Then shall the priest command to take for him that is to be cleansed,.... The command is by the priest, the taking is by any man, as Ben Gersom observes; anyone whom he shall command, the leper himself, or his friends. Aben Ezra interprets it, the priest shall take of his own; but he adds, there are some that explain it, the leper shall give them to him, namely, what follows:
two birds alive, and clean; any sort of birds, to whom this description agrees; for not any particular sort are pointed out, as "sparrows"F23שתי צפרים "duos passeres", V. L. , as some render the word, or any other; because either they must be clean or unclean; if unclean, then not to be used; if clean, then this descriptive character is used in vain. These were to be alive, taken alive with the hand, and not shot dead; and this also excepts such as were torn, as Jarchi, or any ways maimed and unsound, and not likely to live; and they were to be "clean", such as were so according to a law given in a preceding chapter; they were to be none of those unclean birds there mentioned; and, according to the MisnahF24Negaim, c. 14. sect. 5. , they were to be alike in sight and height, and in price and value, and to be taken together; and, by the same tradition, they were to be two birds of liberty, that is, not such as were kept tame in cages, but such as fly abroad in the fields, These birds may be considered as a type of Christ, who compares himself to a hen, Matthew 23:37; and "birds" may denote his swiftness and readiness to help his people, his tenderness and compassion towards them in distress, and his weakness and frailty in human nature, and his meanness and despicableness in the eyes of men; and these being "alive", the character well agrees with him, who is the living God, the living. Redeemer, the Mediator that has life in himself, and for his people; and as man, now lives, and will live for evermore, and is the author and giver of life, natural, spiritual, and eternal. And the birds being clean, may denote the purity and holiness of Christ, and so his fitness to be a sacrifice, and his suitableness as food for his people: and the number two may signify either his two natures, divine and human, in both which he lives, and is pure and holy; or his two estates of humiliation and exaltation; or his death by the slain bird, and his resurrection by the living bard, of which more hereafter:
and the cedar wood, and scarlet, and hyssop; a stick of cedar, as Jarchi; it was proper it should be of such a size, as to be known to be cedar wood, but was not to be too heavy for the priest to sprinkle with it, as Ben Gersom; and the same writer observes, it ought to have a leaf on the top of it, that it might appear to be cedar: according to the MisnahF25Negaim, c. 14. sect. 6. , it was to be a cubit long, and the fourth part of a bed's foot thick: "scarlet" was either wool dyed of that colour, or crimson, so Jarchi; or a scarlet thread or line with which the hyssop was bound and fastened to the cedar wood; and, according to the above traditionF26Ibid. , the "hyssop" was to be neither counterfeit nor wild, nor Greek, nor Roman, nor any that had any epithet to it, but common simple hyssop; and, as Gersom says, there was not to be less than an handful of it. The signification of these is variously conjectured; according to Abarbinel, they have respect to the nature of the leprosy, and as opposite to it; that as the two live birds signified restoration to his former state, when he had been like one dead, so the cedar wood, being incorruptible and durable, showed that the putrefaction of humours was cured; the scarlet, that the blood was purged, and hence the true colour of the face returned again, and a ruddy and florid countenance as before; and the hyssop being of a savoury smell, that the disagreeable scent and stench were gone: but others think there is a moral meaning in them, that the cedar being the highest of trees, and the scarlet colour coming from a worm, and the hyssop the lowest of plants, see 1 Kings 4:33; the "cedar wood" may denote the pride and haughtiness of spirit the leprosy is the punishment of, as in Miriam, Gehazi, Uzziah, and the family of Joab: and the worm that gives the scarlet colour, and the hyssop, may signify that humility that becomes a leper that is cleansed, so Jarchi: but they will bear a more evangelical sense, and may have respect either to Christ; the cedar wood may be an emblem of the incorruption of Christ, and of the durable efficacy of his death; the scarlet, of his bloody sufferings, his flaming love to his people, expressed thereby, and the nature of those sins and sinners being of a scarlet die, for whom he suffered; and the hyssop, of the purgative nature of his blood, which cleanses from all sin: or else to the graces of his Spirit; faith may be signified by the cedar wood, which is in some strong, and in all precious and durable; love by scarlet, of a flaming colour, as strong love is like coals of fire, that give a most vehement flame; and hope by hyssop, which is but a lowly, yet lively grace; or faith may be set forth by them all, by the cedar wood for its continuance, by scarlet for its working by love, and by hyssop for its purifying use, as it deals with the blood of Christ.