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Bible Commentaries
Leviticus 13

Bridgeway Bible CommentaryBridgeway Bible Commentary

Verses 1-59

Detection of leprosy (13:1-59)

Biblical scholars and medical scientists alike have shown that the leprosy the Old Testament speaks of was not always the disease that we know as leprosy today. The word had a broad meaning that covered a number of infectious skin diseases, some of which were curable. It applied even to fungus or mildew on clothes and buildings.
Laws laid down in these chapters concerned two main things. Firstly, because such disease was symbolic of sin, it made people ceremonially unclean and unable to join in the religious activities of the community till they were healed and ceremonially cleansed. Secondly, the public health had to be protected by separating infected people from the camp and destroying anything that might carry the disease to others.
These chapters are not concerned with the treatment of the disease. Instructions outlined here were for priests, not for doctors. Priests had the responsibility to see that holiness was maintained in the camp, and this holiness was inseparable from ordinary health and cleanliness. These laws helped the priests detect the disease in its early stages and so prevent infection from spreading.
People were to report any suspicious looking skin infection to the priests, who then quarantined the patient till they were sure whether the disease was dangerous. If it proved to be leprosy, the person was not merely quarantined but was put out of the camp (13:1-11; see v. 45-46). Cases may have arisen where a person could have appeared to be getting leprosy, but the suspected disease later proved to be something else. In fact, it may even have healed itself (12-17). Any boil or inflammation had to be investigated (18-28); also any itches, skin spots or falling out of the hair (29-44). If someone was found to be carrying an infectious disease, the person was excluded from the camp (45-46).
Mildew was often a problem in damp or humid weather, and the law of Moses set out regulations to counter its harmful effects. Any clothing found to contain mildew had to be brought to the priests for examination (47-49). Affected clothing had to be washed, and if that did not remove the problem, it had to be destroyed (50-59).

Bibliographical Information
Fleming, Donald C. "Commentary on Leviticus 13". "Fleming's Bridgeway Bible Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/bbc/leviticus-13.html. 2005.
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