Leviticus 13:1-23. Health

Leviticus brings trust in God out of the realm of theory into our daily lives. It tells us that our salvation is earthy, our salvation is our health, our salvation is our bodies. To our surprise, Leviticus tells us that our bodies are holy places we need to respect. [Audio | Notes]

Michael Flynn


Leviticus 13:1-23

For further thought

Leviticus has been concerned with what makes us clean or unclean, or, to put that another way, what makes us whole, well and humane. How can we live best as the image of God in a corrupted world? To be holy for I am holy (11.44, 19.2, 20.27) means to be what we were made to be in Genesis 1 & 2 and that includes all aspects of our health.

The symptoms listed in chapters 13 to 15 can cover a variety of diseases. The symptom lists are not intended as diagnostic tools for specific illnesses but to determine whether someone may be carrying a disease that could affect the rest of the community and so need isolation and rest. In other words, the priests are not Doctors treating patients, they are more akin to public health officers.

Q: What do we do with people who are seriously ill in our culture?

Q: If God is in the middle of the Israelite camp what is symbolised by the unclean being excluded from the camp?

Q: In 13:45,46 the unclean are told to act as if they are in mourning – who has died?

14.1-20 describes how those who are healed can find their way back from exile.

Q: What are the practical reasons for the periods of waiting, shaving and washing?

Q: For the two birds one goes to death and the other to life, the scarlet thread and red wood (cedar) are said to represent the flow of blood and swollen redness, the hyssop is a strong common plant – almost a weed and was used to sprinkle the diluted blood (Psalm 51.7). Putting these symbols together, what ideas are being symbolised by this ritual?

Q: If the body is a holy place (chapter 11) then in chapters 12 to 15 the signs of incapacity, disease or misuse in our bodies recalls the living death human beings have been subject to (Genesis 3). Does this explain why sacrifices for sin, guilt and restitution are offered after childbirth (12), illness (13-15) and even for the cleansing of a mouldy house (14)?

Q: Why do we feel shame for things that are not our fault such as illness or unemployment or divided relationships?

Q: There are many places in the Old Testament where the idea that being in the presence of God is healthy. Read Isaiah 53.4,5 – how is the suffering of God’s servant our healing?

In the New Testament instead of the Tabernacle (the symbol of Eden) needing to be protected from sin and disease by isolation and sacrifice we find God, in Jesus Christ, walking out amongst the unclean. The tree of life breaks out to being healing the nations.

John 1:14 says of Jesus, he tabernacled among us. Hebrews 13:11-14 says of Jesus, he suffered outside the camp to make the people holy through his own blood. We read in the gospels of Jesus touching the unclean (Luke 5.15f) and the unclean seeking to touch him (Mark 5.25f) – rather than he being made unclean by their approach they are instead made clean (whole). The resurrection power of Jesus in his earthly ministry heals all comers, even raising the dead. (John 11:25, 26)

Q: If in the Bible our bodies matter, how should we live lives in our bodies that are acceptable worship as we await the resurrection of the dead? (Romans 12.1-2)

Talk outline

Our salvation is earthy

Our salvation is our health

Our salvation is our bodies