Leper

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Fausset's Bible Dictionary [1]

Heat, drought, and toil amid dry powdery substances, tend to generate skin disease, especially in absence of nourishing diet and personal cleanliness. These predisposing causes all exist in Syria and Egypt. Elephantiasis especially prevailed in Egypt, "the parent of such taints" (Lucr. 6:1112). Israel's long stay there exposed them to the malady, as is implied in the legend (Died. Sic. ii., Tacitus, Hist. 5:3-4; Justin 36:2; Josephus Ant. 3:2, section 4; Chaeremon and Manetho in Jos. c. Apion 1:26,32-34) that the king of Egypt drove out a multitude of impure people and lepers, Jews and Egyptians, the lepers among whom the king's soldiers wrapped in sheets of lead and drowned in the sea (compare  Exodus 15:10), and that Moses a sacred scribe was the leader of the rest through the wilderness into Judaea (compare the "mixed multitude,"  Exodus 12:38).

Leprosy, beginning with little pain, goes on in its sluggish but sure course, until it mutilates the body, deforms the features turns the voice into a croak, and makes the patient a hopeless wreck. It has left the Israelites for other races in modern times. Νega'Tsara'Ath means a plague or stroke of leprosy (Septuagint), rather Elephantiasis . An animal poison in the blood ferments there and affects the skin, depositing an albuminous substance, and destroying the sensation of the nerves. The tuberculated form is the common one, inflaming the skin, distorting the face and joints, causing the hair of the head or eyebrows to fall off or else turn white ( Leviticus 13:3-6), and encrusting the person with ulcerous tubercles with livid patches of surface between. The anesthetic elephantiasis begins in the forehead ( 2 Chronicles 26:19-21) with shining white patches which burst; bone by bone drops off; the skin is mummy-like; the lips hang down exposing the teeth and gums. Tuberculated patients live (on the average) for only ten years more; anesthetic for 20.

The latter is called "white leprosy," but is distinct from the common white leprosy which covers the whole person, or freckles it with white bright spots, and which did not make ceremonially unclean ( Leviticus 13:12-38-39). Sometimes one limb alone is affected with a dead pearl-like whiteness (compare  Exodus 4:6, "Moses' hand was leprous as snow;"  Numbers 12:10;  Numbers 12:12, "as one dead, of whom the flesh is half consumed when he cometh out of his mother's womb;"  2 Kings 5:27). Job was affected with acute tuberculous elephantiasis, rapidly ulcerating his body ( 2 Kings 2:7-8). The tuberculated form was in Israelite times medically incurable. Swine's flesh and scaleless and finless fish, used as food, tend to generate the disease; one reason of the prohibition ( Leviticus 11:7;  Leviticus 11:9-12). Separation of lepers from society has been common in all countries, partly from the dread of contagion, and also among the Israelites from the conviction that it was the special visitation of God.

It was generally hereditary (compare  2 Samuel 3:29, "let there not fail from the house of Joab ... a leper".) Lepers associated together without the camp, as they still do ( 2 Kings 7:3;  Luke 17:12). A habitation was provided for them outside Jerusalem, upon the hill Gareb, as the name implies "the hill of scraping" or leprosy ( Jeremiah 31:40;  Job 2:8); it (more recently called Bezetha), Goath (the hill of the dead), and Tophet (the valley of corpses) were the three defiled spots which Jeremiah foretold should be included in the restored city. Segregation wisely checked extension of leprosy, by preventing intermarriage of lepers with the sound. It was less a trial to the leper than intercourse with his fellow men, who loathed his presence, would have been. Spiritually, leprosy typified sin, and its treatment represented the separation which sin makes between sinners and saints.

The law is the inspired interpreter of nature's truths. The leper was a "walking tomb," "a parable of death," and of sin "the wages of which is death." Hence he had to wear the badges of mourning, a covering upon his upper lip, and was regarded "as one dead" ( Leviticus 13:45;  Numbers 12:12). He was to cry, "Unclean, Unclean" , to warn all not to defile themselves by approaching him. So the ten stood afar off, lifting up their voices ( Luke 17:13). The malady was often due to inherited taint, as is sin ( Exodus 20:5). The gradual decay of the body, first of the skin, then the bone, then the flesh, life still surviving, vividly represented the sure and deadly process of man's ruin by sin. In  Isaiah 53:4, Jerome's Vulgate translated, "we thought Him to be a leper smitten of God," leprosy being God's direct judgment for sin. God alone could teal alike the leper and the sinner. The minister of God was publicly to witness to the leper's cure by performing certain prescribed rites and so admitting him to communion again with his fellows ( Leviticus 14:9-20).

Christ proved His divine mission by healing lepers, and at the same time commanded them to go to the priest to "offer for cleansing those things which Moses commanded for a testimony unto them" ( Matthew 11:5;  Mark 1:44). The leper was excluded from both the sanctuary and the camp. The ceremony of restoration was therefore twofold. That performed outside the camp restored him to intercourse with the people ( Leviticus 14:3-9), that performed in the tabernacle court seven days after the former restored him to all spiritual privileges of Jehovah's worshippers ( Leviticus 14:10-32). Two birds were taken for him, provided by the priest not the man; one was killed over running water, the other set free; accompanied with cedar wood ( Juniper Oxycedar , whose smoke was disinfectant), scarlet (representing rosy health and vigour), and hyssop (the caper plant, medicinally cleansing ulcers and skin diseases).

The cedar and hyssop were tied to the living bird by the scarlet band; the whole was dipped in the blood of the killed bird and running water. The seven sprinklings renewed to him the covenant, symbolized by that number. The dead bird represented his past deadness, the freed living bird his restored life and freedom. The two, as in the case of the two goats on the Day of Atonement, form one joint type. (See Day of Atonement The leper brought two young rams (Hebrew,  Leviticus 14:10), one as a trespass offering, another as a burnt offering, and a ewe lamb as a sin offering; these bore witness that disease and death and the defilements of both are the wages of man's sin. The similarity to the rites in consecrating a priest marked the priestly character of Israel ( Exodus 19:6). The leper was restored to his standing as member of the royal priest-nation with priestly ceremonial.

First, he was restored to a right footing with the general congregation. Then only was he in a condition to offer, as member of the priestly nation, the offerings for himself. The oil symbolized the Spirit's grace. Its application to the ear, hand, and foot marked that every organ was now consecrated to God, the ear to hear and obey, the hand to perform God's will, and the foot to run upon God's errands. Leprosy in the house, a fungous growth on the walls, symbolized the corruption which taints all creation and which is the effect of the fall. Man's body and man's earthly home must be dissolved, that a heavenly body and a new earth untainted with sin may succeed.  Judges 1:23, "hating the garment spotted by the flesh," i.e. avoiding all contact with pollution, answers to  Leviticus 13:52-57;  Leviticus 15:4-17. Any touching a leprosy-tainted garment was excluded from communion with God's people. Christians, who at baptism received the white garment, must shrink from what would defile it.

When the leprosy was spread over the whole person from head to foot ( Leviticus 13:12-13) with none of the proper symptoms of elephantiasis the man was clean, his disease was the common white leprosy or dry tetter, red pimples with scaly surface spreading until it covers the body, not much affecting the health and disappearing of itself. This was rather a relief to the body than a disease, the whole diseased matter being brought to the surface and so passing off. Sin is least fatal and nearest removal when brought to the surface by hearty confession to God, then our Highpriest Jesus completely cleanses us ( 1 John 1:8-9). Leprosy was polluting, spreading as to the patient, transmissive, and then humanly incuable; in all these points typical of sin. The death spots soon after death appearing on a corpse, and spreading until the whole is decomposed, answer to the leprosy spots. Every leper thus was a living sermon that Israel should keep themselves unspotted from the world ( Revelation 21:27;  Ephesians 5:5).

American Tract Society Bible Dictionary [2]

A person afflicted with leprosy. As it now exists, leprosy is a scaly disease of the skin, occurring in several distinct forms and with many degrees of severity; beginning with slight reddish eruptions, followed by scales of a greyish white color, sometimes in circles an inch or two in diameter, and at other times much larger; in many cases attacking only the knees and elbows, in others the whole body; usually not affecting the general health, but considered impossible of cure. It is said not to be infectious; but is communicated from father to son for several generations, gradually becoming less noticeable. It corresponds in the main with the disease the symptoms and treatment of which are so fully described in  Leviticus 13:14 . There is little doubt, however, that the ancient leprosy, in its more aggravated form, is to be regarded as a plague or judgment from God,  Deuteronomy 24:8 . It was peculiarly dreaded among the Jews as unclean and infectious; and also as being a special infliction from Jehovah, as we know it to have been in the cases of Miriam,  Numbers 12:10 , Gehazi,  2 Kings 5:27 , and Uzziah,  2 Chronicles 26:16-23 . No remedies were effectual. The suffered was commended to the priest, not to the physician; and was separated from many of the privileges of society. We find that lepers associated chiefly with each other,  2 Kings 7:8   Luke 17:12 . The term, "the plague of leprosy," is applied not only to this disease in men, but to a similar infection sometimes sent into houses and garments,  Leviticus 14:1-57 . The exact nature of this latter cannot be ascertained; but it bears the marks of a special aggravation, as a judgment from God, of some evil not unknown in that climate. It illustrates the awful result of moral corruption in society, uncounteracted by the grace of God. The disease in all its forms is a lively emblem of sin. This malady of the soul is also all pervading, unclean, contagious, and incurable; it separates its victim from God and heaven; it proves its existence by its increasing sway and its fatal termination. But the Savior has shown his power to heal the worst maladies of the soul by curing the leprosy with a word,  Luke 17:12-19 , and to admit the restored soul to all the privileges of the sons of God.

ELEPHANTIASIS, supposed by some to have been the disease of Job, and the "botch" or ulcer of Egypt,  Deuteronomy 28:27,35 , is a tuberculous malady somewhat akin to the leprosy, but more dreadful. Its name is derived from the dark, hard, and rough appearance of the skin; and from the form of the feet, swollen, and despoiled of the toes. This horrid malady infects the whole system; ulcers and dark scales cover the body; and the hair, beard, fingers, and all the extremities drop off. It is still met with in tropical countries, and was introduced into Europe by the crusaders; but after occasioning dreadful navoc, and the building of thousands of "hospitals for lepers," it disappeared or changed its form.

People's Dictionary of the Bible [3]

Leper. Leprosy is the name of a loathsome disease taking various forms; some curable, some not. In the worst form the bones and the marrow are pervaded with the disease, so that the joints of the hands and feet lose their power, the limbs of the body fall together, and the whole system assumes a most deformed and loathsome appearance. The progress and effect of the disease are described in  Job 2:7-8;  Job 2:12;  Job 6:2;  Job 7:3-5;  Job 19:14-21. There are two forms of the disease—the tuberculated, incrusting the whole person with ulcerous tubercles, and the anæsthetic, making the skin mummylike—but under both forms "Death lives," and the diseased is a walking tomb, a parable of death. There was also a milder form of the disease, the so-called white leprosy, often attacking only one limb and generally curable, as when "Moses' hand Was leprous as snow."  Exodus 4:6. Notice also the cases of Miriam,  Numbers 12:10; Gehazi,  2 Kings 5:27; and Uzziah,  2 Chronicles 26:16-23. Although the laws respecting this disease which we find in the Mosaic code are exceedingly rigid, it is by no means clear that the leprosy was considered contagious. The horror and disgust which was felt toward a disease so foul and loathsome might be a sufficient reason for such severe enactments, and strict seclusion was at all events an effective means of arresting the progress of the disease by preventing intermarriage between "lepers" ana the healthy. The leper was excluded from the tabernacle and the camp, and when he was healed his restoration to social intercourse with his fellow-men was twofold; performed both in the camp and in the tabernacle.  Leviticus 14:3-32. A house for lepers.was built outside Jerusalem on the hill of Jareb— I.E., "the hill of scraping,"  Jeremiah 31:40;  Job 2:8—and the leper was compelled to wear mourning.  Leviticus 13:45. Of leprosy in garments and houses,  Leviticus 13:47-59;  Leviticus 14:33-53, little can be said. It might he propagated by animalculæ or germs; and the regulations concerning it must have been of a sanitary as well as moral character. It is well known that the disease is now frequently conveyed by clothes.

Hawker's Poor Man's Concordance And Dictionary [4]

Leper, Leprosy

I do not take upon me to decide, whether the leprosy among the Jews differed from the Elephantiasis of other nations; but I venture to believe that it had somewhat of peculiarity, from the account given of it in Scripture. It was, without doubt, among the Hebrews, not only a loathsome disease in itself, but was intended to denote in the strongest characters the nature of sin both original and actual. And this, I think, is plain, from this one striking circumstance; namely that it was deemed an impious presumption of the prerogative of God, to attempt by any human means to cure it. I refer the reader to the word of God for the account of it, ( Leviticus 13:1-59; Lev 14:1-57) both for the nature of the disease, and the rites and sacrifices appointed for the cleansing; all which very fully prove the sad state of the leper, shut out of all and religious communion, to testify, perhaps, the odious nature of sin in the sight of God, and to set forth, by the shadowy representations of washing and sacrifice, that nothing but the blood of Christ and the regenerating power of the Holy Ghost can effect the cure of the leprosy of sin. What a beautiful and endearing view have the evangelists given of the tender mercy of the Lord Jesus, manifested to that poor leper which came to Christ at the foot of the mountain. (See  Matthew 8:2-3;  Mark 1:40;  Luke 5:12) The poor man could have had no conception, that Jesus in the cure would have done what was never done before, put his hand upon him: but, as it was sweetly said of Jesus, "himself took our infirmities, and bare our sicknesses;" so Christ, as if to shew the love of his heart and sympathy to our poor nature, not only healed the leper, but put forth his hand and touched him, ( Matthew 8:17;  Isaiah 53:4) There is somewhat in such views of Christ as tends to endear him in the highest possible degree of endearedness, and which ought never to be lost sight of in the mind of his people.

Wilson's Dictionary of Bible Types [5]

 Exodus 4:6 (b) This disease is a type of sin from the standpoint of its being incurable and defiling. In nearly every case of healing, the leper is said to be "cleansed." One of the outstanding features of this disease was its defiling influence on others. The leper must live a separated life. He must wear a cloth over his mouth and cry "unclean." He must be shut out of the camp. All of this is true about an unsaved man as regards his relationship to Heaven. He cannot enter Heaven because of his defilement which is hopeless. Only GOD can remove it, only GOD has the remedy.

 Leviticus 13:13 (b) In this peculiar passage the leper is pronounced clean if he is entirely covered with leprosy from head to foot. This is probably a picture of the condition of an unsaved man when he finds out and is fully convinced in his own heart that he is utterly bad, completely lost and entirely without hope. Whenever one reaches that place he is right at the door of Heaven. The Lord Jesus reveals Himself to that heart. The Holy Spirit gives him faith, and he passes from death unto life.

 Leviticus 13:44 (b) It is quite evident that the decision concerning the state of any man must come from the High Priest Himself, Jesus Christ No pope, nor bishop, nor ecclesiastical authority of any kind can decide the spiritual status of any person. Only the High Priest, Christ Jesus has the right, the power and the privilege of doing this. Only He can know the human heart.

 Leviticus 14:2 (b) Every sinner must come to Jesus Christ for cleansing. There is no other way. Christ Jesus must pronounce him clean. No Catholic priest can do it, no bishop can do it, no protestant preacher can do it, no Jewish rabbi can do it. Jesus Christ alone has the final and the official word. He Himself is the one who has told us "He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life."  John 3:36.

Vine's Expository Dictionary of NT Words [6]

1: Λεπρός (Strong'S #3015 — Adjective — lepros — lep-ros' )

an adjective, primarily used of "psoriasis," characterized by an eruption of rough, scaly patches; later, "leprous," but chiefly used as a noun, "a leper,"  Matthew 8:2;  10:8;  11:5;  Mark 1:40;  Luke 4:27;  7:22;  17:12; especially of Simon, mentioned in  Matthew 26:6;  Mark 14:3 .

Smith's Bible Dictionary [7]

Leper. See Leprosy .

King James Dictionary [8]

LEP'ER, n. L. lepra, leprosy. Gr. A person affected with leprosy.

Holman Bible Dictionary [9]

Diseases

Webster's Dictionary [10]

(n.) A person affected with leprosy.

Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature [11]

(some form of צָרִע , to Smite with a providential infliction; Λεπρός ) . (See Leprosy).

References