Verses 19–33

This is concerning the ceremonial uncleanness which women lay under from their issues, both those that were regular and healthful, and according to the course of nature (Lev. 15:19-24), and those that were unseasonable, excessive, and the disease of the body; such was the bloody issue of that poor woman who was suddenly cured by touching the hem of Christ’s garment, after she had lain twelve years under her distemper, and had spent her estate upon physicians and physic in vain. This made the woman that was afflicted with it unclean (Lev. 15:25) and every thing she touched unclean, Lev. 15:26, 27. And if she was cured, and found by seven days’ trial that she was perfectly free from her issue of blood, she was to be cleansed by the offering of two turtle-doves or two young pigeons, to make an atonement for her, Lev. 15:28, 29. All wicked courses, particularly idolatries, are compared to the uncleanness of a removed woman (Ezek. 36:17), and, in allusion to this, it is said of Jerusalem (Lam. 1:9), Her filthiness is in her skirts, so that (as it follows, Lev. 15:17) she was shunned as a menstruous woman.

I. The reasons given for all these laws (which we are ready to think might very well have been spared) we have, Lev. 15:31. 1. Thus shall you separate the children of Israel (for to them only and their servants and proselytes these laws pertained) from their uncleanness; that is, (1.) By these laws they were taught their privilege and honour, that they were purified unto God a peculiar people, and were intended by the holy God for a kingdom of priests, a holy nation; for that was a defilement to them which was not so to others. (2.) They were also taught their duty, which was to preserve the honour of their purity, and to keep themselves from all sinful pollutions. It was easy for them to argue that if those pollutions which were natural, unavoidable, involuntary, their affliction and not their sin, rendered them for the time so odious that they were not fit for communion either with God or man, much more abominable and filthy were they if they sinned against the light and law of nature, by drunkenness, adultery, fraud, and the like sins, which defile the very mind and conscience. And, if these ceremonial pollutions could not be done away but by sacrifice and offering, something greater and much more valuable must be expected and depended upon for the purifying of the soul from the uncleanness of sin. 2. Thus their dying in their uncleanness by the hand of God’s justice, if while they were under any of these defilements they should come near the sanctuary, would be prevented. Note, It is a dangerous thing to die in our uncleanness; and it is our own fault if we do, since we have not only fair warning given us, by God’s law, against those things that will defile us, but also such gracious provision made by his gospel for our cleansing if at any time we be defiled. 3. In all these laws there seems to be a special regard had to the honour of the tabernacle, to which none must approach in their uncleanness, that they defile not my tabernacle. Infinite Wisdom took this course to preserve in the minds of that careless people a continual dread of, and veneration for, the manifestations of God’s glory and presence among them in his sanctuary. Now that the tabernacle of God was with men familiarity would be apt to breed contempt, and therefore the law made so many things of frequent incidence to be ceremonial pollutions, and to involve an incapacity of drawing near to the sanctuary (making death the penalty), that so they might not approach without great caution, and reverence, and serious preparation, and fear of being found unfit. Thus they were taught never to draw near to God but with an awful humble sense of their distance and danger, and an exact observance of every thing that was required in order to their safety and acceptance.

II. And what duty must we learn from all this? 1. Let us bless God that we are not under the yoke of these carnal ordinances, that, as nothing can destroy us, so nothing can defile us, but sin. Those may now partake of the Lord’s supper who durst not then eat of the peace-offerings. And the defilement we contract by our sins of daily infirmity we may be cleansed from in secret by the renewed acts of repentance and faith, without bathing in water or bringing an offering to the door of the tabernacle. 2. Let us carefully abstain from all sin, as defiling to the conscience, and particularly from all fleshly lusts, possessing our vessel in sanctification and honour, and not in the lusts of uncleanness, which not only pollute the soul, but war against it, and threaten its ruin. 3. Let us all see how indispensably necessary real holiness is to our future happiness, and get our hearts purified by faith, that we may see God. Perhaps it is in allusion to these laws which forbade the unclean to approach the sanctuary that when it is asked, Who shall stand in God’s holy place? it is answered, He that hath clean hands and a pure heart (Ps. 24:3, 4); for without holiness no man shall see the Lord.

In this chapter we have the institution of the annual solemnity of the day of atonement, or expiation, which had as much gospel in it as perhaps any of the appointments of the ceremonial law, as appears by the reference the apostle makes to it, Heb. 9:7 We had before divers laws concerning sin-offerings for particular persons, and to be offered upon particular occasions; but this is concerning the stated sacrifice, in which the whole nation was interested. The whole service of the day is committed to the high priest. I. He must never come into the most holy place but upon this day, Lev. 16:1, 2. II. He must come dressed in linen garments, Lev. 16:4. III. He must bring a sin-offering and a burnt-offering for himself (Lev. 16:3), offer his sin-offering (Lev. 16:6-11), then go within the veil with some of the blood of his sin-offering, burn incense, and sprinkle the blood before the mercy-seat, Lev. 16:12-14. IV. Two goats must be provided for the people, lots cast upon them, and, 1. One of them must be a sin-offering for the people (Lev. 16:5; 7-9), and the blood of it must be sprinkled before the mercy-seat (Lev. 16:15-17), and then some of the blood of both the sin-offerings must be sprinkled upon the altar, Lev. 16:18, 19. 2. The other must be a scape-goat (Lev. 16:10), the sins of Israel must be confessed over him, and then he must be sent away into the wilderness (Lev. 16:20-22), and he that brought him away must be ceremonially unclean, Lev. 16:26. V. The burnt-offerings were then to be offered, the fat of the sin-offerings burnt on the altar, and their flesh burnt without the camp, Lev. 16:23-25, 27, 28. VI. The people were to observe the day religiously by a holy rest and holy mourning for sin; and this was to be a statute for ever, Lev. 16:29-34