Priesthood: 20. Leprosy

Leviticus 13:1‑8  •  5 min. read  •  grade level: 6
Leprosy
Lev. 13:1-81And the Lord spake unto Moses and Aaron, saying, 2When 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: 3And 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. 4If 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: 5And 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: 6And 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. 7But 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: 8And if the priest see that, behold, the scab spreadeth in the skin, then the priest shall pronounce him unclean: it is a leprosy. (Leviticus 13:1‑8)
What a voice to all is the next appalling type of sin, as a living death, and an uncleanness which God alone could meet! For there was no cure naturally. It was for the priest to pronounce on; but not a word about a cure: if healed by preternatural means, offerings were prescribed for cleansing, and this in a wonderfully precise and careful way. It is the standing type of sin in the law; to which the Gospels add palsy, as destroying all strength. Luke, the great moralist among the Synoptics, brings the two together in his chap. 5:12-26, as was his manner, guided by the inspiring Spirit. Here it is set out in a fuller form than any other subject singly in the book; and no wonder sin in the first is all pervading, and has dismal consequences in his surroundings and his home.
“And Jehovah spoke to Moses and to Aaron, saying, When a man shall have in the skin of his flesh a swelling, or a scab, or a bright spot, and it becometh in the skin of his flesh a stroke of leprosy, then he shall be brought to Aaron the priest, or to one of his sons the priests. And when the priest looketh on the stroke in the skin of his flesh, and the hair in the stroke is turned white, and the stroke looketh deeper than the skin of his flesh, it [is] the stroke of leprosy; and the priest shall look on him and pronounce him unclean. But if the bright spot [be] white in the skin of his flesh, and look not deeper than the skin, and the hair be not turned white, the priest shall shut up [him that hath] the stroke seven days. And the priest shall look on him the seventh day; and, behold, in his sight the stroke remaineth as it was, the stroke hath not spread in the skin, then the priest shall shut him up seven days a second time. And the priest shall look on him again the seventh day, and, behold, the stroke [is] become pale, the stroke hath not spread in the skin, then the priest shall pronounce him clean; it [is] a scab; and he shall wash his garments, and be clean. But if the scab have spread much in the skin, after he hath been seen by the priest for his cleansing, he shall be seen again by the priest; and the priest shall look on him, and, behold, the scab hath spread in the skin; then the priest shall pronounce him unclean: it [is] leprosy” (vers. 1-8).
Even in the type it was a holy rather than a medical question. Leprosy was not a malady so much as a stroke or plague; and the priest looked on the suspect with minute direction from Jehovah. It was not the diagnosis of a physician. As the consequence was most serious to an Israelite, the most scrupulous care was due in the priest. Uncleanness from birth was a fact patent, and there Jehovah spoke to Moses for what concerned every mother and child. For leprosy He spoke to Moses and to Aaron. The leper represents, not a Christian but man in the flesh, Israel under the first covenant. Sin works and manifests itself; but haste to pronounce on evil when manifest or at work, is as far from God as indifference to it; both the reverse of grace. The priest, or spiritual man conversant with the presence of God, judges according to the written word.
There might appear in the skin of the flesh a swelling, or a scab, or a bright spot. The issues of leprosy differed in look like the motions of sin; but any of them indicate what is hateful to God; and the man must be scrutinized by Aaron or one of his sons. For us it is the mind of Christ, and as the judgment is of those within divine privilege, it involves the responsibility of pleasing God. We are not in the flesh like Israel, but the flesh is in us; and therefore we must mortify our members which are on the earth. All scripture is profitable to us, even if it be not about us.
The priest then was to look on the suspected plague or stroke in the skin of the man's flesh; and if the hair in the stroke were turned white, and the appearances of the stroke were not superficial but deeper than the skin of his flesh, leprosy was too surely indicated. Jehovah requires, not report, but personal inspection on the priest's part; and if there be proof of a present energy of evil at work, and yet more of no mere passing outbreak, but of persistent and deliberate and deeply penetrating evil, doubt is precluded, and the man must be pronounced unclean. There might be “the bright spot,” but no deep purpose underneath, and no active evil in result. In this case the priest shut up the case seven days, though he could not dismiss it as clear, for there was an appearance of evil plainly enough; but as there was no more, he waits patiently. On the seventh he looks again, and if there be no spreading in the skin but the stroke be at a stay, he shuts the man up seven days more. Then he looks, and if the stroke be pale and dim, and no spread of it in the skin, the man is pronounced clean. It is but a scab; and he is to wash his clothes, and be clean. But if the scab spread, after he had shown himself to the priest for cleansing, he shall show himself to the priest again, and the priest sees the spreading, the truth must be spoken, for the evil is at work; and the priest shall pronounce him unclean. It is leprosy. It must not be hid. “Thy will be done.”