For whatsoever things were written aforetime were written for our learning, that we through patience and comfort of the scriptures might have hope.
Romans 15:4



 A Bible Study - Commentary by Jim Melough

Copyright 2004 James Melough

15:1.  “And the Lord spake unto Moses and to Aaron, saying,”


As noted already, when Moses and Aaron are both addressed it signifies that God is speaking in law, and also in grace, His love and mercy in giving the Lord Jesus Christ to die in our stead for our sins, enabling Him to administer His holy law in conjunction with His incomprehensible grace and mercy.


15:2.  “Speak unto the children of Israel, and say unto them, When any man hath a running issue out of his flesh, because of his issue he is unclean.”


The running issue was literally a running sore, and it represents sin: not just an accidental breach of obedience, but a continuous self-willed indulgence in wrong; and since the person was an Israelite he represents a professed believer; and as his sin defiled him, so also does that of a professed believer.


15:3.  “And this shall be his uncleanness in his issue: whether his flesh run with his issue, or his flesh be stopped from his issue, it is his uncleanness.”


Even if the sore had stopped oozing pus, the man was still unclean.  The spiritual counterpart is that of a professed believer who had been living continuously in sin, but who then ceased the sinful activity.  His discontinuing the sin doesn’t absolve him.  His sin must be dealt with.  He is still defiled.

There must be proof of his awareness of the heinousness of sin, and evidence of genuine repentance.


15:4.  “Every bed, whereon he lieth that hath the issue, is unclean: and everything, whereon he sitteth, shall be unclean.”


The bed is synonymous with rest and sleep, as sitting is also with rest, but also with study and meditation.  The lesson here is that the mere professor, as well as the genuine believer who is living in sin cannot enjoy “the peace of God, which passeth all understanding,” Philippians 4:7, nor can he enjoy the enlightenment of the Holy Spirit relative to what he may study of Scripture.


15:5.  “And whosoever toucheth his bed shall wash his clothes, and bathe himself in water, and be unclean until the even.”


This seems to indicate some involvement with the sin of the guilty individual; and teaches that even the remotest contact with sin is defiling.  See comments on 14:46 relative to “the even.”


15:6.  “And he that sitteth on any thing whereon he sat that hath the issue shall wash his clothes, and bathe himself in water, and be unclean until the even.”


This continues to speak of guilt by association, and particularly of indifference to the sin committed.  When we remember what it cost the Lord to make atonement for our sins, indifference to sin bespeaks a failure to evaluate at its proper worth the sacrifice He offered to God for the expiation of our sins.


15:7.  “And he that toucheth the flesh of him that hath the issue shall wash his clothes, and bathe himself in water, and be unclean until the even.”


This goes beyond mere indifference to sin: the touching implies association, and places the guilty individual under the necessity of repenting and forsaking the sin.


15:8.  “And if he that hath the issue spit upon him that is clean; then he shall wash his clothes, and bathe himself in water, and be unclean until the even.”


To spit upon someone is an act of utter derision and hatred, see e.g., Matthew 26:67 which records the Jews’ spitting on Christ.  This ordinance may in fact have been meant to foreshadow that very act of the Jews by which they intended to make the Lord unclean by spitting upon Him.  What they failed to understand was that He was willing, not just to be spat upon, but to take their sins upon Himself, as it is written, “For he (God) hath made Him (Christ), who knew no sin, to be made sin for us; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him,” 2 Corinthians 5:21.


“... until the even.”  The even is the end of the day, and is used symbolically to speak of the end of one’s life, and relative to Christ it points to the fact that by taking our sins upon Himself that day when He went out to Calvary, He was willing to be made unclean until the even, i.e., until the end of His life, His death expiating all our sins, making available to us God’s pardon and gift of eternal life.


15:9.  “And what saddle soever he rideth upon that hath the issue shall be unclean.”


I regret being unable to see the spiritual application of this verse.


15:10.  “And whosoever toucheth anything that was under him shall be unclean until the even: and he that beareth any of those things shall wash his clothes, and bathe himself in water, and be unclean until the even.”


The emphasis continues to be on the vileness of sin, and upon the ease with which one may be contaminated by it; the repeated “until the even,” i.e., the end of man’s natural life, reminding us that he is exposed to its defilement all the days of his life here on earth.


15:11.  “And whomsoever he toucheth that hath the issue, and hath not rinsed his hands in water, he shall wash his clothes, and bathe himself in water, and be unclean until the even.”


If the one with the issue touched another person without first having washed his own hands, he transferred the contamination to that person, thus making it necessary for the touched, and now defiled individual, to wash his clothes, bathe himself, and remain ceremonially unclean until the end of the day. 


The lesson continues to be of the ease with which the defilement of sin can be transmitted, and also of its deadly nature: of all the communicable diseases it is by far the most virulent.


15:12.  “And the vessel of earth, that he toucheth which hath the issue, shall be broken: and every vessel of wood shall be rinsed in water.”


The vessels, whether of earth or wood, represent men; but there is a distinction: the earthen vessel, in the present context, represents man in his natural, unconverted state, “of the earth, earthy,” 1 Corinthians 15:47; but the vessel of wood portrays him as a born again man, a branch of Christ the living Vine, see John 15:5.  The breaking of the earthen vessel declares the truth that the man who dies unconverted will be “broken,” i.e., cast away as a useless thing, first into hell, and ultimately into the eternal torment of the dreadful lake of fire, see Revelation 20:15.


How different is the fate of the wooden vessel!  It “shall be rinsed in water.”  The believer is also washed: first, in the precious blood of Christ, and then cleansed daily by “the washing of water by the word,” Ephesians 5:26; and he will dwell for ever with Christ in the bliss of heaven.


15:13.  “And when he that hath an issue is cleansed of his issue; then he shall number to himself seven days for his cleansing, and wash his clothes, and bathe his flesh in running water, and shall be clean.”


The cleansed man represents the believer, and the seven days - number of perfection or completeness - represent the remainder of his earthly life as a believer.  The washing of his clothes, and the bathing of his flesh in running water (type of the written Word), declare symbolically that at the end of his earthly life the believer will be found fit to enter heaven by virtue of his having been cleansed from all sin by the blood of Christ shed at Calvary, the running water representing the written Word through which he learned not only his need, but also the means of cleansing.


15:14.  “And on the eighth day he shall take to him two turtledoves, or two young pigeons, and come before the Lord unto the door of the tabernacle of the congregation, and give them unto the priest:”


15:15.  “And the priest shall offer them, the one for a sin offering, and the other for a burnt offering; and the priest shall make an atonement for him before the Lord for his issue.”


Since eight is the scriptural number of a new beginning, the eighth day here speaks of a new beginning for the man who trusts in the Lord Jesus Christ as his Savior: he is born again spiritually, and passes from the state of death in which he was born physically, to one of eternal life, the very life of Christ Himself.  His sins, past, present, and future are all forgiven, even before he commits them.


The turtledoves or pigeons, creatures of the heavens, symbols of mourning innocence, and two of the few species of fowl that are classified as clean, are types of the Lord Jesus Christ, the heavenly One, the innocent sinless One who mourned for the misery brought into the world through sin.


First, one of the birds had to be offered for a sin offering, before the other could be presented as a burnt offering, this order declaring symbolically that sin must be put away before one can present worship.  Nor should we fail to note that the man himself could not offer the birds: that was work which God had reserved for the priests; the type being fulfilled when the Lord Jesus Christ “offered himself without spot to God,” Hebrews 9:14. As discussed already, the burnt offering was always a type of Christ’s sacrifice as being first for the Father’s glory, and then for the expiation of our sins.


15:16.  “And if any man’s seed of copulation go out from him, then he shall wash all his flesh in water, and be unclean until the even.”


This refers to the involuntary nocturnal emission of seminal fluid during sleep.  The fact that it rendered the man “unclean until the even,” continues to remind us that man in his natural state is spiritually unclean, and can become spiritually clean only by being born again through faith in Christ as Savior and Lord.  The very seed from which man’s life develops is unclean, and makes him unclean even before he is born.  We don’t become sinners by sinning: the sins we commit are the evidence, not the cause, of our ruined natural state inherited from the first father of the human race, Adam.


15:17.  “And every garment, and every skin, whereon is the seed of copulation, shall be washed with water, and be unclean until the even.”


The emphasis continues to be upon the fact that man is sinful and defiled even before the seed from which he springs has entered his mother’s womb; nor can he avoid transmitting the contagion to everything with which he has any contact.


15:18.  “The woman also with whom man shall lie with seed of copulation, they shall both bathe themselves in water, and be unclean until the even.”


Not only does semen defile every garment, skin, or article it touches: it makes unclean also the woman it touches, the emphasis continuing to be symbolically upon the utter corruption of all that is related to the flesh, as declared by Paul in Romans 7:18, “For I know that in me (that is in my flesh,) dwelleth no good thing ....” and again, “... flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God; neither doth corruption inherit incorruption,” 1 Corinthians 15:50.


15:19.  “And if a woman have an issue, and her issue in her flesh be blood, she shall be put apart seven days: and whosoever toucheth her shall be unclean until the even.”


The reference here is to a woman’s menstrual flow, and it is instructive to note that relative to blood it is written, “The life of the flesh is in the blood,” Leviticus 17:11.  The menstrual flow therefore is the symbolic reminder that man’s physical life is gradually ebbing away, each passing day drawing him nearer to the grave.


The seven days of separation represent the whole of man’s earthly life, the uncleanness of the menstruous woman being the symbolic announcement of the fact that man in his natural state is spiritually unclean, his only remedy being to become a new creature, by being born again spiritually through faith in Christ as his Savior and Lord, as it is written, “Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new,” 2 Corinthians 5:17.


15:20.  “And everything that she lieth upon in her separation shall be unclean: every thing also that she sitteth upon shall be unclean.” 


15:21.  “And whosoever toucheth her bed shall wash his clothes, and bathe himself in water, and be unclean until the even.”


15:22.  “And whosoever toucheth any thing that she sat upon shall wash his clothes, and bathe himself in water, and be unclean until the even.


This continues to emphasize the defiling nature of everything pertaining to the flesh, in regard to which Paul has written, “For I know that in me (that is in my flesh), dwelleth no good thing ....” Romans 7:18; “.... flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God,” 1 Cor 15:50; and again, “.... they that are in the flesh cannot please God,” Romans 8:8.


15:23.  “And if it be on her bed, or on anything whereon she sitteth, when he toucheth it, he shall be unclean until the even.”


Lying on a bed, or just sitting, are synonymous with rest or relaxation, and the lesson being taught is that even when it is quiescent the flesh is corrupt because it is inherently evil.


15:24.  “And if any man lie with her at all, and her flowers be upon him, he shall be unclean seven days; and all the bed whereon he lieth shall be unclean.”


“... flowers” in the present context is a synonymn for menstrual discharge, and the lesson continues to be of the inherent defiling evil of the flesh.


The fact of his being unclean, even while lying on his bed, seems to emphasize the same lesson as in the preceding verse: even when it isn’t active, the flesh is still inherently defiling and evil.


15:25.  “And if a woman have an issue of her blood many days out of the time of her separation, or if it run beyond the time of her separation; all the days of the issue of her uncleanness shall be as the days of her separation: she shall be unclean.”


The NAB renders the first half of this verse, “When a woman is afflicted with a flow of blood for several days outside her menstrual period, or when her flow continues beyond the ordinary period ....”


The prolonged menstrual flow mentioned here seems to speak symbolically of long continuation in sin, and/or of a phenomenally heinous type of sin.  It may, in fact, be the OT symbolic foreshadowing of what exists today: sin has become not only more abounding in extent, but also more heinous in character; nor is there any sense of shame, but on the contrary a brazen wantonness on the part of the people generally.


15:26.  “Every bed whereon she lieth all the days of her issue shall be unto her as the bed of her separation: and whatsoever she sitteth upon shall be unclean, as the uncleanness of her separation.”


The continued reference to her lying on a bed or sitting on a seat, speaks of inactivity, and declares metaphorically that the sins committed are simply the outward evidence of the evil of the fallen nature which spawned them.


15:27.  “And whosoever toucheth those things shall be unclean, and shall wash his clothes, and bathe himself in water, and be unclean until the even.”


The meaning here is the same as in verses 4-7, except that there it relates to the male, and here to the woman, the spiritual distinction being that the male emphasizes the activity of sin; but the female, its evil nature.


15:28.  “But if she be cleansed of her issue, then she shall number to herself seven days, and after that she shall be clean.”


The difference between the cleansing of the man and the woman was that he was to wash his clothes, and bathe himself in running water, verse 13; but relative to the woman, there is no mention of washing her clothes, or bathing herself.  Some, however, understand the washing of the clothes, and the bathing of her body, to be implied; but if that inference is wrong, there is no readily apparent reason for the exception in her case.


15:29.  “And on the eighth day she shall take unto her two turtles (turtledoves), or two young pigeons, and bring them unto the priest, to the door of the tabernacle of the congregation.”


15:30.  “And the priest shall offer the one for a sin offering,  and the other for a burnt offering; and the priest shall make an atonement for her before the Lord for the issue of her uncleanness.”


This part of the cleansing ritual is exactly the same as for the man, see comments on verses 14-15.


15:31.  “Thus shall ye separate the children of Israel from their uncleanness; that they die not in their uncleanness, when they defile my tabernacle that is among them.”


15:32.  “This is the law of him that hath an issue, and of him whose seed goeth from him, and is defiled therewith;”


15:33.  “And of her that is sick of her flowers, and of him that hath an issue, of the man, and of the woman, and of him that lieth with her that is unclean.”


The refusal of an Israelite to follow the prescribed cleansing ritual, would have defiled the tabernacle, God’s house, and would have resulted in the death of the rebel.  Failure of a believer today to repent, confess, and forsake his sin, similarly defiles God’s house, for the believer’s body is the dwelling place of God the Holy Spirit, see 1 Corinthians 3:16-17, “Know ye not that ye are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwelleth in you?  If any man defile the temple of God, him shall God destroy; for the temple of God is holy, which temple ye are,” and again in 1 Corinthians 6:19-20, “What? know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own? for ye are bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God’s.”


Another obvious application of this is to the local church.  The sin of one member affects the whole company, hence the need of vigilance and wisdom on the part of the elders in dealing with sin in the local assembly.


“... that they die not.”  Any infraction brought death; and while it may not bring immediate physical death today, it does bring the offending believer into a state that is the equivalent of death, for it cuts him off from the enlightenment and enablement of the Holy Spirit.


To appreciate the terrible nature of sin we have only to consider what befell the Lord at Calvary when He took our sins upon Himself as though He had been the sinner, and He “who knew no sin, was made sin for us, that we might be made the righteousness of God in him,” 2 Corinthians 5:21.

[Leviticus 16]


     Scripture portions taken from the Holy Bible, King James Version
© 2000-2005 James Melough