Leviticus 13


Laws relative to the leprosy. It is to be known by a rising in

the flesh, a scab, or a bright spot, 1, 2.

When the priest sees these signs he shall pronounce the man

unclean, infected with the leprosy, and unfit for society, 3.

Dubious or equivocal signs of this disorder, and how the person

is to be treated in whom they appear, 4-8.

In what state of this disorder the priest may pronounce a man

clean or unclean, 9-13.

Of the raw flesh, the sign of the unclean leprosy, 14, 15.

Of the white flesh, the sign of the leprosy called clean, 16, 17.

Of the leprosy which succeeds a boil, 18-20.

Equivocal marks relative to this kind of leprosy, 21, 22.

Of the burning boil, 23.

Of the leprosy arising out of the burning boil, 24, 25.

Equivocal marks relative to this kind of leprosy, 26-28.

Of the plague on the head or in the beard, 29.

Of the scall, and how it is to be treated, 30-37.

Of the plague of the bright white spots, 38, 39.

Of the bald head, 40, 41.

Of the white reddish sore in the bald head, 42-44.

The leper shall rend his clothes, put a patch on his upper lip,

and cry unclean, 45.

He shall be obliged to avoid society, and live by himself

without the camp, 46.

Of the garments infected by the leprosy, and the signs of this

infection, 47-52.

Equivocal marks relative to this infection, and how the garment

is to be treated, by washing or by burning, 53-58.

Conclusion relative to the foregoing particulars, 59.


Verse 2. The plague of leprosy] This dreadful disorder has

its name leprosy, from the Greek λεποα, from λεπις, a scale,

because in this disease the body was often covered with thin

white scales, so as to give it the appearance of snow. Hence it

is said of the hand of Moses, Ex 4:6, that it was

leprous as snow; and of Miriam, Nu 12:10, that she became

leprous, as white as snow; and of Gehazi, 2Ki 5:27, that,

being judicially struck with the disease of Naaman, he went out

from Elisha's presence a leper as white as snow.

See Clarke on Ex 4:6.

In Hebrew this disease is termed tsaraath, from

tsara, to smite or strike; but the root in Arabic signifies to

cast down or prostrate, and in AEthiopic, to cause to cease,

because, says Stockius, "it prostrates the strength of man,

and obliges him to cease from all work and labour."

There were three signs by which the leprosy was known. 1. A

bright spot. 2. A rising (enamelling) of the surface. 3. A

scab; the enamelled place producing a variety of layers, or

stratum super stratum, of these scales. The account given by

Mr. Maundrell of the appearance of several persons whom he saw

infected with this disorder in Palestine, will serve to show, in

the clearest light, its horrible nature and tendency.

"When I was in the Holy Land," says he, in his letter to the

Rev. Mr. Osborn, Fellow of Exeter College, "I saw several that

laboured under Gehazi's distemper; particularly at Sichem, (now

Naplosu,) there were no less than ten that came begging to us at

one time. Their manner is to come with small buckets in their

hands, to receive the alms of the charitable; their touch being

still held infectious, or at least unclean. The distemper, as I

saw it on them, was quite different from what I have seen it in

England; for it not only defiles the whole surface of the body

with a foul scurf, but also deforms the joints of the body,

particularly those of the wrists and ankles, making them swell

with a gouty scrofulous substance, very loathsome to look on. I

thought their legs like those of old battered horses, such as

are often seen in drays in England. The whole distemper,

indeed, as it there appeared, was so noisome, that it might well

pass for the utmost corruption of the human body on this side

the grave. And certainly the inspired penman could not have

found out a fitter emblem, whereby to express the uncleanness

and odiousness of vice."-Maundrell's Travels. Letters at the

end. The reader will do well to collate this account with that

given from Dr. Mead; See Clarke on Ex 4:6.

Verse 3. The priest shall-pronounce him unclean.]

vetimme otho; literally, shall pollute him, i. e., in the Hebrew

idiom, shall declare or pronounce him polluted; and in

Le 13:23,

it is said, the priest shall pronounce him clean,

vetiharo haccohen, the priest shall cleanse him, i. e., declare

him clean. In this phrase we have the proper meaning of Mt 16:19:

Whatsoever ye bind on earth, shall be bound in heaven; and

whatsoever ye loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven. By

which our Lord intimates that the disciples, from having the

keys, i. e., the true knowledge of the doctrine, of the kingdom

of heaven, should, from particular evidences, be at all times

able to distinguish between the clean and the unclean, the

sincere and the hypocrite; and pronounce a judgment as

infallible as the priest did in the case of the leprosy, from

the tokens already specified. And as this binding and loosing,

or pronouncing fit or unfit for fellowship with the members of

Christ, must in the case of the disciples be always according to

the doctrine of the kingdom of heaven, the sentence should be

considered as proceeding immediately from thence, and

consequently as Divinely ratified. The priest polluted or

cleansed, i. e., declared the man clean or unclean, according to

signs well known and infallible. The disciples or ministers of

Christ bind or loose, declare to be fit or unfit for Church

fellowship, according to unequivocal evidences of innocence or

guilt. In the former case, the priest declared the person fit

or unfit for civil society; in the latter, the ministers of

Christ declare the person against whom the suspicion of guilt is

laid, fit or unfit for continued association with the Church of

God. The office was the same in both, a declaration of the

truth, not from any power that they possessed of cleansing or

polluting, of binding or of loosing, but by the knowledge they

gained from the infallible signs and evidences produced on the

respective cases.

Verse 13. If the leprosy have covered all his flesh, he shall

pronounce him clean] Why is it that the partial leper was

pronounced unclean, and the person totally covered with the

disease clean? This was probably owing to a different species

or stage of the disease; the partial disease was contagious, the

total not contagious. That there are two different species or

degrees of the same disease described here, is sufficiently

evident. In one, the body was all covered with a white

enamelled scurf; in the other, there was a quick raw flesh in

the risings. On this account the one might be deemed unclean,

i. e., contagious, the other not; for contact with the quick raw

flesh would be more likely to communicate the disease than the

touch of the hard dry scurf. The ichor proceeding from the

former, when brought into contact with the flesh of another,

would soon be taken into the constitution by means of the

absorbent vessels; but where the whole surface was perfectly

dry, the absorbent vessels of another person coming in contact

with the diseased man could imbibe nothing, and therefore there

was comparatively no danger of infection. Hence that species or

stage of the disease that exhibited the quick raw rising was

capable of conveying the infection for the reasons already

assigned, when the other was not. Dr. Mead thus accounts for

the circumstance mentioned in the text. See on Le 13:18. As

the leprosy infected bodies, clothes, and even the walls of

houses, is it not rational to suppose that it was occasioned by

a species of animalcula or vermin burrowing under the skin? Of

this opinion there are some learned supporters.

Verse 18. In the skin thereof, was a boil] Scheuchzer

supposes this and the following verse to speak of phlegmonic,

erysipelatous, gangrenous, and phagedenic ulcers, all of which

were subjected to the examination of the priest, to see whether

they were infectious, or whether the leprosy might not take its

origin from them. A person with any sore or disposition to

contagion was more likely to catch the infection by contact with

the diseased person, than he was whose skin was whole and sound,

and his habit good.

Verse 29. A plague upon the head or the beard] This refers

to a disease in which, according to the Jews, the hair either on

the head or the chin dropped out by the roots.

Verse 33. The scall shall he not shave] Lest the place

should be irritated and inflamed, and assume in consequence

other appearances besides those of a leprous infection; in which

case the priest might not be able to form an accurate judgment.

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 Eze 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.

Verse 47. The garment also] The whole account here seems to

intimate that the garment was fretted by this contagion; and

hence it is likely that it was occasioned by a species of small

animals, which we know to be the cause of the itch; these, by

breeding in the garments, must necessarily multiply their kind,

and fret the garments, i. e., corrode a, portion of the finer

parts, after the manner of moths, for their nourishment. See

Le 13:52.

Verse 52. He shall therefore burn that garment] There being

scarcely any means of radically curing the infection. It is

well known that the garments infected by the psora, or itch

animal, have been known to communicate the disease even six or

seven years after the first infection. This has been also

experienced by the sorters of rags at some paper mills.

Verse 54. He shall shut it up seven days more] To give time

for the spreading of the contagion, if it did exist there; that

there might be the most unequivocal marks and proofs that the

garment was or was not infected.

Verse 58. It shall be washed the second time] According to

the Jews the first washing was to put away the plague, the

second to cleanse it.

BOTH among Jews and Gentiles the leprosy has been considered

as a most expressive emblem of sin, the properties and

circumstances of the one pointing out those of the other. The

similitude or parallel has been usually run in the following


1. The leprosy began with a spot, a simple hidden infection

being the cause.

2. This spot was very conspicuous, and argued the source whence

it proceeded.

3. It was of a diffusive nature, soon spreading over the whole


4. It communicated its infectious nature, not only to the whole

of the person's body, but also to his clothes and habitation.

5. It rendered the infected person loathsome, unfit for and

dangerous to society because of its infectious nature.

6. The person infected was obliged to be separated from society,

both religious and civil; to dwell by himself without the camp or

city, and hold commerce with none.

7. He was obliged to proclaim his own uncleanness, publicly

acknowledge his defilement, and, sensible of his plague,

continue humbled and abased before God and man.

How expressive all these are of the nature of sin and the

state of a sinner, a spiritual mind will at once perceive.

1. The original infection or corruption of nature is the grand

hidden cause, source, and spring of all transgression.

2. Iniquity is a seed that has its growth, gradual increase,

and perfection. As the various powers of the mind are

developed, so it diffuses itself, infecting every passion and

appetite through their whole extent and operation.

3. As it spreads in the mind, so it diffuses itself through the

life; every action partaking of its influence, till the whole

conduct becomes a tissue of transgression, because every

imagination of the thoughts of a sinner's heart is only evil

continually, Gen. vi. This is the natural state of man.

4. As a sinner is infected, so is he infectious; by his precept

and example he spreads the infernal contagion wherever he goes;

joining with the multitude to do evil, strengthening and being

strengthened in the ways of sin and death, and becoming

especially a snare and a curse to his own household.

5. That a sinner is abominable in the sight of God and of all

good men, that he is unfit for the society of the righteous, and

that he cannot, as such, be admitted into the kingdom of God,

needs no proof.

6. It is owing to the universality of the evil that sinners are

not expelled from society as the most dangerous of all monsters,

and obliged to live without having any commerce with their

fellow creatures. Ten lepers could associate together, because

partaking of the same infection: and civil society is generally

maintained, because composed of a leprous community.

7. He that wishes to be saved from his sins must humble himself

before God and man, sensible of his own sore and the plague of

his heart; confess his transgressions; look to God for a cure,

from whom alone it can be received; and bring that Sacrifice by

which alone the guilt can be taken away, and his soul be

purified from all unrighteousness. See the conclusion of the

following chapter.

Copyright information for Clarke