Notes & Commentary:
Ver. 3. Camp. The leper was not left to his own judgment to mix with society, as soon as he perceived himself cleansed. He had to send for a priest; and one of the most discerning among those who made it their employment to study in the court of the tabernacle, was commissioned to examine him. (Grotius) — The sacrifice was offered without the camp, (Calmet) if it may be called a sacrifice. (Menochius) — That of Christ’s body was not yet instituted, which supplies all the rest. (St. Augustine, contra adv. i. 19.) (Worthington)
Ver. 4. Sparrows. Hebrew tsipporim. Septuagint, “little birds,” which the law only determines must be clean; such probably as might be procured most easily. The leper was to present them, and kill one. But the priest sprinkled with its blood the other bird, which was tied with a scarlet ribband to the cedar-wood and hyssop, in such a manner that its head and wings were not much wet, as it as to fly away. (Calmet) — The cedar prevents putrefaction, the hyssop is very odoriferous, the scarlet and the bird denote beauty and life, which qualities the leper must acquire. So the penitent regains the virtues he had lost, with interest. (Tirinus)
Ver. 5. Living waters. That is, waters taken from a spring, brook, or river: (Challoner) not stagnant or rain water.
Ver. 7. Rightly. According to law. (Haydock) — The number seven is used to denote perfection, ver. 15, &c. (Menochius) — Field. An emblem of the liberty which the leper would soon enjoy. (Haydock) — The pagans cast over their head the things which had been used for their purification. (Virgil, Ec. viii. 102.) Fer cineres, Amarilli, foras, rivoque fluenti—Transque caput jace, ne respexeris. — They were afraid to trample upon them. (Gell. x. 15.; Metam. xiii. 954.) They were also accustomed to set birds at liberty in honour of their gods. Demosthenes accuses Conon of having eaten those which had been used in his purification. Bonfrere believes that Moses does not here prescribe any sacrifice. Why then is a priest employed to make these aspersions? (Calmet)
Ver. 8. Body, even to the feet, Isaias vii. 20. (Haydock) — Probably with a pair of scissors. (Calmet) — The Egyptians priests did so every third day, that nothing impure might be concealed. (Herod., ii. 37.) The greatest caution was requisite to prevent the return of the leprosy; and therefore, after the first purification, (ver. 4,) the leper is not allowed to go home, till a sufficient time has elapsed to ascertain whether he be radically healed, and then he must offer a sacrifice, ver. 10. (Haydock) — But why so many prescriptions for a disease so involuntary, (Calmet) which must have already caused the unhappy sufferer so much pain? (Haydock) — The Rabbins assert, that the leprosy was sent to punish some secret transgression, particularly some pride or detraction; as they maintain, that every illness is in punishment of some offence. (Abarbanel.) (Grotius) — If [It?] was often the effect of intemperance or negligence; and the sacrifices were exacted, to make some reparation to God for remaining in the camp and near the tabernacle, at the commencement of the disorder. (Calmet) — This foul cutaneous disease was also very infectious, and the law was designed to impress people with a horror of it, and to teach them to prevent its ravages as much as possible. (Haydock) — A sparrow is slain, and the hair shaved, to indicate that all sinful affections must be cut off by the true penitent, while the sparrow, which is sent away into the desert, reminds him that he must live a stranger to pleasure, and perfectly mortified. (Du Hamel) — Days; without having any communication with his wife. (Lyranus)
Ver. 10. A sextary; Hebrew log: a measure of liquids, which was the twelfth part of a hin; and held about as much as six eggs. (Challoner) — For each of the victims a sacrifice of flour and oil was required. (Haydock)
Ver. 12. Offered. Hebrew, “elevated, or waved,” as Exodus xxix. 24.
Ver. 13. Place; on the left hand of the altar of holocausts, chap. i. 11. This sacrifice is different from that for sin, ver. 19. (Calmet)
Ver. 14. Taking of the blood, &c. These ceremonies, used in the cleansing of a leper, were mysterious and very significative. The sprinkling seven times with the blood of the little bird, the washing himself and his clothes, the shaving his hair and his beard, signify the means which are to be used in the reconciliation of a sinner, and the steps by which he is to return to God, viz. by the repeated application of the blood of Christ; the washing his conscience with the waters of compunction; and retrenching all vanities and superfluities, by employing all that is over and above what is necessary in alms deeds. The sin-offering, and the holocaust or burnt-offering, which he was to offer at his cleansing, signify the sacrifice of a contrite and humble heart, and that of adoration in spirit and truth, with gratitude and thankfulness, for the forgiveness of sins, with which we are ever to appear before the Almighty. The touching the right ear, the thumb of the right hand, and the great toe of the right foot, first with the blood of the victim, and then with the remainder of the oil, which had been sprinkled seven times before the Lord, signify the application of the blood of Christ, and the unction of the sevenfold grace of the Holy Ghost to the sinner’s right ear, that he may duly hearken to and obey the law of God; and to his right hand and foot, that the works of his hands, and all the steps or affections of his soul, signified by the feet, may be rightly directed to God. (Challoner) See chap. viii. 23. — These ceremonies might serve to call to the leper’s recollection the benefit which he had received, and to distinguish him from others. (Calmet)
Ver. 17. Blood. Septuagint and Syriac, “upon the place of the blood,” on the person’s ear, thumb, and toe.
Ver. 21. Offering. Hebrew, “a trespass-offering to be waved,” ver. 12, 24. — Oil. The same quantity of oil is required as ver. 10. The rest is diminished two-thirds; only instead of the ewe and one lamb, two turtles or pigeons are substituted. (Haydock)
Ver. 31. Trespass. Hebrew, “sin,” ver. 19. The Chaldean and Septuagint agree with the original text. (Menochius)
Ver. 34. If there. Hebrew, “and I send the plague;” whence some infer, that this leprosy was an effect of God’s special indignation against the owners of the house. (Muis; &c.)
Ver. 36. Become. If any thing was left in the house, it was deemed unclean, as soon as the priest had declared that the house was infected; and therefore, all was to be removed before he came, (Calmet) and might be used without scruple, unless some marks of leprosy appeared afterwards upon the garments, chap. xiii. 47.
Ver. 37. Paleness. Hebrew, “greenish.” (Haydock) — Such spots are often observable in damp churches and cloisters, and cause the plaster to fall off. It is probable that little worms produce this effect. To prevent these vermin from spreading, Moses orders the whole house to be demolished and carried away, if it cannot be otherwise purified. (Calmet) — Thus the plague is communicated not only by persons, but also by all the things which they have touched. The same signs of leprosy are found both in men and in houses. (Menochius)
Ver. 41. Scraped. Hebrew, “he shall scrape.” But the Samaritan copy has more properly, “they shall scrape.” (Houbigant)
Ver. 53. For the house, that it may be no more infected; and for the people, to whom it belongs; that they may carefully avoid offending God, the avenger of all sin. Hebrew, “you shall make an atonement for the house,” or for the sins of its inhabitants. (Haydock)
Ver. 54. Stroke. Hebrew, “scurf,” ulcers, wounds, &c. (Calmet) — “The leprosy of the head or beard,” Chaldean. (Montanus) (Tirinus)
Ver. 57. Be known when. Hebrew, “to teach in what day, &c…..This is the law of leprosy.” (Haydock)
Bible Text & Cross-references:
The rites or sacrifices in cleansing the leprosy. Leprosy in houses.
1 And the Lord spoke to Moses,* saying:
2 This is the rite of a leper, when he is to be cleansed: He shall be brought to the priest:
3 *Who going out of the camp, when he shall find that the leprosy is cleansed,
4 *Shall command him, that is to be purified, to offer for himself two living sparrows, which it is lawful to eat, and cedar-wood, and scarlet and hyssop.
5 And he shall command one of the sparrows to be immolated in an earthen vessel, over living waters:
6 But the other that is alive he shall dip, with the cedar-wood, and the scarlet and the hyssop, in the blood of the sparrow that is immolated:
7 Wherewith he shall sprinkle him that is to be cleansed seven times, that he may be rightly purified: and he shall let go the living sparrow, that it may fly into the field.
8 And when the man hath washed his clothes, he shall shave all the hair of his body, and shall be washed with water; and being purified, he shall enter into the camp, yet so that he tarry without his own tent seven days:
9 And on the seventh day he shall shave the hair of his head, and his beard and his eye-brows, and the hair of all his body. And having washed again his clothes, and his body,
10 On the eighth day he shall take two lambs without blemish, and an ewe of a year old without blemish, and three tenths of flour tempered with oil for a sacrifice, and a sextary of oil apart.
11 And when the priest that purifieth the man, hath presented him, and all these things before the Lord, at the door of the tabernacle of the testimony,
12 He shall take a lamb, and offer it for a trespass-offering with the sextary of oil: and having offered all before the Lord,
13 He shall immolate the lamb, where the victim for sin is wont to be immolated, and the holocaust; that is, in the holy place: for as that which is for sin, so also the victim for a trespass-offering pertaineth to the priest: it is holy of holies.
14 And the priest taking of the blood of the victim that was immolated for trespass, shall put it upon the tip of the right ear of him that is cleansed, and upon the thumb of his right hand, and the great toe of his right foot.
15 And he shall pour of the sextary of oil into his own left hand,
16 And shall dip his right finger in it, and sprinkle it before the Lord seven times.
17 And the rest of the oil in his left hand, he shall pour upon the tip of the right ear of him that is cleansed, and upon the thumb of his right hand, and the great toe of his right foot, and upon the blood that was shed for trespass,
18 And upon his head.
19 And he shall pray for him before the Lord, and shall offer the sacrifice for sin: then shall he immolate the holocaust,
20 And put it on the altar with the libations thereof, and the man shall be rightly cleansed.
21 But if he be poor, and his hand cannot find the things aforesaid: he shall take a lamb for an offering for trespass, that the priest may pray for him, and a tenth part of flour tempered with oil for a sacrifice, and a sextary of oil,
22 *And two turtles, or two young pigeons, of which one may be for sin, and the other for a holocaust:
23 And he shall offer them on the eighth day of his purification to the priest, at the door of the tabernacle of the testimony before the Lord.
24 And the priest receiving the lamb for trespass, and the sextary of oil, shall elevate them together.
25 And the lamb being immolated, he shall put of the blood thereof upon the tip of the right ear of him that is cleansed, and upon the thumb of his right hand, and the great toe of his right foot:
26 But he shall pour part of the oil into his own left hand,
27 And dipping the finger of his right hand in it, he shall sprinkle it seven times before the Lord:
28 And he shall touch the tip of the right ear of him that is cleansed, and the thumb of his right hand, and the great toe of his right foot, in the place of the blood that was shed for trespass,
29 And the other part of the oil that is in his left hand, he shall pour upon the head of the purified person, that he may appease the Lord for him.
30 And he shall offer a turtle, or young pigeon,
31 One for trespass, and the other for a holocaust, with their libations.
32 This is the sacrifice of a leper, that is not able to have all things that appertain to his cleansing.
33 And the Lord spoke to Moses and Aaron, saying:
34 When you shall be come into the land of Chanaan, which I will give you for a possession, if there be the plague of leprosy in a house,
35 He whose house it is, shall go and tell the priest, saying: It seemeth to me, that there is the plague of leprosy in my house.
36 And he shall command, that they carry forth all things out of the house, before he go into it, and see whether it have the leprosy, lest all things become unclean that are in the house. And afterwards he shall go in to view the leprosy of the house.
37 And if he see in the walls thereof as it were little dints, disfigured with paleness or redness, and lower than all the rest,
38 He shall go out of the door of the house, and forthwith shut it up seven days,
39 And returning on the seventh day, he shall look upon it. If he find that the leprosy is spread,
40 He shall command, that the stones wherein the leprosy is, be taken out, and cast without the city into an unclean place:
41 And that the house be scraped on the inside round about, and the dust of the scraping be scattered without the city into an unclean place:
42 And that other stones be laid in the place of them that were taken away, and the house be plastered with other mortar.
43 But if, after the stones be taken out, and the dust scraped off, and it be plastered with other earth,
44 The priest going in perceive that the leprosy is returned, and the walls full of spots, it is a lasting leprosy, and the house is unclean:
45 And they shall destroy it forthwith, and shall cast the stones and timber thereof, and all the dust, without the town into an unclean place.
46 He that entereth into the house when it is shut, shall be unclean until evening.
47 And he that sleepeth in it, and eateth any thing, shall wash his clothes.
48 But if the priest going in perceive that the leprosy is not spread in the house, after it was plastered again, he shall purify it, it being cured.
49 And for the purification thereof he shall take two sparrows, and cedar-wood, and scarlet and hyssop:
50 And having immolated one sparrow in an earthen vessel over living waters,
51 He shall take the cedar-wood, and the hyssop, and the scarlet, and the living sparrow, and shall dip all in the blood of the sparrow that is immolated, and in the living water, and he shall sprinkle the house seven times:
52 And shall purify it as well with the blood of the sparrow, as with the living water, and with the living sparrow, and with the cedar-wood, and the hyssop, and the scarlet.
53 And when he hath let go the sparrow to fly freely away into the field, he shall pray for the house, and it shall be rightly cleansed.
54 This is the law of every kind of leprosy and stroke,
55 Of the leprosy of garments and houses,
56 Of a scar and of blisters breaking out, of a shining spot, and when the colours are diversely changed:
57 That it may be known when a thing is clean, or unclean.
1: Year of the World 2514.
3: Matthew viii. 4.
4: Mark i. 44.; Luke v. 14.
22: Leviticus v. 7. and 11. and xii. 8.; Luke ii. 24.