Leviticus 14 records the ritual for cleansing a leper and the cleansing of a house with leprosy. A couple observations after translating the passage this week particularly connected to the term “running water” or MAYEEM KHAYEEM, which literally means “living water”.
First is the obvious connection to John 4, Jesus’ conversation with the Samaritan woman. Jesus’ claim to be able to give “living water” is still enigmatic, but at least on the surface it seems that the literal meaning of his claim would be that he could make Jacob’s well work as a fountain. There is of course a mine of meaning in this whole area, but perhaps this offers at least one direction to head in. At least one point may be that the role of Israel is changing from that of a well (refreshment which must be sought out by the nations) to a spring or river (refreshment which flows out seeking the nations). The symbolism is prevalent in the Old Testament particularly in the ministry of the patriarchs. Another example would be Solomon’s reign which was that of a glorious well, where the nations sought wisdom and came to enjoy his glory. But the new Well of Jacob, the new Israel is a spring, a geyser that erupts and pours out into the world, an Eden transfigured.
Secondly, the ritual for cleansing a house with leprosy has been connected with Jesus’ cleansing of the Temple. I haven’t read James Jordan on this, but I’m told that he harmonizes the gospel accounts (synoptics vs. John) with at least some reference to this ritual in Leviticus 14. The priest in the ritual, must visit the house that is unclean (or suspected to be) twice. The house is emptied on the first visit, and if upon the second visit (seven days later) the plague has spread, the house is to be broken down. I am told that Jordan posits the difference in accounts due to two cleansings by Christ. The first was an inspection, where the furniture was over turned and the house was declared unclean. The second visit, at the end of his ministry (the end of his week) was to reevaluate the house. The house was found infected again, and the pronouncement was again made concerning its uncleanness. At at this point he declares that he will destroy the house and rebuild it again in three days. This was of course the duty of the priest, to see to it that the infected house was torn down and a new one was erected in its place.
The cleansing of a house (after it had been rebuilt) required two birds: one was killed in a vessel with “living water.” The living bird is dipped in the blood of the first bird and in the “living water” and finally released in order to make atonement for the house. The house is also sprinkled seven times with the blood and “living water.” The actual sprinkling is done with hyssop, scarlet, and cedar wood of course.
I’m not sure what all that means, but there’s obviously a death and resurrection/baptism motif going on. The House of Israel is cleansed by the death of Christ as blood and water flowed from his side. And his resurrection is his own “release” making atonement for the house. Again, atonement effects an exodus out of the city: the bird in Lev. 14, Jesus’ “living water” in John 4, the early Christians in Acts, and to the ends of the earth.
Jacob’s well has become a spring, and the house of Israel is cleansed.