Leprosy in the Gospels

Why is leprosy associated with uncleanness, and why was the healing of lepers such a central concern in the ministry of the Master?

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Tazria-Metzora

Regular Shabbat Readings

Read / Listen to these Portions

  • Tazria-Metzora (תזריע/מצורע | She will conceive/Leper)
  • Torah: Leviticus 12:1-15:33
  • Haftarah: 2 Kings 7:3-20
  • Gospel: Luke 2:22-35; Mark 1:35-45

Note: The regular readings are often interrupted with special readings on Jewish holidays, special Sabbaths, and Rosh Chodesh. Refer to the annual Torah Portion schedule for these special portions.

Portion Outline

  • Torah
    • Leviticus 12:1 | Purification of Women after Childbirth
    • Leviticus 13:1 | Leprosy, Varieties and Symptoms
    • Leviticus 14:1 | Purification of Lepers and Leprous Houses
    • Leviticus 15:1 | Concerning Bodily Discharges
  • Prophets
    • 2Ki 7:3 | The Arameans Flee

Portion Summary

Tazria

The name of the twenty-seventh reading from the Torah is Tazria (תזריע), which means "she conceived." The name is derived from the words of Leviticus 12:2, where the LORD says to Moses, "When a woman [conceives] and bears a male child ..." Leviticus 12 discusses the laws of purification after childbirth. Leviticus 13 introduces the laws for diagnosing and quarantining lepers. Except in biblical calendar leap years, Tazria is read together with the subsequent Torah portion, Metzorah, on the same Sabbath.

Metzora

The twenty-eighth reading from the Torah is Metzora (מצורע), a word that means "leper." The word appears in the second verse of the reading, which says, "This shall be the law of the leper in the day of his cleansing" (Leviticus 14:2). Leviticus 14 spells out the complex purification rituals for the cleansing of a leper and a leprous home. Leviticus 15 briefly covers the laws regarding ritual unfitness stemming from bodily emissions. Except in biblical calendar leap years, Metzora is read together with the previous Torah portion, Tazria, on the same Sabbath.


The symptoms described in the Torah that might potentially be diagnosed as biblical leprosy involve decomposition, decay, and putrefaction—corruption of the flesh. The laws of the sacrifices teach that God’s Sanctuary shuns death, corruption, and decay.

God’s Sanctuary represents immortality and incorruptibility. In His presence, there is no death, no decay, and no decomposition. Therefore, He bans from His Sanctuary the disease that represents a living decomposition. Leprosy involves an ongoing, visible progression toward physical corruption. It is the antithesis of the immortal and incorruptible world represented in God’s Sanctuary.

Leprosy also acts as an archetype for all human sickness. Sickness results from the breakdown of the flesh. Death follows. Leprosy graphically represents that progression.

Sickness, death, and decay have no place in God’s presence. His Sanctuary on earth reflects that heavenly Sanctuary.

Yeshua provides the solution to the leprosy problem. Spiritually, He did not suffer the leprosy-like infection of sin. Physically, His flesh did not suffer corruption: “For You will not abandon my soul to Sheol; nor will You allow Your Holy One to undergo decay.” Through His resurrection from the dead, His flesh passed from the mortal to the immortal and from the corruptible to the incorruptible. His resurrected body remains real human flesh, regenerated into an imperishable spiritual body. Therefore, He is the perfect, eternal priest, able to serve forever in the incorruptible Sanctuary.

Perhaps this helps explain why the healing of lepers occupied such a central concern in the ministry of the Master. Not only did He heal many lepers Himself, but He gave His twelve disciples authority to heal leprosy as evidence of the kingdom of heaven. Leprosy symbolizes the sin-laden human condition, destined for death and decay. Each time the Master healed a leper, it betokened a reversal of that corrupted, mortal state. Every leper healed of his affliction was a testimony that the kingdom of heaven was at hand.

Who will set me free from the body of this death? Thanks be to God through Yeshua the Messiah our Master! (Romans 7:24-25)

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