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.

Wednesday, February 21, 2024

Leviticus 13:38-46 Leprosy (Part 3)

'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." —  Leviticus 13:38-46 KJV.

39. A freckled spot — Hebrew, בֹּ֥הַק. In the R.V., “tetter.” This constitutes a new case, since these peculiar spots do not appear on the parts where the hair grows thick, but only on the neck and face. It is remarkable that the modern Arabs have a kind of leprosy in which some little spots show themselves here and there, called bohak, a word containing the same consonants as the Hebrew term which we are now considering. These spots gradually spread, continuing sometimes only about two months, and then gradually disappearing. They are not contagious nor hereditary, nor specially painful. The treatment of the bohak in verses 38 and 39 seems to be unnaturally sandwiched between the leprosy of the hairy head and that of the bald head. The sacred writers do not always observe that order of statement required by our canons of rhetoric.

40. Bald… yet… clean — Literally, hind bald. Natural baldness was so uncommon among the Israelites that it subjected men to an unpleasant suspicion and public derision. It is perpetually alluded to as a mark of squalor and misery. 2 Kings 2:23; Isaiah 3:24. Herodotus says that “one would see the fewest bald Egyptians of all men.” He attributes this immunity to their construct shaving. It is here carefully distinguished from the נֶ֣תֶק, or scall, of verses 29-39. 41. Forehead bald — This is in distinction from the hind bald. Verse 40, note.

42. A white, reddish sore — This alone was a sure token of the dreadful disease. Hence no seven days’ quarantine was enjoined; he is utterly unclean. Nevertheless the ancient rabbins inferred from the clause, “It is like leprosy in the skin of the flesh,” that all the criteria specified in the former case are to be applied to this, and that the quarantine of two weeks is to be enforced on the patient.


Moses having minutely discussed the various phases of the leprosy, and the methods of diagnosis, now prescribes a course of conduct for the lepers while in exile from society. Simple separation from the healthy was not a sufficient security against the loathed contamination. Additional prophylactics are required for the protection of persons without the camp or walls of the city.

44. Utterly unclean — “The Bible is everywhere careful not to allow the idea of partial goodness or partial uncleanness. There is a great moral suggestion in all this. Once let a man consider that he is not so bad as some other man, and instantly false standards of purity are set up. The Pharisee adopted this method of self-measurement, and separated himself from the publican by certain degrees of supposed righteousness.” — Joseph Parker


45. His clothes shall be rent — This is the first visible sign which the leper was required to hang out as a warning to all not to approach too near to him. The outer garment was usually rent from the neck to the girdle. While it was a warning to others, it was to the leper the symbol of deep self-abhorrence. His head bare — The uncovered head and unkempt hair were an ancient and expressive token of sorrow. See chap. 10:6, note. Rabbinical law exempts women from this and the preceding requirement. A covering upon his upper lip — “He shall cover the beard.” By this act he expressed his unwillingness to speak, on account of shame and vexation. As the beard was a symbol of dignity, to cover it with the hands indicated self-abasement. Yet he was required to herald his own defilement. Unclean! Unclean! The paraphrase of the Palestine Targum is very expressive, “Keep off, keep off from the unclean!” This humiliating and doleful cry, uttered as a warning to any one seen approaching, was requisite to an unmistakable announcement of his leprosy, since the three visible signs were also ordinary badges of mourning. The ground of this requirement is the fact that the touch of the leper ceremonially defiled every thing. According to the Jewish canons his very entrance into a house renders every thing in it unclean. If he stand under a tree and a clean man passes by he renders him unclean. In the synagogue there must be a separate compartment for him, ten handbreadths high and four cubits square. He must be the first to enter and the last to leave the synagogue. If the pronounced leper overstepped the prescribed boundaries he received forty stripes. We no longer wonder that the Jews abhorred this disease as worse than death, the scourge of Jehovah, (2 Kings 5:7; 2 Chronicles 26:20,) and the most awful imprecation upon their foes. 2 Samuel 3:29; 2 Kings 5:27.

46. Dwell alone — “The camp was afraid of contagion. Save the untouched by expelling the defiled.” The picture of a leper is a forlorn man with bare head, sitting in his booth without the camp, with his pitcher of water and loaf of bread by his side — supplies kindly left daily where he can find them, by his kindred within the camp or city. Where there is a number they were not forbidden to associate, as is seen 2 Kings 7:3; Luke 17:12. Such separated unclean persons may be still seen in the east. Dr. Thomson saw one on a rocky hill living in a booth of green branches. There she passed wearisome days and lonely nights till death released her. “We remonstrated against such barbarity, and the men consented to have her brought into a hired room, where we could provide suitable food and prescribe for her disease. But the women rose in furious clamour and rebellion against the proposal, and it had to be abandoned. I was amazed at the barbarity of the women. They passed her by until she died; then, however, they assembled in troops, and screamed, and tossed their arms, and tore their hair, with boisterous lamentations.”

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