And the LORD spake unto Moses and Aaron, saying,
UNCLEANNESS DERIVED FROM LEPROSY OR CONTACT WITH LEPERS AND LEPROUS THINGS (chapters 13, 14). A third cause of uncleanness is found in a third class of offensive or repulsive objects. There is no disease which produces so foul an appearance in the human form as leprosy. There was, therefore, no disease so suitable for creating ceremonial, because representing spiritual, uncleanness. The name leprosy has been made to cover a number of diseases similar but not identical in character. There are many spurious forms of leprosy, and many diseases akin to leprosy which do not now come under discussion. The disease here dealt with is elephantiasis, especially in its anesthetic form, which is otherwise called white leprosy. The two varieties of elephantiasis - the tuberculated and the anesthetic - are, however, so closely connected together that they cannot be separated, the one. often running into the other. The first symptom of the malady is a painless spot, which covers an indolent ulcer. This ulcer may continue unprogressive for months or for years, during which the person affected is able to do his ordinary business; but at the end of these periods, whether longer or shorter, it produces a more repulsive and foul disfigurement of the human face and frame than any known disease, the features of the face changing their character, and part of the body occasionally mortifying and dropping off. Death at last comes suddenly, when a vital part of the body has been affected. The home of leprosy has in all ages been Syria and Egypt and the countries adjacent to them, but Europe has not escaped the scourge. In the Middle Ages, no European country was free from it; London had at one time six leper houses; cases were found not unfrequently in Scotland till the middle of the last century; and there was a death certified by medical science to have resulted from leprosy in the city of Norwich in the year 1880. The object of the regulations relating to leprosy is no more sanitary than of those relating to unclean meats. Like the latter, they may have served a sanitary purpose, for leprosy is, according to the prevailing medical opinion, slightly, though only slightly, contagious. Because leprosy was hideous and foul, it therefore made the man affected by it unclean, and before he could be restored to communion with God and his people, he must be certified by God's priest to be delivered from the disease. As in the previous cases, physical ugliness and defilement represent spiritual depravity and viciousness. "The Levitical law concerning leprosy reveals to us the true nature of sin. It shows its hideousness and its foulness, and fills us with shame, hatred, and loathing for it. And it reveals to us the inestimable benefit which we have received from the incarnation of the Son of God, 'the Sun of Righteousness, with healing in his wings' (Malachi 4:2); and fills us with joy, thankfulness, and love to him for his infinite goodness to us" (Wordsworth). Leprosy, the most loathsome of all common diseases, is the type and symbol of sin, and the ceremonial uncleanness attaching to it is a parable of the moral foulness of sin.
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:
Verse 2. - The word translated plague of leprosy literally means stroke. It seems to be used in the sense of spot. Then shall he be brought unto Aaron the priest. That the regulations respecting leprosy were not sanitary arrangements, as has been sometimes represented, is indicated by the authority over the leper being vested in the priest rather than in the physician, and the question of whether a man was a leper or no being decided by the former rather than the latter. It is to be noted also that the priest is not made unclean by his contact with the leper, because he is in the performance of his duty. The supposed leper may be brought either to Aaron or unto one of his sons the priests; that is, to the high priest or to the ordinary priest, and those descendants of Aaron who were disqualified by physical infirmities from officiating at the altar were permitted to act as examiners in leprosy.
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.
Verse 3. - When the hair in the plague is turned white. This is the first symptom, and the most noticeable as the commencement of the disease. The hair around the spot loses its colour and becomes thin and weak, the separate hairs being hardly stronger or individually thicker than down. The second symptom is when the plague in sight be deeper than the skin of his flesh; that is, below the upper skin, or cuticle, and in the real cutis. These two symptoms distinguish real leprosy from other affections which at first bear a similar appearance.
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:
Verses 4-8. - In case the symptoms are not decisive, then the priest shall shut up him that hath the plague seven days. The words thus translated would perhaps be better rendered, then the priest shall bind up the part affected for seven days. The priest is to delay his judgment for a week, and, if necessary, for a second week, during which period the patient is, according to the rendering, either to be confined to his house or, more probably, to have the spot bandaged. Whether the disease be or be not leprosy will probably have declared itself by the end of that time; and if the plague be somewhat dark on the fourteenth day, that is, if it has begun to lose its colour and to fade away, and has not spread in the skin, the priest is to decide that it is not real leprosy, and pronounce the man clean. He is still, however, to be kept under supervision, and if the spot is found to spread, he is to be pronounced unclean, as it is proved to be a leprosy.
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:
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.
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:
And if the priest see that, behold, the scab spreadeth in the skin, then the priest shall pronounce him unclean: it is a leprosy.
When the plague of leprosy is in a man, then he shall be brought unto the priest;
Verses 9-11. - The method of procedure in the case of a doubtful leprosy having been laid down in the previous verses, the rule for dealing with an unmistakable case is here given. When the characteristic white spot and white hair are present (if the rising be white in the skin, and it have turned the hair white), and if a third symptom be present - if there be quick raw flesh in the rising, that is, if there be an ulcer underneath the white scab, there is to be no delay, as in the previous case, but judgment is to be passed at once. The priest shall pronounce him unclean, and shall not shut him up: for he is manifestly unclean.
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;
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.
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;
Verses 12-17. - If a leprosy break out abroad... and cover all the skin. There was a form of disease similar to true leprosy, and bearing the name of leprosy, and by some thought to be the final phase of true leprosy, which was yet not to cause legal uncleanness. It was distinguishable from the leprosy which caused uncleanness by a diffusion of the white flakes over the whole body, and by the absence of any patches bearing the appearance of raw flesh (verses 12, 13). Real leprosy might pass into this harmless kind or phase, and it was known to have done so as soon as the raw patches of flesh had disappeared (verses 16, 17). When this had taken place, the priest pronounced him clean.
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.
But when raw flesh appeareth in him, he shall be unclean.
And the priest shall see the raw flesh, and pronounce him to be unclean: for the raw flesh is unclean: it is a leprosy.
Or if the raw flesh turn again, and be changed unto white, he shall come unto the priest;
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.
The flesh also, in which, even in the skin thereof, was a boil, and is healed,
Verses 18-23. - The method of discriminating between a leprous spot and the reappearing scar of an old ulcer. A reappearing ulcer is to be regarded as leprous it' it have the characteristic marks of leprosy; that is, if it be below the cuticle, and the hairs round it arc turned white. If it has not these marks, it has to be watched for seven days, and if in that time it does not spread, it is to be declared a burning boil, or rather an ulcerous scar, in which case the priest shall pronounce him clean.
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;
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.
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:
And if it spread much abroad in the skin, then the priest shall pronounce him unclean: it is a plague.
But if the bright spot stay in his place, and spread not, it is a burning boil; and the priest shall pronounce him clean.
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;
Verses 24-28. - The method of discriminating between a leprous spot and the scar of a burn. If there be any flesh, in the skin whereof there is a hot burning. This rendering indicates that the authors of the Authorized Version thought a disease of the nature of a carbuncle to be meant; but it is better to take the words literally as they are translated in the margin, If there be any flesh, in the skin whereof there is a burning of fire; that is, a scar from a burn, The leprous spot and the scar are to be distinguished as in the previous case. An old nicer or burn is a more likely place for a leprous spot to appear than any part of the body which is sound, just as in the moral sphere sin fixes on some old wound of the soul to burst out in.
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.
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:
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.
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.
If a man or woman have a plague upon the head or the beard;
Verses 29-37. - The method of discriminating between a leprous spot on the head or beard and an ulcer in the same place. The symptoms of leprosy are the same as before, except that the hairs in this case are of a reddish-yellow colour instead of white. The treatment is also the same, with the addition of shaving the head or beard except at the place where the suspicious spot has appeared. In verse 31 the priest is ordered to shut up (or bandage) the patient, if
(1) the spot be only in the upper cuticle, and
(2) there is no black hair in it.
We should have expected rather from the second condition if there be black hair in it, or if there be no yellow hair in it; and Keil accordingly proposes to omit the negative or to change the word "black" for "yellow," the two words in the original being easily interchangeable. The present reading is. however. defensible. The fact of the spot being not below the cuticle was a very favorable symptom; there being no black hair was a very unfavourable symptom. Under these circumstances, the priest delays his judgment in the ordinary way.
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.
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 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;
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:
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.
But if the scall spread much in the skin after his cleansing;
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.
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.
If a man also or a woman have in the skin of their flesh bright spots, even white bright spots;
Verses 38, 39. - The method of discriminating between leprous spots and freckled spots. In case the spots in the skin of theft flesh be darkish white; that is, of a dull or pale white, then it is only a freckled spot that groweth in the skin. This is "the harmless bohak (ἀλφός, LXX.), which did not defile, and which even the Arabs, who still call it bahak, consider harmless. It is an eruption upon the skin, appearing in somewhat elevated spots or rings of unequal sizes and a pale white colour, which do not change the hair; it causes no inconvenience, and lasts from two months to two years" (Keil). The man or woman who has this is clean.
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.
And the man whose hair is fallen off his head, he is bald; yet is he clean.
Verses 40-44. - Leprosy appearing on the bald head. Though leprosy makes the hair drop off around the leprous spot, baldness is in itself no sign of leprosy, whether at the back or front of the head (verses 40, 41); but as the bald head is a not unusual place for the leprous spot to appear, any eruption upon it is therefore to be watched and tested as before.
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.
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.
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;
He is a leprous man, he is unclean: the priest shall pronounce him utterly unclean; his plague is in his head.
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.
Verses 45, 46. - The cases for examination having been discussed, the law for the treatment of the man in whom leprosy has been proved to exist is pronounced. The leper in whom the plague is to be ex-eluded from the camp, lest others should contract defilement from him. He is for the same reason to cry, Unclean, unclean, lest any wayfarer should unwittingly come in contact with him; and his clothes shall be rent, and his head bare, and he shall put a covering upon his upper lip, these being the signs of mourning for the dead. The bared or disheveled head (see chapter Leviticus 10:6) and the covered lip are incidentally mentioned as signs of mourning in Ezekiel 24:17, and the covered upper lip as a mark of shame in Micah 3:7. By the expression, He shall dwell alone, is meant he shall dwell apart from those who were clean. Of course, lepers would naturally associate with each other, and so we find that they actually did (Luke 17:12). As their presence was supposed to defile any place that they entered, they were punished in later times with forty stripes if they did not observe the restraints laid down for them. "They were, however, admitted to the synagogue, where a place was railed off for them, ten handbreadths high and four cubits wide, on condition of their entering the house of worship before the rest of the congregation and leaving it after them" (Edersheim, 'Temple Service'). The exclusion of the leper was not for the purpose of avoiding contagion, nor to serve as a penalty for having contracted so loathsome a disease, but primarily to prevent the spread of ceremonial uncleanness communicated by his touch, and typically and mystically to teach that the fate brought upon a man by unremoved sin is separation from the people of God here and hereafter.
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.
The garment also that the plague of leprosy is in, whether it be a woollen garment, or a linen garment;
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.
Whether it be in the warp, or woof; of linen, or of woollen; whether in a skin, or in any thing made of skin;
Verse 48. - Whether it be in the warp, or woof. It is hardly possible that such a fault as leprosy or mildew could appear in one set of the threads without affecting the others, provided that both were equally good when they were made up into the cloth; but it is quite possible that a heap of yarn, used either for the warp or for the woof, might have been injuriously affected before it was woven, and then the fault would naturally make its appearance where the mischief had been originally done. Whether in a skin, or in anything made of skin. An example of the first would be a sheepskin cloak; the second would designate anything made of leather.
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:
Verses 49-59. - The priest is to deal with the texture as nearly as may be in the same way that lie dealt with the human subject, in order to discriminate between a tempo-rare discoloration and a real leprosy. He shall shut up it that hath the plague seven days (verse 50), may, as before, mean, he shall bind up the place affected seven days. If the priest judges that it is leprosy, he is to burn the garment, if not, to tear out the piece affected, whether it be in the warp, or in the woof, that is, in whatever part it appears, and to wash the remainder twice. The expression, whether it be bare within or without, literally, whether it be bald in the head thereof or in the forehead thereof, means, "whether the fault appear in the front or in the back of the texture."
And the priest shall look upon the plague, and shut up it that hath the plague seven days:
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.
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.
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;
Then the priest shall command that they wash the thing wherein the plague is, and he shall shut it up seven days more:
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.
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:
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.
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.
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.