Leviticus 13:47
The garment also that the plague of leprosy is in, whether it be a woollen garment, or a linen garment;
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(47) The garment also that.—Better, And if a garment hath. The fact that the same phrase, “plague of leprosy,” is used both in the case of garments and of human beings, and that the symptoms and working of leprous garments and those of leprous men are identical, shows beyond doubt that the same distemper is meant. The theory, therefore, that “plague of leprosy” is here used figuratively of garments fretted by a species of animalculæ or vermin, which feed upon and corrode the finer parts of the texture in the manner of moths, is contrary to the uniform import of this phrase in the discussion of the disorder, and is against the testimony of the administrators of the law during the second Temple, who came in personal contact with the complaint. They assure us that leprosy of garments and houses was not to be found in the world generally, but was a sign and miracle in Israel to guard them against an evil tongue. Equally untenable is the theory that it denotes an infectious condition of clothes caused by contact with the leprous matter of wounds and boils, which is so strong that it corrodes and injures all kinds of texture. Neither the regulations here laid down, nor the further development of them exhibited in the canons which obtained during the second Temple, regard leprosy as contagious. This is evident from the fact that the priest was in constant and close contact with the leper; that the leper who was entirely covered was pronounced clean, and could mix with the community (see Leviticus 13:12-13); that the priest himself ordered all the things in a leprous house to be taken out before he entered it, in order that they might be used again (see Leviticus 14:36); that according to the ancient canons a leprous minor, a leprous heathen or proselyte, as well as leprous garments in houses of non-Israelites, do not render any one unclean, nor does a bridegroom who is seized with this malady during the nuptial week defile any one. All this most unquestionably implies that there was no fear of contagion on the part of the authorities who had personally to deal with this distemper.

Whether it be a woollen garment.—As among the ancient Egyptians and Greeks, woollen and linen garments were the only apparel worn by the Israelites. (Comp. Deuteronomy 22:11; Hosea 2:7; Hosea 2:11; Proverbs 31:13.) The administrators of the law during the second Temple, however, took this enactment literally as referring strictly to wool of sheep and flax, but not to hemp and other materials. Hence they declared that a material made of camels’ hair and sheep’s wool is not rendered unclean by leprosy if the camels’ hair preponderates, but is unclean when the sheep’s hair preponderates, or when both are equal. The same rule also applies to mixtures of flax and hemp. Dyed skins and garments are not rendered unclean by leprosy. We have here another proof that these authorities did not regard leprosy as contagious.

Leviticus 13:47. Leprosy in garments and houses is unknown in these times and places, which is not strange, there being some diseases peculiar to some ages and countries. And that such a thing was among the Jews, cannot reasonably be doubted; for, if Moses had been a deceiver, a man of his wisdom would not have exposed himself to the contempt of his people, by giving laws about that which their experience showed to be but a fiction.

13:47-59 The garment suspected to be tainted with leprosy was not to be burned immediately. If, upon search, it was found that there was a leprous spot, it must be burned, or at least that part of it. If it proved to be free, it must be washed, and then might be used. This also sets forth the great evil there is in sin. It not only defiles the sinner's conscience, but it brings a stain upon all he has and all that he does. And those who make their clothes servants to their pride and lust, may see them thereby tainted with leprosy. But the robes of righteousness never fret, nor are moth-eaten.The garment - Rather, The clothing, referring to the ordinary dress of the Israelites in the wilderness; namely,, a linen tunic with a fringe Numbers 15:38 and a woolen cloak or blanket thrown on in colder weather. 47-59. The garment … that the … leprosy is in—It is well known that infectious diseases, such as scarlet fever, measles, the plague, are latently imbibed and carried by the clothes. But the language of this passage clearly indicates a disease to which clothes themselves were subject, and which was followed by effects on them analogous to those which malignant leprosy produces on the human body—for similar regulations were made for the rigid inspection of suspected garments by a priest as for the examination of a leprous person. It has long been conjectured and recently ascertained by the use of a lens, that the leprous condition of swine is produced by myriads of minute insects engendered in their skin; and regarding all leprosy as of the same nature, it is thought that this affords a sufficient reason for the injunction in the Mosaic law to destroy the clothes in which the disease, after careful observation, seemed to manifest itself. Clothes are sometimes seen contaminated by this disease in the West Indies and the southern parts of America [Whitlaw, Code of Health]; and it may be presumed that, as the Hebrews were living in the desert where they had not the convenience of frequent changes and washing, the clothes they wore and the skin mats on which they lay, would be apt to breed infectious vermin, which, being settled in the stuff, would imperceptibly gnaw it and leave stains similar to those described by Moses. It is well known that the wool of sheep dying of disease, if it had not been shorn from the animal while living, and also skins, if not thoroughly prepared by scouring, are liable to the effects described in this passage. The stains are described as of a greenish or reddish color, according, perhaps, to the color or nature of the ingredients used in preparing them; for acids convert blue vegetable colors into red and alkalis change then into green [Brown]. It appears, then, that the leprosy, though sometimes inflicted as a miraculous judgment (Nu 12:10; 2Ki 5:27) was a natural disease, which is known in Eastern countries still; while the rules prescribed by the Hebrew legislator for distinguishing the true character and varieties of the disease and which are far superior to the method of treatment now followed in those regions, show the divine wisdom by which he was guided. Doubtless the origin of the disease is owing to some latent causes in nature; and perhaps a more extended acquaintance with the archæology of Egypt and the natural history of the adjacent countries, may confirm the opinion that leprosy results from noxious insects or a putrid fermentation. But whatever the origin or cause of the disease, the laws enacted by divine authority regarding it, while they pointed in the first instance to sanitary ends, were at the same time intended, by stimulating to carefulness against ceremonial defilement, to foster a spirit of religious fear and inward purity. Leprosy in garments and houses is unknown in these times and places, which is not strange, there being some diseases or distempers peculiar to some ages and countries, as the learned have noted. And that such a thing was among the Jews cannot reasonably be doubted; for if Moses had been a deceiver, as some have impudently affirmed, a man of his wisdom would not have exposed himself to the disbelief and contempt of his people by giving laws about that which their experience showed to be but a fiction.

A woollen garment, or a linen garment, are put by a synecdoche for any other garments.

The garments also, that the plague of leprosy is in,.... Whether this sort of leprosy proceeded from natural causes, or was extraordinary and miraculous, and came immediately from the hand of God, and was peculiar to the Jews, and unknown to other nations, is a matter of question; the latter is generally asserted by the Hebrew writers, as Maimonides (e), Abraham Seba (f), and others (g); but others are of opinion, and Abarbinel among the Jews, that it might be by the contact or touch of a leprous person. Indeed it must be owned, as a learned man (h) observes, that the shirts and clothes of a leper must be equally infectious, and more so than any other communication with him; and the purulent matter which adheres thereunto must needs infect; such who put on their clothes; for it may be observed, that it will get between the threads of garments, and stick like glue, and fill them up, and by the acrimony of it corrode the texture itself; so that experience shows that it is very difficult to wash such a garment without a rupture, and the stains are not easily got out: and it must be allowed that garments may be scented by diseases, and become infectious, and carry a disease from place to place, as the plague oftentimes is carried in wool, cotton, silk, or any bale goods; but whether all this amounts to the case before us is still a question. Some indeed have endeavoured to account for it by observing, that wool ill scoured, stuffs kept too long, and some particular tapestries, are subject to worms and moths which eat them, and from hence think it credible, that the leprosy in clothes, and in skins here mentioned, was caused by this sort of vermin; to which, stuffs and works, wrought in wool in hot countries, and in times when arts and manufactures were not carried to the height of perfection as now, might probably be more exposed (i); but this seems not to agree with this leprosy of Moses, which lay not in the garment being eaten, but in the colour and spread of it:

whether it be a woollen garment or a linen garment: and, according to the Misnic doctors (k), only wool and linen were defiled by leprosy; Aben Ezra indeed says, that the reason why no mention is made of silk and cotton is because the Scripture speaks of what was found (then in use), as in Exodus 23:5; wherefore, according to him, woollen and linen are put for all other garments; though, he adds, or it may be the leprosy does not happen to anything but wool and linen; however, it is allowed, as Ben Gersom observes, that when the greatest part of the cloth is made of wool or linen, it was defiled by it: the Jewish canon is, if the greatest part is of camels hair, it is not defiled; but if the greatest part is of sheep, it is; and if half to half (or equal) it is defiled; and so flax, and hemp mixed together (l); the same rule is to be observed concerning them.

(e) Hilchot Tumaat Tzarat, c. 16. sect. 10. (f) Tzeror Hammor, fol. 99. 3.((g) Ramban, Bechai, Isaac Arama, & alii, apud Muisium in loc. (h) Scheuchzer. Physica Sacra, vol. 2. p. 326. (i) Calmet's Dictionary, in the word "Leper". (k) Misn. Celaim, c. 9. sect, 1.((l) Ib. Negaim, c. 11. sect. 2.

The garment also that the plague of leprosy is in, whether it be a woolen garment, or a linen garment;
Leprosy in garments (47–59)

The nature of these spots in clothing is not clear. It is generally supposed that they are caused by mildew or moth (see Art. Leprosy, HDB.); another suggestion is that the clothing had been worn by a leprous person, but this is not stated in the text. The materials of the garments are either wool, linen, or skin.

Verse 47. - Whether it be a woolen garment, or a linen garment. Wool and flax are the two materials for clothes mentioned in Deuteronomy 22:11; Proverbs 31:13; Hosea 2:7. Leviticus 13:47Leprosy in linen, woollen, and leather fabrics and clothes. - The only wearing apparel mentioned in Leviticus 13:47 is either woollen or linen, as in Deuteronomy 22:11; Hosea 2:7; Proverbs 31:13; and among the ancient Egyptians and ancient Greeks these were the materials usually worn. In Leviticus 13:48. שׁתי and ערב, "the flax and the wool," i.e., for linen and woollen fabrics, are distinguished from clothes of wool or flax. The rendering given to these words by the early translators is στήμων and κρόκη, stamen et subtegmen (lxx, Vulg.), i.e., warp and weft. The objection offered to this rendering, that warp and weft could not be kept so separate from one another, that the one could be touched and rendered leprous without the other, has been met by Gussetius by the simple but correct remark, that the reference is to the yarn prepared for the warp and weft, and not to the woven fabrics themselves. So long as the yarn was not woven into a fabric, the warp-yarn and weft-yarn might very easily be separated and lie in different places, so that the one could be injured without the other. In this case the yarn intended for weaving is distinguished from the woven material, just as the leather is afterwards distinguished from leather-work (Leviticus 13:49). The signs of leprosy were, if the mole in the fabric was greenish or reddish. In that case the priest was to shut up the thing affected with leprosy for seven days, and then examine it. If the mole had spread in the meantime, it was a "grievous leprosy." ממארת, from מאר irritavit, recruduit (vulnus), is to be explained, as it is by Bochart, as signifying lepra exasperata. הנּגע ממארת making the mole bad or angry; not, as Gesenius maintains, from מאר equals מרר acerbum faciens, i.e., dolorem acerbum excitans, which would not apply to leprosy in fabrics and houses (Leviticus 14:44), and is not required by Ezekiel 28:24. All such fabrics were to be burned as unclean.
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