leprosy Summary and Overview
Bible Dictionaries at a Glance
leprosy in Easton's Bible Dictionary
(Heb. tsara'ath, a "smiting," a "stroke," because the disease was regarded as a direct providential infliction). This name is from the Greek lepra, by which the Greek physicians designated the disease from its scaliness. We have the description of the disease, as well as the regulations connected with it, in Lev. 13; 14; Num. 12:10-15, etc. There were reckoned six different circumstances under which it might develop itself, (1) without any apparent cause (Lev. 13:2-8); (2) its reappearance (9-17); (3) from an inflammation (18-28); (4) on the head or chin (29-37); (5) in white polished spots (38, 39); (6) at the back or in the front of the head (40-44). Lepers were required to live outside the camp or city (Num. 5:1-4; 12:10-15, etc.). This disease was regarded as an awful punishment from the Lord (2 Kings 5:7; 2 Chr. 26:20). (See MIRIAM T0002562; GEHAZI T0001452; UZZIAH T0003760.) This disease "begins with specks on the eyelids and on the palms, gradually spreading over the body, bleaching the hair white wherever they appear, crusting the affected parts with white scales, and causing terrible sores and swellings. From the skin the disease eats inward to the bones, rotting the whole body piecemeal." "In Christ's day no leper could live in a walled town, though he might in an open village. But wherever he was he was required to have his outer garment rent as a sign of deep grief, to go bareheaded, and to cover his beard with his mantle, as if in lamentation at his own virtual death. He had further to warn passers-by to keep away from him, by calling out, 'Unclean! unclean!' nor could he speak to any one, or receive or return a salutation, since in the East this involves an embrace." That the disease was not contagious is evident from the regulations regarding it (Lev. 13:12, 13, 36; 2 Kings 5:1). Leprosy was "the outward and visible sign of the innermost spiritual corruption; a meet emblem in its small beginnings, its gradual spread, its internal disfigurement, its dissolution little by little of the whole body, of that which corrupts, degrades, and defiles man's inner nature, and renders him unmeet to enter the presence of a pure and holy God" (Maclear's Handbook O.T). Our Lord cured lepers (Matt. 8:2, 3; Mark 1:40-42). This divine power so manifested illustrates his gracious dealings with men in curing the leprosy of the soul, the fatal taint of sin.
leprosy in Schaff's Bible Dictionary
LEP'ROSY a loathsome disease still prevalent in Egypt and Syria, and occurring also in India, China, the Crimea, and Norway. The bones and the marrow are pervaded with the disease, so that the joints of the hands and feet lose their power, the limbs of the body fall together, and the whole system assumes a most deformed and loathsome appearance. The progress and effect of the disease are described in Job 2:7-8, Jud 4:12; Esth 6:2 Job 7:3-5; Job 19:14-21. There are two forms of the disease -- the tuberculated, incrusting the whole person with ulcerous tubercles, and the anaesthetic, making the skin mummylike -- but under both forms "Death lives," and the diseased is a "walking tomb," "a parable of death." There was also a milder form of the disease, the so-called "white leprosy," often attacking only one limb, and generally curable, as when "Moses' hand ivas leprous as snow." Ex 4:6. Notice also the cases of Miriam, Num 12:10; Gehazi, 2 Kgs 5:27; and Uzziah. 2 Chr 26:16-23. Although the laws respecting this disease which we find in the Mosaic code are exceedingly rigid, it is by no means clear that the leprosy was considered contagious. The horror and disgust which was felt toward a disease so foul and loathsome might be a sufficient reason for such severe enactments, and strict seclusion was at all events an effective means of arresting the progress of the disease by preventing intermarriage between lepers and the sound. The leper was excluded from the tabernacle and the camp, and when he was healed his restoration to social intercourse with his fellow-men was twofold, performed both in the camp and in the tabernacle. Lev 14:3-32. A house for lepers was built outside Jerusalem on the hill of Gareb -- i.e., "the hill of scraping," Jer 31:40; Head of a Leper. Job 2:8 -- and the leper was compelled to wear mourning. Lev 13:45. With respect to the leprosy of houses and of clothes, Lev 14:55, the expression is only analogical, referring to the spots and disfigurations which appeared upon the walls and articles of clothing, resembling the leprous spots, and originating from a species of mould or mildew, indicating a great degree of dampness, corrupting the air, injurious to health, and often the occasion and precursor of fatal diseases. The rites ordained for cleansing and purifying this kind of "leprosy" are in their symbolical bearing strictly analogous to the laws concerning leprosy proper. Lev 13:47-59; Lev 14:33-53. See Leper.
leprosy in Fausset's Bible Dictionary