Bible Commentaries

Matthew Poole's English Annotations on the Holy Bible

Leviticus 13

Verse 2

In the skin, for there was the seat of the leprosy.

Bright spot, shining like the scale of a fish, as it is in the beginning of a leprosy.

Leprosy was a distemper most frequent in Egypt and Syria, &c., known also among the Greeks, who note that it was not so properly a disease as a defilement or distemper in the skin, whence Christ is not said to heal, but to cleanse the lepers that came to him. And this distemper is here provided against, not because it was worse than others, but because it was externally and visibly filthy, and because of its infectious nature, that hereby we might be instructed to avoid converse with such vicious persons who were likely to infect us.

He shall be brought unto Aaron the priest, not to the physician, because, as was now said, it needed not so much healing as cleansing, and was rather a ceremonial pollution than a disease; and because it belonged to the priest to cleanse him, and therefore to search and discover whether he was defiled and needed cleansing. The priest also was to admit to, or exclude from, the sanctuary, and therefore to examine who were to be excluded. And the discovery of this distemper was not so difficult that it required the physician’s art, but the priest, by experience, and the observation of those rules, might easily make it.

Verse 3

On the plague, i.e. the sign or appearance of the plague of leprosy. And it is observable, that the same signs of it are given by Moses here, and by the learned physicians in their works. And when the leprosy came to its height, not the hair only, but also the skin was turned white, as Exodus 4:6 Numbers 12:10. And this change of colour was an evidence both of the abundance of excrementitious humours, and of the weakness of nature, as we see in old and sick persons. Deeper than the skin; for the leprosy did consume both the skin and the flesh, as appears from 2 Kings 5:14.

Pronounce him unclean, Heb. make him unclean, i. e ministerially and declaratively, in which sense ministers are said to remit sins, Matthew 16:19, and to destroy nations, Jeremiah 1:10.

Verse 4

For greater assurance; to teach ministers not to be rash nor hasty in their judgments and censures, but diligently to search and examine all things beforehand.

The plague is here put for the man that hath the plague, as pride is put for a proud man, Jeremiah 50:31, and dreams for the dreamers, Jeremiah 27:9.

Verse 5

If the plague be at a stay: this translation is justified by the following clause, which is added to explain it. Otherwise the words are and may be rendered thus, stand or abide in its own colour; the Hebrew word being used for colour as well as for sight.

Verse 6

If the plague be somewhat dark; which is opposed to the white colour of the leprosy. But the word may be rendered, have contracted itself, or, be restrained or confined to its former place and bigness; and thus the opposition seems to be most clear to the spreading of itself, mentioned both in the foregoing verse, and in the following clause.

He shall wash his clothes, though it was no leprosy, but a scab only; to teach us, that no sin was so small which did not need to be washed by the blood of Christ, which was the thing designed by all these washings.

Verse 10

If the rising be white, to wit, with a preternatural and extraordinary whiteness, as Numbers 12:10. And there be; or rather, or, the copulative put for the disjunctive, as hath been noted before; for either of these were signs of a leprosy, and one of these may seem inconsistent with the other; the former sign of white hair supposing the skin in which the hair was to remain, and the latter of live flesh supposing the skin to be consumed by the leprosy.

Quick raw flesh showed that this was not a superficial leprosy, but one of a deeper and more malignant nature, that had eaten into the very flesh, for which cause it is in the next verse called an old, or inveterate, or grown leprosy.

Verse 13

If the leprosy, i.e. the sign or appearance of the leprosy; or the scab is called a leprosy, because at first view it seemed to be so to the priest, and to other beholders.

Have covered all his flesh: when it appeared in some one part, it discovered the ill humour which lurked within, and withal the inability of nature to expel it; but when it overspread all, it manifested the strength of nature conquering the distemper, and purging out the ill humours into the outward parts.

Verse 14

In him, or rather, in it, i.e. in the place where the sign or appearance of leprosy was, when the flesh was partly changed into a whiter colour, and partly kept its natural colour; this variety of colours was an evidence of the leprosy, as one and the same colour continuing was a sign of soundness.

Verse 15

The raw flesh is unclean: this is repeated again and again, because raw or living flesh might rather seem a sign of soundness, and the priest might easily be deceived by it, and therefore he was more narrowly to look into it, and to observe the place and manner and other circumstances in which it appeared.

Verse 16

Be changed unto white; it is usual with sores, when they begin to be healed, the skin, which is white, coming upon the flesh.

Verse 19

Somewhat reddish, i.e. white mixed with red, as when blood and milk are mixed together. A late learned writer renders the words thus, white and very bright, or light, which indeed is the true colour of leprosy, to wit, when it is in its perfection, as Exodus 4:6, &c. But here it was only beginning and arising out of a bile, in which together with the white, which was the colour of the leprosy, there might be some mixture of redness arising from the bile, or that part of it which was not yet turned into the nature and colour of leprosy.

Verse 21

But be somewhat dark, or, and be contracted; of which Leviticus 13:6.

Verse 22

Or, the plague, to wit, of leprosy, of which he is speaking.

Verse 24

A hot burning, Heb. a burning of fire, by the touch of any hot iron, or burning coals, which doth naturally and usually make an ulcer or sore in which the following spot is. Or white, i.e. or only white, without any mixture of red in it. This clause seems to overthrow that exposition of the Hebrew word adamdam which is given by a learned man, Leviticus 13:19, because this colour which is here said to be only white, is distinguished from that which is here called adamdam, which therefore must be some other colour than that of snow, which though very light or bright, yet is only white.

Verse 26

Somewhat dark, or, contracted, i.e. not spreading. See Leviticus 13:6.

Verse 28

i.e. Arising from the burning mentioned Leviticus 13:24.

Verse 30

The leprosy in the body turned the hair white, in the head or beard it turned it yellow. And if a man’s hair was yellow before, this might easily be distinguished from the rest, either by the thinness or smallness of it, which is here noted, or by its peculiar kind of yellow, for there are divers kinds or degrees of the same colour manifestly differing one from another, as in green colours, &c.

Verse 31

And that there is no black hair in it; for had that appeared, it had ended the doubt, the black hair being a sign of soundness and strength of nature, Leviticus 13:37, as the yellow hair was a sign of unsoundness.

Verse 33

He shall be shaven, for the more certain discovery of the growth or stay of the plague.

Verse 36

He need not search for the hair, or any other sign, the spreading or running of it being a sure sign of leprosy, without any other evidence.

Verse 37

The truth of the thing, and not the sentence of the priest, made him clean; and if the priest had partially pronounced one clean who was not clean, his sentence had been null. And therefore it is a fond and dangerous conceit to think that the absolution given to any sinner by a priest will stand him in any stead if he do not truly repent.

Verse 39

Darkish white, or contracted, or confined to the place where they are, and white.

Verse 42

It is a sign that such baldness came not from age or any accident, but from the leprosy.

Verse 45

His clothes shall be rent, to wit, in the upper and former parts, which were most visible. This was done, partly, as a token of sorrow, Ezra 9:3,5 Job 2:12, because though this was not a sin, yet it was an effect of sin, and a sore punishment, whereby he was cut off both from converse with men, and from the enjoyment of God in his ordinances; partly, as a warning to others to keep at a due distance from him wheresoever he came; and partly, as some add, that it might conduce to his cure, by giving the freer vent to the ill humours. But the exposing of the affected part to the cold would rather hinder than further evaporation.

His head bare; another sign of mourning, as appears from Leviticus 10:6. God would have men, though not overwhelmed with, yet deeply sensible of, his judgments.

A covering upon his upper lip; partly as another badge of his sorrow and shame, as Ezekiel 24:17,22 Mic 3:7; and partly for the preservation of others from his infectious breath or touch. Unclean, unclean; as begging the pity and prayers of others, and confessing his own infirmity, and cautioning those who came near him to keep at a distance from him.

Verse 46

Partly, for his humiliation; partly, to prevent the infection of others; and partly, to show the danger of converse with spiritual lepers or notorious sinners. This rule excludes the society of sound persons, but not of lepers. See 2 Kings 15:5 2 Chronicles 26:21.

Without the camp; so Numbers 12:14; and afterward without cities and places of great concourse, whereof we have examples, 2 Kings 7:3 Luke 17:12.

Verse 47

Leprosy in garments and houses is unknown in these times and places, which is not strange, there being some diseases or distempers peculiar to some ages and countries, as the learned have noted. And that such a thing was among the Jews cannot reasonably be doubted; for if Moses had been a deceiver, as some have impudently affirmed, a man of his wisdom would not have exposed himself to the disbelief and contempt of his people by giving laws about that which their experience showed to be but a fiction.

A woollen garment, or a linen garment, are put by a synecdoche for any other garments.

Verse 48

In the warp, or woof; a learned man renders it, in the outside, or in the inside of it. If the signification of these words be doubtful or unknown now, as some of those of the living creatures and precious stones are confessed to be, it is not material to us, this law being abolished; it sufficeth that the Jews understood these things by frequent experience.

Verse 55

If the plague have not changed his colour; if washing doth not take away that vicious colour, and restore it to its own native colour.

Bare within or without; in the outside of the garment, which is here called the forehead or foreside, as being most visible, or in the inside of it. Some of the Jewish doctors understood it thus, whether the garment was made threadbare by the leprosy, or by former wearing of it.

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Bibliographical Information
Poole, Matthew, "Commentary on Leviticus 13". Matthew Poole's English Annotations on the Holy Bible. 1685.