Leviticus 14 details the purification process after healing from the skin diseases described in Leviticus 13.

8 “The persons being purified must then wash their clothes, shave off all their hair, and bathe themselves in water. Then they will be ceremonially clean and may return to the camp. However, they must remain outside their tents for seven days.

9 On the seventh day they must again shave all the hair from their heads, including the hair of the beard and eyebrows. They must also wash their clothes and bathe themselves in water. Then they will be ceremonially clean.

  • Leviticus 14:8-9 NLT

The passage describes two stages to cleansing but after each stage the person is declared clean. Is a person unclean in between them? Are there different levels of cleanliness?

2 Answers 2


The JPS Study Bible states that 14:1-32 resumes from 13:46:

these vv describe the steps required of the person cured to dispose of the impurity he has created. Anthropologically and sociologically these rituals have been seen as rites of passage, marking the return of the outcast to normal life in human society and in God’s presence.

Rabbinic interpretation, which tended to view the person afflicted as under divine sanction for wrong-doing, generally explained these rituals acts as acts of contrition, penance, and thanksgiving.

In fact, however, they are for ridding the person and the environment of the impurity that has been generated, and the afflicted person is under no disapprobation unless he or she fails to carry them out.1

The instructions concerning the leper are divided into three stages:

  • Stage 1: 3-7 - takes places outside the camp
  • Stage 2: 8-9 – consists of cleansing the individual
  • Stage 3: 10-20 – the individual makes offerings

This question deals with the second stage. Comparing the requirements of 14:8 and 14:9:

14:8                              14:9
Wash clothes
Shave off all hair                Shave off all hair (naming: head, beard, eyebrows)
Bathe in water                    
Remain outside his tent 7 days
                                  Wash his clothes
                                  Bathe his body in water

The steps are the same but the order is different. Also the instruction on shaving off all hair is stated in stronger terms. The second repeats the necessity for shaving off all the hair and specifically identifies the head, beard, and eyebrows:

On the seventh day he is to shave all the hair off his head, also his beard and eyebrows — he must shave off all his hair... (14:9 CJB)

The message is that all hair must be removed; even hair like that of the eyebrows which normally would not be shaved. The second instruction is purposeful to make the point that even though the person is back inside the camp (although outside his tent) he must perform the unusual act of shaving the eyebrows to be clean.

The reason for the second cleaning can be understood by the nature of hair growth. Hair which is visible is dead. Living hair is not visible. It is beneath the skin.2

The first shaving did not remove all of a person's hair. Hair which was alive at the time of the first shaving was not visible. Concurrent with hair growth is the secretion of oil from the sebaceous gland. So 7-days later there is "new hair growth" (actually dead hair) which includes oil secretions.

The second step is to shave all of the hair and then wash the clothes and finally bathe the body. Washing clothes comes before bathing since the new hair growth would have secretions which may have contaminated a person's clothing. The final step is to bathe removing any oil or hair which was on the body.

So while a person was clean after the first step, the process of hair growth would cause hair which had been alive 7-days ago to bring oil secretions to the surface. The person must not enter their tent for 7-days so as not to bring those inside.

Was the person clean after performing the first ritual? Yes and no. Yes they were clean but no they had not removed all of the hair the Law required. There was still 7-days worth of growth which needed to be removed. This is one of those places where the Law seemingly makes little sense until much later when the scientific basis for the requirements bring greater understanding.

1. JPS Study Bible p. 238

2. American Academy of Dermatology [How Hair Grows]


Scripture is written with the welfare of the spirit of man in mind before all else, a state in which he was but which he lost, and to which he returns.
The laws and ordinances are the 'road', as it were, that lead him back to that state, an age of 'powers';

Hebrew 6:5

And have tasted the good word of God, and the powers of the world to come,

1 Thessalonians 4:17

Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord.

Isaiah 11:7

Also the cow and the bear will graze, Their young will lie down together, And the lion will eat straw like the ox. 8 The nursing child will play by the hole of the cobra, And the weaned child will put his hand on the viper’s den.

It's clear that these scriptures point to a time such as is not the norm on earth. This is the point of changing of man to be able to exist in these unusual times, and the processes involved in that change are what Leviticus and other parts of scripture signify.

Let's try to parse these two scriptures.

Lev 14:8
“The persons being purified must then wash their clothes, shave off all their hair, and bathe themselves in water. Then they will be ceremonially clean and may return to the camp. However, they must remain outside their tents for seven days.

Lev 14:8 alludes to a sinner proper, the profane, that comes to the teacher depicted as a priests. The priest denotes sons of God who are taught by Him, by Messiah. They are often denotes as the Temple or the Sanctuary of God, Act 17:24, John 2:21, etc.

-clothes allude to deeds in life,
-white denotes righteousness, Revelation 19:8
-filthy or torn denotes wickedness, Isaiah 64:6
- To wash denotes to walk in ways of the Most High. Isaiah 4:4 refers to the time when the laws will be obeyed by help of spirits mentioned. That is the washing of Israel.
-To shave the hair is similar in washing, but is specific in regard with wisdom employed in doing life. So when you shaved the hair, it denoted you abandoned the old wisdom and adopted that of God's laws.
-To bathe in water alludes to changing into a new person by the agency of the laws of the Most High.

This list of dos marks one that hopes in the life to come as promised, that is, dependent upon the laws of the God of Israel.

And while these are in that state and still hopeful but aren't fully in the age to come, that waiting period is the 7 days of waiting outside of the camp before entering their tents. The Camp denoted the Kingdom.

But on the seventh day, note that they again shave and wash the body. Their acts are righteous and only awaiting a change into a new existence or reality of life.
The 7th day is the Sabbath, also in Genesis' 7th, it denotes the dawn of the 'new Era' in which another wisdom is required and 'natures of the beings' also further changed to be accomodated in the new environment of powers.
This new body is the new tent from above which all such hopefuls or followers have in heaven into which they 'come' by:

2 Corinthians 5:1
For we know that if the earthly tent which is our house is torn down, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens.

These laws have in them more than what meets the eye, so it's erroneous to translate that 'uncleanliness' as being mere 'ceremonial' because Israelites paid with their lives when in breach of any. Nothing is ceremonial about death!

Lev 10
1 And Nadab and Abihu, the sons of Aaron, took either of them his censer, and put fire therein, and put incense thereon, and offered strange fire before the Lord, which he commanded them not.
2 And there went out fire from the Lord, and devoured them, and they died before the Lord.

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