Gaebelein's Annotated Bible
And the LORD spake unto Moses and Aaron, saying,3. Leprosy: Type of Indwelling Sin
1. Leprosy in a person (Leviticus 13:1-46)
2. The infected garment. (Leviticus 13:47-57)
3. The cleansing of the garment (Leviticus 13:58-59)
The entire chapter treats of leprosy. It has been argued from the side of critics that the disease described here is not the one we know as leprosy, but only a similar disease of the skin. The arguments advanced to support this objection are silenced by Matthew 8:1-4. The man who came to our Lord had leprosy. The Lord told him “show thyself to the priest, and offer the gift that Moses commanded, for a testimony unto them.” From this we learn that Leviticus 13 and 14 speak of the real disease, so loathsome and, from human side, incurable. The twelfth and thirteenth chapters of Leviticus are closely linked together. Inherited sin is the theme of the preceding chapter. Its cure is also indicated in circumcision and the offering. Leprosy is the type of indwelling sin and its awful corruption. This horrible disease was chosen by the Lord to typify sin on account of its vileness. Like sin it is progressive and eventually affects the whole being; it is hereditary and incurable. As the disease progresses the victim becomes more and more insensible to his dreadful condition and is even content with it.
“In view of all these correspondences, one need not wonder that in the symbolism of the law leprosy holds the place which it does. For what other disease can be named which combines in itself, as a physical malady, so many of the most characteristic marks of the malady of the soul? In its intrinsic loathsomeness, its insignificant beginnings, its slow but inevitable progress, in the extent of its effects, in the insensibility which accompanies it, in its hereditary character, in its incurability, and, finally, in the fact that according to the law it involved the banishment of the leper from the camp of Israel--in all these respects, it stands alone as a perfect type of sin; it is sin, as it were, made visible in the flesh.” (S.H. Kellogg, Leviticus.)
The Lord had much to say about the examination of persons suspected of having leprosy, and how the disease was to be detected. First the case of leprosy is stated when it rises spontaneously, showing itself in the skin and the hair. Then follows the case where leprosy rises out of a boil and out of a burn (verses 18-28), and finally leprosy on the head or beard and its diagnosis (verses 27-44).
But these general applications of leprosy as a type of sin do not fully explain the lessons of this chapter. We must remember that Israel is viewed as Jehovah’s redeemed people. As such they must keep out of their midst that which defiles. The same principle we find in the New Testament in connection with the church, the assembly of God. Leprosy, indwelling sin, showing itself in any member of the people of God, works havoc. It dishonors God and defiles others. Discipline must be exercised. “Therefore put away from among yourselves that wicked person” (1Corinthians 5:13). The priest was the person to examine closely the suspected person and pronounce the disease as leprosy, according to the signs given by the Word of God. On the one hand the priest had to watch that no real leper be kept in the congregation of Israel, and on the other hand, he had to be equally careful that none was put out of the congregation who was not a leper. “Holiness could not permit any one to remain in who ought to be out; and on the other hand, grace would not have any one out who ought to be in.” In the New Testament this solemn duty falls upon those who are spiritual (Galatians 6:1). Note how God commanded that the suspected one should not be treated in a hasty manner. After the priest had looked upon him, the diseased one was to be shut up for seven days. On the seventh day the priest was again to look on him. Then he was again shut up for seven more days. And after all the seeing and looking upon, the priest was to consider. It showed the necessity of great care. How easy it is to condemn a brother as living in sin, showing leprosy in his conduct; a hasty action in excluding a real child of God from Christian fellowship is as sinful as permitting a wicked person in that fellowship. We cannot enter into the different signs of leprosy. Much which has been written on it by some good men is strained.
When an Israelite was found to have the true leprosy, he had to be without the camp. “And the leper in whom the plague is, his clothes shall be rent, and his head bare, and he shall put a covering upon his upper lip, and shall cry, Unclean, unclean. All the days wherein the plague shall be in him he shall be defiled; he is unclean, he shall dwell alone, without the camp shall his habitation be” (verses 45-46). Thus the poor leper was excluded from the congregation of Israel and from the tabernacle of Jehovah. The rent clothes, the bare head, the covering upon the lip, all showed his sad and deplorable condition. So the unsaved sinner is shut out from Jehovah’s presence on account of his defilement and has no place among the people of God. Without the camp! Read the solemn words in Revelation 21:27; Revelation 22:11; Revelation 22:15. The sinner unforgiven and not cleansed will be forever shut out of the presence of a holy God. And one, who is a child of God and belongs to the family and people of God, and permits indwelling sin to work out, is unfit for both fellowship with God and fellowship with His people. But notice it says, “all the days wherein the plague shall be in him he shall be defiled.” Here is the ray of hope. Only as long as it was in him was he excluded. Recovery from the evil thing which defiles and disturbs our fellowship is blessedly revealed in the New Testament. It has to be brought into the light, must be confessed and put away (1 John 1). And above all, we have an Advocate with the Father Jesus Christ the Righteous. Leprosy in the garment is also reckoned with, and its cleansing by washing is commanded. A garment is that which belongs to a person and is used by him. It is typical of contamination by sin in our earthly occupation. The cleansing by the water is the type of the Word of God, which uncovers the leprosy in our ways and can cleanse us.