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Bible Commentaries
Leviticus 13

Benson's Commentary of the Old and New TestamentsBenson's Commentary


A.M. 2514. B.C. 1490.

Rules whereby the priest was to judge of the leprosy, Leviticus 13:1-44 . Directions concerning the leper, Leviticus 13:45 , Leviticus 13:46 . Concerning the leprosy in garments, Leviticus 13:47-59 .

Verse 1

Leviticus 13:1. This law is directed to Aaron as well as Moses, because he and his sons were to be judges, to determine, according to certain rules, what was clean and what unclean.

Verse 2

Leviticus 13:2. A rising, a scab, or bright spot The leprosy appeared in one of these three forms. Now, as these marks might sometimes be upon the skin when there was no leprosy, rules are here given whereby the priests might discern between a plague of leprosy and the resemblance of it; that accordingly they might pronounce a person clean or unclean. Some of the symptoms of the leprosy here described are of a very extraordinary nature, particularly its infecting houses and garments. This has led several of the learned, Le Clerc in particular, to imagine that Moses’s leprosy was one of those diseases which Providence occasionally inflicts upon mankind in certain ages and countries, as a chastisement for peculiar sins, and to bring them to repentance and reformation. Thus much is certain, that what we now call the leprosy is very different from what went by that name in former times.

Verse 3

Leviticus 13:3. The priest shall look on the plague In some dubious cases, the priest might find it convenient to take the judgment of physicians, or of persons who understood the theory of diseases better than himself; but, as he was to admit to or exclude from the sanctuary, he alone was to give judgment, and pronounce who were clean or unclean, and, as such, to be admitted or excluded. When the hair is turned white He begins with the last of the three marks of a leprosy, namely, the bright spot. The reason of the hair’s turning white is thus assigned by Calmet, in his Dissertation on the Leprosy: “The flesh,” says he, “ceasing to receive its proper nourishment from the blood, which gave it its former vivid colour, the hair, which has its root in the corrupted, empoverished glands, becomes likewise ill-nourished, and so grows whitish and slender, like a plant in stony, parched ground.” His flesh For the leprosy consumed both the skin and the flesh.

Verse 4

Leviticus 13:4. Seven days For greater assurance; to teach ministers not to be hasty in their judgments, but diligently to search and examine all things beforehand. The plague is here put in the original for the man that hath the plague.

Verse 6

Leviticus 13:6. Dark Contrary to the white colour of the leprosy. But the word may be rendered, have contracted itself, and thus the opposition seems to be most clear to the spreading of itself. He shall wash his clothes Though it was no leprosy, to teach us, that no sin is so small as not to need to be washed by the blood of Christ, which was the thing designed by all these washings.

Verses 9-10

Leviticus 13:9-10. When the plague of leprosy (symptoms thereof) is in a man If the priest plainly see that it has reached not only the skin, and changed the hair, but eaten into the very flesh, so that he can see the whiteness there, as well as in the skin, he shall look upon it as an evident case, and without shutting him up for further trial, shall judge it a leprosy that has long been breeding, and of the worst kind, and accordingly shall remove the person out of the camp, that he may dwell by himself, Leviticus 13:46.

Verse 13

Leviticus 13:13. If the leprosy have covered all the flesh It may seem strange that a man who is all over leprous should be pronounced clean, and yet one who is but partially leprous should be unclean. To explain this it has been said, that when the disorder appeared only in some one part, or in a few parts, it discovered the ill humour that 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. So that this sort of breaking out was rather a relief to the body than a disease; and there was no danger in the eruption. The most solid account, however, of this matter is, that this kind of leprosy was not infectious, and for that reason, he who was affected with it, is here pronounced clean. In confirmation of this we are told, that this white, or universal leprosy, is not attended with an itching, as in the other kinds.

Verse 14

Leviticus 13:14. When raw (Hebrew, when living) flesh appeareth in him That is, when some of the flesh appears in its sound and natural state, the rest of the skin being white. This was a token of nature’s being unable to throw out all the leprous humour into the skin, and of its working inwardly. Consequently the person in that state was to be pronounced unclean.

Verse 15

Leviticus 13:15. The raw flesh 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.

Verse 16

Leviticus 13:16. Unto white As it is usual with sores, when they begin to be healed, the skin, which is white, coming upon the flesh.

Verses 21-24

Leviticus 13:21-24. Dark Or, and be contracted. A plague Or, the plague of leprosy, of which he is speaking. A hot burning A burning of fire, by the touch of any hot iron, or burning coals, which naturally makes an ulcer or sore in which the following spot is.

Verse 28

Leviticus 13:28. Of the burning Arising from the burning, mentioned Leviticus 13:24.

Verse 29

Leviticus 13:29. Upon the head or beard Pliny tells us, that a kind of disease came into Italy in the middle of the reign of Tiberius Cesar, which commonly began in the chin, and was therefore called mentagra, and was so filthy, that any death was preferable to it. It was a foul tetter, scab, or scurf, not unlike a ring-worm, which, from the chin, often ran over the face, the neck, the breast, and the hands. Was not this similar to this plague of leprosy in the beard and head here spoken of? Bishop Patrick thinks it was. And Maimonides tells us that, in this sort of leprosy, the hair on the head or beard fell off by the roots, and the place of the hair remained bare.

Verse 30

Leviticus 13:30. A yellow thin hair 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, or by its peculiar kind of yellow, for there are divers kinds of the same colour, manifestly differing from one another.

Verses 31-33

Leviticus 13:31 ; Leviticus 13:33. No black hair For had that appeared, it had ended the doubt, the black hair being a sign of soundness and strength of nature, as this yellow hair was a sign of unsoundness. He shall be shaven For the more certain discovery of the growth or stay of the plague.

Verse 36

Leviticus 13:36. He shall not seek He need not search for the hair, or any other sign, the spreading of it being a sure sign of leprosy.

Verses 39-42

Leviticus 13:39 ; Leviticus 13:42. If the spots be darkish white When there was no other symptom but that of whiteness in the skin, the priest was to be cautious not to pronounce it a leprosy, unless the spots were perfectly bright; for if there was any cloudiness in them, it was not a leprosy. And he is informed that a man’s losing his hair by sickness or age, which made him bald, must not be taken for a sign of leprosy. But, (Leviticus 13:42,) If there were a white reddish sore It was a sign that such baldness came not from age, nor any accident, but from the leprosy.

Verse 45

Leviticus 13:45. His clothes shall be rent Whatever Israelite was found and declared by the priest to be a leper, was to be in the condition of a mourner, and in all respects to behave as such, that he might sensibly declare his afflicted state. 1st, His clothes were to be rent in the upper and fore parts, which were most visible, and this partly as a token of his sorrow, because, though his disorder 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; and partly as a warning to others to keep at a due distance from him wheresoever he came. 2d, His head was to be bare, which was another sign of mourning. God would have men, although not overwhelmed with, yet deeply sensible of his judgments. 3d, He was to cover his upper lip, either, perhaps, with his hand, or with the skirt of his garment, partly as a badge of his sorrow, and shame, (see Ezekiel 24:17-22; Micah 3:7,) and partly for the preservation of others from his breath or touch. According to the Hebrew doctors, by covering the lip was implied, that the leper was not to salute any man all the days of his uncleanness. 4th, He was to cry, unclean, unclean. As begging the pity and prayers of others, and confessing his own infirmity, and cautioning those that came near him to keep at a distance from him. To this Jeremiah alludes, (Lamentations 4:15,) They cried unto them, Depart ye: it is unclean: depart, depart, touch not.

Verse 46

Leviticus 13:46. He shall dwell alone For his humiliation, to prevent the infection of others, and to show the danger of converse with spiritual lepers, or notorious sinners. Without the camp shall his habitation be See Numbers 5:2. In after times they were shut out of the cities, as now out of the camp, (2 Kings 7:3,) and there they dwelt by themselves, 2 Kings 15:5; and so it was among other nations.

Verse 47

Leviticus 13:47. Leprosy in garments and houses is unknown in these times and places, which is not strange, there being some diseases peculiar to some ages and countries. And that such a thing was among the Jews, cannot reasonably be doubted; for, if Moses had been a deceiver, a man of his wisdom would not have exposed himself to the contempt of his people, by giving laws about that which their experience showed to be but a fiction.

Verse 48

Leviticus 13:48. 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 now, as some of those concerning 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

Leviticus 13:55. If it have not changed its colour If washing doth not take away that vicious colour, and restore it to its own native colour.

Verse 59

Leviticus 13:59. This is the law of the plague of leprosy in a garment The learned confess that this leprosy in a garment was a sign and a miracle in Israel; an extraordinary punishment inflicted by the divine power, as a token of great displeasure against a person or family. The garment suspected to be tainted was not to be burned immediately; for in no case must sentence be given merely upon a surmise; but it must be shown to the priest. If, upon search, it was found that there was a leprous spot, (the Jews say, no bigger than a bean,) it was to be burned, or at least that part of it in which the spot was. If the cause of the suspicion were gone, yet it must be washed, and then it might be used, Leviticus 13:58. This was intended to intimate the great malignity which there is in sin. It not only defiles the sinner’s conscience, but it brings a stain on all his employments and enjoyments, all he has, and all he doeth. To them that are defiled and unbelieving is nothing pure, Titus 1:14. And we are hereby taught to hate even the garments spotted with the flesh, Judges 1:23. Those that make their clothes servants to their pride and lust, may see them thereby tainted with a leprosy, and doomed to the fire, Isaiah 3:18; Isaiah 3:24; but the ornament of the hidden man of the heart is incorruptible, 1 Peter 3:4. The robes of righteousness never fret nor are moth eaten.

Bibliographical Information
Benson, Joseph. "Commentary on Leviticus 13". Benson's Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/rbc/leviticus-13.html. 1857.
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