Leviticus 12-13: Profanity makes one a leper

Life starts with contamination. It starts out dirty. Childbirth is messy. It’s not sinful; it’s just a fact of life.

The general Bible term for infections of skin and surfaces is “leprosy,” but it covers a host of conditions. It’s also a good parable for “rot” in our character — if the lesson isn’t taken too far.

The Torah reading תזריע Tazria (“she will conceive,” Leviticus 12–13) is concerned about what is physically dirty vs. clean, but the LORD’s lesson for us is more than skin-deep.

Leviticus 12: Unclean from childbirth

If you recall, when a woman has a monthly cycle, the woman is isolated for that week. Also after childbirth, because of the discharge of blood, is isolated for a time.

The first seven days after childbirth are treated just as a monthly menstrual cycle. After seven days, the woman who gave birth to a boy child would mikvah (ritual bath). After that, you start the count of childbirth, which is 33 days for a baby boy.

If a woman gives birth to a female child, she has a 14 day of a menstrual cycle than her mikvah. From there, there’s an additional 66 days from there until she can enter the Tabernacle again.

At the end of the 33 or 66 days, the mother brings an offering to fully re-enter the community and Tabernacle.

Leviticus 13: Unclean from ‘leprosy’

Most Bibles translate the Hebrew tzara’at (Strong’s H6883) as “leprosy” but this term covers a wide variety of skin disease well beyond the disease that we now call leprosy. This chapter is not about limiting contagious disease. Limiting the spread of a disease is an unintended consequence of many of these rules.

For most of these conditions, the diagnosis included a period of quarantine.

Some believe that leprosy is a spiritual disease rather than a physical disease. Different communities have taught that sins such as slander, bloodshed, false oaths, sexual immorality, pride, robbery, selfishness are associated with leprosy. They would teach that God would strike a person with leprosy.

Extreme guilt or anxiety can provoke skin conditions in certain people that would show up as “leprosy.”

Most conditions can be cured by four simple rules:

  1. Isolation
  2. Hygiene
  3. Sanitation
  4. Nutrition

Lessons from leprosy

I have a few case studies that will help us navigate this issue of whether one’s sins cause disease or not. Are there cases where God might use leprosy or other diseases as a tool? There’s a common link between all these stories:

  1. Namaan in 2Kings 5. God gave Gehazi the leprosy that Namaan had but why?
  2. 2Chronicles 26:16-21. King Uzziah presumed to offer incense in God’s Temple, which was something only the High Priest was allowed to do. Why didn’t God strike him dead as he had done to Aaron’s two oldest sons who had committed a similar offense?
  3. Numbers 12:1-10: Miriam and Aaron. They spoke against God’s servant Moses.

Gehazi, Uzziah and Miriam profaned God’s name in the eyes of someone else. They misrepresented God in a profound way. All of them thought they were at a higher level but they were really trying to bring God down to their level.

What does God say about profaning His name? Leviticus 22 tells us:

“Then the LORD spoke to Moses, saying, ‘Tell Aaron and his sons to be careful with the holy gifts of the sons of Israel, which they dedicate to Me, so as not to profane My holy name; I am the LORD. Say to them, “If any man among all your descendants throughout your generations approaches the holy gifts which the sons of Israel dedicate to the LORD, while he has an uncleanness, that person shall be cut off from before Me; I am the LORD. No man of the descendants of Aaron, who is a leper or who has a discharge, may eat of the holy gifts until he is clean. And if one touches anything made unclean by a corpse or if a man has a seminal emission, or if a man touches any teeming things by which he is made unclean, or any man by whom he is made unclean, whatever his uncleanness; a person who touches any such shall be unclean until evening, and shall not eat of the holy gifts unless he has bathed his body in water. But when the sun sets, he will be clean, and afterward he shall eat of the holy gifts, for it is his food. He shall not eat an animal which dies or is torn by beasts, becoming unclean by it; I am the LORD. They shall therefore keep My charge, so that they will not bear sin because of it and die thereby because they profane it; I am the LORD who sanctifies them.”‘” (Leviticus 22:1–9 NASB)

Gehazi took things from Naaman that didn’t belong to him and made Naaman believe that the God of Israel and God’s prophets were the same as the gods and prophets of other nations. Elisha was trying to teach Naaman that the God of Israel was special and unique and that lesson was lost because of Gehazi’s greed.

Also with King Uzziah, God had given him a position as king, a distinct job from the job of priest and Uzziah was blurring those lines. The kings of the nations did double duty as priests for their gods, but that was not to be the case in Israel.

Miriam and Aaron was presuming that they were equal to Moses and they felt that Moses’ marriage to an Ethiopian brought him down lower than them but God never said that marrying an Ethiopian was a sin. They were slandering Moses to try to bring him down and to lift themselves up based on their standard, not God’s.

Every human who gets leprosy has not committed the sin of profaning God’s name. When Yeshua healed the lepers, He was elevating God’s name and reputation high. He always told those healed to return to the priests to confirm their healing, make their offerings and return to the community.

Summary: Tammy. 

Photo Credit: Cleansing of the Ten Lepers from the Codex Aureus Epternacensis (Wikimedia Commons image)


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