For whatsoever things were written aforetime were written for our learning, that we through patience and comfort of the scriptures might have hope.
Romans 15:4
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LEVITICUS - CHAPTER 13

 A Bible Study - Commentary by Jim Melough

Copyright 2004 James Melough

This chapter deals with the plague of leprosy, which is of course a type of sin, but inasmuch as it is leprosy in an Israelite, it is a type of sin in a believer.

 

In the previous chapter we have seen sin as a thing inborn, inherent to man's nature; but here, it seems, we are being shown the outward manifestation of that evil thing within us, as much in the saint as in the sinner, for conversion doesn't remove the old nature: it remains within the believer as the inveterate enemy of the new nature, the warfare between them being lifelong.  Paul expressed his consciousness of that conflict in Romans 7:24-25, O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death?  But he also rejoiced in the One Who could and did deliver him, I thank God through Jesus Christ our Lord.  So the with the mind I myself serve the law of God; but with the flesh the law of sin.

 

13:1.  "And the Lord spake unto Moses and Aaron, saying,"

 

Moses speaks of law, as Aaron does of grace, so that God's speaking through both of them reminds us that while we are not under law, but grace, we are not free to live lawlessly, and when we do we will suffer chastisement.

 

13:2.  "When a man shall have in the skin of his flesh a rising, a scab, or bright spot, and it be in the skin of his flesh like the plague of leprosy; then he shall be brought unto Aaron the priest, or unto one of his sons the priests:"

 

It is to be noted that the victim was to be brought to Aaron or one of his sons, rather than to Moses.  This reminds us that the penalty for a believer's sin is very different from that of an unbeliever.  Since Christ has died for the believer's sin, the believer will never suffer the ultimate penalty, death.  He will suffer loss of reward at the Bema.  The unbeliever, on the other hand, rejecting that sacrifice made at Calvary, will suffer the ultimate consequence of sin: he will die the second death, i.e., be cast body, soul, and spirit, into the eternal torment of the lake of fire.  The fact that the believer will suffer loss at the Bema, means that he might as well have been dead during the time spent in sin, and while we would not make light of sin, the loss of reward is much less terrible than to lose one's soul.

 

Its being on the skin, i.e., on the outside rather than the inside, points to it as being a type of outbreaking sin in the believer's life.  Its being a rising (swelling), seems to point to some form of pride; a scab, to its being the revival of an old sin; while a bright spot, i.e., something that would attract attention, may speak of its being some form of aberrant behavior not to be expected in one professing to be a believer.

 

His being brought to Aaron "or one of his sons" would teach us that sin in the assembly is not to be ignored.  It must be dealt with, otherwise the judgment of God will come upon the whole company.  Since Aaron is a type of Christ as our great High Priest, and his sons types of believers, the lesson here is that it is the assembly that is to deal with sin manifesting itself in the life of one of the members.  The NT however, declares that it is the spiritual leaders, rather than the whole assembly, who are to deal with the matter, "Brethren, if a man be overtaken in a fault, ye which are spiritual, restore such an one, in the spirit of meekness; considering thyself, lest thou also be tempted," Galatians 6:1.  The fact that it could be Aaron or one of his sons, who was to deal with the matter, assures us that the spiritual men, in doing the equivalent spiritual work today, act with the authority of the Lord Himself.  That power carries with it the responsibility to be sure that what is done is neither more, nor less than is authorized in God's Word.

 

13:3.  "And the priest shall look on the plague in the skin of the flesh: and when the hair in the plague is turned white, and the plague in sight be deeper than the skin of his flesh, it is a plague of leprosy: and the priest shall look on him, and pronounce him unclean."

 

White hair is associated with old age, infirmity, and weakness, so the lesson of the white hair is that sin, secret or open, will manifest itself in spiritual weakness, and the spiritual amongst the saints will detect that weakness even though the full extent of the man's sin may not yet have come to light.  He may continue to participate vocally at the Lord's table, at the prayer meeting, at the Bible study, but spiritual believers will soon detect the spiritual lack behind his words, and will make him the special subject of their prayers, while seeking every opportunity to lead him back to an obedient walk.

 

Its being deeper than the skin, points to the sin as being more than that which is accidental and occasional.  It is of a more serious nature, a sin working in the heart, and affecting the man's whole spiritual life.  It is "leprosy," and when discovered by those of spiritual discernment, must be dealt with.  If the man refuses to repent and forsake the sin, i.e., be made clean, he must be treated as a leper - put out of the fellowship of the local church, as was the fornicator in the Corinthian assembly, see 1 Corinthians 5:13.  It is emphasized however, that this is work which only spiritual men may do.

 

It ought to be apparent that his scripturally authorized expulsion from the fellowship of one assembly automatically excludes him from that of every assembly, for the same Divine standard governs all.

 

13:4.  "And if the bright spot be white in the skin of his flesh, and in sight be not deeper than the skin, and the hair thereof be not turned white; then the priest shall shut up him that hath the plague seven days:"

 

This implies a careful scrutiny by the priest (the typical OT representative of the spiritual, the elders, of the local assembly), reminding us that where there is reason to suspect serious sin in the life of one of the believers, there is to be no rash judgment, but rather a careful examination of all the facts. Things aren't always what they seem! 

 

Where the spot was not deeper than the surface, nor the hair turned white, the man was to be shut up for seven days, and then examined again.  This portrays the case where there may be suspicion of sin, or perhaps even an accusation against the man, but the lesson of his being shut up for seven days, and then examined further, is the symbolic announcement of the need for elders to beware of making rash judgments or jumping to hasty conclusions.  There is to be careful examination of the facts, and prayerful waiting upon God for His guidance.  The spiritual significance of the fact that the spot wasn't deeper than the skin, and the hair hadn't turned white, is that there is no evidence of sin, nor of loss of spiritual power.

 

Inasmuch as the "shutting up" literally cut the man off from all participation in the normal life of the community, the spiritual equivalent appears to be that the man suspected or accused of wrongdoing should not be allowed to participate audibly at least, at any of the meetings of the assembly until he is cleared of all suspicion or charges.

 

13:5.  "And the priest shall look on him the seventh day: and, behold, if the plague in his sight be at a stay, and the plague spread not in the skin; then the priest shall shut him up seven days more:"

 

The first seven days confinement, followed by a second examination, continues to emphasize the need of care in dealing with suspected sin lest the individual be charged unjustly, and disciplined wrongly.  The second examination revealing no spread of the sore, and the confinement of the man for a further seven days, continue to portray the need of caution, but for another reason: to make equally sure that the man is not too hastily exonerated, for that is just as wrong as to be too hasty in declaring him guilty.  All of this emphasizes the imperative of godly care, and a patient waiting upon God on the part of elders, or any other believers, when dealing with suspected sin.

 

13:6.  "And the priest shall look upon him again the seventh day: and, behold, if the plague be somewhat dark, and the plague spread not in the skin, the priest shall pronounce him clean: it is but a scab: and he shall wash his clothes, and be clean."

 

This third examination which revealed not only no spread of the sore, but also a darkening or returning to normal color of the affected area, and the priest's pronouncing the man clean, is a figure or type of the exoneration of a believer suspected or accused of sin.

 

The fact that the spot was a scab however, has also its lesson, for a scab implies a sore in the process of healing, but a sore is a type of sin, see for example Isaiah 1:6 which describes Israel's sinful condition, "From the sole of the foot even unto the head there is no soundness in it; but wounds and bruises, and putrifying sores...."  His having to wash his clothes before he could be pronounced clean, confirms that this is the typical portrait of sin in the life of a believer, but sin of such a nature as to require rebuke rather than severe discipline.  Such a case might arise, for example, from a man's having an abrasive personality, being impatient, etc.  Since clothing represents the outward life which is seen by men, the washing of his clothes may speak of his genuine sorrow, repentance, and apology for conduct that had made the investigation necessary.

 

13:7.  "But if the scab spread much abroad in the skin, after that he hath been seen of the priest for his cleansing, he shall be seen of the priest again:"

 

13:8.  "And if the priest see that, behold, the scab spreadeth in the skin, then the priest shall pronounce him unclean: it is a leprosy."

 

This appears to portray the case of a believer, who having been suspected or accused of wrong, but who after examination by the elders, has been pronounced guiltless, is again suspected or accused.  The spreading scab is the symbolic declaration of the fact that the former sin of which he had been suspected or accused has broken out again, and would indicate that the former judgment of the elders had been incorrect, it now becoming clear that the man is unrepentant, and must be put out of the fellowship, for leprosy required that the man or woman be put out of the camp of Israel, itself the figure of expulsion from the local assembly.

 

13:9.  "When the plague of leprosy is in a man, then he shall be brought unto the priest;"

 

13:10.  "And the priest shall see him: and, behold, if the rising be white in the skin, and it have turned the hair white, and there be quick (living) raw flesh in the rising:"

 

13:11.  "It is an old leprosy in the skin of his flesh, and the priest shall pronounce him unclean, and shall not shut him up: for he is unclean."

 

Where there is suspicion or accusation of sin in the life of a believer, there is to be an examination by the elders, and where it is evident that there is the spiritual equivalent of the white hair, that is, where it is clear that the man's spiritual vigor is dying, and where it is also clear that the activity of the flesh is obvious in his life, there is to be no further examination.  He is unclean and therefore unfit for the fellowship of the local assembly.  He is to be expelled from that fellowship.

 

13:12.  "And if a leprosy break out abroad in the skin, and the leprosy cover all the flesh of him that hath the plague from his head even to his foot, wheresoever the priest looketh;"

 

13:13.  "Then the priest shall consider, and, behold, if the leprosy have covered all his flesh, he shall pronounce him clean that hath the plague: it is all turned white: he is clean."

 

This has been a mystery to many, but it shouldn't be, for it depicts one whose sin is not only apparent, but one who is truly repentant, and willing to confess himself utterly unclean in the sight of God and man.  It is only when a man is willing to take this position that he can be saved; or forgiven and restored to fellowship if he is a believer.

 

13:14.  "But when raw flesh appeareth in him, he shall be unclean."

 

That raw flesh speaks of the activity of the old nature, of sin working in the life, and since the old nature can't work apart from the believer's permission, it speaks of wilful sin.  He who wilfully persists in sin has no place in a local assembly of saints.  He is spiritually what the leper was literally: unclean, and as the leper was to be expelled from the camp of Israel, so is the man who persists in wilful sin to be put out of the local fellowship.  If he isn't, the contagion will spread.

 

13:15.  "And the priest shall see the raw flesh, and pronounce him to be unclean: for the raw flesh is unclean: it is a leprosy."

 

The raw flesh speaks of sin actively working in the life, and it makes the man, saint and sinner alike, a spiritual leper, and therefore unfit for the company of those who would obey God.

 

13:16.  "Or if the raw flesh turn again, and be changed unto white, he shall come unto the priest:"

 

13:17.  "And the priest shall see him: and, behold, if the plague be turned into white; then the priest shall pronounce him clean that hath the plague: he is clean."

 

This portrays the case of one who has truly abandoned his sin, and who is therefore to be restored to fellowship.

 

13:18.  "The flesh also, in which, even in the skin thereof, was a boil, and is healed,"

 

13:19.  "And in the place of the boil there be a white rising, or a bright spot, white, and somewhat reddish, and it be shewed to the priest;"

 

13:20.  "And if, when the priest seeth it, behold, it be in sight lower than the skin, and the hair thereof be tuned white; the priest shall pronounce him unclean: it is a plague of leprosy broken out of the boil."

 

Few things are more painful than a boil, so here it seems that we have the typical picture of sin arising in the life of a believer who has had some painful experience.  The sorrows permitted or ordained by God are meant to draw us closer to Him, but sometimes they reveal instead rebellion against His will.  There have been saints who instead of being drawn closer to God by the death of a child, for example, have become embittered, instead of finding comfort in the knowledge that His will, "is good, and acceptable, and perfect," Romans 12:2, and that, "All things (even the death of a child) work together for good to them that love God," Romans 8:28.

 

God's testings are for our good, for the refinement of our faith, as Peter reminds us, "Wherein ye greatly rejoice, though now for a season, if need be, ye are in heaviness through manifold temptations (testings): that the trial of your faith, being much more precious than of gold that perisheth, though it be tried with fire, might be found unto praise and honor and glory at the appearing of Jesus Christ" 1 Peter 1:6-7.

 

In the case being considered, the leprosy was lower than the skin, and the hair was turned white, the typical picture being of an outward state that indicates sin in the heart, resulting in the decay of spiritual activity in the life.

 

Its having "broken out of a boil" points to it as being sin that has grown out of pain, when God's design was that the pain should have cast the man or woman more upon Him, the Source of all comfort.

 

13:21.  "But if the priest look on it, and, behold, there be no white hairs therein, and if it be not lower than the skin, but be somewhat dark; then the priest shall shut him up seven days:"

 

Its being no deeper than the skin, and the hair not having turned white, are the typical revelation of the truth that the problem is not of a sufficiently serious nature as to warrant expulsion from the fellowship, for the hair not having turned white portrays the truth that there is no evidence of diminishing spiritual vigor.  There is however, to be no hasty exoneration.  He is to be shut up for another seven days, that is, there is to be a patient waiting to make as sure as is humanly possible that the problem is not of a serious nature.

 

13:22.  "And if it spread much abroad in the skin, then the priest shall pronounce him unclean: it is a plague."

 

This represents the case in which careful examination of the facts, or observation of the man's conduct, reveals that the suspicion or charges are justified, and the offence is of such a nature as to require his expulsion from the fellowship of the assembly.

 

13:23.  "But if the bright spot stay in his place, and spread not, it is a burning boil; and the priest shall pronounce him clean."

 

As already noted, the boil speaks of some painful experience, and its being here a burning (inflamed) boil, announces that there has been no diminution in the mental pain being suffered by the one concerned, so that obviously his aberrant behavior is the result of mental anguish, not sin.

 

13:24.  "Or if there be any flesh, in the skin whereof there is a hot burning, and the quick flesh that burneth have a white bright spot, somewhat reddish, or white;"

 

13:25.  "Then the priest shall look upon it: and, behold, if the hair in the bright spot be turned white, and it be in sight deeper than the skin; it is a leprosy broken out of the burning: wherefore the priest shall pronounce him unclean: it is the plague of leprosy."

 

The crucial test is whether the sore is deeper than the skin, and also whether the hair has turned white, and such is the case here. The symbolic picture is of a believer's rebellion against some painful thing permitted or ordained by God, so that what should have drawn him closer to God and refined his faith, has instead produced bitterness in his heart and sin in his life, and sin of such a nature as to require his expulsion from the fellowship of the local assembly!

 

13:26.  "But if the priest look on it, and, behold, there be no white hair in the bright spot, and it be no lower than the other skin, but be somewhat dark; then the priest shall shut him up seven days:"

 

The spiritual analogy is that where careful examination reveals no "white hair," that is, no diminution in the spiritual quality of the man's life, and where the offence doesn't appear to be as serious as to warrant expulsion from the fellowship of the assembly, there is to be further waiting, and examination of the facts, during which time the individual is to refrain from audible participation in the meetings of the assembly.

 

13:27.  "And the priest shall look upon him the seventh day: and if it be spread much abroad in the skin, then the priest shall pronounce him unclean: it is the plague of leprosy."

 

This portrays the case in which further careful examination reveals that the suspicion or accusation is justified, and the sin is of such a nature as to require that the man be expelled from the fellowship of the assembly.

 

13:28.  "And if the bright spot stay in his place, and spread not in the skin, but be somewhat dark; it is a rising of the burning, and the priest shall pronounce him clean: for it is an inflammation of the burning."

 

If the seven day seclusion reveals no spread of the sore on the burning or inflamed area, the priest is to pronounce him clean.  This portrays the case of one whose aberrant behavior is the result, not of sin in the heart, but of pain.

 

13:29.  "If a man or a woman have a plague upon the head or the beard;"

 

13:30.  "Then the priest shall see the plague: and, behold, if it be in sight deeper than the skin; and there be in it a yellow thin hair; then the priest shall pronounce him unclean: it is a dry scall, even a leprosy upon the head or beard."

 

Since the woman's hair is given her for a covering and glory (1 Corinthians 11:15), and a man's beard appears also to be related in some way to his glory (see various related Biblical references), and since the head is the seat of the intellect, the symbolic reference here may be to the sin of seeking self-glory rather than God's, in service or worship or any spiritual activity.  And inasmuch as the woman speaks of submission of the will, and the man, of activity of the will, the lesson appears to be that this sin may be, not only in activity, but in passivity, i.e., activity or submission that is less to please God than to win the approval of men.

 

Its being deeper than the skin continues to declare that this isn't superficial, but an evil in the heart, while the thin yellow hair continues to emphasize the thought of what is unnatural and unhealthy, that is, false, for among the Jews, yellow hair was unnatural, the normal color being black, note for example that in verse 37, black hair in the spot indicated that it was healed.  The word thin in the present context means literally crushed, small, thin, and is the same as that used in Genesis 41 to describe the blasted ears of corn, and emaciated cattle, which represented the seven years of famine.  It is instructive to note also that yellowing of green in nature indicates disease or death. Everything points to this thin yellow hair as having a bad connotation.  An impure motive in spiritual activity will quickly manifest itself in the appearance of the "thin yellow hair," that is, in the decay of spiritual vigor.  An impure motive may be kept hidden from carnal believers, but it can't be hidden from God, nor for long from spiritual men and women.

 

13:31.  "And if the priest look on the plague of the scall, and, behold, it be not in sight deeper than the skin, and that there is no black hair in it; then the priest shall shut up him that hath the plague of the scall seven days;"

 

Its being no more than skin deep, points to something that is superficial rather than deep-rooted in the heart, but since black hair seems to be indicative of health, see verse 37, the absence of this vital sign requires that the person be shut up for seven days, i.e., there is to be further investigation and waiting upon God.

 

13:32.  "And in the seventh day the priest shall look on the plague; and, behold, if the scall spread not, and there be in it no yellow hair, and the scall be not in sight deeper than the skin:"

 

This speaks symbolically of the fact that examination fails to reveal anything of a serious nature requiring the discipline of expulsion from the assembly.

 

13:33.  "He shall be shaven, but the scall shall he not shave; and the priest shall shut up him that hath the scall seven days more:"

 

The man's shaven head was indicative of sorrow and mourning, and his being required to shave his head points to the need of genuine sorrow on his part for the conduct that has aroused suspicion and necessitated the investigation, even though it is proven to be a relatively minor offence.

 

The fact that the scall itself was not to be shaven seems to indicate that the man is not to be required to apologize for what he wasn't guilty of, the apology being required only for conduct that had had the appearance of evil, but which is eventually discovered not to have been evil.  There is however, to be another seven days of seclusion in order to remove all doubt relative to the matter.

 

13:34.  "And in the seventh day the priest shall look on the scall: and, behold, if the scall be not spread in the skin, nor be in sight deeper than the skin; then the priest shall pronounce him clean: and he shall wash his clothes, and be clean."

 

As in the previous cases, his being required to wash his clothes, points to the fact that while the offence was of a relatively minor character, it ought not to have occurred.  We are to be careful to avoid even the appearance of evil, 1 Thessalonians 5:22.

 

13:35.  "But if the scall spread much after his cleansing;"

 

13:36.  "Then the priest shall look on him: and, behold, if the scall be spread in the skin, the priest shall not seek for yellow hair; he is unclean."

 

This speaks symbolically of renewal of the offence, and even though it may not have been originally serious enough to warrant more than investigation, and perhaps rebuke, its becoming active again indicates lack of genuine repentance, and a self-willed determination on the part of the man to continue offending.  In such a case he is spiritually leprous, and therefore to be expelled from the fellowship of the assembly.  In such a case there is no need for the elders to "seek for yellow hair," see verse 30.  His guilt is all too obvious.

 

13:37.  "But if the scall be in sight at a stay, and that there is black hair grown up therein; the scall is healed, he is clean: and the priest shall pronounce him clean."

 

Verses 34-36 point to a case in which the man has been graciously given the benefit of doubt, of which he later proved himself unworthy, and it is to be noted that in those verses there is no reference to hair, either yellow or black, but here "there is black hair grown up" in the scall.  The message is easily discerned.  In the first instance there was no positive proof of evil (no yellow hair), but neither was their positive proof of a healthy spiritual condition (no black hair).  Here however, that proof exists.  There is black hair: in other words, there is positive evidence of spiritual health.  He is clean, and is to be pronounced so, and significantly, there is no suggestion of any possible lapse.  Elders do well to watch carefully the spiritual health of those committed to their care, and at the first sign of diminution, to pay special prayerful attention to that lamb or sheep.

 

13:38.  "If a man also or a woman have in the skin of their flesh bright spots, even white bright spots;"

 

13:39.  "Then the priest shall look: and, behold, if the bright spots in the skin of their flesh be darkish white; it is a freckled spot that groweth in the skin; he is clean."

 

This would appear to portray the case of a believer who has some idiosyncrasy not normally to be expected in one professing faith in Christ, e.g., a personal mannerism, abruptness, introversion, or the like, which some may find offensive.  It isn't sin, but inasmuch as it requires the examination of the priest, it points to the need of the individual to make some effort to modify his behavior, so as not to offend others, and to bring his conduct into closer conformity to what might normally be expected of a Christian.

 

13:40.  "And the man whose hair is fallen off his head, he is bald; yet is he clean.

 

13:41.  "And he that hath his hair fallen off from the part of his head toward his face, he is forehead bald: yet is he clean."

 

Since, as noted in our study of verses 29-37, black hair (and black was the usual hair color of the Israelites) appears to speak of spiritual vigor, the loss of hair ought to represent diminished spiritual vigor; and since baldness is most frequently associated with age, the lesson here may relate to the fact that advancing years bring, not only physical frailty, but mental infirmity as well, an interpretation that seems to be confirmed by the fact that here the head, the seat of the intellect, is the bodily member involved.

 

There is however, a distinction made between that baldness which is in the crown, and that which affects the forehead, and one possible explanation is that the crown, being at the back, relates to the past, i.e., the memory, while the forehead may relate to the capacity to reason and understand.  These afflictions are the usual concomitants of advancing years, and do not in any way connote sin in the individual's life, as is witnessed by the fact that in both cases it is said, "he is clean."

 

Another possible interpretation may be that crown baldness speaks of God's awareness of the man's state, while forehead baldness may speak of man's perception of the condition.

 

13:42.  "And if there be in the bald head, or bald forehad, a white reddish sore; it is a leprosy sprung up in his bald head, or his bald forehead."

 

13:43.  " Then the priest shall look upon it: and, behold, if the rising of the sore be white reddish in his bald head, or in his bald forehead, as the leprosy appeareth in the skin of the flesh;"

 

13:44.  "He is a leprous man, he is unclean: the priest shall pronounce him utterly unclean; his plague is in his head."

 

This seems to portray the case where the man's impaired mental faculties are causing problems in the meetings of the assembly, e.g., his participation at the prayer meeting or Bible study may be disruptive rather than upbuilding; his participation at the Lord's Supper clearly not impelled by the Holy Spirit.  God's glory comes first, and His order must be maintained in the meetings of the assembly.  However difficult and painful it may be, the man must be told to refrain from audible participation, and where either self-will or his impaired faculties result in his continuing, then he must not be permitted to attend the meetings. It is always painful to have to take this step, particularly where the brother's past participation has been helpful and edifying, but God's commands relative to the meetings of His people are, "Let all things be done unto edifying .... Let all things be done decently and in order" (1 Corinthians 14:26-40).  It cannot have been anything but painful for the priest of old to have to make such a pronouncement concerning an Israelite, but personal feelings had to be set aside when God's order was involved.  It is not less painful, and no less imperative, for elders today to guard God's honor, by seeing that His order is preserved in the meetings of His people.

 

13:45.  "And the leper in whom the plague is, his clothes shall be rent, and his head bare, and he shall put a covering upon his upper lip, and shall cry, Unclean, unclean."

 

No matter who the person was, man or woman, young or old, rich or poor, of high degree or low - leprosy, no matter how small its appearance, resulted in expulsion of the victim from the camp of Israel.  The rent garments speak spiritually of incomplete righteousness, and of mourning; the bare head, also of mourning, while the covered upper lip speaks of testimony cut off, and its replacement with the lament, "Unclean, unclean."  This is the sorry state of the believer under discipline for sin; but it describes also the eternal state of the man who dies without having trusted Christ as Savior

 

13:46.  "All the days wherein the plague shall be in him he shall be defiled; he is unclean: he shall dwell alone; without the camp shall his habitation be."

 

The believer under discipline is cut off from fellowship with God and with other believers, his only communication being with the unconverted or believers in the same state as himself, see 1 Corinthians 5.  And as for the unbeliever, his eternal dwelling will be with the damned in the eternal torment of the lake of fire.

 

13:47.  "The garment also that the plague of leprosy is in, whether it be a woollen garment, or a linen garment;"

 

Since a garment or a skin is the Biblical symbol of righteousness, either genuine righteousness, or the filthy rags of self-righteousness, the lesson here has to do with something marring the believer's personal righteousness, as distinct from the sins portrayed in what has preceded in this chapter, and which affected the life of the nation.  The sin portrayed by the leprous garment or skin appears to speak of personal sin affecting only the individual concerned, though it must not be forgotten that all sin ultimately affects the whole assembly.

 

As to the nature of the sin portrayed here, it is very likely to be of the type which involves only the individual, e.g., an impure thought life, a personal habit, perusal of prurient literature, etc.

 

And first it is necessary to determine what is portrayed by the woollen, as distinct from the linen garment.  The clue may lie in that the believer actually has two garments of righteousness, (1) the righteousness of Christ received at conversion, which clothes every believer, and which is incapable of being added to or diminished, because it is perfect, complete; and (2) the garment woven of the man's righteous deeds in the course of his Christian life, see Revelation 19:8 where the correct rendering is "And to her (the Church) was granted that she should be arrayed in fine linen, clean and white: for the fine linen is the righteousnesses (plural) of the saints."

 

The Israelites were forbidden to wear garments of wool and linen woven together (Leviticus 19:19), the spiritual lesson being that our righteous deeds are never to be equated with Christ's righteousness.

 

The woollen garment (the wool having formerly been the sheep's covering) represents the righteousness of Christ which now clothes every believer, while the linen, product of the earth, represents the garment woven of the righteous deeds done in the course of the Christian life.  While the garment of Christ's righteousness is identical for all believers, the beauty of the one comprised of our own righteous deeds will vary from one believer to another depending on the measure of our obedience during our Christian lives.

 

But that raises the question, How can anything we do affect the garment composed of Christ's righteousness? and the answer is that nothing can, but in the eyes of men it will seem so.

 

I regret being unable to determine the exact significance of the skin, though since God used skins to clothe Adam and Eve, it is apparent that it represents the righteousness of Christ clothing the believer; but since the woollen garment appears to represent the same thing, there must be some reason for that righteousness to be represented by both the skin and the woollen garment.  And then there is the further problem of what is represented by the things made of skin.  It is difficult to think of making something out of Christ's righteousness.

 

13:48.  "Whether it be in the warp, or woof; of linen, or of woollen; whether in a skin, or in any thing made of skin;"

 

Could the warp refer to the front or top side of the fabric, and the woof to the underside?  Could the warp refer to what is mental, and the woof, to what is physical?

 

The warp refers to the length of the material; and the woof, to the breadth; but in the symbolic language of Scripture length speaks of the duration of the life, as breadth does of its  quality, so the instruction relates not only to the duration, but also to the degree of the spiritual leprosy

 

13:49.  "And if the plague be greenish or reddish in the garment, or in the skin, either in the warp, or in the woof, or in any thing of skin; it is a plague of leprosy, and shall be shewed unto the priest;"

 

Since green is the color of life; and red, of sin, it is easy to see the connection between the red and the leprosy, but difficult to see how the green can be associated with it, unless it is that it speaks of the vigorous activity of sin.  It is also difficult to see how the leprosy could be in the warp without being also in the woof, and vice verse, since they are woven together, unless as noted above, the warp is the top, and the woof the bottom or underside.

 

Inasmuch as each believer is a spiritual priest, the command to shew it unto the priest, speaks of the need to examine anything in our lives that has even the slightest appearance of sin.  Since the sin portrayed in this section seems to be of the type that doesn't directly affect others, but is known only to the individual, it seems to rule out the priest here as being representative of the elders.  There are some sins that must be dealt with by the individual himself, and nothing is gained by making them public.  Since no one else is affected, confession should be made to God, not to our brethren.

 

13:50.  "And the priest shall look upon the plague, and shut up it that hath the plague seven days:"

 

13:51.  "And he shall look on the plague on the seventh day: if the plague be spread in the garment, either in the warp, or in the woof, or in a skin, or in any work that is made of skin; the plague is a fretting leprosy; it is unclean."

 

13:52.  "He shall therefore burn that garment, whether warp or woof, in woollen or in linen, or any thing of skin, wherein the plague is: for it is a fretting leprosy; it shall be burnt in the fire."

 

The seven days would speak, as before, of careful waiting upon God for help in dealing with the sin.  Its having spread would speak of increase in the sin.  How is the warp to be separated from the woof literally, and what is the spiritual application?  The word fretting means to be bitter: to embitter: be painful, and seems to speak of that which would literally embitter the one concerned.  Its having to be burnt declares the absolute necessity of putting out of the life completely the sin being dealt with.

 

13:53.  "And if the priest shall look, and, behold, the plague be not spread in the garment, either in the warp, or in the woof, or in any thing of skin;"

 

13:54.  "Then the priest shall command that they wash the thing wherein the plague is, and he shall shut it up seven days more:"

 

The washing very obviously speaks of the application of the Word, while the shutting up for a further seven days speaks of continued careful waiting upon God for direction.

 

13:55.  "And the priest shall look on the plague, after that it is washed: and, behold, if the plague have not changed his color, and the plague be not spread; it is unclean; thou shalt burn it in the fire; it is fret inward, whether it be bare within or without."

 

If, after exposing the evil to the scrutiny of the written Word, its color remains the same, even if it hasn't spread, it is an evil which must be put away.  Fret here means to cause a hole by mildew or rot, and its being "fret inward" declares that it is something injurious to the spiritual life of the man.

 

"Whether it be bare within or without" is literally "back or front, right side or wrong."  This speaks perhaps of the distinction between what is physical and what is mental.  The sin may be a wrong habit, or it may be in the thought life.

 

13:56.  "And if the priest look, and, behold, the plague be somewhat dark after the washing of it; then he shall rend it out of the garment, or out of the skin, or out of the warp, or out of the woof:"

 

Its being "somewhat dark" after washing points to that which, following examination in the light of the Word, remains questionable even if not obviously wrong.  It is still to be put out of the life.  God must always be given the benefit of the doubt.  I still fail to see how it could be rent out of the warp without also being rent out of the woof, and I fail to see the spiritual significance of this.

 

13:57.  "And if it appear still in the garment, either in the warp, or in the woof, or in any thing of skin; it is a spreading plague: thou shalt burn that wherein the plague is with fire."

 

The reappearance of the leprosy in the garment even after the affected area has been removed, points to failure of the remedial measures taken, and a recurrence of the evil in the life.  There are to be no half-measures in dealing with sin.  It must be eradicated.

 

13:58.  "And the garment, either warp, or woof, or whatsoever thing of skin it be, which thou shalt wash, if the plague be departed from them, then it shall be washed the second time, and shall be clean."

 

The first washing speaks of that application of the Word which results in eradication of the evil from the life, and the second speaks of that continued application of the Word to that area of the life which had been affected, as a safeguard against recurrence.

 

13:59.  "This is the law of the plague of leprosy in a garment of woollen or linen, either in the warp, or woof, or any thing of skins, to pronounce it clean, or to pronounce it unclean."

 

God's Word must be the only arbiter of everything pertaining to man's life.

[Leviticus 14]
 

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     Scripture portions taken from the Holy Bible, King James Version
2000-2005 James Melough
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