Haydock Catholic Bible Commentary
The leper was not left to his own judgment to mix with society, as soon as he perceived himself cleansed. He had to send for a priest; and one of the most discerning among those who made it their employment to study in the court of the tabernacle, was commissioned to examine him. (Grotius) Sparrows. Hebrew tsipporim. Septuagint, "little birds," which the law only determines must be clean; such probably as might be procured most easily. The leper was to present them, and kill one. But the priest sprinkled with its blood the other bird, which was tied with a scarlet ribband to the cedar-wood and hyssop, in such a manner that its head and wings were not much wet, as it as to fly away. (Calmet) --- The cedar prevents putrefaction, the hyssop is very odoriferous, the scarlet and the bird denote beauty and life, which qualities the leper must acquire. So the penitent regains the virtues he had lost, with interest. (Tirinus)
Living waters. That is, waters taken from a spring, brook, or river: (Challoner) not stagnant or rain water.
Rightly. According to law. (Haydock) --- The number seven is used to denote perfection, ver. 15, &c. (Menochius) --- Field. An emblem of the liberty which the leper would soon enjoy. (Haydock) --- The pagans cast over their head the things which had been used for their purification. (Virgil, Eclogues viii. 102.) Fer cineres, Amarilli, foras, rivoque fluenti---Transque caput jace, ne respexeris. --- There were afraid to trample upon them. (Gell. x. 15.; Metam. xiii. 954.) There were also accustomed to set birds at liberty in honour of their gods. Demosthenes accuses Conon of having eaten those which had been used in his purification. Bonfrere believes that Moses does not here prescribe any sacrifice. Why then is a priest employed to make these aspersions? (Calmet)
Body, even to the feet, Isaias vii. 20. (Haydock) --- Probably with a pair of scissors. (Calmet) --- The Egyptians priests did so every third day, that nothing impure might be concealed. (Herod., ii. 37.) The greatest caution was requisite to prevent the return of the leprosy; and therefore, after the first purification, (ver. 4,) the leper is not allowed to go home, till a sufficient time has elapsed to ascertain whether he be radically healed, and then he must offer a sacrifice, ver. 10. (Haydock) --- But why so many prescriptions for a disease so involuntary, (Calmet) which must have caused the unhappy sufferer so much pain? (Haydock) --- The Rabbins assert, that the leprosy was sent to punish some secret transgression, particularly some pride or detraction; as they maintain, that every illness is in punishment of some offence. (Abarbanel.) (Grotius) --- If [It?] was often the effect of intemperance or negligence; and the sacrifices were exacted, to make some reparation to God for remaining in the camp and near the tabernacle, at the commencement of the disorder. (Calmet) --- This foul cutaneous disease was also very infectious, and the law was designed to impress people with a horror of it, and to teach them to prevent its ravages as much as possible. (Haydock) --- A sparrow is slain, and the hair shaved, to indicate that all sinful affections must be cut off by the true penitent, while the sparrow, which is sent away into the desert, reminds him that he must live a stranger to pleasure, and perfectly mortified. (Du Hamel) --- Days; without having any communication with his wife. (Lyranus)
A sextary; Hebrew log: a measure of liquids, which was the twelfth part of a hin; and held about as much as six eggs. (Challoner) --- For each of the victims a sacrifice of flour and oil was required. (Haydock)
Offered. Hebrew, "elevated, or waved," as Exodus xxix. 24.
Place; on the left hand of the altar of holocausts, chap. i. 11. This sacrifice is different from that for sin, ver. 19. (Calmet)
Taking of the blood, &c. These ceremonies, used in the cleansing of a leper, were mysterious and very significative. The sprinkling seven times with the blood of the little bird, the washing himself and his clothes, the shaving his hair and his beard, signify the means which are to be used in the reconciliation of a sinner, and the steps by which he is to return to God, viz. by the repeated application of the blood of Christ; the washing his conscience with the waters of compunction; and retrenching all vanities and superfluities, by employing all that is over and above what is necessary in alms deeds. The sin-offering, and the holocaust or burnt-offering, which he was to offer at his cleansing, signify the sacrifice of a contrite and humble heart, and that of adoration in spirit and truth, with gratitude and thankfulness, for the forgiveness of sins, with which we are ever to appear before the Almighty. The touching the right ear, the thumb of the right hand, and the great toe of the right foot, first with the blood of the victim, and then with the remainder of the oil, which had been sprinkled seven times before the Lord, signify the application of the blood of Christ, and the unction of the sevenfold grace of the Holy Ghost to the sinner's right ear, that he may duly hearken to and obey the law of God; and to his right hand and foot, that the works of his hands, and all the steps or affections of his soul, signified by the feet, may be rightly directed to God. (Challoner) See chap. viii. 23. --- These ceremonies might serve to call to the leper's recollection the benefit which he had received, and to distinguish him from others. (Calmet)
Blood. Septuagint and Syriac, "upon the place of the blood," on the person's ear, thumb, and toe.
Offering. Hebrew, "a trespass-offering to be waved," ver. 12, 24. --- Oil. The same quantity of oil is required as ver. 10. The rest is diminished two-thirds; only instead of the ewe and one lamb, two turtles or pigeons are substituted. (Haydock)
Trespass. Hebrew, "sin," ver. 19. The Chaldean and Septuagint agree with the original text. (Menochius)
If there. Hebrew, "and I send the plague;" whence some infer, that this leprosy was an effect of God's special indignation against the owners of the house. (Muis; &c.)
Become. If any thing was left in the house, it was deemed unclean, as soon as the priest had declared that the house was infected; and therefore, all was to be removed before he came, (Calmet) and might be used without scruple, unless some marks of leprosy appeared afterwards on the garments, chap. xiii. 47.
Paleness. Hebrew, "greenish." (Haydock) --- Such spots are often observable in damp churches and cloisters, and cause the plaster to fall off. It is probable that little worms produce this effect. To prevent these vermin from spreading, Moses orders the whole house to be demolished and carried away, if it cannot be otherwise purified. (Calmet) --- Thus the plague is communicated not only by persons, but also by all the things which they have touched. The same signs of leprosy are found both in men and in houses. (Menochius)
Scraped. Hebrew, "he shall scrape." But the Samaritan copy has, more properly, "they shall scrape." (Houbigant)
For the house, that it may be no more infected; and for the people, to whom it belongs, that they may carefully avoid offending God, the avenger of all sin. Hebrew, "you shall make an atonement for the house," or for the sins of its inhabitants. (Haydock)
Stroke. Hebrew, "scurf," ulcers, wounds, &c. (Calmet) --- "The leprosy of the head or beard," Chaldean. (Montanus) (Tirinus)
Be known when. Hebrew, "to teach in what day, &c.....This is the law of leprosy." (Haydock)