Those who are sick shall live outside the camp
- The Book of Leviticus is a collection laws; many having to do with the proper worship of God.
- In today’s reading we hear of illness and exclusion from communal life.
- Because people did not know about the process of contagion at the time, the community banished persons with any skin disease as long as the disease lasted.
SOURCE: Our Sunday Visitor
The Law Concerning Leprosy
by Michal Hunt (Agape Bible Study)
In the First Reading, the prophet Elijah invoked God’s divine name and healed a Gentile leper named Naaman. His act proved that Israel’s God was stronger than any human contagion, whether it was leprosy or sin. The miracle also prefigured the healing and restoration of the Gentile peoples of the earth to fellowship with God as promised by the prophets and fulfilled in Christ Jesus.
Public health duties of Old Testament priests
It was the duty of the priests of the Sinai Covenant to preside over the prescribed communal and individual voluntary sacrifices in the liturgical worship services. They also had other duties to perform for the community recorded in this section of the Book of Leviticus, including public health duties. They were to examine and make decisions on health issues that could become hazardous to the entire community. The procedure for suspicious skin conditions consisted of examination and isolation for seven days before the priest reached a final determination. The chief concern in these public health examinations was, of course, the dangerously contagious skin disease of leprosy. Today some medications can contain and control leprosy; however, in the ancient world, the condition condemned a person to a life of miserable isolation and a slow and disfiguring death.
It was a tragedy for a covenant member to be diagnosed with a contagious skin disease like leprosy. They were expelled from the community and forced to live alone or in groups with others in the same physically “unclean” state (Lk 17:12). They were required to show physical signs of their forced separation by shaving their heads, wearing torn garments, and covering their beards, all signs of death, penance, and mourning (Lev 10:6; Ez 24:17). They could not offer sacrifices in the desert Sanctuary, nor, in Jesus’ time, could they join the congregations of the local Synagogues or worship in the Jerusalem Temple because their unclean condition made them “unfit” for communal worship.
Naaman, the Gentile leper
In 2 Kings 5:8, the prophet Elijah invoked God’s divine name and healed a Gentile leper named Naaman. His act proved that the mercy of Israel’s God was not limited to the Israelites, and He was more powerful than any human contagion, whether it was leprosy or sin. The miracle also prefigured the healing and restoration of the Gentile peoples of the earth to fellowship with God. Elijah’s deed, under the power of the Holy Spirit, proved he was Yahweh’s holy prophet.
Jesus heals lepers
Jesus also healed lepers (today’s Gospel Reading). However, He is far more than a prophet like Elijah. Jesus is God visiting His people (Ez 34:11-12, 15-16) to heal them, restore them, and raise them above their ordinary lives to a holy, internal purity. He will raise them to holiness through the Sacrament of Baptism in His death and resurrection and make them fit for worship in the Kingdom of Heaven.
SOURCE: Michal E. Hunt at Agape Bible Study; used with permission.
In Leviticus, God invites Israel to live in close proximity to His holy presence. Which seems awesome, but it’s actually dangerous. This book explores how the sacrificial rituals and purity practices cleared the way for morally corrupt Israelites to become God’s covenant partners.
Fr. Mike Schmitz explains why Christians are called to follow some laws of the Old Testament and not others. Passing on the advice of Pope Benedict XVI, he distinguishes between universal laws, like the Ten Commandments and “case by case” laws, like those to be followed only in the kingdom of Israel and the temple.