October 1, 2012
Leviticus and Numbers both contain several chapters in which Moses is instructed the specific way in which God’s people are to conduct themselves concerning disease, diet, and death. While these laws may appear lengthy and trivial ceremonies in modern times where Western medicine plays an intricate role in our well-being, the laws served to protect the people who did not yet know of biological pathogens, complex viruses, and pathophysiology.
God tells Moses in Leviticus cc. 13-15 and Numbers c. 19 the proper method of disposing of corpses and carcasses, which can be boiled down to a three step process:
1. remove the corpse/carcass
2. burn the corspe/carcass and anything which was surrounding it at the time of death
3. wash thoroughly and remain quarantined for a few hours/days
While the cleansing process after touching a dead person or animal seems trivial and more ceremonial than functional, the actual process of disposing of the remains, in hindsight, is the instruction of the wise God who wanted His chosen people to be free of biohazardous disease. In protecting His people against deadly viruses, bacteria, and other pathogens, the laws given to the people in Leviticus 13 are highly effective in solidifying the basic rule still practiced in the medical field today: if it appears contagious, or may be contagious, quarantine! Again, what seems common sense to a modern-day group of believers raised with knowledge of the highly contagious nature of leprosy, smallpox, and scabies was only protected against through a law handed down from an all-knowing God to an ignorant people.
Perhaps not all of the Levitical laws can be explain with such pragmatism, but the majority of the laws demonstrated the desires of a loving, compassionate God to care for and protect his precious children.