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Bible Commentaries

Peake's Commentary on the Bible

Leviticus 13

Introduction

Leviticus 13, 14. Spreading and Non-spreading Diseases. The distinction between them; precautions to be observed with leprosy; infected garments and the law of cleansing houses; infected houses.— The exact disease referred to by the Heb. word for “ leprosy” is uncertain. Naturally no true medical diagnosis is given; the symptoms that are mentioned point to one or more kinds of skin disease, perhaps ringworm, or even a harmless fungoid growth known as lepraria. For houses, some kind of dry-rot seems intended; for garments, mould or mildew. In regard to the human disease, if leprosy is intended, the symptoms here mentioned are not the most striking, scientifically or popularly. There is no mention of the swelling of features or limbs, the dropping off of the extremities, or anæ sthesia; nor can this silence well be explained by the suggestion that only the initial or quasi-symptoms are referred to, as the cure is also considered. The cause of true leprosy is said to be eating putrid food, especially fish. It is rare in Palestine to-day, though skin diseases are common enough. No help is gained from the narratives in OT or NT. Naaman ( 2 Kings 5:1; cf. 2 Kings 15:5) was not isolated. True leprosy may be inherited; tuberculous leprosy is not curable. Nothing is here said of any medical treatment; the priest merely pronounces; there is no analogy to the Greek priests of Asclepios. The real interest of the code is ritual, not medical or hygienic.

Verses 1-59

Leviticus 13:1-44 . General Procedure.— Certain classes of signs arouse suspicion. The priest is to inspect. If he sees them to be distinctly leprous, the patient is to be so treated; otherwise he is to be secluded for one or two periods of seven days; if there is no further spreading, he is discharged clean.”

Leviticus 13:1-8 . First Case.— A ring or scab on the flesh. If there are white hairs more than skin-deep, the disease is present.

Leviticus 13:9-17 . Recovery of Cleanness.— The grounds for deciding as to whether the leprosy has run its course are as follows; if the hair is white and there is raw flesh, the patient needs no isolation for inspection purposes, the decision can be made at once; but if he is white all over, the disease is regarded as at an end; probably a case of leucoderma is in mind.

Leviticus 13:18-23 . Second Case.— A bright or pale spot occurring after a boil. The word for boil is used in connexion with Job’ s disease ( Job 2:7).

Leviticus 13:24-28 . Third Case.— Symptoms in a burned place the same appearances are to be looked for by the priest.

Leviticus 13:29-37 . Fourth Case.— Ringworm. The word translated “ scall” is from a root meaning to rub or scratch; an itching place. Here, the spreading occasions the danger.

Leviticus 13:38-44 . Fifth and Sixth Cases.— If the white spots are only dull, the eruptions are harmless. The root of the Heb. word for “ tetter” signifies “ shining.” An inflamed appearance constitutes what is dangerous; and here no isolation for inspection is necessary.

Leviticus 13:45 f. Duty of the Infected Person.— He is to tear his clothes, like a mourner; his hair is to be unkempt ( Leviticus 10:6), marking him out at once; and he is to cover his mouth— perhaps an ancient precaution to prevent the entrance or exit of a demon. Strikingly similar are the regulations for medieval lepers and pariahs in India; but how different from the attitude of Christ! Shrinking from ritual uncleanness is here clearly connected with popular and quite uninstructed fear and disgust.

Leviticus 13:47-59 . Leprosy in Garments.— No mere disease of wool is meant, or why should skin garments be included? The same isolation is prescribed as for human beings; the infected garment is to be burnt. If there is no sign of spreading, there is to be washing and further seclusion. A further inspection is then to take place. If the garment is found to be as it was before, in spite of the washing, the whole garment must be burnt; if it is dulled, the infected part is to be torn out and burnt; if there is a further appearance, the garment must be burnt; if not, after a second washing, the ban is removed.

Verses 1-59

Leviticus 13:1-44 . General Procedure.— Certain classes of signs arouse suspicion. The priest is to inspect. If he sees them to be distinctly leprous, the patient is to be so treated; otherwise he is to be secluded for one or two periods of seven days; if there is no further spreading, he is discharged clean.”

Leviticus 13:1-8 . First Case.— A ring or scab on the flesh. If there are white hairs more than skin-deep, the disease is present.

Leviticus 13:9-17 . Recovery of Cleanness.— The grounds for deciding as to whether the leprosy has run its course are as follows; if the hair is white and there is raw flesh, the patient needs no isolation for inspection purposes, the decision can be made at once; but if he is white all over, the disease is regarded as at an end; probably a case of leucoderma is in mind.

Leviticus 13:18-23 . Second Case.— A bright or pale spot occurring after a boil. The word for boil is used in connexion with Job’ s disease ( Job 2:7).

Leviticus 13:24-28 . Third Case.— Symptoms in a burned place the same appearances are to be looked for by the priest.

Leviticus 13:29-37 . Fourth Case.— Ringworm. The word translated “ scall” is from a root meaning to rub or scratch; an itching place. Here, the spreading occasions the danger.

Leviticus 13:38-44 . Fifth and Sixth Cases.— If the white spots are only dull, the eruptions are harmless. The root of the Heb. word for “ tetter” signifies “ shining.” An inflamed appearance constitutes what is dangerous; and here no isolation for inspection is necessary.

Leviticus 13:45 f. Duty of the Infected Person.— He is to tear his clothes, like a mourner; his hair is to be unkempt ( Leviticus 10:6), marking him out at once; and he is to cover his mouth— perhaps an ancient precaution to prevent the entrance or exit of a demon. Strikingly similar are the regulations for medieval lepers and pariahs in India; but how different from the attitude of Christ! Shrinking from ritual uncleanness is here clearly connected with popular and quite uninstructed fear and disgust.

Leviticus 13:47-59 . Leprosy in Garments.— No mere disease of wool is meant, or why should skin garments be included? The same isolation is prescribed as for human beings; the infected garment is to be burnt. If there is no sign of spreading, there is to be washing and further seclusion. A further inspection is then to take place. If the garment is found to be as it was before, in spite of the washing, the whole garment must be burnt; if it is dulled, the infected part is to be torn out and burnt; if there is a further appearance, the garment must be burnt; if not, after a second washing, the ban is removed.

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Bibliographical Information
Peake, Arthur. "Commentary on Leviticus 13". "Peake's Commentary on the Bible ". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/pfc/leviticus-13.html. 1919.