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LEVITICUS 13

PARAGRAPH DIVISIONS OF MODERN TRANSLATIONS

 NASB  NKJV  NRSV  TEV  NJB
(MT versing)
The Test for Leprosy The Law Concerning Leprosy The Diagnosis of Leprosy Law Concerning Skin Diseases Human Skin Diseases
a. swelling, scabs, discolorations
13:1-8 13:1-8 13:1 13:1-8 13:1-6
13:2-8
13:7-8
b. cases of dormant skin diseases
13:9-17 13:9-11 13:9-17 13:9-17 13:9-11
13:12-17 13:12-17
c. ulcers
13:18-23 13:18-23 13:18-23 13:18-23 13:18-23
d. burns
13:24-28 13:24-28 13:24-28 13:24-28 13:24-28
e. diseases of the scalp and chin
13:29-37 13:29-37 13:29-37 13:29-37 13:29-37
f. rash
13:38-39 13:38-46 13:38-39 13:38-39 13:38-39
g. loss of hair
13:40-44 13:40-44 13:40-44 13:40-44
The Law Governing Cases of Contagious Skin Diseases
13:45-46 13:45-46 13:45-46 13:45-46
The Law Concerning Leprous Garments Laws Concerning Mildew Infections of Clothing
13:47-52 13:47-58 13:47-52 13:47-52 13:47-52
13:53-55 13:53-55 13:53-58 13:53-55
13:56-58 13:56-58 13:56-58
13:59 13:59 13:59 13:59 13:59

READING CYCLE THREE (see "Bible Interpretation Seminar")
FOLLOWING THE ORIGINAL AUTHOR'S INTENT AT THE PARAGRAPH LEVEL

This is a study guide commentary, which means that you are responsible for your own interpretation of the Bible. Each of us must walk in the light we have. You, the Bible, and the Holy Spirit are priority in interpretation. You must not relinquish this to a commentator.

Read the chapter in one sitting. Identify the subjects. Compare your subject divisions with the five translations above. Paragraphing is not inspired, but it is the key to following the original author's intent, which is the heart of interpretation. Every paragraph has one and only one subject.
  1. First paragraph
  2. Second paragraph
  3. Etc.

CONTEXTUAL INSIGHTS

  1. Leviticus 13-14 forms a unified context based on uncleanness in humans, garments, houses.

  2. Brief Outline of Leviticus 13-14
    1. Lev. 13:1-46, unclean skin diseases in humans
      1. swelling (BDB 673)
      2. scab (BDB 705, JPSOA, "rash")
      3. bright spot (BDB 97, JPSOA, "discoloration")
      4. other skin problems
    2. Lev. 13:47-55, unclean marks in fabrics
    3. Lev. 14:1-32, procedures for cleansing
    4. Lev. 14:33-53, deals with marks in houses and how to make them clean
    5. Lev. 14:54-57, typical editorial summary of the laws of "leprosy"

  3. There are several types of skin diseases discussed here.
    1. a swelling
    2. a scab
    3. a bright spot
    4. the collective term "leprosy"

      However, most modern physicians assume that this does not include what we know today as leprosy. The reason for this is that the priest had the option of quarantining the person for seven or fourteen days and then making a determination according to the progression of the disease. Modern leprosy is a very slow developing disease and would, therefore, be excluded from this criteria. This context would involve things such as eczema or skin diseases which have an oozing fluid or which are highly contagious and would affect the entire community. This does show that the rights of the individual were limited to the rights and well-being of the community.

  4. For a good discussion of "leprosy" in Leviticus, see ABD, vol. 4, pp. 277-282.

WORD AND PHRASE STUDY

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: 13:1-8
1Then the Lord spoke to Moses and to Aaron, saying, 2"When a man has on the skin of his body a swelling or a scab or a bright spot, and it becomes an infection of leprosy on the skin of his body, then he shall be brought to Aaron the priest or to one of his sons the priests. 3The priest shall look at the mark on the skin of the body, and if the hair in the infection has turned white and the infection appears to be deeper than the skin of his body, it is an infection of leprosy; when the priest has looked at him, he shall pronounce him unclean. 4But if the bright spot is white on the skin of his body, and it does not appear to be deeper than the skin, and the hair on it has not turned white, then the priest shall isolate him who has the infection for seven days. 5The priest shall look at him on the seventh day, and if in his eyes the infection has not changed and the infection has not spread on the skin, then the priest shall isolate him for seven more days. 6The priest shall look at him again on the seventh day, and if the infection has faded and the mark has not spread on the skin, then the priest shall pronounce him clean; it is only a scab. And he shall wash his clothes and be clean. 7"But if the scab spreads farther on the skin after he has shown himself to the priest for his cleansing, he shall appear again to the priest. 8The priest shall look, and if the scab has spread on the skin, then the priest shall pronounce him unclean; it is leprosy."

13:1 This opening phrase matches Lev. 11:1, but not Lev. 12:1. One wonders why. The book of Leviticus is an editorial process over a long period of time. Much goes back to the Tabernacle, but not all.

▣ "man" This is the term adam (BDB 9, Lev. 13:9) used in a generic sense (i.e., any person, cf. Lev. 13:29,38).

13:2 "swelling" The MT has "swelling" (BDB 673, NIDOTTE, vol. 3, p. 737, #2), but AB, p. 773, suggests that it does not come from the VERBAL root "to lift" or "to rise," but advocates the translation of the Targums.

  1. deep spot (i.e., indented)
  2. prominent mark
  3. mark

▣ "scab" See note at Lev. 13:6.

▣ "a bright spot" This translates "spot" (BDB 97); it may relate to

  1. an eruption of bodily fluids
  2. a feverish, discolored place (whitish and hot, like a boil), cf Lev. 13:10,19
NASB  "an infection of leprosy"
NKJV  "a leprous sore"
NRSV, LXX  "a leprous disease"
TEV  "dreaded skin disease"
NJB  "a contagious skin disease"
JPSOA  "scaly affection"

The MT has "mark" or "stroke" (BDB 619, #3) CONSTRUCT "leprosy" (BDB 863) but see note in Contextual Insights, C.

13:3 The priest is to be the one to test the different kinds of skin diseases. A brief outline of the type of tests would help us see the structure of this chapter.

  1. Lev. 13:10-17 deals with raw flesh
  2. Lev. 13:18-23 deals with boils (NIDOTTE, vol. 4, p. 81)
  3. Lev. 13:24-28 deals with burns
  4. Lev. 13:29-37 deals with head infections
  5. Lev. 13:38-39 deals with eczema (white spots)
  6. Lev. 13:40-44 deals with baldness

▣ "look" This VERB (BDB 906, KB 1157) is used often in the sense of "examine (cf. Lev. 13:3, 5, 6, 7, 8, 10, 13, 15, 17, 20, 21, 25, 26, 27, 30, 31, 32, 34, 36, 39, 43, 50, 51, 53, 55, 56, 57). The priests were responsible for the spiritual and physical health of the community. Israel must be a people without blemish because they represented "the holy one of Israel" (see SPECIAL TOPIC: THE HOLY ONE).

▣ "hair" In the context of Leviticus 13-14 human hair color in an infected area is mentioned several times as a way to determine "clean" or "unclean."

  1. white ‒ Lev. 13:3-4,10,21,25,26
  2. yellow ‒ Lev. 13:30,32,36
  3. black ‒ Lev. 13:31,37

Being "unclean" excluded one from worship and also, in certain cases, from community.

13:4 "isolate" This VERB (BDB 688, KB 742, Hiphil PERFECT with waw) is used for quarantining a contagious person from the community (cf. Lev. 13:4, 5, 11, 21, 26, 31, 33, 50 ,54; 14:38,46). Miriam is isolated for leprosy in Num. 12:14-15. Usually it was for a specific period of time.

  1. seven days
  2. fourteen days
  3. permanently until healing or death

There is another possible meaning that "isolate" relates to the sore, possibly drawing a line around it to see if it spreads.

13:5 "seventh day" See SPECIAL TOPIC: SYMBOLIC NUMBERS IN SCRIPTURE, #4.

▣ "spread" This VERB (BDB 832, KB 979) occurs only in this literary unit (i.e., Leviticus 13-14), but it occurs 22 times. Spreading was one of the criteria for determining if someone/something was "unclean."

13:6 Notice the criteria the priest used to pronounce an infected person clean.

  1. the infection (BDB 619, lit. "mark" or "stroke") has faded
  2. it has not spread
NASB, NJB, Peshitta  "a scab"
NKJV, TEV  "a sore"
NRSV  "an eruption"
JPSOA  "a rash"
LXX  "a mark"

This term (תחפס, BDB 705, KB 764) occurs only here (Lev. 13:2, 6, 7, 8) and Lev. 14:56. Its meaning is uncertain. KB lists a related root from Ethiopia (KB 764 III), which means "spread out" or from KB 764 II, "make scabby" (i.e., related to חפס).

It may relate to חפס (BDB I, II) to "pour," i.e., eruption of fluids.

13:7 "spreads farther" This grammatical construct of intensity (i.e., an INFINITIVE ABSOLUTE and an IMPERFECT VERB of the same root, BDB 832, KB 979) appears four times (i.e., Lev. 13:7, 22, 27, 35).

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: 13:9-17
9"When the infection of leprosy is on a man, then he shall be brought to the priest. 10The priest shall then look, and if there is a white swelling in the skin, and it has turned the hair white, and there is quick raw flesh in the swelling, 11it is a chronic leprosy on the skin of his body, and the priest shall pronounce him unclean; he shall not isolate him, for he is unclean. 12If the leprosy breaks out farther on the skin, and the leprosy covers all the skin of him who has the infection from his head even to his feet, as far as the priest can see, 13then the priest shall look, and behold, if the leprosy has covered all his body, he shall pronounce clean him who has the infection; it has all turned white and he is clean. 14But whenever raw flesh appears on him, he shall be unclean. 15The priest shall look at the raw flesh, and he shall pronounce him unclean; the raw flesh is unclean, it is leprosy. 16Or if the raw flesh turns again and is changed to white, then he shall come to the priest, 17and the priest shall look at him, and behold, if the infection has turned to white, then the priest shall pronounce clean him who has the infection; he is clean."

13:9-10 There is a distinction between "the mark" or "the stroke" (BDB 619) of Lev. 13:2 and 13:9. But exactly how is uncertain because of the ambiguity of the terms.

In Lev. 13:10 there are new criteria for judging.

  1. white swelling in the skin
  2. hair in the spot is also white
  3. raw flesh (cf. Lev. 13:14-15)

This type of skin disease must be isolated.

13:10 "swelling" The NIDOTTE, vol. 3, p. 737, suggests several different translations for this Hebrew word.

  1. swelling ‒ Lev. 13:2; 14:56
  2. white blotch ‒ Lev. 13:10,19
  3. scar/blotch of a burn ‒ Lev. 13:28
  4. inflamed swelling ‒ Lev. 13:43

There are so many of these terms describing medical conditions that moderns are not sure about. Obviously, they were terms of their ANE vocabulary which do not fit or conform to modern medical terminology.

13:12-13 If it spreads to the whole body, Lev. 13:12, it is a non-infectious skin disease and the person is pronounced clean.

13:12 "breaks out farther" This is another intensified grammatical form (i.e., an INFINITIVE ABSOLUTE and IMPERFECT VERB, BDB 827, KB 965). This probably refers to a skin disease that causes the skin to lose all pigment. This ailment is not contagious (Lev. 13:13).

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: 13:18-23
18"When the body has a boil on its skin and it is healed, 19and in the place of the boil there is a white swelling or a reddish-white, bright spot, then it shall be shown to the priest; 20and the priest shall look, and behold, if it appears to be lower than the skin, and the hair on it has turned white, then the priest shall pronounce him unclean; it is the infection of leprosy, it has broken out in the boil. 21But if the priest looks at it, and behold, there are no white hairs in it and it is not lower than the skin and is faded, then the priest shall isolate him for seven days; 22and if it spreads farther on the skin, then the priest shall pronounce him unclean; it is an infection. 23But if the bright spot remains in its place and does not spread, it is only the scar of the boil; and the priest shall pronounce him clean."

13:18
NASB, NKJV, NRSV, TEV  "a boil"
NJB  "ulcer"
JPSOA  "an inflamation"
REB  "fester"
LXX  "a festering sore"

The MT has "boil" or "eruption" (BDB 1006), which is related to the Arabic and Aramaic root "to be hot." The same root is used of the "boils" in the plagues on Egypt (i.e., Deut. 28:27,35).

Notice what the priest is looking for (Lev. 13:19-20).

  1. white swelling
  2. reddish-white, bright spot
  3. appears lower than the skin
  4. hair on it has turned white

The same criteria is used for burns (cf. Lev. 13:24-28).

13:23 "scar" This FEMININE NOUN (BDB 863) is translated "scab," "scar." It occurs only in Lev. 13:23,28. It is related to the VERB "to burn" or "to scorch" (BDB 863) and may refer to the healed wound of the burning.

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: 13:24-28
24"Or if the body sustains in its skin a burn by fire, and the raw flesh of the burn becomes a bright spot, reddish-white, or white, 25then the priest shall look at it. And if the hair in the bright spot has turned white and it appears to be deeper than the skin, it is leprosy; it has broken out in the burn. Therefore, the priest shall pronounce him unclean; it is an infection of leprosy. 26But if the priest looks at it, and indeed, there is no white hair in the bright spot and it is no deeper than the skin, but is dim, then the priest shall isolate him for seven days; 27and the priest shall look at him on the seventh day. If it spreads farther in the skin, then the priest shall pronounce him unclean; it is an infection of leprosy. 28But if the bright spot remains in its place and has not spread in the skin, but is dim, it is the swelling from the burn; and the priest shall pronounce him clean, for it is only the scar of the burn."

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: 13:29-37
29"Now if a man or woman has an infection on the head or on the beard, 30then the priest shall look at the infection, and if it appears to be deeper than the skin and there is thin yellowish hair in it, then the priest shall pronounce him unclean; it is a scale, it is leprosy of the head or of the beard. 31But if the priest looks at the infection of the scale, and indeed, it appears to be no deeper than the skin and there is no black hair in it, then the priest shall isolate the person with the scaly infection for seven days. 32On the seventh day the priest shall look at the infection, and if the scale has not spread and no yellowish hair has grown in it, and the appearance of the scale is no deeper than the skin, 33then he shall shave himself, but he shall not shave the scale; and the priest shall isolate the person with the scale seven more days. 34Then on the seventh day the priest shall look at the scale, and if the scale has not spread in the skin and it appears to be no deeper than the skin, the priest shall pronounce him clean; and he shall wash his clothes and be clean. 35But if the scale spreads farther in the skin after his cleansing, 36then the priest shall look at him, and if the scale has spread in the skin, the priest need not seek for the yellowish hair; he is unclean. 37If in his sight the scale has remained, however, and black hair has grown in it, the scale has healed, he is clean; and the priest shall pronounce him clean."

13:30-32 This describes the physical criteria for a pronouncement of "unclean" connected to a head/beard (i.e., scales, BDB 683).

  1. appears deeper than the skin
  2. has yellowish hair in itd
  3. it is scaly (BDB 683)
  4. if it has not spread after seven days the person is "clean"; they must
    1. shave
    2. wash his/her clothes
13:30
NASB, REB  "scale"
NKJV, JPSOA, NET  "scaly"
NRSV, NIV  "itch"
LXX  "rupture"
JB  "ringworm"

The MT has "scab" (BDB 683), which is from the VERB "to pull," "to draw," or "to tear away," which denotes intensive and recurrent itching.

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: 13:38-39
38"When a man or a woman has bright spots on the skin of the body, even white bright spots, 39then the priest shall look, and if the bright spots on the skin of their bodies are a faint white, it is eczema that has broken out on the skin; he is clean."

13:38-39 This is a different skin disorder but one that is not contagious. AB, p. 800, calls it "vitiligo" or "leukoderma," which is common in tropical climates.

  1. the NASB translated this (BDB 97) as "eczema"
  2. NRSV and NJB have "rash"
  3. UBS Handbook, p. 196, suggests "harmless eruption of the skin"; TEV, "only a blemish"

This word occurs only here.

13:39 "eczema" This seems to refer to a particular kind of skin disease called "leukoderma," which, although it changes the pigmentation of the skin, is not contagious and is not considered unclean.

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: 13:40-44
40"Now if a man loses the hair of his head, he is bald; he is clean. 41If his head becomes bald at the front and sides, he is bald on the forehead; he is clean. 42But if on the bald head or the bald forehead, there occurs a reddish-white infection, it is leprosy breaking out on his bald head or on his bald forehead. 43Then the priest shall look at him; and if the swelling of the infection is reddish-white on his bald head or on his bald forehead, like the appearance of leprosy in the skin of the body, 44he is a leprous man, he is unclean. The priest shall surely pronounce him unclean; his infection is on his head."

13:40 "he is bald; he is clean" I simply added this for all of you men who have been wondering!!!

13:44 "The priest shall surely pronounce him unclean" The VERB is another intensified grammatical form (i.e., an INFINITIVE ABSOLUTE and IMPERFECT VERB from the same root, BDB 389, KB 375).

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: 13:45-46
45"As for the leper who has the infection, his clothes shall be torn, and the hair of his head shall be uncovered, and he shall cover his mustache and cry, 'Unclean! Unclean!' 46He shall remain unclean all the days during which he has the infection; he is unclean. He shall live alone; his dwelling shall be outside the camp."

13:45-46 "As for the leper who had the infection" This is a series of procedures which a person designated as "unclean" must perform in order to warn his covenant partners of his ceremonial contamination.

  1. He shall tear his clothes in a symbolic fashion of mourning.
  2. He shall let the hair of his head go unkempt.
  3. he shall cover his mustache.
  4. He shall cry, "Unclean! Unclean!"
  5. From 2 Kgs. 7:3, we also know that lepers may have lived in colonies outside the camp.

Leprosy was a terrible disease because it excluded one from the normal joys of life and from his or her own family. Some would see by this that leprosy was a divine punishment for sin, somewhat like barrenness in women. However, they base this on Uzziah's getting leprosy because he disobeyed God, but making a general statement is probably inappropriate.

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: 13:47-52
47"When a garment has a mark of leprosy in it, whether it is a wool garment or a linen garment, 48whether in warp or woof, of linen or of wool, whether in leather or in any article made of leather, 49if the mark is greenish or reddish in the garment or in the leather, or in the warp or in the woof, or in any article of leather, it is a leprous mark and shall be shown to the priest. 50Then the priest shall look at the mark and shall quarantine the article with the mark for seven days. 51He shall then look at the mark on the seventh day; if the mark has spread in the garment, whether in the warp or in the woof, or in the leather, whatever the purpose for which the leather is used, the mark is a leprous malignancy, it is unclean. 52So he shall burn the garment, whether the warp or the woof, in wool or in linen, or any article of leather in which the mark occurs, for it is a leprous malignancy; it shall be burned in the fire."

13:47 "When a garment has a mark of leprosy in it" This apparently deals with mildew in garments (i.e., linen, wool, leather). This passage of Scripture is pretty much self-explanatory.

13:48 The terms "warp" or "woof" (BDB 1059, NIDOTTE, vol. 4, p. 262 and BDB 786 II, NIDOTTE, vol. 3, p. 523), found in Lev. 13:48ff in the NASB version, is extremely difficult to understand. This term, although used several times in this particular context, is found only here in the entire Old Testament and we must admit that we are not sure what it means. Best guess is that the mildew or mold is deep in the fabric or has caused an indentation.

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: 13:53-55
53"But if the priest shall look, and indeed the mark has not spread in the garment, either in the warp or in the woof, or in any article of leather, 54then the priest shall order them to wash the thing in which the mark occurs and he shall quarantine it for seven more days. 55After the article with the mark has been washed, the priest shall again look, and if the mark has not changed its appearance, even though the mark has not spread, it is unclean; you shall burn it in the fire, whether an eating away has produced bareness on the top or on the front of it."

13:54-57 This is a summary statement. These editorial comments are common in Leviticus (cf. Lev. 11:46-47; 12:7b; 13:54-59; 14:32,54-57; 15:32-33). They show the process of compilation which produced (i.e., under inspiration; see SPECIAL TOPIC: INSPIRATION) the current book of Leviticus.

13:54-55 "wash. . .fire" These were two different procedures to restore ceremonial purity. See SPECIAL TOPIC: FIRE.

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: 13:56-58
56"Then if the priest looks, and if the mark has faded after it has been washed, then he shall tear it out of the garment or out of the leather, whether from the warp or from the woof; 57and if it appears again in the garment, whether in the warp or in the woof, or in any article of leather, it is an outbreak; the article with the mark shall be burned in the fire. 58The garment, whether the warp or the woof, or any article of leather from which the mark has departed when you washed it, it shall then be washed a second time and will be clean."

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: 13:59
59This is the law for the mark of leprosy in a garment of wool or linen, whether in the warp or in the woof, or in any article of leather, for pronouncing it clean or unclean."

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS

This is a study guide commentary which means that you are responsible for your own interpretation of the Bible. Each of us must walk in the light we have. You, the Bible, and the Holy Spirit are priority in interpretation. You must not relinquish this to a commentator.

These discussion questions are provided to help you think through the major issues of this section of the book. They are meant to be thought-provoking, not definitive.

  1. Why were skin diseases so important to the priest?
  2. Define "leprosy" in this context.
  3. Why was ceremonial cleanness so important to YHWH?
  4. How does one apply this text to today?

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