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The more we have learned what Leviticus 12 wants to say to us, the more we will be preserved for what we find in this chapter.
This chapter is about the outbreak or a possible outbreak of leprosy in a member of God's people. Leprosy is a picture of the outbreak of sin, which also makes unclean everyone who comes into contact with it. Leprosy is also used by God as a punishment for sin with Miriam, Uzziah and Gehazi (Numbers 12:5-2 Samuel :; 2 Kings 5:20-Daniel :; 2 Chronicles 26:16-Ecclesiastes :). It is a disease that starts small and spreads slowly throughout the body, until the whole body is sick. It is an incurable disease that only God can cure (2 Kings 5:7). The appearance is distorted by it, the leper gets a repulsive appearance.
The leper in this and the next chapter is not a picture of the sinner who lives in the world without God. These chapters are about a member of the people of God. With someone who has been hiding behind the blood of the lamb, leprosy can occur. It is the picture of sin that breaks out in a believer. It is something that is small, but gets bigger and bigger, until sin breaks out in all its intensity. Such a person must be excluded. It is humbling that this is such a long chapter. It proves how much we need this ‘treatment of evil’.
Many different facets in which sin can manifest itself are brought to our attention. It must therefore bring us to self-judgment. If in practice we are priests – in principle every believer is, but not every believer lives as such – then we must first apply these things to ourselves. But then also on others. That is not only to condemn sin, but also to help the sinner, and especially to keep God’s dwelling place clean.
Suspicion of Leprosy
The LORD speaks to Moses and Aaron about this important matter: outbreak of leprosy in a member of his people. This leprosy can present itself in different ways. Its symptoms appear on the skin. A swelling may appear. In the spiritual application a swelling is what inflates, pride. A severe form of being puffed-up is, for example, that of the pride of having knowledge of God’s Word (1 Corinthians 8:1).
A scab may also appear. A scab or an ulcer is an ostentatious wound. We can apply this, for example, to injustice that has been done to us and that we still cannot forgive. It keeps rooting in us and when we are reminded of the person or the act, the anger in us flares up. Not being able to forgive can become a lack of forgivingness over time. A root of bitterness then arises that pollutes both the person and others (Hebrews 12:15).
The third symptom that may indicate leprosy is a bright spot. We can apply this to, for example, enjoying sin (Hebrews 11:25). It is sin that has a certain attraction, but always deceives us (Hebrews 3:13).
Whoever is suspected of leprosy must be brought to the priest. The decisive factor is not what the leper thinks of it, but the judgment of the priest. When you are suspected of leprosy, it is not appropriate to talk about ‘a triviality to which you should pay no further attention’. Someone who is sincere will want to cooperate in the investigation. The priest is the Lord Jesus. He is never mistaken. The point is not whether someone feels leprous, but whether he is.
Not every sin that a believer does is leprosy. Sometimes a sin indicates it, but after investigation it may appear that it is not. Someone who says or does something in drift, sins. If this is of short duration, there is no state of leprosy. However, if someone persists in his attitude, if it turns out that the evil is deeper than just a temper, there is talk of leprosy. Leprosy does not primarily indicate what someone has done, but what someone is. Sin breaks out because of the indwelling sin. Leprosy indicates the source, the cause, not the act.
The investigation must be done by the priest, by someone who is used to being in the presence of God. He knows God’s thoughts and knows how to apply them correctly, both to himself and to others. A priest in practice is a spiritual brother or sister, to whom the first verse of Galatians 6 applies (Galatians 6:1).
The investigation is to help the (possible) leper. In case he is not leprous, it is a great sin to remove him from the camp. No haste is needed. If it is not immediately clear that it is leprosy, a person suspected of leprosy must be isolated for seven days. Seven days of investigation speaks of a complete period.
The case where someone has a bright spot is discussed in more detail. The proof that it is leprosy is provided when the hair on that white spot has also turned white. It is not only a white spot, but what emerges from it has the same appearance. White hair is not a deterrent. Sin does not always scare off; it can even seem attractive. Nevertheless, there is talk of leprosy and such a person must be pronounced unclean. The hair has turned white when, for example, someone insists, contrary to the Scriptures, that the forsaking of meetings of the church is a free choice (Hebrews 10:25).
Before there is talk of white hair, there may first be a bright spot. Such a bright spot is for example when we notice that someone prays less and reads less in the Bible and visits the meetings less. It seems to indicate that fellowship with the Lord is no longer so important. Priestly investigation must show whether this is due to sin in life or whether there are other causes, such as illness, weakness, disappointment.
The investigation into the cause takes place in all rest: twice seven days. If there is no clarity, we have to wait, each time for a complete period. It really must be proven, earlier there will be no pronouncement or otherwise acquittal. We must wait until the Lord makes the matter clear. The Lord Jesus points to this rest in the investigation when He indicates how to deal with a brother who is sinning (Matthew 18:15-Esther :).
“Chronic leprosy” is an old leprosy. It is a leprosy that has been there for a long time, but is now coming out. The form in which it happens is in a white swelling with white hair and raw flesh in the swelling. In this, another aspect of leprosy emerges, namely leprosy as a picture of sin in man’s own will. If man’s own will proves itself, if his own will is not kept in death, but is always present asleep, a swelling will arise and raw flesh will become visible.
A certain sin can be cherished for a long time in the form of thoughts. If that thinking is not judged, this thinking will betray itself in the way of speaking and will finally lead to action. In this case, no further investigation is necessary. The priest will have to pronounce the “unclean” immediately.
Here we see the case of someone who is totally leprous – he is “covered with leprosy” (Luke 5:12) – and who is pronounced clean. That is the picture of someone in whom sin has had its full development and who confesses this. That makes it clean. As long as someone lives in sin and evil has not yet had its full effect, it will go from bad to worse. But whoever is completely bound in it, whoever is leprous from head to foot and goes to the priest, is pronounced clean. There is nothing more that can become leprous.
We see this in someone who no longer hides anything, but says the full truth (Mark 5:33). Sin is confessed without withholding anything, the whole life in sin is judged. We are then dealing with someone who no longer seeks any excuse for his sinful state (Luke 5:8; Luke 5:12Luke 18:13; Romans 7:18; Job 42:6; Isaiah 6:5). Only through a complete confession can a person become clean.
The priest cannot heal. He can only pronounce clean. God alone can heal someone. The Lord Jesus did it during His life on earth. He is God! He can touch a leper without becoming unclean himself and say, “I am willing; be cleansed!” with the result: “And immediately his leprosy was cleansed” (Matthew 8:3). He commands lepers to go to the priest with the prescribed offering, but also “as a testimony to them” (Luke 5:14), that is, the priests must notice that God is present. The testimony of healing is that God – only He can heal leprosy – appeared in Christ – He has healed the leprosy. Only God can bring a person to confession. He does so on the basis of the work of the Lord Jesus as the “Advocate with the Father” (1 John 2:1). The ‘priests’ can be used to bring someone to confession.
After someone has been declared clean, there may be a relapse. Someone can fall into sin again. Then he must be pronounced unclean again. If sin is then removed again, he is also pronounced clean again. With God, return is possible every time sin is truly confessed. A sincere confession is no guarantee that sin will never be committed again. God knows this and keeps the door open to come back with confession (cf. Matthew 18:21-Song of Solomon :). There must be the intention not to sin anymore (Proverbs 28:13).
Whoever is completely leprous, but still shows raw flesh, will not be pronounced clean. An application of this is the sinner who recognizes himself as a sinner, but in whom sin is still active. It is the people who say “I have sinned”, but still continue to serve sin, like Pharaoh (Exodus 9:27; Exodus 10:16), Balaam (Numbers 22:34) and Saul (1 Samuel 15:24).
In the Place of the Boil
At the place of a healed boil, a white swelling or a reddish-white, bright spot occurs. The priest must investigate whether there is leprosy. Investigation should show whether someone is clean or unclean. There also has to be looked deeper than the surface. A person is pronounced unclean if it is spread farther, which shows that the infection is effective and therefore dangerous.
An infection can be temporary. The seven days of isolation will prove it. An outburst of anger can have a one-off character. But it has to be checked if there is anything present that indicates that the cause of the anger is not gone. This can be seen from the friction that remains with the person to whom the anger is directed or the attitude that is adopted.
In the Place of a Burn
A burn on the skin can also show symptoms of leprosy. The raw flesh “becomes a bright spot, reddish-white, or white”. The priest must look at the hair on that spot, because that indicates what is under the surface. He must look deeper than just the appearance and not rely on appearances. Depending on the outcome of the investigation, possibly after seven days of isolation, the priest will pronounce him clean or unclean.
The burn can be applied to irritations, touchy. If there are things that annoy us, what is our reaction? It can go in the inner feelings, the criticism spreads, and finally nothing is good anymore. This attitude of anger and bitterness should be judged. If that happens in self-judgment, such a person is clean. If this does not happen, evil will continue to spread and someone will have to be removed as an evil one. This is only possible after thorough and full investigation.
Leprosy of the Head
Leprosy on the head or in the beard is the worst form of leprosy. The investigation shall be carried out in the same way as in the other cases. But the pronouncing of uncleanness takes place in more serious, more emphatic terms: the priest shall “surely pronounce” him unclean (Leviticus 13:44). This is understandable when we consider that leprosy on the head has to do with thinking. Anyone who has unholy thoughts about the Lord Jesus or God’s Word is a great danger to his surroundings. There should be no dealings with a false teacher (2 John 1:11; 2 Timothy 2:17-Song of Solomon :).
Leprosy on the head represents having one’s own ideas. It points to the reasoning of the things of God with the human mind, the pride of the intellect. It is the assumption of a place in the things of God that do not belong to him. It is not for nothing that God strikes Uzziah with leprosy at his forehead (2 Chronicles 26:16; 2 Chronicles 26:20).
Acknowledgment of Uncleanness
The leper must indicate by his appearance and by his confession that he is unclean. He must also be removed from the daily contact with his fellow citizens, as happened with Uzziah (2 Chronicles 26:21). Everything is a protection for God’s people, but above all a duty to the holiness of God Who dwells with His people. He cannot tolerate sin in His presence. The leper is excluded and may not enter the sanctuary. In the church too, the evil must be removed from the midst (1 Corinthians 5:13).
The leper is forced to acknowledge his uncleanness. In a spiritual sense, this is not a confession that can be seen as a beginning of restoration. Restoration only comes when there is repentance of sin. This restoration begins by crying “unclean!, unclean!”, followed by “Jesus, Master, have mercy on us!”, as the ten leper men do who meet the Lord Jesus (Luke 17:12-1 Chronicles :).
Torn clothes indicate that there is no covering for God. The uncovered or disheveled hair of the head symbolizes the acknowledgment of the head exposed to God’s wrath. To cover the moustache was a sign of mourning (Ezekiel 24:17; Ezekiel 24:22; Micah 3:7). This was generally done by throwing the skirt of the garment over the lower part of the chin. To cover the moustache or upper lip is to see that nothing can be said that is to the glory of God. The only thing that such a person can proclaim is his own uncleanness.
Leprosy on Fabrics
Leprosy can occur not only in people, as described so far, but also in clothing. The next chapter also mentions leprosy on houses (Leviticus 14:33-2 Thessalonians :). Leprosy in clothing speaks of sin in behavior, in attitude, in what is seen of someone. People are what is present in someone, clothing is what is seen to or from someone.
In this sense Jude also uses it in his letter when he writes: “hating even the garment polluted by the flesh” (Jude 1:23). Jude writes that in connection with helping others who have come under the power of sin to be released from it. He warns that this help will not result in the care provider himself being affected by the defilement in which the others find themselves. He must hate every touch, every influence of uncleanness on his behavior – presented in “the garment polluted by the flesh” – and keep far away from him.
The importance of a garment is the meaning it has. Thus is the tunic of the Lord Jesus “seamless, woven in one piece” (John 19:23). This is a symbolic indication of Who He Himself is. His conduct, His way of acting, His whole revelation is perfect, from His coming from above, from heaven, to His return to heaven. There is never any wrong or contradiction in what He says or does.
We may have ‘leprosy’ in our habits, in our behavior, in the profession we exercise, in the places we go to. It concerns everything that the people around us perceive of us. They do not hear what we have to say in the first place, but they see how we live.
If the mark of leprosy in a garment has spread after seven days of quarantine, it must be burned. If there is no spreading, it must be washed and quarantined again for seven days. If it turns out that the disease has spread anyway, it still has to be burned with fire. The water of the cleansing did not help. If there is no spread, the marked area must be torn out of the garment.
This treatment of the garment on which the mark is seen shows in pictures that the Word of God must be applied to our external behavior, our habits, and not just to our hearts. There are professions that a believer cannot exercise. Think of the owner of a bar or dealer in slot machines and all kinds of other professions that incite people to sin. When a person comes to faith, he will change his profession in these cases. There are also professions of which certain sub-parts can be sinful, for example, to declare an amount in excess of the actual costs. These can be ‘torn out’. The rest is preserved. The Word of God is indispensable as a guideline in this.
The danger is not the clothing itself, but that it affects the person. I can live in an environment that is not good. Then I have to ‘burn’ it, which for me means that I have to leave and live somewhere else. I can work in an environment that poses a special danger to me, for example, that a Christian must behave in a worldly way as a hostess and for that she must give up her Christian identity. Perhaps that part of the work could be ‘torn out’ by asking if she does not need to perform that task. If that is not possible, it may become necessary to change jobs.
Kingcomments on the Whole Bible © 2021 Author: G. de Koning. All rights reserved. Used with the permission of the author
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de Koning, Ger. Commentaar op Leviticus 13". "Kingcomments on the Whole Bible". https://www.studylight.org/
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