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the Week of Proper 9 / Ordinary 14
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Bible Commentaries
Leviticus 13

Garner-Howes Baptist CommentaryGarner-Howes

Verses 1-8

LEVITICUS- CHAPTER THIRTEEN

Verses 1-8:

This chapter contains the "Law of the Leper," and lists the procedures by which one is determined to have the disease.

"Leprosy," tsaraath, from the verb tsara, occurs 33 times in the Book of Leviticus. The word is apparently kin to tsarah, meaning "distress, anguish, trouble."

Apparently, various other diseases fell under the category labeled "leprosy" in the Old Testament, which are similar but not identical to this malady.

The modern term denoting leprosy is "Hansen’s disease," named after G. Armauer Hansen, who in 1879 first observed the micro-organism Mycobacterium leprae in the tissues of patients.

Leprosy is largely tropical and subtropical. In the main, it is confined to the warmer regions of the world, and among dark-skinned peoples. It is particularly prevalent where there is inadequate nutrition and sanitation.

The means of the transmission of leprosy from person to person is uncertain. Some studies indicate that it may be spread by direct contact, and that no intermediate host is necessary. It was once believed to be inherited, but this has been disproved.

There are two types of leprosy:

1. Lepromatous, which begins with brownish-red spots on face, ears, forearms, thighs and/or buttocks. These spots become thickened nodules, which become ulcers when they lose their skin covering. The sores result in loss of tissue, ten contraction and deformity. This is the type apparently in view in Scripture.

2. Tuberculoid, which is characterized by numbness of the affected area. The fingers become deformed, taking the appearance of claws, as the result of muscle paralysis and atrophy.

This chapter does not deal with the advanced cases of leprosy, but with the early diagnosis of this dreadful disease.

Leprosy is a picture of sin, in its inevitably destruction of the victim; and in that it is incurable except by Divine intervention.

"Plague," nega, "smiting, stroke." The term occurs 54 times in chapters 13 and 14. Use of this term implies a Divine "stroke" or judgment, either as a chastening of God or as His judgment upon sin.

The one suspected of having leprosy was to be brought before the priest, either Aaron (as high priest), or one of his sons. This implies that the determination of leprosy and the resulting quarantine were not only for sanitary purposes, but that they also had spiritual significance.

The first symptom: the hair around the affected spot became white and thin.

The second symptom: the "plague" or infection was deeper than the outer skin.

If the priest were unable to determine if the spot were indeed leprous, he was to "shut up" or "bind up the affected part" for seven days. If at the end of this week the matter were still inconclusive, he was to wait for another week.

If at the end of the second week the spot appeared darker and had not spread, the victim was pronounced clean. However, if the color were still "bright" or light, and if the infection had spread, the priest pronounced it to be leprosy.

Verses 9-11

Verses 9-11:

The text gives the rule for dealing with an unmistakable case of leprosy. When the three following symptoms were present, there was to be no waiting period before declaring the victim unclean:

1. A "rising" or skin sore;

2. The hair in and around the lesion turning white;

3. Quick, raw flesh underneath the "bright" or white scab.

Verses 12-17

Verses 12-17:

There was a disease similar to leprosy. It bore the name of leprosy, but it did not cause legal uncleanness. It was distinguished from true leprosy by the presence of white, flaky scales over the entire body, and the absence of raw flesh on or around any affected area. True leprosy on occasion progressed to a similar harmless phase. When this occurred, the priest pronounced the victim to be ceremonially and legally clean.

Verses 18-23

Verses 18-23:

This text prescribes the method to determine if an old, recurring ulcer be leprous. If the ulcer exhibit the characteristics of leprosy, the "bright" or raw flesh in the area sunken below the level of the skin, and having colorless and thinning hairs around the infected area, it was regarded as leprosy. The victim was declared unclean. If it did not have these characteristics, it was to be bandaged and observed for seven days. Should there be no spreading of the infection during that period, the victim was declared clean, and the infection was declared to be an ulcerous sore. The priest would then pronounce the victim to be clean.

Verses 24-28

Verses 24-28:

"If there be any flesh, in the skin whereof there is a hot burning," is literally, "If there be any flesh, in the skin whereof there is a burning of fire." It is so rendered in the marginal note in the KJV. This refers to a scar caused by a burn. Any inflammation occurring in a burn scar was to be scrutinized for the characteristics of leprosy. If such occurred, the victim was pronounced unclean. If there was no spread of the infection, the victim was pronounced clean.

A scar from a burn or an old ulcer was a likely place for leprosy to appear. This pictures a spiritual principle: that in the moral realm, sin is likely to recur in some old wound of the soul.

Verses 29-37

Verses 29-37:

The method of determining leprosy of the head or beard was the same as that for the ulcer and burn scar. The leprosy symptoms were the same, except that the hairs in the affected area were a yellowish tint rather than white. The treatment was the same, with the addition of shaving the head or beard except for the affected area.

If there were any doubt as to the diagnosis, the priest was to "shut up" or bandage the victim for a seven-day period. At the end of this time, an accurate diagnosis could be made.

The presence or absence of "black" or dark hair was an important factor in the diagnosis. Absence of black hair was reason to suspect leprosy. Presence of black hair was reason to declare the victim clean.

"Scaly" netheq, probably indicates such skin diseases as eczema, psoriasis, and impetigo. The latter is the only one of these which is highly contagious.

Verses 38-39

Verses 38, 39:

The text gives the method of determining whether a skin spot or blemish were leprous or not.

"Freckled spot," bohak, and bahereth (also translated "bright spot"). The apparent distinction between these two terms: bohak denotes a harmless freckle spot that may or may not be a skin eruption; bahereth denotes an eruption which may also be leprous.

The person having the bohak spots was considered clean.

Verses 40-44

Verses 40-44:

Leprosy causes the hair to fall from around the infected area. However, baldness, either total or partial, was not in itself considered unclean. Any eruption which appeared on a bald head was to be observed for leprosy after the manner previously prescribed.

Verses 45-46

Verses 45, 46:

This text prescribes the treatment of the one found to have leprosy and to be unclean by reason there, as follows:

1. His garments were to be rent (torn).

2. His head was made bare, and disheveled.

3. He must place a covering on his upper lip.

4. He must be isolated from all who were not afflicted with the disease. This does not mean that the leper must dwell alone. He could associate with others who had the disease, see 2 Kings 7:3; Lu 17:12.

5. When approached by anyone, he must cry out, "Unclean, unclean," as a warning of his quarantine.

The first three provisions were signs of mourning for the dead, Le 10:6; Eze 24:17. The covered lip was also a mark of shame, Mic 3:7.

"A Rabbinical saying ranks lepers with those who may be regarded as ’dead’. . Lepers were not allowed to go beyond their proper bounds, on pain of forty stripes. For every place which a leper entered was supposed to be defiled. They were, however, admitted to the synagogues, 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. It was but natural that they should consort together." ("The Temple, Its Ministry and Services," Alfred Edersheim)

Verses 47-59

Verses 47-59;

The leprosy of garments was probably leprosy by analogy, not the actual bacilli itself which caused the disease in humans. It was likely mildew fungi which resisted all attempts to remove.

Like its counterpart in humans, the "leprosy" in garments of wool, linen, or leather of any kind, was to be examined by the priest. If after seven days the discoloration had spread, it was to be regarded as leprosy, and the garment was burned a being unclean.

But if after seven days the discoloration had not spread, the garment was to be washed and then laid aside for seven more days If after this time the stain persisted, the garment was to be burned as unclean with leprosy.

If there were a darkening of the stain, the affected area was to be torn (or cut) from the garment, and the garment was to be washed again. Then it was pronounced clean.

Bibliographical Information
Garner, Albert & Howes, J.C. "Commentary on Leviticus 13". Garner-Howes Baptist Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/ghb/leviticus-13.html. 1985.
 
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