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Leprosy, Varieties and Symptoms


The Lord spoke to Moses and Aaron, saying:

2 When a person has on the skin of his body a swelling or an eruption or a spot, and it turns into a leprous disease on the skin of his body, he shall be brought to Aaron the priest or to one of his sons the priests. 3The priest shall examine the disease on the skin of his body, and if the hair in the diseased area has turned white and the disease appears to be deeper than the skin of his body, it is a leprous disease; after the priest has examined him he shall pronounce him ceremonially unclean. 4But if the spot is white in the skin of his body, and appears no deeper than the skin, and the hair in it has not turned white, the priest shall confine the diseased person for seven days. 5The priest shall examine him on the seventh day, and if he sees that the disease is checked and the disease has not spread in the skin, then the priest shall confine him seven days more. 6The priest shall examine him again on the seventh day, and if the disease has abated and the disease has not spread in the skin, the priest shall pronounce him clean; it is only an eruption; and he shall wash his clothes, and be clean. 7But if the eruption spreads in the skin after he has shown himself to the priest for his cleansing, he shall appear again before the priest. 8The priest shall make an examination, and if the eruption has spread in the skin, the priest shall pronounce him unclean; it is a leprous disease.

9 When a person contracts a leprous disease, he shall be brought to the priest. 10The priest shall make an examination, and if there is a white swelling in the skin that has turned the hair white, and there is quick raw flesh in the swelling, 11it is a chronic leprous disease in the skin of his body. The priest shall pronounce him unclean; he shall not confine him, for he is unclean. 12But if the disease breaks out in the skin, so that it covers all the skin of the diseased person from head to foot, so far as the priest can see, 13then the priest shall make an examination, and if the disease has covered all his body, he shall pronounce him clean of the disease; since it has all turned white, he is clean. 14But if raw flesh ever appears on him, he shall be unclean; 15the priest shall examine the raw flesh and pronounce him unclean. Raw flesh is unclean, for it is a leprous disease. 16But if the raw flesh again turns white, he shall come to the priest; 17the priest shall examine him, and if the disease has turned white, the priest shall pronounce the diseased person clean. He is clean.

18 When there is on the skin of one’s body a boil that has healed, 19and in the place of the boil there appears a white swelling or a reddish-white spot, it shall be shown to the priest. 20The priest shall make an examination, and if it appears deeper than the skin and its hair has turned white, the priest shall pronounce him unclean; this is a leprous disease, broken out in the boil. 21But if the priest examines it and the hair on it is not white, nor is it deeper than the skin but has abated, the priest shall confine him seven days. 22If it spreads in the skin, the priest shall pronounce him unclean; it is diseased. 23But if the spot remains in one place and does not spread, it is the scar of the boil; the priest shall pronounce him clean.

24 Or, when the body has a burn on the skin and the raw flesh of the burn becomes a spot, reddish-white or white, 25the priest shall examine it. If the hair in the spot has turned white and it appears deeper than the skin, it is a leprous disease; it has broken out in the burn, and the priest shall pronounce him unclean. This is a leprous disease. 26But if the priest examines it and the hair in the spot is not white, and it is no deeper than the skin but has abated, the priest shall confine him seven days. 27The priest shall examine him the seventh day; if it is spreading in the skin, the priest shall pronounce him unclean. This is a leprous disease. 28But if the spot remains in one place and does not spread in the skin but has abated, it is a swelling from the burn, and the priest shall pronounce him clean; for it is the scar of the burn.

29 When a man or woman has a disease on the head or in the beard, 30the priest shall examine the disease. If it appears deeper than the skin and the hair in it is yellow and thin, the priest shall pronounce him unclean; it is an itch, a leprous disease of the head or the beard. 31If the priest examines the itching disease, and it appears no deeper than the skin and there is no black hair in it, the priest shall confine the person with the itching disease for seven days. 32On the seventh day the priest shall examine the itch; if the itch has not spread, and there is no yellow hair in it, and the itch appears to be no deeper than the skin, 33he shall shave, but the itch he shall not shave. The priest shall confine the person with the itch for seven days more. 34On the seventh day the priest shall examine the itch; if the itch has not spread in the skin and it appears to be no deeper than the skin, the priest shall pronounce him clean. He shall wash his clothes and be clean. 35But if the itch spreads in the skin after he was pronounced clean, 36the priest shall examine him. If the itch has spread in the skin, the priest need not seek for the yellow hair; he is unclean. 37But if in his eyes the itch is checked, and black hair has grown in it, the itch is healed, he is clean; and the priest shall pronounce him clean.

38 When a man or a woman has spots on the skin of the body, white spots, 39the priest shall make an examination, and if the spots on the skin of the body are of a dull white, it is a rash that has broken out on the skin; he is clean.

40 If anyone loses the hair from his head, he is bald but he is clean. 41If he loses the hair from his forehead and temples, he has baldness of the forehead but he is clean. 42But if there is on the bald head or the bald forehead a reddish-white diseased spot, it is a leprous disease breaking out on his bald head or his bald forehead. 43The priest shall examine him; if the diseased swelling is reddish-white on his bald head or on his bald forehead, which resembles a leprous disease in the skin of the body, 44he is leprous, he is unclean. The priest shall pronounce him unclean; the disease is on his head.

45 The person who has the leprous disease shall wear torn clothes and let the hair of his head be disheveled; and he shall cover his upper lip and cry out, “Unclean, unclean.” 46He shall remain unclean as long as he has the disease; he is unclean. He shall live alone; his dwelling shall be outside the camp.

47 Concerning clothing: when a leprous disease appears in it, in woolen or linen cloth, 48in warp or woof of linen or wool, or in a skin or in anything made of skin, 49if the disease shows greenish or reddish in the garment, whether in warp or woof or in skin or in anything made of skin, it is a leprous disease and shall be shown to the priest. 50The priest shall examine the disease, and put the diseased article aside for seven days. 51He shall examine the disease on the seventh day. If the disease has spread in the cloth, in warp or woof, or in the skin, whatever be the use of the skin, this is a spreading leprous disease; it is unclean. 52He shall burn the clothing, whether diseased in warp or woof, woolen or linen, or anything of skin, for it is a spreading leprous disease; it shall be burned in fire.

53 If the priest makes an examination, and the disease has not spread in the clothing, in warp or woof or in anything of skin, 54the priest shall command them to wash the article in which the disease appears, and he shall put it aside seven days more. 55The priest shall examine the diseased article after it has been washed. If the diseased spot has not changed color, though the disease has not spread, it is unclean; you shall burn it in fire, whether the leprous spot is on the inside or on the outside.

56 If the priest makes an examination, and the disease has abated after it is washed, he shall tear the spot out of the cloth, in warp or woof, or out of skin. 57If it appears again in the garment, in warp or woof, or in anything of skin, it is spreading; you shall burn with fire that in which the disease appears. 58But the cloth, warp or woof, or anything of skin from which the disease disappears when you have washed it, shall then be washed a second time, and it shall be clean.

59 This is the ritual for a leprous disease in a cloth of wool or linen, either in warp or woof, or in anything of skin, to decide whether it is clean or unclean.

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4. And she shall then continue. The uncleanness of seven days in the case of a male, and fourteen days for a female, has reference to the hemorrhage, as we shall also see elsewhere of the menstrual discharge. For the remainder of the time she is forbidden to take part in religious services, and to approach the sanctuary, (by which word the court is here meant,) and thus is accounted unholy, not only that she should herself lament her condition, but that her husband also, admonished by the sight, should learn to abhor and detest original sin. For this was a serious exhortation to repentance, when they acknowledged that they were contaminated in their offspring, wherein otherwise God’s blessing manifests itself. The question now arises, why the time of purification is double for a female child? Some ascribe this to a natural cause, viz., because the hemorrhage is then of longer continuance; and in truth it was a part of chastity and continence, that husbands should not then come near their wives. But inasmuch as the object of this ceremony was different, viz., as an indication of the curse on the whole human race, we must look more attentively in this direction. I know not whether the view is sound which some take, that the mother is more defiled by female offspring, because there is more disposition to vice in this sex. Perhaps, it is more probable, as some think, that it was because the woman was the beginning of the rebellion, when, being deceived by the serpent, she destroyed her husband with her, and drew her posterity into the same ruin. But it seems more correct to me that the punishment in regard to males was lightened and diminished by circumcision. For although in that symbol God consecrated both sexes, yet He honored males with special favor, by engraving His covenant on their flesh.

Wherefore, also, He expressly mentions their circumcision, whereby a dignity was imparted to them, which rendered them superior to females. At the end of the chapter; regard is had to the poor, lest, being burdened by too great an expense, they might be rendered less ready to obey the Law: whence we gather that God has no care for outward pomp and wealth, since the humble sacrifice of the poor, according to the measure of their poverty, is no less grateful to Him than the more valuable one of the rich.

2. When a man shall have in the skin. Since every eruption was not the leprosy, and did not render a man unclean, when God appoints the priests to be the judges, He distinguishes by certain marks a common eruption from the leprosy; and then subjoins the difference between the various kinds of leprosy. For the disease was not always incurable; but, only when the blood was altogether corrupted, so that the skin itself had become hardened by its corrosion, or swollen by its diseased state. This, then, must be observed in the first place, that the Greek and Latin word lepra, and the Hebrew צרעת tzaragmath, extend further than to the incurable disease, which medical men call elephantiasis 44     LadrerieFr. both on account of the hardness of the skin, and also its mottled color; not, however, that there is an entire agreement between the thickness of the man’s skin and that of an elephant, but because this disease produces insensibility of the skin. This the Greeks call Ψώρα, and if it be not a kind of leprosy, it is nearly allied to it. Thus we see that there was a distinction between the scab and leprosy; just as now-a-days, if it were necessary to judge respecting the itch, (which is commonly called the disease of St. Menanus, 55     St. Mehan — Fr. C. probably wrote Melanus. St. Mean, or Melanus, was a Welshman, who founded the monastery of Gael, now called St. Meen’s, of which he became abbot, and where he died. At his tomb wonderful cures were effected, chiefly of cutaneous diseases, especially “itch and scab, to which a mineral well, which bears the name of the saint, and in which the patient bathes, seems greatly to contribute,” quoth honest Alban Butler. the marks must be observed, which distinguish it from leprosy. But, as to the various kinds of leprosy, I confess that I am not a physician, so as to discuss them accurately, and I purposely abstain from close inquiry about them, because I am persuaded that the disease here treated of affected the Israelites in an extraordinary manner, which we are now unacquainted with; for what do we now know of a leprous house? Indeed it is probable that, since heathen writers knew that the Jewish people suffered from this disease, they laid hold of it as the ground of their falsehood, that all the descendants of Abraham were infected with the itch, and were driven away from Egypt, lest others should catch it from them. That 66     The reference here, I think, ought to be Josephus, Jewish Antiq., Book 3. ch. 11. Section 4. See also, “Against Apion,” Book 1. Section 25, et seq. Tacitus, Hist. v. 3. Justin, 36. 2. this was an ancient calumny appears from Josephus, both in the ninth book of his Antiquities, and in his Treatise against Apion; and it is repeated both by C. Tacitus and Justin. Yet I make no doubt that the Egyptians, a very proud nation, in order to efface the memory of their own disgrace, and of the vengeance inflicted upon them by God, invented this lie, and thus grossly turned against this innocent people what had happened to themselves, when they were smitten with boils and blains. But we shall see hereafter, amongst God’s curses, that He chastised His people with the same plagues as He had inflicted on the Egyptians:

"The Lord will smite thee with the botch of Egypt, and with the emerods, and with the scab,” etc. (Deuteronomy 28:27.)

Whence it may be probably inferred, that God avenged the crimes of His ancient people with special judgments, which are now unknown to us; just as afterwards new diseases arose, from which those in old times were free. At any rate, Josephus, by clear and solid arguments, exposes the absurdity of this accusation, that Moses was driven from Egypt with a crowd of exiles, lest they should infect the country with their disease; because, if they had been universally affected with this malady, he never would have imposed such severe laws for separating the lepers from general society.

God first commands that, whenever a suspicion of leprosy arose, the man was to present himself to the priest; if any symptom of leprosy appeared, He commands him to be shut up for a period of seven days, until it should appear from the progress of the disease that it was incurable leprosy. That God should have appointed the priests to be judges, and those, too, only of the highest order, is a proof that His spiritual service was rather regarded than mere bodily health. If any shall inquire whether leprosy is not a contagious disease, and whether it be not therefore expedient that all who were affected by it should be removed from intercourse with others, I admit, indeed, that such is the case, but I deny that this was the main object in view. For, in process of time, physicians would have been better able to decide by their art and skill: whereas God enjoined this decision upon the priests alone, and gave them the rule whereby they were to judge. Nor did He appoint the Levites indiscriminately, but only the sons of Aaron, who were the highest order, in order that the authority of the decision might be greater. It was, then, by a gross error, or rather impudence, that the Papal priests (sacrifici) assumed to themselves this jurisdiction. It was (they say) the office of the chief priests under the Law to distinguish between the kinds of leprosy; and, therefore, the same right is transferred to the bishops. But they carry the mockery still further: the official 77     Monsieur I’official, etc. — Fr. the bishop’s representative, sits as the legitimate judge; he calls in physicians and surgeons, from whose answers he pronounces what he confesses he is ignorant of himself. Behold how cleverly they accommodate a legal rite to our times! The mockery, however, is still more disgusting, when in another sense they extend to the whole tribe of priests what they have said to belong solely to the bishops; for, since the sin under which all labor is a spiritual leprosy, they thence infer that all are excluded from the congregation of the faithful until they shall have been purged and received by absolution, which they hold to be the common office of all the priests. They afterwards add, that judgment cannot be pronounced till the cause is heard, and so conclude that confession is necessary. But, if they choose to have recourse to subtleties, reason would rather conduct us to the opposite conclusion; for God did not desire the priests to take cognizance of a hidden disease, but only after the manifest symptoms had appeared: hence it will follow, that it is preposterous to bring secret sins to judgment, and that wretched men are dragged to their confession contrary to all law and justice. But, setting aside all these absurdities, an analogy must be observed between us and God’s ancient people. He of old forbade the external uncleanness of the flesh to be tolerated in His people. By Christ’s coming, the typical. figure has ceased; but we are taught that all uncleanness, whereby the purity of His services is defiled, is not to be cherished, or borne with amongst us. And surely excommunication answers to this ceremony; since by it the Church is purified, lest corruptions should everywhere assail it, if wicked and guilty persons occupied a place in it promiscuously with the good. The command of God that, whilst the disease was obscure and questionable, the infected person should be shut up for seven days, recommends moderation to us, lest any, who is still curable, should be condemned before his time. In fact, this medium is to be observed, that the judge should not be too remiss and hasty in pardoning, and still that he should temper severity by justice; and especially that he should not be too precipitate in his judgment. What we translate “shall pronounce him clean, or unclean,” is in Hebrew, “shall clean, or unclean him;” thus the dignity of the judgment is more fully established, as though it had proceeded from God Himself; and assuredly no medical skill could declare on the seventh day a leprosy to be incurable, respecting which there was doubt so short a time before, unless God should in some special manner discover the uncleanness, and guide the eyes of the priests by His Spirit.

29 If a man or woman. What is here spoken of is not the baldness which so often occurs in old age; but that loss of hair, which is the consequence of leprosy, is distinguished from any other, the cause of which may be some indisposition, and which yet does not pollute a man. But, inasmuch as some kinds of baldness do not so greatly differ at first sight from leprosy, — such, for instance, as ophiasis and alopecia 88     “Ophiasis, (ὀφιασις Gr.,) a disease, in which the hair grows thin, and falls off, leaving the parts smooth and winding like the folds of a serpent.”
   "Alopecia, (ἀλωπεκια of ἀλωπηξ, a fox, Gr., the fox-evil,) a disease called the scurf, when the hairs fall from the head by the roots.” — Bailey’s Dictionary.

   "These regulations will be better understood from the fact, that the Orientals distinguish two sorts of baldness. The first is that which begins from the forehead, and the other that which begins from behind. The Hebrew has a distinct name for each of these. By the Arabian poets also, the former is distinguished as the ‘noble baldness,’ because it generally proceeded from the wearing of a helmet; whilst the latter was stigmatized as ‘servile baldness.’ With this understanding, let us read the terms ‘bald’ קרח, (kareach) in verse 40, and ‘forehead-bald’ גבח (gibeach) in verse 41. (See Michaelis, iii. 285.)Illustrated Comment., in loco.
— it is therefore necessary to distinguish them.

44. He is a leprous man, he is unclean. In the first part of the verse he says that the leprous man must be counted unclean; but, in the latter part, he commands the priest to give sentence against this uncleanness, lest it should be carried into the congregation. On this ground he says, “his plague is upon his head,” which is as much as to say, that he is sentenced to just ignominy, for Moses takes it for granted that God holds up to public infamy whomsoever He smites with leprosy, and thence reminds them that they justly and deservedly bear this punishment.

The two following verses contain the form in which the sentence is executed, viz., that the man should wear a rent in his garment, which is to be the mark of his disgrace, that he should walk with his head bare, and with his mouth covered, (for this I take to be the meaning of the covering of his lip;) and besides this, that he is to be the proclaimer of his own pollution; finally, that he must dwell without the camp, as if banished from communication with men. Moses here 99     Add. Fr., “en parlant de l’oster du camp;” in speaking of putting him out of the camp. refers to the existing state of the people, as long as they sojourned in the desert; for after they began to inhabit the land, the lepers were driven out of the towns and villages to dwell by themselves. I know not whether the opinion of some is a sound one, that they were enjoined to cover the mouth or lip, lest by the infection of their breath they should injure others. My own view is rather, that because they were civilly dead, they also bore the symbol of death in having the face covered — as their separation deprived them of the ordinary life of men. Where we translate “shall cry, Unclean, unclean,” some, taking the verb, יקרא yikra, 1010     יקרא. He shall cry, or call out. Had it been passive it would have been יקרא There is, therefore, no ambiguity as to the voice, except to such as deny the authority of the points, or read Hebrew without them. — W indefinitely, construe it passively, “shall be called,:” and I admit that in many passages it has the same force as if it were in the plural number. But, because the repetition of the word “unclean” is emphatic, it is probable that the word is not to be taken simply for “to call,” (vocare;) and therefore, I rather incline to the opinion that, by the command of the Law, they warned all with their own mouth not to approach them, lest any one should incautiously pollute himself by touching them; although their uncleanness was perhaps proclaimed publicly, so that all might mutually exhort each other to beware And Jeremiah seems to allude to this passage, where, speaking 1111     Fr., “en parlant des pollutions de la ville de Jerusalem, il dit que tous pourront bien crier, ‘Souillez, retirez vous, retirez vous,’” in the speaking of the pollutions of the city of Jerusalem, he says, that all might well cry, “Ye polluted, depart ye, depart ye.” A. V. “It is unclean, (or Margin, ye polluted,) depart, depart,” etc. of the defilements of the city, he says that all men cried

"Unclean; fly ye, fly ye.” (Lamentations 4:15)

58. And the garment. This kind of disease, God, in his infinite clemency, has willed to be unknown to us. He has indeed subjected woolen garments and furs to the ravages of the moth, and vessels of various kinds to rust, and other corruptions; in fact, has surrounded the human race with rottenness, in order that everywhere our eyes should light on the punishment of sin; but what the leprosy of garments may be, is unknown. But its expiation under the Law admonished his ancient people that the must carefully beware of even external uncleanness, so as to cleanse themselves “from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit.” It has appeared to me sufficient to touch upon the sum of the matter, because it would be almost superfluous labor to insist upon the words, although I should be unwilling to condemn the diligence of those who examine these points also; but it is not my purpose to perform the office of the grammarian.