Hopefully I’m not jinxing it, but I think I may finally be over this cold. I took enough pills that I really ought to be. Now I just need to avoid getting sick before my trip. Yes, I’m taking another trip. It’s all been very last-minute, but it has to be now. I will keep at this steadily for the next week, though, until I leave.
One of the things it’s hard to miss in this description of the purification of people with leprosy/skin diseases is how expensive it was to get yourself purified. The priest seems to have to provide the two birds used in the ritual (one to be killed, the other to be sprinkled with blood and set free, presumably traumatized), but the unclean person themselves had to bring two male lambs, an ewe lamb, and a bunch of grain and oil (v 10). If they were poor, then they could use only one male lamb, two turtle-doves or pigeons, and a third of the amount of grain (v 21-22).
It’s hard to imagine how someone who lived outside the camp yelling “unclean” at anyone who approached them could be anything but poor. In fact, while doves could be caught and maybe a few sheep herded, how would they grow grain? Or get oil? That level of agriculture takes a serious communal effort, especially in the desert where irrigation is a must.
The only alternative I can think of is that perhaps the family members of the victim were expected to provide for their relative upon his or her purification. Certainly if they cared for the person, you’d think they’d want to.
I’m reminded in this that at least in some of the gospels (definitely Matthew), Jesus tells lepers he’s cured to present themselves to the priests. One would hope that he threw in some cash to let them buy animals for their purification. Jesus generally came down pretty harsh on people who exploited the poor, and this ritual seems to fall into that category.
I’m also reminded of how one of the explaining-away methods that people use for dealing with Jesus’ healing of lepers is to argue that he didn’t literally heal them, but instead had the moral authority to have priests declare them clean regardless of whether they were actually “cured.” I’m not sure I buy that anymore than I buy most of the halfhearted attempts to rationalize the supernatural in the Bible.
The rest of the chapter deals with leprosy in houses (yes, really), basically mold. Mold can cause a lot of health problems, and this actually seems like a perfectly practical way to deal with the problem… save that, again, there’s a burden on the victim, in that they have to rebuild their house. Still, it’s better than getting sick from bad mold, and having a religious mandate to actually care about something prior to modern medicine could have been very helpful.
We’re done with leprosy after this chapter. Now it’s on to bodily discharges!
…this is a really gross portion of Leviticus.
The Japanese: wazurau “to fall ill” (v 2), sugi “cedar” (v 4), soru “to shave” (v 9), seiki “regular, ordinary, formal” (v 32), kaoku “house” (v 34), fuusa suru “to seal off” (v 38), shikkui “plaster” (v 41).