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Scripture reading – Leviticus 13-14
Our study of what the LORD declared “unclean” continues, focusing on poor souls afflicted with leprosy. The ancient scourge of leprosy was the subject of Leviticus 13 and 14.
Known today as “Hansen’s Disease” (HD), leprosy is a bacterial, infectious disease that is treatable, even curable, in the 21st century. In ancient times, however, it was a dreaded disease. The victims of leprosy were forced into isolation from family and friends, and society drove them to leper colonies, where they eventually died. In ancient times, Egypt was infested with leprosy, and its traces followed the children of Israel out of that country.
Laws and Regulations for Leprosy (13:1-59)
The LORD continued His commands regarding the “unclean,” which required Moses and Aaron to address, diagnose, and exclude lepers from the tribes of Israel (Leviticus 13:1-59). To protect His people, the LORD commanded the steps required to protect Israel from the spread of leprosy.
First, the disease needed to be correctly diagnosed. Often beginning as no more than a rash or boil, the disease could eventually produce terrible, open sores and decaying flesh. In the advanced stages, the leper would suffer from rotting extremities. Soiled by the oozing nature of the sores, the leper’s clothes would be rent as an outward sign of mourning. Then, wearing a napkin to cover his mouth, the leper would cry “Unclean, unclean” (13:45) to any who approached, thus warning others they were carriers of the disease.
Guidelines for Ceremonial Cleansing of the Leper
Should a leper be miraculously healed of the disease, ceremonial steps and sacrifices were prescribed to ensure the legitimacy of the healing and his purification. Finally, after following the prescribed rites for cleansing, the leper was deemed clean by the high priest and restored to the fellowship of his family and nation (14:9-32).
Leprosy was the physical disease God chose to illustrate the infectious nature of sin among his people. For example, consider the number of times leprosy was described as “unclean” in Leviticus 13 (13:3, 8, 11, 14, 15, 20, 22, 25, 27, 30, 36, 44, 45, 46, 51, 55, 59). Like sin, leprosy is more than a surface issue of the outward man. Untreated, leprosy inevitably infects the tissues, nerves, and body until the extremities rot and decay. The disease so scarred the body of its victim that it was an unbearable ugliness.
Closing thoughts: The ancients had no cure for leprosy, and so the leper prayed earnestly for miraculous healing, a divine intervention. Should the LORD answer his prayers, the leper would be examined by the high priest and if declared “clean,” he would offer sacrifices of thanksgiving (Leviticus 14).
Because of the nature of leprosy, it provided a spiritual portrait of sin’s impact on the soul. Modernists and liberals would have you believe a man is born innocent and his environment (i.e., home, society, religion) is the cause of his societal deprivations. The Scriptures, however, declare “the heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked” (Jeremiah 17:9). Paul likened sin to a physical ailment and wrote, “For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh,) dwelleth no good thing” (Romans 7:18). Jesus taught His disciples, “For out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, blasphemies: 20 These are the thingswhich defile a man” (Matthew 15:19-20).
Despite man’s efforts, humanity has no cure for sin and depravity. As the leper faced certain death without the LORD intervening, so the sinner faces death and hell if he refuses God’s offer of grace and forgiveness through Christ. In God’s eyes, we are spiritual lepers. Yet, in the words of the prophet Isaiah, “[The Messiah, Jesus Christ]hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows: yet we did esteem him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted. 5 But he [Christ] was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed” (Isaiah 53:4-5).
I invite you to confess that you are a spiritual leper, and believe in your heart that Christ, the perfect, sinless Son of God died on the Cross for your sins, was buried, and raised from the dead. To those who believe, the Scriptures promise:
1 John 5:13 – 13These things have I written unto you that believe on the name of the Son of God; that ye may know that ye have eternal life, and that ye may believe on the name of the Son of God.
Copyright © 2023 – Travis D. Smith
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