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"Polluted Garments"
Leviticus 13:47-59

Wednesday AM Bible Study
September 27, 2006

Theme: The believer is to beware of the contamination of sin in the surrounding circumstances and everyday establishments of life.

The first half of chapter thirteen the contamination of sin through the picture of a man infected with the plague of leprosy. But just as a man can be contaminated with leprosy in his own person, those things that surround him in daily life—and that serve his physical and comfort needs—can become contaminated as well. The man himself can be unclean and thus need to be separated from the camp; but even the very garments that the man wears can make him unclean.

What is being described to us in the second half of chapter thirteen should be seen as a 'type' of sin. It pictures the rot of sin that can taint the believer's earthly surroundings, social structures, and associations in everyday life. “Morally speaking, the state of things in which we live, is our garment” (Seiss, p. 236); that is, the circumstances in which we live, the business in which we engage, the social structures in which we operate and associate with others, and the comforts with which we make our earthly lives bearable and pleasing. All of these can be contaminated with sin. They are like 'garments' in that we wrap ourselves in them. The Bible tells us that such things can be compared with rotted garments (James 5:2); and the believer is not to touch the garment spotted by the flesh (Jude 23). Instead, the believer is to be sure to keep his garments undefiled (Revelation 3:4; 16:15).


A. These verses probably do not speak of the same kind of leprosy as might have contaminated a man. They most likely describe a very aggressive kind of mold, or rot, or mildew. In any case, it was an 'uncleanness' because it decomposed or destroyed that with which a man—in daily life—was to be clothed. Such uncleanness had the potential to make its wearer unclean; and such a contaminated—and contaminating—garment was not fitting for God's holy people to wear.

B. The things of this world that are meant for our comfort, or protection, or use, are not bad in and of themselves. But they can become a source of great defilement to us if sin is bound up in them (1 Corinthians 10:23). We, as believers—living in the culture in which we live—often tend to ignore the defiling impact that such things can have on us. Even though such things may contain the corruption of sin, we tend to think that we are not harmed by our contact with them. God shows us, in this chapter, that our contact with such 'garments' can indeed render us unclean if sin is deeply spread in and through them. Such 'garments' can be . . .

1. Government or civil rule;

2. Family structures and domestic relations;

3. Business and work life;

4. Education and the sciences;

5. The arts and literature;

6. Entertainment and leisure activities;

7. And even the church and religious practices.

C. The leprosy rendered the garment unclean, without regard to its nature or value (vv. 47- 49). Therefore, a thorough examination of any “garment” must be made—regardless of kind . . .

1. “Woolen”; that is, inexpensive, warm and comfortable.

2. “Linen”; that is, attractive, expensive and exquisite.

3. “Leather”; that is, durable, strong, and crafted for usefulness.

D. Once the leprosy is found, the garment was to be brought to the priest for examination.

1. It was set aside for examination by him for seven days to determine whether or not the leprosy has spread. A quick decision is not made; but the true nature of the plague was to be ascertained first (v. 50). We need to carefully examine the daily activities of this world that we involve ourselves in.

2. Once it is determined that it was an active (KJV, “fretting”; that is, decaying) leprosy, the garment was to be judged unclean (v. 51). This was a decision made, not by the owner of the garment, but by the priest. How much sin would we avoid in the earthly circumstances and associations of our lives if we first brought our involvement in them to the Lord Jesus—our Priest—for His examination and approval (1 Corinthians 10:31)?


A. A garment with an active leprosy (v. 52). The garment in which an active leprosy was found was to be burned. It was not to be kept or used or worn—even if it seemed valuable or useful; because it would contaminate the one who touched it and wrapped himself in it. Similarly, we are to keep ourselves apart from circumstances or activities that are clearly found to be 'unclean' (2 Corinthians 6:17).

B. A garment in which a leprosy is present, but not spread (vv. 53-55). The garment which, after seven days of examination, was found to be contaminated with a leprosy— but a leprosy that had not appeared to have spread—was then to be washed. Once washed, it was to be isolated another seven days. Sinfulness is not always a necessary part of some of the otherwise good things of this life. God has given them to us for our good and edification. It would be wasteful and reckless to burn such “garments” hastily —especially when an apparent leprosy has not spread. But if, after a washing, a re- examination of the garment reveals that the plague has not spread—but was still present, then it was to be burned.

C. A garment washed of its leprosy (vv. 56-59). If after washing, the plague had faded, then the contaminated portion was to be removed; and the remainder of the garment may be used. We should seek to remove that which is sinful from that which is otherwise good. If after washing and fading, however, the plague reappeared on the remainder of the garment, then the leprosy was active and the garment was to be burnt. If the leprosy did not return, then the garment was to be washed a second time, and then was to be considered clean.

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