Notes & Commentary:
Ver. 2. Colour, &c. Hebrew, “a tumour, abscess, or white spot,” which are three marks of leprosy. (Calmet) — 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. (Challoner) — The authority of the priests in the new law to bind or loose sins, was hereby prefigured. (St. Chrysostom, de Sacerd. 3.) (Worthington)
Ver. 3. Flesh. These two signs indicated the species of leprosy called volatile, or impetigo, (Menochius) resembling a scab, which did not penetrate the flesh or bones, as our leprosy or elephantiasis does. (Vales.; Chap. xix.) — Separated from society. Hebrew, “he shall contaminate him.” See ver. 11. (Haydock) — 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 Hebrew “retired,” with the Syriac and Arabic versions. — Scab, “an ebullition,” or pustule. (Theodoret; St. Jerome in Nah. ii.) — Clothes, and himself. See Chap. 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 the very bones, garments, &c. Hence the flesh seems all in motion, and living. (Haydock) — The different spots in the skin represent heretical opinions obscuring the true faith, of which priests are the judges, Deuteronomy xvii. (St. Augustine, q. Evang. ii. 40.) (Worthington)
Ver. 11. Inveterate. Celsus says, this sort of leprosy is hardly ever cured. — Up. But, as the Roman Septuagint reads, “shall separate him,” from the people.
Ver. 13. Clean. The white leprosy causeth no itching. (Gorrheus.; Celsus, v. 28.) Theodoret (q. 16,) says, it is incurable; and therefore, the person infected is not shut up, out of pity. So St. Paul (1 Corinthians 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, ver. 14. The hand of Moses was stricken with this white leprosy, Exodus iv. 6. (Calmet) — This species is not so contagious. (Menochius)
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, ver. 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. (Menochius)
Ver. 26. Obscure. Hebrew may be, “stopped,” as it is opposed to ver. 22, if it spread. See ver. 55-56.
Ver. 27. Unclean. Hebrew adds, “it is the stroke of leprosy,” and the Septuagint, “it has spread in the ulcer.”
Ver. 30. Leprosy, or scurf. (Calmet) — This species causes the hair to be yellow, and not white. (Menochius)
Ver. 31. Black. The Hebrew, Samaritan, &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 (ver. 32,) the Hebrew says, “if there be no yellow hair in it,” which insinuates that it was black before. The Septuagint 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. (Calmet)
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. (Menochius) — Bare, letting the hair grow, (chap. 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, Ezechiel xxiv. 22. The Persians would not allow any lepers to enter their cities. (Herodotus ii. 138.) (Calmet)
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 Kings xv. 5. — 2 Paralipomenon 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. Hebrew and Septuagint, “greenish.”
Ver. 51. Grown. Hebrew adds here, (and ver. 53, 56, 57, 59,) “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 Hebrew reads, “behold the plague has not changed its colour.” (Haydock)
Ver. 56. Dark, or “at a stand.” See ver. 6. Hebrew keha, means to sink, like the eyes of an old man, &c.
Ver. 57. Flying, as that in man, ver. 12. Hebrew, “it is a leprosy, which returns and is rooted.” Chaldean, “it spreads.” (Calmet) 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, Deuteronomy xxiv. 8. and Numbers xii. (Theodoret q. 18.) (Tirinus)
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. (Haydock)
Bible Text & Cross-references:
The law concerning leprosy in men, and in garments.
1 And the Lord spoke *to Moses and Aaron, saying:
2 The man, in whose skin or flesh shalt arise a different colour or a blister, or as it were something shining, that is, the stroke of the leprosy, shall be brought to Aaron the priest, or any one of his sons.
3 And if he see the leprosy in his skin, and the hair turned white, and the place where the leprosy appears lower than the skin and the rest of the flesh; it is the stroke of the leprosy, and upon his judgment he shall be separated.
4 But if there be a shining whiteness in the skin, and not lower than the other flesh, and the hair be of the former colour, the priest shall shut him up seven days.
5 And the seventh day he shall look on him: and if the leprosy be grown no farther, and hath not spread itself in the skin, he shall shut him up again other seven days.
6 And on the seventh day he shall look on him: if the leprosy be somewhat obscure, and not spread in the skin, he shall declare him clean, because it is but a scab: and the man shall wash his clothes, and shall be clean.
7 But if the leprosy grow again, after he was seen by the priest, and restored to cleanness, he shall be brought to him,
8 And shall be condemned of uncleanness.
9 If the stroke of the leprosy be in a man, he shall be brought to the priest,
10 And he shall view him. And when there shall be a white colour in the skin, and it shall have changed the look of the hair, and the living flesh itself shall appear:
11 It shall be judged an inveterate leprosy, and grown into the skin. The priest therefore shall declare him unclean, and shall not shut him up, because he is evidently unclean.
12 But if the leprosy spring out running about in the skin, and cover all the skin from the head to the feet, whatsoever falleth under the sight of the eyes,
13 The priest shall view him, and shall judge that the leprosy which he has is very clean: because it is all turned into whiteness, and therefore the man shall be clean.
14 But when the live flesh shall appear in him,
15 Then by the judgment of the priest he shall be defiled, and shall be reckoned among the unclean: for live flesh, if it be spotted with leprosy, is unclean.
16 And if again it be turned into whiteness, and cover all the man,
17 The priest shall view him, and shall judge him to be clean.
18 When also there has been an ulcer in the flesh and the skin, and it has been healed,
19 And in the place of the ulcer, there appeareth a white scar, or somewhat red, the man shall be brought to the priest:
20 And when he shall see the place of the leprosy lower than the other flesh, and the hair turned white, he shall declare him unclean; for the plague of leprosy is broken out in the ulcer.
21 But if the hair be of the former colour, and the scar somewhat obscure, and be not lower than the flesh that is near it, he shall shut him up seven days.
22 And if it spread, he shall judge him to have the leprosy:
23 But if it stay in its place, it is but the scar of an ulcer, and the man shall be clean.
24 The flesh also and skin that hath been burnt, and after it is healed hath a white or a red scar,
25 The priest shall view it, and if he see it turned white, and the place thereof is lower than the other skin: he shall declare him unclean, because the evil of leprosy is broken out in the scar.
26 But if the colour of the hair be not changed, nor the blemish lower than the other flesh, and the appearance of the leprosy be somewhat obscure, he shall shut him up seven days,
27 And on the seventh day he shall view him: if the leprosy be grown farther in the skin, he shall declare him unclean.
28 But if the whiteness stay in its place, and be not very clear, it is the sore of a burning, and therefore he shall be cleansed, because it is only the scar of a burning.
29 If the leprosy break out in the head or the beard of a man or woman, the priest shall see them,
30 And if the place be lower than the other flesh, and the hair yellow, and thinner than usual: he shall declare them unclean, because it is the leprosy of the head and the beard.
31 But if he perceive the place of the spot is equal with the flesh that is near it, and the hair black, he shall shut him up seven days:
32 And on the seventh day he shall look upon it. If the spot be not grown, and the hair keep its colour, and the place of the blemish be even with the other flesh:
33 The man shall be shaven all but the place of the spot, and he shall be shut up other seven days.
34 If on the seventh day the evil seem to have staid in its place, and not lower than the other flesh, he shall cleanse him, and his clothes being washed he shall be clean.
35 But if after his cleansing, the spot spread again in the skin,
36 He shall seek no more whether the hair be turned yellow, because he is evidently unclean.
37 But if the spot be staid, and the hair be black, let him know that the man is healed, and let him confidently pronounce him clean.
38 If a whiteness appear in the skin of a man or a woman,
39 The priest shall view them. If he find that a darkish whiteness shineth in the skin, let him know that it is not the leprosy, but a white blemish, and that the man is clean.
40 The man whose hair falleth off from his head, he is bald and clean:
41 And if the hair fall from his forehead, he is bald before and clean.
42 But if in the bald head or in the bald forehead, there be risen a white or reddish colour,
43 And the priest perceive this, he shall condemn him undoubtedly of leprosy, which is risen in the bald part.
44 Now whosoever shall be defiled with the leprosy, and is separated by the judgment of the priest,
45 Shall have his clothes hanging loose, his head bare, his mouth covered with a cloth, and he shall cry out that he is defiled and unclean.
46 All the time that he is a leper and unclean, he shall dwell alone without the camp.
47 A woollen or linen garment that shall have the leprosy
48 In the warp, and the woof, or a skin, or whatsoever is made of a skin,
49 If it be infected with a white or red spot, it shall be accounted the leprosy, and shall be shewn to the priest.
50 And he shall look upon it, and shall shut it up seven days:
51 And on the seventh day, when he looketh on it again, if he find that it is grown, it is a fixed leprosy: he shall judge the garment unclean, and every thing wherein it shall be found:
52 And therefore it shall be burnt with fire.
53 But if he see that it is not grown,
54 He shall give orders, and they shall wash that part wherein the leprosy is, and he shall shut it up other seven days.
55 And when he shall see that the former colour is not returned, nor yet the leprosy spread, he shall judge it unclean, and shall burn it with fire, for the leprosy has taken hold of the outside of the garment, or through the whole.
56 But if the place of the leprosy be somewhat dark, after the garment is washed, he shall tear it off, and divide it from that which is sound.
57 And if after this there appear in those places that before were without spot, a flying and wandering leprosy: it must be burnt with fire.
58 If it cease, he shall wash with water the parts that are pure, the second time, and they shall be clean.
59 This is the law touching the leprosy of any woollen or linen garment, either in the warp or woof, or any thing of skins, how it ought to be cleansed, or pronounced unclean.
1: Year of the World 2514.