Blaine Robison, M.A.
Delivered 18 April 2015
NOTE: The Scripture text is taken from Messianic Jewish Family Bible: Tree of Life
Version, © 2014 by Messianic Jewish Family Bible Society.
The kohen is to examine him again on the seventh day, and behold, if the
plague has faded and has not spread in the skin, then the kohen should
pronounce him clean. It is a scab. He is to wash his clothes, and be
clean. 7 But if the scab spreads on the skin, after he has shown
himself to the kohen for his cleansing, he is to show himself to the
kohen once again." (Lev 13:6-7 TLV)
Torah God required priests to be able to distinguish between the holy and
the common and the clean and the unclean. Priests were responsible to insure
that the unclean did not mix with the clean, but by the same token they were
to help the unclean to become clean and the clean to become holy. In
Leviticus 13 God directs priests to examine persons with skin problems and
determine whether the person had tzara'at, a very serious skin disease,
which most Bibles inaccurately translate as "leprosy." Tzara'at was not the
terrible affliction of Hansen's Disease. The chapter describes five
scenarios with the same process in each. There is a description of symptoms,
as many as two weeks of isolation, and as many as three examinations by the
priest after which, if the condition had worsened, the person would be
declared unclean and separated from the camp. In this situation "unclean"
does not imply a moral or hygienic category. Uncleanness is simply the
opposite of a normal healthy condition. There is no certainty as to what the
actual disease was and Bible scholars have made a number of suggestions
based on the list of symptoms.
We should note what the Torah does not say:
First, The text does not say that tzara'at is contagious in a clinical
sense, so the separation was not for public health. Separation had the goal
of eventual healing and restoration, which is covered in chapter 14. Thus,
separation was an acted-out parable that the unclean can only approach the
holy God as mediated by a priest.
Second, The priest is not warned against touching the afflicted person.
There were other types of uncleanness for which touching is prohibited, but
for the one with skin disease the priest was required to look closely at the
problem to determine its seriousness and prescribe appropriate action. So,
when Yeshua touched a man with this skin disease and healed him Yeshua did
not violate the Torah nor did he become unclean.
Third, the priest is not told to confront the person about sin. In the
Talmud tzara'at is attributed to sins of the tongue, such as false oaths,
slander, and gossip. However, there is no indication in this chapter that
the disease is divine payback for some offense. Disease may result from a
variety of causes, whether of natural origin, human action, Satan's action
or God's action. The priest's role was not to make assumptions but simply to
examine and determine the appropriate action for the well-being of the
individual and preserving the holiness of the sanctuary.
Fourth, there is no evidence that tzara'at was a widespread occurrence in
ancient Israel. In fact, in the Tanakh there are only five named people
identified with this disease: Moses, his sister Miriam, Naaman, Gehazi and
There were also four unnamed men who suffered from the disease during the
time of Elisha (2Kgs 7:3). Job could possibly be added to the list because
of the boils he suffered over his entire body.
If skin disease was caused by sin one would think that the many occasions of
Israel rebelling against God would have resulted in widespread and frequent
plagues of skin disease. Yet, there is only a small number of reported
cases. It could be that the instruction of Leviticus 13 was really intended
as a portent of the ministry of the Messiah and his disciples.
responded to those considered unclean by others with healing grace,
including those afflicted with skin disease. In each case of healing
tzara'at Yeshua told the person to go to the priest and present the required
offering for cleansing. When Yeshua sent out the twelve in Matthew 10, part
of the commission was to "cleanse those with skin disease" (Matt 10:8), and
yet in the Torah this was a role assigned to priests.
application might we draw from this Torah instruction? First, it was God's
will that his people be a kingdom of priests. Second, we as priests can only
help people if we take time to see them as they really are and not turn away
from their suffering. Third, determining the nature of a problem and its
cause depends on gathering facts and evidence. This is the only kind of
judging that God permits us to make, because only He can see the heart.
Fourth, Yeshua expanded the role of the priest from simply being a clinical
examiner to being a burden-bearer. Even more important than any physical
disease is disease of the soul, which can separate a person from God. As
priests in the house of the Lord let us be the hands of Yeshua to bring his
healing touch to those in need.
Copyright © 2015 by
Blaine Robison. All rights reserved.