Leviticus 11-12, Psalm 64
L. Michael Morales has helped my understanding of Leviticus 11-12, so many of my thoughts reflect his today. Leviticus helps Israel begin to make two sets of distinctions for their tabernacle worship. The first distinction is between Holy and common, and the second is between clean and unclean. All common objects can be either clean or unclean. The problem with a common, unclean object is not in being necessarily bad, for God creates all things good. Rather common, unclean objects can defile what is clean by contact, and thus what is no longer clean can corrupt even what is holy through association. Holy objects like the priests or the tabernacle were to remain Holy and clean lest God’s presence leave Israel for desecrating God’s Holiness. Hope is found in God’s willingness to make what is common Holy, and what is unclean clean if Israel will follow God’s commands.
With those distinctions in mind, it is important to associate God’s holiness with God being life giver and Life itself. God desires life, holiness, and cleansing for Israel through the tabernacle in order that through Israel cleansing, holiness, and life would come to the entire world. When this is understood, we can better appreciate why eating carnivorous animals would make someone unclean. Eating animals that do not eat cud or touching a dead animal would cause a clean person to be associated with death. Any contact with death makes a clean person unclean. This would necessitate cleansing, and thus reflect the need for death to be washed away before anyone can approach the holy God of life. In a similar way, a woman giving birth to a child would not make her a sinner, though she is unclean.Yet, because she has shed so much blood, life has left her body. Being less full of life, thus, causes her to become ceremonially unclean. The purpose of her time of cleansing is to convey the fragility involved with giving life, and the need for strength or “life” in being able to approach the Holy, life-giving God. Though uncleanness does not equal sinfulness, it does necessitate cleansing for full participation in the tabernacle worship. When you read the remaining chapters about what is clean and unclean, this will help you navigate what is at stake. My hope is future reflections will clarify more about why certain practices or objects are unclean and why God expects particular rituals for cleansing.