(Heb. tsara'ath, a "smiting," a "stroke," because the disease was regarded as a direct providential infliction). This name is from the Greek lepra, by which the Greek physicians designated the disease from its scaliness. We have the description of the disease, as well as the regulations connected with it, in Leviticus 13; 14; Numbers 12:10-15, etc. There were reckoned six different circumstances under which it might develop itself, (1) without any apparent cause (Leviticus 13:2-8); (2) its reappearance (9-17); (3) from an inflammation (18-28); (4) on the head or chin (29-37); (5) in white polished spots (38,39); (6) at the back or in the front of the head (40-44).
Lepers were required to live outside the camp or city (Numbers 5:1-4; 12:10-15, etc.). This disease was regarded as an awful punishment from the Lord (2 Kings 5:7; 2Chr 26:20). (See MIRIAM; GEHAZI; UZZIAH .)
This disease "begins with specks on the eyelids and on the palms, gradually spreading over the body, bleaching the hair white wherever they appear, crusting the affected parts with white scales, and causing terrible sores and swellings. From the skin the disease eats inward to the bones, rotting the whole body piecemeal." "In Christ's day no leper could live in a walled town, though he might in an open village. But wherever he was he was required to have his outer garment rent as a sign of deep grief, to go bareheaded, and to cover his beard with his mantle, as if in lamentation at his own virtual death. He had further to warn passers-by to keep away from him, by calling out, 'Unclean! unclean!' nor could he speak to any one, or receive or return a salutation, since in the East this involves an embrace."
That the disease was not contagious is evident from the regulations regarding it (Leviticus 13:12,13,36; 2Kings 5:1). Leprosy was "the outward and visible sign of the innermost spiritual corruption; a meet emblem in its small beginnings, its gradual spread, its internal disfigurement, its dissolution little by little of the whole body, of that which corrupts, degrades, and defiles man's inner nature, and renders him unmeet to enter the presence of a pure and holy God" (Maclear's Handbook O.T). Our Lord cured lepers (Matthew 8:2,3; Mark 1:40-42). This divine power so manifested illustrates his gracious dealings with men in curing the leprosy of the soul, the fatal taint of sin.