Leviticus 15


Laws concerning uncleanness of men, 1-12.

Mode of cleansing, 13-15.

Of uncleanness, accidental and casual, 16-15.

Laws concerning the uncleanness of women, 10-27.

Mode of cleansing, 28-30.

Recapitulation of the ordinances relative to the preceding

cases, 31-33.


Verse 2. When any man hath a running issue] The cases of

natural uncleanness, both of men and women, mentioned in this

chapter, taken in a theological point of view, are not of such

importance to us as to render a particular description

necessary, the letter of the text being, in general, plain

enough. The disease mentioned in the former part of this

chapter appears to some to have been either the consequence of a

very bad infection, or of some criminal indulgence; for they

find that it might be communicated in a variety of ways, which

they imagine are here distinctly specified. On this ground the

person was declared unclean, and all commerce and connection

with him strictly forbidden. The Septuagint version renders

hazzab, the man with the issue, by ογονορρυης, the man with a

gonorrhoea, no less than nine times in this chapter; and that it

means what in the present day is commonly understood by that

disorder, taken not only in its mild but in its worst sense,

they think there is little room to doubt. Hence they infer that

a disease which is supposed to be comparatively recent in

Europe, has existed almost from time immemorial in the Asiatic

countries; that it ever has been, in certain measures, what it

is now; and that it ever must be the effect of sensual

indulgence, and illicit and extravagant intercourse between the

sexes. The disgraceful disorder referred to here is a foul blot

which the justice of God in the course of providence has made in

general the inseparable consequent of these criminal

indulgences, and serves in some measure to correct and restrain

the vice itself. In countries where public prostitution was

permitted, where it was even a religious ceremony among those

who were idolaters, this disease must necessarily have been

frequent and prevalent. When the pollutions and libertinism of

former times are considered, it seems rather strange that

medical men should have adopted the opinion, and consumed so

much time in endeavouring to prove it, viz., that the disease is

modern. It must have existed, in certain measures, ever since

prostitution prevailed in the world; and this has been in every

nation of the earth from its earliest era. That the Israelites

might have received it from the Egyptians, and that it must,

through the Baal-peor and Ashteroth abominations which they

learned and practised, have prevailed among the Moabites, &c.,

there can be little reason to doubt. Supposing this disease to

be at all hinted at here, the laws and ordinances enjoined were

at once wisely and graciously calculated to remove and prevent

it. By contact, contagion of every kind is readily

communicated; and to keep the whole from the diseased must be

essential to the check and eradication of a contagious disorder.

This was the wise and grand object of this enlightened

Legislator in the ordinances which he lays down in this chapter.

I grant, however, that it was probably of a milder kind in

ancient times; that it has gained strength and virulence by

continuance; and that, associated with some foreign causes, it

became greatly exacerbated in Europe about 1493, the time in

which some have supposed it first began to exist, though there

are strong evidences of it in this country ever since the

eleventh century.

Verse 11. And whomsoever he toucheth] Here we find that the

saliva, sitting on the same seat, lying on the same bed, riding

on the same saddle, or simple contact, was sufficient to render

the person unclean, meaning, possibly, in certain cases, to

communicate the disorder; and it is well known that in all these

ways the contagion of this disorder may be communicated. Is it

not even possible that the effluvia from the body of an infected

person may be the means of communicating the disease? Sydenham

expressly says that it may be communicated by lactation,

handling, the saliva, sweat, and by the breath itself, as well

as by those grosser means of which there is no question. But

the term unclean, in this and the following cases, is generally

understood in a mere legal sense, the rendering a person unfit

for sacred ordinances. And as there was a mild kind of

gonorrhoea that was brought on by excessive fatigue and the

like, it may be that kind only which the law has in view in the

above ordinances.

Verse 18. They shall both bathe themselves] What a wonderful

tendency had these ordinances to prevent all excesses! The

pains which such persons must take, the separations which they

must observe, and the privations which, in consequence, they

must be exposed to in the way of commerce, traffic, &c., would

prevent them from making an unlawful use of lawful things.

Verse 24. The common sense of all mankind has led them to

avoid the gross impropriety referred to in this verse; and it

has been a general opinion, that off-spring obtained in this way

has been infected with leprous, scrofulous, and other deeply

radicated diseases, from which they and their posterity have

been scarcely ever freed. In Le 20:18, persons guilty of

this are condemned to death; here only to a seven days'

separation; because, in the former case, Moses speaks of the act

when both the man and woman were acquainted with the situation:

in the latter, he speaks of a case where the circumstance was

not known till afterwards; at least, so it appears these two

places should be understood, so as to be reconciled.

Verse 29. Two turtles, or two young pigeons] In all these

cases moral pollution was ever considered as being less or more

present, as even such infirmities sprang from the original

defection of man. On these accounts sacrifices must be offered;

and in the case of the woman, one of the birds above mentioned

must be sacrificed as a sin-offering, the other as a

burnt-offering, Le 15:30.

Verse 31. Thus shall ye separate the children of Israel from

their uncleanness] By this separation the cause became less

frequent, and the contagion, if it did exist, was prevented from

spreading. So pest-houses and fever-wards are constructed for

the purpose of separating the infected from the sound; and thus

contagion is lessened, and its diffusion prevented.

That they die not] That life may be prolonged by these

prudential cares; and that he who is morally and legally

unclean, may not presume to enter into the tabernacle of God

till purified, lest he provoke Divine justice to consume him,

while attempting to worship with a polluted mind and impure


1. How unpromising and how forbidding, at the first view, is

this chapter! and yet how full of wise, humane, and moral

regulations, manifesting at once the wisdom and kindness of the

great Legislator! Every word of God is pure in itself, and of

great importance to us. He who cannot derive instruction from

the chapter before him, and be led by a proper consideration of

its contents to adore the wisdom and goodness of God, must have

either a very stupid or a very vitiated mind.

2. In all these ordinances we may plainly see that God has

purity of heart continually in view-that the soul may be holy,

he cuts off the occasions of sin; and that men may be obliged to

keep within due bounds, and possess their vessels in

sanctification and honour, he hedges up their way with briars

and thorns, and renders transgression painful, shameful, and


3. Preventing grace is not less necessary than that which saves

and which preserves. These three chapters, avoided and

neglected by most, contain lessons of instruction for all; and

though many things contained in them belong exclusively to the

Jewish people as to the letter, yet in their spirit and gracious

design they form a part of those revealed things which are for

us and for our children; and although they cannot be made the

subject of public oral instruction, yet they are highly

necessary to be known, and hence the advantage of reading the

Scriptures in regular order in private. May we read so as to

understand, and practise what we know, that, being wise unto

salvation, we may walk as children of the light and of the day,

in whom there shall be no occasion of stumbling!

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