; and everything on which he sits shall be unclean. 5Anyone who touches his bed shall wash his clothes, and bathe in water, and be unclean until the evening. 6All who sit on anything on which the one with the discharge has sat shall wash their clothes, and bathe in water, and be unclean until the evening. 7All who touch the body of the one with the discharge shall wash their clothes, and bathe in water, and be unclean until the evening. 8If the one with the discharge spits on persons who are clean, then they shall wash their clothes, and bathe in water, and be unclean until the evening. 9Any saddle on which the one with the discharge rides shall be unclean. 10All who touch anything that was under him shall be unclean until the evening, and all who carry such a thing shall wash their clothes, and bathe in water, and be unclean until the evening. 11All those whom the one with the discharge touches without his having rinsed his hands in water shall wash their clothes, and bathe in water, and be unclean until the evening. 12Any earthen vessel that the one with the discharge touches shall be broken; and every vessel of wood shall be rinsed in water.

13When the one with a discharge is cleansed of his discharge, he shall count seven days for his cleansing; he shall wash his clothes and bathe his body in fresh water, and he shall be clean. 14On the eighth day he shall take two turtledoves or two pigeons and come before the LORD to the entrance of the tent of meeting and give them to the priest. 15The priest shall offer them, one for a sin offering and the other for a burnt offering; and the priest shall make atonement on his behalf before the LORD for his discharge.

16If a man has an emission of semen, he shall bathe his whole body in water, and be unclean until the evening. 17Everything made of cloth or of skin on which the semen falls shall be washed with water, and be unclean until the evening. 18If a man lies with a woman and has an emission of semen, both of them shall bathe in water, and be unclean until the evening.

19When a woman has a discharge of blood that is her regular discharge from her body, she shall be in her impurity for seven days, and whoever touches her shall be unclean until the evening. 20Everything upon which she lies during her impurity shall be unclean; everything also upon which she sits shall be unclean. 21Whoever touches her bed shall wash his clothes, and bathe in water, and be unclean until the evening. 22Whoever touches anything upon which she sits shall wash his clothes, and bathe in water, and be unclean until the evening; 23whether it is the bed or anything upon which she sits, when he touches it he shall be unclean until the evening. 24If any man lies with her, and her impurity falls on him, he shall be unclean seven days; and every bed on which he lies shall be unclean.

25If a woman has a discharge of blood for many days, not at the time of her impurity, or if she has a discharge beyond the time of her impurity, all the days of the discharge she shall continue in uncleanness; as in the days of her impurity, she shall be unclean. 26Every bed on which she lies during all the days of her discharge shall be treated as the bed of her impurity; and everything on which she sits shall be unclean, as in the uncleanness of her impurity. 27Whoever touches these things shall be unclean, and shall wash his clothes, and bathe in water, and be unclean until the evening. 28If she is cleansed of her discharge, she shall count seven days, and after that she shall be clean. 29On the eighth day she shall take two turtledoves or two pigeons and bring them to the priest at the entrance of the tent of meeting. 30The priest shall offer one for a sin offering and the other for a burnt offering; and the priest shall make atonement on her behalf before the LORD for her unclean discharge.

31Thus you shall keep the people of Israel separate from their uncleanness, so that they do not die in their uncleanness by defiling my tabernacle that is in their midst.

32This is the ritual for those who have a discharge: for him who has an emission of semen, becoming unclean thereby, 33for her who is in the infirmity of her period, for anyone, male or female, who has a discharge, and for the man who lies with a woman who is unclean.

Notes:

b Traditionally rendered a scapegoat

Text Commentary view alone

15.1–32 : Sexual discharges.

The chapter has a chiastic or inverted structure: A: abnormal male discharge (vv. 2–15 ); B: normal male discharge (vv. 16–18 ); B: normal female ischarge (vv. 19–24 ); A: abnormal female discharge (vv. 25–30 ). see 13.1–46n. The impurity of blood at childbirth is dealt with in ch 12 (see 12.1–8n.). Sexual fluxes may have been considered impure because they involve both the loss of life fluids and sexuality, a matter of shame and mystery in many societies.

2–3 :

This probably refers to a purulent discharge due to urethral infection.

3 :

Stopped, this may refer to an inability to urinate because of swelling from urethritis.

4–12 :

The impurity is communicated to any person or object that has had contact with the man with the discharge.

13 :

As with surface affliction, the purification rite is performed after recovery (14.1–32n.; cf. 5.7–10 ).

16–18 :

These verses stand in the middle of the chapter, joining the section focusing on men with that focusing on women. Intercourse by itself is not defiling, only semen is.

19–24 :

In the structure of the chapter, regular menstruation here parallels a seminal emission in a male (see 15.1–32n. ). But its impurity is greater, similar to that in the cases of abnormal male and female flows (vv. 4–12,25–27 ). The prophets could thus use menstrual impurity as a strong, negative image (e.g., Ezek 36.17 ). No rules for purification are given; it must be assumed that the woman bathes and launders on the seventh day, and waits until evening (2 Sam 11.2,4; cf. Num 19.19 ).

25–30 :

The polluting force of an irregular blood flow is the same as in normal menstruation (vv. 19–24 ), but unlike it, purification requires sacrifices, as in the case of a male with an abnormal discharge (vv. 13–15 ).

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