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Birds of the Bible – The Purifying Birds

Below is an interesting passage of Scripture.

Eurasian-collared Dove in Israel
Eurasian-collared Dove in Israel

The LORD spoke to Moses, saying, “This shall be the law of the leprous person for the day of his cleansing. He shall be brought to the priest, and the priest shall go out of the camp, and the priest shall look. Then, if the case of leprous disease is healed in the leprous person, the priest shall command them to take for him who is to be cleansed two live clean birds and cedarwood and scarlet yarn and hyssop. And the priest shall command them to kill one of the birds in an earthenware vessel over fresh water. He shall take the live bird with the cedarwood and the scarlet yarn and the hyssop, and dip them and the live bird in the blood of the bird that was killed over the fresh water. And he shall sprinkle it seven times on him who is to be cleansed of the leprous disease. Then he shall pronounce him clean and shall let the living bird go into the open field. (Leviticus 14:1-7 ESV)

It seems that when a person was declared clean from their leprosy, that a purification needed to be performed. The same was true for the house. They gathered two birds and then the priest would kill one bird, but the second was set free after he took “the cedarwood and the hyssop and the scarlet yarn, along with the live bird, and dip them in the blood of the bird that was killed and in the fresh water and sprinkle the house seven times.” The live bird was then taken out side the city and turned loose.

When you first read that passage, you wonder what it is all about. The live bird being turned loose with blood on it? Some of the commentators have helped explain the significance of this. Here are some of their thoughts:

House Sparrow (Passer domesticus) Female by Nikhil
House Sparrow (Passer domesticus) by Nikhil

Matthew Henry – Lev 14:1-9 – The priests could not cleanse the lepers; but when the Lord removed the plague, various rules were to be observed in admitting them again to the ordinances of God, and the society of his people. They represent many duties and exercises of truly repenting sinners, and the duties of ministers respecting them. If we apply this to the spiritual leprosy of sin, it intimates that when we withdraw from those who walk disorderly, we must not count them as enemies, but admonish them as brethren. And also that when God by his grace has brought to repentance, they ought with tenderness and joy, and sincere affection, to be received again. Care should always be taken that sinners may not be encouraged, nor penitents discouraged. If it were found that the leprosy was healed, the priest must declare it with the particular solemnities here described. The two birds, one killed, and the other dipped in the blood of the bird that was killed, and then let loose, may signify Christ shedding his blood for sinners, and rising and ascending into heaven. The priest having pronounced the leper clean from the disease, he must make himself clean from all remains of it. Thus those who have comfort of the remission of their sins, must with care and caution cleanse themselves from sins; for every one that has this hope in him, will be concerned to purify himself.

Gill – “and shall let the living bird loose into the open field; as a token of the freedom of the leper, and that he was at liberty to go where he pleased: the Misnic doctors say, when he came to let go the living bird, he did not turn its face neither to the sea, nor to the city, nor to the wilderness, as it is said, “but he shall let go the living bird out of the city into the open field”, as in Lev. 14:53;… this may be a figure of the resurrection of Christ from the dead, and of his justification upon it, as the head and representative of his people, and of their free and full discharge from guilt, condemnation, and death, through him, and of his and their being received up into heaven, and whither their hearts should be directed, in affection and thankfulness for their great deliverance and salvation; see 1Timothy 3:16. “

Hill Pigeon (Columba rupestris) by Nikhil Devasar
Hill Pigeon (Columba rupestris) by Nikhil

Clarke – “Shall let the living bird loose – The Jews teach that wild birds were employed on this occasion, no tame or domestic animal was used. Mr. Ainsworth piously conjectures that the living and dead birds were intended to represent the death and resurrection of Christ, by which an atonement was made to purify the soul from its spiritual leprosy. The bird let loose bears a near analogy to the scapegoat. See Leviticus 16.”

They all seem to see the cleansing as not only for the current situation, by also, representing the future sacrifice of Christ for our sins and the cleansing (forgiveness of sin) that comes from His shed blood. I praise the Lord that He has given His life for us and that we no longer have to go through sacrifices like they did prior to Christ. I am sure the animals and birds also feel blessed.

Consequently, he is able to save to the uttermost those who draw near to God through him, since he always lives to make intercession for them. For it was indeed fitting that we should have such a high priest, holy, innocent, unstained, separated from sinners, and exalted above the heavens. He has no need, like those high priests, to offer sacrifices daily, first for his own sins and then for those of the people, since he did this once for all when he offered up himself. For the law appoints men in their weakness as high priests, but the word of the oath, which came later than the law, appoints a Son who has been made perfect forever. (Hebrews 7:25-28 ESV)

The Gospel Message and Wordless Birds

See More Birds of the Bible