The garments also, that the plague of leprosy is in
Whether this sort of leprosy proceeded from natural causes, or was extraordinary and miraculous, and came immediately from the hand of God, and was peculiar to the Jews, and unknown to other nations, is a matter of question; the latter is generally asserted by the Hebrew writers, as Maimonides F5, Abraham Seba F6, and others F7; but others are of opinion, and Abarbinel among the Jews, that it might be by the contact or touch of a leprous person. Indeed it must be owned, as a learned man F8 observes, that the shirts and clothes of a leper must be equally infectious, and more so than any other communication with him; and the purulent matter which adheres thereunto must needs infect; such who put on their clothes; for it may be observed, that it will get between the threads of garments, and stick like glue, and fill them up, and by the acrimony of it corrode the texture itself; so that experience shows that it is very difficult to wash such a garment without a rupture, and the stains are not easily got out: and it must be allowed that garments may be scented by diseases, and become infectious, and carry a disease from place to place, as the plague oftentimes is carried in wool, cotton, silk, or any bale goods; but whether all this amounts to the case before us is still a question. Some indeed have endeavoured to account for it by observing, that wool ill scoured, stuffs kept too long, and some particular tapestries, are subject to worms and moths which eat them, and from hence think it credible, that the leprosy in clothes, and in skins here mentioned, was caused by this sort of vermin; to which, stuffs and works, wrought in wool in hot countries, and in times when arts and manufactures were not carried to the height of perfection as now, might probably be more exposed F9; but this seems not to agree with this leprosy of Moses, which lay not in the garment being eaten, but in the colour and spread of it:
[whether it be] a woollen garment or a linen garment:
and, according to the Misnic doctors F11, only wool and linen were defiled by leprosy; Aben Ezra indeed says, that the reason why no mention is made of silk and cotton is because the Scripture speaks of what was found (then in use), as in ( Exodus 23:5 ) ; wherefore, according to him, woollen and linen are put for all other garments; though, he adds, or it may be the leprosy does not happen to anything but wool and linen; however, it is allowed, as Ben Gersom observes, that when the greatest part of the cloth is made of wool or linen, it was defiled by it: the Jewish canon is, if the greatest part is of camels hair, it is not defiled; but if the greatest part is of sheep, it is; and if half to half (or equal) it is defiled; and so flax, and hemp mixed together F12; the same rule is to be observed concerning them.
F5 Hilchot Tumaat Tzarat, c. 16. sect. 10.
F6 Tzeror Hammor, fol. 99. 3.
F7 Ramban, Bechai, Isaac Arama, & alii, apud Muisium in loc.
F8 Scheuchzer. Physica Sacra, vol. 2. p. 326.
F9 Calmet's Dictionary, in the word "Leper".
F11 Misn. Celaim, c. 9. sect, 1.
F12 Ib. Negaim, c. 11. sect. 2.