International Standard Bible Encyclopedia
klenz: "Make clean," "purify" being a frequent rendering of the original. It is found often (American Revised Version) instead of "purge," "purify" (the King James Version), renders nearly the same roots, and has the same overlapping phases, as "clean."
Physical cleansing, often figuratively used: "Stripes that wound cleanse away (tamriq) evil" (Proverbs 20:30); "A hot wind. not to winnow, nor to cleanse" (barar, Jeremiah 4:11); "Straightway his leprosy was cleansed" (katharizo, Matthew 8:3).
In the ceremonial sense:
(1) With a very strong religious aspect: to purify from sin by making atonement (chaTe); e.g. the altar, by the sin offering (Exodus 29:36); the leprous house (Leviticus 14:48-53); the people, by the offering of the Day of Atonement (Leviticus 16:30); the sanctuary, by the blood of the sin offering (Ezekiel 45:18).
(2) To expiate (kaphar, "cover," "hide"); sin (in this case blood-guiltiness): "The land cannot be cleansed of the blood" (the King James Version Numbers 35:33; the American Standard Revised Version "no expiation can be made for the land").
(3) To remove ceremonial defilement, the principal use, for which the chief root is Taher: "Take the Levites. and cleanse them" (Numbers 8:6); "and she shall be cleansed (after childbirth) from the fountain of her blood" (Leviticus 12:7); "Cleanse it, and hallow it (the altar) from the uncleannesses of the children of Israel" (Leviticus 16:19), etc. This use is infrequent in the New Testament, except figuratively. Clear instances are Mark 1:44: "Offer for thy cleansing (katharismos). for a testimony unto them" (also Luke 5:14); Hebrews 9:22, 23: "necessary therefore that the copies of the things in the heavens should be cleansed with these." Physical, ritual, and figurative uses are combined in Matthew 23:25: "Ye cleanse the outside of the cup and of the platter." Acts 10:15: "What God hath cleansed, make not thou common" uses the figure of the ritual to declare the complete abolition of ceremonial defilement and hence, of ceremonial cleansing. For the elaborate system of ceremonial cleansing see especially Leviticus 12-17, also articles UNCLEANNESS; PURIFICATION. Its principal agencies were water, alone, as in minor or indirect defilements, like those produced by contact with the unclean (Leviticus 15:5-18, etc.); or combined with a sin offering and burnt offering, as with a woman after childbirth (Leviticus 12:6-8); fire, as with Gentile booty (Numbers 31:23; by water, when it would not endure the fire); the ashes of a red heifer without spot, mingled with running water, for those defiled by contact with the dead (Numbers 19:2). For the complex ceremonial in cases of leprosy, combining water, cedar, hyssop, crimson thread, the blood and flight of birds, the trespass offering, sin offering, burnt offering, see Leviticus 14. Blood, the vehicle and emblem of life, plays a large part in the major cleansings, in which propitiation for sin, as well as the removal of ceremonial defilement, is prominent, as of the temple, altar, etc.: "According to the law, I may almost say, all things are cleansed with blood" (Hebrews 9:22).
3. Ethical and Spiritual:
In the ethical and spiritual sense, using the symbolism chiefly of 2. This embodies two phases: (1) the actual removal of sin by the person's own activity, "Wherewith shall a young man cleanse (zakhah) his way?" (Psalm 119:9); "Cleanse your hands, ye sinners" (James 4:8); "Let us cleanse ourselves from all defilement" (2 Corinthians 7:1);
(2) God's removal of the guilt and power of sin, as, by discipline or punishment: "He cleanseth it" (John 15:2, the King James Version "purgeth"); "I have cleansed thee" (Ezekiel 24:13); or in forgiveness, justification, sanctification. In these latter cases the exculpatory idea is sometimes the prominent, although the other is not absent: "I will cleanse (Taher) them from all their iniquity, whereby they have sinned against me; and I will pardon aH their iniquities" (Jeremiah 33:8); "Wash me thoroughly from mine iniquity, and cleanse (Taher, "declare me clean") me from my sin" (Psalm 51:2). "Cleanse (naqqeh; the American Standard Revised Version "clear") thou me from hidden faults" (Psalm 19:12), while formally to be understood "hold innocent," really connotes forgiveness. In Ephesians 5:26, it is hard to determine whether pardon or God-given holiness is predominant: "That he might sanctify it (the church), having cleansed it by the washing of water with the word." In 1 John 1:7, the sanctificatory meaning seems almost wholly to absorb the other: "The blood of Jesus his Son cleanseth us ("is purifying, sanctifying") from all sin"; but in 1 John 1:9 it is again hard to determine the predominance: "He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sin, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness." The uncertainty lies in that the second clause may not, as in our speech, add a distinct idea, but may be Hebrew synonymous parallelism. Perhaps it is not wise to seek too curiously to disentangle the two ideas, since they cannot be separated. God never "clears" where he has not begun to "cleanse," and never "cleanses" by the Spirit without "clearing" through the blood.
Philip Wendell Crannell