Matthew Poole's Commentary
And the LORD spake unto Moses and Aaron, saying,Laws touching leprosies; its different kinds how to be known and judged of by the priest, Leviticus 13:1-8. Of the swelling, Leviticus 13:9-17. Of the sores or boils, Leviticus 13:18-23. Of the fiery inflammation, Leviticus 13:21-28. Of the scall, Leviticus 13:29-37. Of the blisters, Leviticus 13:38,39. Of baldness, Leviticus 13:40-44. The leper with clothes rent, bare head, and covered lips, must cry, Unclean, unclean, and dwell alone, Leviticus 13:45,46. Of the leprosy in clothes, linen, woollen, and skins, Leviticus 13:47-59.
No text from Poole on this verse.
When a man shall have in the skin of his flesh a rising, a scab, or bright spot, and it be in the skin of his flesh like the plague of leprosy; then he shall be brought unto Aaron the priest, or unto one of his sons the priests:In the skin, for there was the seat of the leprosy.
Bright spot, shining like the scale of a fish, as it is in the beginning of a leprosy.
Leprosy was a distemper most frequent in Egypt and Syria, &c., known also among the Greeks, who note that it was not so properly a disease as a defilement or distemper in the skin, whence Christ is not said to heal, but to cleanse the lepers that came to him. And this distemper is here provided against, not because it was worse than others, but because it was externally and visibly filthy, and because of its infectious nature, that hereby we might be instructed to avoid converse with such vicious persons who were likely to infect us.
He shall be brought unto Aaron the priest, not to the physician, because, as was now said, it needed not so much healing as cleansing, and was rather a ceremonial pollution than a disease; and because it belonged to the priest to cleanse him, and therefore to search and discover whether he was defiled and needed cleansing. The priest also was to admit to, or exclude from, the sanctuary, and therefore to examine who were to be excluded. And the discovery of this distemper was not so difficult that it required the physician’s art, but the priest, by experience, and the observation of those rules, might easily make it.
And the priest shall look on the plague in the skin of the flesh: and when the hair in the plague is turned white, and the plague in sight be deeper than the skin of his flesh, it is a plague of leprosy: and the priest shall look on him, and pronounce him unclean.On the plague, i.e. the sign or appearance of the plague of leprosy. And it is observable, that the same signs of it are given by Moses here, and by the learned physicians in their works. And when the leprosy came to its height, not the hair only, but also the skin was turned white, as Exodus 4:6 Numbers 12:10. And this change of colour was an evidence both of the abundance of excrementitious humours, and of the weakness of nature, as we see in old and sick persons. Deeper than the skin; for the leprosy did consume both the skin and the flesh, as appears from 2 Kings 5:14.
Pronounce him unclean, Heb. make him unclean, i. e ministerially and declaratively, in which sense ministers are said to remit sins, Matthew 16:19, and to destroy nations, Jeremiah 1:10.
If the bright spot be white in the skin of his flesh, and in sight be not deeper than the skin, and the hair thereof be not turned white; then the priest shall shut up him that hath the plague seven days:For greater assurance; to teach ministers not to be rash nor hasty in their judgments and censures, but diligently to search and examine all things beforehand.
The plague is here put for the man that hath the plague, as pride is put for a proud man, Jeremiah 50:31, and dreams for the dreamers, Jeremiah 27:9.
And the priest shall look on him the seventh day: and, behold, if the plague in his sight be at a stay, and the plague spread not in the skin; then the priest shall shut him up seven days more:If the plague be at a stay: this translation is justified by the following clause, which is added to explain it. Otherwise the words are and may be rendered thus, stand or abide in its own colour; the Hebrew word being used for colour as well as for sight.
And the priest shall look on him again the seventh day: and, behold, if the plague be somewhat dark, and the plague spread not in the skin, the priest shall pronounce him clean: it is but a scab: and he shall wash his clothes, and be clean.If the plague be somewhat dark; which is opposed to the white colour of the leprosy. But the word may be rendered, have contracted itself, or, be restrained or confined to its former place and bigness; and thus the opposition seems to be most clear to the spreading of itself, mentioned both in the foregoing verse, and in the following clause.
He shall wash his clothes, though it was no leprosy, but a scab only; to teach us, that no sin was so small which did not need to be washed by the blood of Christ, which was the thing designed by all these washings.
But if the scab spread much abroad in the skin, after that he hath been seen of the priest for his cleansing, he shall be seen of the priest again:No text from Poole on this verse.
And if the priest see that, behold, the scab spreadeth in the skin, then the priest shall pronounce him unclean: it is a leprosy.No text from Poole on this verse.
When the plague of leprosy is in a man, then he shall be brought unto the priest;No text from Poole on this verse.
And the priest shall see him: and, behold, if the rising be white in the skin, and it have turned the hair white, and there be quick raw flesh in the rising;If the rising be white, to wit, with a preternatural and extraordinary whiteness, as Numbers 12:10. And there be; or rather, or, the copulative put for the disjunctive, as hath been noted before; for either of these were signs of a leprosy, and one of these may seem inconsistent with the other; the former sign of white hair supposing the skin in which the hair was to remain, and the latter of live flesh supposing the skin to be consumed by the leprosy.
Quick raw flesh showed that this was not a superficial leprosy, but one of a deeper and more malignant nature, that had eaten into the very flesh, for which cause it is in the next verse called an old, or inveterate, or grown leprosy.
It is an old leprosy in the skin of his flesh, and the priest shall pronounce him unclean, and shall not shut him up: for he is unclean.No text from Poole on this verse.
And if a leprosy break out abroad in the skin, and the leprosy cover all the skin of him that hath the plague from his head even to his foot, wheresoever the priest looketh;No text from Poole on this verse.
Then the priest shall consider: and, behold, if the leprosy have covered all his flesh, he shall pronounce him clean that hath the plague: it is all turned white: he is clean.If the leprosy, i.e. the sign or appearance of the leprosy; or the scab is called a leprosy, because at first view it seemed to be so to the priest, and to other beholders.
Have covered all his flesh: when it appeared in some one part, it discovered the ill humour which lurked within, and withal the inability of nature to expel it; but when it overspread all, it manifested the strength of nature conquering the distemper, and purging out the ill humours into the outward parts.
But when raw flesh appeareth in him, he shall be unclean.In him, or rather, in it, i.e. in the place where the sign or appearance of leprosy was, when the flesh was partly changed into a whiter colour, and partly kept its natural colour; this variety of colours was an evidence of the leprosy, as one and the same colour continuing was a sign of soundness.
And the priest shall see the raw flesh, and pronounce him to be unclean: for the raw flesh is unclean: it is a leprosy.The raw flesh is unclean: this is repeated again and again, because raw or living flesh might rather seem a sign of soundness, and the priest might easily be deceived by it, and therefore he was more narrowly to look into it, and to observe the place and manner and other circumstances in which it appeared.
Or if the raw flesh turn again, and be changed unto white, he shall come unto the priest;Be changed unto white; it is usual with sores, when they begin to be healed, the skin, which is white, coming upon the flesh.
And the priest shall see him: and, behold, if the plague be turned into white; then the priest shall pronounce him clean that hath the plague: he is clean.No text from Poole on this verse.
The flesh also, in which, even in the skin thereof, was a boil, and is healed,No text from Poole on this verse.
And in the place of the boil there be a white rising, or a bright spot, white, and somewhat reddish, and it be shewed to the priest;Somewhat reddish, i.e. white mixed with red, as when blood and milk are mixed together. A late learned writer renders the words thus, white and very bright, or light, which indeed is the true colour of leprosy, to wit, when it is in its perfection, as Exodus 4:6, &c. But here it was only beginning and arising out of a bile, in which together with the white, which was the colour of the leprosy, there might be some mixture of redness arising from the bile, or that part of it which was not yet turned into the nature and colour of leprosy.
And if, when the priest seeth it, behold, it be in sight lower than the skin, and the hair thereof be turned white; the priest shall pronounce him unclean: it is a plague of leprosy broken out of the boil.No text from Poole on this verse.
But if the priest look on it, and, behold, there be no white hairs therein, and if it be not lower than the skin, but be somewhat dark; then the priest shall shut him up seven days:But be somewhat dark, or, and be contracted; of which Leviticus 13:6.
And if it spread much abroad in the skin, then the priest shall pronounce him unclean: it is a plague.Or, the plague, to wit, of leprosy, of which he is speaking.
But if the bright spot stay in his place, and spread not, it is a burning boil; and the priest shall pronounce him clean.No text from Poole on this verse.
Or if there be any flesh, in the skin whereof there is a hot burning, and the quick flesh that burneth have a white bright spot, somewhat reddish, or white;A hot burning, Heb. a burning of fire, by the touch of any hot iron, or burning coals, which doth naturally and usually make an ulcer or sore in which the following spot is. Or white, i.e. or only white, without any mixture of red in it. This clause seems to overthrow that exposition of the Hebrew word adamdam which is given by a learned man, Leviticus 13:19, because this colour which is here said to be only white, is distinguished from that which is here called adamdam, which therefore must be some other colour than that of snow, which though very light or bright, yet is only white.
Then the priest shall look upon it: and, behold, if the hair in the bright spot be turned white, and it be in sight deeper than the skin; it is a leprosy broken out of the burning: wherefore the priest shall pronounce him unclean: it is the plague of leprosy.No text from Poole on this verse.
But if the priest look on it, and, behold, there be no white hair in the bright spot, and it be no lower than the other skin, but be somewhat dark; then the priest shall shut him up seven days:Somewhat dark, or, contracted, i.e. not spreading. See Leviticus 13:6.
And the priest shall look upon him the seventh day: and if it be spread much abroad in the skin, then the priest shall pronounce him unclean: it is the plague of leprosy.No text from Poole on this verse.
And if the bright spot stay in his place, and spread not in the skin, but it be somewhat dark; it is a rising of the burning, and the priest shall pronounce him clean: for it is an inflammation of the burning.i.e. Arising from the burning mentioned Leviticus 13:24.
If a man or woman have a plague upon the head or the beard;No text from Poole on this verse.
Then the priest shall see the plague: and, behold, if it be in sight deeper than the skin; and there be in it a yellow thin hair; then the priest shall pronounce him unclean: it is a dry scall, even a leprosy upon the head or beard.The leprosy in the body turned the hair white, in the head or beard it turned it yellow. And if a man’s hair was yellow before, this might easily be distinguished from the rest, either by the thinness or smallness of it, which is here noted, or by its peculiar kind of yellow, for there are divers kinds or degrees of the same colour manifestly differing one from another, as in green colours, &c.
And if the priest look on the plague of the scall, and, behold, it be not in sight deeper than the skin, and that there is no black hair in it; then the priest shall shut up him that hath the plague of the scall seven days:And that there is no black hair in it; for had that appeared, it had ended the doubt, the black hair being a sign of soundness and strength of nature, Leviticus 13:37, as the yellow hair was a sign of unsoundness.
And in the seventh day the priest shall look on the plague: and, behold, if the scall spread not, and there be in it no yellow hair, and the scall be not in sight deeper than the skin;No text from Poole on this verse.
He shall be shaven, but the scall shall he not shave; and the priest shall shut up him that hath the scall seven days more:He shall be shaven, for the more certain discovery of the growth or stay of the plague.
And in the seventh day the priest shall look on the scall: and, behold, if the scall be not spread in the skin, nor be in sight deeper than the skin; then the priest shall pronounce him clean: and he shall wash his clothes, and be clean.No text from Poole on this verse.
But if the scall spread much in the skin after his cleansing;No text from Poole on this verse.
Then the priest shall look on him: and, behold, if the scall be spread in the skin, the priest shall not seek for yellow hair; he is unclean.He need not search for the hair, or any other sign, the spreading or running of it being a sure sign of leprosy, without any other evidence.
But if the scall be in his sight at a stay, and that there is black hair grown up therein; the scall is healed, he is clean: and the priest shall pronounce him clean.The truth of the thing, and not the sentence of the priest, made him clean; and if the priest had partially pronounced one clean who was not clean, his sentence had been null. And therefore it is a fond and dangerous conceit to think that the absolution given to any sinner by a priest will stand him in any stead if he do not truly repent.
If a man also or a woman have in the skin of their flesh bright spots, even white bright spots;No text from Poole on this verse.
Then the priest shall look: and, behold, if the bright spots in the skin of their flesh be darkish white; it is a freckled spot that groweth in the skin; he is clean.Darkish white, or contracted, or confined to the place where they are, and white.
And the man whose hair is fallen off his head, he is bald; yet is he clean.No text from Poole on this verse.
And he that hath his hair fallen off from the part of his head toward his face, he is forehead bald: yet is he clean.No text from Poole on this verse.
And if there be in the bald head, or bald forehead, a white reddish sore; it is a leprosy sprung up in his bald head, or his bald forehead.It is a sign that such baldness came not from age or any accident, but from the leprosy.
Then the priest shall look upon it: and, behold, if the rising of the sore be white reddish in his bald head, or in his bald forehead, as the leprosy appeareth in the skin of the flesh;No text from Poole on this verse.
He is a leprous man, he is unclean: the priest shall pronounce him utterly unclean; his plague is in his head.No text from Poole on this verse.
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.His clothes shall be rent, to wit, in the upper and former parts, which were most visible. This was done, partly, as a token of sorrow, Ezra 9:3,5 Job 2:12, because though this was not a sin, yet it was an effect of sin, and a sore punishment, whereby he was cut off both from converse with men, and from the enjoyment of God in his ordinances; partly, as a warning to others to keep at a due distance from him wheresoever he came; and partly, as some add, that it might conduce to his cure, by giving the freer vent to the ill humours. But the exposing of the affected part to the cold would rather hinder than further evaporation.
His head bare; another sign of mourning, as appears from Leviticus 10:6. God would have men, though not overwhelmed with, yet deeply sensible of, his judgments.
A covering upon his upper lip; partly as another badge of his sorrow and shame, as Ezekiel 24:17,22 Mic 3:7; and partly for the preservation of others from his infectious breath or touch. Unclean, unclean; as begging the pity and prayers of others, and confessing his own infirmity, and cautioning those who came near him to keep at a distance from him.
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.Partly, for his humiliation; partly, to prevent the infection of others; and partly, to show the danger of converse with spiritual lepers or notorious sinners. This rule excludes the society of sound persons, but not of lepers. See 2 Kings 15:5 2 Chronicles 26:21.
Without the camp; so Numbers 12:14; and afterward without cities and places of great concourse, whereof we have examples, 2 Kings 7:3 Luke 17:12.
The garment also that the plague of leprosy is in, whether it be a woollen garment, or a linen garment;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.
Whether it be in the warp, or woof; of linen, or of woollen; whether in a skin, or in any thing made of skin;In the warp, or woof; a learned man renders it, in the outside, or in the inside of it. If the signification of these words be doubtful or unknown now, as some of those of the living creatures and precious stones are confessed to be, it is not material to us, this law being abolished; it sufficeth that the Jews understood these things by frequent experience.
And if the plague be greenish or reddish in the garment, or in the skin, either in the warp, or in the woof, or in any thing of skin; it is a plague of leprosy, and shall be shewed unto the priest:No text from Poole on this verse.
And the priest shall look upon the plague, and shut up it that hath the plague seven days:No text from Poole on this verse.
And he shall look on the plague on the seventh day: if the plague be spread in the garment, either in the warp, or in the woof, or in a skin, or in any work that is made of skin; the plague is a fretting leprosy; it is unclean.No text from Poole on this verse.
He shall therefore burn that garment, whether warp or woof, in woollen or in linen, or any thing of skin, wherein the plague is: for it is a fretting leprosy; it shall be burnt in the fire.No text from Poole on this verse.
And if the priest shall look, and, behold, the plague be not spread in the garment, either in the warp, or in the woof, or in any thing of skin;No text from Poole on this verse.
Then the priest shall command that they wash the thing wherein the plague is, and he shall shut it up seven days more:No text from Poole on this verse.
And the priest shall look on the plague, after that it is washed: and, behold, if the plague have not changed his colour, and the plague be not spread; it is unclean; thou shalt burn it in the fire; it is fret inward, whether it be bare within or without.If the plague have not changed his colour; if washing doth not take away that vicious colour, and restore it to its own native colour.
Bare within or without; in the outside of the garment, which is here called the forehead or foreside, as being most visible, or in the inside of it. Some of the Jewish doctors understood it thus, whether the garment was made threadbare by the leprosy, or by former wearing of it.
And if the priest look, and, behold, the plague be somewhat dark after the washing of it; then he shall rend it out of the garment, or out of the skin, or out of the warp, or out of the woof:No text from Poole on this verse.
And if it appear still in the garment, either in the warp, or in the woof, or in any thing of skin; it is a spreading plague: thou shalt burn that wherein the plague is with fire.No text from Poole on this verse.
And the garment, either warp, or woof, or whatsoever thing of skin it be, which thou shalt wash, if the plague be departed from them, then it shall be washed the second time, and shall be clean.No text from Poole on this verse.
This is the law of the plague of leprosy in a garment of woollen or linen, either in the warp, or woof, or any thing of skins, to pronounce it clean, or to pronounce it unclean.No text from Poole on this verse.