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Verse-by-Verse Bible Commentary

Leviticus 13:45

"As for the leper who has the infection, his clothes shall be torn, and the hair of his head shall be uncovered, and he shall cover his mustache and cry, ‘Unclean! Unclean!'
New American Standard Version

Bible Study Resources

Nave's Topical Bible - Defilement;   Mourning;   Sanitation;   Thompson Chain Reference - Lepers;   Uncleanness, Ceremonial;   Torrey's Topical Textbook - Head;   Leprosy;   Priests;   Sickness;  
American Tract Society Bible Dictionary - Hair;   Bridgeway Bible Dictionary - Leprosy;   Baker Evangelical Dictionary of Biblical Theology - Heal, Health;   Offerings and Sacrifices;   Easton Bible Dictionary - Mourn;   Fausset Bible Dictionary - Leper;   Mourning;   Holman Bible Dictionary - Beard;   Leviticus;   Lips;   Hastings' Dictionary of the Bible - Clean and Unclean;   Head;   Numbers, Book of;   Priests and Levites;   Hastings' Dictionary of the New Testament - Excommunication (2);   The Hawker's Poor Man's Concordance And Dictionary - Leper;   Smith Bible Dictionary - Mourning;  
International Standard Bible Encyclopedia - Leper;   Lip;   The Jewish Encyclopedia - Baldness;   Commandments, the 613;   Sidra;  

Adam Clarke Commentary

Verse 45. His clothes shall be rent, c. — The leprous person is required to be as one that mourned for the dead, or for some great and public calamity. He was to have his clothes rent in token of extreme sorrow his head was to be made bare, the ordinary bonnet or turban being omitted; and he was to have a covering upon his upper lip, his jaws being tied up With a linen cloth, after the same manner in which the Jews bind up the dead, which custom is still observed among the Jews in Barbary on funeral occasions: a custom which, from Ezekiel 24:17, we learn had prevailed very anciently among the Jews in Palestine. He was also to cry, Unclean, unclean, in order to prevent any person from coming near him, lest the contagion might be thus communicated and diffused through society; and hence the Targumist render it, Be not ye made unclean! Be not ye made unclean! A caution to others not to come near him.

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Clarke, Adam. "Commentary on Leviticus 13:45". "The Adam Clarke Commentary". 1832.

Bridgeway Bible Commentary

Detection of leprosy (13:1-59)

Biblical scholars and medical scientists alike have shown that the leprosy the Old Testament speaks of was not always the disease that we know as leprosy today. The word had a broad meaning that covered a number of infectious skin diseases, some of which were curable. It applied even to fungus or mildew on clothes and buildings.
Laws laid down in these chapters concerned two main things. Firstly, because such disease was symbolic of sin, it made people ceremonially unclean and unable to join in the religious activities of the community till they were healed and ceremonially cleansed. Secondly, the public health had to be protected by separating infected people from the camp and destroying anything that might carry the disease to others.
These chapters are not concerned with the treatment of the disease. Instructions outlined here were for priests, not for doctors. Priests had the responsibility to see that holiness was maintained in the camp, and this holiness was inseparable from ordinary health and cleanliness. These laws helped the priests detect the disease in its early stages and so prevent infection from spreading.
People were to report any suspicious looking skin infection to the priests, who then quarantined the patient till they were sure whether the disease was dangerous. If it proved to be leprosy, the person was not merely quarantined but was put out of the camp (13:1-11; see v. 45-46). Cases may have arisen where a person could have appeared to be getting leprosy, but the suspected disease later proved to be something else. In fact, it may even have healed itself (12-17). Any boil or inflammation had to be investigated (18-28); also any itches, skin spots or falling out of the hair (29-44). If someone was found to be carrying an infectious disease, the person was excluded from the camp (45-46).
Mildew was often a problem in damp or humid weather, and the law of Moses set out regulations to counter its harmful effects. Any clothing found to contain mildew had to be brought to the priests for examination (47-49). Affected clothing had to be washed, and if that did not remove the problem, it had to be destroyed (50-59).

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Flemming, Donald C. "Commentary on Leviticus 13:45". "Brideway Bible Commentary". 2005.

Albert Barnes' Notes on the Whole Bible

The leper was to carry about with him the usual signs of mourning for the dead. Compare Leviticus 10:6 and margin reference.

The leper was a living parable in the world of the sin of which death was the wages; not the less so because his suffering might have been in no degree due to his own personal deserts: he bore about with him at once the deadly fruit and the symbol of the sin of his race. Exodus 20:5. As his body slowly perished, first the skin, then the flesh, then the bone, fell to pieces while yet the animal life survived; he was a terrible picture of the gradual corruption of the spirit worked by sin.

His head bare - Rather, “his head neglected.” See Leviticus 10:6 note.

Unclean, unclean - Compare the margin reference.

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Barnes, Albert. "Commentary on Leviticus 13:45". "Barnes' Notes on the Whole Bible". 1870.

Chuck Smith Bible Commentary

Chapter 13

As we get into chapter thirteen, God is dealing with the subject of leprosy, and the priests were given instructions on how to diagnose leprosy, a breaking out on a person's body. The examination of it, the color of hairs that are in the blotch and so forth, so that the priest can truly identify the leper. Now it was two-fold. Number one, if it was indeed leprosy, and many times they would set them apart for seven days and re-examine them to see if there be any change of condition. But God wanted them to be very careful to, number one, if it was leprosy, to isolate them from the people to keep this disease from spreading. And so it was a quarantine kind of thing. But secondly, the careful examination so that no one would be isolated who was not truly a leper. So God wanted them to be careful in both directions. Make sure it's leprosy so that in case it is leprosy, the person can be isolated from the community so that the disease would not spread. But secondly, make sure if it isn't, that this person doesn't have this isolation from the community itself.

And so this thirteenth chapter deals with leprosy, the identifying of this loathsome disease by the priest and the separation of the person who is diagnosed actually as to having leprosy. And the command that the person is to cry "unclean, unclean," in verse forty-five, if it is discovered that he indeed has leprosy. And how that the garments and so forth are to be dealt with if there is a growth of some kind within the garment and how it's to be destroyed and burnt and all.

This is the law of the plague of leprosy [verse fifty-nine] in a garment of woollen or linen, either in the warp, or woof, or any thing of skins, to pronounce it clean, or to pronounce it unclean ( Leviticus 13:59 ).


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Copyright © 2014, Calvary Chapel of Costa Mesa, Ca.
Bibliographical Information
Smith, Charles Ward. "Commentary on Leviticus 13:45". "Chuck Smith Bible Commentary". 2014.

Expository Notes of Dr. Thomas Constable

Abnormalities in human skin 13:1-46

God dealt with 21 different cases of skin diseases in this pericope. Some of these may have included measles, smallpox, scarlet fever, and other diseases characterized by skin rash. [Note: Harris, p. 577.] Some authorities believe that exact identification of the various forms of scaly skin disorders described in this chapter is impossible today. [Note: Browne, pp. 5-6.] Others feel more confident. One authority suggested the following identifications. [Note: Hulse, pp. 96-97.]

The swelling, scab, or bright spot (Leviticus 13:2-28)Psoriasis: a chronic, non-infectious skin disease characterized by the presence of well-demarcated, slightly raised reddish patches of various sizes covered by dry grayish-white or silvery scales.
An infection on the head or beard (Leviticus 13:29-37)Favus: a much more severe and damaging infection in which the fungus invades both the hair and the full thickness of the skin.
Bright spots on the skin (Leviticus 13:38-39)Leucoderma: a slightly disfiguring condition in which patches of otherwise normal skin lose their natural coloring and become completely white.
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Constable, Thomas. DD. "Commentary on Leviticus 13:45". "Expository Notes of Dr. Thomas Constable". 2012.

Expository Notes of Dr. Thomas Constable

3. Uncleanness due to skin and covering abnormalities chs. 13-14

Many translations and commentaries have regarded the legislation in these chapters as dealing with leprosy, but this is misleading. The confusion has arisen because the term "leprosy" appears in most English texts in these chapters, and English readers automatically think that what we know as modern leprosy is in view. However as the chapters unfold it becomes increasingly clear that what is in view is not modern leprosy (Hansen’s disease). [Note: See S. G. Browne, Leprosy in the Bible; E. V. Hulse, "The Nature of Biblical ’Leprosy’ and the Use of Alternative Medical Terms in Modern Translations of the Bible," Palestine Exploration Quarterly 107 (1975):87-105; John Wilkinson, "Leprosy and Leviticus: The Problem of Description and Identification," Scottish Journal of Theology 30 (1984):153-69; Rebecca A. and E. Eugene Baillie, M. D., "Biblical Leprosy as Compared to Present-Day Leprosy," Christian Medical Society Journal 14:3 (Fall 1983):27-29.] The solution to the problem involves recognizing that the Septuagint version has influenced the English translations of the Hebrew word used here, tsara’at. In the Septuagint, the Greek word lepra translates tsara’at, and the English translations have simply transliterated this Greek word because of similarities with modern leprosy. The Greeks used a different term for human leprosy: elephantiasis, not lepra. That tsara’at does not mean leprosy becomes especially clear in chapter 14 where we read that tsara’at appeared as mold and mildew in clothes and houses, something modern leprosy does not do. What tsara’at does describe is a variety of abnormalities that afflicted human skin as well as clothing and houses, coverings of various types. Lepra etymologically refers to scaliness, and tsara’at may also. [Note: See Hulse, p. 93; and Browne, p. 5.] Evidently there was enough similarity between these abnormalities for God to deal with them together in this section of Leviticus.

The section contains three parts. Moses frequently divided various material into three subsections in Leviticus. Each part in this section begins, "The Lord spoke to Moses and Aaron" (Leviticus 13:1; Leviticus 14:1; Leviticus 14:33), and it closes, "This is the law for" (Leviticus 13:59; Leviticus 14:32; Leviticus 14:54).

The diagnosis and treatment of abnormalities in human skin and clothing ch. 13

We may further divide this chapter into two parts: the diagnosis and treatment of abnormalities in human skin, and the diagnosis and treatment of abnormalities in clothing and similar articles. A more detailed outline of the chapter follows. [Note: Wenham, The Book . . ., p. 194.]

Introduction Leviticus 13:1

First set of tests for skin disease Leviticus 13:2-8

Second set of tests for skin disease Leviticus 13:9-17

Third set of tests for skin disease in scars Leviticus 13:18-23

Fourth set of tests for skin disease in burns Leviticus 13:24-28

Fifth set of tests for skin disease in scalp or beard Leviticus 13:29-37

A skin disease that is clean Leviticus 13:38-39

Baldness and skin disease Leviticus 13:40-44

Treatment of those diagnosed as unclean Leviticus 13:45-46

Diagnosis and treatment of skin disease in clothing Leviticus 13:47-58

Summary Leviticus 13:59

Rooker saw seven types of infectious skin diseases in Leviticus 13:1-44: skin eruptions (Leviticus 13:1-8), chronic skin disease (Leviticus 13:9-17), boils (Leviticus 13:18-23), burns (Leviticus 13:24-28), sores (Leviticus 13:29-37), rashes (Leviticus 13:38-39), and baldness (Leviticus 13:40-44). [Note: Rooker, pp. 186-92.]

Before proceeding, we need to note that by "treatment" we do not mean that God prescribed a way by which people or objects afflicted with "leprosy" could recover. Rather the "treatment" dealt with how people were to relate to God and the sanctuary in view of these problems. He was not dealing with them as a physician but as a public health inspector. His objective was not their physical recovery in this legislation but their proper participation in worship.

Typically in each case we read four things: a preliminary statement of the symptoms, the priestly inspection, the basis of the priest’s diagnosis, and the diagnosis itself and the consequences.

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Constable, Thomas. DD. "Commentary on Leviticus 13:45". "Expository Notes of Dr. Thomas Constable". 2012.

Expository Notes of Dr. Thomas Constable

Tearing the clothes, messing the hair, and covering the upper lip were all signs of mourning (cf. Leviticus 10:6; Leviticus 21:10; Genesis 37:34; Numbers 14:6; 2 Samuel 1:11; 2 Kings 11:14; 2 Kings 19:1; 2 Kings 22:11; 2 Kings 22:19; Ezra 9:5; Ezekiel 24:17; Ezekiel 24:22; Micah 3:7). Not every place outside the camp was unclean; there were clean places outside the camp (e.g., Leviticus 4:12). However the unclean person was to live in an unclean area outside the camp. The idea was that he or she could not come close to God who resided in the tabernacle at the center of the camp.

"The holiest area, where one was closest to God, was the tabernacle. It was here that the holy men, the priests, worked. The tabernacle was surrounded by the camp where Israel the holy people of God lived. This in turn was encircled by the area outside the camp. which was populated by non-Jews, sinners, and the unclean. To live outside the camp was to be cut off from the blessings of the covenant. It is little wonder that when a man was diagnosed as unclean he had to go into mourning. He experienced a living death; his life as a member of God’s people experiencing God’s blessing came to an end. Genesis 3 presents a similar picture. . . . As Adam and Eve experienced a living death when they were expelled from Eden, so every man who was diagnosed as unclean suffered a similar fate." [Note: Wenham, The Book . . ., p. 201.]

". . . as human skin was the focus of guilt and shame in the beginning, so now diseases of the skin provide an occasion to demonstrate the need for human cleansing. In other words, just as the effects of the first sin were immediately displayed in human skin (’And their eyes were opened and they knew that they were naked,’ Genesis 3:7), so the writer uses the graphic horror of skin diseases found in these texts to depict the human state of uncleanness before a holy God.

"According to the regulations in Leviticus, if one were found to be unclean, ’As long as he has the infection he remains unclean. He must live alone; he must live outside the camp’ (Leviticus 13:46). In the same way, the Genesis narratives show that when Adam (and Eve) sinned, ’the LORD God banished him from the Garden of Eden to work the ground from which he had been taken. And he drove Adam out’ (Genesis 3:23-24). Like the unclean person in Leviticus, they had to live ’outside the camp.’" [Note: Sailhamer, p. 337.]

"Holiness in Leviticus is symbolized by wholeness. Animals must be perfect to be used in sacrifice. Priests must be without physical deformity. Mixtures are an abomination. Men must behave in a way that expresses wholeness and integrity in their actions. When a man shows visible signs of lack of wholeness in a persistent patchy skin condition, he has to be excluded from the covenant community. Temporary deviations from the norm do not attract such treatment, but if the symptoms last for more than two weeks, he must go to live outside the true Israel. . . . Anyone might fall victim to these complaints and face the prospect of being cut off from his family and friends for the rest of his days. Yet it was considered so important to preserve the purity of the tabernacle and the holiness of the nation that individuals and families might be forced to suffer a good deal. Individual discomfort was not allowed to jeopardize the spiritual welfare of the nation, for God’s abiding presence with his people depended on uncleanness being excluded from their midst (cf. Isaiah 6:3-5)." [Note: Wenham, The Book . . ., p. 203.]

The Israelites evidently regarded "leprosy" as representing sin. It resulted in the leper’s separation from God and from other people. In many respects leprosy and sin were similar in both their character and consequences.

"Before the people of God can enter the presence of the holy God they must be free of all disease. . . . Bodily diseases are incompatible with the holy presence of the LORD." [Note: Ross, p. 282.]

The sacrifice of Jesus Christ has made it possible for us to enter God’s presence (cf. Isaiah 53:5: "By His scourging we are healed [spiritually now but also physically in the future, at our resurrection]").

"In the church today no rule prevents people with skin diseases from entering the place of worship, because it is simply an assembly of believers and not the sanctuary with the holy of holies and the actual dwelling of the glory of the LORD. Yet common sense should tell someone with a contagious illness to remain at home or in the hospital. That is the practical side of Leviticus. Nevertheless, the theological understanding behind any illness is that it is part and parcel of the fallen condition of human life in this world." [Note: Ibid., p. 283.]

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Constable, Thomas. DD. "Commentary on Leviticus 13:45". "Expository Notes of Dr. Thomas Constable". 2012.

John Gill's Exposition of the Whole Bible

And the leper in whom the plague [is],.... Meaning not he only that has the plague of leprosy in his head, but every sort of leper before mentioned in this chapter:

his clothes shall be rent; not that he might the more easily put on his clothes without hurting him, as some have thought; or that the corrupt humours might evaporate more freely, for evaporation would rather be hindered than promoted by being exposed to cold; nor that he might be known and better avoided, for his cry after mentioned was sufficient for that; but as a token of mourning: and so Aben Ezra having mentioned the former reason, that he might be known by going in a different habit, adds, or the sense is, as a token of mourning; for he was to mourn for the wickedness of his actions; for, for his works came this plague of leprosy upon him; and so the Jews in common understand it, not as a disease arising from natural causes, but as a punishment inflicted by God for sin; wherefore this rite of rending the garments was an emblem of contrition of heart, and of sorrow and humiliation for sin, see Joel 1:13:

and his head bare; or "free" from cutting or shaving, but shall let his hair grow; and so the Targum of Jonathan and Jarchi interpret it; or free from any covering upon it, hat, or cap, or turban: Ben Gersom observes, that the making bare the head, or freeing it, is taken different ways; sometimes it is used of not shaving the head for thirty days, and sometimes for the removal of the vail, or covering of the head it has been used to; but in this place it cannot signify the nourishing of the hair, but that his head ought to be covered: and so Maimonides a observes, that a leper should cover his head all the days he is excluded, and this was a token of mourning also; see

2 Samuel 15:30:

and he shall put a covering upon his upper lip; as a mourner, see

Ezekiel 24:17. Jarchi interprets it of both lips, upper and under, which were covered with a linen cloth or vail thrown over the shoulder, and with which the mouth was covered; and this was done, as Aben Ezra says, that the leper might not hurt any with the breath of his mouth;

and shall cry, Unclean, unclean; as he passed along in any public place, that everyone might avoid him, and not be polluted by him: the Targum of Jonathan is,

"a herald shall proclaim and say, Depart, depart from the unclean.''

So every sinner sensible of the leprosy of sin in his nature, and which appears in his actions, should freely confess and acknowledge his uncleanness, original and actual, the impurity of his heart and life, and even of his own righteousness in the sight of God, and have recourse to Christ, and to his blood, for the cleansing him from it.

a Hilchot Tumaat Tzarat, c. 10. sect. 6.

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The New John Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible Modernised and adapted for the computer by Larry Pierce of Online Bible. All Rights Reserved, Larry Pierce, Winterbourne, Ontario.
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Gill, John. "Commentary on Leviticus 13:45". "The New John Gill Exposition of the Entire Bible". 1999.

Matthew Henry's Complete Commentary on the Bible

      38 If a man also or a woman have in the skin of their flesh bright spots, even white bright spots;   39 Then the priest shall look: and, behold, if the bright spots in the skin of their flesh be darkish white; it is a freckled spot that groweth in the skin; he is clean.   40 And the man whose hair is fallen off his head, he is bald; yet is he clean.   41 And he that hath his hair fallen off from the part of his head toward his face, he is forehead bald: yet is he clean.   42 And if there be in the bald head, or bald forehead, a white reddish sore; it is a leprosy sprung up in his bald head, or his bald forehead.   43 Then the priest shall look upon it: and, behold, if the rising of the sore be white reddish in his bald head, or in his bald forehead, as the leprosy appeareth in the skin of the flesh;   44 He is a leprous man, he is unclean: the priest shall pronounce him utterly unclean; his plague is in his head.   45 And the leper in whom the plague is, his clothes shall be rent, and his head bare, and he shall put a covering upon his upper lip, and shall cry, Unclean, unclean.   46 All the days wherein the plague shall be in him he shall be defiled; he is unclean: he shall dwell alone; without the camp shall his habitation be.

      We have here,

      I. Provisos that neither a freckled skin nor a bald head should be mistaken for a leprosy, Leviticus 13:38-41; Leviticus 13:38-41. Every deformity must not forthwith be made a ceremonial defilement. Elisha was jeered for his bald head (2 Kings 2:23); but it was the children of Bethel, that knew not the judgments of their God, who turned it to his reproach.

      II. A particular brand set upon the leprosy if at any time it did appear in a bald head: The plague is in his head, he is utterly unclean,Leviticus 13:44; Leviticus 13:44. If the leprosy of sin have seized the head, if the judgment be corrupted, and wicked principles which countenance and support wicked practices, be embraced, it is an utter uncleanness, from which few are ever cleansed. Soundness in the faith keeps the leprosy from the head, and saves conscience from being shipwrecked.

      III. Directions what must be done with the convicted leper. When the priest, upon mature deliberation, had solemnly pronounced him unclean,

      1. He must pronounce himself so, Leviticus 13:45; Leviticus 13:45. He must put himself into the posture of a mourner and cry, Unclean, unclean. The leprosy was not itself a sin, but it was a sad token of God's displeasure and a sore affliction to him that was under it. It was a reproach to his name, put a full stop to his business in the world, cut him off from conversation with his friends and relations, condemned him to banishment till he was cleansed, shut him out from the sanctuary, and was, in effect, the ruin of all the comfort he could have in this world. Heman, it would seem, either was a leper or alludes to the melancholy condition of a leper, Psalms 88:8-18, c. He must therefore, (1.) Humble himself under the mighty hand of God, not insisting upon his cleanness when the priest had pronounced him unclean, but justifying God and accepting the punishment of his iniquity. He must signify this by rending his clothes, uncovering his head, and covering his upper lip, all tokens of shame and confusion of face, and very significant of that self-loathing and self-abasement which should fill the hearts of penitents, the language of which is self-judging. Thus must we take to ourselves the shame that belongs to us, and with broken hearts call ourselves by our own name, Unclean, unclean--heart unclean, life unclean, unclean by original corruption, unclean by actual transgression--unclean, and therefore worthy to be for ever excluded from communion with God, and all hope of happiness in him. We are all as an unclean thing (Isaiah 64:6)--unclean, and therefore undone, if infinite mercy do not interpose. (2.) He must give warning to others to take heed of coming near him. Wherever he went, he must cry to those he saw at a distance, "I am unclean, unclean, take heed of touching me." Not that the leprosy was catching, but by the touch of a leper ceremonial uncleanness was contracted. Every one therefore was concerned to avoid it and the leper himself must give notice of the danger. And this was all that the law could do, in that it was weak through the flesh; it taught the leper to cry, Unclean, unclean, but the gospel has put another cry into the lepers' mouths, Luke 17:12; Luke 17:13, where we find ten lepers crying with a loud voice, Jesus, Master, have mercy on us. The law only shows us our disease; the gospel shows us our help in Christ.

      2. He must then be shut out of the camp, and afterwards, when they came to Canaan, out of the city, town, or village, where he lived, and dwell alone (Leviticus 13:46; Leviticus 13:46), associating with none but those that were lepers like himself. When king Uzziah became a leper, he was banished from his palace, and dwelt in a separate house,2 Chronicles 26:21. And see 2 Kings 7:3. This typified the purity which ought to be preserved in the gospel church, by the solemn and authoritative exclusion of scandalous sinners, that hate to be reformed, from the communion of the faithful. Put away from among yourselves that wicked person,1 Corinthians 5:13.

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These files are public domain and are a derivative of an electronic edition that is available on the Christian Classics Ethereal Library Website.
Bibliographical Information
Henry, Matthew. "Complete Commentary on Leviticus 13:45". "Matthew Henry Complete Commentary on the Whole Bible". 1706.