In my many years of experience as a theologian, there are a number of questions I encounter regularly. One of the topics I commonly get questions about is leprosy. This is why I would like to share my insights and understanding as we delve into what the Bible has to say about leprosy. So, how many times is leprosy mentioned in the Bible?
Leprosy is mentioned both in the Old and New Testaments. We see it mentioned around 68 times in the Bible, and it is referred to as a skin disease that was highly contagious and feared by many. In the Old Testament, it is implied that a person who had leprosy was sinful and unclean.
In this article, I intend to share my insights and knowledge as we examine different questions like, what leprosy is according to the Bible, what the Bible says about leprosy, why leprosy is talked about so much in the Bible and other topics. I’m excited for you to join me as we explore the topic of leprosy in the Bible.
What is leprosy, according to the Bible?
According to the Bible, leprosy is a disease that affects the skin. It is when white patches, boils, or sores gradually form and spread over the body. In more severe cases, there would be twisting of the limbs, curling of fingers, and disfiguration. The full scope of the disease is mentioned in Leviticus 13.1-8.
Leprosy was a highly infectious disease and was feared and shunned. Those who developed leprosy had to isolate themselves to prevent the disease from spreading. In those days, it was the priests that were in charge of diagnosing leprosy and deciding who needed to isolate themselves or who was clean and could return back to the community. The Bible in Leviticus 14 highlights the medications and cleaning rituals that would be used.
The Bible portrayed leprosy as a physical affliction that both isolated and weakened a person. Leprosy could also symbolize spiritual impurity and uncleanness in a person’s life.
There are many references to leprosy, especially in the Old Testament. Leprosy is described as a contagious skin disease that requires the ailed individual to isolate themselves and stay away from other people. There was a lot of stigma around the disease because people with leprosy were viewed as unclean and sinful.
The Bible also implies that the disease was a divine punishment for sin. In Numbers 12:10-15, Miriam, Moses’s sister, was struck with leprosy after she and Aaron spoke against Moses. This led Mriam to become leprous and as ‘white as snow’ because the Lord was angry with her. This story suggests that Miriam sinned against God, and therefore, leprosy was viewed as punishment from God.
In Leviticus 13-14, detailed instructions were given to the Israelites on how to diagnose and manage leprosy and also how to purify those who once had the disease but were healed. In the New Testament, Jesus is seen healing lepers, and these moments are usually good examples of God’s compassion and God’s healing power. This can be found in Matthew 8:2-4.
Leprosy was talked about many times in the Bible because the physical and graphic nature of the disease could be used to symbolize sin, uncleanness, moral decay, and spiritual blindness. This could be seen as a symbol of divine judgment. This judgment from God would take place if a person was disobedient and the disease was them bearing the consequences of their actions.
The Israelites in Ancient times were called to ‘be holy’ for God is also holy. This scripture comes from Leviticus 19:2 and suggests it was important for the Israelites to remain pure and before the Lord and stay away from sinfulness.
Leprosy can also be viewed as a symbol of redemption. In the story of Jesus and the leper, which can be found in Matthew 8:1-4, Jesus has compassion and heals the leper from his infirmity. Variations of this same story can also be found in Mark 1:40-45 and Luke 5:12-15. In the story, the leper asks Jesus to heal him. Jesus did not shun him away but instead was moved with compassion and touched the leper and told him he is now clean. Jesus also healed the ten lepers in Luke 17:11-19. These stories can serve as reminders that those who were once stigmatized and sick can be healed and restored through the power and love of God.
Leviticus 13:1-4 The Lord spoke to Moses and Aaron and told them what leprosy was and how it should be treated
Deuteronomy 24:8-9 tells the people to be careful against leprosy and heed to the Levitical priest’s guidance.
Numbers 12:1-15 tells the story of Miriam and how got leprosy.
2 Chronicles 26:19-23 King Uzziah got leprosy and was a result of God’s punishment.
Luke 17:12-15 is the story of Jesus and the ten lepers who came to ask him for healing.
In Matthew 10:8, Jesus instructed the apostles to heal the sick, raise the dead and cure people with leprosy.
The Law of Moses seems to impose harsh requirements on people who have leprosy. In Leviticus 13:45-46, lepers were required to wear torn clothes, leave their hair unkempt, cover the lower part of their faces, and cry out, “Unclean! Unclean!” The leper was regarded as unclean both spiritually and physically and shunned from their community. This is because leprosy in ancient times was an incurable and highly contagious disease. Also, the lepers were regarded as impure and unholy, as people who were being punished by God for committing a sin.
Numbers 5:2 makes mention of how much leprosy was hated. Lepers had to isolate themselves and were not allowed to live in any community with their own people. This was to limit the spread of the physical disease, and some believed the spiritual uncleanness as well.
Leprosy was highly contagious and could easily be transferred from one person to the next. This disease was also uncurable by man. It makes sense that people were so scared because the physical symptoms were so severe, and those who got this disease would suffer immensely. This fear was heightened by the belief that this terrible disease was a punishment from God, which meant lepers were often seen as morally corrupt and deserving of punishment. The Israelites were required to stay clean and pure, and having leprosy was a clear indication to those around that a person was spiritually unclean and sinful.
Biblical leprosy, as described in the Bible, is not the same as modern-day leprosy. The biblical term, tzaraath, was used to refer to leprosy. However, the diseases mentioned under this name have no relationship to modern leprosy. The Hebrew term tzaraath, originally used in Leviticus 13, is the root word that refers to collective skin diseases, including biblical leprosy. Modern leprosy is rare, though it still exists and is now known as Hansen’s disease.
As a devout Christian, I have always been passionate about the Christian faith. This inspired me to pursue a degree in Religious studies and a Masters in Theology in college. I have also been privileged to teach 4 Christian courses in a college and university. Since I am dedicated to spreading the word of God, I am actively involved in the Church. Additionally, I share his word online and cover diverse topics on the Christian faith through my platform. You can read more about me on the about us page.