The issue of purity was very important for the Israelites. The Tabernacle was at the center of all of Israel’s life. God’s presence in the midst of the camp determined the life of the people. An important function of the Mosaic Law was to instruct people on how to live in the presence of a holy God. The holy and the impure cannot coexist. Thus, God provided a means to cleanse what had become impure. God chose purification rites and sacrifices to prevent the destruction of the people when they became impure. The following table shows the main causes for ritual and moral impurity and the prescription for achieving purity anew.

Jesus changed this situation. The different purification rites and sacrifices in the Old Testament were anticipations of Christ’s ministry. Because of the perfect cleansing in Jesus’ blood and his perfect sacrifice on the cross, the purification rites and sacrifices are no longer necessary. For this reason, the causes for ritual impurity listed no longer apply to Christians.

Ritual ImpurityMoral Impurity
KINDUnavoidable, since it is part of life. It is not sinful.Avoidable and directly linked to human sin and disobedience.
CAUSES1. Entry of foreign entities into the body (Leviticus 11:39-40).
2.Contact with unclean things (Leviticus 13:1-46; 15:1-3).
4. Loss of bodily fluids (Leviticus 12:2; 15:16; 15:25).
1. Idolatry (Leviticus 18:21; 19:31).
2. Certain sexual transgressions (Leviticus 18:6-18; 20:11-14).
CONSEQUENCESImpurity is contagious and inevitable. The Israelites had to be aware of their condition and take the necessary steps to avoid contamination. Impurity excluded people from worshiping at the Tabernacle, or even remaining in the camp. Moral impurity is not contagious by touch. However, its effects are broad: they contaminate the individual, the land, and the Tabernacle.
DURATIONTemporary and short-termTemporary but long-lasting
UNDOINGRitual bathing, offering or sacrifice, waiting. Atonement, punishment, exile, or even death.

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