The Law of Leprosy, Part III
Once again, we come to a passage that is as clearly designed to show us spiritual truths as anything possibly could be. The first half finishes our verses on leprosy of the skin. It includes a couple verses about being bald. If a person’s hair falls out and nothing more, he is bald but he is clean. That’s a genuine relief for some of us. It would be a bit more than tragic if people were unclean simply because they were bald. Shine on men; all is well.
After that, there is the note about what a person who is declared unclean is required to do. It is, again, a really nice thing that these things only belonged to the law of Moses, and that being unclean in these ways was only a temporary part of what is seen in redemptive history. The poor lepers of Israel were excluded from society, they were to make it visibly and audibly known that this was the case, and unless they were cured of their affliction, they remained this way permanently.
And then, of course, there is the final major section of our verses, that of leprous garments. As you will see, there is no known parallel to what is described here in these verses. What is given applied only to Israel, and only during the time of the law. As there is nothing to match what is described here anywhere else in history, or at any other location, then it is a clear indication that these verses are given to show us spiritual truths. This is 100% certain.
Nowhere in the New Testament is there any hint of literal garments being defiled, and thus being considered unclean. This is good because when I finish my morning jobs, especially the one at 7-11, someone might otherwise want to send me to a priest for an evaluation. And even worse were the things I used to wear when I worked in the wastewater business. That might lead to a lifetime sentence against me. But such is not the case.
Verses in the New Testament, and even passages from the Old Testament, speak of garments as spiritual metaphors of either pure or unclean lives. To wash one’s garments signifies having one’s life purified. To have garments defiled by the flesh speaks of having one’s life defiled by earthly lusts and pleasures.
Now that you know this, the seemingly irrelevant and even tedious final verses of Leviticus 13 should be considered neither irrelevant nor tedious. Instead, they should be a delightful banquet for you to sit down and consume as we continue our journey through this magnificent gift from God; His superior word. And so let’s turn to that precious word once again and… May God speak to us through His word today and may His glorious name ever be praised.
I. Unclean! Unclean! (Verses 38-46)
38 “If a man or a woman has bright spots on the skin of the body, specifically white bright spots,
We now have, once again, the specific identification which was first seen in verse 29 – “a man or a woman.” Here, the Hebrew states the affliction being considered – beharoth beharoth levanoth, or “bright spots, bright spots white. The same word for this condition, bahereth, was first used in verse 2. It is a bright spot which draws attention to itself. In this case, it is also specified as white, a color denoting works.
The priest is to evaluate the bright spots to determine if they really are “bright.” If they are, it would be another matter entirely. But, if they are instead kehot levanoth bohaq, or darkish white eczema, then there is nothing to worry about. The word bohaq, is only found here in Scripture. It is a word that has continued to be used in the Middle East though. It corresponds to an Arabic word pronounced the same. It is a known affliction which does not render a person unclean, and therefore he is pronounced as such.
The symbolism seems obvious. If a person’s life is literally covered in works which are evident for all to see, it doesn’t necessarily mean that they are prideful in their deeds, even though it may appear that way on the surface. This would be the person who literally gives himself away in doing good for others, so much so that they would wear the skin off their body in the process. God continues to use afflictions of the body to teach us spiritual lessons.
The words translated as “hair has fallen” is a new verb, marat, which is derived from a root meaning, “to polish.” Another new word is the adjective qereakh, translated as “bald.” This particular word signifies baldness on the back of the head. It is only used here, and of the prophet Elisha in 2 Kings 2:23. As hair in the Bible signifies awareness, and in particular awareness of sin, being bald would signify being naive to sin, and a readiness to receive, or “discover,” Christ. Such a person is clean.
Now a different type of baldness is defined. It is where the hair falls mi’peath panav, or from the side toward his face. When the hair falls off the head in this manner then gibeakh hu, or “his forehead is bald.” This word, gibeakh, or bald forehead, is found only here in the Bible. The root it comes from signifies “to be high” as in the forehead.
In the Bible, the forehead is the place of conscience and identification. Therefore, this symbolizes a person who sets their mind on something. As there is no leprous outbreak, the person pictured here is described by Paul in Colossians which says –
“If then you were raised with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ is, sitting at the right hand of God. 2 Set your mind on things above, not on things on the earth.” Colossians 3:1, 2
This person is considered clean. However, in contrast to him…
Here are two nouns, qarakhath, and gabakhath, which will each be seen only four times, and all in this chapter. The first signifies to be bald or bare on the back part, the second signifies the same, but on the forehead. If a reddish-white sore appears on either location, it is an indication of leprosy. Inspection is needed…
The priest is to inspect the leprous sore and make a determination as if it has the appearance of any other leprous sore elsewhere on the body. If this is so, then he is to make his pronouncement…
In picture, the sore on the back of the head is a person who is not seeking Christ. The sore on the front of the head is a person seeking that which is carnal. Such people are unclean and are thus rendered unclean by the priest. As it says, b’rosho nigo, in his head is the plague. Paul describes such as these –
“For many walk, of whom I have told you often, and now tell you even weeping, that they are the enemies of the cross of Christ: 19 whose end is destruction, whose god is their belly, and whose glory is in their shame—who set their mind on earthly things.” Philippians 3:18, 19
The torn clothes, the disheveled hair, and the covered upper lip are all seen elsewhere in the Bible as signs of mourning and/or shame. The cry of “Unclean! Unclean!” was a sign and a warning to others of the disgrace they bore. Albert Barnes rightly notes their state –
“The leper was a living parable in the world of the sin of which death was the wages; not the less so because his suffering might have been in no degree due to his own personal desserts: he bore about with him at once the deadly fruit and the symbol of the sin of his race. As his body slowly perished, first the skin, then the flesh, then the bone, fell to pieces while yet the animal life survived; he was a terrible picture of the gradual corruption of the spirit worked by sin.” Albert Barnes
Sin is a deep infection, and the varied kinds of sin which are reflected in these various skin maladies, render a person unclean. Such people will ultimately be separated forever from the people of God, unless they turn to Christ for healing. Such is seen next…
The sin which causes a person to be unclean keeps them defiled until they come to the Physician in order to be healed. Only Christ can do this. And so they are not to be considered a part of the community of the saints. The word translated as “alone” however, is not technically correct. It is badad, a verb which indicates alone, but as if in isolation. In other words, if there are other lepers, they could, and were, isolated together. It is reflective of the division between those deemed as clean, and those deemed as unclean. All the days that a person was unclean, they were to dwell not among the clean, but among the unclean.
Unclean! Unclean! My sin is an infectious wound
It has separated me from God’s purified people
In a land of exile, I have been marooned
Kept from fellowship there beneath the church steeple
I have had my mind set on earthly things
My eyes have lusted after that which is not pure and good
Only sadness and pain this type of life brings
And of this truth I have finally understood
Heal me of my infectious wound O Lord
Cleanse me by the shed blood of the perfect Christ
And I will ever after turn my life toward
The One who on Calvary’s cross was sacrificed
Purified, whole, and forever made clean
In garments of white, radiant, pure, and pristine
II. Leprous Garments (verses 47-59)
47 “Also, if a garment has a leprous plague in it, whether it is a woolen garment or a linen garment,
The word now turns to leprosy of a garment. Here, two types of fabric are named – tsemer, or wool, and pesheth, or flax linen. What seems curious is that a garment is said to have leprosy. Different theories about this have arisen to somehow explain that this isn’t actually leprosy, but the wording and the symptoms of the plague warn against these introductions.
Charles Ellicott notes that administrators of the law during the second temple period believed that the “leprosy of garments and houses was not to be found in the world generally, but was a sign and miracle in Israel to guard them against an evil tongue.” In other words, this was a real, unique plague that was only found in Israel.
Both of these materials were used for garments as coverings. They were never to be mixed in the same garment though. That is forbidden in Deuteronomy 22:11.
The translation here is extremely hard to pin down as to its true meaning. First, two new words are again introduced. The shethi, translated as warp, will be seen 9 times in this chapter, and never again. They are the lengthwise yarns that are held in tension on a frame or loom to create cloth. This comes from a word which means “to set.” Next also is translated the erev, or woof. They are the threads which are drawn through, inserted over-and-under, the lengthwise warp. Erev signifies mix or mingle. Elsewhere it is translated as “foreigner.” Together, these form a fabric.
But, because it seems more than improbable that a material would have an infection in threads going in one direction, but not in another, I don’t think this is what is being relayed here. One scholar says, “the inside, or the outside.” Others say it is the yarn to be used for the warp or woof, but not yet sewn. But once they are sewn, it would still be impossible to tear one out and not the other.
There are two likely possibilities. The first is what is seen in several modern translations. They separate the two by saying “woven or knitted material.” In that, they distinguish between the types of fabric which have been made, not based on cloth for the material, but how the material is made. That is actually ingenious after eons of translations saying “warp and woof.”
The other possibility is that it is speaking of the two materials, the wool and the linen, being sewn into two different types of cloth. It is the material which is being described. This is what I would go with. The roots of the words seem to give us the answer.
The shethi is the linen. It indicates that which is set. Thus it is an Israelite. The erev is the wool. It signifies mixture or mingling, and is also translated “foreigner.” Thus it is a foreigner, just as the Zemarites of Genesis 10:18 are foreigners, having descended from Noah’s grandson Canaan. This would then perfectly explain the spiritual meaning of why wool and linen were forbidden to be mixed in Deuteronomy 22:11.
48 (con’t) whether in leather or in anything made of leather,
Here it also mentions or, or “skin,” and thus it is a leprous plague in a hide, or in anything made of a hide. This is a third category. There are those of Israel, and there are those of the Gentiles, but what does the or, or “skin,” signify? The word signifies to be exposed, or bare. I would suggest that it speaks of the universality of man – Jew and Gentile. One could make a distinction between the two by the first two terms, but the third term unites the two where there is now no distinction between Jew and Gentile. All must come to Christ in the same way.
49 and if the plague is greenish or reddish in the garment or in the leather, whether in the warp or in the woof, or in anything made of leather, it is a leprous plague and shall be shown to the priest.
The word yeraqraq or “greenish” is introduced here. It is believed to give the sense of having a yellowish tone to it rather than being fully green. Although it is such a rare word that there is disagreement on this. It is used only three times. The third is in Psalm 68 when describing gold, and so it probably means either yellowish or glistening. If the material or garment or any other thing made of skins, such as a wineskin, etc, is greenish or reddish, it is to be considered leprous and requiring the priest to examine it.
Like the leprosy on a person who is then to be isolated seven days, so it is with the item made of one of these materials. Seven, being the number of spiritual perfection, are the number of days required in order to provide a sufficient time for an evaluation to be made, and see if any positive or negative changes occur during that time.
51 And he shall examine the plague on the seventh day. If the plague has spread in the garment, either in the warp or in the woof, in the leather or in anything made of leather, the plague is an active leprosy. It is unclean.
The word maar, or malignant, is brought in here. It will be seen three times in Leviticus, and once in Ezekiel. It indicates a prick, as if from a brier, but it comes from a root which means bitter, or causatively, to embitter. If the plague spreads during that seven days of isolation, the leprosy is considered active, and thus the garment is unclean. Bad news for the garment…
52 He shall therefore burn that garment in which is the plague, whether warp or woof, in wool or in linen, or anything of leather, for it is an active leprosy; the garment shall be burned in the fire.
Unlike today, where we go shopping for clothes on any given day, and wear them until we tire of them and then toss them out, in Israel, a garment had much greater value. The same is true with any thing made of leather. Things were kept as long as possible because they cost a much larger percentage of a person’s budget than now. However, if there was a spreading leprosy in the item, it was toast. One would speculate that it would be the priest himself who would guarantee the garment was burned in order to ensure that the plague was destroyed.
If, in the determination of the priest, the leprosy has not spread, then it may not be malignant at all. Despite it being a leprosy, it may just be one which is stalled and can be taken care of in another way. If this is the case…
If after seven days, there was no change in the garment, then it is to be washed and then isolated once again. The word for wash, kabas, is used 51 times in the Bible, almost every instance of which it is speaking of garments. Of the few exceptions to this, the most notable is found in Psalm 51 where it is used twice –
Have mercy upon me, O God,
According to Your lovingkindness;
According to the multitude of Your tender mercies,
Blot out my transgressions.
2 Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity,
And cleanse me from my sin.
3 For I acknowledge my transgressions,
And my sin is always before me.
4 Against You, You only, have I sinned,
And done this evil in Your sight—
That You may be found just when You speak,
And blameless when You judge.
5 Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity,
And in sin my mother conceived me.
6 Behold, You desire truth in the inward parts,
And in the hidden part You will make me to know wisdom.
7 Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean;
Wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow.
8 Make me hear joy and gladness,
That the bones You have broken may rejoice.
9 Hide Your face from my sins,
And blot out all my iniquities. Psalm 51:1-9
One other time it doesn’t specifically refer to garments being washed is in Jeremiah 2 –
Subtle hints of other things are certainly being seen in these choicely selected words.
55 Then the priest shall examine the plague after it has been washed; and indeed if the plague has not changed its color, though the plague has not spread, it is unclean, and you shall burn it in the fire; it continues eating away, whether the damage is outside or inside.
What might seem surprising at first, but which isn’t at all when considered, is that if there is no change in the leprous plague, the garment was to be destroyed. One might at first have thought that its not spreading was a good thing. But it is the plague, not its spreading, which is unclean. Unless the plague retreated, signifying that it was in complete remission, it was just as much a plague as it was when it was identified.
The translation here says, “has not changed its color.” However, the Hebrew says, “not changed the plague its eye.” In other words, “its appearance.” The word “color” lacks the whole aspect of the intent of the word. As the eye perceives, so is its “eye” or “appearance.” If the plague remains after being washed, it is described by a word used just this once in the Bible; it is a pekhetheth – an eating. The word thus means “a pit.”
And what actually is surprising is that in this verse are the two nouns, qarakhath, and gabakhath, which were first seen in verse 42, there translated as “bald head” and “bald forehead.” Here, they are translated as “outside” and “inside.” Regardless as to whether the plague is on the side which is seen, or the inside which is not seen, it is still a leprous plague, and it is to be burnt in the fire. With this verse, we can now say goodbye to the words qarakhath and gabakhath.
The verse is pretty much self-explanatory. The word faded means to darken. Instead of being a glistening plague, it has now dulled. If this occurs, then the part which contains it is to be torn out of it. Whatever material it is made of, that portion which is defiled is to be torn from it.
Bad news again. If at any time the plague reappears in any garment as described, the plague is to be considered a malignant one, and the entire garment is to be burnt.
If the first washing was fully successful in cleaning the garment, then there is no need to tear anything out of it. Instead, it is to be given a second washing, and wahlah, it is considered clean.
As we saw already, the garment or utensil itself was infected with the scourge. It didn’t merely transmit a disease as we would think of something communicable today. Rather, the garment itself bore the disease, and thus it was a sign and it was a miraculous curse for Israel to learn from. And as Israel was to learn from this, so we too are to learn from it. What literally happened in Israel, is something which carries spiritual meaning for us today.
The leprous article has essentially the same spiritual application as that of leprosy on a person. Further, as I showed above, the words translated as “warp” and “woof” actually look to the materials of which the garments are made. One was from linen, picturing Israelites; the other was from wool, picturing Gentiles. The third category, leather, or literally “skin,” signifies any without distinction.
If a plague of leprosy is found, as it is with all people bearing original sin, it is an indication of grievous sin, just as it was in the skin of people in the early verses of this chapter. It must be dealt with – through purification of healing, or through purification in destruction by fire.
When a garment bears the curse of sin it is to be isolated for seven days. This is the time allotted for any person during the course of their life. It is emblematic of the time deemed by God as their pre-appointed span. If they are shown to be unregenerate, and if their leprosy spreads during that span, they have had their chance. Without purification, for them it is off to the Lake of Fire for what is truly divine purification – eternal and final.
If however, there is no change after the first evaluation, meaning there is still original sin, but there is no further spreading of the leprous plague, it is to be isolated another seven days. If there is no change in the garment after that, meaning whatever time of grace the person is given to be purified, the person is still sent off to be eternally burned.
As I said in that verse (55), it is the plague itself which is unclean, not whether it has spread or not. As we bear original sin, we stand unclean. Even if we live a life full of good works, and our original sin never spreads, we are still tainted with the plague. It must be purified. In this case it wasn’t, and so it is off to the Lake for purification through fire.
In the next example, the plague has gone into remission and the plague has faded (56), that portion of the garment is to be torn out. The plague has been excised, but there is a warning that if it returns again, the garment is to be burnt with fire. The instructions for this situation never proclaim the garment clean. It simply leaves the note that if the plague appears again, it will be burned. A garment which is not declared clean, is by default unclean. A person who purifies their life, and removes every vestige of sin, is no closer to being declared clean than the most vile sinner. There is only the sense that spreading sin could return at any time and reinfect the poor soul.
The final example is the garment which was washed, and the plague has disappeared, that garment shall be washed a second time, and it will be declared clean. The first time, the priest commanded the owner to wash the garment. This is then the person who is attentive to the word and who takes it to heart. When the conversion is seen, the second washing, that of cleansing and purification through the blood of Christ, is what truly cleanses. The declaration is, “Clean!”
In the end, the passage concerning the leprous garment only has one way to be declared clean, and that is through the second washing, picturing the work of Christ. There are some who are obviously defiled. Their garments are stained, and they continue to stain them. Their plague is active, and it will end in destruction.
There are those who hear the word and who do nothing with it. They may rely on their own washing, but their plague remains. They are the ones spoken of by Jeremiah. They wash themselves with lye, but their iniquity is still there before the Lord. It is an open sore which is not healed. Their end is also destruction.
There are those who hear the word and who clean themselves up in accord with the word, even to the point where their sin is no longer evident. But they are never declared clean. It is only a hopeful signal of future good. It is one which is left unanswered as to what they will finally do with their lives.
Unless they receive the second birth through the washing of water through the word, taking the message of Christ in and having no trace of the plague of defilement, they are simply garments with holes torn out of them, unable to serve the purpose for which they were originally intended.
And then there are those who come to the great Physician, who have their garments purified by Him, and who are saved from the eternal fire which awaits any and all who fail to do likewise. The lesson here is that of grace. The infection is already in the garment, and it must be removed. The Priest could just say, “This is infected, burn it.” And He would be well within His rights to do so. But when grace is offered, and when it is received, He can take that which was defiled and purify it wholly and completely.
If you are still awaiting your declaration of purity – your guarantee of eternal life because of the removal of that which separates you from God – call on Christ Jesus, be washed in the blood of the Lamb, and be purified whiter than snow itself.
Closing Verse: “To Him who loved us and washed us from our sins in His own blood, 6 and has made us kings and priests to His God and Father, to Him be glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen.” Revelation 1:5, 6
Next Week: Leviticus 14:1-9 What will these nine verses yield? (Set Free in an Open Field) (22nd Leviticus Sermon)
The Lord has you exactly where He wants you. He has a good plan and purpose for you. Even if you have a lifetime of sin heaped up behind you, He can wash it away and purify you completely and wholly. So follow Him and trust Him and He will do marvelous things for you and through you.
The Law of Leprosy
“If a man or a woman has bright spots
On the skin of the body, specifically white bright spots
———-such is the sight
Then the priest shall look; and indeed
If the bright spots on the skin of the body are dull white
It is a white spot that grows on the skin
He is clean; surely this is worthy of a super happy grin
“As for the man whose hair has fallen from his head
He is bald, but he is clean
Don’t worry Charlie
This is all that it does mean
He whose hair has fallen from his forehead; only forehead is seen
He is bald on the forehead, but he is clean
And if there is on the bald head or bald forehead
A reddish-white sore
It is leprosy breaking out on his bald head
Or his bald forehead; it is leprosy for sure
Then the priest shall examine it
And indeed if the swelling of the sore is reddish-white
On his bald head or on his bald forehead
As the appearance of leprosy on the skin of the body is the sight
He is a leprous man. He is unclean
The priest shall surely pronounce him unclean
His sore is on his head
This is what that sore does mean
“Now the leper on whom the sore is
His clothes shall be torn and his head bare
And he shall cover his mustache, and cry
‘Unclean! Unclean!’ A most distressing affair
He shall be unclean
All the days he has the sore he shall be unclean; it is so
He is unclean, and he shall dwell alone
His dwelling shall be outside the camp; out there he shall go
“Also, if a garment has a leprous plague in it
Whether it is a woolen garment or a linen garment, whichever
Whether it is in the warp or woof of linen or wool
Whether in leather or in anything made of leather
And if the plague is greenish or reddish
In the garment or in the leather
Whether in the warp or in the woof
Or in anything made of leather, yes anything whatsoever
It is a leprous plague and shall be shown to the priest
This applies to everyone, from the greatest to the least
The priest shall examine the plague
And isolate that which has the plague seven days
And he shall examine the plague on the seventh day
If the plague has spread in the garment, in any of these ways
Either in the warp or in the woof
In the leather or in anything made of leather it is seen
The plague is an active leprosy
It is unclean; this is what that does mean
He shall therefore burn that garment in which is the plague
Whether warp or woof, in wool or in linen; ready the burning pyre
Or anything of leather, for it is an active leprosy
The garment shall be burned in the fire
“But if the priest examines it
And indeed the plague in the garment has not spread
Either in the warp or in the woof
Or in anything made of leather, as I have said
Then the priest shall command that they wash the thing
In which is the plague, they shall do this as I say
And he shall isolate it another seven days
Thus shall it be this way
Then the priest shall examine the plague after it has been washed
And indeed if the plague has not changed its color at all
Though the plague has not spread, it is unclean
And you shall burn it in the fire, this is My judgment call
It continues eating away, it is unclean
Whether the damage is outside or inside; this is what it does mean
If the priest examines it
And indeed the plague has faded after washing it
Then he shall tear it out of the garment
Whether out of the warp or out of the woof, or out of the leather
———– so to you I do submit
But if it appears again in the garment
Either in the warp or in the woof, or in anything made of leather
It is a spreading plague; you shall burn with fire
That in which is the plague, yes in anything whatsoever
And if you wash the garment, either warp or woof
Or whatever is made of leather, whatever material is seen
If the plague has disappeared from it
Then it shall be washed a second time, and shall be clean
“This is the law of the leprous plague
In a garment of wool or linen, either in the warp or woof as is seen
Or in anything made of leather
To pronounce it clean or to pronounce it unclean
Lord God, we were all unclean before Your eyes
Each of us deserved to be cast into the eternal Lake of Fire
But You treated us like a marvelous prize
And rescued or souls from that terrible burning pyre
What value is man that You would do such for us?
What do You see in us that this thing has been done?
You took our uncleanness and placed it upon Jesus
There on Calvary’s cross; laid upon Your Son
Though it is beyond our ability to understand
We receive the Gift and now call out in praise to You
For what You have done; so marvelous and grand
Thank You for Christ our Lord; who is ever faithful and true
Praises, yes praises we call out now and forevermore
Whether here on earth, or upon that heavenly shore
Hallelujah and Amen…