|Matthew Henry's Concise Commentary|
14:1-9 The priests could not cleanse the lepers; but when the Lord removed the plague, various rules were to be observed in admitting them again to the ordinances of God, and the society of his people. They represent many duties and exercises of truly repenting sinners, and the duties of ministers respecting them. If we apply this to the spiritual leprosy of sin, it intimates that when we withdraw from those who walk disorderly, we must not count them as enemies, but admonish them as brethren. And also that when God by his grace has brought to repentance, they ought with tenderness and joy, and sincere affection, to be received again. Care should always be taken that sinners may not be encouraged, nor penitents discouraged. If it were found that the leprosy was healed, the priest must declare it with the particular solemnities here described. The two birds, one killed, and the other dipped in the blood of the bird that was killed, and then let loose, may signify Christ shedding his blood for sinners, and rising and ascending into heaven. The priest having pronounced the leper clean from the disease, he must make himself clean from all remains of it. Thus those who have comfort of the remission of their sins, must with care and caution cleanse themselves from sins; for every one that has this hope in him, will be concerned to purify himself.
Verse 5. - One of the birds be killed in an earthen vessel over running water. A small quantity of water was placed in an earthenware dish, and one of the birds was killed over the dish in such a way that the blood dripped into the water. The water was needed, as there would not have been sufficient blood in the bird for the seven sprinklings which were to be made. It was to be running, literally, living, water; that is, fresh water taken from a fountain or a running stream, in order that it might be as pure as possible. Symbolically, the cleansing power of water as well as of blood is indicated.
Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible
And the priest shall command that one of the birds be killed,.... That is, shall command another priest to kill one of them, or an Israelite, as Aben Ezra; and who also observes, that some say the leper, or the butcher, as the Targum of Jonathan; the killing of this bird, not being a sacrifice, might be done without the camp, as it was, and not at the altar, near to which sacrifices were slain, and where they were offered: and this was to be done
in an earthen vessel over running water: this vessel, according to the Jewish traditions (a), was to be a new one, and a fourth part of a log of running water was to be put into it, and then the bird was to be killed over it, and its blood squeezed into it, and then a hole was dug, and it was buried before the leprous person; and so it should be rendered, "over an earthen vessel", as it is in the Tigurine version, and by Noldius (b); for how could it be killed in it, especially when water was in it? the killing of this bird may have respect to the sufferings, death, and bloodshed of Christ, which were necessary for the purging and cleansing of leprous sinners, and which were endured in his human nature, comparable to an earthen vessel, as an human body sometimes is; see 2 Corinthians 4:7; for he was crucified through weakness, and was put to death in the flesh, 2 Corinthians 13:4; and the running or living water mixed with blood may denote both the sanctification and justification of Christ's people by the water and blood which sprung from his pierced side, and the continual virtue thereof to take away sin, and free from it; or the active and passive obedience of Christ, which both together are the matter of a sinner's justification before God.
(a) Negaim, c. 14. sect. 1.((b) Ebr. Concord. part. p. 64. No. 318.
Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary
5-9. the priest shall command that one of the birds be killed … over running water—As the blood of a single bird would not have been sufficient to immerse the body of another bird, it was mingled with spring water to increase the quantity necessary for the appointed sprinklings, which were to be repeated seven times, denoting a complete purification. (See 2Ki 5:10; Ps 51:2; Mt 8:4; Lu 5:14). The living bird being then set free, in token of the leper's release from quarantine, the priest pronounced him clean; and this official declaration was made with all solemnity, in order that the mind of the leper might be duly impressed with a sense of the divine goodness, and that others might be satisfied they might safely hold intercourse with him. Several other purifications had to be gone through during a series of seven days, and the whole process had to be repeated on the seventh, ere he was allowed to re-enter the camp. The circumstance of a priest being employed seems to imply that instruction suitable to the newly recovered leper would be given, and that the symbolical ceremonies used in the process of cleansing leprosy would be explained. How far they were then understood we cannot tell. But we can trace some instructive analogies between the leprosy and the disease of sin, and between the rites observed in the process of cleansing leprosy and the provisions of the Gospel. The chief of these analogies is that as it was only when a leper exhibited a certain change of state that orders were given by the priest for a sacrifice, so a sinner must be in the exercise of faith and penitence ere the benefits of the gospel remedy can be enjoyed by him. The slain bird and the bird let loose are supposed to typify, the one the death, and the other the resurrection of Christ; while the sprinklings on him that had been leprous typified the requirements which led a believer to cleanse himself from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, and to perfect his holiness in the fear of the Lord.
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