Wednesday, January 29, 2014

The Bible, Pt. 25: Leviticus, Chapter 13 - 15

Continuing my commentary on the Bible directly from Part 24. Note that all quotes are from the King James Bible, 1769 edition.

Chapter 13:
1 And the LORD spake unto Moses and Aaron, saying,

2 When a man shall have in the skin of his flesh a rising, a scab, or bright spot, and it be in the skin of his flesh like the plague of leprosy; then he shall be brought unto Aaron the priest, or unto one of his sons the priests:

3 And the priest shall look on the plague in the skin of the flesh: and when the hair in the plague is turned white, and the plague in sight be deeper than the skin of his flesh, it is a plague of leprosy: and the priest shall look on him, and pronounce him unclean.

4 If the bright spot be white in the skin of his flesh, and in sight be not deeper than the skin, and the hair thereof be not turned white; then the priest shall shut up him that hath the plague seven days:

The next three chapters are mostly about primitive medical care, with the emphasis on primitive. I can't help but wonder how much suffering would have been avoided if only God had mentioned the germ theory of disease, or even taught the scientific method in general.

I really can't criticize these people, though, because they didn't know any of that, and they didn't have a god to tell them such things. This is a religious text, not a medical text, and for the most part, its purpose seems to be quite narrow: to identify "the plague of leprosy." (Whether that's specifically leprosy or just communicable skin diseases in general, I don't know.)

If someone is suspected of having leprosy, the priest looks for specific symptoms or markers of the disease. (Knowing nothing about leprosy myself, I have no idea how accurate these are.) If the patient is diagnosed with leprosy, he's pronounced unclean, and they're done. (In a few verses, we'll get to the details of what happens after that.)

If it doesn't appear to be leprosy, then you lock up the patient for seven days and check him again. If it still doesn't look like leprosy, you lock him up for another seven days. At that point, unless it's gotten worse, "it is but a scab: and he shall wash his clothes, and be clean."

Now, there are 59 verses in this chapter alone, but most of it is the same basic thing. Obviously, there's a lot of repetition here! But there are a few things which are interesting:
9 When the plague of leprosy is in a man, then he shall be brought unto the priest;

10 And the priest shall see him: and, behold, if the rising be white in the skin, and it have turned the hair white, and there be quick raw flesh in the rising;

11 It is an old leprosy in the skin of his flesh, and the priest shall pronounce him unclean, and shall not shut him up: for he is unclean.

12 And if a leprosy break out abroad in the skin, and the leprosy cover all the skin of him that hath the plague from his head even to his foot, wheresoever the priest looketh;

13 Then the priest shall consider: and, behold, if the leprosy have covered all his flesh, he shall pronounce him clean that hath the plague: it is all turned white: he is clean.

14 But when raw flesh appeareth in him, he shall be unclean.

I really don't know anything about leprosy, but this seems nuts, doesn't it? If there's raw flesh, then he's got leprosy. OK, that makes sense. (Again, they don't lock up anyone who actually has leprosy.)

However, if the leprosy covers all of him, head to toe, then he's considered clean? I really have to wonder about that.
38 If a man also or a woman have in the skin of their flesh bright spots, even white bright spots;

39 Then the priest shall look: and, behold, if the bright spots in the skin of their flesh be darkish white; it is a freckled spot that groweth in the skin; he is clean.

40 And the man whose hair is fallen off his head, he is bald; yet is he clean.

41 And he that hath his hair fallen off from the part of his head toward his face, he is forehead bald: yet is he clean.

42 And if there be in the bald head, or bald forehead, a white reddish sore; it is a leprosy sprung up in his bald head, or his bald forehead.

Luckily for me, freckles are OK. So is baldness,... unless you've got a leprous sore in your bald spot, at least. Yeah, you wouldn't want to be treated as a leper just because you were losing your hair, would you?
45 And the leper in whom the plague is, his clothes shall be rent, and his head bare, and he shall put a covering upon his upper lip, and shall cry, Unclean, unclean.

46 All the days wherein the plague shall be in him he shall be defiled; he is unclean: he shall dwell alone; without the camp shall his habitation be.

I don't understand what kind of "covering" lepers are supposed to put on their upper lip, but the rest of this is clear enough. You're not only forced to live away from everyone else, you have to cry out "unclean, unclean" so that no one comes close even by accident. Well, they couldn't cure it, so none of this is very surprising.

This next part, though, I don't understand at all:
47 The garment also that the plague of leprosy is in, whether it be a woollen garment, or a linen garment;

48 Whether it be in the warp, or woof; of linen, or of woollen; whether in a skin, or in any thing made of skin;

49 And if the plague be greenish or reddish in the garment, or in the skin, either in the warp, or in the woof, or in any thing of skin; it is a plague of leprosy, and shall be shewed unto the priest:

50 And the priest shall look upon the plague, and shut up it that hath the plague seven days:

51 And he shall look on the plague on the seventh day: if the plague be spread in the garment, either in the warp, or in the woof, or in a skin, or in any work that is made of skin; the plague is a fretting leprosy; it is unclean.

52 He shall therefore burn that garment, whether warp or woof, in woollen or in linen, or any thing of skin, wherein the plague is: for it is a fretting leprosy; it shall be burnt in the fire.

Leprosy in a garment? Yeah, leprosy is a bacterial infection, and maybe clothes could become contaminated, I don't know. But you couldn't see that. This seems to be something a priest can see, something that would spread if he locked up the garment for seven days.

Well, there's a lot here I don't understand. Maybe they confused some kind of mold or other fungus with leprosy?

Chapter 14:
3 And the priest shall go forth out of the camp; and the priest shall look, and, behold, if the plague of leprosy be healed in the leper;

4 Then shall the priest command to take for him that is to be cleansed two birds alive and clean, and cedar wood, and scarlet, and hyssop:

5 And the priest shall command that one of the birds be killed in an earthen vessel over running water:

6 As for the living bird, he shall take it, and the cedar wood, and the scarlet, and the hyssop, and shall dip them and the living bird in the blood of the bird that was killed over the running water:

Without treatment, I don't think that leprosy just goes away on its own. But undoubtedly, there'd be people diagnosed with leprosy who didn't actually have the disease. Can you imagine the joy of being healed, when you thought you had leprosy?

Well, the first half of this chapter describes the procedure - including blood sacrifices, of course (and not just of birds) - by which such a person can be cleansed.

The second half is about "fretting leprosy" in a house:
33 And the LORD spake unto Moses and unto Aaron, saying,

34 When ye be come into the land of Canaan, which I give to you for a possession, and I put the plague of leprosy in a house of the land of your possession;

35 And he that owneth the house shall come and tell the priest, saying, It seemeth to me there is as it were a plague in the house:


38 Then the priest shall go out of the house to the door of the house, and shut up the house seven days:

39 And the priest shall come again the seventh day, and shall look: and, behold, if the plague be spread in the walls of the house;

40 Then the priest shall command that they take away the stones in which the plague is, and they shall cast them into an unclean place without the city:

This almost has to be mold, doesn't it? And whether it's the same thing as that "fretting leprosy" in a garment or not, they both appear to be something that grows, that spreads - like leprosy on human skin, I guess.

The odd thing about this, though, is that God says he's put the "plague of leprosy" in that house. Why? He doesn't say.

But again, to clean the house requires blood.

Chapter 15:
1 And the LORD spake unto Moses and to Aaron, saying,

2 Speak unto the children of Israel, and say unto them, When any man hath a running issue out of his flesh, because of his issue he is unclean.

3 And this shall be his uncleanness in his issue: whether his flesh run with his issue, or his flesh be stopped from his issue, it is his uncleanness.

4 Every bed, whereon he lieth that hath the issue, is unclean: and every thing, whereon he sitteth, shall be unclean.

5 And whosoever toucheth his bed shall wash his clothes, and bathe himself in water, and be unclean until the even.

Whatever a "running issue" is, it doesn't sound good. And not only is the man suffering from it considered unclean, but everything he touches becomes unclean and everyone who touches what he touches becomes unclean.
16 And if any man's seed of copulation go out from him, then he shall wash all his flesh in water, and be unclean until the even.

17 And every garment, and every skin, whereon is the seed of copulation, shall be washed with water, and be unclean until the even.

18 The woman also with whom man shall lie with seed of copulation, they shall both bathe themselves in water, and be unclean until the even.

So,... all sex is unclean? Is that what this is saying? Luckily, you only have to wash (and not in blood, either), and you're only unclean until evening. Worth it, then, huh? :)
19 And if a woman have an issue, and her issue in her flesh be blood, she shall be put apart seven days: and whosoever toucheth her shall be unclean until the even.

20 And every thing that she lieth upon in her separation shall be unclean: every thing also that she sitteth upon shall be unclean.

21 And whosoever toucheth her bed shall wash his clothes, and bathe himself in water, and be unclean until the even.

OK, this seems to be very similar to the case of a man with a "running issue," although when they say "in her separation," they must mean during menstruation. So is that all that this is about? It doesn't seem like it, but I can't be sure.
24 And if any man lie with her at all, and her flowers be upon him, he shall be unclean seven days; and all the bed whereon he lieth shall be unclean.

25 And if a woman have an issue of her blood many days out of the time of her separation, or if it run beyond the time of her separation; all the days of the issue of her uncleanness shall be as the days of her separation: she shall be unclean.

26 Every bed whereon she lieth all the days of her issue shall be unto her as the bed of her separation: and whatsoever she sitteth upon shall be unclean, as the uncleanness of her separation.

Um,... "her flowers"? Now what are they talking about? Menstrual blood? But they say "blood" in the very next verse!

We saw in Chapter 12 that a woman was considered unclean after giving birth (twice as long if she gave birth to a girl), and apparently it's similar for menstruation.
32 This is the law of him that hath an issue, and of him whose seed goeth from him, and is defiled therewith;

33 And of her that is sick of her flowers, and of him that hath an issue, of the man, and of the woman, and of him that lieth with her that is unclean.

Normal sex, and the normal working of a human body, seem to be considered just as "unclean" as actual illness, if I'm understanding this stuff correctly. And for women, that's especially the case. By combining the two, the Bible has confused me here. I'm really not sure what it's saying.

But whatever it is, it's dull as dishwater. Sorry about that. Sorry about my confusion, and sorry about how boring this is. Leviticus is not proving to be my favorite chapter in the Bible, that's for sure! Even when I do understand it. So I think I'll end this one here and hope that the story gets a little more interesting next time.

Edit: One thing I should have noted here is that they don't even try to cure diseases, whether it's leprosy or not. If you don't have leprosy, they shut you up, and you either get better or you don't. They don't even petition to God for healing. It's only afterwards, if you do come out of it healthy again, that you're supposed to offer blood sacrifices and do other magic rituals to make yourself clean.

Doesn't that seem odd? At the least, it's very different from Christianity. Yet this is supposed to be the same 'God.' Indeed, God himself is relating all this to Moses.

Note: This entire series can be found here.

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