Sunday, February 6, 2011

Leviticus 14-15 Leprosy and Menses

Leviticus 14-15

God tells Aaron and Moses how to deal with lepers (Does he say that priests can cure lepers?)
We also so learn how to deal with unclean women.  Seems unfair to separate her from everyone else.  And why does a woman have to offer a sacrifice for having a active reproductive system?

Again, I'm reading these as basic health care rules.  The washing of the skin and clothes and the washing of everything the sick person has come in contact with as well as the scrapping of the stones of a house seem to be a little ahead of its time as far as cleaning.  Were the early Israelites close to discovering germ theory?
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  1. I couldn't help but think of having acne - junior high musta been REALLY tough on those kids!

  2. i'm just throwing out ideas, they could be right or they could be totally off base.

    "why does a woman have to offer a sacrifice for having an active reproductive system?" maybe this part of the original sin curse that is past on throughout humanity...this time of "uncleaness" is a result of sin.

    "were the early israelites close to discovering germ theory?" remember God is setting up a nation that is to be different from the rest of the world. they are to bring people to God and represent him. I don't think it's far fetched for God to give these rules/laws to keep his people clean and healthy.

  3. Those women must have gone through a lot of pigeons, if they had to sacrifice 2 every month.

    I had once heard a theory that the period thing was designed to increase chances of pregnancy. If a husband and wife can't even touch each other for the 3-5 days of the period and then 7 days after, then they're more likely to get it on as soon as she is cleansed. This ends up being close to the time that women would ovulate. However, considering that everyone has to wait 7 days for so many unclean things, this is probably just a coincidence and not part of the design.

    BTW, can anyone explain the difference between the different types of offerings, like guilt, sin, peace, etc?

  4. The separation of menstruating women was because menstruation was a source of ritual impurity, which the Israelites considered contagious. Again, Yahweh doesn't reproduce and hence doesn't share our reproduction-related processes, which makes them unholy.

    The voodoo-esque magic bird-blood potion to cure "leprosy" seems very primitive until you consider some of the crazy stuff that's sold as alternative medicine today.

  5. Separating menstruating women is part of many primitive cultures. It must have been mystifying as to why women would bleed so regularly. Remember that most women died before menopause.
    Anyway, my daughter maintains that the custom of women's uncleanness during
    menstruation could have been instituted by women. For one week a month, they don't have to wash anyone's clothes, fix anyone's dinner, or satisfy anyone's lust.

  6. As far as separation during menstruation, one thing to remember is that blood itself was considered to make one unclean, so it was a way to keep anyone else from coming into contact with her blood (some women who still follow certain purity laws will sit on a cushion to make sure she doesn't chance bleeding on a chair that others may sit on). Also, as Barbara mentioned, it gave her a break from the drudgery of caring for everyone else (I could handle that, lol).

    One other thing to keep in mind to is that women probably had fewer periods back then, between being pregnant with large families and nursing babies for presumably extended times, which also delays menstruation for most people (and helps to space out the pregnancies some).

    The cleanliness laws were indeed ahead of some other cultures, and observant Jews who followed them in the Middle Ages tended to be healthier than Christians, which led to the myth plague was caused by Jews poisoning wells. This was because fewer Jews were dying, not because they caused the plague, but because they maintained higher standards of cleanliness, avoided dead bodies and "unclean" animals that carried plague-ridden fleas, and washed/purified themselves after contact with the dead or sick, which cut down on the spread of disease.

  7. The Reformation Study Bible has a note for Lev. 15:1-33:

    This chapter deals with the uncleanness caused by discharges from the sexual organs: (a) long-term male discharge (e.g. gonorrhea; vv. 2-15); (b) short-term male discharges (vv. 16-18); (c) short-term female discharges (menstruation, vv19-24); and (d) long-term female discharges (vv. 25-30). That perfectly natural processes like sexual intercourse (v. 18) or menstruation should make someone unclean (i.e., unfit to worship) is surprising. But all these cases involve the loss of bodily fluids (blood or semen), and any loss of a "life fluid" suggested death and was incompatible with the presence of God, who is perfect life.

    The New Testament shows God, the giver of perfect life, incarnate in Jesus Christ, healing those who suffered exclusion from His presence under these Old Testament rules (Matt. 9:20-22). The divine program of redemption was historically progressive. The old covenant arrangements that seems to strange to us were early object lesson, a "guardian" pointing forward to the full redemption accomplished in Jesus Christ (Gal. 3:24,25).

    @bananacat1: here is a good link about the offerings -

  8. @Raine
    "This was because fewer Jews were dying, not because they caused the plague, but because they maintained higher standards of cleanliness, avoided dead bodies and "unclean" animals that carried plague-ridden fleas, and washed/purified themselves after contact with the dead or sick, which cut down on the spread of disease."

    Your right, fewer Jews were dying, those Christians back them were radicals. :-D I have read a little of Foxe's Book of Martyrs. I am also reminded that allot of the care for the sick was by the primitive Christians. Not the priest alone as prescribed here, but Christ called His followers to care for the sick, widows, and fatherless (Matthew 25:32:40:James 1:27). Seeing that they took it to heart they were more open to getting sick.

    I would post more but i need to get going. Crazy weekend. I miss you guys. :-D

  9. Fewer Jews percentage wise might have died from illness (though I doubt that much fewer), more probably died being lynched by Christians. I will also note that many Christians consulted Jewish doctors so Christians alone weren't caring for the ill.

    I'm now looking at the Jewish Study Bible (Oxford University Press).

    Note these chapters are dealing with ritual impurity. Much like one accumulates dirt, one could accumulate ritual impurity and have to deal with it. Some ritual impurity was more severe and contagious (e.g., menses) and needed the 7 day waiting period, washing, and sacrifice. Most was not (such as having sexual intercourse) and just required washing and waiting for the next day (Jewish days start at sunset).

  10. I'm going to commit a no-no and reply to an entry from the previous post. (This blog goes fast!)

    I am sorry for the tl;dr. I couldn't stop myself.


    Depends on exactly what 'atonement' meant in the original Hebrew which is not necessarily what it meant in later Hebrew or the English word atonement.

    Nail hits head.

    This is a MAJOR issue and one that gets almost no discussion among, well, everyone. People just pick up the KJV and read it and assume it is a perfect translation, free of error, perfectly transmitting the intent of the author.

    In fact is, the Hebrew text we have is ANCIENT. The OT alone covers about a *millennia* of linguistic evolution, from the earliest poems to the latest Daniel and Maccabees- roughly 12th to 2nd centuries BCE.

    Hebrew as a living language was already dying out by the 4th century BCE. Some of the Bible- parts of Ezra and Daniel, among others- is written in Aramaic, the new lingua franca on the block. Jesus spoke Aramaic!

    There are a lot of words in the Bible that are, to use the euphemism, "obscure". This means "we have no idea, so let's guess." Every translation I've ever seen just gives you their best stab, and usually it doesn't even tell you the meaning is uncertain. It's the word of God! Can't appear to be wishy-washy.

    We simply don't have a huge corpus of ancient Israelite text outside of the Hebrew Bible. If a word shows up just a few times, and we can't fully infer it from context, its meaning is gone.

    You can see times where later authors "glossed" an earlier phrase, apparently to explain obscure words. In Judges, the terms "ephod and teraphim" are explained as "an idol and an image" (Which is backwards, the teraphim were the idols.) Ephod and Teraphim were transliterated, seemingly because their meanings are uncertain.

    Another transliterated mystery word is the famous gopher wood that built Noah's ark. No, it's nothing to do with groundhogs. It's a Hebrew word- the ph is hard. What's it mean? Nobody knows for sure.

    To bring it back to the point: כִפֶּר Sure, we can translate that word as "atonement". But that's just a gloss. It's an approximation. We don't know what the concept meant to the Israelite that wrote it. It surely didn't mean the exact same thing "atonement" does to us- not the least because "atonement" means different things to different people in different contexts.

    While some Hebrew words are lost, many more have been diminished. We have a general idea of what they describe- enough to give them an English gloss- but don't know all the meanings and connotations it carried for the native speaker of ancient Hebrew. That's just how language works. A dictionary definition doesn't fully describe a word. And the Bible doesn't include a dictionary.

    No matter how diligent Hebrew scholars preserved their language, once it ceased to be a living language, a good chunk of it was lost forever.

    I'm just sayin'. Word of God... not so permanent.

    Full disclosure: I don't actually know Hebrew, beyond the very basics, but I do have a very basic general understanding of linguistics.

    Be glad I removed the paragraph on vowel pointing, for brevity's sake.

  11. "Be glad I removed the paragraph on vowel pointing, for brevity's sake."

    As a fellow linguistics enthusiast, I would love to hear about this.

  12. My guess is she was going to point out that Hebrew wasn't usually written with vowels and vowels change meaning. Hebrew consists of roots, usually 3 consonants, with the vowels changing the meaning. English doesn't have anything really similar but consider 'these' and 'those', now imagine reading a text where you can't tell whether the word ths is these or those.

    Add in that old texts did not put spaces between words.

  13. @Barbara
    quite true about the frequency uf unclean times for bf'ing women. I fed my babies for between 15 months and 28 months and had about 4 periods in 8 years!
    @Brian H I was thinking about homeopathy while reading this bit. It takes very little to get desperate people to try a remedy especially if prescribed by an authority figure who liked bbq'd squab...

  14. Hebrew consists of roots, usually 3 consonants, with the vowels changing the meaning. English doesn't have anything really similar but consider 'these' and 'those', now imagine reading a text where you can't tell whether the word ths is these or those.

    Oh, good way to put it. We're not talking major lexical differences (bet vs bit, etc) but inflection- which can have a major impact on the meaning.

    This is how YHWH got his funny name. In the original Hebrew it wasn't anything special but when they added the vowels in the early middle ages (making their best inferences based on the current state of the language) they didn't dare guess on Yahweh's title . So they added the vowel dots from the word Adonai (lord) and declared in unpronounceable.

    So they're right up front admitting "we forgot how these words were pronounced", but they don't stress how big a deal it is when it comes to understanding the inflection of Hebrew words.

  15. Further on "unclean", Professor Hayes of the Yale lectures points out that God actually commands his people to do many things that render them ritually impure. They're commanded to be fruitful and multiply, which means having sex and giving birth, both of which cause ritual impurity. God also give specific instruction for how to bury the dead, which requires handling the dead, which causes ritual impurity. So it really didn't have the meaning we often ascribe to it today.

  16. @Erp
    "more probably died being lynched by Christians"
    Are you serious? I know this will be covered in the future, yet i really doubt the Jews were lynched by the Christians. There is more recorded history that it was the other way around. (see Acts 7:57-8:2 for one example) However i would be interested in reading your sources for this comment. I may be missing something. The primitive Christians were a small group of people, they suffered allot during their time.

  17. I was actually referring to later Christians such as the massacre at York in 1190. In reference to massacres during plague outbreaks since that was what was being talked about, see the Jewish Encyclopedia. Christians really weren't in a position to persecute Jews until they gained political power (in 388CE a mob of monks led by bishop destroyed a synagogue in Callinicum, Bishop Ambrose of Milan persuaded the Emperor not to punish the bishop or force him to pay to repair the synagogue).

    I will note that Jews are under obligation to help fellow Jews and that they are required to break the rules governing the sabbath and much else to save a life (though which rules were still debated during the first centuries CE, the decision was the only rules that could not be broken were those on murder, idolatry, incest, or adultery). Helping non-Jews to the same extent as Jews was more problematic.