And it came to pass, when he was in a certain city,.... Or near it, hard by it, very probably Capernaum; Mat 8:1 Behold a man full of leprosy; a disease to which the Jews were very incident, and concerning which, many laws and rules are given, in Lev 13:1. The symptoms of the ancient "lepra", as laid down by Galen, Aretaeus, Pontanus, Aegineta, Cardan, Varanda, Gordon, Pharaeus, and others, are as follow. The patient's voice is hoarse, and comes rather through the nose than the mouth; the blood full of little white shining bodies, like groins of millet, which upon filtration, separate themselves from it; the serum is scabious, and destitute of its natural humidity, insomuch that salt applied to it, does not dissolve; it is so dry, that vinegar poured on it boils; and is so strongly bound together by little imperceptible threads, that calcined lead thrown into it swims. The face resembles a coal half extinct, unctuous, shining, and bloated, with frequent hard knobs, green at bottom, and white at top. The hair is short, stiff, and brinded; and not to be torn off, without bringing away, some of the rotten flesh, to which it adheres; if it grows again, either on the head or chin, it is always white: athwart the forehead, run large wrinkles or furrows, from one temple to the other; the eyes red and inflamed, and shine like those of a cat; the ears swollen and red, eaten with ulcers towards the bottom, and encompassed with little glands; the nose sunk, because of the rotting of the cartilage; the tongue dry and black, swollen, ulcerated, divided with furrows, and spotted with grains of white; the skin covered with ulcers, that die and revive on each other, or with white spots, or scales like a fish; it is rough and insensible, and when cut, instead of blood, yields a sanious liquor: it arrives in time to such a degree of insensibility, that the wrist, feet, or even the large tendon, may be pierced with a needle, without the patient's feeling any pain; at last the nose, fingers, toes, and even privy members, fall off entire; and by a death peculiar to each of them, anticipate that of the patient: it is added, that the body is so hot, that a fresh apple held in the hand an hour, will be dried and wrinkled, as if exposed to the sun for a week (e). Think now what a miserable deplorable object this man was, said to be full of it. Between this disease and sin, there is a very great likeness. This disease is a very filthy one, and of a defiling nature, by the ceremonial law; under which it was considered rather as an uncleanness, than as a disease; the person attended with it was pronounced unclean by the priest, and was put out of the camp, and out of the cities and walled towns, that he might not defile others; and was obliged to put a covering on his upper lip, and cry Unclean, Unclean, to acknowledge his pollution, and that others might shun him: all mankind, by reason of sin, are by the Lord pronounced filthy; and by their evil actions, not only defile themselves, but others; evil communications corrupt good manners; and when they are made sensible, freely own that their righteousnesses are as filthy rags, and they themselves as an unclean thing: it is a very nauseous and loathsome disease, as is sin; it is abominable to God, and renders men abominable in his sight; it causes the sinner himself, when convinced of it, to loath and abhor himself: David calls his sin a loathsome disease,Psa 38:7 it is of a spreading nature: this was a sign of it, if it did not spread, it was only a, scab; if it spread, it was a leprosy, Lev 13:5. Sin has spread itself over all mankind, and over all the powers and faculties of the soul, and members of the body; there is no place free of it: and as the leprosy is of consuming nature, it eats and wastes the flesh, see Num 12:10 2Ki 5:10 so sin eats like a canker, and brings ruin and destruction upon men, both soul and body. This disease was incurable by medicine; persons that had it were never sent to a physician, but to a priest; and what he did was only this, he looked upon it, and if it was a clear case, he declared the person unclean; and if it was doubtful, shut him up for seven days, and then inspected him again; and after all he could not cure him; this was the work of God, 2Ki 5:7. All which shows the nature and use of the law, which shuts men up, concludes them under sin, and by which they have knowledge of it, but no healing: the law heals none, it is the killing letter, the ministration of condemnation and death; Christ only, by his blood and stripes, heals the disease of sin, and cleanses from it. There is one thing in the law of the leprosy very surprising, and that is, that if there was any quick raw flesh, or any sound flesh in the place where the leprosy was, the man was pronounced unclean; but if the leprosy covered his skin, and all his flesh, then he was pronounced clean: this intimates, that he that thinks he has some good thing in him, and fancies himself sound and well, and trusts to his own works of righteousness, he is not justified in the sight of God; but if a man acknowledges that there is no soundness in his flesh, that in him, that is, in his flesh, dwells no good thing, but that his salvation is alone, by the grace and mercy of God, such a man is justified by faith in Christ Jesus: the parable of the Pharisee and publican will illustrate this, Luk 18:10. "Who, seeing Jesus, fell on his face, and besought him, saying, Lord, if thou wilt, thou canst make me clean"; See Gill on Mat 8:2. Christ could cure lepers, and did; and which was a proof of his Messiahship, and is given among the signs of it, to John's disciples,Mat 11:5 and as there is a likeness between the leprosy and sin, so between the cleansing of a leper under the law, and the healing of a sinner by Christ: for the cleansing of a leper, two birds were to be taken clean and alive, which were both typical of Christ, and pointed at the meekness of his human nature, his innocence, harmlessness, and purity, and that he had a life to lay down; one of these was to be killed, in an earthen vessel over running water, showing that Christ must be killed, his blood must be shed for the cleansing of leprous sinners; the earthen vessel denoted his human nature, his flesh, in which he was put to death; and the running water signified the purifying nature of his blood, and the continued virtue of it, to cleanse from all sin; and the blood and the water being mixed together, may put us in mind of the blood and water which flowed from the side of Christ, when pierced with the spear; which was an emblem of our justification and sanctification being both from him, on account of which, he is said to come both by water and by blood, 1Jo 5:6. The other bird, after it was dipped with the cedar wood, scarlet and hyssop in the blood of the slain bird, was let go alive; which typified the resurrection of Christ, who was put to death in the flesh, and quickened in the Spirit; and who rose again, for the justification of his people from all sin: the cedar wood, scarlet, and hyssop, which were used in the cleansing of the leper, may either relate to the sufferings, and death, and blood of Christ; the scarlet wool may denote the bloody sufferings of Christ, through which he was red in his apparel; the cedar wood may signify the incorruptibleness and preciousness of the blood of Christ, and the hyssop the purging virtue of it; or else these three may have regard to the three principal graces of the Spirit of God, which have to do with, and are in influenced by the sin cleansing blood of Christ: the cedar wood may signify the incorruptible and precious grace of faith; the green hyssop, the lively grace of hope; and the scarlet, the flaming grace of love, when it is in its full exercise: or else the grace of faith, by which dealing with the blood of Christ, the heart is purified, is only meant; signified by cedar wood, for its permanency; by scarlet, for its concern with the crimson blood of Christ; by which sins, though as scarlet, are made white as wool; and by hyssop, for its being an humble and lowly grace: now the cedar stick, with the scarlet wool, and bunch of hyssop bound unto it, was used to sprinkle the blood of the bird upon the leper seven times, when he was pronounced clean; and expresses the instrumentality of faith, in the application of the blood of Christ for cleansing: though after this, the leper was to shave off all his hair, and wash himself and clothes in water; suggesting to us, that holiness of life and conversation which should follow, upon cleansing through faith in the blood of Christ.
(e) Chambers's Cyclopaedia in the word "Leprosy"