The purification (Lk 2:22-2:22)

“When the time came

For their purification,

According to the law

Of Moses,

They brought him up

To Jerusalem

To present him

To the Lord.”

 

Καὶ ὅτε ἐπλήσθησαν αἱ ἡμέραι τοῦ καθαρισμοῦ αὐτῶν κατὰ τὸν νόμον Μωϋσέως, ἀνήγαγον αὐτὸν εἰς Ἱεροσόλυμα παραστῆσαι τῷ Κυρίῳ,

 

Luke said that when the time or the days were completed (Καὶ ὅτε ἐπλήσθησαν αἱ ἡμέραι) for their purification (τοῦ καθαρισμοῦ αὐτῶν), according to the law of Moses (κατὰ τὸν νόμον Μωϋσέως, Joseph and Mary brought Jesus to Jerusalem (ἀνήγαγον αὐτὸν εἰς Ἱεροσόλυμα) to present him to the Lord (παραστῆσαι τῷ Κυρίῳ).  What is this purification and is it different than circumcision.  The story of John did not have this purification ritual.  Strictly speaking, this was a purification of the mother to take place 40 days after the birth of a child that had made her unclean as described in Leviticus, chapter 12:1-8.  The presentation of the child and the father were not part of this purification ritual.  There was no law or custom about the presentation of a child, other than the presentation of the first born as in Exodus, chapter 13:2 and 13:16.  Women were considered unclean after childbirth because of the blood discharge that took place with birthing.  If a male was born, the woman was unclean for 7 days, like menstruation, so that on the 8th day the male child could be circumcised.  There were 33 more days of blood purification for the male child.  During her unclean period, this new mother could not touch any holy thing, or go into the sanctuary.  Thus, the purification ritual took place on the 40th day, a symbolic number based on the 40 years of the Israelites in the desert wilderness.

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Rebuild Zion (Ps 51:18-51:19)

“Do good to Zion!

In your good pleasure!

Rebuild the walls of Jerusalem!

Then you will delight in right sacrifices.

You will delight in burnt offerings.

You will delight in whole burnt offerings.

Then bulls will be offered on your altar.”

This psalm ends with this addition about rebuilding Zion that had nothing to do with David and his sin with Bathsheba.  David had not even built the Temple so that to rebuild it would have been a post-exilic effort such as in Ezra and Nehemiah. This addition is almost in contradiction to the preceding verses that were pointing out the non-importance of sacrifices.  Here it is the opposite.  God would delight in right sacrifices, various burnt offers, and all those bulls on his altar.  This seems to go against the whole theme of this psalm, but brings the repentance back to ritual sacrifices.

David wants purification (Ps 51:6-51:9)

“You desire truth in the inward being.

Therefore teach me wisdom

In my secret heart.

Purge me with hyssop!

Then I shall be clean.

Wash me!

Then I shall be whiter than snow.

Let me hear joy and gladness!

Let the bones that you have crushed rejoice!

Hide your face from my sins!

Blot out all my iniquities!”

David wanted to be purified. He wanted wisdom in his heart. He wanted to be purged or purified with some ritual that involved a hyssop, a ceremonial plant that was used to sprinkle water in a cleansing ritual. The hyssop was used in cleansing lepers in Leviticus, chapter 14. This cleansing hyssop was more explicit in Numbers, chapter 19, as the main tool used in sprinkling water to ritually clean things. He wanted to be clean, whiter than snow. There was a mention of some crushed bones. He wanted to be joyful, not with broken bones. He wanted his sins hidden and blotted out. He wanted a clean slate.

Ritual for the purification of lepers (Lev 14:1-14:32)

“Yahweh spoke to Moses.  ‘This shall be the ritual for the leprous person at the time of his cleansing.  He shall be brought to the priest.  The priest shall go out of the camp.  The priest shall make an examination.  If the disease is healed in the leprous person, the priest shall command that two living clean birds and cedar wood, crimson yarns, and hyssop be brought for the one who is to be cleansed.’”

Here again, Yahweh spoke to Moses to explain what the ritual for the cleansing of a leper was, and how it was to be done.  The priest went outside the camp to see if the person was cured or not.  The leper did not come to see him.  If the leprosy was healed, the priest asked for two living clean birds, cedar wood with crimson yarns and hyssop, a plant with a branch.

“The priest shall command that one of the birds be slaughtered over fresh water in an earthen vessel.  He shall take the living bird with the cedar wood, the crimson yarn, and the hyssop, and dip them and the living bird in the blood of the bird that was slaughtered over the fresh water.  He shall sprinkle it seven times upon the one who is to be cleansed of the leprous disease.  Then he shall pronounce him clean.  He shall let the living bird go into the open field.  The one who is to be cleansed shall wash his clothes.  He shall shave off all his hair.  He shall bathe himself in water, and then he shall be clean.  After that he shall come into the camp, but shall live outside his tent for seven days.  On the seventh day he shall shave all the hair of his head, his beard, and his eyebrows, all his hair. Then he shall wash his clothes, and bathe his body in water, and he shall be clean.”

The ritual of purification goes as follows:

1)      Slaughter one of the birds over fresh running water in an earthen vessel;

2)      Dip the living bird in the blood of the slaughtered bird;

3)      Dip the cedar wood in the blood of the slaughtered bird;

4)      Dip the crimson yarn in the blood of the slaughtered bird;

5)      Dip the hyssop in the blood of the slaughtered bird;

6)      Sprinkle the leper 7 times;

7)      Let the living bird go into the open field;

8)      Have the leper wash his clothes;

9)      Shave off all his hair;

10)  Bathe himself in water;

11)  Live outside the tent for 7 days;

12)  On the 7th day, he will again:

  1. Shave all his hair, head, beard, and eyebrows;
  2. Wash his clothes;
  3. Bathe in water.

“On the eighth day he shall take two male lambs without blemish, and one ewe lamb a year old without blemish, and a grain offering of three- tenths of an ephah of choice flour mixed with oil, and one log of oil.   The priest who cleanses him shall set the person to be cleansed, alone with these things before Yahweh, at the entrance of the tent of meeting.   The priest shall take one of the lambs, and offer it for a guilt offering, along with the log of oil, and raise them as an elevation offering before Yahweh.  He shall slaughter the lamb in the place where the sin offerings and the burnt offerings are slaughtered in the holy place.  The guilt offering, like the sin offering, belongs to the priest.  It is most holy.  The priest shall take some of the blood of the guilt offering and put it on the lobe of the right ear of the one to be cleansed, and on the thumb of the right hand, and on the big toe of the right foot.  The priest shall take some of the log of oil, and pour it into the palm of his own left hand, and dip his right finger in the oil that is in his left hand, and sprinkle some oil with his finger seven times before Yahweh.  Some of the oil that remains in his hand the priest shall put on the lobe of the right ear of the one to be cleansed, and on the thumb of the right hand, and on the big toe of the right foot, on top of the blood of the guilt offering.  The rest of the oil that is in the priest’s hand he shall put on the head of the one to be cleansed. Then the priest shall make atonement on his behalf for him before Yahweh.  The priest shall offer the sin offering to make atonement for the one to be cleansed from his uncleanness. Afterward he shall slaughter the burnt offering.  The priest shall offer the burnt offering and the grain offering on the altar.  Thus the priest shall make atonement on his behalf and he shall be clean.”

On the 8th day the priest performs a series of rituals at the entrance to the tent at the holocaust altar:

1)      The leper takes two male lambs and one ewe lamb less than one year old, all without blemish;

2)      A grain offering of 3/10th of a bushel of flour mixed with oil;

3)      And one log (about a pint) of oil;

4)      The priest sets him and these things at the entrance to the tent

5)      One slaughtered lamb and the oil are a sin offering;

6)      The priest takes the blood of the lamb and puts it on the right ear lobe, the thumb of the right hand, and big toe of the right foot of the leper;  This is like the ordination of Aaron and his sons;

7)      The priest pours the oil in his left hand and dips his right fingers and sprinkles it  7 times before Yahweh;

8)      The priest uses the oil to anoint the ear lobe, thumb, and big toe again;

9)      The rest of the oil is put on the head on the leper;

10)  Then the burnt offering and the grain offering take place on the altar as atonement;

11)  Finally, he shall be clean.

“But if he is poor and cannot afford so much, then he shall take one male lamb for a guilt offering to be elevated, to make atonement on his behalf, and one-tenth of an ephah of choice flour mixed with oil for a grain offering, and a log of oil.  Also he may take two turtledoves or two pigeons, such as he can afford, one for a sin offering and the other for a burnt offering.  On the eighth day he shall bring them for his cleansing to the priest, to the entrance of the tent of meeting, before Yahweh.  The priest shall take the lamb of the guilt offering and the log of oil, and the priest shall raise them as an elevation offering before Yahweh.  The priest shall slaughter the lamb of the guilt offering and shall take some of the blood of the guilt offering, and put it on the lobe of the right ear of one to be cleansed, and on the thumb of the right hand, and on the big toe of the right foot.   The priest shall pour some of the oil into the palm of his own left hand.  He shall sprinkle with his right finger some of the oil that is in his left hand seven times before Yahweh.  The priest shall put some of the oil that is in his hand on the lobe of the right ear of the one to be cleansed, and on the thumb of the right hand, and the big toe of the right foot, where the blood of the guilt offering was placed.  The rest of the oil that is in the priest’s hand he shall put on the head of the one to be cleansed, to make atonement on his behalf before Yahweh.  He shall offer the turtledoves or young pigeons, such as he can afford, one for a sin offering and the other for a burnt offering, along with a grain offering.  The priest shall make atonement before Yahweh on behalf of the one being cleansed.  This is the ritual law for the one who has a leprous disease, who cannot afford the offerings for his cleansing.”

However, if the leper is poor, he can bring one male lamb, instead of 2, for a guilt offering, 10% of a bushel grain offering, rather than 30%.  He can bring 2 turtledoves or pigeons.  However, the ceremony ritual is exactly the same as above.  The leper was ceremoniously unclean and therefore had to be made ceremoniously clean.  The anointing on the ear lobe, the right thumb, and the big toe was also used in the anointing of the priests.  This made people holy.  The unclean person had to be sanctified, put back in the good graces of Yahweh.  The importance of ritual cannot be overemphasized.