And the LORD spoke to Moses and Aaron, saying,…
We have considered the plague of leprosy as an emblem of sin; the adjudication upon it will suggest thoughts concerning the treatment of sin. In this business the principal actor was the priest, who must be viewed as the type of Christ. The judgment in this case will be disciplinary rather than final; for when Messiah will come to judge the world at the last day, he will appear not as a priest but as a king. We are now concerned with the functions of the priest.
I. HE HAD TO EXAMINE THE SUSPECTED PERSON.
1. In this he proceeded according to the Law.
(1) He had his rules for determining the presence of the plague.
(2) So by the Word of God is our moral cleanness or uncleanness to be determined (Romans 2:13; Romans 3:20; 1 Corinthians 14:24, 25; James 1:22-25; James 2:9).
(3) Conviction is carried home by the Spirit of Christ.
2. When the case was dubious judgment was deferred.
(1) Meanwhile the suspected person was "shut up" (verses 4, 21, 31) that opportunity might be given for the manifestation of the symptoms. So are sinners "shut up" by the Law to the faith of the gospel (see Romans 11:32, margin; Galatians 3:23).
(2) At the end of "seven days" judgment was given; or, if the symptoms were not then sufficiently manifest, a second period of seven days was allowed, which was the final term. Could these periods refer to the dispensations of our probation? In this case the leper must be taken to personate a class of sinner according to the type of his disease, whether proceeding from the "rising," or the "boil," or the "scab." In any case, a sufficient probation is given us in this world for the manifestation of our real character, which probation we should be careful to improve.
3. A leprous garment was treated as representing its owner.
(1) It had to be inspected by the priest for his judgment and sentence, as though it had been a person. In case the plague in it were not pronounced, it had to be "shut up" and examined again after the same intervals of" seven days" (verses 50, 54). The expense and trouble of this, particularly if it had to be brought from a distance, would be as much as the garment was worth, so that the Law is unaccountable unless it was intended to serve a typical purpose.
(2) Agabus the prophet made Paul's girdle emblematically to represent that apostle (Acts 21:11). The "owner" of a leprous house, obviously for the same reason, had to "come and tell the priest" (Leviticus 14:35).
(3) The washing of the garment in this case suggests the washing of regeneration.
II. HE HAD TO PRONOUNCE UPON HIM.
1. In some cases the verdict was an acquittal.
(1) If the suspected leprosy proved to be but a surface evil, the subject was pronounced clean (verse 6). Jesus does not mark as sins infirmities which spring not from an evil nature. The person acquitted, however, had to wash his clothes (verse 34). There is no person so faultless as not to need the laver of regeneration.
(2) If a leper be "white all over," no proud flesh, no ichor, being visible, he is pronounced clean (verse 13). The virulence of the disease is over; God's mercy has reached him; the sinner is forgiven. But the marks of an old dissipation often remain after forgiveness. Though now clean, there can be no question that he had been a leper.
(3) Another case is given. A leper, supposing his disease gone, presents himself to the priest for his cleansing; but the priest, discovering "raw flesh," sends him away unclean; in time, however, he becomes cured, returns to the priest, and on the second application is pronounced clean (verse 17). This case is like that of the sinner whose repentance is not perfect, and at the altar he discovers that until he is reconciled to a brother whom he had wronged his gift cannot be accepted; the reconciliation made, he returns and finds the favour of God (Matthew 5:23, 24).
2. In other cases the judgment was "Unclean."
(1) When the plague is pronounced, as in cases of "old leprosy," deliberation was unnecessary; judgment came speedily (verses 10, 11). So with the openly wicked (Psalm 9:16; Proverbs 5:22; Proverbs 11:5).
(2) In all cases evidence must be clear. Time, therefore, was given for the plague to pronounce itself. So, before judgment could overtake the Amorites, their iniquity must be full (Genesis 15:16; see also Daniel 8:23; Matthew 23:32, 33; 1 Thessalonians 2:16).
(3) Jesus is unerring in his judgments. He is the faithful as well as merciful High Priest.
3. The sentence.
(1) The leper has to dwell without the camp (verse 46). So must the open sinner be put out of the Church (see 1 Corinthians 5:11-13). Hypocrites and unbelievers, though in the Church in the visible part, are not recognized by God as members of the Church in the spiritual part.
(2) The leper has to behave as an excommunicate seeking for the mercy of God. His clothes are rent to express extreme grief and sorrow. His head is bare, turbanless, to express deep humiliation. He put a covering upon his upper lip; had his jaw tied up with a linen cloth as a corpse, to express his state as that of a living death (see 2 Kings 5:7; Ezekiel 24:17), and he was to cry "Unclean!" (verse 45). When we confess that we are dead in trespasses and sins, and sorrow to repentance, there is hope for us in God.
(3) But as the garment that remains unclean after two washings, to save it from destruction must have the leprous piece rent from it; so if a "right hand" or "right eye" prevent us from realizing the benefits of redemption, they must be separated (verse 56). But if all efforts to save the garment fail, then its doom is to be burnt (see Matthew 5:29, 30; Matthew 18:8, 9). - J.A.M.
Parallel VersesKJV: And the LORD spake unto Moses and Aaron, saying,