Hastings' Dictionary of the New Testament 
LEPROSY ( λέπρα, Mark 1:42, Luke 5:12; and λεπρός, [leper] Matthew 8:2; Matthew 10:8; Matthew 11:5; Matthew 26:6, Mark 1:40; Mark 14:3, Luke 4:27; Luke 7:22; Luke 17:12).—The name of a disease common in Palestine in the time of Christ, for the cleansing of which many mighty works were performed. The great difficulty in knowing the exact nature of the disease from which the leper suffered lies in the fact that the word ‘leprosy’ is used as the English equivalent of three different foreign words—the Heb. צרַעַח ( ẓãráath ), the Gr. λέπρα, and the Gr. ἐλέφας and ἐλεφαντίασις. And the subject is further complicated by the fact that the term last mentioned, elephantiasis , is used to-day for a disease of quite another nature from that described under that name by the early Greek medical writers.
(1) צרַעַח ( ẓâra‘ath ) is the word translation in Authorized and Revised Versions ‘leprosy’; the root meaning is to smite . The symptoms of ẓâra‘ath are fully described in Leviticus 13, and we have other scattered references to the disease in the OT. To enter into a full examination of OT leprosy would be out of place here, but it may be said that neither true leprosy (in the modern sense) nor any other known disease answers to all the signs described. We must either suppose, as is conceivable but not highly probable, that the disease described in Leviticus 13 has disappeared or greatly changed its character from new environment, or that the term ẓâra‘ath included a great variety of skin diseases, some infectious in the modern sense, but all of them regarded in ancient times as rendering their victims ceremonially impure. Of these diseases, to take a few examples, we seem to be able to recognize psoriasis in the expression ‘a leper white as snow’; favus (a common disease among Eastern Jews to-day) and perhaps ‘ringworm’ in the description of the ‘plague of the head and the beard’ ( Leviticus 13:29-30); and the disease vitiligo in the symptom termed ‘freckled spot’ (בֹּהַק, Leviticus 13:39), the exactly equivalent word بهق ( bohak ) being used for this condition in Palestine and Arabia to-day. On the other hand, there are in the references to ẓâra‘ath an extraordinary absence of the symptoms of true leprosy which will be mentioned lower down; the extremely slow process of this latter disease, and its practically hopeless outlook, ill tallies with either the frequent examinations—at intervals of seven days—or the elaborate directions, evidently meant for use, for restoration of a cured person to the community.
The history of medicine shows that in the undeveloped state of medical science many diseases which a later age learns to differentiate are classed as one disease; of no department has this been truer than of diseases affecting the skin. In the Middle Ages many persons affected with syphilis were put in the lazar hospitals of Northern Europe through the mistaken idea that they were lepers.
(2) λέπρα (meaning ‘rough’ or ‘scaly’) was the name given by the Greek physicians to a disease known to-day as psoriasis . It is a non-contagious, irritating, but by no means fatal disease, in which white scales form on various parts of, and occasionally all over, the body. In such cases the expression ‘a leper white as snow’ might be not inappropriate. The disease is not hereditary nor in any marked degree repulsive, unless, as is unusual, the face is attacked; in this respect it is the very opposite of true leprosy, with which, moreover, it cannot be confused.
In the LXX Septuagint λέπρα is used as the equivalent of ẓâra‘ath ; and as the former was well known, the translators apparently regarded this disease as the nearest equivalent to that described in the OT. In the same way the Synoptists, and among them Luke, the ‘beloved physician,’ in using λέπρα and λεπρος, were using words which had a definite meaning to the outside world.
(3) True leprosy—the ἐλεφαντίασις of the Greeks—is certainly no new disease, and references to it are found in Egyptian inscriptions many centuries before the Israelites left Egypt. It is also said that it was known in India at an equally primitive period. Hippocrates appears to refer to it under the name of the ‘Phœnician disease,’ and Galen under the name ‘elephantiasis.’ It is stated by Pliny that it was brought to Europe from Syria by the army of Ptolemy (61 b.c.). From this time references to it are common, but always under the name elephantiasis .
It is evident, therefore, that at the time of the Gospels, λέπα—in the classical medical sense—was primarily the well-known skin disease psoriasis . At the same time it is highly probable that the disease elephantiasis —true leprosy—together with other skin affections, e.g. vitiligo, favus , etc., were, from the point of view of ceremonial uncleanness, included in the term lepra , the word having, as is usual with medical terms, a much wider signification among the lay public than among the medical authors. The fact that tradition has from the earliest period pointed to true leprosy as the disease of the Bible, certainly makes it probable that it at least was one of the diseases recognized by the Rabbis as ẓâra‘ath ; and doubtless its specially horrible and fatal character has caused it to gradually displace all others in the popular mind.
It might be thought that Rabbinical commentaries or existing Jewish custom might help to throw a light on the subject, but neither of these is any real help. The Talmud teaches that ẓâra‘ath refers to any disease with cutaneous eruptions or sores, and indeed some references appear to demonstrate that the writers considered the disease non-contagious; as, for example, the rule that a bridegroom, suspecting himself affected, might wait till seven days after his marriage before reporting his condition. The Rabbinical comments, instead of correlating the Levitical description with known medical facts, are rather engaged in impressing the importance of a literal adherence to the text of the Mosaic law.
Modern custom among the Jews in the East does not seem to view true leprosy with the aversion of even Moslems and Christians. Of six cases of well-marked leprosy among the Jews of Jerusalem which the present writer can recall, only one of them, a stranger from India, was in any way isolated, and he only after he had been in the English Hospital for some days among all the other patients; when he could no longer be kept he was sent to the Leper Hospital, where he died. The other cases, a Russian Jewess, three Spanish Jewesses, and a Spanish Jewish boy, all lived at home and mixed freely with their friends; the boy, indeed, long after he had marked symptoms of anaesthetic leprosy, continued to attend a large Jewish boys’ school without any sign of opposition or trouble. The Eastern Jews, on the other hand, manifest at times great fear of the contagiousness of tuberculous, or as they would popularly be called, ‘scrofulous’ affections of the skin and of the lymphatic glands. These seem by tradition to be recognized as contagious.
When it is remembered that it is only in very recent years, in the life of the present generation of medical men, that the true nature both of leprosy ( elephantiasis ) and of ‘scrofula’ has been discovered, it is difficult to believe that the Jews of Palestine, even in NT times, recognized the sharply-defined varieties of disease we do to-day. It is therefore probable that, while the leprosy of the NT certainly included some developments of the disease we now know as psoriasis and allied affections with a scaly eruption, and almost certainly a proportion of cases of ‘true leprosy,’ it may also have included cases of ‘lupus,’ ‘scrofulous’ ( i.e. tuberculous) glands, and varieties of parasitic skin affections, such as ‘ringworm’ and favus , both of which are very common among the Jews of the East to-day.
True leprosy ( elephantiasis ) has for so many centuries been identified with the disease now called by that name, and, indeed, is likely to be for so many generations, that some description of this disease, especially as it occurs to-day in the Holy Land, is here not out of place. It is a disease of world-wide distribution, though apparently dying out of most European lands, where, as in England and France, it was once rampant. India, China, South Africa, and the Sandwich Islands are to-day the great habitats of leprosy. Climate appears to have no real effect on it. It is not hereditary; the children of lepers, if removed to healthy surroundings at an early age, seldom take the disease, while advance of the disease usually produces sterility. There is no doubt that it is contagious, but only by close personal contact; attendants on lepers run very little risk if they are careful; and they cannot, as was once supposed, carry the contagion to others. Although the almost world-wide custom of isolating lepers is founded upon the doubtful tradition of this being the special and peculiar disease described in the Mosaic law, yet from every point of view this is desirable both for the poor victims themselves, who are always to some degree incapacitated and suffering, and for the sake of their healthy neighbours. Although a leper in the street is no danger to the passer-by, he must in his home be a danger to his family, and no other disease reduces a human being for so many years to such a hideous wreck.
With respect to the ultimate cause of leprosy, Hansen has demonstrated (1871) that it is due to a special micro-organism, the bacillus leprœ , similar in appearance, and to some extent in the action on the human tissues, to the tubercle bacillus . How the poison enters the body is not known. The disease occurs so sporadically that there must be some cause other than contagion; but what this may be has never been proved. The theory recently revived by Mr. Jonathan Hutchinson, F.R.C.S., that the disease is due to a diet of fish, is not borne out by the facts. In Palestine, in particular, the great majority of the lepers have never eaten fish at all, as they come from inland villages: fish is very seldom eaten by the Moslems in Palestine, and the only people who eat it—the Jews regularly, and the Christians at their fasts when living in the cities—suffer least from this disease.
Leprosy manifests itself in three forms: (1) the tubercular or nodular, (2) the anaesthetic, and (3) the mixed. Chronic cases, however they begin, tend to assume in the later stages the third or mixed type.
(1) In the tubereular form, after a prodromal period of indefinite duration during which there is a gradual loss of power and vivacity, obscure pains in the limbs and joints, feverish attacks and loss of appetite, the first definite signs to appear are symmetrical discoloured blotches, especially over the back. These blotches are at the first most marked during feverish attacks. Soon afterwards, definite tubercles, at first pink but later brownish, arise; the skin in these places is thickened and found to be infiltrated. The tubercles have a special tendency to form on the folds of the cheek, the nose, the lips, and the forehead. At this time some amount of ulceration about the soft palate often assists the diagnosis. The nodules enlarge and from time to time ulcerate and become encrusted with discharge. In cases where the face is particularly attacked the expression is entirely altered, and a most characteristic ‘lion-like’ or ‘satyr-like’ expression is developed. The leontiasis of Aretaeus and the satyrias (= satyriasis ) of Aristotle ( de Gen. [Note: Geneva NT 1557, Bible 1560.] Animal. iv. iii. 22) are both supposed on these grounds to have been true leprosy. As a rule the eyebrows fall out, and the eyes, in addition to suffering from keratitis , become staring in appearance through scarring about the eyelids. The voice is often hoarse, and the breathing loud and wheezing through ulceration of the vocal chords. The hands and feet, sometimes the first to suffer, always in time become ulcerated, though the most severe changes in them are probably secondary to nerve lesions. The disease from first to last has an average duration of nine years; if it runs its full course and is not terminated, as is usual, by the onset of tuberculosis, it leads to gradual mental decay, coma, and death.
(2) The anœsthetic variety, if not complicated, is not nearly so horrible nor so fatal. Here the incidence of the disease falls on the nerve trunks, which may quite early in the disease be felt thickened from inflammation due to bacterial infection. The prodromal symptoms are similar to those described, but the onset of the disease is often not remarked until the patient finds that certain parts of the body are without sensation. Thus it is narrated of Father Damien that, although he had vague symptoms which made him suspicious, he was not convinced that he was a leper until be found he had placed his feet in scalding water without feeling the heat. As the disease progresses, the nerve lesions cause various discoloured patches and blisters on the skin, wasting of muscles and contraction of the tendons, a peculiar claw-like appearance of the hands,—the result of partial paralysis,—disfigurement of the nails, deep chronic ulceration of the foot, and finally progressive loss of various fingers and toes, and even of the feet and occasionally of the hands. Many of these later changes also occur in the tubercular form as the nerves become affected. An anaesthetic case which keeps to this type may last 20, 30, or even more years, and some such cases become ‘cured,’ that is, the disease actually ceases to progress, though the results of its work can never be remedied.
(3) In Palestine, as has been already suggested, the great majority of cases are of the mixed form; cases of pure anaesthetic type are exceptional.
Leprosy in modern Palestine is not a common disease, but is prominently to the front from three causes: firstly, because of the interest excited in Christians of all Churches, and the special appeal made to their charitable feelings from the traditional view that these sufferers are the veritable lepers of the OT and NT; secondly, because its results are so manifest and repulsive, and its progress so slow, that a comparatively small number of cases are very much in evidence; and, lastly, because practically all the lepers in the land are segregated together by order of the Government in a few chief towns, all resorted to by travellers. There the lepers, being unable to work for a living, sit in groups in prominent places, and endeavour by an exhibition of the miseries of their condition to touch the sympathy of the passer-by. In Jerusalem, at any rate, they collect in this way large sums for their community. They live in huts provided by the Government at Silwân (near Jerusalem), Ramleh, and Nâblus. At Damascus also there is a community, some members of which are also drawn from Palestine, but the majority from Syria and around Damascus; the traditional ‘House of Naaman’ is their home. In addition to these, there is the voluntary community—now numbering nearly 60—at the excellent Moravian Hospital in Jerusalem; the patients there are not allowed to go begging, and are employed in various ways on the premises. Including these last, there must be between 100 and 120 lepers in Jerusalem, some 25 at Ramleh, about 40 at Nâblus; altogether, allowing for some Palestine lepers in the Damascus community, there are not more than 200 known victims of this disease in the country. It is quite possible that sometimes cases may be hidden away, as with the Jewish cases above mentioned, by their relatives; but this cannot often happen in the villages, as the village sheikhs are very prompt in detecting early signs of the disease, and a suspected case is soon expelled from the community. Sometimes the heads of the village make mistakes; cases of this sort have come to the medical officer of the Leper Hospital in Jerusalem, and their friends learning that they have been mistaken, they have been restored to their rights.
It has been mentioned that one of the striking things about leprosy is that it occurs so sporadically. It is not the rule in Palestine, at any rate, that whole villages or families become leprous, but a case arises here and there. To illustrate this, we give a list of villages from which came some 60 cases that were in the Moravian Hospital during 1903. They are as follows:—From Ramallah and ‘Ain Arîk, 3 cases each; from Zeta, Bait Ammar, Nahalîn, Saidna Ali, ed-Dîr, Deir Diwân, and Nazareth, 2 cases each; from Abu Dîs,’ Ain Kairem, Bîr Zait, Bait Ummar, Bait Jebrîn, Bettîr, Beita, Biddu, Bait Hanîna, Bait Jala, Bait Safafa, ‘Asîreh, Dûra, Jerusalem, Feddar, Yasîneh, ‘Allâr, Mesar‘a, Fara‘un, Marassa, Kefrenji, Kefr Akâb, Kefr Hâris, Shafât, es-Salt, and Jummain, 1 each. In addition there were 3 Bedawîn from scattered tribes, one gipsy, one case from Mosul, and two from Greece. Any one who will consult a map of modern Palestine will appreciate from how wide an area, both W. and E. of the Jordan, these cases come. Probably there is no district that does not furnish cases at some time.
The only kind of treatment that can alleviate the disease is a well-managed Leper Home. In the Jerusalem Leper Hospital (founded in 1867 and formally taken over by the Moravian Brethren in 1881) all that medical science and Christian kindness can accomplish is done.
Leprosy in the Gospels .—It has been often pointed out that, whereas the cure of disease in general is called ‘healing’, (ἰᾶσθαι), that of the lepers is called ‘cleansing’ (καθαρίζειν). This was, no doubt, appropriate on account of the very evident restoration of cleanness of skin, but primarily because the miracle enabled the leper to become ceremonially clean. Doubtless the lepers drifting about the land had intractable skin diseases, and as they were shut out from the temple, the synagogues, certainly in all the towns, and to a large extent from the social life of their fellow-beings, their lot was truly pitiable. Their ‘cleansing’ meant much more than getting rid of a disagreeable and often, doubtless, painful disease, repulsive to all their fellow-men; it meant restoration to the worship and service of God.
Of lepers mentioned in the NT we have but one named, Simon of Bethany ( Matthew 26:6, Mark 14:3), probably a grateful recipient of the Saviour’s mercy. Tradition has made the Lazarus of the parable a leper, and the terms lazzaro for leper and lazar-house for leper hospital were a result of this. Also the order of the Knights of Lazarus, founded during the Crusades, made the care of lepers one of their special duties, and they had always a leper as their Grand Master. But though Lazarus was ‘full of sores,’ the very account in the parable that he lay in such intimate contact with passers-by would, apart from the express omission of the statement in the parable, make his being a leper highly improbable.
In spite of the great prominence given to the cleansing of lepers both in Jesus’ account of His own works ( Matthew 11:5, Luke 7:22) and in His directions to His disciples ( Matthew 10:8), we have only two actual incidents described. (1) The incident of the man whom Jesus touched, with the words, ‘I will, be thou clean,’ and whose grateful excess of zeal prevented Jesus from entering that ‘certain city,’ and drove Him to seek seclusion in the wilderness ( Matthew 8:2 || Mark 1:42 || Luke 5:12). (2) The story of the nine thankless lepers and the grateful tenth, who was a Samaritan ( Luke 17:11 ff.). It is noticeable that he turned back because he was healed (ἰᾶσθαι); but he was not yet finally cleansed (καθαρίζειν), because he had not yet been to the priest; unless, indeed, it is because he was a Samaritan that he is spoken of as healed rather than cleansed.
Literature.—This is enormous. Here only a selection of modern articles in English is given, which will furnish all necessary information and references for following up the subject:—P. S. Abraham, art. ‘Leprosy’ in Allbutt’s System of Medicine , ii. 41; J. R. Bennett, Diseases of the Bible , R.T.S. 1887; T. Chaplin, ‘Diseases of the Bible,’ Proceedings of Victoria Institute , vol. xxxiv.; C. V. Carter, Leprosy and Elephantiasis , 1874; Hansen and Looft, Leprosy in its Clinical and Pathological Aspects , 1895; A. Macalister, art. ‘Leprosy’ in Hasting's Dictionary of the Bible; do. by C. Creighton in EBi [Note: Bi Encyclopaedia Biblica.] ; Report of the Leprosy Commission to India, 1893; A. S. Waldstein, art. ‘Leprosy’ in Jewish Encyclopedia . On the moral aspects of leprosy in NT, see Edersheim, Life and Times , i. 491 ff.; Expositor , iv. vi.  443 ff.
E. W. G. Masterman.
Smith's Bible Dictionary 
Leprosy. The predominant and characteristic form of leprosy in the Old Testament is a white variety, covering either the entire body or a large tract of its surface, which has obtained the name of Lepra mosaica . Such were the cases of Moses, Miriam, Naaman and Gehazi. Exodus 4:6; Numbers 12:10; 2 Kings 5:1; 2 Kings 5:27. Compare Leviticus 13:13. But, remarkably enough, in the Mosaic ritual diagnosis of the disease, Leviticus 13:1; Leviticus 14:1, this kind, when overspreading the whole surface, appears to be regarded as "clean." Leviticus 13:12-13; Leviticus 13:16-17.
The Egyptian bondage, with its studied degradations and privations, and especially the work of the kiln under an Egyptian sun, must have had a frightful tendency to generate this class of disorders. The sudden and total change of food, air, dwelling and mode of life, caused by the Exodus, to this nation of newly-emancipated slaves, may possibly have had a further tendency to produce skin disorders, and severe repressive measures may have been required in the desert-moving camp to secure the public health or to allay the panic of infection.
Hence, it is possible that many, perhaps most, of this repertory of symptoms may have disappeared with the period of the Exodus, and the snow-white form, which had pre-existed, may alone have ordinarily continued in a later age.
The principal morbid features are a rising or swelling, a scab or baldness, and a bright or white spot. Leviticus 13:2. But especially a white swelling in the skin, with a change of the hair of the part from the natural black to white or yellow, Leviticus 13:3-4: Leviticus 13:10; Leviticus 13:20; Leviticus 13:25; Leviticus 13:30, or an appearance of a taint going "deeper than the skin," or, again, "raw flesh" appearing in the swelling, Leviticus 13:10; Leviticus 13:14-15, was a critical sign of pollution.
The tendency to spread seems especially to have been relied on. A spot most innocent in other respects, if it "spread much abroad," was unclean; whereas, as before remarked, the man so wholly overspread with the evil that it could find no further range was on the contrary "clean." Leviticus 13:12-13. These two opposite criteria seem to show tha, whilst the disease manifested activity, the Mosaic law imputed pollution to and imposed segregation on the suffered, but that the point at which it might be viewed as having run its course, was the signal for his readmission to communion.
It is clear that the leprosy of Leviticus 13-14 means any severe disease spreading on the surface of the body in the way described, and so shocking of aspect, or so generally suspected of infection, that public feeling called for separation.
It is now undoubted that the "leprosy" of modern Syria, and which has a wide range in Spain, Greece and Norway, is the Elephantiasis graecorum . It is said to have been brought home by the crusaders into the various countries of western and northern Europe. It certainly was not the distinctive white leprosy, nor do any of the described symptoms in Leviticus 13 point to Elephantiasis . "White as snow," 2 Kings 5:27, would be inapplicable to Elephantiasis as to small-pox.
There remains a curious question as regards the leprosy of garments and houses. Some have thought that the garments worn by leprous patients was intended. This classing of garments and house-walls with the human epidermis, as leprous, has moved the mirth of some and the wonder of others. Yet modern science has established what goes far to vindicate the Mosaic classification as more philosophical than such cavils. It is now known that there are some skin diseases which originate in an acarus, and others which proceed from a fungus. In these, we may probably find the solution of the paradox.
The analogy between the insect which frets the human skin and that which frets the garment that covers it - between the fungous growth that lines the crevices of the epidermis and that which creeps in the interstices of masonry - is close enough for the purposes of a ceremonial law. It is manifest also that a disease in the human subject caused by an acarus or by a fungus would be certainly contagious, since the propagative cause could be transferred from person to person.
(Geikie in his "Life of Christ " says: "Leprosy signifies Smiting , because it was supposed to be a direct visitation of Heaven. It began with little specks on the eyelids and on the palms of the hands, and gradually spread over different parts of the body, bleaching the hair white wherever it showed itself, crusting the affected parts with shining scales, and causing swellings and sores.
From the skin, it slowly ate its way through the tissues, to the bones and joints, and even to the marrow, rotting the whole body piecemeal. The lungs, the organs of speech and hearing, and the eyes, were attacked in turn, till at last, consumption or dropsy brought welcome death. The dread of infection kept men aloof from the sufferer; and the law proscribed him as above all men unclean. The disease was hereditary to the fourth generation.")
Leprosy in the United States. - The Medical Record, February, 1881, states that, from the statistics collected by the Dermatological Society, it appears that there are between fifty and one hundred lepers in the United States at present.
Is modern leprosy contagious? - Dr. H.S. Piffard of New York, in the Medical Record, February, 1881, decides that it is in a modified degree contagious. "A review of the evidence led to the conclusion that this disease was not contagious by ordinary contact; but it may be transmitted by the blood and secretions.
A recent writer, Dr. Bross, a Jesuit missionary attached to the lazaretto at Trinidad, takes the ground that the disease, in some way or other, is transmissible. It is a well-established fact that, when leprosy has once gained for itself a foothold in any locality, it is apt to remain there and spread. The case of the Sandwich Islands illustrates the danger. Forty years ago, the disease did not exits there; now one-tenth of the inhabitants are lepers."
This is further confirmed by the fact, stated by Dr. J. Hutchinson, F.R.S., that "We find that nearly everywhere the disease is most common on the seashore, and that, when it spreads inland, it generally occurs on the shores of lakes or along the course of large rivers."
Leprosy as a type of sin. - "Being the worst form of disease, leprosy was fixed upon by God to be the especial type of sin, and the injunctions regarding it had reference to its typical character." It was
(3) ever tending to increase;
(4) incurable except by the power of God;
(5) a shame and disgrace;
(6) rendering one alone in the world;
(7) deforming, unclean;
(8) "separating the soul from God, producing spiritual death; unfitting it forever for heaven and the company of they holy, and insuring its eternal banishment, as polluted and abominable."
(9) Another point is referred to by Thompson (in "The Land and the Book"): "Some, as they look on infancy, reject, with horror, the thought that sin exists within. But so might any one say, who looked upon the beautiful babe in the arms of a leprous mother. But time brings forth the fearful malady. New-born babes of leprous parents are often as pretty and as healthy in appearance as any; but by and by, its presence and workings become visible, in some of the signs described in the thirteenth chapter of Leviticus." - Editor).
Bridgeway Bible Dictionary 
Among the health laws God gave to Israel through Moses were laws concerning leprosy. However, both biblical scholars and medical scientists have clearly shown that what the Old Testament calls leprosy is not always the disease that we today call leprosy. The word used of leprosy in the Old Testament had a broad meaning and denoted a number of infectious skin diseases, some of which could be cured. It applied even to germ-carrying fungus or mildew on clothes and buildings ( Leviticus 13:1-17; Leviticus 13:47-59; Leviticus 14:33-53).
The laws given through Moses were concerned not with treating the disease, but with isolating infected people so that others in the community did not become infected. When people saw any abnormality in their skin, even if only a rash, boil or falling out of the hair, they had to report it to the priests. The priests then isolated the infected person till they could ascertain whether the skin condition was a dangerous disease. If it was not, the person carried out a cleansing ceremony and returned to normal life in the community. But if it was real leprosy the person was excluded from the community entirely ( Leviticus 13:18-46).
This exclusion of lepers from normal society resulted in many of them becoming beggars ( Leviticus 13:45-46; Numbers 5:2; 2 Kings 7:3; 2 Kings 7:8; Luke 4:27; Luke 17:12). Important people may not have become beggars, but they still had to be isolated from the community ( 2 Chronicles 26:21).
If people had leprosy or any other infectious skin disease, they were ceremonially unclean and therefore unable to join in the normal religious life of the nation. If they were healed, they had to go to the priest and carry out a cleansing ceremony before they could join in religious activities again ( Matthew 8:1-4).
The cleansing ceremony lasted eight days. Those who were healed, previously ‘dead’ through their disease, symbolized their death by the ritual killing of a bird, symbolized their cleansing by draining the bird’s blood into a bowl of pure water, and symbolized their new life of freedom by releasing a second bird that had been stained with the blood of the first. They were then sprinkled by the priest with the blood of the bird seven times, after which they washed and shaved. They then returned to the community, but not yet to their own dwelling place ( Leviticus 14:1-9). After waiting a further seven days, they offered sacrifices, then resumed normal religious, social and family life ( Leviticus 14:10-32).
Easton's Bible Dictionary 
Leviticus 13 14 Numbers 12:10-15 Leviticus 13:2-8
Lepers were required to live outside the camp or city ( Numbers 5:1-4; 12:10-15 , etc.). This disease was regarded as an awful punishment from the Lord ( 2 Kings 5:7; 2 Chronicles 26:20 ). (See Miriam; Gehazi; Uzziah .)
This disease "begins with specks on the eyelids and on the palms, gradually spreading over the body, bleaching the hair white wherever they appear, crusting the affected parts with white scales, and causing terrible sores and swellings. From the skin the disease eats inward to the bones, rotting the whole body piecemeal." "In Christ's day no leper could live in a walled town, though he might in an open village. But wherever he was he was required to have his outer garment rent as a sign of deep grief, to go bareheaded, and to cover his beard with his mantle, as if in lamentation at his own virtual death. He had further to warn passers-by to keep away from him, by calling out, 'Unclean! unclean!' nor could he speak to any one, or receive or return a salutation, since in the East this involves an embrace."
That the disease was not contagious is evident from the regulations regarding it ( Leviticus 13:12,13,36; 2 Kings 5:1 ). Leprosy was "the outward and visible sign of the innermost spiritual corruption; a meet emblem in its small beginnings, its gradual spread, its internal disfigurement, its dissolution little by little of the whole body, of that which corrupts, degrades, and defiles man's inner nature, and renders him unmeet to enter the presence of a pure and holy God" (Maclear's Handbook O.T). Our Lord cured lepers ( Matthew 8:2,3; Mark 1:40-42 ). This divine power so manifested illustrates his gracious dealings with men in curing the leprosy of the soul, the fatal taint of sin.
Morrish Bible Dictionary 
This loathsome and, for millennia, incurable disease is often mentioned in scripture. Some persons were smitten with leprosy as a direct judgement from God, as were Miriam (though she in grace was subsequently cured), Gehazi, and Amaziah; in the case of Gehazi the disease was to descend also to his seed. God's power alone could cure the leper, as seen in the case of Naaman the Syrian, and in the many lepers that the Lord cured when on earth. Amaziah dwelt in a separate house, and the lepers were enjoined to proclaim their own condition by calling out, "Unclean, Unclean." Leviticus 12:45 .
Leprosy is a vivid type of sin, and its insidious working, producing an unclean condition. Leviticus 13 and Lev.14 treat of the way it was to be discovered and dealt with by the priests as those having the mind of God. The instruction in Lev.13:12,13, though seemingly paradoxical, is significant: when the leprosy covered all the skin, the priest was to pronounce the man clean: "it is all turned white: he is clean." That is, the leprosy, instead of striking inwards, had worked itself out, typical of a man truly confessing his sin; then the effect only of the defilement remains.
Besides leprosy in the person, laws were also given as to leprosy in a garment, answering to the sin that may be in a person's surroundings, which must be cleansed or destroyed. There is also leprosy in the house (when they were come into the land), answering to manifest sin in a christian assembly, which must be removed, or the assembly must be dissolved. Holiness becomes God's house.
Vine's Expository Dictionary of NT Words 
akin to lepros (above), is mentioned in Matthew 8:3; Mark 1:42; Luke 5:12,13 . In the removal of other maladies the verb "to heal" (iaomai) is used, but in the removal of "leprosy," the verb "to cleanse" (katharizo), save in the statement concerning the Samaritan, Luke 17:15 , "when he saw that he was healed." Matthew 10:8; Luke 4:27 indicate that the disease was common in the nation. Only twelve cases are recorded in the NT, but these are especially selected. For the Lord's commands to the leper mentioned in Matthew 8 and to the ten in Luke 17 , see Leviticus 14:2-32 .
Holman Bible Dictionary 
For the Hebrews it was a dreaded malady which rendered its victims ceremonially unclean—that is, unfit to worship God ( Leviticus 13:3 ). Anyone who came in contact with a leper was also considered unclean. Therefore, lepers were isolated from the rest of the community so that the members of the community could maintain their status as worshipers. Other physical disorders or the flow of certain bodily fluids also rendered one unclean (see Leviticus 12:1-14:32; Leviticus 15:1-33 ). Even houses and garments could have “leprosy” and, thus, be unclean ( Leviticus 14:33-57 ).
Jesus did not consider this distinction between clean and unclean valid. A person's outward condition did not make one unclean; rather that which proceeds from the heart determines one's standing before God ( Mark 7:1-23; compare Acts 10:9-16 ). Therefore, Jesus did not hesitate about touching lepers ( Mark 1:40-45 ) and even commanded His disciples to cleanse lepers ( Matthew 10:8 ). Jesus even made a leper the hero of one of His parables ( Luke 16:19-31 ). See Diseases, Treatment of.
Hastings' Dictionary of the Bible 
LEPROSY. This term, as used in Scripture, seems to include not only true leprosy ( elephantiasis ) probably the disease of Job but also such skin diseases as psoriasis , ring-worm, and vitiligo . For the priestly regulations as to the diagnosis of the disease and the treatment of lepers, see art. Clean and Unclean, Â§ 5. The ‘leprosy’ in garments ( Leviticus 13:47 ff.) seems to be an effect of fungus or mildew, while that in houses ( Leviticus 14:34 ff.) is probably dry-rot.
King James Dictionary 
LEP'ROSY, n. See Leper. A foul cutaneous disease, appearing in dry, white, thin, scurfy scabs, attended with violent itching. It sometimes covers the whole body, rarely the face. One species of it is called elephantiasis.
The term leprosy is applied to two very distinct diseases, the scaly and the tuberculated, or the proper leprosy and the elephantiasis. The former is characterized by smooth laminated scales, sometimes livid, but usually whitish in the latter, the skin is thickened, livid and tuberculated. It is called the black leprosy, but this term is also applied to the livid variety of the scaly leprosy.
Webster's Dictionary 
(n.) A cutaneous disease which first appears as blebs or as reddish, shining, slightly prominent spots, with spreading edges. These are often followed by an eruption of dark or yellowish prominent nodules, frequently producing great deformity. In one variety of the disease, anaesthesia of the skin is a prominent symptom. In addition there may be wasting of the muscles, falling out of the hair and nails, and distortion of the hands and feet with destruction of the bones and joints. It is incurable, and is probably contagious.
Watson's Biblical & Theological Dictionary 
See Diseases .
Fausset's Bible Dictionary 
(See Leper .)
Hawker's Poor Man's Concordance And Dictionary 
Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature 
( צָרִעִת , Tsara' Ä Th, a Smiting, because supposed to be a direct visitation of heaven; Gr. Λέπρα , so called from its Scaliness, hence English "leper," etc.), a name that was given by the Greek physicians to a scaly disease of the skin. During the Dark Ages it was indiscriminately applied to all chronic diseases of the skin, and more particularly to elephantiasis, to which latter, however, it does not bear a complete resemblance. Hence prevailed the greatest discrepancy and confusion in the descriptions that authors gave of the disease, until Dr. Willan restored to the term Lepra its original significations. In the Scriptures it is applied to a foul cutaneous disease, the description of which, as well as the regulations consecrated therewith, are given in Leviticus 13, 14 (comp. also Exodus 4:6-7; Numbers 12:10-15; 2 Samuel 3:29; 2 Kings 5:27; 2 Kings 7:3; 2 Kings 15:5; Matthew 8:2; Matthew 10:8, etc.). In the discussion of this subject we base our article upon the most recent scientific and archeological distinctions, compared with the present Oriental usages. I. Scriptural And Talmudical Statements. —
(I.) Leprosy In Human Beings. —
1. Cases And Symptomns Of Biblical Leprosy. — Leviticus 13:2-44, which descrilbes this distemper as laying hold of man, gives six different circumstances under which it may develop itself. They are as follows:
(1.) The first circumstance mentioned in Leviticus 13:2-6 is that it may develop itself without any apparent cause. Hence it is enjoined that if any one should notice a rising or swelling ( שאת ), an eruption or scab ( ספחת ), or a glossy pimple ( בהרת ) in the skin of his flesh, which may terminate in leprosy ( צרעת ), he is at once to be taken to the priest, who is to examine it and pronounce it leprosy, and the man unclean, if it exhibits these two symptoms, viz. A, the hair of the affected spot changed from its natural black color to white; and, B, the spot deeper than the general level of the skin of the body ( Leviticus 13:2-3). But if these two symptoms do not appear in the bright pimple, the priest is to shut him up for seven days, examine him again on the seventh day, and if the disease appears to have made no progress during this time, he is to remand the patient for another seven days ( Leviticus 13:4-5), and then, if on inspecting it again he finds that the bright spot has grown darker ( כהה ), and that it has not spread on the skin, he is to pronounce it a simple Scab ( ספחת מספחת ), and the person clean after washing his garments ( Leviticus 13:6). If, however, the pustule spreads over the skin after it has been pronounced a simple scab and the individual clean, the priest is to declare it leprosy, and the patient unclean ( Leviticus 13:7-8). It is thus evident that the symptoms which indicated scriptural leprosy, as the Mishna rightly remarks (Negaim, 3:3), are bright pimples, a little depressed, turning the hair white, and spreading over the skin.
As the description of these symptoms is very concise, and requires to be specified more minutely for practical purposes, the spiritual guides of Israel defined them as follows: Both the bright pimple ( בהרת ) and the swelling spot ( שאת ), when indicative of leprosy, assume respectively one of two colors, a principal or a subordinate one. The principal color of the bright pimple is as white as snow ( עזת כשלג ), and the subordinate resembles plaster on the wall ( כסיד ההיכל ); whilst the principal color of the rising spot is like that of an eggshell ( כקרום בצה ), and the secondary one resembles white wool ( כצמר לבן , Negaim, 1:1); so that if the affected spot in the skin is inferior in whiteness to the film of an egg it is not leprosy, but simply a gathering (Maimonides, On Leprosy, 1:1). Any one may examine the disease, except the patient himself or his relatives, but the priest alone can decide whether it is leprosy or not, and accordingly pronounce the patient unclean or clean, because Deuteronomy 21:5 declares that the priest must decide cases of litigation and disease. But though the priest only can pronounce the decision, even if he be a child or a fool, yet he must act upon the advice of a learned layman in those matters (Negaim, 3:1; Maimonides, l. c., 9:1, 2). If the priest is blind of one eye, or is weak-sighted, he is disqualified for examining the distemper (Mishna, l. c., 2:3). The inspection must not take place on the Sabbath, nor early in the morning, nor in the middle of the day, nor in the evening, nor on cloudy days, because the color of the skin cannot properly be ascertained in these hours of the day; but in the third, fourth, fifth, seventh, eighth, or ninth hour (Negayim, 2:2); and the same priest who inspected it at first must examine it again at the end of the second seven days, as another one could not tell whether it has spread. If he should die in the interim, or be taken ill, another one may examine him, but not pronounce him unclean (Maimonides, On Leprosy, 9:4). There must be at least two hairs white at the root and in the body of the bright spot before the patient can be declared unclean (Maimonides, 1. c., 2:1). If a bridegroom is seized with this distemper he must be left alone during the nuptial week (Negayim, 3:2).
(2.) The second case is of leprosy reappearing after it has been cured ( Leviticus 13:9-17), where a somewhat different treatment is enjoined. If a person who has once been healed of this disease is brought again to the priest, and if the latter finds a white rising in the skin ( לבנה שאת ), which has changed the hair into white and contains live flesh ( בשר חי ), he is forthwith to recognize therein the reappearance of the old malady, and declare the patient unclean without any quarantine whatever, since the case is so evident that it requires no trial ( Leviticus 13:9-11). There were, however, two phases of this returned distemper which exempted the patient from uncleanness. If the leprosy suddenly covered the whole body so that the patient became perfectly white, in which case there could be no appearance of live flesh ( Leviticus 13:12-13), or if the whiteness, after having once diminished and allowed live flesh to appear, covers again the whole body, then the patient was clean ( Leviticus 13:14-17). This, most probably, was regarded as indicative of the crisis, as the whole evil matter thus brought to the surface formed itself into a scale which dried and peeled off. The only other feature which this case represents besides the symptoms already described is that leprosy at times also spread over the whole skin and rendered it perfectly white. As to the live flesh ( בשר חי ), the Sept., the Chaldee, the Mishna, and the Jewish rabbins, in accordance with ancient tradition, take it to denote Soundflesh, or a spot in the flesh assuming the appearance of life after it had been paled by the whiteness overspreading the whole surface. The size of this spot of live flesh which renders the patient unclean must, according to tradition, be at least that of a lentil (Maimonides, 1. c., 3:1-3).
(3.) The third case is of leprosy developing itself from an inflammation ( שחין ) or a burn ( מכות אש ), which is to be recognized by the same symptoms ( Leviticus 13:18-28). Hence, when these suspicious signs were discernible in that part of the skin which was healed of an inflammation, the patient was to go to the priest, who was at once to pronounce it leprosy developed from an inflammation, if the symptoms were unmistakable ( Leviticus 13:19-20). If the priest found these marks, he remanded the patient for seven days ( Leviticus 13:21), and if the disorder spread over the skin during the time the patient was declared leprous and unclean ( Leviticus 13:22); but if it remained in the same condition, he pronounced it the cicatrix of the inflammation ( צרהת השחין ) and the patient clean ( Leviticus 13:23). The same rules applied to the suspicious appearance of a burn ( Leviticus 13:24-28). According to the Hebrew canons, שהין is defined inflammation arising from "an injury received from the stroke of wood or a stone, or from hot olive husks, or the hot Tiberian water, or from anything, the heat of which does not come from fire, whilst מכות denotes a burn from live coals, hot ashes, or from any heat which proceeds from fire" ( Negaim,, 9:1; Maimonides, On Leprosy, v. 1). It will be seen that there is a difference in the treatment of the suspicious symptoms in (1.) and (3.). In the former instance, where there is no apparent cause for the symptoms, the suspected invalid has to undergo two remands of seven days before his case can be decided; whilst in the latter, where the inflammation or the burn visibly supplies the reason for this suspicion, he is only remanded for one week, at the end of which his case is finally determined.
(4.) The fourth case is leprosy on The Head or Chin ( Leviticus 13:29-37), which is to be recognized by the affected spot being deeper than the general level of the skin, and by the hair thereon having become thin and yellowish. When these symptoms exist, the priest is to pronounce it a scall ( נתק ), which is head or chin leprosy, and declare the patient unclean ( Leviticus 13:30). But if this disorder on the head or chin does not exhibit these symptoms, the patient is to be remanded for seven days, when the priest is again to examine it, and if he finds that it has neither spread nor exhibits the required criteria, he is to order the patient to cut off all the hair of his head or chin, except that which grows on the afflicted spot itself, and remand him for another week, and then pronounce him clean if it continues in the same state at the expiration of this period ( Leviticus 13:31-34); and if it spreads after he has been pronounced clean, the priest is forthwith to declare him unclean without looking for any yellow hair ( Leviticus 13:35-36). The Jewish canons define נתק by "an affection on the head or chin which causes the hair on these affected parts to fall off by the roots, so that the place of the hair is quite bare" (Maimonides, On Leprosy, 8:1). The condition of the hair, constituting one of the leprous symptoms, is described as follows: " דק is Small or Short, but if it be long, though it is yellow as gold, it is no sign of uncleanness. Two yellow and short hairs, whether close to one another or far from each other, whether in the center of The Nethek or on the edge thereof, no matter whether The Nethek precedes the yellow hair or the yellow hair The Nethek, are symptoms of uncleanness" (Maimonides. 1. c., 8:5). The manner of shaving is thus described: "The hair round the scall is all shaved off except two hairs which are close to it, so that it might be known thereby whether it spread" (Negaim, 10:5).
(5.) The fifth case is leprosy which shows itself in white polished spots, and is not regarded as unclean ( Leviticus 13:38-39). It is called Bohak ( בֹּהק ', from בָּהִק , To Be White ) , or, as the Sept. has it, Ἀλφός , vitiligo alba, white scurf.
(6.) The sixth case is of leprosy either at the back or in the front of the head ( Leviticus 13:40-44). When a man loses his hair either at the back or in the front of his head, it is a simple case of baldness, and he is clean ( Leviticus 13:40-41). But if a whitish red spot forms itself on the bald place at the back or in the front of the head, then it is leprosy, which is to be recognized by the fact that the swelling or scab on the spot has the appearance of leprosy in the skin of the body; and the priest is to declare the man's head leprous and unclean ( Leviticus 13:42-44). Though there is only one symptom mentioned whereby head leprosy is to be recognized, and nothing is said about remanding the patient if the distemper should appear doubtful, as in the other cases of leprosy, yet the ancient rabbins inferred from the remark, "It is like leprosy in the skin of the flesh," that all the criteria specified in the latter are implied in the former. Hence the Hebrew canons submit that "there are two symptoms which render baldness in the front or at the back of the head unclean, viz. live or sound flesh, and spreading; the patient is also shut up for them two weeks, because it is said of them that ‘ they are land therefore must be treated like leprosy in the skin of the flesh' "( Leviticus 13:43). Of course, the fact that the distemper in this instance develops itself on baldness, precludes white hair being among the criteria indicating uncleanness. The manner in which the patient in question is declared unclean by two symptoms and in two weeks is as follows: "If live or sound flesh is found in the bright spot on the baldness at the back or in the front of the head, he is pronounced unclean; if there is no live flesh he is shut up and examined at the end of the week, and if live flesh has developed itself, and it has spread, he is declared unclean, and if not he is shut up for another week. If it has spread during this time, or engendered live flesh, he is declared unclean, and if not he is pronounced clean. He is also pronounced unclean if it spreads or engenders sound flesh after he has been declared clean" (Negaim, 10:10; Maimonides, On Leprosy, 5:9,10).
2. Regulations About The Conduct And Purification Of Leprous Men. — Lepers were to rend their garments, let the hair of their head hang down disheveled, cover themselves up to the upper lip, like mourners, and warn off every one whom they happened to meet by calling out "Unclean! unclean!" since they defiled every one and everything they touched. For this reason they were also obliged to live in exclusion outside the camp or city ( Leviticus 13:45-46; Numbers 5:1-4; Numbers 12:10-15; 2 Kings 7:3, etc.). "The very entrance of a leper into a house," according to the Jewish canons, "renders everything in it unclean" ( Negaim., 12:11; Kelim, 1:4). "If he stands under a tree and a clean man passes by, he renders him unclean. In the synagogue which he wishes to attend they are obliged to make him a separate compartment, ten handbreadths high and four cubits long and broad; he has to be the first to go in, and the last to leave the synagogue" (Negaim, 12:12; Maimonides, On Leprosy, 10:12); and if he transgressed the prescribed boundaries he was to receive forty stripes (Pesachim, 67, at). All this only applies to those who had been pronounced lepers by the priest, but not to those who were on quarantine (Negaim, 1:7). The rabbinic law also exempts women from the obligation to rend their garments and let the hair of their head fall down (Sota, 3:8). It is therefore no wonder that the Jews regarded leprosy as a living death (comp. Josephus, Ant. 3:11, 8, and the well-known rabbinic saying מצורע חשוב כמת ), and as an awful punishment from the Lord ( 2 Kings 5:7; 2 Chronicles 26:20), which they wished all their mortal enemies ( 2 Samuel 3:29 : 2 Kings 5:27).
The healed leper had to pass through two stages of purification before he could be received back into the community. As soon as the distemper disappeared he sent for the priest, who had to go outside the camp or town to convince himself of the fact. Thereupon the priest ordered two clean and live birds, a piece of cedar wood, crimson wool, and hyssop; killed one bird over a vessel containining spring water, so that the blood might run into it, tied together the hyssop and the cedar wood with the crimson wool, put about them the tops of the wings and the tip of the tail of the living bird, dipped all the four in the blood and water which were in the vessel, then sprinkled the hand of the healed leper seven times, let the bird loose, and pronounced the restored man clean ( Leviticus 14:17; Negtaime, 12:1). The healed leper was then to wash his garments, cut off all his hair, be immersed, and return to the camp or city, but remain outside his house seven days, which the Mishina ( Negailm, 14:2), the Chaldee Paraphrase, Maimonides ( On Leprosy, 11:1), etc., rightly regard as a euphemism for exclusion from connubial intercourse during that time ( Leviticus 14:8), in order that he might not contract impurity (comp. Leviticus 15:18). With this ended the first stage of purification. According to the Jewish canons, the birds are to be "free, and not caged," or sparrows; the piece of cedar wood is to be "a cubit long, and a quarter of the foot of the bed thick;" the crimson wool is to be a shekel's weight, i.e. 320 grains of barley; the hyssop must at least be a handbreadth in size, and is neither to be the so- called Greek, nor ornamental, nor Roman, nor wild hyssop, nor have any name whatever; the vessel must be an earthen one, and new; and the dead bird must be buried in a hole dug before their eyes (Negaim, 14:1-6; Maimonides, On Leprosy, 11:1).
The second stage of purification began on the seventh day, when the leper had again to cut off the hair of his head, his beard, eyebrows, etc., wash his garments, and be immersed ( Leviticus 14:9). On the eighth day he had to bring two he-lambs without blemish, one ewe-lamb a year old, three tenths of an ephah of fine flour mixed with oil, and one log of oil; the one he-lamb is to be a trespass-offering, and the other, with the ewe-lamb, a burnt and a sin-offering; but if the man was poor he was to bring two turtle-doves, or two young pigeons, for a sin-offering and a burnt-offering, instead of a he-lamb and a ewe-lamb ( Leviticus 14:10-11; Leviticus 14:21). With these offerings the priest conducted the healed leper before the presence of the Lord. What the offerer had to do, and how the priest acted when going through these ceremonies, cannot be better described than in the following graphic language of the Jewish tradition. "The priest approaches the trespass- offering, lays both his hands on it, and kills it, when two priests catch its blood, one into a vessel, and the other in his hand; the one who caught it into the vessel sprinkles it against the wall of the altar, the other goes to the leper, who, having been immersed in the leper's chamber [which is in the women's court], is waiting [outside the court of Israel, or the men's court, opposite the eastern door] in the porch of Nicanor [with his face to the west]. He then puts his head into [the court of Israel], and the priest puts some of the blood upon the tip of his right ear; he next puts in his right hand, and the priest puts some blood upon the thumb thereof; and, lastly, puts in his right ear, and the priest puts some blood on the toe thereof. The: priest then takes some of the log of oil and puts it into, the left hand of his fellow-priest, or into his own left hand, dips the finger of his right hand in it, and sprinkles it seven times towards the holy of holies, dipping his finger every time he sprinkles it; whereupon he goes to the leper, puts oil on those parts of his body on which he had previously put blood [i.e. the tip of the ear, the thumb, and the toe], as it is written, ‘ on the place of the blood of the trespass-offering' [ Leviticus 14:28], and what remains of the oil in the hand of the priest he puts on the head of him who is to be cleansed, for an atonement" ( Negaim, 14: 8-10; Maimonides, Michoth Mechosrei Kepora, 4). It is in accordance with this prerogative of the priest, who alone could pronounce the leper clean and readmit him into the congregation, that Christ commanded the leper whom he had healed to show himself to this functionary ( Matthew 8:2, etc.).
(II.) Leprous Garments And Vessels. — Leprosy in garments and vessels is indicated by two symptoms, Green or Reddish Spots, and Spreading. If a green or reddish spot shows itself in a woolen or linen garment, or in a leather vessel, it is indicative of leprosy, and must be shown to the priest, who is to shut it up for a week. If, on inspecting it at the end of this time, he finds that the spot has spread, he is to pronounce it inveterate leprosy ( צרעת ממארת ), and unclean, and burn it ( Leviticus 13:47-52); if it has not spread he is to have it washed, and shut it up for another week, and if its appearance has then not changed, he is to pronounce it unclean and burn it, though it has not spread, since the distemper rankles in the front or at the back of the material ( Leviticus 13:53-55). But if, after washing it, the priest sees that the spot has become weaker, he is to cut it out of the material; if it reappears in any part thereof, then it is a developed distemper, and the whole of it must be burned; and if it vanishes after washing, it must be washed a second time, and is clean ( Leviticus 13:56-59). The Jewish canons define the color green to be like that of herbs, and red like that of fair crimson, and take this enactment literally as referring strictly to wool of sheep and flax, but not to hemp and other materials. A material made of camel's hair and sheep's wool is not rendered unclean by leprosy if the camel's hair preponderate, but is unclean when the sheep's wool preponderates, or when both are equal, and this also applies to mixtures of flax and hemp. Dyed skins and garments are not rendered unclean by leprosy; nor are vessels so if made of skins of aquatic animals exposed to leprous uncleanness (Negaim, 11:2,3; Maimonides, ut sup. 11:1; 12:10; 13:1-3).
(III.) Leprous Houses. — Leprosy in houses is indicated by the same three symptoms, viz. spots of a deep green or reddish hue, depressed beyond the general level, and spreading ( Leviticus 14:33-48). On its appearance the priest was at once to be sent for, and the house cleared of everything before his arrival. If, on inspecting it, he found the first two symptoms in the walls, viz. a green or red spot in the wall, and depressed, he shut the house up for seven days ( Leviticus 14:34-38), inspected it again on the seventh day, and if the distemper spread in the wall he had the affected stones taken out, the inside of the house scraped all round, the stones, dust, etc., cast into an unclean place without the city, and other stones and plaster put on the wall ( Leviticus 14:39-42). If, after all this, the spot reappeared and spread, he pronounced it inveterate leprosy, and unclean, had the house pulled down, and the stones, timber, plaster, etc., cast into an unclean place without the city, declared every one unclean, till evening, who had entered it, and ordered every one who had either slept or eaten in it to wash his garments ( Leviticus 14:43-47).
As to the purification of the houses which have been cured of leprosy, the process is the same as that of healed men, except that in the case of man the priest sprinkles seven times upon his hand, while in that of the house he sprinkles seven times on the upper door-post without. Of course the sacrifices which the leprous man had to bring in his second stage of purification are precluded in the case of the house (Maimonides, On Leprosy, 15:8).
3. Prevalence, Contagion, And Curableness Of Leprosy. — Though the malicious story of Manetho that the Egyptians expelled the Jews because they were afflicted with leprosy (Josephus, Ap. 1:26), which is repeated by Tacitus (lib. v, c. 3), is rejected by modern historians and critics as a fabrication, yet Michaelis ( Laws Of Moses, art. 209), Thomson ( The Land And The Book, p. 652), and others still maintain that this disease was "extremely prevalent among the Israelites." Against this, however, is to be urged that, 1. The very fact that such strict examination was enjoined, and that every one who had a pimple, spot, or boil was shut up, shows that leprosy could not have been so widespread, inasmuch as it would require the imprisonment of the great mass of the people. 2. In cautioning the people against the evil of leprosy, and urging on them to keep strictly to the directions of the priest, Moses adds, "Remember what the Lord thy God did to Miriam on the way when you came out of Egypt" ( Deuteronomy 24:9). Now allusion to a single instance which occurred on the way from Egypt, and which, therefore, was an Old Case, naturally implies that leprosy was of rare occurrence among the Jews, else there would have been no necessity to adduce a by-gone case; and, 3. Wherever leprosy is spoken of in later books of the Bible, which does not often take place, it is only of isolated cases ( 2 Kings 7:3; 2 Kings 15:5), and the regulations are strictly carried out, and the men are shut up so that even the king himself formed no exception ( 2 Kings 15:5).
That the disease was not contagious is evident from the regulations themselves. The priests had to be in constant and close contact with lepers, had to examine and handle them; the leper who was entirely covered was pronounced clean ( Leviticus 13:12-13); and the priest himself commanded that all things in a leprous house should be taken out before he entered it, in order that they might not be pronounced unclean, and that they might be used again ( Leviticus 14:36), which most unquestionably implies that there was no fear of contagion. This is, moreover, corroborated by the ancient Jewish canons, which were made by those very men who had personally to deal with this distemper, and according to which a leprous minor, a heathen, and a proselyte, as well as leprous garments, and houses of non-Israelites, do not render any one unclean; nor does a bridegroom, who is seized with this malady during the nuptial week, defile any one during the first seven days of his marriage (comp. Negaim, 3:1, 2; 7:1; 11:1; 12:1; Maimonides, On Leprosy, 6:1; 7:1, etc.). These canons would be utterly inexplicable on the hypothesis that the distemper in question was contagious. The enactments, therefore, about the exclusion of the leper from society, and about defilement, were not dictated by sanitary caution, but had their root in the moral and ceremonial law, like the enactments about the separation and uncleanness of menstruous women, of those who had an issue or touched the dead, which are joined with leprosy. Being regarded as a punishment for sin, which God himself inflicted upon the disobedient ( Exodus 15:26; Leviticus 14:35), this loathsome disease, with the peculiar rites connected therewith, was especially selected as a typical representation of the pollution of sin, in which light the Jews always viewed it. Thus we are told that "leprosy comes upon man for seven, ten, or eleven things: for idolatry, profaning the name of God, unchastity, theft, slander, false witness, false judgment, perjury, infringing the borders of a neighbor, devising malicious plans, or creating discord between brothers" (Erachin, 16, 17; Baba Bathra, 164; Aboth de R. Nathan, 9; Midrash Rabba on Leviticus 14). "Cedar wood and hyssop, the highest and the lowest, give the leper purity. Why these? Because pride was the cause of the distemper, which cannot be cured till man becomes humble, and keeps himself as low as hyssop" (Midrash Rabba, Koheleth, p. 104).
As to the curableness of the disease, this is unquestionably implied in the minute regulations about the sacrifices and conduct of those who were restored to health. Besides, in the case of Miriam, we find that shutting her up for seven days cured her of leprosy ( Numbers 12:11-13).
II. Identity Of The Biblical Leprosy With The Modern Distemper Bearing This Name. — It would be useless to discuss the different disorders which have been palmed upon the Mosaic description of leprosy. A careful classification and discrimination is necessary.
1. The Greeks distinguished three species of Lepra, the specific names of which were Ἀλφος , Λευκή , and Μέλας which may be rendered the Vitiligo, the White and the Black. Now, on turning to the Mosaic account, we also find three species mentioned, which were all included under the generic term of בִּהֶרֶת , Bahereth, or "bright spot" ( Leviticus 13:2-4; Leviticus 13:18-28). The first is called בֹּהִק , Bhak, which signifies "brightness," but in a subordinate degree ( Leviticus 13:39). This species did not render a person unclean. The second was called לְבָנָה בִּהֶרֶת , Bahereth Lebandh. or a bright white Baherleth. The characteristic marks of the Bahe'Eth Lebandh mentioned by Moses are a glossy white and spreading scale upon an elevated base, the elevation depressed in the middle, the hair on the patches participating in the whiteness, and the patches themselves perpetually increasing. This was evidently the true leprosy, probably corresponding to the White of the Greeks and the Vulgaris of modern science. The third was בִּהֶרֶת כְּהָה , Bahereth Khadh, or dusky Bahereth, spreading in the skin. It has been thought to correspond with the Black leprosy of the Greeks and the nigricans of Dr. Willan. These last two were also called צָרִעִת , tsardath (i.e. proper leprosy), and rendered a person unclean. There are some other slight affections mentioned by name in Leviticus (chap. 13), which the priest was required to distinguish from leprosy, such as שְׂאֵת , Seeth; שָׁפָל , Shaphdl; תּפק , Nethek; שְׁחַין -, Shechen, i.e. "elevation," "depressed," etc.; and to each of these Dr. Good ( Study Of Med. 5:590) has assigned a modern systematic name. But, as it is useless to attempt to recognize a disease otherwise than by a description of its symptoms, we can have no object in discussing his interpretation of these terms. We therefore recognize but two species of real leprosy.
(I.) Proper Leprosy. — This is the kind specifically denominated בִּהֶרֶת , Bahereth, whether white or black, but usually called White Leprosy, by the Arabs Barras; a disease not unfrequent among the Hebrews ( 2 Kings 5:27; Exodus 4:6; Numbers 12:10), and often called Lepra Mosaica. It was regarded by them as a divine infliction (hence its Heb. name צָרִעִת , tsardath, a stroke i.e. of God), and in several instances we find it such, as in the case of Miriam ( Numbers 12:10), Gehazi ( 2 Kings 5:27), and Uzziah ( 2 Chronicles 26:16-23), from which and other indications it appears to have been considered hereditary, and incurable by human means (comp. 2 Samuel 3:29; 2 Kings 5:7). From Deuteronomy 24:8, it appears to have been well-known in Egypt as a dreadful disease (comp. Description De L'Egypte, 13: 159 sq.). The distinctive marks given by Moses to indicate this disease (Leviticus 13) are, a depression of the surface and whiteness or yellowness of the hair in the spot ( Leviticus 13:3; Leviticus 13:20; Leviticus 13:25; Leviticus 13:30), or a spreading of the scaliness ( Leviticus 13:8; Leviticus 13:22; Leviticus 13:27; Leviticus 13:36), or raw flesh in it ( Leviticus 13:10; Leviticus 13:14), or a white-reddish sore ( Leviticus 13:43).
The disease, as it is known at the present day, commences by an eruption of small reddish spots slightly raised above the level of the skin. and grouped in a circle. These spots are soon covered by a very thin, semitransparent scale or epidermis, of a whitish color, and very smooth, which in a little time falls off, and leaves the skin beneath red and uneven. As the circles increase in diameter, the skin recovers its healthy appearance towards the center; fresh scales are formed, which are now thicker, and superimposed one above the other, especially at the edges, so that the center of the scale appears to be depressed. The scales are of a grayish- white color, and have something of a micaceous or pearly lustre. The circles are generally of the size of a shilling or half crown, but they have been known to attain half a foot in diameter. The disease generally affects the knees and elbows, but sometimes it extends over the whole body, in which case the circles become confluent. It does not at all affect the general health, and the only inconvenience it causes the patient is a slight itching when the skin is heated; or, in inveterate cases, when the skin about the joints is much thickened, it may in some degree impede the free motion of the limbs. It is common to both sexes, to almost all ages, and all ranks of society. It is not in the least infectious, but. it is always difficult to be cured, and in old persons, when it is of long standing, may be pronounced incurable. It is commonly met with in all parts of Europe, and occasionally in America. Its systematic name is Lepra vulgaris.
Moses prescribes no natural remedy for the cure of leprosy (Leviticus 13). He requires only that the diseased person should show himself to the priest, and that the priest should judge of his leprosy; if it appeared to be a real leprosy, he separated the leper from the company of mankind ( Leviticus 13:45-46; comp. Numbers 5:2; Numbers 12:10; Numbers 12:14; 2 Kings 7:3; 2 Kings 15:5; Josephus, Apion, 1:31; Ant. 3:11,3; Wars, 5:5,6; see Wetstein, ''N. T'' 1:175; Lightfoot, Hor. Heb. p. 861; Withob, Opusc. p. 169 sq.). Although the laws in the Mosaic code respecting this disease are exceedingly rigid (see Michaelis, Orient. Bibl. 17:19 sq.; Medic. hermeneuet. Untersuch. p. 240 sq.), it is by no means clear that the leprosy was contagious. The fear or disgust which was felt towards such a peculiar disease might be a sufficient cause for such severe enactments. All intercourse with society, however, was not cut off ( Matthew 8:2; Luke 5:12; Luke 17:12), and even contact with a leper did not necessarily impart uncleanness ( Luke 17:12). They were even admitted to the synagogue (Lightfoot, Hor. Heb. p. 862). Similar liberties are still allowed them among the Arabians (Niebuhr, Beschr. p. 136); so that we are probably to regard the statements of travelers respecting the utter exclusion of modern lepers in the East as relating to those affected with entirely a different disease, the elephantiasis. In Leviticus 14 are detailed particular ceremonies and offerings (compare Matthew 8:4) to be officially observed by the priest on behalf of a leper restored to health and purity. See D. C. Lutz, De Duab. Avtib. Purgationi Leprosi Destinatis Earundenzque Mysterio, Hal. 1737; Bihr, Symbol. 2:512 sq.; Baumgarten, Commnent. I, 2:170 sq.; Talmud, tract Negaim, 6:3; Otho, Lex. Rabb. p. 365 sq.; Rhenferd, in Meuschen, N.T. Talmud. p. 1057.
(II.) Elephantiasis. — This more severe form of cutaneous, or, rather, scrofulous disease has been confounded with leprosy, from which it is essentially different. It is usually called Tubercular Leprosy ( Lepra Nodosa, Celsus, Med. 3:25), and has generally been thought to be the disease with which Job was afflicted ( שְׁחין רִע , Job 2:7; comp. Deuteronomy 28:35). (See Jobs Disease).
It has been thought to be alluded to by the term "botch of Egypt" ( שְׁהין מַצְרִיַם , Deuteronomy 28:27), where it is said to have been endemic (Pliny, 26:5; Lucret. 6:1112 sq.; comp. Aretaeus, Cappad. morb. diut. 2:13, see Ainslie, in the Transactions of the Asiatic Society, 1:282 sq.). The Greeks gave the name of elephantiasis to this disease because the skin of the person affected with it was thought to resemble that of an elephant, in dark color, ruggedness, and insensibility, or, as some have thought, because the foot, after the loss of the toes, when the hollow of the sole is filled up and the ankle enlarged, resembles the foot of an elephant. The Arabs called it Judh Â m, which means "mutilation," "amputation," in reference to the loss of the smaller members. They have, however, also described another disease, and a very different one from elephantiasis, to which they gave the name of Da'l fil, which means literally morbus elephas. The disease to which they applied this name is called by modern writers the tumid Barbadoes leg, and consists in a thickening of the skin and subcutaneous tissues of the leg, but presents nothing resembling the tubercles of elephantiasis. Now the Latin translators from the Arabic, finding that the same name existed both in the Greek and Arabic, translated Da'l fil by elephantiasis, and thus confounded the Barbadoes leg with the Arabic Judham, while this latter, which was in reality elephantiasis, they rendered by the Greek term lepra. See Kleyer, in Miscell. nat. curios. 1683, p. 8; Bartholin. Morb. Bibl. 100:7; Michaelis, Finleit. ins A. T. 1:58 sq.; Reinhard, Bibelkrank. 3:52.
Elephantiasis first of all makes its appearance by spots of a reddish, yellowish, or livid hue, irregularly disseminated over the skin and slightly raised above its surface. These spots are glossy, and appear oily, or as if they were covered with varnish. After they have remained in this way for a longer or shorter time, they are succeeded by an eruption of tubercles. These are soft, roundish tumors, varying in size from that of a pea to that of an olive, and are of a reddish or livid color. They are principally developed on the face and ears, but in the course of years extend over the whole body. The face becomes frightfully deformed; the forehead is traversed by deep lines and covered with numerous tubercles; the eyebrows become bald, swelled, furrowed by oblique lines, and covered with nipple- like elevations; the eyelashes fall out, and the eyes assume a fixed and staring look; the lips are enormously thickened and shining; the beard falls out; the chin and ears are enlarged and beset with tubercles: the lobe and alae of the nose are frightfully enlarged and deformed; the nostrils irregularly dilated, internally constricted, and excoriated; the voice is hoarse and nasal, and the breath intolerably fetid. After some time, generally after some years, many of the tubercles ulcerate, and the matter which exudes from them dries to crusts of a brownish or blackish color; but this process seldom terminates in cicatrization. The extremities are affected in the same way as the face. The hollow of the foot is swelled out, so that the sole becomes flat; the sensibility of the skin is greatly impaired, and in the hands and feet, often entirely lost; the joints of the toes ulcerate and fall off one after the other; insupportable fetor exhales from the whole body. The patient's general health is not affected for a considerable time, and his sufferings are not always of the same intensity as his external deformity. Often, however, his nights are sleepless or disturbed by frightful dreams; he becomes morose and melancholy; he shuns the sight of the healthy because he feels what an object of disgust he is to them, and life becomes a loathsome burden to him; or he falls into a state of apathy, and, after many years of such an existence, he sinks either from exhaustion or from the supervention of internal disease.
About the period of the Crusades elephantiasis spread itself like an epidemic over all Europe, even as far north as the Faroe Islands; and henceforth, owing to the above-named mistakes, every one became familiar with leprosy under the form of the terrible disease that has just been described. Leper or lazar-houses abounded everywhere: as many as 2000 are said to have existed in France alone. In the leper hospital in Edinburgh the inmates begged for the general community-sitting for the purpose at the door of the hospital. They were obliged to warn those approaching them of the presence of an infected fellow-mortal by using a wood rattle or clapper. The infected in European countries were obliged to enter leper hospitals, and were considered legally and politically dead. The Church, taking the same view of it, performed over them the solemn ceremonies for the burial of the dead — the priest closing the ceremony by throwing upon them a shovelful of earth. The disease was considered to be contagious possibly only on account of the belief that was entertained respecting its identity with Jewish leprosy, and the strictest regulations were enacted for secluding the diseased from society. Towards the commencement of the 17th century the disease gradually disappeared from Europe, and is now mostly confined to intertropical countries. It existed in Faroe as late as 1676, and in the Shetland Islands in 1736, long after it had ceased in the southern parts of Great Britain. This fearful disease made its appearance in the island of Guadaloupe in the year 1730, introduced by negroes from Africa, producing great consternation among the inhabitants. In Europe it is now principally confined to Norway, where the last census gave 2000 cases. It visits occasionally some of the sea-port localities of Spain. It has made its appearance in the most different climates, from Iceland through the temperate regions to the and plains of Arabia — in moist and dry localities. It still exists in Palestine and Egypt — the latter its most familiar home, although Dr. Kitto thinks not in such numerous instances as in former ages. The physical causes of the malady are uncertain. The best authors of the present day who have had an opportunity of observing the disease do not consider it to be contagious. There seems, however, to be little doubt as to its being hereditary. See Good's Study of Medicine, 3:421; Rayer, Malachi de la Peau, 2:296; Simpson, On the Lepers and Leperhouses of Scotland and England, in Edinb. Medical and Surgical Journal, Jan. 1, 1842; J. Gieslesen, De elephantiasi Norvegica (Havn. 1785); Michael. U. orient Bibl. 4:168 sq.; B. Haubold, Vitiliginis leprosce rarioris historia c. epicrisi (Lips. 1821); C. J. Hille, Rarmioris norbi clephantiasi partiali sienilis histor. (Lips. 1828); Rosenbaum, in the Hall. Encyklop. 33:254 sq.
Elephantiasis, or the leprosy of the Middle Ages, is the disease from which most of the prevalent notions concerning leprosy have been derived, and to which the notices of lepers contained in modern books of travels exclusively refer. It is doubtful whether any of the lepers cured by Christ ( Matthew 8:3; Mark 1:42; Luke v. 12, 13) were of this class. In nearly all Oriental towns persons of this description are met with, excluded from intercourse with the rest of the community, and usually confined to a separate quarter of the town. Dr. Robinson says, with reference to Jerusalem, "Within the Zion Gate, a little towards the right, are some miserable hovels, inhabited by persons called lepers. Whether their disease is or is not the leprosy of Scripture I am unable to affirm; the symptoms described to us were similar to those of elephantiasis. At any rate, they are pitiable objects, and miserable outcasts from society. They all live here together, and inter-marry only with each other. The children are said to be healthy until the age of puberty or later, when the disease makes its appearance in a finger, on the nose, or in some like part of the body, and gradually increases as long as the victim survives. They were said often to live to the age of forty or fifty years" ( Bib. Res. 1:359). With reference to their presence elsewhere, he remarks, "There are said to be leprous persons at Nabl Û s (Shechem) as well as at Jerusalem, but we did not here meet with them" (ib. 3:113 note). On the reputed site of the house of Naaman, at Damascus, stands at the present day a hospital filled with unfortunate patients, the victims affected like him with leprosy. (See Plague).
2. That the Mosaic cases of true leprosy were confined to the former of these two dreadful forms of disease is evident. The reason why this kind of cutaneous distemper alone was taken cognizance of by the law doubtless was because the other was too well marked and obvious to require any diagnostic particularization. With the scriptural symptoms before us, let us compare the most recent description of modern leprosy of the malignant type given by an eye-witness who examined this subject: "The scab comes on by degrees, in different parts of the body; the hair falls from the head and eyebrows; the nails loosen, decay, and drop off; joint after joint of the fingers and toes shrink up, and slowly fall away; the gums are absorbed, and the teeth disappear; the nose, the eyes, the tongue, and the palate are slowly consumed; and, finally, the wretched victim shrinks into the earth and disappears, while medicine has no power to stay the ravages of this fell disease, or even to mitigate sensibly its tortures" (Thomson, Land and Book, p. 653, etc.); and again, "Sauntering down the Jaffa road, on my approach to the Holy City, in a kind of dreamy maze, I was startled out of my reverie by the sudden apparition of a crowd of beggars, sans eyes, sans nose, sans hair, sans everything. They held up towards me their handless arms, unearthly sounds gurgled through throats without palates" (ibid. p. 651). We merely ask by what rules of interpretation can we deduce from the Biblical leprosy, which is described as consisting in a rising scab, or bright spot deeper than the general level of the skin, and spreading, sometimes exhibiting live flesh, and which is non-contagious and curable, that loathsome and appalling malady described by Dr. Thomson and others?
3. As to the leprosy of garments, vessels, and houses, the ancient Jewish tradition is that "leprosy of garments and houses was not to be found in the world generally, but was a sign and a miracle in Israel to guard them against an evil tongue" (Maimonides, On Leprosy, 16:10). Some have thought garments worn by leprous patients intended. The discharges of the diseased skin absorbed into the apparel would, if infection were possible, probably convey disease, and it is known to be highly dangerous in some cases to allow clothes which have so imbibed the discharges of an ulcer to be worn again. The words of Jude, Mark 1:23, may seem to countenance this, "Hating even the garment spotted by the flesh." But, 1st, no mention of infection occurs; 2d, no connection of the leprous garment with a leprous human wearer is hinted at; 3d, this would not help us to account for a leprosy of stone walls and plaster. Thus Dr. Mead (ut sq).) speaks at any rate plausibly of the leprosy of garments, but becomes unreasonable when he extends his explanation to that of walls. There is more probability in the idea of Sommer (Bibl. Abhandlugen, 1:224) that what is meant are the fusting-stains occasioned by damp and want of air, and which, when confirmed, cause the cloth to moulder and fall to pieces. Michaelis thought that wool from sheep which had died of a particular disease might fret into holes, and exhibit an appearance like that described in Leviticus 13:47; Leviticus 13:59 (Michaelis, art. 211, 3:290, 291).
But woolen cloth is far from being the only material mentioned; nay, there is even some reason to think that the words rendered in the A.V. "warp" and "woof" are not those distinct parts of the texture, but distinct materials. Linen, however, and leather are distinctly particularized, and the latter not only as regards garments, but "anything (lit. vessel) made of skin" — for instance, bottles. This classing of garments and house-walls with the human epidermis as leprous has moved the mirth of some and the wonder of others. Yet modern science has established what goes far to vindicate the Mosaic classification as more philosophical than such cavils. It is now known that there are some skin- diseases which originate in an acarus, and others which proceed from a fungus. In these we may probably find the solution of the paradox. The analogy between the insect which frets the human skin and that which frets the garment that covers it, between the fungous growth that lines the crevices of the epidermis and that which creeps in the interstices of masonry, is close enough for the purposes of a ceremonial law, to which it is essential that there should be an arbitrary element intermingled with provisions manifestly reasonable. Michaelis (ibid. art. 211:3:293-9) has suggested a nitrous efflorescence on the surface of the stone, produced by saltpetre, or rather an acid containing it, and issuing in red spots, and cites the example of a house in Lubeck; he mentions, also, exfoliation of the stone from other causes; but probably these appearances would not be developed without a greater degree of damp than is common in Palestine and Arabia. It is manifest, also, that a disease in the human subject caused by an acarus or a fungus would be certainly contagious, since the propagative cause could be transferred from person to person. Some physicians, indeed, assert that only such skin-diseases are contagious. Hence, perhaps, arose a further reason for marking, even in their analogues among lifeless substances, the strictness with which forms of disease so arising were to be shunned.
Whatever the nature of the disorder might be, there can be no doubt, as Baumgarten has remarked (Comm. 2:175), that in the house respect was had to its possessor, since when it came to be in a good condition a cleansing or purification quite analogous to the man's was prescribed. He was thus taught to see in his external environments a sign of what was or might be internal. The later Jews appear to have had some idea of this, though others viewed it differently. Some rabbins say that God sent this plague for the good of the Israelites into certain houses, that, they being pulled down, the treasure which the Amorites had hidden there might be discovered (Patrick on Leviticus 14:34). But "there is good reason," adds the learned prelate, "from these words [ ‘ I put the plague of leprosy upon a house], to think that this plague was a supernatural stroke. Thus Aberbanel understands it: ‘ When he saith "I put the plague," it shows that this thing was not natural, but proceeded from the special providence and pleasure of the blessed God.' So the author of Sepher Cosri (pt. 2, § 58): God inflicted the plague of leprosy upon houses and garments as a punishment for lesser sins, and when men continued still to multiply transgressions, then it invaded their bodies. Maimonides will have this to be the punishment of an evil tongue, i.e. detractions and calumny, which began in the walls of the offender's house, and went no farther, but vanished if he repented of his sin; but if he persisted in his rebellious courses, it proceeded to his household stuff; and if he still went on, invaded his garments, and at last his body" (More Nebochim, pt. 3, cap. 47).
Finally, as to the moral design of all these enactments. Every leper was a living sermon, a loud admonition to keep unspotted from the world. The exclusion of lepers from the camp, from the holy city, conveyed figuratively the same lesson as is done in the New Testament passages ( Revelation 21:27; Ephesians 5:5)...It is only when we take this view of the leprosy that we account for the fact that just this disease so frequently occurs as the theocratic punishment of sin. The image of sin is best suited for reflecting it: he who is a sinner before God is represented as a sinner in the eyes of man also, by the circumstance th
Kitto's Popular Cyclopedia of Biblial Literature 
Leprosy is a name that was given by the Greek physicians to a scaly disease of the skin. During the dark ages it was indiscriminately applied to all chronic diseases of the skin, and more particularly to elephantiasis, to which latter, however, it does not bear the slightest resemblance. The disease, as it is known at the present day, commences by an eruption of small reddish spots slightly raised above the level of the skin, and grouped in a circle. These spots are soon covered by a very thin, semi-transparent scale or epidermis, of a whitish color, and very smooth, which in a little time falls off, and leaves the skin beneath red and uneven. As the circles increase in diameter the skin recovers its healthy appearance towards the center fresh scales are formed, which are now thicker, and superimposed one above the other, especially at the edges, so that the center of the scale appears to be depressed. The scales are of a grayish white color, and have something of a micaceous or pearly luster. The circles are generally of the size of a shilling or half-crown, but they have been known to attain half a foot in diameter. The disease generally affects the knees and elbows, but sometimes it extends over the whole body; in which case the circles become confluent. It does not at all affect the general health, and the only inconvenience it causes the patient is a slight itching when the skin is heated; or, in inveterate cases, when the skin about the joints is much thickened, it may in some degree impede the free motion of the limbs. It is common to both sexes, to almost all ages, and all ranks of society. It is not in the least infectious, but it is always difficult to be cured, and in old persons, when it is of long standing, may be pronounced incurable. It is commonly met with in this country and in all parts of Europe. On turning to the Mosaic account, we find three species mentioned, which were all included under the generic term of Bahéret, or 'bright spot.' The first is called Bóhaq, which signifies 'brightness,' but in a subordinate degree. This species did not render a person unclean. The second was called Bahéret lebanáh, or a bright white Bahéret. The third was Bahéret kéháh, or dusky Bahéret, spreading in the skin. These two last were also called 'a stroke,' as if a chastisement, and rendered a person unclean. The characteristic marks of the Bahéret lebanáh mentioned by Moses, are a glossy white and spreading scale upon an elevated base, the elevation depressed in the middle, the hair on the patches participating in the whiteness, and the patches themselves perpetually increasing. There are some other slight affections mentioned by name in Leviticus, which the priest was required to distinguish from leprosy. If a person had any of the above diseases he was brought before the priest to be examined. If the priest found the distinctive signs of a contagious leprosy, the person was immediately declared unclean. If the priest had any doubt on the subject, the person was put under confinement for seven days, when he was examined a second time. If in the course of the preceding week the eruption had made no advance, he was shut up for another seven days; and if then the disease was still stationary, and had none of the distinctive signs above noticed, he was declared clean (Leviticus 13).
It may be useful here to subjoin a description of elephantiasis, or the leprosy of the Middle Ages, as this is the disease from which most of the prevalent notions concerning leprosy have been derived, and to which the notices of lepers contained in modern books of travels exclusively refer.
Elephantiasis first of all makes its appearance by spots of a reddish, yellowish, or livid hue, irregularly disseminated over the skin and slightly raised above its surface. These spots are glossy, and appear oily, or as if they were covered with varnish. After they have remained in this way for a longer or shorter time, they are succeeded by an eruption of tubercles. These are soft, roundish tumors, varying in size from that of a pea to that of an olive, and are of a reddish or livid color. They are principally developed on the face and ears, but in the course of years extend over the whole body. The face becomes frightfully deformed; the forehead is traversed by deep lines and covered with numerous tubercles; the eyebrows become bald, swelled, furrowed by oblique lines, and covered with nipple-like elevations; the eyelashes fall out, and the eyes assume a fixed and staring look; the lips are enormously thickened and shining; the beard falls out; the chin and ears are enlarged and beset with tubercles; the lobe and ala of the nose are frightfully enlarged and deformed; the nostrils irregularly dilated, internally constricted, and excoriated; the voice is hoarse and nasal, and the breath intolerably fetid. After some time, generally after some years, many of the tubercles ulcerate, and the matter which exudes from them dries to crusts of a brownish or blackish color; but this process seldom terminates in cicatrization. The extremities are affected in the same way as the face. The hollow of the foot is swelled out, so that the sole becomes flat; the sensibility of the skin is greatly impaired, and, in the hands and feet, often entirely lost; the joints of the toes ulcerate and fall off one after the other; insupportable fetor exhales from the whole body. The patient's general health is not affected for a considerable time, and his sufferings are not always of the same intensity as his external deformity. Often, however, his nights are sleepless or disturbed by frightful dreams; he becomes morose and melancholy; he shuns the sight of the healthy, because he feels what an object of disgust he is to them, and life becomes a loathsome burden to him; or he falls into a state of apathy, and after many years of such an existence he sinks either from exhaustion, or from the supervention of internal disease. The Greeks gave the name of elephantiasis to this disease, because the skin of the person affected with it was thought to resemble that of an elephant, in dark color, ruggedness, and insensibility, or, as some have thought, because the foot, after the loss of the toes, when the hollow of the sole is filled up and the ankle enlarged, resembles the foot of an elephant. About the period of the Crusades elephantiasis spread itself like an epidemic over all Europe, even as far north as the Faroe Islands; and henceforth, owing to the above-named mistakes, everyone became familiar with leprosy under the form of the terrible disease that has just been described. Leper or lazar-houses abounded everywhere; as many as 2000 are said to have existed in France alone. The disease was considered to be contagious possibly only on account of the belief that was entertained respecting its identity with Jewish leprosy, and the strictest regulations were enacted for secluding the diseased from society. Towards the commencement of the seventeenth century the disease gradually disappeared from Europe, and is now confined to intertropical countries. It existed in Faroe as late as 1676, and in the Shetland Islands in 1736, long after it had ceased in the southern parts of Great Britain. The best authors of the present day who have had an opportunity of observing the disease do not consider it to be contagious. There seems, however, to be little doubt as to its being hereditary.
- Leprosy from Hastings' Dictionary of the New Testament
- Leprosy from Smith's Bible Dictionary
- Leprosy from Bridgeway Bible Dictionary
- Leprosy from Easton's Bible Dictionary
- Leprosy from Morrish Bible Dictionary
- Leprosy from Vine's Expository Dictionary of NT Words
- Leprosy from Holman Bible Dictionary
- Leprosy from Hastings' Dictionary of the Bible
- Leprosy from King James Dictionary
- Leprosy from Webster's Dictionary
- Leprosy from Watson's Biblical & Theological Dictionary
- Leprosy from Fausset's Bible Dictionary
- Leprosy from Hawker's Poor Man's Concordance And Dictionary
- Leprosy from Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature
- Leprosy from Kitto's Popular Cyclopedia of Biblial Literature