Leviticus 13

1 God spoke to Moses and Aaron,
2 "When someone has a swelling or a blister or a shiny spot on the skin that might signal a serious skin disease on the body, bring him to Aaron the priest or to one of his priest sons.
3 The priest will examine the sore on the skin. If the hair in the sore has turned white and the sore appears more than skin deep, it is a serious skin disease and infectious. After the priest has examined it, he will pronounce the person unclean.
4 "If the shiny spot on the skin is white but appears to be only on the surface and the hair has not turned white, the priest will quarantine the person for seven days.
5 On the seventh day the priest will examine it again; if, in his judgment, the sore is the same and has not spread, the priest will keep him in quarantine for another seven days.
6 On the seventh day the priest will examine him a second time; if the sore has faded and hasn't spread, the priest will declare him clean - it is a harmless rash. The person can go home and wash his clothes; he is clean.
7 But if the sore spreads after he has shown himself to the priest and been declared clean, he must come back again to the priest
8 who will conduct another examination. If the sore has spread, the priest will pronounce him unclean - it is a serious skin disease and infectious.
9 "Whenever someone has a serious and infectious skin disease, you must bring him to the priest.
10 The priest will examine him; if there is a white swelling in the skin, the hair is turning white, and there is an open sore in the swelling,
11 it is a chronic skin disease. The priest will pronounce him unclean. But he doesn't need to quarantine him because he's already given his diagnosis of unclean.
12 If a serious disease breaks out that covers all the skin from head to foot, wherever the priest looks,
13 the priest will make a thorough examination; if the disease covers his entire body, he will pronounce the person with the sore clean - since it has turned all white, he is clean.
14 But if they are open, running sores, he is unclean.
15 The priest will examine the open sores and pronounce him unclean. The open sores are unclean; they are evidence of a serious skin disease.
16 But if the open sores dry up and turn white, he is to come back to the priest
17 who will reexamine him; if the sores have turned white, the priest will pronounce the person with the sores clean. He is clean.
18 "When a person has a boil and it heals
19 and in place of the boil there is white swelling or a reddish-white shiny spot, the person must present himself to the priest
20 for an examination. If it looks like it has penetrated the skin and the hair in it has turned white, the priest will pronounce him unclean. It is a serious skin disease that has broken out in the boil.
21 But if the examination shows that there is no white hair in it and it is only skin deep and has faded, the priest will put him in quarantine for seven days.
22 If it then spreads over the skin, the priest will diagnose him as unclean. It is infectious.
23 But if the shiny spot has not changed and hasn't spread, it's only a scar from the boil. The priest will pronounce him clean.
24 "When a person has a burn on his skin and the raw flesh turns into a reddish-white or white shiny spot,
25 the priest is to examine it. If the hair has turned white in the shiny spot and it looks like it's more than skin deep, a serious skin disease has erupted in the area of the burn. The priest will pronounce him unclean; it is a serious skin disease and infectious.
26 But if on examination there is no white hair in the shiny spot and it doesn't look to be more than skin deep but has faded, the priest will put him in quarantine for seven days.
27 On the seventh day the priest will reexamine him. If by then it has spread over the skin, the priest will diagnose him as unclean; it is a serious skin disease and infectious.
28 If by that time the shiny spot has stayed the same and has not spread but has faded, it is only a swelling from the burn. The priest will pronounce him clean; it's only a scar from the burn.
29 "If a man or woman develops a sore on the head or chin,
30 the priest will offer a diagnosis. If it looks as if it is under the skin and the hair in it is yellow and thin, he will pronounce the person ritually unclean. It is an itch, an infectious skin disease.
31 But if when he examines the itch, he finds it is only skin deep and there is no black hair in it, he will put the person in quarantine for seven days.
32 On the seventh day he will reexamine the sore; if the itch has not spread, there is no yellow hair in it, and it looks as if the itch is only skin deep,
33 the person must shave, except for the itch; the priest will send him back to quarantine for another seven days.
34 If the itch has not spread, and looks to be only skin deep, the priest will pronounce him clean. The person can go home and wash his clothes; he is clean.
35 But if the itch spreads after being pronounced clean,
36 the priest must reexamine it; if the itch has spread in the skin, he doesn't have to look any farther, for yellow hair, for instance; he is unclean.
37 But if he sees that the itch is unchanged and black hair has begun to grow in it, the itch is healed. The person is clean and the priest will pronounce him clean.
38 "When a man or woman gets shiny or white shiny spots on the skin,
39 the priest is to make an examination; if the shiny spots are dull white, it is only a rash that has broken out: The person is clean.
40 "When a man loses his hair and goes bald, he is clean.
41 If he loses his hair from his forehead, he is bald and he is clean.
42 But if he has a reddish-white sore on scalp or forehead, it means a serious skin disease is breaking out.
43 The priest is to examine it; if the swollen sore on his scalp or forehead is reddish-white like the appearance of the sore of a serious skin disease,
44 he has a serious skin disease and is unclean. The priest has to pronounce him unclean because of the sore on his head.
45 "Any person with a serious skin disease must wear torn clothes, leave his hair loose and unbrushed, cover his upper lip, and cry out, 'Unclean! Unclean!'
46 As long as anyone has the sores, that one continues to be ritually unclean. That person must live alone; he or she must live outside the camp.
47 "If clothing - woolen or linen clothing,
48 woven or knitted cloth of linen or wool, leather or leatherwork - is infected with a patch of serious fungus
49 and if the spot in the clothing or the leather or the woven or the knitted material or anything made of leather is greenish or rusty, that is a sign of serious fungus. Show it to the priest.
50 The priest will examine the spot and then confiscate the material for seven days.
51 On the seventh day he will reexamine the spot. If it has spread in the garment - the woven or knitted or leather material - it is the spot of a persistent serious fungus and the material is unclean.
52 He must burn the garment. Because of the persistent and contaminating fungus, the material must be burned.
53 But if when the priest examines it the spot has not spread in the garment,
54 the priest will command the owner to wash the material that has the spot, and he will confiscate it for another seven days.
55 He'll then make another examination after it has been washed; if the spot hasn't changed in appearance, even though it hasn't spread, it is still unclean. Burn it up, whether the fungus has affected the back or the front.
56 If, when the priest makes his examination, the spot has faded after it has been washed, he is to tear the spot from the garment.
57 But if it reappears, it is a fresh outbreak - throw whatever has the spot in the fire.
58 If the garment is washed and the spot has gone away, then wash it a second time; it is clean.
59 "These are the instructions regarding a spot of serious fungus in clothing of wool or linen, woven or knitted material, or any article of leather, for pronouncing them clean or unclean."

Leviticus 13 Commentary

Chapter 13

Directions to the priest to judge concerning leprosy. (1-17) Further directions. (18-44) How the leper must be disposed of. (45,46) The leprosy in garments. (47-59)

Verses 1-17 The plague of leprosy was an uncleanness, rather than a disease. Christ is said to cleanse lepers, not to cure them. Common as the leprosy was among the Hebrews, during and after their residence in Egypt, we have no reason to believe that it was known among them before. Their distressed state and employment in that land must have rendered them liable to disease. But it was a plague often inflicted immediately by the hand of God. Miriam's leprosy, and Gehazi's, and king Uzziah's, were punishments of particular sins; no marvel there was care taken to distinguish it from a common distemper. The judgment of it was referred to the priests. And it was a figure of the moral pollutions of men's minds by sin, which is the leprosy of the soul, defiling to the conscience, and from which Christ alone can cleanse. The priest could only convict the leper, (by the law is the knowledge of sin,) but Christ can cure the sinner, he can take away sin. It is a work of great importance, but of great difficulty, to judge of our spiritual state. We all have cause to suspect ourselves, being conscious of sores and spots; but whether clean or unclean is the question. As there were certain marks by which to know it was leprosy, so there are marks of such as are in the gall of bitterness. The priest must take time in making his judgment. This teaches all, both ministers and people, not to be hasty in censures, nor to judge anything before the time. If some men's sins go before unto judgment, the sins of others follow after, and so do men's good works. If the person suspected were found to be clean, yet he must wash his clothes, because there had been ground for the suspicion. We have need to be washed in the blood of Christ from our spots, though not leprosy spots; for who can say, I am pure from sin?

Verses 18-44 The priest is told what judgment to make, if there were any appearance of a leprosy in old sores; and such is the danger of those who having escaped the pollutions of the world are again entangled therein. Or, in a burn by accident, ver. ( 24 ) . The burning of strife and contention often occasions the rising and breaking out of that corruption, which proves that men are unclean. Human life lies exposed to many grievances. With what troops of diseases are we beset on every side; and thy all entered by sin! If the constitution be healthy, and the body lively and easy, we are bound to glorify God with our bodies. Particular note was taken of the leprosy, if in the head. If the leprosy of sin has seized the head; if the judgment be corrupted, and wicked principles, which support wicked practices, are embraced, it is utter uncleanness, from which few are cleansed. Soundness in the faith keeps leprosy from the head.

Verses 45-46 When the priest had pronounced the leper unclean, it put a stop to his business in the world, cut him off from his friends and relations, and ruined all the comfort he could have in the world. He must humble himself under the mighty hand of God, not insisting upon his cleanness, when the priest had pronounced him unclean, but accepting the punishment. Thus must we take to ourselves the shame that belongs to us, and with broken hearts call ourselves "Unclean, unclean;" heart unclean, life unclean; unclean by original corruption, unclean by actual transgression; unclean, therefore deserving to be for ever shut out from communion with God, and all hope of happiness in him; unclean, therefore undone, if infinite mercy do not interpose. The leper must warn others to take heed of coming near him. He must then be shut out of the camp, and afterward, when they came to Canaan, be shut out of the city, town, or village where he lived, and dwell with none but those that were lepers like himself. This typified the purity which ought to be in the gospel church.

Verses 47-59 The garment suspected to be tainted with leprosy was not to be burned immediately. If, upon search, it was found that there was a leprous spot, it must be burned, or at least that part of it. If it proved to be free, it must be washed, and then might be used. This also sets forth the great evil there is in sin. It not only defiles the sinner's conscience, but it brings a stain upon all he has and all that he does. And those who make their clothes servants to their pride and lust, may see them thereby tainted with leprosy. But the robes of righteousness never fret, nor are moth-eaten.

Chapter Summary


In this chapter an account is given of the various sorts of leprosy, and the rules by which they were to be judged of, Le 13:1-3 of the bright spot and scab, Le 13:4-8 of the rising or swelling, Le 13:9-17 of the bile or hot ulcer, Le 13:18-23 of the hot burning or inflammation, Le 13:24-28 of the plague of the scall, Le 13:29-37 of bright spots or blisters, Le 13:38,39 and of shedding the hair, and baldness, Le 13:40-44 of what the leper was to do, and to be done unto, Le 13:45,46 of the leprosy in garments made of linen, woollen, or of skin, Le 13:47-59.

Leviticus 13 Commentaries

Published by permission. Originally published by NavPress in English as THE MESSAGE: The Bible in Contemporary Language copyright 2002 by Eugene Peterson. All rights reserved.