Reading through the Bible together

Saturday, July 28, 2012

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Some skin disease gave a person an appearance of decay associated with death (Num 12:12). Therefore, this condition made the individual ritually impure, which meant that contact with holy things was forbidden. Priests were responsible for distinguishing between pure and impure skin conditions because they were the guardians of holiness, and such diagnosis required some expertise. The symptoms are not those of modern leprosy called Hansen’s Disease. In fact, biblical “leprosy” could also refer to decaying surface conditions in garments and houses. Due to the “Fall” into sin (Gen 3), not only do humans deteriorate, but also things in their environment. Emphasis in Leviticus on the brokenness of our world sounds depressing. But the fact that God insisted on remaining separate from decay provides hope: It tells us that physical evil is not part of His original plan, and therefore it is not permanent.

 

A person afflicted with impure skin disease was to dwell separately so that others would not become infected. This was primarily to prevent the spread of ritual impurity that could affect God’s sanctuary and holy things associated with it. Elsewhere in the Bible, God could strike someone with “leprosy” as punishment for a serious sin (Num 12; 2 Kings 5; 2 Chron 26), but there is no indication of this in Leviticus 13. Just because someone suffers physically doesn’t prove that God is punishing that person (compare John 9:1-3).

 

Roy Gane

Andrews University