Harperís Bible Dictionary
edited by Paul J. Achtemier (San Francisco: Harper and Row, 1985)
You are strongly recommended to add to your library the excellent revised edition of Harper's Bible Dictionary titled, The Harper Collins Bible Dictionary, Revised Edition [book review], edited by Paul J. Achtemeier, with the Society of Biblical Literature (NY: Harper Collins, 1996). It is currently the best one-volume Bible dictionary in English, and it is available at Border's Books, Christian Science Reading Rooms, http://www.borders.com, or http://www.christianbook.com.
leprosy, in the ot a disorder affecting humans, fabrics, and houses. There are different types of leprosy that afflict persons (Lev. 13). Though it is not clear what these skin diseases are, it is certain that they are not modern leprosy (Hansenís disease). The plague in fabrics and houses is described as greenish or reddish spots (Lev. 13:49; 14:37), thus indicating a type of mold or mildew.
Persons or objects afflicted with leprosy can pollute others. Anyone who enters a leprous house must bathe. If a person tarries there by eating or lying down, both bathing and laundering are necessary (Lev. 14:46-47). Surprisingly, the Bible says nothing about the effect of a leperís impurity. The leper certainly polluted at least like a polluted house and probably like one who has an abnormal bodily discharge (Lev. 15:2-12; cf. m. Zabim 5:6).
A leper is to be excluded from habitations (Lev. 13:45-46; cf. Num. 12:15; 2 Kings 7:3-4). When the person recovers from the affliction, purification rites are performed (Lev. 14:2-20, 21-32). Similar rites are performed for a renovated house (14:48-53; note that these rites are not as extensive as the healed leperís). These purification rites are not for the removal of leprosy, but only for the removal of residual ritual impurity (see Mark 1:44). A rite for the curing of leprosy is found in the case of Naaman immersing in the Jordan seven times (2 Kings 5:10, 14).
Fabrics incorrigibly infected with leprosy are to be burned (Lev. 13:52, 55, 57) and building materials so infected must be discarded outside the habitation (14:40, 41, 45). There is some evidence that leprosy was considered a punishment from God for sin (cf. Num. 12:10-15; 2 Kings 5:27; 15:5; 2 Chron. 26:20-21). The Gospels report that Jesus healed people afflicted with leprosy (e.g., Matt. 8:1-4; Luke 17:11-19) and he commissioned his disciples to do the same (Matt. 10:8). Jesus is also reported to have visited the home of Simon the leper (Mark 14:3), perhaps one of those he had healed. The data do not enable one to determine if this Ďleprosyí was Hansenís disease.
Edited for BibleTexts.com by Robert Nguyen Cramer