The Old Testament concept of being clean can be difficult to grasp. The basic idea sounds foreign to modern ears, and the legislation that describes how that state is achieved and maintained can overwhelm us, making books like Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy much more difficult to understand. But when we acquire a clearer understanding of the notion, we find that the image of being clean is a helpful one that spreads its influence from Genesis through Revelation.
As we enter the Bible and meet the world that came from God’s creating hand we are reminded repeatedly that it was “good” (Gen 1:4, 10, 12, 18, 25, 31). We may say that it was clean-not in a hygienic sense but in the sense that it resonated at every level with the Creator. Sadly, that changed when the creation broke stride with its Creator; it stopped being good or clean. As the Lord set about the restoration of the world and its people, he chose one family that would become the one nation to take the lead. They would care for and advance the plan to restore holiness to a now unholy place. God sought to separate this nation from the other nations of the world, calling them to be distinct or holy (Lev 11:44-45; 19:2).
Because of God’s special presence among them and in order to mark them as a unique people with a unique mission, God directed them to see the world through his eyes. This was a world in which things, places, behavior, and people were labeled either as clean or unclean. “You can distinguish between the holy and the common, between the unclean and the clean” (Lev 10:10). The law given on Mount Sinai added detail to this general worldwide. Animals, vessels, natural processes, places, and behaviors were all placed in one of two categories: clean or unclean (Lev 4:12; 11:1-47; 14:53; Josh 22:17; Isa 66:20). What is more, people could now moved between the states of clean and unclean. The goal for God’s people was to remain ritually clean. END OF PART 1