This blog gains its name from the book Steele's Answers published in 1912. It began as an effort to blog through that book, posting each of the Questions and Answers in the book in the order in which they appeared. I started this on Dec. 10, 2011. I completed blogging from that book on July 11, 2015. Along the way, I began to also post snippets from Dr. Steele's other writings — and from some other holiness writers of his times. Since then, I have begun adding material from his Bible commentaries. I also re-blog many of the old posts.

Saturday, February 17, 2024

Leviticus 13:1-17 - Leprosy (Part 1)

"1 And the LORD spake unto Moses and Aaron, saying, 2 When a man shall have in the skin of his flesh a rising, a scab, or bright spot, and it be in the skin of his flesh like the plague of leprosy; then he shall be brought unto Aaron the priest, or unto one of his sons the priests: 3 And the priest shall look on the plague in the skin of the flesh: and when the hair in the plague is turned white, and the plague in sight be deeper than the skin of his flesh, it is a plague of leprosy: and the priest shall look on him, and pronounce him unclean. 4 If the bright spot be white in the skin of his flesh, and in sight be not deeper than the skin, and the hair thereof be not turned white; then the priest shall shut up him that hath the plague seven days: 5 And the priest shall look on him the seventh day: and, behold, if the plague in his sight be at a stay, and the plague spread not in the skin; then the priest shall shut him up seven days more: 6 And the priest shall look on him again the seventh day: and, behold, if the plague be somewhat dark, and the plague spread not in the skin, the priest shall pronounce him clean: it is but a scab: and he shall wash his clothes, and be clean. 7 But if the scab spread much abroad in the skin, after that he hath been seen of the priest for his cleansing, he shall be seen of the priest again: 8 And if the priest see that, behold, the scab spreadeth in the skin, then the priest shall pronounce him unclean: it is a leprosy. 9 When the plague of leprosy is in a man, then he shall be brought unto the priest; 10 And the priest shall see him: and, behold, if the rising be white in the skin, and it have turned the hair white, and there be quick raw flesh in the rising; 11 It is an old leprosy in the skin of his flesh, and the priest shall pronounce him unclean, and shall not shut him up: for he is unclean. 12 And if a leprosy break out abroad in the skin, and the leprosy cover all the skin of him that hath the plague from his head even to his foot, wheresoever the priest looketh; 13 Then the priest shall consider: and, behold, if the leprosy have covered all his flesh, he shall pronounce him clean that hath the plague: it is all turned white: he is clean. 14 But when raw flesh appeareth in him, he shall be unclean. 15 And the priest shall see the raw flesh, and pronounce him to be unclean: for the raw flesh is unclean: it is a leprosy. 16 Or if the raw flesh turn again, and be changed unto white, he shall come unto the priest; 17 And the priest shall see him: and, behold, if the plague be turned into white; then the priest shall pronounce him clean that hath the plague: he is clean." —  Leviticus 13:1-17 KJV.


2. The plague of leprosy — The word leprosy is of Greek origin, and literally signifies, the scaly disease. But the disease here treated of is evidently the so-called white leprosy, (Lepra Mosaica,) which is still found among the Arabs under the name of Baras. It is described by Trunsen as follows: “Very frequently, even for years before the actual outbreak of the disease itself, white, yellowish spots are seen lying deep in the skin, particularly on the genitals, face, forehead, or in the joints. They are without feeling, and sometimes cause the hair to assume the same colour as the spots. These spots afterwards pierce through the cellular tissue and reach the muscles and bones. The hair becomes white and woolly, and at length falls off; hard, gelatinous swellings are formed in the cellular tissue; the skin gets hard, rough, and seamy; lymph exudes from it, and forms large scabs, which fall off from time to time; and under these there are often offensive running sores. The nails then swell, curl up, and fall off; entropium (inversion of the eyelashes) is then formed, with bleeding gums; the nose is stopped up, and there is a considerable flow of saliva. The senses become dull, the patient gets weak and thin, wasting diarrhea sets in, and incessant thirst and burning terminate his sufferings.” There are three chief symptoms of this disease. (1.) A rising or swelling. (2.) A scab. (3.) A bright spot — This was of a white colour. These are described under six different circumstances, namely: 

  1. Developed without any apparent cause, 2-8. 
  2. Reappearing after the supposed cure, 9-17. 
  3. Arising from the scar of a boil or a burn, 18-28. 
  4. Appearing on the head or chin. 29-37. 
  5. In the form called בֶּהָרֹ֑ת, not unclean, 38-39.
  6.  In a bald head, 40-44.  

Unto Aaron the priest — The treatment was to be ceremonial, not medical. The command that the leper present himself not to the physician but to the priest, shows that the leprosy was in some way intimately associated with sin, for the priest’s office related to guilt. “There was no doctor then; he is a later creation. The Church is the true lazar-house; the Church is the great hospital. We have no instruction to the effect that one leper is to look on another; the distinct direction is that the priest — the holy, pure man — shall look at the leper — handle him, undertake him.”- Joseph Parker.

3. The priest shall look — The eye is still the chief instrument in the diagnosis of diseases. The microscope has greatly enhanced the accuracy of its reports, especially in cutaneous diseases, each of which has its peculiar manifestations. In practice the inspection took place on clear days from nine o’clock to twelve, and from one to four, because colours were best discerned then. Hair… turned white — The leprosy is so radical in its nature that it whitens the hairs in the leprous spots. “There must be at least two in the body of the white spot.” — Maimonides. Deeper than the skin — Deeper than the general level of the skin. White spots frequently appear from some defect in the pigments which lie immediately beneath the transparent cuticle. The leprosy must be carefully distinguished from this cutaneous whiteness.

4. Shut up seven days — The community, and not the suspected leper, was to have the benefit of the doubt. Every safeguard against the ceremonial impurity was to be taken. Precisely the same measures were adopted in the island of Barbadoes when the leprosy broke out there. The patients were at first shut up seven days in order to determine between the leprosy and the crowcrow, an African itch. At Guadaloupe the citizens petitioned the authorities for a universal inspection of suspected persons, and their confinement in quarantine, and, in the case of the lepers, their removal to permanent pest-houses. It was found that the board of health had in this chapter a code of laws framed to their hand and ready for use with only the change of the word “priest” to physician.

5. Seven days more — It would seem that the suspected leper must necessarily be imprisoned two weeks. But if the symptoms had disappeared entirely at the end of the first week, the man was doubtless entitled to a discharge, otherwise there would be no use of any examination till the end of the second week. The priest who made the first examination must make the second also, as another could not tell whether the disease had spread.

6. Pronounce him clean — Ceremonially pure, though he may have other loathsome diseases, and be morally vile. The action of the priest, literally translated, is, to make him clean, as in the third verse he is to make the leper unclean. In both cases the action is declarative and not causative or judicial. This suggests the proper meaning of the apostolic binding and loosing in Matthew 16:19, and the remitting and retaining of sins in John 20:23. He shall wash his clothes — “As the very cause that had led to his being suspected showed that there was some impurity in his blood, a slight purification was prescribed, the moral effect of which would naturally be to teach that the very appearance of evil is an adequate ground of humiliation to any one that fears God.” — Bush.

7. If the scab spread — The white spot has now taken the form of a rapidly spreading scab. When the patient observes this he is under obligation to go to the priest to be examined again. According to Maimonides his neglect subjected him to the penalty of leprosy cleaving to him for life, as the leprosy of sin will cleave to the sinner who neglects to come to the great High Priest, Jesus Christ.

10-12. The rising — This was a decisive indication when it was white and accompanied by white hair and raw flesh in the swelling. There was in that case no doubt that the virus of leprosy had been long in the blood, making it an old leprosy. Shall not shut him up — For the case is no longer doubtful. The man must now be excluded from the camp or city with bare head, covered face, and rent garment, the badges of his dreadful malady. See verse 45, note.

13. All turned white: he is clean — Here is a paradox; the partial leper is unclean, the total leper is clean. The explanation of Patrick is, that this uniform white covering is indicative of some other disease, and not the real leprosy, yet it has so strong a resemblance as to prompt the writer to give it the same name. But the more common theory is, that the crisis of the leprosy is reached when the patient becomes white from head to foot “broken out blooming on the skin,” with an enamelled, hard, dry scurf, incapable of communicating the contagion by contact. Canon Cook argues that the disease treated of in this chapter is the elephantiasis, and not the leprosy, and that when the entire surface turns white it indicates that it is not the elephantiasis, but some other disease, which did not render the man unclean. This solution of the difficulty agrees very nearly with Patrick’s. It is a prevalent opinion that the leprosy is here treated, not on sanitary but wholly on ceremonial grounds, and that the leprosy is arbitrarily pronounced unclean, just as a corpse is unclean a moment after life is extinct, and that the ceremonial pollution, by arbitrary appointment, continues only so long as the disease is spreading.

14. Raw flesh — This is the proud flesh, the appearance of which, after the universal spread of the white scurf, indicates that the disease has not yet entirely left the blood. Maimonides says that the size of the “raw flesh” must be that of a lintel, in order to justify the verdict of uncleanness. The person is still unclean.

17. The plague — The stroke of the leprosy is viewed as a direct infliction by God. Sometimes it is abbreviated to the plague, just as we say of the paralytic, that he is suffering from a stroke.

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