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It seems like a "cure" for leprosy that involves taking two birds, killing one and dipping the other in the blood of the first, then sprinkling the blood in a particular fashion, multiple times.

Taken literally, I can't see any explanation except that it is some shamanic recipe dating from the bronze age, and medically completely bogus if not downright dangerous.

Does it have an interpreted meaning? How do Bible literalists justify this?

Small excerpt, there are pages and pages of ritual...

4 the priest shall order that two live clean birds and some cedar wood, scarlet yarn and hyssop be brought for the person to be cleansed. 5 Then the priest shall order that one of the birds be killed over fresh water in a clay pot. 6 He is then to take the live bird and dip it, together with the cedar wood, the scarlet yarn and the hyssop, into the blood of the bird that was killed over the fresh water. 7 Seven times he shall sprinkle the one to be cleansed of the defiling disease, and then pronounce them clean. After that, he is to release the live bird in the open fields.

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This is all part of the OT ceremonial law. We believe that this part of the law was fulfilled in the life and death of Jesus Christ. If you have questions about the specifics of the law it would be better asked at Judaism.SE. –  wax eagle Sep 6 '11 at 0:48
    
Mmm, nope. You can't hide it under the carpet like that, sorry :) since it's the Word of God, then what exactly has been fulfilled in this case? Are you asserting that this ritual actually used to work before Christ? If not, what? –  Ebenezer Sklivvze Sep 6 '11 at 0:59
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see my answer, but actually reading this, its a purification ritual for those already cured. –  wax eagle Sep 6 '11 at 1:48
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@Sklivvz - I'd appreciate it if you found a neutral, or at least less negative way of posting this question. Please consider the impact of phrases like "shamanic recipe dating from the bronze age" and "medically completely bogus if not downright dangerous". –  Wikis Sep 6 '11 at 14:09
    
This is one of my favourite verses. –  CiscoIPPhone Sep 7 '11 at 11:38

2 Answers 2

up vote 27 down vote accepted

Matthew Henry Explains this passage with the following in his Commentary:

Some make the slain bird to typify Christ dying for our sins, and the living bird Christ rising again for our justification. The dipping of the living bird in the blood of the slain bird intimated that the merit of Christ's death was that which made his resurrection effectual for our justification. He took his blood with him into the holy place, and there appeared a lamb as it had been slain. The cedar, scarlet wool, and hyssop, must all be dipped in the blood; for the word and ordinances, and all the operations of the Spirit, receive their efficacy for our cleansing from the blood of Christ.

Note that if you read the entire passage you will see that this is a cleansing ceremony after someone previously diagnosed with leprosy had been pronounced free of the disease:

Leviticus 14:3 (NIV) (emphasis mine)

3 The priest is to go outside the camp and examine them. If they have been healed of their defiling skin disease,

Thus this is not a cure, but a purification ritual following a cure. As Henry says some people see this as pointing to the cleansing blood of Christ.

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Reading things in context, eh? That's so crazy it just might work... –  Shog9 Sep 6 '11 at 18:27
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Right, and it's exactly what Jesus told the lepers to do after He cleansed them too. –  Peter Turner Sep 6 '11 at 18:59

Verse 32 says, "This is the Instruction concerning those who have an infection of skin disease but who cannot afford the normal means of purification." So verse 32 makes it clear, all that talk of purification is to get rid of the leprosy, even if verse 3 is unclear.

Even if the crucifixion of Christ made these rituals unnecessary, what was the point of telling people before the crucifixion to kill birds and put their blood on your big toe?

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