Utensils can be made unclean through contact with a corpse. It must pass through fire. If it can’t be, then it can be immersed in water (Num 31). Earthenware, or stone, vessels must be destroyed (Lev 11.33). A spring or a cistern cannot become impure because of its importance to the ritual of cleansing. There are “allusions” to other things considered impure, such as the uncircumcised (Isa 52.1); idols/idolatry (Gen 35.2; Isa 30.22, 64.6), and the nations outside of Israel were seen as unclean (Josh 22.19; Hos 9.3; Amos 7.17). What qualifies as idolatry? Practices associated with it and things coming from idolatry. The goal of learning is to be “God conscious” and aware of his presence.
Let’s review a few things. Tamai means “ritually unclean” and tahor means “ritually clean.” Zara’at is translated as “leprosy” in the translations, but it is not to be understood as the leprosy we see today. When upon a man, he is immediately declared ritually unclean. The second type is a person is declared “clean” when the symptoms appear over the whole body. This makes no medical sense, but it is a hint to the spiritual nature of the problem. Only when a person admits that he is totally sinful and guilty can he be saved and pronounced clean by the Lord (Luke 5.12; John 13.10). So shall the Messiah come when Israel admits that they are in a similar spiritual state (Ezek 39.22). The third type requires total isolation for seven days. If no deterioration, than he is declared clean.
If upon clothes or buildings, the separation is always seven days. Zara’at observes all customs as if one was under a “ban” (Lev 13.45-46). The purification ritual is more complicated than for others and resembles the Yom Kippur ritual for the High Priest. Let’s look at an issue from the sexual organs. A “niddah” is a woman during menstruation. She must refrain from all sexual relations (Lev 5.19) and is unclean for seven days. Ritual impurity can be transferred through persons, utensils and clothes and can cause further transference (Lev 15.19-24). Secondary degree’s and lower uncleanness continues only until evening, except for sexual relations with a niddah, then it is seven days. No purity ritual for a niddah is presented in the Torah. The current day practice of a tevilah in a mikvah was derived later.
A “zavah” is a woman with a chronic issue not at her menstrual time (Lev 15.29). It is the same with a “zav”, who is a male with a chronic issue from his sexual organ, except he is to bathe in water (Lev 15.29). Cohabitation renders males and females ritually unclean until evening (Lev 15.16-18), as does a man with a seminal emission. He must bathe in a mikvah if he intends on entering the Temple. A man with a chronic flux (flow) and an issue of semen is sent outside of the camp (Num 5.2-3). A woman is unclean seven days after giving birth to a male, and 14 days if it is a female (Lev 12.2-5). For the male, the woman is unclean for an additional 33 days after that, and 66 days for a female. She is forbidden to enter the Temple or touch holy things. Upon completion, she brings an offering (Lev 12.6). After Yeshua was born, his mother performed this purification ritual found in Lev 12.1-8 (Luke 2.22-24).
All beast carcasses are unclean except those properly killed for consumption. Eight reptile carcasses are unclean upon touching and the person is unclean until evening (Lev 11.24). There is no instance of a living being becoming unclean in the Scriptures except for man. The highest form is that of a corpse and uncleanness is conveyed by touching (Num 19.11) or within the same tent or house. This gets into “shadowing” (Num 19.14). Food can become unclean provided it has first been in contact with water. This is a major issue at Passover and Unleavened Bread. Water makes it receptive to uncleanness (Lev 11.34).
The purification ritual has a time factor and what degree of uncleanness determines it. This carries the idea of “karet” or separation, with Miriam being an example in Num 12. To be “put out of the camp” in the wilderness meant death and a separation from the presence of God and worship. The time Israel spent in the wilderness is a picture of the Messianic Kingdom (Isa 4.3-6). A “zara’at” must wait till he has recovered. If you need to wash your clothes, it is a high level of impurity (seven days) and the person must go to a mikvah (Lev 11.25-28). It also may require an offering (Lev 5.6). Of a person touches a corpse, it requires a sprinkling with the ashes of a Red Heifer. The priest who sprinkles the ritually impure person becomes unclean. Utensils must be cleansed by fire or water. Earthenware vessels and stoves cannot be purified, they must be destroyed. On Yom Kippur, one of the reasons for the rituals on that days involves the cleansing of the Temple. It is the ultimate purity ritual (Lev 16.16). Of all the things in the Tanach that is least understood by the Sages was the purity laws, but they were accepted and obeyed anyway. But, with the Messiah we have insight into many of these things.
There are many things considered unclean, but there is no ritual for them. These have been mentioned above and include the uncircumcised, other nations outside of Israel and idols. The concept of “clean and unclean” are applied to serious sin, especially sexual, which caused the land to become unclean (Lev 18.27-28). The prophets stressed this concept (see Ezekiel) and that idolatry and bloodshed were the main causes, but any sin would (Ezek 36.24-25; Psa 51.2). The terms “atonement” and “purification” tend to merge, and purification is sometimes used for holiness. The highest form of impurity is contact with a corpse. God brought Israel to Sinai from what country? And Egypt built tombs for the dead and mummified bodies, with elaborate rituals for the dead. These rituals were also linked to idolatry. 1 Cor 15 50-58 conveys the whole idea of the purity laws. When Paul talks about “imperishable” he is talking about the victory over death linked to purity and immortality. Sin and death are linked to impurity, perishable and mortality. Death and purity are linked. The ritual of cleansing a corpse teaches eschatology and the festivals, and a change of status. It is also linked to the resurrection.
In Part 6 we will pick up here, and begin discussing the categories of impurity and methods of contracting ritual impurities. We will then begin to apply these in the “sowd” level to a believer and discuss what principles are being taught. These principles will be directly associated with many eschatological concepts that are directly linked to the coming of the Messiah.