Lesson 07 - Holiness and Purity

In the previous lesson, we discussed the bronze laver and what its function was.  You might be wondering at this point, what is the big deal with the priests having to wash up all the time before they enter the sanctuary?  What happens if they skip this ritual?  Today we are going to discuss the concepts of holiness and purity in the Bible, which should shed some light on these questions. 

First, let's go over a couple of definitions: 

  • Common - an ordinary, normal state
  • Holy (sacred) - a special state that is powerful and dangerous when treated lightly 

Let's turn to Leviticus 10:1-3.

- According to these verses, what happened to Aaron's sons when they offered profane (unholy) fire before God?

  • Answer (highlight to read): They were devoured by fire and died.

Holiness is not to be treated lightly, especially before a Holy God.

Other relevant terms:

  • Sanctification - the activity of making a person or object holy
  • Profanation - the act of polluting a holy person or object

As you can see, there is an opposing relationship between "holy" and "common."  Something common can be sanctified (by ritual) into something holy.  Conversely, something holy can be profaned into something common.

A couple more terms:

  • Pure - a "clean" state
  • Impure - a "polluted" state, which is powerful and contagious

Let's turn to Haggai 2:13.

- According to these verses, what happened when an unclean person touched clean objects.

  • Answer: They became unclean

There is an opposing relationship between "pure" and "impure."  Something impure can by purified through a ritual.  Conversely, something can be contaminated by an action or even contact to become impure.

 There are two types of purity:

  1. ritual purity
  2. moral purity
  Ritual Purity Moral Impurity
Type Unavoidable part of life, but not sinful

Avoidable - directly linked to sin and disobedience


1. Contact with unclean things    (Levicitus 11:24-31, 39-40)

2. Sores, bodily discharges             (Leviticus 12:2; 13:1-46; 15:1-3, 25)


1. Idolatry (Leviticus 18:21; 19:31)

2. Sexual transgression (Leviticus 18:6-18; 20:11-14




Contagious - Israelites must take steps to avoid contamination

Impurities can exclude people from worship or even being in the camp

Not contagious to touch, but effects are far-reaching and can contaminate people, the sanctuary, and the land
Duration Temporary May be long-lasting
Remedy Sacrifices, offerings, ritual bathing, or temporary quarantine Atonement, punishment, exile, or death



Note that not every pure person or object is holy.  A common person or object can be either pure or impure.  The converse is not true, however.  A holy person or object can not be both holy and impure at the same time.  The holy rejects the impure.  This is a dangerous thing as we read earlier about Aaron's sons.  The purification rituals listed in the Old Testament were meant as protection for impure people from coming into the presence of God and the sanctuary.

Let's turn to Exodus 30:20.

- According to this verse, what happened if the priest did not wash at the laver before coming into the sanctuary?

  • Answer: He would die

Hopefully, you can understand now why it was very important for the priests to wash themselves at the laver.  This washing purified them and prepared them to enter the sanctuary.  God was trying to teach the Israelites how to live in the presence of a Holy God.  The priests' washing at the laver also taught the Israelites that God was willing to meet with people who strived to be pure.

You might be asking yourself at this point, why don't Christians participate in rites of purification anymore?  Let's turn to John 13:6-7 and Revelation 1:5.

- According to these verses, who washes us from our own sins?

  • Answer: the blood of Jesus Christ

The purification rituals were a foreshadowing of Jesus Christ's ministry.  You may be wondering why Christians no longer participate in rites of purification.  This is because Jesus' perfect cleansing blood has made these purification rituals unnecessary. 

While it is true Christians no longer participate in rites of purification, the lessons learned from the laver still apply to us today. Today we have the ordinances of baptism (Romans 6:3-5) and foot washing (John 13:1-15).

Let's turn to Titus 3:5, 1 Corinthians 6:11, and Hebrews 10:22.

- According to these verses, what does water represent?

  • Answer: Water represents cleansing from sin (sanctification) or the new birth.

Let's close the lesson and turn to Leviticus 19:2, Leviticus 20:7, and 1 Peter 1:16.

- According to these verses, what does God call us to be, and why?

  • Answer: God calls us to be holy, for He is holy.

God demands holiness from His people.  As it was then in the time of Moses, as it is now.  Just as the common, pure people brought their sacrifices and worship to the entrance of the sanctuary, let us endeavor to bring our burdens and praise to Jesus, who has cleansed us with his pure blood!

Happy Sabbath!

A Short Prayer