Dealing with spots on skin, clothes
Your priest as dermatologist1The LORD told Moses and Aaron to give these instructions to the people:
2If you break out in a rash, or develop swelling or discoloration on your skin, this could be the sign of something more serious. You need to see a priest—Aaron or one of his sons. 3The priest will examine the affected area of your body. If your hair in that area has turned white and the problem is more than skin deep, you’ve got a serious skin disease. The priest needs to declare you ritually unclean.
4However, if the affected area is white, and the hair hasn’t changed color to white, and the problem doesn’t seem any deeper than the skin, then all the priest needs to do is quarantine you for seven days. 5On the seventh day the priests should re-examine you. If the problem hasn’t changed and doesn’t seem to be spreading, then the priest should keep you in quarantine for another seven days.
6Once again the priest should examine you on the seventh day. If the discoloration has faded and the infection hasn’t spread, the priest should declare you ritually clean. All you had was a rash. Once you wash your clothes, you’ll be clean again. 7If the rash comes back, you need the priest to re-examine you. 8If the rash has spread, the priest needs to declare you ritually unclean. You have a serious skin disorder.
9Anyone who develops a serious skin disease must be examined by a priest. 10If the priest discovers that the white patches on your skin have swollen, and hair inside the affected area has turned white, and open sores have appeared, 11you’ve got a chronic skin disease. It won't be enough to isolate you. The priest must declare you ritually unclean.
12If the disease spreads all over your body, from head to toe, the priest should examine you. 13But if the priest confirms that the infection is gone and the disease has run its course—leaving you with nothing more than some discolored skin—he needs to declare you ritually clean.
14But if open sores break out on your body, you are unclean. 15The priest should examine you. If he confirms that you have open sores, he has no choice but to declare you unclean. Open sores make you ritually unclean. This is a serious skin disease. 16If open sores heal and the skin fades into a white discoloration, you need to see the priest.
17If the priest confirms the affected area has turned white, he should declare you ritually clean because the infection is over. You are clean. 18But say you have a boil or a similar sore on your body, and it heals. 19Then you discover the area has started to swell. It develops a patch of white or reddish-white. You have to show it to the priest. 20If the problem seems to go deeper than the skin, and if the hair in the area has turned white, the priest has to declare you ritually unclean. You have a serious skin disease.
21On the other hand, if the priest doesn't see any white hairs on it, and the problem doesn't go deeper than the skin, and the discoloration has faded, the priest should merely quarantine you for seven days. 22If the disease spreads further, you've got an infection. The priest needs to declare you unclean. 23But if the discolored patch doesn't spread, it's just a scar left behind. The priest should declare you clean.
Infections from burn wounds24Let's say you get burned in a fire and the open wounds on your skin get infected, turning red or white. 25You need to have a priest examine it. If the hair in the brightest areas of the wounds have turned white, and if the injury seems to extend into tissue beneath the skin, the priest needs to declare you unclean. 26But if the color has faded and doesn't seem to run any deeper than the skin, and if you don't have any white hairs in the area, the priest should simply quarantine you for seven days.
27The priest should reexamine you on the seventh day. If the infection has spread, you have a serious disease. The priest must pronounce you unclean. 28But if the color of the injury fades and the infection doesn't spread, your problem was merely swelling from the burn. What you have is just a burn scar, not a disease. The priest should declare you clean.
Infected skin up top29Let's say you develop a scaly skin irritation or infection on your head or your face. 30A priest needs to see it. If the problem seems to run deeper than the skin and you grow some fine, yellowish hair in the area, the priest should declare you unclean. You have a serious infection. 31But if the scaly infection seems to go no deeper than the skin and if the hair in the area looks healthy, then the priest should just quarantine you for seven days.
32On the seventh day the priest should reexamine you. If the infection hasn't spread, and doesn't seem to run deeper than the skin, and if the hair still looks healthy, 33then you need to shave around the infection. Don't shave the immediate area of the infection. Shave around it. The priest should then quarantine you for seven more days.
34On the seventh day the priest stood re-examine it. If the scaling hasn't spread and appears to run no deeper than the skin, then the priest should declare you clean. Once you wash your clothes, you’ll be clean. 35But if scaling reappears after you've been declared clean, 36the priest needs to re-examine you. If the scaling has spread, the priest doesn't need to bother looking for discolored hair. He needs to simply declare you unclean.
37Yet if the scaling hasn't changed, and if the hair is still it's normal color, you’re clean—and the priest should say so. 38Let's say white spots start erupting on your body. 39The priest should examine them. If the spots are a faded white, it's just a mild skin irritation. You’re clean.
He’s bald, not sick40If a man goes bald, he doesn’t have a skin disease. He just has more skin. He’s merely bald—and he’s still clean. 41If he goes bald on the front and on the sides, he's just partly bald. He still clean.
42If a man with a bald head develops an infection that turns his skin reddish-white, he has a serious skin disease. 43He needs to be examined by a priest. If the infection looks the same as a serious skin disease anywhere else on the body, 44he has a serious disease. The priest needs to declare him unclean because he has an infection.
What to do with skin disease45If you’re diagnosed with a serious skin infection, you need to warn people around you that you are unclean. Do it visually: Tear your clothes and leave your hair uncovered and uncombed. Also do it with your voice: Shout, “I'm unclean! I'm unclean!” 46You’ll remain ritually unclean for as long as the disease stays active. During that time, you have to stay away from people. Live outside the main camp.
What to do with moldy clothes47Suppose mildew develops on some of your clothing. It doesn't matter if the clothing is made of wool or linen. 48And it doesn't matter if it’s woven or knitted fabric made of wool or linen, or if it's something made of leather, 49If the spot looks green or red, it's mildew. You need to take it to the priest. He should mark around the boundary of the spot and then set the material aside for seven days.
50He should mark around the boundary of the spot and then set the material aside for seven days. 51On the seventh day he should reevaluate the spot. If it has grown, whether it’s on woven or knitted fabric or something made of leather, you're dealing with a persistent mildew. The item is unclean.
52You need to burn it. It doesn’t matter if it’s woven or knitted, or if it’s made of wool or linen, or if it’s something made from leather. This is a persistent mildew. The only thing you can do with it is burn it.
53But if the priest finds that the spot has not spread, whether it’s on clothing, fabric, or leather, 54the priest should tell you to wash the item. Then he should quarantine it for seven more days.
55If the mark didn't change color after the washing, it doesn't matter if it stopped growing. The priest needs to declare it unclean. You have to burn it. 56But if the priest sees that the color did fade after the washing, he can tear that part of the material out of the fabric or the leather. 57If there’s another outbreak of the mildew, you need to burn the entire item. 58If the mildew mark disappears once the item is washed, you should wash it a second time. Then it will be clean. 59I've given you these rules to help you know what to do when mildew shows up on your fabric or your leather.
The original Hebrew word has often been translated as leprosy. But writers used that same Hebrew word to talk about a lot of different skin disorders, most of which are far less critical than leprosy, known today as Hansen’s disease. Hansen’s disease is an infection caused by bacteria, which produces light patches on the skin and numbs the nerves to pain. Lepers sometimes injure themselves and fail to get treatment because they can’t feel the pain. Infection sets in and body parts are amputated. Skin diseases reported in the Bible may often have been what we know today as a simple rash or perhaps eczema or psoriasis.
A person ritually unclean was not supposed to touch another person or go to the worship center because they ritually defiled whatever they touched. Israelites were able to get ritually clean again by following a set of procedures that included bathing, washing their clothes, getting sprinkled with “water of purification” (Numbers 19), and waiting for a stretch of time, often seven days. But people with some lingering physical problems—like skin sores or extended menstrual bleeding—might remain unclean for years, or for the rest of their lives.
BY ROBERT V. HUBER
The first thing a person with a skin disease is told to do is go see a priest. Does that sound like the priests were acting as doctors in Bible times the way barbers acted as dentists in 19th century America?
The first thing a priest did when he found a person had a skin disease was to quarantine him or her. Doesn’t that sound a little extreme, especially if the person had nothing but a rash or some dry patches of eczema?
Once a skin disease healed, the persons who recovered had to wash their clothes, not their bodies. Why do you think just the clothes?
Why do you think men who lost the hair on their head got a pass on the skin disease? It wasn’t considered ritually unclean to go bald.
LIFE APPLICATION. Anyone diagnosed with a serious skin infection (usually referred to as leprosy although not confined to that disease), needed to totally isolate from everyone else, tear their clothes, muss their hair, and call out, “Unclean, Unclean!” Think about how Jesus dealt with such unfortunates. If you were confronted with someone you considered dangerously ill and possibly contagious, how would you react? We certainly had to deal with that question during the COVID pandemic.