And the priest shall look on him the seventh day: and, behold, if the plague in his sight be at a stay…
We have seen (vide previous Homily) how true a picture is leprosy of sin in its individual aspect; we now regard the subject in its more social aspect. What this terrible disease was to a man as a member of the Hebrew commonwealth, that is sin to a man as a member of society today.
I. ITS LOATHSOMENESS. It is quite possible that the leprosy from which the Israelites suffered was a contagious disorder. It is also possible that the dread of contagion, though there was no actual danger (as in cholera), may have had its influence in the matter. But there is no convincing evidence that it was contagious. There are indications that it was not (action of the priests, etc.); and the exclusion of the leper from the camp is fully accounted for in another way. The loathsomeness of the disease is a sufficient explanation. Whoever has seen any one suffering acutely from a kindred malady will perfectly understand and appreciate this legislation on that ground alone. It is difficult, if not impossible, to recover altogether from the mental effect of so shocking and so repulsive a spectacle. The vision haunts the memory for years. In this aspect leprosy is a striking picture of sin; for that is a thing odious and abominable in the last degree - loathsome to the Holy One of Israel, hateful to all holy souls. In its viler forms it is a thing which we - even with our imperfect purity - cannot "look upon" (Hebrews 1:13); holy much more horrible and hateful must it be in his sight whose thoughts of holiness as well as of mercy are as much higher than ours as the heavens are higher than the earth (Isaiah 55:9)!
II. ITS DIFFUSIVENESS. Though not, probably, contagious, leprosy was diffusive and communicable from parent to child. It was one of the crucial tests in the case that it spread over the skin (verses 7, 8), that it "spread much abroad" (verses 22, 27). As this typical disease spread from one part of the body to another, from one limb and organ to another, until it sometimes covered the entire frame, so sin, of which it was the divinely chosen type, is a thing that spreads. It is an emphatically diffusive, a communicable thing. It spreads:
1. From faculty to faculty of the same human spirit; one sin leads on to another, as theft to violence, or drunkenness to falsehood, or impurity to deception.
2. From parent to child.
3. From man to man, through the whole "body politic." It spreads much abroad through any and every body, civil or ecclesiastical, into which it enters.
III. ITS SEPARATING EFFECT. "He shall dwell alone: without the camp shall his habitation be" (verse 46). Leprosy separated between husband and wife, parent and children, friend and friend; it sundered one human life from that of the commonwealth, and was a source of sad and, so far as the preciousness of life was concerned, a fatal loneliness. Sin is the separating power.
1. It comes between man and God (Isaiah 59:2). It places him outside the gates of the spiritual kingdom; it deprives a man of all fellowship with the heavenly Father; it leads him out into a "far country" of alienation, of dread, of dissimilarity.
2. It comes between man and man. It is the endless and bitter source of estrangement, animosity, war; it makes lonely the life that should be full of sweet and elevating fellowship.
IV. ITS PITIFULNESS. Who could see the poor leper, with rent clothes, with bare head, with covered lip, passing through the camp, crying, "Unclean, unclean!" on his way to a dreary and, it might be, life-long solitude and not be affected with a tender pity? He might be "unclean," but he was miserable, he was lost; the light of his life had gone out. Sin is not more condemnable than it is pitiable. Blame the erring, reproach the faulty, remonstrate with the foolish and the mischievous (1 Timothy 5:20), but pity those whom sin is shutting out from all that is best below, and will exclude from all that is bright and blessed above. Remember the "great love (of pity) wherewith he loved us, even when we were dead in sins" (Ephesians 2:4, 5), and pity with a profound compassion and help with an uplifting hand those who are still down in the mire of sin, still far from the kingdom of God. - C.
Parallel VersesKJV: 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:
WEB: The priest shall examine him on the seventh day, and, behold, if in his eyes the plague is arrested, and the plague hasn't spread in the skin, then the priest shall isolate him for seven more days.