#175. An individual that has come into contact with an impure animal or human must purge his impurity through sacrifice OR banishment from the community? (Lev 5:2-6 vs Num 5:2-3, 31:19)


As we saw in #173, the Priestly legislation itself bears witness to some minor differences. This one in particular has to do with the stipulation regarding an individual that has come into contact with a corpse—that is, according to the Priestly ideology, an individual that has come into contact with an impurity. Since according to the Priestly theological worldview, the camp, wherein Yahweh dwelt among the people (#151), was conceived as the realm of purity and holiness, any impure or unclean contamination not only put the whole camp at risk, but also put Yahweh’s holiness at risk. Coming into contact with such impurities, therefore, had to be treated immediately.

In this respect, the legislation of Numbers 5:2-3 and 31:19—-as well as much of the Deuteronomic corpus—is clearly understandable: that individual must immediately go outside the camp, that is to say into the realm that was considered impure.

Leviticus 5:2-6 curiously makes no mention of this. Rather according to this legislation, the individual who has contracted an impurity, through another human or a corpse, must bring a sin-offering, a purification-offering, to the Aaronid priest and have his contamination/sin expiated via the sacrifice outlined in Leviticus 4.

In fact, it is quite possible that one or the other legislation was practiced variously, or as Numbers 31:19 seems to imply, both together. In this passage the individual is banished to the outside of the camp for seven days, and must do a sin expiation (presumably a sin-offering per Leviticus 4) on the third and seventh day of his/her impurity.

Leave a Reply