What Is leprosy and what were its causes?

Leviticus 14:3, Plague of leprosy. Some of the English translations of this scripture verse use the word leprosy for the skin disease described in these passages. This is a mistranslation. A better translation would be infectious skin disease.


The Jewish sages teach that the skin disease described here is a supernaturally caused ailment that falls only on Israelites who are actually living in the land of Israel. They also teach that this is YHVH’s way of identifying the evil sins of gossip and slander (along with haughtiness, selfishness and jealousy) before this sin spreads throughout the land engulfing it like a forest fire from hell. (Read James 3:5–6!) This may explain why Miriam while wandering in the wilderness outside of Israel contracted this skin disease.

The disease would cause the sinner’s face to resemble a red flag for all to see. An afflicted person would be forced to live outside the camp until repentance along with atonement and purification rituals had occurred, and all this occurred under the watchful eye of a priest.

As you read this, you may be wiping your brow with a sigh of relief thankful that you didn’t live in ancient Israel. Suppose you did, or suppose YHVH suddenly imposed these consequences for the sin of the evil tongue (Heb. lashon hara) upon the country where you live. How would it affect you, your family, what politicians and lawyers say, and how the news media reports the “news”?

Is it possible for us as YHVH’s ambassadors for the spiritual nation of Israel and his eternal kingdom—as a royal priesthood and a kingdom of priests (Exod 19:6; 1 Peter 2:9)—to begin acting more righteously with our mouths now as if every evil word we spoke would result in our faces lighting up like a neon sign?

Leviticus 14:1–6, The atonement and purification rituals for the sin of gossip and slander are very interesting. The Jewish sages teach that cedar wood was chosen because the cedar tree grows tall, imposing and wide symbolizing haughtiness. The wood used in the ritual was about the size of a baseball bat (The ArtScroll Tanach Series Vayikra, p. 221). Hyssop may actually be thyme or oregano. Since antiquity, thyme has been known for its cleansing and healing properties. It is an antibiotic and antiseptic and is beneficial against infectious diseases and for healing wounds. Oregano, on the other hand, is a strong antiseptic, antitoxic and antiviral herb.

Why do you think YHVH chose these herbs to be part of the cleansing process for the sinner who was guilty of murdering others with his tongue?

The third ingredient in the cleansing process was a crimson thread. The Jewish sages teach that this was wool dyed with a pigment made from a lowly creature (either an insect or a snail, Ibid.). Why wool and why red? How does this relate to sin? (See Isa 1:18.) The wood, “hyssop” and the crimson wool were all tied together to symbolize the fact that the offending party had fallen from a place of pride against his neighbor when he spoke evil of him, and ended up finding himself humiliated and finally ostracized from the camp leaving him feeling very lowly like a snail or insect. Together, these elements symbolized the penitent’s newfound humility (Ibid.).

Have you ever gossiped against or slandered someone only to be convicted by your conscience and the Spirit of Elohim? How did it feel? Did you take the next step and repent to the person you spoke evil against? How did you feel then? Like a snail?!

The last components to be used in the cleansing ceremony were two clean birds. What does this signify? Remember, as Renewed Covenant believers on which side of the cross we are now living. We are looking backwards two thousand years. To whom did everything in the ancient sacrificial system look forward prophetically? Why was one bird killed and one allowed to fly away? Let’s not forget that there were two aspects of Yeshua’s ministry at the cross: his death and burial, and then his resurrection. His death and burial relates to our being redeemed of our sins, while his resurrection pictures new spiritual (eternal) life in Yeshua.

Leviticus 14:4–32, Read this scripture passage and see how many clues you can find that point to Yeshua. We’ll give you hints along the way by providing you with the scriptures verses to look up that will give you the answers. The purpose of this exercise is to show you that all the ceremonies and rituals that were part of the sacrificial system and that all prophetically pointed to Yeshua the Messiah, who fulfilled them all. This means that if we place our trusting faith in him, we no longer have to do the laborious and involved rituals that our ancient forefathers had to do in order to atone for their sins—we simply have to repent and believe in, love, follow and obey Yeshua and his word.

Now let’s look at the ritual for cleansing a metzora (one with a skin disease—a picture of our sinfulness) who had tzaraas (an infectious skin disease caused by sin).

  • Verses 4–7, two birds: One bird (likely a dove or pigeon) was killed in a clay pot over running water. The other bird along with the cedar wood, scarlet cloth and hyssop were dipped into the clay pot containing the blood from the killed bird and the running water. The water blood mixture was then sprinkled on the diseased person (metzora) who was being purified, and the living bird was let loose and allowed to fly away. There is a lot going on here, but it all prophetically pointed to Yeshua’s death, burial and resurrection. Before deciphering this ritual out, perhaps it would help to understand the spiritual meaning of the wood, scarlet and hyssop, which we will explain next.
  • Verse 4, cedar wood: What was Yeshua crucified on? (Read John 19:17–18; Acts 5:30.)
  • Verse 4, scarlet: Scarlet is the color of blood and in the Bible pictures blood. What did Yeshua’s blood do for our sins? (Read Isa 1:18; Rev 7:14.)
  • Verse 4, hyssop: Hyssop (in reality, probably thyme or oregano) represented an essential oil that was known for its healing, cleansing and disease-killing properties. How would this point to Yeshua’s death on the cross? (Read Exod 12:22; Ps 51:7; John 19:29.)
  • Verses 7–8, The metzora was sprinkled with the water and blood mixture, he then bathed himself and washed his clothes. What is this a picture of in the redeemed believer’s life? (Read Acts 2:38; Rom 6:3–6.)
  • Verses 10–32, Three yearling lambs were offered for a trespass, sin and burnt offering. How does this point to Yeshua? (Read John 1:29, 36; Rev 13:8; 1 Pet 1:19.)

Now let’s take another look at verses 4–7 and the two birds to see how they pointed to Yeshua. The one bird being sacrificed and his blood being sprinkled as part of the cleansing process for the sinner is an obvious picture of what? But what about the bird that was let loose? What does this picture? Imagine letting a live bird loose out of your hands. What would he immediately do? Fly up and away, right? If the birds represent Yeshua, and the killed bird represents his death on the cross, then what does the live bird flying away represent? (Read Acts 3:15; 4:10; 1 Pet 1:3.)

What does the blood of the bird in verse 6 represent? How does it point to Yeshua? (Read Lev 17:11; Eph 1:7; Col 1:14; 1 Pet 1:18–19; 1 John 1:7; Rev 7:14).

What does the clay pot in verse 5 represent? How does this point to Yeshua? (Read Gen 2:7; 2 Cor 4:7; 5:1.)

What does the running or living water in verse 5 represent? (Read Eph 5:26.) Who is the Word of Elohim? (Read John 1:1–14.) Who is the sources of that living water? (Read John 4:10–14; 7:37–39.)

So now let’s connect the dots to form the complete picture. We have before us a picture of a clay pot filled with living water, into which is poured blood from a sacrificed bird. Into all that is dipped hyssop, a piece of wood and some scarlet cloth. This is a perfect picture of Yeshua’s death on the cross and how that death atoned for our sins. But though Yeshua died on the cross, he did not stay dead, but resurrected out of the grave three days later and returned to his Father in heaven. This is pictured by the bird that was let loose to fly away.

Although this was such a simple ceremony, described in a few short verses in Leviticus 14, yet when you look carefully at it, do you notice how rich in meaning it is? Thankfully, we have the Scriptures in the Testimony of Yeshua to help us to understand the meaning of this otherwise mysterious cleansing ritual!


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