Leviticus 13:56–58 (HCSB)
56 “If the priest examines it, and the contamination has faded after it has been washed, he must cut the contaminated section out of the fabric, the leather, or the warp or woof. 57 But if it reappears in the fabric, the warp or woof, or any leather article, it has broken out again. You must burn up whatever is contaminated. 58 But if the contamination disappears from the fabric, the warp or woof, or any leather article, which have been washed, it is to be washed again, and it will be clean.
This pericope is about mold and mildew on fabrics and leather. When read on its own, it would seem to simply be a practical command that would be quite necessary in a warmer environment, where mold and mildew might be prevalent, to ensure health and avoid sickness that could result from exposure to mold and mildew. But, when we look at the sandwiching of this pericope in between the identification of skin disease prior, and the coming return to skin disease, and the cleansing of it, it would seem this pericope might have a little more to it.
First, what strikes me, is some of the similarity between the treatment of fabric and leather, and general skin disease. Both require an identification, a washing, and a reevaluation to determine if the impacted area truly is infected and unclean. In both scenarios, where there is uncleanliness, the affected item or person is essentially removed, whether that be through cutting out the area, or burning the item, or the person living outside the camp in isolation.
But it also worth noting the major differences between the two. First off, God is not done with people, because looking ahead we see that Leviticus 14 is going to further address skin diseases, but Leviticus 13:59 appears to be closing the issue on contaminated fabrics and leather. And of course there is the final treatment of the contaminated fabric or leather if it remains unclean: it is burned up, totally destroyed.
In all, I think this pericope does offer a more hyperbolic picture of the theme of contamination overall, including that of skin disease. The picture being that when the body is contaminated, we should take some steps. We should identify the contamination, then we cleanse it. If it remains, we cut it out. Jesus said it is better to cut off your hand if it sins, it’s better to lose one part than for your whole body to go to hell (Matthew 5:30). If it is unchanged after the cleansing, or continues to spread, we then destroy the entire item. If there is something in our life that is leading us away from God, and it is owning us, spreading and taking over us, we must destroy it, whatever that looks like. But we must not allow it to rule us, we are to be children of God, led by, and following, Him. But what a beautiful picture the opposite is: once the item is cleansed, and the fungus is gone, the item is clean again. There is hope for cleansing, there is hope for restoration, through God.
Lord, I thank You for Your guidance. You provided laws for Your people during times when certain scientific things were not yet understood, and You continue to do the same for us today. But You also provide small pictures of You, Your grace, and Your judgment, in many of these laws. I pray that we would discern Your truth from it all, and ultimately continue to seek You, and be purified by You. Amen.