Leviticus 13

The Word Made Fresh

1The LORD said to Moses and Aaron, 2“When someone has a swelling or rash or an unusual patch on the skin, and it turns into leprosy, they must be brought to Aaron or one of his sons. 3The priest will examine the skin. If the hair in that affected area has turned white and the spot appears to be deeper than the skin, it is leprosy. After the priest has made the examination, he must declare that the person is infected and must refrain from participating in religious rituals. 4If the affected area has turned white and appears to be only skin deep, the priest will confine the person for seven days. 5 The priest must reexamine the person on the seventh day. If it has not spread the priest will confine the person for another seven days, 6and then be reexamined. If the affected area has shrunk, or has not spread, the priest will pronounce the person healed and the person’s clothes must be washed and then they may resume their participation in religious activities. 7However, if the affected area has spread, when the priest examines the area skin again 8the person must be labeled as ‘unclean,’ because it is leprosy.

9“Anyone who has leprosy must be brought to the priests. 10A priest is to examine the person and if there is a whiteish swelling on the skin and the hair has turned white and has raw flesh, 11it is a chronic condition and the priest must label the person ‘unclean.’ There is then no need to confine the person since he or she is already found to be infected. 12On the other hand, if the skin condition has spread over the person’s whole body, 13then the priest will make an examination and if it has spread over the person’s whole body the priest is to pronounce him or her free of the disease because it has covered the person’s entire body. 14But if raw flesh ever appears on the person, 15the priest must examine the skin and the person must be pronounced ‘unclean.’ Raw flesh is a sign of leprosy. 16If the raw flesh turns white again, the person must return to the priest,17and the priest will pronounce the person healed.

18“If someone has a boil that heals, 19and in its place a white swelling or reddish-white spot appears, it must be shown to a priest. 20If the priest finds it to be more than skin deep and the hair turned white, he must declare the person ‘unclean’ because it is leprosy. 21If the hair has not turned white and the area seems to be only skin deep, the person must be confined for seven days. 22If it spreads in the skin the priest must label the person as ‘unclean.’ 23If it has not spread and is only a scar remaining from the boil, the person is healed.         

24“When someone suffers a skin burn and it turns into a reddish-white or white spot, 25it must be shown to a priest. If the hair has turned white and it appears more than skin deep, it is leprosy and the priest must pronounce the person ‘unclean.’ 26If the hair is not white and the spot appears only skin deep, the priest will confine the person for seven days, 27then reexamine the spot. If it is spreading the priest must pronounce the person ‘unclean’ because it is leprosy. 28However, if it has not spread and has shrunk it is only the scar of a burn and the priest will pronounce the person healed.

29 “When someone has a diseased area on the head or face 30a priest must examine it and if it appears more than skin deep and the hair has thinned and turned yellow the priest must pronounce the person ‘unclean’ because it is leprosy. 31If, however, it is no more than skin deep and there is no black hair in the area the priest will confine the person for seven days. 32On the seventh day, if the area has not spread and has no yellow hair and appears no deeper than the skin, 33then the person must shave all the hair around the affected area and be confined for seven days more. 34On the seventh day the priest will reexamine the area and if it has not spread wider or deeper the person will be healed. 35But if area begins to spread after being pronounced healed, 36the person must be reexamined by the priest and if the area has spread the person is ‘unclean.’ 37But if the priest finds the area hasn’t spread and black hair has grown in it the priest shall pronounce the person healed.

38“When someone has white spots break out on the skin 39a priest must examine it and if the spots are a dull white it is merely a rash and the person is well.

40“If someone loses all their hair and become bald, that is not a sign of any disease. 41If the hairline recedes above the forehead and temples it is merely baldness, not a disease. 42But if a reddish-white spot appears in the bald area it may be leprosy. 43The priest must examine the person, and if the spot is swollen 44the person has leprosy and is ‘unclean.’

45“Anyone who has leprosy must wear torn clothing, leave their hair unkempt, cover their upper lip and call out ‘unclean, unclean.’ 46They must remain ‘unclean’ as long as the disease is present and they must live alone outside the camp.

47“When something like leprosy appears on an article of clothing made of wool or linen 48or in a pelt or anything made of animal skin, 49if it appears greenish or reddish, it is leprosy and must be examined by a priest. 50The priest will examine it and put the item away for seven days. 51If after seven days the area has spread the article is leprous and is ‘unclean.’ 52The priest must burn it.

53“However, if the priest examines the article and the leprous spot hasn’t spread, 54the priest will order the one who presented it to wash it and lay it aside for seven more days. 55Then the priest will re-examine it, and if it has not changed color it is leprosy, whether or not the spot has spread. It must be burned up whether the spot is on the inside or outside of the garment.

56“If, however, the diseased area has shrunk after the item is washed, he will cut that area out of the cloth or skin. 57If the disease appears in the article again it must be burned up. 58If the diseased area has disappeared after washing, have it washed again, and it will be restored.

59“These are the rules to be followed whenever something that resembles leprosy appears in cloth or animal skin to determine whether it is leprous or not.”


1-8: Illnesses, especially the kinds that leave visible marks, are a source of particular concern for the people. Ancient people saw a connection between skin diseases on the one hand and mildew and fungus in buildings and other surfaces on the other hand. Leprosy and various other maladies are treated here. It is a tedious chapter unless you’re interested in medical things. Rashes and other skin eruptions are to be treated with the greatest of care lest it proves to be a contagious disease that can be devastating to the community. Specific instructions are spelled out for the examination of such ailments and the sufferer is quickly quarantined in case the condition is contagious.

9-17: The rationale for the diagnosis escapes me. Nevertheless, it is a way of protecting the community from diseases that can be contained. The designation of “clean” or “unclean” have to do with participation in the worship life of the people. Once it is certain that the person is leprous, they need not be confined, but they cannot enter the tabernacle court.

18-23: A boil that bursts and results in scarring the skin is cause for pronouncing one “unclean.”

24-28: The priest has a great deal of power over individuals in the camp because he is given the authority to pronounce whether a person is “clean” or not. These rules keep the priest from wielding authority arbitrarily.

28-37: Skin irritations occurring on the scalp or beneath the beard require special attention.

38-39: A mere rash is seen as harmless.

40-44: If a person goes bald, the priest is called to examine them to see if he or she is “clean” or “unclean,” depending on the condition of the skin that has been exposed in the bald area.

45-46: Here are the rules governing the “unclean” person’s participation in the community. He or she must wear clothing that readily identifies him or her as being “unclean,” must cover his or her upper lip when out and about in the camp, and must call out that he or she is unclean so that others may keep a respectable distance. He or she must also live outside the main camp; such places will become known as “leper colonies.”

47-52: Mold or mildew is considered to be as debilitating to an article of clothing as leprosy is to a person. The priest puts the garment aside for a week to see if the discoloration spreads. If it does the item must be burned.

53-55: If after a week the area is no larger, the item is washed. If that doesn’t get rid of the discoloration, the article is burned.

56-59: That stained article of clothing receives more scrutiny than an albino alligator. I suppose in their setting clothing is not all that easy to come by, so they have to take extra care that all is well.


Although these provisions seem primitive to us, it is fascinating that God would want all the people educated in the precautions they were able to take in those days. God is certainly protective of the Israelites, and that is an assurance to us that God wants to protect all people who accept God’s authority in their lives.