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with Catholic Commentary by George Leo Haydock

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Leviticus 13

Directions to the priest to judge concerning leprosy. (1-17) Further directions. (18-44) How the leper must be disposed of. (45,46) The leprosy in garments. (47-59)

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Directions to the priest to judge concerning leprosy

1 And the LORD spake unto Moses and Aaron, saying,

2 When 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:

3 And 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.

4 If 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:

5 And 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:

6 And 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.

7 But 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.

8 And if the priest see that, behold, the scab spreadeth in the skin, then the priest shall pronounce him unclean: it is a leprosy.

9 When the plague of leprosy is in a man, then he shall be brought unto the priest;

10 And the priest shall see him: and, behold, if the rising be white in the skin, and it have turned the hair white, and there be quick raw flesh in the rising;

11 It is an old leprosy in the skin of his flesh, and the priest shall pronounce him unclean, and shall not shut him up: for he is unclean.

12 And if a leprosy break out abroad in the skin, and the leprosy cover all the skin of him that hath the plague from his head even to his foot, wheresoever the priest looketh;

13 Then the priest shall consider: and, behold, if the leprosy have covered all his flesh, he shall pronounce him clean that hath the plague: it is all turned white: he is clean.

14 But when raw flesh appeareth in him, he shall be unclean.

15 And the priest shall see the raw flesh, and pronounce him to be unclean: for the raw flesh is unclean: it is a leprosy.

16 Or if the raw flesh turn again, and be changed unto white, he shall come unto the priest;

17 And the priest shall see him: and, behold, if the plague be turned into white; then the priest shall pronounce him clean that hath the plague: he is clean.

Further directions

18 The flesh also, in which, even in the skin thereof, was a boil, and is healed,

19 And in the place of the boil there be a white rising, or a bright spot, white, and somewhat reddish, and it be shewed to the priest;

20 And if, when the priest seeth it, behold, it be in sight lower than the skin, and the hair thereof be turned white; the priest shall pronounce him unclean: it is a plague of leprosy broken out of the boil.

21 But if the priest look on it, and, behold, there be no white hairs therein, and if it be not lower than the skin, but be somewhat dark; then the priest shall shut him up seven days:

22 And if it spread much abroad in the skin, then the priest shall pronounce him unclean: it is a plague.

23 But if the bright spot stay in his place, and spread not, it is a burning boil; and the priest shall pronounce him clean.

24 Or if there be any flesh, in the skin whereof there is a hot burning, and the quick flesh that burneth have a white bright spot, somewhat reddish, or white;

25 Then the priest shall look upon it: and, behold, if the hair in the bright spot be turned white, and it be in sight deeper than the skin; it is a leprosy broken out of the burning: wherefore the priest shall pronounce him unclean: it is the plague of leprosy.

26 But if the priest look on it, and, behold, there be no white hair in the bright spot, and it be no lower than the other skin, but be somewhat dark; then the priest shall shut him up seven days:

27 And the priest shall look upon him the seventh day: and if it be spread much abroad in the skin, then the priest shall pronounce him unclean: it is the plague of leprosy.

28 And if the bright spot stay in his place, and spread not in the skin, but it be somewhat dark; it is a rising of the burning, and the priest shall pronounce him clean: for it is an inflammation of the burning.

29 If a man or woman have a plague upon the head or the beard;

30 Then the priest shall see the plague: and, behold, if it be in sight deeper than the skin; and there be in it a yellow thin hair; then the priest shall pronounce him unclean: it is a dry scall, even a leprosy upon the head or beard.

31 And if the priest look on the plague of the scall, and, behold, it be not in sight deeper than the skin, and that there is no black hair in it; then the priest shall shut up him that hath the plague of the scall seven days:

32 And in the seventh day the priest shall look on the plague: and, behold, if the scall spread not, and there be in it no yellow hair, and the scall be not in sight deeper than the skin;

33 He shall be shaven, but the scall shall he not shave; and the priest shall shut up him that hath the scall seven days more:

34 And in the seventh day the priest shall look on the scall: and, behold, if the scall be not spread in the skin, nor be in sight deeper than the skin; then the priest shall pronounce him clean: and he shall wash his clothes, and be clean.

35 But if the scall spread much in the skin after his cleansing;

36 Then the priest shall look on him: and, behold, if the scall be spread in the skin, the priest shall not seek for yellow hair; he is unclean.

37 But if the scall be in his sight at a stay, and that there is black hair grown up therein; the scall is healed, he is clean: and the priest shall pronounce him clean.

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.

How the leper must be disposed of

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.

The leprosy in garments

47 The garment also that the plague of leprosy is in, whether it be a woollen garment, or a linen garment;

48 Whether it be in the warp, or woof; of linen, or of woollen; whether in a skin, or in any thing made of skin;

49 And if the plague be greenish or reddish in the garment, or in the skin, either in the warp, or in the woof, or in any thing of skin; it is a plague of leprosy, and shall be shewed unto the priest:

50 And the priest shall look upon the plague, and shut up it that hath the plague seven days:

51 And he shall look on the plague on the seventh day: if the plague be spread in the garment, either in the warp, or in the woof, or in a skin, or in any work that is made of skin; the plague is a fretting leprosy; it is unclean.

52 He shall therefore burn that garment, whether warp or woof, in woollen or in linen, or any thing of skin, wherein the plague is: for it is a fretting leprosy; it shall be burnt in the fire.

53 And if the priest shall look, and, behold, the plague be not spread in the garment, either in the warp, or in the woof, or in any thing of skin;

54 Then the priest shall command that they wash the thing wherein the plague is, and he shall shut it up seven days more:

55 And the priest shall look on the plague, after that it is washed: and, behold, if the plague have not changed his colour, and the plague be not spread; it is unclean; thou shalt burn it in the fire; it is fret inward, whether it be bare within or without.

56 And if the priest look, and, behold, the plague be somewhat dark after the washing of it; then he shall rend it out of the garment, or out of the skin, or out of the warp, or out of the woof:

57 And if it appear still in the garment, either in the warp, or in the woof, or in any thing of skin; it is a spreading plague: thou shalt burn that wherein the plague is with fire.

58 And the garment, either warp, or woof, or whatsoever thing of skin it be, which thou shalt wash, if the plague be departed from them, then it shall be washed the second time, and shall be clean.

59 This is the law of the plague of leprosy in a garment of woollen or linen, either in the warp, or woof, or any thing of skins, to pronounce it clean, or to pronounce it unclean.

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G Haydock's Catholic Bible Commentary

Ver. 2. Colour, &c. Heb. “a tumour, abscess, or white spot,” which are the three marks of leprosy. C. — Leprosy. The leprosy was a figure of sin: and the observances prescribed in this and the following chapter, intimate what ought spiritually to be done, in order to be delivered from so great an evil, or preserved from it. Ch. — The authority of the priests in the new law to bind or loose sins, was hereby prefigured. S. Chrys. de Sacerd. 3. W.

Ver. 3. Flesh. These two signs indicated the species of leprosy called volatile, or impetigo, (M.) resembling a scab, which did not penetrate the flesh or bones, as our leprosy or elephantiasis does. Vales. C. xix. — Separated from society. Heb. he shall contaminate him. See v. 11. H. — Some assert, that the physician was first to be consulted. But none but the priests could declare them unclean, or set them at liberty. After they had pronounced sentence, the lepers might apply for medicines to others.

Ver. 6. Obscure. Some translate the Heb. “retired,” with the Syr. and Arab. versions. — Scab, “an ebullition,” or pustule. Theod. S. Jer. in Nah. ii. — Clothes, and himself. See C. xi. 40.

Ver. 8. Uncleanness, or permanent leprosy.

Ver. 10. Living flesh. The leprosy is caused by immense numbers of worms, which crawl between the skin and the flesh, and sometimes infect the latter, and they very bones, garments, &c. Hence the flesh seems all in motion, and living. H. — The different spots in the skin represent heretical opinions obscuring the true faith, of which priests are the judges. Deut. xvii. S. Aug. q. Evang. ii. 40. W.

Ver. 11. Inveterate. Celsus says, this sort of leprosy is hardly ever cured. — Up. But, as the Rom. Sept. reads, “shall separate him,” from the people.

Ver. 13. Clean. The white leprosy causeth no itching. Gorrheus. Cels. v. 28. Theodoret (q. 16,) says, it is incurable; and therefore, the person infected is not shut up, out of pity. So S. Paul (1 Cor. v. 11,) forbids us to eat with a dissolute Christian, while he allows us to have commerce with infidels, though they be wholly corrupt. But others assert, it is not so difficult to cure as that which is partial, v. 14. The hand of Moses was stricken with this white leprosy. Ex. iv. 6. C. — This species is not so contagious. M.

Ver. 14. Live flesh, raw, the skin being consumed in various parts.

Ver. 16. Whiteness, after the red flesh is covered with skin as usual.

Ver. 20. Ulcer, as before, v. 3.

Ver. 23. Place, which is contrary to the nature of leprosy.

Ver. 24. Scar. If it had proceeded from burning it would have been black. M.

Ver. 26. Obscure. Heb. may be, “stopped,” as it is opposed to v. 22, if it spread. See v. 55-6.

Ver. 27. Unclean. Heb. adds, “it is the stroke of leprosy,” and the Sept. “it has spread in the ulcer.”

Ver. 30. Leprosy, or scurf. C. — This species causes the hair to be yellow, and not white. M.

Ver. 31. Black. The Heb. Sam. &c. prefix “not,” which ought probably to be away, as the natural colour of the hair, in that country, is black; while yellow, or white hair, give reason to suspect leprosy; and (v. 32,) the Heb. says, “if there be no yellow hair in it,” which insinuates that it was black before. The Sept. have explained both verses in the same sense, as they found the negation also. If we admit it, we may distinguish black hair from that which approaches to brown, or light-coloured hair. When therefore a person, who had before black hair, has experienced some change, he must be shut up seven days; after which, if his hair be not become yellow or reddish, he must be shaved, &c. C.

Ver. 39. Blemish, or scab, of which Celsus speaks, B. 5.

Ver. 42. Colour, indicating some bad humours, which had caused the hair to fall off.

Ver. 45. Loose, both for the benefit of the leper, and that others may beware of him. M. — Bare, letting the hair grow, (C. xxi. 5. 10,) in testimony of mourning. The leper behaved like one in mourning, tearing his garments, neglecting his hair and beard, or cutting them, and, through shame, covering his face. Ezec. xxiv. 22. The Persians would not allow any lepers to enter their cities. Herod. ii. 138. C.

Ver. 46. Camp, or city, unless some great man, like king Ozias, might be permitted to dwell there in a house, secluded from all society. 4 K. xv. 5. — 2 Par. xxvi. 21.

Ver. 47. Garment that shall have the leprosy. These prescriptions, with relation to garments and houses infected with the leprosy, are to teach us to fly all such company and places as are apt to be the occasion of sin.

Ver. 49. White. Heb. and Sept. “greenish.”

Ver. 51. Grown. Heb. adds here, (and v. 53-6-7-9,) “in the garment, either in the warp, or in the woof, or in a skin, or in any work that is made of a skin.”

Ver. 55. Returned, which it had before it was infected, and, consequently, as the Heb. reads, “behold the plague has not changed its colour.” H.

Ver. 56. Dark, or “at a stand.” See v. 6. Heb. keha, means to sink, like the eyes of an old man, &c.

Ver. 57. Flying, as that in man, v. 12. Heb. it is a leprosy, which returns and is rooted. Chal. “it spreads.” C. See Calmet’s Diss. on the Leprosy. — This dreadful disorder is very common in Arabia and Palestine. During the holy wars many of the Europeans were infected with it. The Jews believe, that the leprosy of garments and of houses was restrained to Judea, and attacked them only when the people rebelled against God. Oleaster. — The providence of God often visited those, who would not obey his ministers, with this disorder. Deut. xxiv. 8. Num. xii. Theod. q. 18. T.

Ver. 59. Pronounced. This word should refer to both; mundari vel contaminari, how it ought to be pronounced clean or unclean; as the law regards the declaration of the priests, and not the medicines to be used for the leprosy. H.