(12) Thou shalt have a place also without the camp, whither thou shalt go forth abroad:
(13) And thou shalt have a paddle upon thy weapon; and it shall be, when thou wilt ease thyself abroad, thou shalt dig therewith, and shalt turn back and cover that which cometh from thee:
(14) For the LORD thy God walketh in the midst of thy camp, to deliver thee, and to give up thine enemies before thee; therefore shall thy camp be holy: that he see no unclean thing in thee, and turn away from thee.
God intended Israel's camp to be clean and this principle of keeping the camp free of the filth of dung has its spiritual counterpart in eliminating the filth of sin from our persons and the church. Be it understood that whereas Moses' Law here equated sanitary disposal with holiness, there is no such New Testament commandment which could condemn someone as a sinner. Cleanliness may be next to godliness (as the saying goes) but it is not godliness. That Pharisaic lie is what our Lord Jesus Christ denounced in MAR 7:1-13. No Christian church is in trouble with God if it has toilets in its meeting place and may we all thank God for such witty inventions (PRO 8:12), and for such luminaries as that great English pioneer and manufacturer of sanitation innovations, Thomas Crapper (1836-1910).
The city of Jerusalem had many gates in its walls and particular attention in the post-Babylon rebuilding program is given to the dung gate/port (NEH 2:13; NEH 3:13-14; NEH 12:31). This was the gate through which the offal of the city was removed, maintaining that principle of DEU 23:12-14. That the Holy Ghost should make conspicuous mention of the dung gate is instructive. Jerusalem was called “...a city that was compact together” (PSA 122:3), language that accords beautifully with the description of a New Testament local church, a society which is “...fitly joined together and compacted by that which every joint supplieth...” (EPH 4:16). The Holy Ghost has also made conspicuous mention of the principle of the dung gate in the N.T., to wit, the need to keep the filth of sin on the outside of the church by separating company from known sinners. Christ spoke of the need for the church to withdraw from a brother who refuses church judgment (MAT 18:15-17). The apostles (especially Paul) wrote much about the church's need to withdraw from those who are publicly known to sin against God's law as defined by the apostles: “...withdraw yourselves from every brother that walketh disorderly, and not after the tradition which he received of us...And if any obey not our word by this epistle, note that man, and have no company with him...” (2TH 3:6-14). This need to enforce church purity is summed up in Paul's instruction to Corinth, “But them that are without God judgeth. Therefore put away from among yourselves that wicked person” (1CO 5:13).
Until Christ returns and removes from His kingdom all things that offend (MAT 13:41), His churches will have to, from time to time, “Purge out therefore the old leaven...” (1CO 5:7). Thank God that whereas the heavenly Jerusalem is described as having twelve gates (REV 21:12), no mention is made of a dung gate since there is nothing defiling therein which must be removed (REV 21:27).
It was in that very place where Jesus upbraided the Pharisees about their outward-cleanliness religion (MAR 7:1-13) that our Lord appropriately spoke of dung and sewage:
(Mark 7:18) And he saith unto them, Are ye so without understanding also? Do ye not perceive, that whatsoever thing from without entereth into the man, it cannot defile him;
(Mark 7:19) Because it entereth not into his heart, but into the belly, and goeth out into the draught, purging all meats?
Draught means “cesspool, sink or sewer.” Here is a candid description of an everyday (well, hopefully everyday) occurrence. We eat, digest, and purge the bowel. The word purge in its primary sense means “To make physically pure or clean; to cleanse; to rid of whatever is impure or extraneous; to clear or free of, from.” It is from this primary, natural sense of the word that the figurative sense of purge is derived: “To make figuratively or ideally pure or clean, to free from moral or spiritual defilement; to rid of or free from sin, guilt, fault, error, or evil of any kind.” The analogy of the elimination of dung with the elimination of sin is (as noted earlier) valid, especially considering that sin has made man an unclean thing (ISA 64:6) and all together filthy (PSA 14:3). We were, by nature, full of it. It should humble us to consider that the same term used for the clearing of the bowel (purge) is also used to describe the work of Christ in legally ridding us of our sins by the sacrifice of Himself:
(Hebrews 1:3) Who being the brightness of his glory, and the express image of his person, and upholding all things by the word of his power, when he had by himself purged our sins, sat down on the right hand of the Majesty on high;
The Book of Hebrews especially teaches us that the ceremonies and sacrifices of the Law made nothing perfect (HEB 7:19) but they did foreshadow the perfecting work of Christ in making Himself an offering for sin on our behalf (HEB 7:26-27, etc.). The very first appearance in Scripture of any form of the word dung pertains to a sin offering:
(Exodus 29:14) But the flesh of the bullock, and his skin, and his dung, shalt thou burn with fire without the camp: it is a sin offering.
The next pertains to a burnt offering:
(Leviticus 4:10) As it was taken off from the bullock of the sacrifice of peace offerings: and the priest shall burn them upon the altar of the burnt offering.
(Leviticus 4:11) And the skin of the bullock, and all his flesh, with his head, and with his legs, and his inwards, and his dung,
(Leviticus 4:12) Even the whole bullock shall he carry forth without the camp unto a clean place, where the ashes are poured out, and burn him on the wood with fire: where the ashes are poured out shall he be burnt.
Of particular relevance is the sin offering on the annual Day of Atonement service:
(Leviticus 16:27) And the bullock for the sin offering, and the goat for the sin offering, whose blood was brought in to make atonement in the holy place, shall one carry forth without the camp; and they shall burn in the fire their skins, and their flesh, and their dung.
Christ crucified is our sin offering (HEB 7:27), our burnt offering consumed by the fiery wrath of God (for against sin our God is a consuming fire, HEB 12:29), and our atonement which fulfills that O.T. service (HEB 9:24-28 c/w ROM 5:11). The significance of the consumption of the carcase and dung outside the camp is driven home by the plain statement of Paul:
(Hebrews 13:11) For the bodies of those beasts, whose blood is brought into the sanctuary by the high priest for sin, are burned without the camp.
(Hebrews 13:12) Wherefore Jesus also, that he might sanctify the people with his own blood, suffered without the gate.
Jesus died not in Jerusalem but at Calvary (LUK 23:33) called Golgotha (JOH 19:17-18) which “...was nigh to the city...” (JOH 19:20), not in it. To overlook or denigrate the word dung in Scripture as if such a thing should not be even mentioned among decent people is to destroy the consistency of the type with its antitype and detract both from the picture of our Savior's work which God put in Moses' Law and also from the filth of sin which He took away by His sacrifice. The dung was our part: “...the LORD hath laid on him the iniquity of us all” (ISA 53:6). God forbid that we should condemn the very language by which God sets forth His Son's sufferings for our sins.
The Holy Spirit uses “...plainness of speech” (2CO 3:12) and “...base things of the world, and things which are despised...” (1CO 1:28). Paul was “...rude in speech...” (2CO 11:6). That apostle was formerly an outwardly righteous man (PHIL 3:6), an animated devotee of that self-righteous Pharisee religion which exalted a system, not a Savior, and therefore hated the One God sent (JOH 15:24-25). Once converted to Christ, Paul looked upon that outward-righteousness system with disdain:
(Philippians 3:8) Yea doubtless, and I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord: for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but dung, that I may win Christ,
(Philippians 3:9) And be found in him, not having mine own righteousness, which is of the law, but that which is through the faith of Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith:
The filthy dung of sin is not restricted to moral flaws: false religion is also dung, even religion that has a Bible (as did the Pharisees) but defecates all over its truth. When the Galatian churches adopted the doctrine of the Pharisees, they essentially rolled the pure gospel in manure and called it manna. God once told Israel's corrupt priests:
(Malachi 2:3) Behold, I will corrupt your seed, and spread dung upon your faces, even the dung of your solemn feasts; and one shall take you away with it.
It was very appropriate that when King Jehu destroyed Baalism in Israel, they “...brake down the house of Baal, and made it a draught house...” (2KI 10:27), i.e., a privy (outhouse).
Bear in mind that the dung gate in Jerusalem was not bad, it was the portal through which the dung was disposed of. God has given each of us a dung gate to remove our filth for disposal. It's a mouth:
(1 John 1:9) If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.