When you be come into the land of Canaan, which I give to you for a possession…
The particular nature of this affection I cannot very certainly determine. Michaelis thinks it was a sort of mural efflorescence, which often appears in damp situations, cellars, and ground-floors, and so corrodes walls and plastering as to affect and damage everything near it, and sometimes quite destroying the entire building. Calmet thinks it was a disorder caused by animal-eulse which eroded the walls, and finally destroyed them, if left undisturbed. But perhaps we cannot do better than to agree with the Rabbins and early Christian Fathers, who believed that this leprosy was not natural, but sent of God as an extraordinary judgment, to compel men to the public acknowledgment and expiation of some undetected negligence or crime. It was the stone crying out of the wall against the sinner, and the beam out of the timber answering it (Habakkuk 2:11). It came like a great domestic affliction, saying, "This is not your rest, because it is polluted." It was the hand of God upon the forgetters of His law. It was "the curse of the Lord, in the house of the wicked." Its typical significance will at once suggest itself. It plainly points to the fact that not only man, and his surroundings in life, but his very dwelling-place — the earth itself — is infected. The whole surface and framework of the world bespeaks infection, disobedience, and disorder. We must tear it with instruments of iron, and mix its mould with tears and sweat, before it will yield us bread. Walls and houses must be built to shelter us from its angry blasts. And with all that we can do, the sea will now and then engulf the proudest navies, and the hailstones blast the budding harvests, and famine and pestilence cut down the strength of empires, and earthquakes bury up great cities in a common tomb, and the sun and the moon flash down death in their rays, and the very winds come laden with destruction. And even in a moral aspect, the material world, though meant for spiritual as well as other good, has often been to man a source of defilement. Creation is a standing miracle to show us eternal power and Godhead. Every ray of light is an electric cord. let down from the unknown heavens to lift our hearts into communion with "the Father of light." Every night puts us into the midst of a sublime temple in which the tapers burn around the everlasting altar, and through which rolls the vesper anthem of the heavenly spheres, to inspire us with adoration. And the innumerable changes that pass before our eyes are but so many letters to spell out to us the name of the unknown God, in whom we live and have our being. But, how often have these very things tended to establish men in unbelief, and tempted them from the ways of piety and peace? How often have persons looked up into the starry sky, and reasoned, until they were led to say the gospel is a forgery? — or dug into the earth, and insisted that Moses was mistaken in its age? — or cut among the arteries and tissues of organic life, and denied man's immortality? — or watched the uniformity of God's common laws, and pronounced a miracle impossible? — or dipped a little into physical science, and controverted the very existence of a deity? How often have earth's products proven to be mere baits and lures to unguarded souls to lead them down to death? How have its wines tempted men to intemperance, and its beautiful groves to the licentiousness of the idolater? How frequently the very gold or silver of its rocks have taken the place of God Himself, and fastened everlasting condemnation on the worshipper? And what scene of beauty contained in this world, but has served to draw the heart of some one from the Lord? But it shall not always be so. The leprosy in our dwelling-place may pass away as well as leprosy in our persons, or in our clothing. God has appointed rites for its cleansing. The time is coming when "there shall be no more curse." But it is to be the last thing cleansed. Regeneration begins first in the spirit. From the spirit it extends to the outward life, then to the redemption of the body. And after that comes the grand deliverance, when "the creature (or creation) itself shall be delivered from the bondage of corruption, into the glorious liberty of the children of God." Not only our personal nature is to be renewed, but the very world in which we live. And it is only upon the theory of the ultimate and complete recovery of the world from all damage of sin, that the prescriptions now before us can be explained. The first thing to be done to a house found to be leprous, was to have the affected stones removed, the walls scraped, and the plastering renewed. This done, all parties were to wait to see what the effect would be upon the disorder. This evidently recalls the flood, and God's dealings with the earth at that time. It was then that He broke up the old and tainted foundations, swept away the scum of its surface, and overcast it with a new order of things. All is therefore in waiting now, till our great High Priest and Judge shall come forth again to inspect the earth. After the lapse of an appropriate time of trial, which is left indefinite in the record, the priest was again to examine the house that had been thus dealt with; and if the plague had broken out again, and had spread in the house, he was to break it down, "the stones of it, and the timber thereof, and all the mortar of the house, and carry them forth out of the city into an unclean place." If the leprous symptoms were not stayed, it was to be completely and for ever demolished. There was no further hope for it. It perished in its uncleanness. I take this as a type, not of what is to befall the world, but of what would have befallen it without the redemption that has come in to stay its corruption and save it from ruin. How, then, was a leprous house to be cleansed? We have seen what was to be done to it upon the first appearance of the plague. We accordingly read that, after the lapse of a suitable time to test whether the infection was stayed, "the priest shall come in," &c. (vers. 48-53). All this refers us back to the blood-shedding, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ, and holds forth the great fact that the world is made clean to us now, and will be entirely cleansed hereafter, by virtue of the redemptive work of our great High Priest. Because Jesus was slain, and has redeemed us to God by His blood, the saints may take it as their song, "We shall reign on the earth." Some suppose that this dwelling-place of man is some day to fall to pieces, and pass away, and be no more. Had Christ not died, or having died, not risen again, it might be so; but now a light of glory rises upon its futurity. It shall not die, but live. Great changes may yet pass upon it, but it shall survive unharmed. This world was Heaven's gift to man. It was his patrimonial estate. It was his sin that blighted it. And just so far as he is redeemed, he shall get his own again, and hold it by a charter written in his Saviour's blood.
(J. A. Seiss, D. D.)
Parallel VersesKJV: When ye be come into the land of Canaan, which I give to you for a possession, and I put the plague of leprosy in a house of the land of your possession;