Sunday, July 10, 2011

Complexities in the Purification of Lepers

Treatment Overview: Although poisonings from snake bites were healed by the simple act of  looking at the bronze serpent, other afflictions required treatments that were much more complicated, involving various purification methods.  For example, the treatment of leprosy is described with much detail in Leviticus, Chapters 13 and 14.

If a person had a skin blotch that was white, a common leprosy symptom, then he was quarantined for two weeks. If the blotch did not deepen or spread, then the blotch was diagnosed as eczema, and the person merely had to wash his clothes in order to be released from quarantine. If, however, the white blotch deepened and an open sore developed, then the blotch was diagnosed as leprosy, and the quarantine was extended as long as sore remained open.

After the open sore closed and again was covered by white blotch, then the person might be purified with the following treatment:
If the priest finds that the sore of leprosy has healed in the leper, he shall order the man who is to be purified, to get two live, clean birds, as well as some cedar wood, scarlet yarn, and hyssop.
The priest shall then order him to slay one of the birds over an earthen vessel with spring water in it. Taking the living bird with the cedar wood, the scarlet yarn and the hyssop, the priest shall dip them all in the blood of the bird that was slain over the spring water, and then sprinkle seven times the man to be purified from his leprosy. When he has thus purified him, he shall let the living bird fly away over the countryside. 
The man being purified shall then wash his garments and shave off all his hair and bathe in water ... On the seventh day he shall again shave off all the hair of his head, his beard, his eyebrows, and any other hair he may have, and also wash his garments and bathe his body in water; and so he will be clean. 
On the eighth day he shall take two unblemished male lambs, one unblemished yearling ewe lamb, three-tenths of an ephah [3/10 ephah = 10 liters] of fine flour mixed with oil for a cereal offering, and one log of oil [one log = 1/3 liter]. ... Taking one of the male lambs, the priest shall present it as a guilt offering, along with the log of oil, waving them as a wave offering before the LORD. Then the priest shall take some of the blood of the guilt offering and put it on the tip of the man's right ear, the thumb of his right hand, and the big toe of his right foot. 
The priest shall also take the log of oil and pour some of it into the palm of his own left hand; then, dipping his right forefinger in it, he shall sprinkle it seven times before the Lord. Of the oil left in his hand the priest shall put some on the tip of the man's right ear, the thumb of his right hand, and the big toe of his right foot, over the blood of the guilt offering. The rest of the oil in his hand the priest shall put on the head of the man being purified. ... 
Only after he has offered the sin offering in atonement for the man's uncleanness shall the priest slaughter the holocaust and offer it, together with the cereal offering, on the altar before the LORD. When the priest has thus made atonement for him, the man will be clean.
Wave Offering: A wave offering was part of a guilt offering, which was part of a peace offering, which is described in Chapter 3 and which included the following procedures:

[The person] may offer before the Lord  a male animal [lamb] ... without blemish. He shall lay his hand on the head of his offering, and then slaughter it at the entrance of the meeting tent; but ... the priests, shall splash its blood on the sides of the altar.
... He shall offer as an oblation to the Lord the fatty membrane over the inner organs, and all the fat that adheres to them, as well as the two kidneys, with the fat on them near the loins, and the lobe of the liver, which he shall sever above the kidneys. All this Aaron's sons [the priests] shall then burn on the altar with the holocaust, on the wood over the fire, as a sweet-smelling oblation to the Lord. (Leviticus 3: 1-5)

Some parts of the offering were not burned right away, but merely were waved in the air and then given to the priest, who ate those parts later, as explained in Chapter 7:

When anyone makes a peace offering in thanksgiving, together with his thanksgiving sacrifice [the lamb] he shall offer unleavened cakes mixed with oil, unleavened wafers spread with oil, and cakes made of fine flour mixed with oil and well kneaded. His offering shall also include loaves of leavened bread ... 

From each of his offerings he shall present one portion as a contribution to the LORD; this shall belong to the priest who splashes the blood of the peace offering. .... 

The [lamb's] fat is to be brought in, together with the breast, which is to be waved [in the air] as a wave offering before the Lord. The priest shall burn the fat on the altar, but the breast belongs to [the priests]. Moreover, from your peace offering you shall give to the priest the right leg as a raised [waved in the air] offering. .... I [the Lord] have taken the breast that is waved and the leg that is raised up, and I have given them to [the priests]

Slaughter of the Holocaust: After the blood was smeared on the leper and after several parts of the offering  were waved in the air and set aside for the priests, the rest of the offering were burned as described in Chapter 1.

If his holocaust offering is ... a sheep, he must bring a male without blemish. This he shall slaughter before the Lord at the north side of the altar. Then the priests shall splash its blood on the sides of the altar. When the offerer has cut it [the lamb] up into pieces, the priest shall lay these, together with the head and suet, on top of the wood and the fire on the altar.

The inner organs and the shanks, however, the offerer shall first wash with water. The priest shall offer them up and then burn the whole offering on the altar as a holocaust, a sweet-smelling oblation to the Lord.

Cereal Offering: In addition to offering three animals (two unblemished male lambs and one unblemished yearling ewe lamb), the leper was supposed to offer three-tenths of an ephah of fine flour mixed with oil for a cereal offering. An ephah was about a bushel, about 35 liters. The cereal offering was processed as described in Chapter 2:

... His offering must consist of fine flour. He shall pour oil on it and put frankincense over it. When he has brought it to the priests, one of them shall take a handful of this fine flour and oil, together with all the frankincense, and this he shall burn on the altar as a token offering, a sweet-smelling oblation to the Lord. The rest of the cereal offering belongs to [the priests]. 

When the cereal offering you present is baked in an oven, it must be in the form of unleavened cakes made of fine flour mixed with oil, or of unleavened wafers spread with oil. If you present a cereal offering that is fried on a griddle, it must be of fine flour mixed with oil and unleavened. Such a cereal offering must be broken into pieces, and oil must be poured over it. If you present a cereal offering that is prepared in a pot, it must be of fine flour, deep-fried in oil. 

Every cereal offering that you present to the Lord shall be seasoned with salt. Do not let the salt of the covenant of your God be lacking from your cereal offering. ...

Summary: The purification of a leper involved many expenses and procedures: 
  • a quarantine that lasted several weeks 
  • an offering of two birds
  • mixing one bird's blood with water and releasing the other bird 
  • shaving off all body hair 
  • washing the body and clothing with water 
  • an offering of two male lambs and an ewe
  • an offering  of about 10 liters of fine flour and of 1/3 liter of oil
  • a procedure in which a priest sprinkled and smeared blood and oil
  • the burning of the animals, flour and oil
The priests kept much of the meat, flour and oil for their own consumption. In addition, we might presume that the leper paid some money to the priests to ensure that all the procedures were carried out effectively.  

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