When a man shall have in the skin of his flesh a rising, a scab, or bright spot…
I. In the first place, leprosy is undoubtedly selected to be a special type of sin, on account of ITS EXTREME LOATHSOMENESS. Beginning, indeed, as an insignificant spot, "a bright place," a mere scale on the skin, it goes on progressing ever from worse to worse, till at last limb drops from limb, and only the hideous mutilated remnant of what was once a man is left.
II. BUT IT WILL BE REJOINED BY SOME: SURELY IT WERE GROSS EXAGGERATION TO APPLY THIS HORRIBLE SYMBOLISM TO THE CASE OF MANY WHO, ALTHOUGH INDEED SINNERS, UNBELIEVERS ALSO IN CHRIST, YET CERTAINLY EXHIBIT TRULY LOVELY AND ATTRACTIVE CHARACTERS (see Mark 10:21). But this fact only makes leprosy the more fitting symbol of sin. For another characteristic is its INSIGNIFICANT and often imperceptible beginning. We are told that in the case of those who inherit the taint, it frequently remains quite dormant in early life, only gradually appearing in later years. How perfectly the type, in this respect, then, symbolises sin! No comfort can be rightly had from any complacent comparison of our own characters with those of many, perhaps professing more, who are much worse than we. No one who knew that from his parents he had inherited the leprous taint, or in whom the leprosy as yet appeared as only an insignificant bright spot, would comfort himself greatly by the observation that other lepers were much worse; and that he was, as yet, fair and goodly to look upon. Though the leprosy were in him but just begun, that would be enough to fill him with dismay and consternation. So should it be with regard to sin.
III. And it would so affect such a man the more surely, when he knew that the disease, however slight in its beginnings, was CERTAINLY PROGRESSIVE. This is one of the unfailing marks of the disease. And so with sin. No man can morally stand still. Sin may not develop in all with equal rapidity, but it does progress in every natural man, outwardly or inwardly, with equal certainty.
IV. It is another mark of leprosy, that sooner or later it AFFECTS THE WHOLE MAN; and in this, again, appears the sad fitness of the disease to stand as a symbol of sin. For sin is not a partial disorder, affecting only one class of faculties, or one part of our nature. It disorders the judgment; it obscures the moral perceptions; it either perverts the affections or unduly stimulates them in one direction while it deadens them in another; it hardens and quickens the will for evil, while it paralyses its power for the volition of that which is holy. And not only Scripture, but observation itself, teaches us that sin, in many cases, also affects the body of man, weakening its powers, and bringing in, by an inexorable law, pain, disease, death.
V. It is another remarkable feature of the disease that, as it progresses from bad to worse, the victim becomes MORE AND MORE INSENSIBLE. A recent writer says: "Though a mass of bodily corruption, at last unable to leave his bed, the leper seems happy and contented with his sad condition." Is anything more characteristic than this of the malady of sin? The sin which, when first committed, costs a keen pang, afterward, when frequently repeated, hurts not the conscience at all. Judgments and mercies, which in earlier life affected one with profound emotion, in later life leave the impenitent sinner as unmoved as they found him.
VI. Another element of the solemn fitness of the type is found in THE PERSISTENTLY HEREDITARY NATURE OF LEPROSY. It may indeed sometimes arise of itself, even as did sin in the case of certain of the holy angels, and with our first parents; but when once it is introduced, in the case of any person, the terrible infection descends with unfailing certainty to all his descendants; and while, by suitable hygiene, it is possible to alleviate its violence, and retard its development, it is not possible to escape the terrible inheritance. Is anything more uniformly characteristic of sin? The most cultivated and the most barbarous alike, come into the world so constituted that, quite antecedent to any act of free choice on their part, we know that it is not more certain that they will eat than that, when they begin to exercise freedom they will, each and every one, use their moral freedom wrongly — in a word will sin.
VII. And again, we find yet another analogy in the fact that, among the ancient Hebrews, the disease was regarded as INCURABLE BY HUMAN MEANS; and, notwithstanding occasional announcements in our day that a remedy has been discovered for the plague, this seems to be the verdict of the best authorities in medical science still. That in this respect leprosy perfectly represents the sorer malady of the soul, every one is witness. No possible effort of will or fixedness of determination has ever availed to free a man from sin. Neither is culture, whether intellectual or religious, of any more avail.
VIII. Last of all, this law teaches the supreme lesson, that as with the symbolic disease of the body, so with that of the soul — sin SHUTS OUT FROM GOD AND FROM THE FELLOWSHIP OF THE HOLY (see Revelation 21:27; Revelation 22:15).
(S. H. Kellogg, D. D.)
Parallel VersesKJV: 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:
WEB: "When a man shall have a rising in his body's skin, or a scab, or a bright spot, and it becomes in the skin of his body the plague of leprosy, then he shall be brought to Aaron the priest, or to one of his sons, the priests: