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Bible Dictionaries

American Tract Society Bible Dictionary


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A person afflicted with leprosy. As it now exists, leprosy is a scaly disease of the skin, occurring in several distinct forms and with many degrees of severity; beginning with slight reddish eruptions, followed by scales of a greyish white color, sometimes in circles an inch or two in diameter, and at other times much larger; in many cases attacking only the knees and elbows, in others the whole body; usually not affecting the general health, but considered impossible of cure. It is said not to be infectious; but is communicated from father to son for several generations, gradually becoming less noticeable. It corresponds in the main with the disease the symptoms and treatment of which are so fully described in Leviticus 13:14 . There is little doubt, however, that the ancient leprosy, in its more aggravated form, is to be regarded as a plague or judgment from God, Deuteronomy 24:8 . It was peculiarly dreaded among the Jews as unclean and infectious; and also as being a special infliction from Jehovah, as we know it to have been in the cases of Miriam, Numbers 12:10 , Gehazi, 2 Kings 5:27 , and Uzziah, 2 Chronicles 26:16-23 . No remedies were effectual. The suffered was commended to the priest, not to the physician; and was separated from many of the privileges of society. We find that lepers associated chiefly with each other, 2 Kings 7:8 Luke 17:12 . The term, "the plague of leprosy," is applied not only to this disease in men, but to a similar infection sometimes sent into houses and garments, Leviticus 14:1-57 . The exact nature of this latter cannot be ascertained; but it bears the marks of a special aggravation, as a judgment from God, of some evil not unknown in that climate. It illustrates the awful result of moral corruption in society, uncounteracted by the grace of God. The disease in all its forms is a lively emblem of sin. This malady of the soul is also all pervading, unclean, contagious, and incurable; it separates its victim from God and heaven; it proves its existence by its increasing sway and its fatal termination. But the Savior has shown his power to heal the worst maladies of the soul by curing the leprosy with a word, Luke 17:12-19 , and to admit the restored soul to all the privileges of the sons of God.

ELEPHANTIASIS, supposed by some to have been the disease of Job, and the "botch" or ulcer of Egypt, Deuteronomy 28:27,35 , is a tuberculous malady somewhat akin to the leprosy, but more dreadful. Its name is derived from the dark, hard, and rough appearance of the skin; and from the form of the feet, swollen, and despoiled of the toes. This horrid malady infects the whole system; ulcers and dark scales cover the body; and the hair, beard, fingers, and all the extremities drop off. It is still met with in tropical countries, and was introduced into Europe by the crusaders; but after occasioning dreadful navoc, and the building of thousands of "hospitals for lepers," it disappeared or changed its form.

Copyright Statement
These files are public domain and are a derivative of the topics are from American Tract Society Bible Dictionary published in 1859.

Bibliography Information
Rand, W. W. Entry for 'Leper'. American Tract Society Bible Dictionary. 1859.

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