Jastrow: 'Leprosy' Laws; Lev. 13-14

                        Jewish Quarterly Review (1913-14) 357-418.

                  Public Domain.  Digitally prepared by Ted Hildebrandt (2004)







                THE SO-CALLED ‘LEPROSY’ LAWS






                     By MORRIS JASTROW, University of Pennsylvania.





            THE composite character of the two chapters--Leviticus

13 and 14--comprising the laws and regulations for the

diagnosis and treatment of various skin diseases, and of

suspicious spots appearing in garments and houses, together

with the purification rites, has long been recognized.1 Indeed,

the mere enumeration of the variety of subjects treated

of in these two chapters, which form a little code by

themselves, furnishes a presumption in favour of the view

that the chapters represent a gradual growth. A closer

study of the two chapters not only confirms this pre-

sumption, but also shows that the growth betrays an

even more complicated process than is the case in other

little groups of laws and regulations, such as Lev. 1-5.

We not only find that the two chapters may be subdivided

into numerous smaller sections, each representing a supple-

ment added to the basic stock of the little code, but that

within these sections, glosses, comments, and illustrations

are introduced which point to a treatment of the older

Hebrew codes, not unlike that accorded to the later Code of


            1 See especially Baentsch's remarks on p.364 of his Kommentar zu den

Buchern Exodus und Leviticus





Judaism, known as the Mishnah, and which by the addition

of a steadily-growing commentary and continuous elabora-

tion, known as the Gemara, grew into the Talmud. In

other words, we can distinguish in Leviticus 13 and 14   

(as in other groups within the Priestly Code) elements

which correspond to the division between Mishnah and

Gemara in the great compilation of Rabbinical Judaism,

and we can also trace in the growth of the two chapters

the same process which produced the Gemara as a super-

structure to the Mishnah. The intrinsic importance of the

two chapters, and the frequency with which they have

been treated because of their medical interest,2 justify

the endeavour to carry the analysis by a renewed study    

somewhat further than has yet been done, particularly

as this analysis is a conditio sine qua non for an under-

standing of the medical aspects of the chapters. While

it is not my purpose to discuss in detail these medical

aspects, I shall touch upon them at the close of this article,

chiefly with a view of showing the manner in which they

should be considered, and also to furnish the reasons for

the conviction that I have gained that physicians who

have occupied themselves with these two chapters have

approached them from a wrong starting-point, and hence

have reached conclusions which, are correspondingly

erroneous. To put it bluntly, before discussing the

fundamental question whether sara’at is ‘leprosy’ or not,

one must settle which verses of the two chapters deal

with sara’at.


            2 See the literature is Baentsch'a Kommentar, p. 364, and in Munch's

Die Zara'ath der Hebr. Bibel, to which further additions may be made, such

as Jay F. Schamberg's article on ‘The Nature of the Leprosy of the Bible’,

Phila. Polyclinic. VII (1898), Nov. 19-26, or Biblical World. March. 1899;

pp. 162-9. See further, note 144.


THE SO-CALLED 'LEPROSY' LAWS--JASTROW                      359



            In a formal--not a documentary--analysis of the two

chapters, we may distinguish--leaving aside headings and

subscripts--the following:3

            (1) 13.2-46, diagnosis and treatment of various symptoms

of pathological phenomena on the skin: (a) txeW; (se’et),

(b) tHaPasa (sappahat), (c) tr,h,Ba (baheret), (d) tfaracA (sara’at),

(e) NyHiw; (sehin), (f) hvAk;mi (mikwah), g) qt,n, (netek), (k) qhaBo

(bohak), (i) Hareqe (kere'ah), (h) HaBeGi (gibbea’ah).

(2) 13.47-59, sara’at in garments.

(3) 14.1-31, purification ritual at the time when the

healing process of sara’at on persons was complete.

(4). 14.32-47, diagnosis and treatment of sara’at ap-

pearing in houses.

(5) 14. 48-53, purification ritual for the case of sara’at

in houses.

It appears, then, that suspicious marks or spots--to use

the vaguest and most indefinite kind of terms--may appear

on persons, garments (in stuffs), and in houses, and that

in connexion with each of these categories the diagnosis,

treatment, and purification ritual are set forth. Throughout

the two chapters, the term (nega’ sara'at) is constantly

introduced, and by the side of this fuller term two abbre-

viated expressions sara’at and nega’.4


3 In order to make the results of the investigation accessible to others

than specialists in the Old Testament. I transliterate most of the Hebrew

terms introduced.

4 nega’ sara’at, Lev. 13.2, 3, 9, 20,  25, 27, 47, 49, 59;  14.3, 34, 54;

Lev. 13.3, 4, 5,  6, 7, 12, 13, 17, 22, 29, 30, 31, 42, 43, 44, 45, 46, 50, 51, 52,

53, 54-58;  14. 35, 36, 37, 39, 40, 43, 48; sara’at, Lev. 13.8, 11, 12, 13,

15, 25, 30, 42, 43, 51, 52; 14.7, 44, 55, 57.  The synonymity of the three

expressions. is shown by the Greek text, which occasionally has sara’at,

e. g. 13-20, where the Hebrew has nega’ sara’at, or adds sara’at, e. g. 13.29,

where the Hebrew has merely nega’. The word nega’ (‘mark' or ‘spot’)



Taking up the first section, one is struck by the large

number of medical terms introduced, supplementary to

sara’at. In connexion with each term nega’ is used, which

is thus shown to be a general term for any kind of a disease

of he skin, indicated by a mark or marks. Clearly these

supplementary terms represent attempts to differentiate

been pathological phenomena which in an earlier, less

scientific age were either grouped under sara'at or under

the general designation of 'marks' (nega'im). A closer

inspection of the second verse of the thirteenth chapter 

furnishes the safe starting-point for a correct analysis.

The verse reads as follows: ‘If a man has on the skin of

his flesh a swelling (se’et),5 growth (sappahat),6 or a bright

spot (baheret),7 and it becomes on the skin of his flesh

a nega’ sara’at, he is brought to Aaron the priest, or to

one of his sons, the priests.’ The name Aaron occurs in

this verse only. Throughout the two chapters merely 'the

priest' is used. We may, therefore, cut out ‘Aaron’ as

well as the phrase ‘or one of his sons the priests’ as, com-

ments--corresponding to our foot-notes to explain what

is meant by the term ‘the priests’.  In the second place,

the repetition of ‘on the skin of his flesh’ is open to


has the general force of a ‘plague’ or a ‘disease’, from the stem naga'

‘to strike down’. The etymology of sara'at is somewhat obscure, though

indications point likewise to the meaning 'strike' for the underlying stem

whit would make sara'at a general term like nega', and not a specific


5 se’et from nasa', 'to raise', clearly indicates a rising on the skin, i. e. a

swelling of some kind.

6 sappahat, of which wispahat (vers. 6, 7, 8 is a. synonym, from sapah

'to add, supplement', refers to something added to the skin, i. e. a growth.

7 baheret, from bahar, ‘to shine’, is an inflamed bit of skin, i. e. a shining

spot (to use an indefinite term), intended to describe the prominent feature

of an inflammation.



suspicion, which is reinforced by the awkward construction

lenega' sara’at, i. e. 'to a nega’ sara’at'.  A glance at the

various commentators will show us the difficulties involved

in getting a satisfactory meaning.8  If now we remove

the three terms 'swelling', 'growth', and 'bright spot',

and assume that the verse in its original form spoke of

the sara'at only, the construction becomes perfectly simple,

to wit: 'If a man has on the skin of his flesh a sara'at

mark (i. e. nega' sara'at), and he is brought to the priest.

The proof of the correctness of this view is furnished by

the third verse, which reads: 'And the priest sees the mark

(nega') on the skin of his flesh, and the hair at the mark has

turned white, and the mark (nega') appears deeper than   

the skin of his flesh, then it is a sara'at mark, and9 he shall        

declare him unclean.' Here, then, we have the beginning

of the chapter in its original form a diagnosis of what

constitutes sara'at, and a simple means of determining

whether a man has sara'at or not. It is just the kind of

diagnosis that we may expect in an age in which medical

knowledge is based on observation merely.

With these two verses as a starting-point, we can proceed

without much difficulty to pick out other verses which

belong to the older stratum of the chapter. Verses 9-13


8 To translate as Strack, Baentsch, and others, 'and it develops in the

skin of his flesh to a nega' sara'at', meets with a fatal objection through

the circumsance that it is a nega' sara’at only after the priest has pronounced

it as such, as indicated in ver. 3.

9 The text adds, 'and the priest shall see it', which is superfluous, since

the words 'and the priest sees' stand at the beginning of the verse. Either

the repetition is the addition of some pedantic scribe who wanted to make

it perfectly clear that the words 'he shall declare him unclean' refer to

the priests declaration, or it is a gloss that has slipped into the wrong




furrnish further details regarding the sara'at. They read,

exclusive of glosses and comments, as follows:

'If there is a sara'at mark on a man, and he is brought

to the priest: and the priest sees that there is a white 

swelling (seen on the skin that has turned the hair white,10

is a chronic11 sara’at in the skin of his flesh, and the

priest shall declare him unclean.12  But if the sara’at

steadily spreads in the skin until the sara’at covers the

entire skin,13 and the priest sees that the sara'at covers

the entire flesh,14 [then the priest] shall declare the mark



10 The text adds, anticipating the diagnosis in the next secaon (14-17),

‘and there is raw flesh (basar hay) in the swelling'. As a synonym to

basar hay, another version or a commentator used the term (hyaH;mi mihyah)

‘a raw spot'. A later scribe embodied the synonym in the text which thus

became redundant.

11 tn,w,On (nosenet, literally 'of old standing', which I believe conveys

the idea that we attach to 'chronic’. The ordinary rendering 'recurrent'

misses the nuance and is without warrant.

12 Additions . 1) 'without shutting him in', harking back to the ‘shutting

in’ as a test in the case of baheret (vers. 4-5; (a) 'for he is unclean',

xUh xmeFA yKi, a second comment to explain why he is not shut in. These

brief comments are just in the style of the Gemara. If amplified, vers. 10-11

cold easily be put in the form of a Mishnah and a Gemara as follows;

The law is that if the priest sees that a white swelling on the skin has

turned the hair white, it is a chronic sara'at. Now since in the case of

a ‘white shining spot’ it is said (Lev. 13. 4) that the victim is shut in for

seven days, you might suppose that in the case of a 'white swelling' this

should also be done. It is not required. Why not? Because a 'white

selling' of itself makes him unclean.

13 Two comments are added: (1) namely, 'the mark (extends) from his

head to his feet'; (2) 'according to the complete inspection of the priest',

i.e. it is only upon the inspection of the priest, not upon the report of the

victim or of any other person, that the diagnosis of the whole body being

covered with the we can be established.

14 Instead of, all his flesh' (OrWAB;-lKA) the Greek version has ‘all his skin’.

15 Two glosses: (1) ‘all turned white’ to the word ‘flesh’; (2) 'he is

clean';--the final decision. This decision, 'he is clean' or ‘he is unclean',

THE SO-CALLED ‘LEPROSY’ LAWS—JASTROW                   363


It is clear that we have here (vers. 9-11) a second

diagnosis involving, just as the first, the determination of

the question whether the suspicious mark is a genuine

sara'at or not; and since in the original form of the

diagnosis the decisive indication is, as in the first diagnosis,

the change of colour in the hair to white, the two cases

would be identical but for the addition in the second case

of the symptom of a 'white swelling’.  This 'white swelling',

it would seem, is the basis for the decision that it is a case

of chronic sara'at’, as against a simple form of sara'at in

the first diagnosis, where we have the contrast to the

'swelling' on the mark expressed as 'deeper than the skin',

i. e. high-relief in one case and bas-relief in the other.

Placing the two decisions side by side, we can follow the

process which gradually led to tie present complicated

form of the two chapters. The introduction of the 'swelling'

as a new factor16 suggested a consideration of further

symptoms appearing in the skin, and accordingly the first

diagnosis or decision was amplified (ver. 2) by the addition

of (a) a sappahat (tHaPasa), i. e. 'growth'; (b) baheret, i. e.

‘bright spot’; and this naturally leads in turn (vers. 4, 5)

to a diagnosis of baheret and (vers.. 6-8) of what consti-

tutes a mispahat, involving in both cases the determination

after a test or after a double test whether it may develop

into a genuine sara'at or is a harmless manifestation.

            To the second decision, however, there is also added

(vers. 12, 13) a diagnosis of a case in which the mark


is frequently added in Lev. 13. and apparently as a quick means for reference

on the part of the priests, who would naturally consult the legal compila-

tions when cases were brought before them.

16 The 'swelling' se’it in ver. 2 thus appears only upon the second




suspected of being sara'at turns out to be harmless or, to

use the technical language of the decision, 'it is clean'.

The diagnosis rests manifestly again upon pure empiricism:

a mark spreading over the entire body is an innocent

rash, or at all events 'clean'.

We thus have as a part of the original form of the

sara'at Torah three decisions: (a) 'unclean', i. e. genuine

sara'at, in case the hair at the mark turns white and 'the    

mark is deeper than the skin; (b) ‘unclean' and 'chronic',

in case the hair turns white and there is a white swelling,

i. e. the mark is higher than the skin ; (c) 'clean', if the

mark spreads over the whole body. Verses 14-17, detailing

the case in which 'raw flesh' appears on the skin, evidently

do of belong to the original part of the sara’at Torah17

but represent an addition of the same nature as vers. 24,

due to a further question raised in the course of the

discussion on the three original ordinances, to wit, how 

about the case when the flesh becomes raw at the suspicious

spot?  The 'Gemara' to the original decisions answers.

(vers. 14, 15) that the moment raw flesh appears the man 

is unclean, but that as in the other cases the decision must

be rendered by a priest and after an inspection.18  Just as

in the Talmud one question leads to the other, so in the

implied discussion on the Biblical laws together with the

decisions by the priests or by the later redactors of early

codes, the situation is further complicated by the question:

How about the case in which the raw flesh disappears and


17 See above, note to, where it is suggested that the term ‘raw flesh’

and is synonym mihyah, at the end of ver. 10, are additions due to the com-

bination of the original decisions with the superimposed ones, i. e. of a

Mishnah with a Gemara.

18 The words (ver. 15) 'the raw flesh is unclean' represent a further

ampliying gloss.



the spot19 becomes white? The answer is ‘clean’ upon the

inspection and the declaration of the priest.

The balance of the chapter, with the exception of

vers. 45, 46, represents further additions to the original

Torah verses 18-39 taking up various skin troubles sug-

gested by the consideration of the sara’at. Within this

supplement, verses 18-23 take up boils, verses 24-28 burns,

raw flesh, bright marks, &c., verses 29-37 marks on the

head or beard (netek), verses 38-9 very white marks (bohak),

and 40-44 baldness of the head and the dropping off of the

hairs of the eyebrows accompanied by the appearance of

suspicious marks. With ver. 47 an entirely new subject--

marks on garments or stuffs--is introduced, which is dis-

cussed up to the end of the chapter. These references,

therefore, are entirely independent sections, so that the

Mishnah and Gemara for sara’at on the skin of a man

or of a woman ends with ver. 44.  The last two verses

of this section (45-6) represent, I venture to think, a part

again of the original sara’at Torah. They read as follows

‘And the one afflicted with sara’at20 who has a mark,

his garment shall be torn and his hair shall grow wild,21

and he shall cover the moustache22 and cry "unclean,

unclean". As long as he has the spot he shall be unclean;23  

outside of the camp shall be his dvelling.'24


19 The word ha-nega’ must be supplied after j`Pah;n, in ver. 16, just as it

is found in ver. 17.

20 sarua’ (faUrcA), i. e. the one who has sara'at of which mesora’ ( frAcom;),

the pu'al participle (Lev. 14. 3) is a synonym, and the more common term

occurring fifteen times as against five occurrences of sarua'.

21 The tearing of the garments (srePA) and he growth of the hair (fraPA) are

signs of mourning, hence forbidden to priest (Lev. 10. 6; 21. 10).

22 MPAWA (sapham) ‘the lip beard’, correctly rendered by the Greek version

as mi<stac in 2 Sam. 19. 25.

23 The text has a superfluous 'he is unclean’, perhaps a misplaced gloss.

24 The words 'he shall dwell apart' represent again an addition with



The last verse of the chapter contains the subscript,

and it is probable that the first part of the verse, ‘This is

the law of the sara’at mark', belonged to the original form

of the section, and was subsequently amplified into the

subscript for the section on marks on garments. Be this 

as it may, we have at the beginning of the fourteenth

chapter the second part of the original Torah, dealing with

the purification or dismissal of the one whose mark has 

healed. This part, covering 14. 2-8a, reads:

‘This the law of the one who has had sara'at, on

the day of his purification25 when the priest has none to

(the place) outside of the camp, and has seen that the

sara'at mark of the sarua’ is healed.26 Then the priest

shall order two living birds27 to be taken for the one to be

purified, [and cedar wood and scarlet thread and hyssop;]

and the priest shall order the one bird to be killed over


a view of adapting the decision to later social conditions when people dwelt

in cities and not in camps. The addition is an answer to the question put

in the style of the Gemara: 'How about the case of a sarua' who lives in

a city?’  The general principle is in reply enunciated that the stricken

individual must ‘dwell apart’, away from the habitations of his fellows.

In similar fashion the Greek text to Lev. 14. 8, by changing outside of

his tent to 'outside of his house', adapts the older law to later conditions.

See below, p. 375, note 45.

25 The addition ' and he shall be brought unto the priest' is again added

as a Gemara to adapt the law to the later conditions when the diseased

person is merely isolated, and naturally must be brought to the priest. In

the earlier social stage, however, when the diseased dwells outside of the

camp, the priest goes to the place outside of the camp where the sarua'

dwells, and where the purification ritual is carried out, be it noted not in

a sanctuary.

            26 The more natural construction would be:  -fgn,mi faUrcAha xPAr;ni hn.ehiv;

tfaracAha instead of faUrcAha-Nmi tfaracAha-fga,n, xPAr;ni hn.ehiv;.

27 Additions: (a) ‘clean’, and (b) then 'cedar wood, scarlet thread, and




an earthen pot28 at running water;29 and the living bird

he shall dip into the blood of the slaughtered bird,30 and

he shall sprinkle over the one to be purified seven times

and declare him clean, and send off the living bird into

the open.31  And the one purified shall wash his garments,

and shave all his hair, and wash in water, and after that

come to the camp.'

Simple and primitive in character as this ritual appears

to be, it is possible by a further analysis to detect several

component elements pointing to the combination in the

ritual itself of features that do not necessarily belong

together. In the first place, the introduction of 'the cedar


28 i. e. slaughtered so that the blood drops into an earthen pot.

29 MyyiHa Myima ‘living water', which I take here in the sense of ‘running

water'. i.e. at a stream, just as in the Babylonian-Assyrian purification

ritual water from streams was used; e.g. Maklu Series, ed. Knudtzon,

Tablet VII. 116, 'pure water of the deep which springs up in Eridu', or

Cun. Texts, XVII, Pl. 38, 30-34, 'take an earthen vessel which has come

from a large kiln, at the meeting of the streams draw water', &c. Cf. also

Haupt, Sumer.-Akkad. Keilsthrift, p. 9o, III, 3-4, 'pure water, clear water,

sparkling water', all in connexion with incantation and purification rituals.

Langdon Transactions of the Third International Congress for the Hist. of

Religious. I, 249) has called attention to the fact that what he calls ‘services

for private devotion’ were performed frequently by the banks of a river.

The expression 'living water' was also extended to waters flowing into

a well Gen. 26. 19; Jer. 2. 13; 17.13, but in the ritual I believe that

‘running water’ is always intended; so, e.g., Num. 19. 17. The use of

MyyiHa Myima in Lev. 15. 13 is inaccurate, and the Greek (Codd. BA fin, omits

Myy.iHa reading 'he shall wash his body in water', as throughout the chapter

verses 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 16, 21, 27, and elsewhere.

30 The awkward construction of the first half of verse 6, 'the living bird

he shall take it', and its incongruity with the second half of the verse betray

attempts at combination and re-editing. I believe that the verse originally

read: hmAUHw;.ha rOPci.ha MdaB; hyAHaha rOPciha-tx, lbamAv;, to which an amplifying

gloss added Myy.iHaha Myim.aha lfa.

31 Literally. 'over the face of the field', in the sense of allowing it to fly




wood, scarlet thread, and hyssop' has no apparent con-

nexion with the ritual of the two birds. Outside of our

passage we encounter these three objects together, (a) in

the ritual for 'atoning' the house that has been affected

by marks (Lev. 14. 49-53), which ritual is bodily taken

over from our passage, and, therefore, has no independent

significance, and (b) in the ceremony of the red heifer

(Num. 19. 6) where ‘the cedar wood, scarlet thread, and

hyssop’ are thrown into the ‘burning heap of the heifer’--

not even used for sprinkling, as is implied in the sara’at

ritual.  The objects do not in fact seem to serve any

particular purpose, and the ritual in all three cases is

complete without them. The use of the hyssop alone

(Num. 19. 14) in the case of the purification of the house

and contents or furnishings belonging to some one who has

become unclean through contact with a corpse or a grave,

in which case the hyssop is dipped into water by 'a clean

man', and sprinkled over the tent, the furniture and the

inmates, shows that the main idea connected with hyssop

is cleansing.32  The cedar wood in the sara'at and in the

‘red heifer’ ritual appears to be a subsequent addition,

both hyssop and cedar wood suggesting by their fragrance

purification, like the burning of frankincense which in

the case of minhah or cereal offering, is entirely burnt on

the altar.33 The scarlet thread, presumably for tying

the mass together, introduces a further symbolism by

nature of the red colour,34 into which, however, we need


32 Note also the use of hyssop in Exod. 12. 22, where the ‘purification’

idea passes over into that of ‘protection’.

33 e. g. Lev. 2. 2, whereas of the meal and oil, and subsequently of the

wine, only a handful is offered, while the rest is given to the priest.

34 Cf. Isa. 1. 18, 'if your sins be red as scarlet', &c., suggested by

a Jewish commentator in the Mikraot Gedolot.


THE SO-CALLED 'LEPROSY' LAWS--JASTROW                      369


not enter here. The hyssop35 and cedar wood being thus

associated with a cleansing process of a distinctive character,

whereas the use to which the two birds are put is purely

symbolical, the thought naturally suggests itself that hyssop

and cedar wood were employed in the case of the person

afflicted to afford him bodily relief--in other words, they

formed part of the medical treatment in an early cultural

stage, and on this account were combined with a ceremony

intended to transfer the disease from the individual to an

animal--in this instance a 'scape-bird'. That manifestly

is the purpose to be served by the bird, to be sent off at

large carrying with it the sara’at.  We thus have two

distinct ideas introduced into the purification ritual in its

present form:  (a) a quasi-curative ceremony, and (b) a

transfer of the disease. This combination further suggests

that this part of the ritual itself was originally intended

actually to free the afflicted from the sara’at, and by the

conservative force of established custom was retained as an

ingredient of a later 'atoning'36  ritual through the blood

of a sacrificial animal. This double intent is confirmed

by the usage of rheFa.m.ila in Lev. 14. 4, and 7 for 'the one

to be cleansed',37 whereas in ver. 8 it is 'the one who has

been purified'. We thus obtain three distinct ceremonies

(a) a primitive well-known method of exorcising disease

by transferring it to an animal, for which we have so many 

instructive parallels among Babylonians38  and other peoples,


35 Note also Ps. 51. 9. ‘purge me with hyssop’.

36 Note that the term xF.eHal;, i. e. 'to remove the sin', is used in

Lev. 14. 49, 52, as well as in the passage in Ps. 51. 9, the latter evidently

based on the ritual.

37 The expression OtrAhImi MOyB; is, therefore, to be rendered as 'the day

on which he is to be purified'.

38 See Cun.. Texts, XVII, Pl. 10, 73, 1-1; 11, 85, and the latest discussion.



(b) a primitive remedial device, which consisted perhaps in

rubbing the diseased person with hyssop, or in his inhaling

the fragrance of hyssop; to hyssop, cedar wood was sub-

sequently added, and the scarlet thread as a symbol of

the sin or uncleanness; (c) an atoning ceremony by means

of the 'blood' of a sacrificial animal with which the diseased

individual was sprinkled.39  By combining the three rites

we obtain: (a) two birds; (b) the dipping of the cedar

wood, hyssop; and scarlet thread, as well as the dipping of

the live bird into the blood of the one to be killed; (c) the

sprinkling of the one to be declared clean with the blood--

presumably through the cedar wood and hyssop tied

together with the scarlet thread, though this is not specifi-

cal stated; (d) the dismissal of the live bird. The

awkward construction of ver. 6, to which attention was

called above, as well as the meaningless ceremony of dipping

the live bird into the blood of the killed one, clearly shows

that the introduction of the second bird is an after-thought.

Once introduced, however, some means had to be found

of connecting it with the first bird, and accordingly it was

provided that the one bird should be dipped into the blood

of the slaughtered one, and similarly the hyssop &c., were

to the dipped in the blood so as to connect this rite also with

the killing of the second bird. It is obvious that the bird  

to be slaughtered is introduced as a result of the extension


of and other passages in the incantation texts by Langdon in the

Expository Times. vol. 24 (1912), pp. 40 ff., though Langdon's translations,

it ought to be added, leave room for further study.

39 ‘Seven times' seems to have become the standing formula, though    

it is notable that not infrequently no number is specified, so, e. g., Lev.5. 9;

16. 15; Num. 19. 18. Presumably in such cases seven was assumed as the

number prescribed.

THE SO-CALLED 'LEPROSY' LAWS--JASTROW                      371


of the principle of killing a sacrificial animal of some

kind in connexion with every atonement, or, to use the

technical term, with every hattat (txFAHa)40--and the purifi-

cation offering of the one who has had sara’at falls within

this category--demanding the killing of an animal. The

old and primitive custom of using a bird as a scape-animal

to which the sara’at was transferred, would suggest by

analogy the choice of a bird as the sacrificial animal.

Lastly, the washing of the garment, the shaving of the hair

of the body and the washing in water, were added to the

ritual in accord with the general principle that after a period

of uncleanness rites symbolical of the cleanly state upon

which the individual now entered had to be performed.

It is, of course, an open question whether in the earliest

form of the purification ritual for the sara'at this elaborate

washing and shaving41 was included, but certainly at the


40 The hattat or 'sin-offering' rests on title same idea of the transfer

of the disease to an animal, but the regulations regarding the hattat represent

a more advanced stage when the killing of t e animal to which the disease

was transferred had taken the place of merely sending it away, as was done

with the wild goat of the Azazel rite. A bird or an untamed animal could be

sent at large, but the domesticated sheep or bullock or ox would, of course,

come back. This, together with the rise of an organized priesthood around

a sanctuary and the practical need of providing an income for the priests,

led to the change, involving the killing of the hattat, the burning of those

parts regarded as the vital organs, while the rest was given to the priests.

Naturally, in the case of the ' sin-offering' for the high-priest or for the

people, the entire animal was burned,

41 'The washing of the garments and the bathing in water' is ordained

throughout Lev, 15, for cases of bodily uncleanness; Lev. 17, 15 for one

who has eaten 'abomination' or a 'torn' object (hpAreF; terephah); Lev. 16.

26-8 for the one who sends off Azazel and who burns the carcase of the

sin-offering' bullock, and Num. 19.8 for the one who burns the 'red heifer',

and ver. 19 for the one who has come in contact with a corpse, as well

as Num. 17. 21-2 for the one who has touched anything contaminated by

a woman during her period. The shaving of the hair of the body is peculiar



stage when the three originally independent ceremonies

were combined, the washing and shaving were also made

a part of the ritual. Taking, therefore, the ritual as it

stands we may distinguish in it earlier and later elements.

The earlier elements are rites that originally were intended

to exorcise the disease either by driving out the demon,

as the cause of the disease, through the hyssop and cedar

wood,42 or by transferring the disease (or what amounts

to the same thing, transferring the demon) to some animal.

Purification from the 'unclean' demon leads to the use of

these rites as symbols of the ritualistic 'purification' at

a later stage, when a ritual was compiled to mark the return

of the victim to intercourse with his fellows. Instead of

the diagnosis and cure, we have as part of the religious

code the diagnosis and the official dismissal, both done


to the case of the one afflicted with sara'at. In the case of the Nazarite

(Num. 6. 18) only the hair of the head is to be shaved on the completion

of the vow, though the underlying idea is the same as in the case of the

sara’at ordinance.

42 No sharp distinction can be drawn in the medicine of primitive peoples

between an attempted cure by certain remedies and the exorcising of the

demon through these remedies. The primary purpose of medicaments was

to force the demon out through bad smells or to coax him out through

fragrant odours. The benefit to the patient followed as a natural corollary.

A cure was thus a release from the throes of the demon, but no doubt in

time the positive aspects of medicaments as the common-sense view must

have come to the front, though in the background there still stood the old

conception of disease due to some unclean spirit which of its own accord

or through the machinations of some sorcerer or witch had found its way

into the body and was causing the trouble. It is rather strange how in this

way the most primitive theory of disease touches modern pathology with

its germ theory as an external substance that has found a favourable

condition for growth in the body. Similarly, the crude belief of the savage,

that death is not a necessary part of the order of nature but was introduced

through special circumstances, anticipates to a certain extent the views of

some modern biologists. See Frazer. Belief in Immortality, I, p. 84.

THE SO-CALLED 'LEPROSY' LAWS--JASTROW                      373


through the priest. The more distinctly religious element,

which is also the later one, is the bringing of a sacrifice,

and probably the ritual bath an shaving of the hair.

The sara’at code in its oldest compiled form thus consists

of Lev.13. 2-3, 9-13 and 14. 2-8 a, minus (a) the subsequent

additions, comments, and glosses in both the diagnosis and

the dismissal, and minus (b) the combination in the ritual of

dismissal of four originally distinct elements, two of them

of earlier and two of later origin.

In order to furnish a summary of the results thus far

reached, I add the original43 sara’at legislation, forming

a little Torah by itself:

-tx, NheKoha hxArAv; NheKoh-lx, xbAUhv; tfaracA fgan, OrWAB; rOfB; hy,h;yi-yKi MdAxA

fgan, OrWAB; rOfme qmofA fgan,.ha hxer;maU NkAlA j`pahA fgan.,Ba rfAWev; rWABAha-rOfB; fgan,.ha

                                    Otxo xm.eFiv; xUh tfaracA

-txeW; hne.hiv; NheKoha hxArAv; NheKoha-lx, xbAUhv; MdAxAB; hy,h;ti yKi tfarcA fgan,

Oxm.;Fiv; OrWAB; rOfB; xyhi tn,w,On tfaracA NbAlA rfAWe hkAp;hA xyhiv; rOfB hnAbAl;


hxArAv; rOfhA-lKA txe tfaracA.ha htAs.;kiv; rOfBA tfaracA.ha Hrap;Ti HaOrPA-Mxiv;

fganA.he-tx, NheKoha rhaFiv; OrWAB;-lKA-tx, tfaracA.ha htAs;.ki hn.ehiv; NheKoha

MpAWA-lfav; faUrpA hy,h;yi Owxrov; MymiruP; Uyh;yi vyrAgAB; fban,h.a OB-rw,xE faUrcAhav;

ObwAOm hn,HEm.ila NyUhmi xmAF;yi OB fgan,.ha rw,xE ymey;-lKA xrAq;yi xmeFA xmeFAv; hF,f;ya

hnAhEm.ala CUHmi-lx, NheKoha xcAyAv; OtrAhAFA MOyB; frAcom.;hi traOT hy,h;Ti txzo

rhEma.m.ila HqalAv; NheKoha hUAciv; tfaracA.ha-fgan,mi faUrcAha xPAR;ni hne.hiv; NheKoha hxArAv;

Wr,H,-yliK;-lx, tHAx,HA rOPciha-tx, FHawAl; NheKoha hUAciv; tOy.Ha MyriP;ci yTew;


43 Original, in a qualified sense, for we are not in a position to restore

the original character of the 'purification' or 'dismissal' section beyond

the point above indicated, namely, that originally the rite was remedial and

purificatory through the transfer of the disease or of the demon of the disease

into the bird sent out at large. The ritual in this stage probably consisted

of incantation formulae pronounced over the afflicted person with rites of

sympathetic magic to induce the disease to pass over into the bird.



lfa hzAhiv; hFAHuw.;ha rOPci.ha MdaB; hy.AHaha rOPc;.ha-tx, lbaFAv; MyiHa Myima-lfa

yneP;-lfa hyAHaha rOPci.ha-tx, Hla.wiv; OrhEmiv; MymifAP; fbaw, tfaracA.ha-Nmi rhem.emiha

xObyA rhaxav; Myim.aBa CyHarAv; OrfAW;-lKA-tx, Hla.giv; vydAgAB;-tx, rhemami.ha sBekiv; hd,WA.ha


tfarAcA.ha traOT txzo


'If a man has on the skin of his flesh a sara’at--mark

and he is brought to the priest, and the priest sees the mark

on the skin of his flesh, and that the hair at the mark has

turned white, and that the mark appears deeper than, the

skin of his flesh, then it is a sara’at mark, and he shall

declare him unclean.

‘If there is a sara’at mark on a man, and he is brought

to the priest, and the priest sees that there is a white

swelling on the skin which has turned the hair white, it is

a chronic sara’at on the skin of his flesh, and the priest

shall declare him unclean.

But if the sara’at gradually spreads on the skin until

the sara’at covers the entire skin, and the priest sees that

the sara'at covers the entire flesh, then the priest shall

declare the mark clean.

‘And the one afflicted with sara'at who has a mark,

his garments shall be torn, and his hair shall grow wild,

a he shall cover his moustache, and cry 'unclean, unclean'.

As long as he has the spot he shall be unclean; outside

of the camp shall be his dwelling.

This is the law of the one who has sara’at, on the day

of his purification when the priest has gone to (the place)

outside of the camp, and has seen that the sara’at mark

of the one afflicted with sara’at is healed. Then the priest

shall order two living birds to be taken for the one to be

purified; and the priest shall order the one bird to be killed

THE SO-CALLED 'LEPROSY ' LAWS--JASTROW                     375


over an earthen pot at running water; and the living bird

he shall dip into the blood of the killed bird, and he shall

sprinkle over the one to be purified seven times, and declare

him clean, and send off the living bird into the open. And

the one purified shall wash his garments, and shave all his

hair, and wash in water, and after that come to the camp.

This is the law of the sara’at.44



A significant feature of this original form of the sara’at

code is its disassociation from any sanctuary. The victim,

to be sure, is brought to the priest, but no ceremonies are

enacted in any sanctuary, and the rite of purification or

dismissal is carried out outside of the camp where the

isolated victim dwells. Even the sacrificial bird is not

killed at any altar. The case is different in a second ritual

of purification beginning with Lev. 14 8b, and extending

to 16. The independent character of this second ritual

has, of course, been recognized by commentators.45

This second code reads, exclusive of comments and

additions, as follows:

‘And he shall dwell outside of his tent46 seven days,47


44 Subscript now at the end of Lev. 14. 7. See below, p. 399.

45 See, e. g., Baentsch, Leviticus, p. 371.

46 The Greek translation, evidently with a view of adapting the ritual

to later social conditions when people dwelt in cities, reads 'outside of his

house'. See above, note 24.

47 Verse 9, reading 'And on the seventh day he shall shave all his hair    

[explanatory comment: his head and his beard and his eyebrows, and all his

hair he shall shave], and wash his garments, and bathe his body in water,

and be clean', is an addition taken from verse 8a in order to make the

second ritual conform with the first. The additions, 'his head', &c., are

again in the nature of a Gemara, and represent the answers of the priest

to the questions that would be asked as to what constitutes 'all his hair'.

Does it mean the hair of the head? Yes. The beard? Yes. How about



and on the eighth day he shall take one lamb48 and

three-twentieths of fine flour mixed with oil,49 and the

priest shall place the one to be declared clean50 before

Jahweh.51 And the priest shall take the lamb52 and offer

it as a guilt-offering,53 and he shall kill the lamb in a holy

place54 And the priest shall take of the blood of the

guilt-offering, and the priest shall put (it) on the right

ear-lap of the one to be declared clean, and on the right


the eyebrows?  Yes. Some one not satisfied with this added, 'All his

hair he shall shave'--to include the hairs on the breast, abdomen, legs,

arms, and no doubt a strict construction in the spirit of Talmudical casuistry

would include the hair around the privates.

48 It is quite evident that originally only one lamb as a sin-offering

(txF.AHa) was sacrificed. The brief manner in which the second lamb is

troduced in ver. 19a, 'and the priest shall carry out (hWAfA) the sin-offering

(txF.AHa) and atone for the one to be cleaned' [addition: from his unclean-

ness], shows that the second lamb as a sin-offering is an after-thought, just

the 'ewe, one year old, perfect' (ver. l0b), and which (19b) he shall after-

ards slaughter as a burnt-offering (hlAfo), are further additions in regard

to which it is specified (ver. 20). ‘and the priest'shall offer up the burnt-

offering [addition: and the meal-offering (hHAn;mi) at the altar], and the priest

shall atone for him, and he shall be clean'. The repetition of the phrase,

‘he shall atone for the one to be cleansed', or 'he shall atone for him' in

the case of the second lamb, and in the case of the one-year-old ewe is

in itself sufficient to show that the ritual has been elaborated at a later

period. The additions, 'and the minhah' and 'at the altar', are again

answers to the questions, (1) Is there to be a cereal-offering also with 

the burnt-offering? Yes: and (s) Shall it be offered at the altar just as

the burnt-offering? Yes.

49 Addition, 'one log of oil'.

50 Explanatory comments: (a) i. e. 'the man to be cleaned', and (b)

addition, 'and them'.

51 Explanatory comment:  'at the entrance of the tent of meeting', in

aswer to the question, 'What does "before Jahweh" mean?’

52 Addition, 'one.’

53 Additions, (1) 'and the log of oil', and (a) 'wave them as a waving

before Jahweh.'

54 Explanatory comments: (a) 'in the place where one (usually)

daughters the sin-offering', to which some one added, (b) 'and the burnt-

THE SO-CALLED 'LEPROS' LAWS--JASTROW                        377


thumb and on the right (large) toe.55  And the priest shall

sprinkle56 of the oil seven times before Jahweh57 . . . . and

the priest shall atone for him before Jahweh.'

The addition of an official sacrifrice animal in cases in-

volving purification from uncleaness to an earlier ritual, in

which the leading idea was the exorcising of the unclean spirit,

is a characteristic feature of the Priestly Code. So in Lev. 15,

dealing with purification in the case of an unclean flow, the

sacrificial regulations for the eighth day, vers. 14-15 and


offering', i. e. the 'holy place' means the altar on which sin- and burnt-

offerings are usually brought. Other commentators added (c) 'for the guilt-

offering (MwAxA) is like a sin-offering (txFA.Ha)', i. e. the two are on a level

and to be treated alike. Cf. Lev. 7. 7. (d) ‘It a holy of holies', (e) 'it is

the priest's'.  All five comments are, therefore, again in the nature of

a Gemara to the Mishnah, answering such questions as (a) where is the

'holy place'? (b) why does he say 'guilt-offering' and not ‘sin-offering'?

(c) to whom does the guilt-offering belong? &c. &c.

55 Ver. 15, 'And the priest shall take of the log of oil, and pour it on the

left palm of the priest', is clearly a later addition harking back to the ‘one

log of oil'. Note the awkward repetition of the word 'priest'.

56 Addition, 'with his finger'.

57 Ver. 16a, 'And the priest shall dip with his right finger of the oil which

is on his left palm', is an explanatory amplification superinduced by ver. 15,

and representing the attempt to combine the oil of the minhah with the ‘log

of oil'.  Ver. 17 is a further specification of what is to be done with the

remaining oil; an answer, therefore, to a question, 'How about the oil that

is left in the palm of the priest?' Answer, 'The rest of the oil which is on

his palm, the priest shall put on the right ear-lap of the one to be purified,

and on his right thumb, and on his right (large) toe'; taken over, therefore,

from ver. 14. An explanatory comment further adds, ‘over the blood of the

guilt-offering' that has been placed on the parts named (ver. 14). Then

some one asks. Suppose there is still some oil 1eft in the palm of the priest,  

what then? Answer; (ver, 18a). ‘And what is left of the oil which is in the

palm of the priest, he shall pour on the head of the one to be purified'. It

is to be noted that the Greek text occasionally omits the word 'priest'; so

e.g. at the beginning of vers. 15 and 16, and occasionally inserts it; so e. g. in

ver. 18, after 'he gives' (NTeyi), where the Hebrew omits it, pointing to con-

siderable manipulation of the formal language of the ordinances.



29-30, are clearly insertions, shown to be such by the pre-

ceding verse which in each case (ver. 13 and ver. 28) ends by

stating that the individual is 'clean'. Again in the 'atone-

ment’ ritual, Lev. 16, the second goat as a sin-offering (ver. 5)

is an addition to the far older goat for Azazel, i. e. the goat

to which the sin or uncleanness is to be transferred, just

as the ram for the burnt-offering and the bullock of the sin-

offering represent further layers. Similarly, in the Holiness

Code, we come across this latter 'sacrificial' layer over an

older one in which the sacrifice of an animal for the benefit

of the priestly sanctuary does not enter into consideration.

The twenty-third chapter of Leviticus, detailing festival

regulations, the ordinances for the Passover, of unleavened

cakes, abstaining from work on the first and seventh day,58

and the waving of the Omer, as set forth in vers. 5-11 and

ver. 14, constitutes the earlier stratum, whereas verses 12-13,

adding a lamb as a burnt-offering, and a minhah, are

insertions of a much later date. The same applies to

the sacrificial ritual, vers. 18-20, which clearly represents

an artificial attempt to connect an earlier ritual of

'waving' a cereal offering at the end of the grain harvest

with the 'waving' of sacrificial animals. In the case of

the ‘Atonement’ festival (vers. 23-32), it is noticeable that

no sacrifice is mentioned at all, again pointing to the late

addition of the goat introduced in Lev. 16. 5, &c., for

the day.          

The fact that the sacrificial ritual is prescribed for the

eighth day59 after everything is over shows that the older


58 Ver.8a, 'Ye shall bring a fire-offering to Jahweh for seven days' is

an insertion to conform with the Priestly Code, Num. 28.19-24, where the

fire-offering is fully set forth and in great detail.

59 Just as in Lev. 15. 14-15 and 29-30.

THE SO-CALLED ' LEPROSY' LAWS--JASTROW                     379


and essential element in this second ritual is the washing

of the garments, the bathing and the shaving, as in the first

ritual. Furthermore, the many additions in the case of

the sacrificial ritual point to the tendency to emphasize

the sacrifice as the essential element. The one animal as

a sin-offering, which according to the present law (ver. 21)

is permitted as a substitute only in case the individual is

poor, was all that the sacrificial ritual in its earlier form

required; and we are probably right in assuming that this

earlier form followed the regulation of Lev. 4. 32, which

prescribes a ewe as the guilt-offering.60  To this a lamb

as a burnt-offering (hlAfo) was added and not. .satisfied with

this, an entirely unwarranted differentiation was introduced

between a guilt-offering (MwAxA) and a sin-offering (txF.AHa),61


60 The little section (Lev. 4. 3a-3) represents a different practice from

the sections (a) Lev, 4. 3-12, (b) 4.13-21, (c) 4. 22-26, (d) 4. 27-31, pre-

scribing, according as the transgression is one committed by an anointed

priest, by the whole people, by a chief, or by an ordinary Individual,

a bullock for the first two cases, a young goat for the third instance, and

a young female goat for the fourth case.

61 The three offerings, hlAfo, txFAA.Ha and MwAxA, are found in Ezekiel

(e. g. 40. 39, but in the Priestly Code (Lev . 5 and 7) no distinction is

recognizable between txF.AHa and MwAxA, and a commentator is, therefore,

free to admit (Lev. 7.7) that 'a sin-offering (txFA.Ha) is like a guilt-offering

(MwAxA)--one law.  Evidently, the difference between the two was originally

merely one of local usage of the term; in on locality, now represented by

ch. 5. 1-16. txFA.Ha being used, in another place, now represented by the

little section 5.17-26, and ch. 7, MwAxA was employed. Of the two terms,

MwAxA (‘asam) seems to represent the older usage. The txF.AHa, therefore,

is the one added in Lev. 14. in accord with the tendency to increase

sacrifices though the result is a double sin-offering, since there is no

distinction between ‘asam and hattat. The regular addition of the olah

(burnt-offering) to hattat (sin-offering) is again an illustration of this

tendency, though here a factor involved is the consciousness that the sin-

offering rests upon the old notion of the transfer of the disease or sin to the

animal, whereas the 'burnt-offering' is the tribute to the angered deity who

is to be appeased by the 'pleasant fragrance,’ which is what the phrase



and thus another lamb was added; and lastly, a cereal

offering (hHAn;mi) was attached,62 making, therefore, no less

than four separate sacrifices. Even with this the process

of heaping up one layer after the other upon the sacrificial

ritual was not completed. The ordinary cereal offering 

for a lamb consisted of one-tenth of an ephah of fine meal,

mixed with oil,63 but in our case the amount is raised to

three-twentieths,64 and besides the mixture of the flour with

oil, a special quantity (log) of oil is added (Lev. 14. 10c, 12b,

15a).65 The 'waving' of the sacrificial animal is prescribed

(ver. 12b), the elaborate ceremonial of touching the ear,

finger, and toe of the individual with the oil,66 the sprinkling

seven times 'before Jahweh',67 again a touching of the ear,


HaOHyni Hayre originally connoted. The ‘substitute’ offering (Lev 5. 11; of one-

tenth of an ephah of fine meal in the case of one too poor to offer two turtle-doves

or two young pigeons belongs, of course, in a different category. It is not

attached to another offering, nor is it ever technically designated as a hHAn;mi

but as txFAHa (ver. 12), though a misplaced note; 'it shall be for the priest

as a minhah’ (ver. 13b), shows that some pedant could not tolerate a

bloodless offering to be called a hattat.  In Num. 6, a compilation of various

layers dealing with the one who has made a vow, the cereal-offering is

added to the burnt-offering, sin-offering, and peace-offering at the termina-

tion of the vow period (vers. 15-18), though the word hHAn;mi only intro-

duced in the gloss or comment at the end of ver. 15.  This is heaping up

sacrifices with a vengeance, due to the endeavour to legitimize an old

custom of temporary consecration by giving to the one who makes a vow the

temporary status of a priest.

62 There is no minhah attached to the hattat or ‘asam in Lev. 4. 5, 7.

            63 The mixture with oil is a constant factor of the minhah, expressed

(Lev. 2. 1, 15, by ‘oil poured upon it’. On the other hand, the 'frankin-

cense' (hnAbol;) also prescribed with the minhah was not carried out, at least

not in the practice, which is set forth in Lev. 2.

64 Also Num. 15. 9; 28. 12, 20, 28; 29. 14.

65 This measure of oil occurs in this chapter only.

66 part of the ceremony of initiation of priests, Exod. 29. 20; Lev. 8. 23, 24,

though here the blood is used to make the priest immune against demons.

67 The expression ' before Jahweh' is evidently looked upon as identical

with 'at the entrance of the tent of meeting' and; therefore, the latter

THE SO CALLED 'LEPROSY' LAWS—JASTROW                     381


&c., of the individual with oil, and anointing the head with

what is left (ver. 18). Verse 19 specifies the addition of

a 'sin-offering' and a 'burnt-offering', and verse 20 is a

comment in the nature of a Gemara to indicate that the

burnt-offering is to have its cereal offering accompaniment,

just as the sin or guilt-offering. We thus find this section

overloaded with sacrificial regulations in accordance with

the tendency towards a steadily-increasing elaboration of

sanctuary ceremonials, so characteristic of the later layers

of the Priestly Code.68

This rather lengthy discussion was necessary to show


phrase is added as a gloss in ver. 11, and so also Lev. 15. 14, as well as

Lev. 4. 5, where the gloss has been placed before the words ‘before Jahweh’.

In Exod. 29 and Lev. 8, furnishing the rites for the initiation of priests in two

recensions, the expression used is 'at the entrance of the tent of meeting',

from which we may conclude that the section is prescribing the wafers and

the basket of unleavened bread, together with the ‘waving’ (Exod. 29. 23-4;

Lev. 8. 26-7) where 'before Jahweh' is used, represent elements from

some other source. In Lev. 1-7, therefore, as well as Lev. 13-16, the

characteristic expression is 'before Jahveh', and wherever the other

appears (e.g. also Lev 15. 29) it is to be regarded as an explanatory

addition. In the Holiness Code, likewise, dfeOm lh,xo HataP, appears to be

the later addition, though this Code uses by the side of hOAhy; ynep;li (19. 22;

23. 11; 20-28; 24. 4-6) the simple phrase hOAhyila (Lev. 17. 5b, 9; 19. 21.;

22. 22, 27; 23. 5, 6, 12, 16, 18, 20, 25, 27, 38, 41; 24. 7, &c.). Even Lev.17. 4, 9,

the words 'to the entrance of the tent of meeting', despite their position, are

explanatory glosses, in the former passage to hOAhy; NKaw;mi ynep;li in the latter to

hOAhyla.  Sections in which the phrase 'at the entrance of the tent of meeting'

is the original reading (e.g. Exod. 29 and Lev. 8; represent an older stratum

of legislation, and may very well date back in substance to a very early

period; whereas the phrase ‘before Jahweh’ shows that the compiler has

in mind the sanctuary of Jerusalem, the gloss being added to conform to

the theory that the entire legislation reverts to the day of Moses.

68 A good illustration of this tendency towards overloading is furnished

by a comparison of the sacrifices for the new moon prescribed in Ezek. 46. 6

with the additions made in Num. 28. 11, one young bullock as against two,

six lambs as against seven. See Carpenter and Battersby, The Hexateuch,

I, p. 128.



the wide abyss between the first ritual (Lev. 14. 1-8), not

performed in a sanctuary and with but little added to the

exorcising rites though converted into a purification or

dismissal ceremony, and the second ritual, which attaches

to a simple cleansing ceremony a most elaborate series of

sacrificial rites.

In the same spirit the substitute ritual, vers. 21-27, is

conceived, permitting the poor man to bring merely one

lamb, reducing, the amount of the meal to one-tenth, and

replacing the second lamb and the ewe by two turtle-doves

or two pigeons. I have suggested69 that what is here

permitted as a substitute may have been the offering pre-

scribed for an earlier period. Be that as it may, the

dependence of this section upon the preceding one is

instanced by the introduction of the log of oil (vers. 22, 24),  

and the ceremony of sprinkling and touching the ear-lap

of the individual (vers. 25-29), identical with vers. 14-19, and

taken over bodily from the latter, just as the wording in

vers. 30-31 is taken from ver. 19.70 Then follows a separate

subscript for this section (vers. 21-31), but in which the

words OdyA gyWiha xlo rw,xE are probably an addition, so that     

the subscript belonging originally after ver. 20, or perhaps

after 8a, once read 'This is the Torah for the cleansing

of the one who has a nega’ sara’at.


            69 Above, p. 379.  Cf. the substitute which is provided for the guilt-

(or sin-) offering, Lev. 5. 7-10 (two turtle-doves or two pigeons without

a minhah), and a further substitute for the one who cannot even afford this

(vers. 11-12) of one-tenth of an ephah of meal without oil or frankincense.

This, of course, is not a minhah in the ordinary sense. The word hHAn;mi.Ka

at the end of ver. 13 is clearly a late addition.

70 The correct construction is txF.AHa OdyA gyWiTa rw,xEme dHAx,hA-tx, hWAfAv;

hlAfo dHAxeha-tx,v;. To this a commentator adds as a note, 'the one', namely,

‘of the turtle-doves or of the pigeons which he can afford'.

THE SO-CALLED 'LEPROSY' LAWS--JASTROW                      383




Having now discussed the original form of the diagnosis

and treatment of the sara’at and the purification or dismissal

rites of the one who has been healed of it, we may pro-

ceed to an analysis of the remaining sections of Lev. 13-14,

namely, (a) Lev. 13. 4-8; (b) 14-17; (c) 18-23; (d) 24-28;

(e) 29-37; (f) 38-39; (g) 40-44; (h) 47-58; (i)14. 33-53.

The first section deals with the 'shining spot' (baheret) on

the skin and the ‘growth’ (sappahat or mispahat).71  In

contrast to the case (ver. 3) where the hair at the mark has

turned white and the mark is deeper than the skin, in which

case it is pronounced a sara’at, or (ver. 9) where the swelling

on the skin (i. e. a mark higher than the skin) has turned

white, in which case it is likewise sara’at of a chronic type,

the case is put forward (ver. 4) of white mark not sunk

in the skin (i. e. even with the surface) and where the hair

has not turned white. Such a case is regarded as a 'suspect',

and the individual is put under guard for seven days. If

after seven days there is no change another seven days'

observation is ordained. After that two contingencies are

instanced, either (a) the mark has grown fainter and not

spread, in which case it is pronounced a harmless 'growth'

and the suspect is dismissed as clean,72 or (b) the growth

after the formal dismissal spreads, in which case the suspect

is unclean. According to the close of ver. 8 it is declared


71 See above, p. 360. In ver. 1 the terns tr,h,Ba Ox tHaPasa Ox txeW;

are an insertion to make the heading conform o the contents of vers. 1-13.

The txeW; is treated ver. 10 seq. The more natural order of the insertion

would have been, baheret, sappahat, and se’et. An interesting reference to

the various kinds of nega’im is found Deut. 17. 8.

72 Addition (ver. 6c), 'he shall wash his clothes'. The addition probably

read in full 'he shall wash his garments and bathe in water', but it is here

given in an abbreviated form.



to be sara'at, but I am inclined to regard this as a later

addition made at a time when sara’at was used in a very

general sense for any skin disease which was regarded as

unclean.73 At all events, the spreading growth is not of

the same order as the sara'at described in vers. 3 and 10.

The second section (vers. 14-18) takes up the case where

raw flesh appears in connexion with a mark which (vers.14-

15) is declared unclean. The double decision (a) xUh xmeFA 'it

is unclean', and (b) xyhi tfaracA 'it is sara'at' at the end of ver. 15

is suspicious, and I am inclined to regard the second decision

again as a later addition to be explained as the one at the

end of ver. 8. Correspondingly, the decision 'he is clean'

is rendered in case the raw flesh turns white, and after the

priest has satisfied himself that the spot has turned white.

The raw flesh turning white simply means, therefore, that

the skin assumes its natural appearance. These two sections,

therefore, are in the nature of a Gemara to the original form

of the sara’at Mishnah, as above set forth. Precisely as in

the talmudical discussions, various questions are asked, such

as how about a white shining mark which is not deeper

than the skin, and where the hair has not turned' white?

Answer:  Such an one is to be observed for seven days.

Suppose the mark remains unchanged? Answer: Observe

him for another seven days. If it grows faint and does

not spread? Answer:  rOhFA 'he is clean'. Suppose it comes

back and spreads? Answer:  xmeFA 'unclean'. How about

raw flesh on the skin? Answer:  xmeFAA 'unclean'. Suppose

the raw flesh turns white? Answer: rOhFA 'clean'. In a

practical hand-book the discussions are omitted and the

decisions alone are given. 

The third section continues the 'Gemara', and like the


            73 See below, pp. 389, 390, and 400f.

THE SO-CALLED ' LEPROSY' LAWS--JASTROW                     385


talmudical Gemara grows in complication as question

follows fast upon question. How about the case of a boil.

(sehin) that is healed, but after the healing process 'a white

shining spot'74 even with the surface appears?75 Verse 20

gives the answer: 'The priest shall examine (it), and if it

is deeper" than the skin and the hair has turned white,

the priest shall declare him unclean''.77 The commentator

quotes the established diagnosis. Nothing is added to the

law--merely an answer given to a question that appears

to be asked from a theoretical rather than from a practical

motive--an early variety of the 'hypothetical question'.

The question, however; having once been asked, the other

case as in ver. 4, must be considered: suppose the hair has

not turned white, and the spot does not appear lower78

than the skin. The answer is: The priest is to shut him

up as a suspect for seven days, just as in ver. 4. Verse 22,

corresponding to ver. 7, decides that if the spot spreads,79

it furnishes the decision 'unclean' with the usual subsequent

addition fgan, (nega’), i. e. abbreviated for 'it is a sara'at

mark'.50  Similarly, the question is also put here: Suppose


            74 Some commentator who wanted to be very exact added (v. 19) 'reddish',

since as a matter of fact a shining spot, even when it appears to be white,

is tinged with red. The words 'white' and 'swelling' are also added.

75 An explanatory comment, misplaced at the end of ver. 20, says

‘spread where the boil (was)’.

76 The text uses hlApAw; for ' deep' instead of qmofA in vers. 3-4, indicative

of another writer, or of a different stratum.

77 Once more the later addition 'it is nega’ sara’at,’ as above (see

note 4.

78 The words hhAke xyhiv; (ver. 21; 'and it is faint' are not in place.

I suspect an abbreviated note to indicate, as in ver. 6, that if after seven

days 'the spot has grown faint and has not spread' the suspect is dismissed.

79 Again given in abbreviated form. We must supply 'reappears and

spreads' after the dismissal, as in ver. 7.

80 The very fact that we encounter the abbreviated form in the decision



the 'shining spot' remains stationary, and does not spread?

The answer should be as in ver. 5--a further observation

of seven days. Here, however, a new diagnosis is given.

When such a spot appears on the skin where there had

been a boil the stationary character after seven days shows

that it is the scar of the boil (Nyhiw;.ha tb,r,cA), and the decision,

therefore, is rOhFA 'clean'. The same lengthy discussion

follows in the next 'Gemara'--the fourth section (vers. 24-

28)--where the case is put of a white spot appearing in

connexion with a burn. The hypothetical question originally

read as follows:81 'If there should be on his skin a burn,

and the healed burn82 should become a white shining


Once more the ordinary diagnosis is repeated: If the

hair has turned white at the shining spot, and the spot

is deeper84 than the skin, it is unclean.85  If neither of

these symptoms appears,86 the suspect is observed for seven

days; if, at the end of that time, the spot spreads, he

is unclean:87 if the shining spot remains stationary, with-


sara'at (vers. 8. 15), by the side of nega' sara’at (ver. 20) and nega' (ver. 22),

shows the very general and conventional usage acquired by sara'at as a

generic term, and not as a specific designation.

81 Hebrew text Ox "or", whereas the Greek version has 'and’.

82 Text hzAk;miha tyaH;mi. which appears to be a semi-technical term for

the burn that has been healed, corresponding to the healed boil in the fourth


83 Addition again (ver. 24) as above in ver. 19, 'reddish', i. e. ‘reddish

white', to which another commentator added 'or white', to indicate that a

‘white' sara'at includes a shining spot entirely white, or reddish, i. e. white

tinged with red.

84 Here (ver. 25) qmofA is used as in ver. 3-4, but immediately thereafter

ver. 26) hlApAw;.

85 Again the usual conventional addition, 'it is a nega' sara'at', i. e. a

‘sara'at mark’.

86 "The words 'and it is faint' are again out of place here, as above note 78.

87 With the addition, 'it is a nega' sara’at’.

THE SO-CALLED 'LEPROSY' LAWS--JASTROW                      387


out spreading in the skin,88 the priest pronounces him

clean, since it is a (mere) 'scar of a burn’.

The fifth section takes up and discusses in great detail

(vers. 29-37) the various symptoms connected with marks

or sores on the head or beard to which the generic

designation of netek89 is given, and which are evidently

open sores of some kind. The introductory statement


'If a man90 has a mark (nega’) on the head or beard,

and the priest sees it, and it appears deeper than the

skin, and there is thin shining hair91 in it, then the priest

shall declare him unclean--it is a open sore92 (qt,n,):

The two tests of the diagnosis: (I) that the spot is

deeper than the skin; (2) the appearance of a yellowish

hair indicating that the sore has changed the colour of the


88 Two comments, (a) 'it is (also) faint' to make the verse correspond

to ver. 6; (b) xyhi hvAk;mi.ha txeW; 'it is the swelling (se’et) of the burn'

(ha-mikwah), as a variant to xyhi hvAk;m.iha tb,r,cA 'it is a scar of a burn'.

89 The Greek renders it by trau?ma 'wound'. The underlying stem

means 'to pull off violently', showing that nelek must be an open sore

through the pulling away of the skin, a kind of ulcer. Just as we have fgan,

and tfaracA fgan,, so qt,n,.ha fgan, (ver. 31) is used by the side of qt,n,; and

is used to designate qt,n, (ver. 32) as well as tfaracA.

90 The text adds 'or woman', but the continuation shows that only man

was here referred to, though naturally the law, as all laws dealing with

disease or sin, applies to both sexes. In ver. 38, on 'the other hand, the

words 'man or woman' belong to the original form of the little section,

which is moreover misplaced; similarly, Lev. 20. 27 or Exod. 35. 29, but,

on the other hand, 'woman' is added by later hand in Num. 6. 2, as is

shown by a comparison with Lev, 27. 2, while Num. 5. 6 both 'man' and

'woman' are added, the text reading simply, 'speak to the Bene Israel',

as in ver. 2 'command the Bene Israel'.

91 sahob (bHocA) used only in this chapter and in Ezra 8. 27, in the latter

passage of a copper vessel.

92 Addition, 'it is a sara’at on the head or beard', clearly marked as such

by the repetition of the word  xUh.



it at the spot, are precisely of the same character as given

is the preceding section, with the comparatively unimportant

difference as to the nature of the change in the colour of

the hair. The difference between white or reddish white

or shining might easily be a subjective differentiation, the

fact being that the change in the pigment of the hair

brings about a colour that is not pure white, and may,

therefore, be designated as reddish, or reddish and white,

or simply shining.

The following verses 31-37 again show traces of many

later additions and of re-editing. The original text must

have run as follows:

‘If the priest sees that the netek93 as mark is not deeper

than the skin, and there is no shining94 hair in it, then

the priest shall shut up the netek for seven days, and if

on the seventh day the priest sees the mark and behold

the netek has not spread,95 then he shaves himself,96 and


93 Test, qt,n,ha fgan,. See note 8g.

94 The Hebrew text has 'black hair' (perhaps a variant that has re-

placed sahab, for which the Greek version has the correct form 'shining hair'.

95 Addition, 'and there is no shining hair in it, and the netek is not

deeper than the skin'; the inversion pointing to the fact that it is a later

explanatory amplification or note.

96 The Greek version says 'he shaves his skin'; evidently a cleansing

ceremony like washing the garments and bathing in water if the mark is

on the body. A second procedure in the case of a suspected mark pro-

vided that the victim 'must not shave the netek’ (ver. 33), and must be

shut up for seven days. The two procedures were erroneously combined,

and so we have in ver. 33, for no reason whatsoever, a second period of seven

days' observation.  It maybe, too, that the second test of seven days is

misplaced, and belongs in connexion with ver. 37, where the netek, after the

first seven days, remains unchanged, and which would then correspond with

ver. 5.  At all events, vers. 33-4, beginning with Hal.egay; xlo qt,n,ha-txAz; and

extending to Nh,Koha Otxo rhamiv;, are originally a duplicate of ver. 32 with the

addition of the words rhemav; vydAgAB; sBekiv; Hl.Agt;hiv;, which belong to the first


THE SO-CALLED ‘LEPROSY’ LAWS--JASTROW                     389


washes his garments and is clean,97 but if the priest sees

that the netek, has spread in the skn,98 he is unclean.'

To this a later and quite superfluous corollary--forming

an answer to the question, 'how about a netek that remains

unchanged and a black hair springs up in it, i. e. hair of

the natural colour?'--adds (ver. 37):

'If the netek remains the same and a black hair springs

up in it, the netek is healed99—he is clean.'100

Now it will have become evident that in none of the

five sections so far considered is there any reason to assume

that we have variants of a particular disease known as

sara'at. The term when introduced in these sections has

been shown to be a later addition, and is, moreover, taken

in a generic sense as an 'unclean' skin trouble, and not

as a designation of any specific disease. The same is the

case with the two remaining sections--(6) vers. 38-39 and  

(7) vers. 40-44--before we reach the point where the thread

of the original and genuine sara’at legislation is again

taken up. In fact, in the case of the sixth section the term

sara’at is not even introduced, and it is evident that this

little section, consisting of only two verses without the


97 See the preceding note.

98 Ver. 35. 'If the netek has spread on the skin after his purification', is

entirely superfluous, added in view of the erroneous combination of the two

procedures. Ver. 36a is a doublet to ver. 35a.

99 Comment, ver.36,'The priest need not (even) hunt for the shining hair',

for it would make no difference in the decision that the victim is ‘unclean’.

The comment is an answer to the question, Why is nothing said of the shining

hair in case the netek has spread?

100 A superfluous comment or a misplaced gloss adds, ‘and the priest

declares him clean'. It is to be noted that in ver. 37, as in ver. 8, the phrase

‘stands in his eyes’ is used to express the idea that the mark is unchanged,

as against the phrase in ver. 28 'stands under it', pointing again to the

different editors or commentators from whom these additions and comments

and answers to implied questions emanate.



amplification, as in the preceding five, is a supplement to

verses 4-8 and 24-28 dealing with 'shining' marks in the

skin. The text originally read:

'If a man or woman has shining marks101 on the

skin102--it is clean.'103

The seventh section deals with baldness, and various

kinds of bald spots, and certainly has nothing to do with

the real sara’at. In its original form the section read:

‘If a man loses the hair of his head104--he is clean.

If there is a white mark105 at the bald place,106 and the

priest sees that there is a white swelling mark,107 the priest

shall surely declare him unclean."108


101 A gloss adds 'shining white marks'.

102 The first part of ver 39, 'And the priest sees the shining spots'

(gloss, ' faint white marks'), is a 'Gemara’ to point out that the priest is

the one who must determine the harmless character of the spots.

103 Explanatory comment, 'It is a tetter (bohak) that has broken out on

the skin'. On bohak corresponding to the modern Syriac bohak, see the

note on p. 76 of Drivers Book of Leviticus in the Polychrome Bible, ed. Haupt.

104 Comment, 'he is a bald person' (Hareqe). To thin ver. 41, in the nature

of a Gemara, adds, 'If the front part of his head is bald he is forehead

bald (HaBeni), he is unclean'.

105 Additions, (a) ' reddish', like ver. 19, &c.  See notes 74 and 83.

106 Addition, in view of ver. 41, 'or at the forehead baldness’. There      

follows the further comment, as in the above discussed five sections, 'it is

sara’at', to which some other commentator adds 'in his baldness' or 'his

forehead baldness' (i. e. 'a sara’at of his baldness or of his forehead baldness'),

again in view of ver, 41. The Hebrew text also has 'breaking out'

(xyhi tHaraPo); but the Greek properly omits this, which is clearly added in

view of the addition 'breaking out' in ver. 39. See notes 120 and 121.

107 hnAbAlA fgan,ha-txeW;, to which again are added (a) 'reddish' and (b) 'in

is baldness or forehead baldness'.

108 No less than four further comments are added: (1) 'like the appearance

of sara'at of the skin of the flesh' (rWABA rOf), harking back to vers. 2-3;

(2) xUh faUrcA wyxi 'he is a man afflicted with sara'at', where the com-

bination of 'man' with saru’a, as against saru’a alone in ver. 43 (forming

art of the original sara’at legislation, points to the artificial addition;

THE SO-CALLED 'LEPROSY' LAWS--JASTROW                      391


The result, therefore, of our investigations so far has

been to show that none of the symptoms detailed in the

seven sections superimposed upon the original sara'at

legislation have anything to do with the disease described

in the original portion of the two chapters, and that these

superimposed sections are to be regarded merely as an

index of that natural tendency to differentiate among a

large variety of skin troubles due in part to advanc-

ing medical knowledge--though medicine in a primitive

state--and in part to the interest, partly practical, partly

theoretical, in legal enactments, prompting questions to

which answers must be given, and suggesting legal niceties

that need to be discussed--a process in short, that, as has

been emphasized above, is of the same general character

as that to be noted in the great compilation of Rabbinical

Judaism, and which led to the growth of an enormous

Gemara about a comparatively simple series of enactments

grouped together as Mishnah.

            This process is continued and, carried still further in the

two sections of Lev. 13 and 14 that still remain to be

discussed: (8) Lev. 13. 47-58, regarding suspicious spots

or marks on garments and stuffs; (9) Lev. 14. 33-47,

to which verses 48-53, a cleansing ritual corresponding to

14. 4-7 is attached.


(3) xUhi xmeFA 'he is unclean', quite superfluous, and added merely as

a conventional phrase; (4) His mark is on his head , again in the style

of a 'Gemara' in answer to the question, Can nega' be applied to the head

as to the rest of the body? The first comment is in the nature of an

explanation of the phrase 'a white swelling mark', to suggest a comparison

with the diagnosis of the ‘a white swelling' (ver. 10), and on the erroneous

assumption, prompted by the conventional addition of sara'at throughout

these sections, that all these skin troubles are forms of a specific sara'at




Taking up the former, the use of the term nega' sara'at

(vers. 47, 49, (or sara’at) 51, 52) for such spots on garments

and stuffs is a further proof, if one were still needed, that

sara'at had lost any specific meaning that it may once have

possessed, for such a thing as 'leprosy', or any disease

peculiar to man is a manifest absurdity in the case of garments

or stuffs. The reference must be to moulds of some kind

or other. Moreover, as in other sections, tfaracA fgn, alternates

with fgan, and tfaracA, the fuller or the abbreviated expression

being synonymously used for a mark that is suspicious

or unclean. The section shows distinct traces of dependence

upon the original sara'at legislation,109 and represents,

therefore, the further natural extension of the general

subject of marks or spots outside of the human body.

just as in the other sections, we are here also in a position

to separate the original portion from subsequent accretions,

again offering analogies to the 'Gemara' superimposed

upon the 'Mishnah'. The section begins:

‘If there is a mark110 on a garment, and the mark is

greenish or reddish,111 the priest shall see the mark and


109 e. g. in the shutting up of the suspected garment, &c., for seven days;

in the diagnosis, whether the mark has spread or remained steadfast; in the

washing of the garment, corresponding to the washing of the body and

the shaving of the head.

110 Text, tfaracA fgan,, where, however, tfaracA is an erroneous addition,

as shown by the consistent use of fgan, alone in the portion of the following

verses dealing with the merely suspected mark. It is only in case the mark

by the test is proved to be unclean that the word sara'at can properly be

added. There s added (a) the explanatory Gemara 'in a garment of wool

or in a garment of flax', and then (b) the further amplification in answer to

he questions. How if it appears in the warp or in the woof only?  Does

this apply also to wool and flax?  How if it appears on a prepared skin,

i.e. leather or on something made of a skin?  The answer is, 'or in the

warp or in the woof of wool or flax [so the Greek text], or in a skin or in

anything made of skin'.

111 ‘Greenish’ maybe a later addition, since in the other sections ‘reddish

THE SO-CALLED 'LEPROSY' LAWS—JASTROW                    393


shut up the mark for seven days. If the priest112 sees on

the seventh day that the mark has spread on the garment,113  

the mark is unclean; and he shall burn the garment114 in

which is the mark;115 but if the priest sees that the mark

has not spread in the garment,116 the priest shall command

to wash117 the (part) where the mark is,118 and the priest

shall inspect the mark after it has been washed, and if

the mark has not altered its appearance119--it is unclean120


alone is introduced. Once more the addition 'or in a skin, or in the warp

or in the woof or in any object made of a kin'. Then follow the two

further additions, (1) 'it is a sara’at mark', in the preceding sections,

and (2) 'it shall be shown to the priest'.

112 So the Greek text.

113 Two comments, (a) the customary addition 'or in the warp, or in the

woof, or in a skin, including whatsoever is made of the skin', and (b)

tr,x,m;ma tfaracA, meaning probably 'persistent sara’at’, corresponding to

'chronic sara’at (ver.11).

114 Again, 'or in the warp, or in the woof, in the flax or the wool or any

object made of skin'.  The variations in this conventional addition, such as

the omission of the 'skin', the change in the order of enumeration, the

variant usage to indicate anything made of leather, clearly point to the sup-

plementary character of the insertions.

115 Explanatory comment, ' because it is a "persistent" mark it shall be

burnt in the fire'.

116 Or in the warp, or in the woof, or in any object made of skin.'

117 Hebrew text plural (UsB;kiv;), whereas the Greek text has the singular.

118 At this point the original text has been more seriously interfered    

with by the addition of a second period of seven days' observation, added

evidently to bring about a correspondence with Lev. 13. 5, where, however,

the point is that the mark has remained steady. The ordinance, in its

original form prescribed the washing of the pot as a further test.

119 Explanatory comment, 'though the mark has not spread'.

120 Two additions, (1) 'in the fire thou shalt burn it' (note the variant

usage), and (2) it is a pehetet (tt,h,P; ), which, according to the tenor of the

Greek rendering (e]sthri<zetai), designates 'deeply ingrained mark'. The

further addition, (3) 'in its baldness or its forehead baldness', is evidently

a misplaced addition belonging somewhere in the seventh section (vers.40-44).

It is strange that none of recent commentators, neither Driver, nor Carpenter,

nor Baentsch, nor Bertholet, has noticed this. The Greek version reads



But if the priest sees that the mark has grown faint after

the mark has been washed, he shall tear it out of the

garment121 and the garment122 which has been washed,

and from which the mark has disappeared,123 it is clean.'

The beginning of ver. 59, 'This is the torah of the sara’at

mark', belongs, as clearly indicated, to the original sara’at

legislation, to which a final redactor who had merely this

eighth section before him, and which must have once

occupied an independent position, added, 'a garment of

wool or flax, or the warp or the woof, or any object

of skin, with reference to its being clean or its being


Taking up, finally, the ninth section (Lev. 14. 33-53) we

have its originally independent character (as has been

recognized by commentators)124 indicated by the special

introductory clause: 'When you come to the land of  

Canaan, which I give you as an inheritance,125 and I put


‘in the garment, or in the warp, or in the woof', which is at least intelligible.

‘Baldness' and 'Forehead baldness' become, of course, nonsensical when

applied to garments. The entire gloss, OTH;kanaB; Ox OTh;raqAB; xyhi tt,H,P;

is a variant of ver. 42b, and tt,H,P; may be simply a corruption for tHaraPo

in ver. 42.

121 Addition, 'or from the skin, or from the warp, or from the woof’.

The entire fifty-seventh verse represents a group of additional comments, as

follows: (a) 'If it should reappear in the garment, or in the warp, or in the

woof, or in any object of skin, it is a spreading mark' (tHaraPo); (b) ‘In

the fire thou shalt burn it'; (c) 'where the mark is', the latter again

a misplaced comment.

122 Addition, 'or the warp, or the woof, or any object of skin'.

123 Explanatory comment harking back to the addition in ver. 54 (see

note 118), 'and washed a second time'.

124 See, e.g., Carpenter and Battersby, Hexateuch, II, p. 162, note 33

Bentsch, P. 374; Driver, Leviticus, p. 77, note 22, &c.

125 A similar phrase in Lev. 18. 23; 25. 2 and Num. 15. 2 marks the

introduction of an independent little Torah and, as it would appear, either

THE SO-CALLED 'LEPROSY' LAWS—JASTROW                    395


a mark126 in a house,127 and the one to whom the house

belongs comes and tells the priest, to wit: "something like

a mark has appeared in my house'." Then follows (ver. 36)

a curious provision, that before the priest comes the house

is to be cleared of the furniture so as to save that from

also being pronounced unclean. This practical device,

which shows that questions of sanitation could not have

a been uppermost in the minds at least of those who com-

mented upon the legislation, looks very much again like

an answer to the question whether one may remove one's

furniture before the mark is examined, and thus save it

from possible destruction in case the whole house is

condemned. At all events, verse 35 must be joined directly

to verse 37.

‘And when the priest sees that he mark128 on the walls

of the house forms greenish129 or reddish patches, and that

they are deeper than the wall, then the priest shall go out

of the house to the door of the house,130 and close up the

house for seven days; and the priest shall return on the

seventh day, and if he sees that the mark has spread on

the walls of the house, the priest shall order the stones

where the mark appears to be removed, and to be thrown


of a supplementary character, as in our case and in Lev. 19. 23 and as  25. 2,

or in the nature of a general summary, as Num. 15. 2. In all cases the

legislation thus introduced is late,  representing, in fact, the latest stratum

in the Priestly Code.

126 Text, tfaracA fgan, here again, a Lev. 13.4 , sara’at is out of

place and anticipates the result of the diagnosis.

127 Addition, 'of the land of your possession'; Greek versions read


128 The Hebrew has a superfluous 'and behold the nega’’, which is omitted

in the Greek version.

129 ‘Greenish’ may be a later addition. See note 111.

130 Note the discursive style, characteristic of, this ninth section.



outside the city,131 and other stones to be taken and brought

in place of the stones.132 And if the mark reappears and

spreads on the house after he has removed the stones, as

then if the priest comes and sees that the mark has spread

in the house134--it is unclean. And one shall tear down

the house,135 and all the dust shall be carried outside of

the city.136  But if the priest comes and sees that the mark

has not spread in the house, the priest shall declare the

house clean, for the mark is healed.'137

Here the first part of the section ends, and there follow

(vers. 49-53) the ritualistic provisions which are manifestly

a transference of Lev. 14. 4-8a--the first procedure in the


131 Addition, 'to an unclean place', which suggests the unsanitary dust

and rubbish heaps characteristic of Palestinian towns even at the present

time. A 'Gemara' adds (ver. 41) 'And the house shall be scraped all

ground, and the scraped dust deposited outside of the city at an unclean


132 Addition, ‘And he shall take other dust, and plaster the house', in

answer to the question, What is to be done to the house?

133 Addition to conform to the earlier additions, 'And after the house has

been scraped and after the plastering'.

134 Addition as in the former section, 'It is "persistent" sara'at in the

house'. Cf: note 115.

135 Addition, 'Its stones and its wood', a detailed specification added in

answer to the question, Does 'house' mean perhaps only the stone, or does

include the wood-work? The Greek version omits 'its wood', pointing

clearly to the manipulation of the Hebrew text.

136 Addition again 'to an unclean places. Then follow two purely

ritualistic ordinances, which clearly represent the endeavour to connect

a ritualistic observance with the 'house' spot as with other kinds of marks.

Therefore, we are told (ver). 46-7), 'And whoever enters the house during

the days that it is closed shall be unclean till-evening; and he who sleeps

in the house shall wash his garments ['and be unclean till evening', so the

Greek text]; and be who eats in the house shall wash his garments ['and

be unclean till evening', so again the Greek text]. Verse 47 evidently

represents the superstructure upon ver. 46 to bring about a conformity with

Lev. 14. 8 and with passages like ver. 9 based thereon.

137 fgan,.ha xPAr;ni, corresponding to Lev. 14. 3 in the original sara’at Torah.

THE SO-CALLED 'LEPR0SY' LAWS--JASTROW                      397


original sara’at Torah--to the 'hour ' mark, and a most

awkward transfer at that, as will presently appear. Before

taking up this second part, let us not how in the first part

the diagnosis follows slavishly in the path of the original

sara’at legislation in the following points: (I) the emphasis

on the change of colour at the place where the mark is;

(2) that the mark or marks must be beneath the surface;

(3) the seven days' quarantine; (4) the decisions resting

upon the spread of the mark. The new point, though

corresponding in a measure to the tearing out of the mark

on the garment (Lev. 13.56), is the removal of the stones

containing the suspicious marks (to which later com-

mentators added still further directions). Here, evidently,

we have a piece of legislation specially devised for the case

in question, and not based upon an attempt to provide

in the case of the mark on the house something analogous

to an unclean mark on an individual. The same applies

to the provision to tear down the house and to remove the

dust to another place in case of a reappearance, or of a

spread of the marks after the first attempt to heal the  

house had failed.

Taking up the second part of the section, the dependence

upon Lev. 14. 4-8a, as has already been suggested, is self-

evident. The adaptation of the latter ritual in its elaborated

and not in its original form to the house declared clean,

leads to the substitution of the interesting phrase xFaHal;,138

literally, 'to remove the sin' (Lev. 14. 49 and 52),"in the 

sense of purifying--what we would call ' fumigating'--for

rHeFamila  'to declare or dismiss as clean' (14. 4, 7). The


138 The Piel of the verb in this sense is found in Exod. 29, 36; Lev. 8. 15;

9, 15; Ezek. 43. 22-23, applied to the altar; also Ps. 51. 9 in the direct sense

of cleansing; but quite differently Gen. 31. 39.



comparison between Lev. I4. 4-8 with 49-53, moreover,

justifies the analysis given of the former, since some of the

additions in Lev. 14. 4-8 are actually not found in 49-53.

So we have in the latter merely ‘the two birds’ without

the addition of living clean'. Similarly, verse 51 is nearer

to the original form than 14. 4, especially in the Greek text,

which reads:

‘And he shall take [addition: "cedar wood and hyssop

and scarlet thread "] the living bird and dip it [so the

Greek text] in the blood of the killed one [addition:

the running water"—so the Greek text] and sprinkle133

the house seven times.'

Verse 50 corresponds to verse 5, but on the other hand, 

verse 52 represents a redundancy over the original sara’at

Torah. It sums up:

‘And he shall purge140 the house through the blood of

the bird, and through the running water, and through the

living bird, and through the cedar wood, and the hyssop,

and the scarlet thread.' This is evidently added to

emphasize the elaborateness of the ritual. Verse 53

reading: 'And he shall send off the living bird outside of

the city141 and atone for the house,' 142 corresponds to the

second part of verse 7. The substitution of ‘city’ for

‘field’ indicates the change in social conditions intervening

between the period of the original sara’at Torah and the

late supplement modelled upon it. It is perhaps worth

while to note that the second ritual (vers. 8b-20) is not


139 Greek text adds 'with them'.

140 xFeHi, see note 138.

141 The dependence of this ritualistic ordinance upon Lev. 14, 4-8a is

shown by the meaningless addition of  'over the face of the field', merely

because this phrase is used in Lev. 14.7.

142 Addition. 'and it is clean'.




carried over to the 'cleansing' ritual for the house. The

older exorcising ceremony alone was adapted to the case

of a ‘mark’ in a house, and that after the test had been

made and the house declared clean. In view of this

adaptation it is no longer possible to say whether in the

case also of the house, the ritual originally represented

the means of exorcising the disease, and was subsequently

connected with a symbolical ceremony of formally declaring

the house clean. The lateness of this transferred  ritual

suggests that in the mind of the one who so transferred it,

the ritual was regarded merely as ‘dismissal’ ceremony.

The subscript, verses 54-57, is particularly elaborate.

As already pointed out, we ma regard the second half

of verse 57, ‘This is the law of the sara'at'--as the closing

formula of the original sara'at legislation. If this be so,

it will be the simplest solution of the problem to divide

the remaining verses into a series of originally independent

subscripts that have been here repeated and united. In

this way verse 54, 'This is the law for every nega' sara’at,

and for the netek, would be the subscript for Lev. 13. 1-17

and 29-57; [This is the law for the sara’at]  'of the

garment' (ver. 55 a) for Lev. I3. 7-58; '[This is the law

for the sara’at] of the house' (ver. 55b) for Lev. 14. 33-

53, while verse 56, 'for the swelling, growth, and shining

spot' (taken from Lev. 13. 2), represents an amplification

to verse 54-and is, therefore, a comment or note which

has gotten a little out of place. Of special interest is.

verse 57a, 'to teach [i.e. to set forth the law] for the day of

(pronouncing) unclean and for the day of (pronouncing)

clean', which again is obviously a 'Gemara' to explain

that the Torah includes the diagnosis and the decision-

whether unclean or clean.  The subscript through the



repetition and the union of five subscripts: (I) all kinds

of nega’ sara’at [i. e. the swelling, growth, and shining  .

pot]; (a) netek; (3) garment; (4) house; and (5) that of

the original legislation143 thus aims to unite the two

chapters that we have analysed into one Torah--viewed

under the aspect of sara'at, but we have seen that this

term, representing everywhere outside of the original

sara'at legislation an addition, is used in the generic sense

of any unclean spot or mark on a human body, or on a

garment, or on a stuff, or on a house. We must therefore,

exclude the nine sections superimposed upon the original

legislation from consideration in any attempt to determine

what the sara’at really and originally meant.



It is needless for our purpose to enter into a detailed

discussion of the various views regarding sara'at that have

jeen brought forward from a medical point of view.144  All

of these investigations, valuable though they are as medical

discussions, suffer from the defect that they assume the

unity of Lev. 13 and 14,145 and particularly of Lev 13. 1-37,


143 It will be observed that there is no subscript for the section on boils

burns (Lev. 13. 18-28), or for the one on baldness (Lev. 13. 40-4), which

raises the question whether these sections may not have been inserted after

the first union of Lev. 13 and 14.

144 It is sufficient to refer to G. N. Blanch, Die Zamath (Lepra) der

hebraischen Bibel, Hamburg; 1893 (with full bibliographical references);

R. Bennett, The Diseases of the Bible, London 1891, chap. I; Ebstein, Die

Medzin im Alku Testament, pp. 75-95; Preuss, Biblisch-Talmudische

Medzin, pp. 369-go; and Jay F. Schamberg, The Nature of the Leprosy of the

Bible (see note a). Some of these writers, especially Ebstein (l. c., p. 89),

recognize that sara'at includes a variety of skin diseases.

145 It was, of course, natural that ancient writers like Philo and the

rabbinical authorities in the Talmud, under the ban of the tradition which

scribed the entire Pentateuchal legislation to one period and one man,

THE SO-CALLED ‘LEPROSY' LAWS—JASTROW                    401


which portion naturally occupies the most prominent place

in medical discussions of sara’at. The above analysis has,

however, shown that verses 18-37, deal with boils, burns,

and sores, and their symptoms, and that they are pro-

nounced clean or unclean according to tests that are

suggested by, and dependent upon those applied to sara’at

in the original sara’at legislation, but that otherwise

they have nothing to do with sara’at.  The application

of the term sara’at to these dieases represents a late

addition made at a time when sara’at had acquired an

entirely general designation, so that it could be applied

even to 'bald spots' (Lev. 13. 42). The fact that the

diseases mentioned in Lev. 13. 17-37 have their specific

designation as ‘boils’, 'burns', and particularly netek, and

that even the symptoms described have technical designa-

tions ('scab of boil', 'scab of burn') strengthens the thesis

that the application of sara’at to them is of secondary

origin; and this is further borne out by the substitution

of nega’ for sara’at, to which attention has been directed.

In Lev. 13. 1-17 the 'growth' (tHaPasa sappahat) has its

specific name, namely mispahat (tHaPas;mi vers. 6-8), which

if it spreads does not become sara'at, but makes one

unclean. In the case of mispahat it is particularly clear

that the application of sara’at has no medical significance

or justification--the point involved being to determine

whether it is a 'clean' or an 'unclean' variety of disease.

The addition at the close of ver. 8 'it is sara'at’, can only

have the force of a convention--a non-medical identification,


should have started from this point of view, which led Philo (de Posteritate

Cain', I, §13) to define sara’at as a 'multiform and complicated disease',

and the Rabbis in the Talmudical Treatise Nega'im to go to even greater

lengths in the application of a term that must once have had a very specific





and at the very most can be taken to mean that the

'unclean' mispahat is to be put on the same plane as

sara’at. In a medical discussion, therefore it is erroneous to

start from an identification of the two, or to regard mispahat

as a variety of sara’at. This view of sappahat carries with it

baheret (shining mark),which is treated merely as a symptom,

and therefore introduced with sappahat (ver. 4), with boils

(ver. 19), and with burns (vers. 24, 28), and with bohak

(ver. 39). On the other hand, 'the white swelling' implied

in ver. 2, and treated in ver. 10--a part of the original

sara’at legislation--belongs to the symptoms of sara’at,

and apparently is the means, or one of the means, of dis-

tinguishing between ordinary sara’at, which may be healed,

and chronic sara’at, which is pronounced unclean even

without the test of an isolation for purposes of observation


In verses 38-9 the description of a specific disease bohak

(tetter) is given as a caution against regarding numerous

white spots on the skin as 'unclean'. The term sara’at

is not even introduced here--the verdict being 'clean'--

while in verses 40-43, dealing with two forms of baldness,

the occurrence of 'white swelling', alone suggests a com-

parison with the diagnosis of sara’at. While, no doubt,

this section is secondary to the original sara’at legislation,

the possibility that the symptom here described may

belong to sara’at in the original sense must be admitted.

The peculiar usage, 'like the appearance of a sara’at of

the skin of the flesh' (Lev. 13- 43), shows, at all events,

the intention of the author to add this symptom under

the head of the genuine sara'at. Even though not belonging

to the original sara’at legislation, verse 43 must be con-

sidered in a discussion of the original force of sara’at.

THE SO-CALLED ‘LEPROSY' LAWS--JASTROW                     403


We may, of course, dismiss without a further word the

application of sara'at to garments, stuffs, and houses--

which if taken seriously would lead to medical conclusions

of an absurd character. Even those who wish to save the

original integrity of Lev.13 and 14 will hardly go so far

as to assume that the legislator had in mind the modern

'germ' theory, according to which a disease can be carried

to a person through clothes or through the walls of a

house. Such germs--difficult often for modern medical

science to determine--are not so considerate as to manifest

themselves in big patches. The non-scientific application

of the name of a disease to which man is subject to an

inanimate object shows conclusively that sara’at is not

used in its specific and original sense.

Excluding, therefore, mispahat, as well as 'boils', 'burns',

netek (open sore), bohak (tetter), and, of course, mere

baldness and marks on garments and stuffs and houses,

what then is sara'at?

Thrown back upon the original sara'at legislation, the

answer, from a symptomatic point of view, is quite simple.

It is a skin disease, which appears in a milder and curable

form and in a severer chronic form--or what was considered

at the time as chronic. In its milder form the symptoms

are a spot (or a mark) with a tendency to spread,146

appearing deeper than the skin, and changing the hair at

the spot to white; the other as the chronic form is marked

by the 'swelling' character of the spot, i. e. the inflammation

produces a spot in 'high-relief' against 'bas-relief'.

Besides, there is also the symptom of the hair at the spot

turning white, and the appearance of raw flesh in the


146 Note, however, the 'Gemara' (ver. 12) that if it spreads over the whole

body it is merely a 'rash', and, therefore, 'clean'.



swelling. From a modern medical point of view, these

symptoms must appear somewhat naive and decidedly

insufficient. It is not surprising that students of medicine

should disagree as to the precise disease indicated, and that

the perfectly relevant question should have been raised

whether sara'at ever indicated any specific disease.

That sara’at was never intended as a designation of

leprosy or elephantiasis Graecorum147 is now so generally

admitted as to require no further discussion. Indeed, there

is no proof that the disease was known in Palestine in early

days any more than in Egypt or in other parts of the near

Orient.148  The consistent Greek rendering of sara'at as

lepra--followed by the Vulgate--is a most valuable tradi-

tion, carrying us back to at least the second century B.C.,

for the current view of sara’at, just as a misunderstanding

of lepra is responsible for the opinion still popularly current

that the disease described as sara'at is leprosy. The

manner in which the confusion between lepra and ‘leprosy’

arose is fully set forth by Bennett and others.149  In Greek

medical usage lepra designates 'a cutaneous disease varying

in its features, but the essential characteristic of which is

a rough, scabrous or scaly eruption on the skin, with more

or less evidence of surrounding redness or superficial

inflammation’.150  Three varieties of lepra are distinguished

by Greek writers, and it is therefore reasonable to suppose


147 See, especially, Munch's exhaustive discussion of the point, chaps. I

and III-VI, and Bennett's Diseases of the Bible, pp., 40ff.

148 So, e. g., Munch's conclusion, p. 145.  If it had been known, it would

certainly have been enumerated among the diseases threatened as ‘curses’

in Deut. 28, where it is noticeable that sara'at is not mentioned, whereas

the 'boils' of Egypt (sehin) (ver. 27) are included.

149 See Bennett, pp. 16-19; Munch, pp. 88.

150 Bennett, p. 19.


THE SO-CALLED ‘LEPROSY' LAWS--JASTR0W                      405


that several varieties also existed in Palestine. Curiously

enough--if the above analysis is correct--there would be

also three varieties in Lev.13, 1-17; (1) the 'bas-relief'

sara’at; (2) the 'high-relief' sara’at; and (3) the mispahat,

which latter certainly stands in a close relation to the first

and second. In any case sara'at, is definitely narrowed

down to this portion of the chapter--'boils', ‘burns’, netek,

bohak, &c., being entirely excluded. Too much stress must

not be laid upon this quite unexpected result that Lev. 13.

1-17 should contain three varieties of sara'at, for the agree-

ment with the three varieties recognized by Greek medical

writers may be a pure coincidence, and would have a value

only in case the diagnosis of the three varieties would be

identical among Greeks and Hebrews.151  This does not

appear to be the case. The essential characteristic of lepra

seems to be, according to the testimony of Greek and

Latin medical writers,152 scabrous or scaly eruptions on the


151 This suggestion that three varieties of lepra are described, corre-

sponding to the three varieties of vitiligo  as set up by Celsus, was made long

ago (see Bennett, pp. 31-3) by Drs. Mason, Good, and Belcher, but their

identifications are very arbitrary, and rest upon the erroneous supposition

that all diseases enumerated in Lev. 13 come under sara'at. Moreover, the

fact that the same three designations (alphos, melas, and leuki) are described

as varieties of vililigo by Celsus (de Medicina, V, 27.19), whereas writers

apply the three terms to varieties of lepra (psoriasis), or to diseases allied

to lepra, points to a further confusion in early medical nomenclature, which

an additional warning against drawing definite conclusions from the vague

and unscientific diagnosis in Lev. 13.

152 See the passages from Hippocrates gathered by Munch, Die Zaraath

(Lepra) der Bibel, pp. 3-4. Since Hippocrates used the plural form, leprai

(cf. 'certain leprai', V, 98, § 17, ed. Littre) it is evident that he recognized

several varieties, but it is to be noted that he nowhere enumerates three

varieties, alphos, niclas, and leuke.  In fact, melas is not mentioned by him

at all, whereas alphos (also used in the plural as well as in the singular)

occurs by the side of lepra, but distinct from it (lepra, leichenes, and alphoi,

V, 701, § 502; lepra and alphos, V, p. 179; IX, 105. § 20, &c.), and the same



skin as the name lepra, which means 'rough' or 'scaly',

indicates. The three varieties, alphos, melas, leuke are

distinguished from one another by the colour of the eruption,   

which in the case of alphos is white, in the case of melas

black and shadowy, and in the case of leuke whiter than

the alphos variety. Moreover, only in the case of the leuki,

is there in Celsus a specific mention of white hairs in

connexion with the eruption. The leuke penetrates more

deeply into the skin than the alphos and melas, which

agree--except in the matter of the colour--'in being

roughish and not confluent, looking as though scattered

in drops with wide interspaces between the drops'.153  By

general consent, the lepra of the Greeks is identified with

psoriasis, or at all events, the different varieties of lepra are

classed under the head of psoriasis. The important stress

which is laid upon the hair turning white in Lev. 13,

suggests that the only form of lepra which the original

sara'at legislators had in mind was the leuke variety, and

the description given in verse 3 of the appearance of the

mark 'deeper than the skin' might accord also with

the express mention in the case of leuke that the eruption

penetrates more deeply into the skin. It is noticeable also

that the leuke variety is the only one of the three which  

has a serious import, and was on the whole not regarded

as curable, whereas the alphos and melas are cured without

great difficulty. The objection, however, against the iden-

tification of sara’at in Lev. 13. 3 with leuke is that no


is the case with leuke (leichenes, leprai, and leukai (plural); IX, p. 75, § 43).

There is, in fact, no passage where even lepra, leuke, and alphos occur together,

showing that each was regarded as a distinct disease by Hippocrates, and

that in the case of each, as the, use of the plural form shows; several varieties

were recognized.

153 Bennett, as above note 149.

THE SO-CALLED 'LEPROSY' LAWS--JASTROW                      407


reference is made to the rough or scaly symptom of the

eruption. Such a reference may, however, be recognized

in the second variety of sara’at (ver. 10) where the eruption

is in 'high relief'. The 'white swelling' would be a close

approach to leuke, and the 'raw flesh', added as another

symptom, might well be a further description of a 'rough'

eruption. The description of leuke that it ‘penetrates more

deeply’ would, therefore, not represent the equivalent to

being ‘deeper than the skin’, and this is perhaps natural,

since in the case of lepra the eruptions are rough and scaly

in all three varieties. The omission, therefore, of ‘deeper

than the skin’, in ver. 10, adds strength to the view, here

set forth, that se'et (txeW;) refers to a 'high relief' or a

‘rough’ eruption—‘raising’ the skin as it were. The

absence of any reference to a 'rough eruption,' in the case

of the first variety of sara’at, and the emphasis upon its

being on the contrary, 'deeper than the skin', suggests

an identification with the skin disease vitiligo, which--

common in tropical countries--is characterized by bright

white spots, the hairs of which lose their colour and become

white'.154  In the description of this first variety of sara’at

the stress is laid upon the hair at the spot turning 'white',

and the expression ‘deeper than the skin’ would be a

natural way of describing a spot that seems to be in the

skin, in contrast to an eruption that appears, over the skin.

The addition represented by verse 4, where the phrase

‘shining white’ spot is introduced; suggests, by implication,

that in verse 3, the nega' is white and shining, since the

point in verse 4 is that the spot is not clearly defined as

in the skin, i.e. too faint as yet to be recognized as such,


154 Schamberg, l. c., p. 4. of reprint: from Phil. Polyclinic, Vol. VII, Nov.

19-26, = Biblical World, l899, p. 163.



and that the hair has not turned white. The conclusion

thus reached, and which is here submitted to students of

medicine, is that the Biblical sara'at' in the original form

of the sara’at Torah consists of two varieties, and that

these two varieties represent a confusion of two distinct

skin diseases: the first variety, regarded as less serious,

while rendering the victim for the time being ‘unclean',

is vitiligo; the second variety, characterized as chronic

sara’at (Lev. 13. 11), is the leuke: or the most serious variety

of lepra or psoriasis. Verses 6-8, forming a later addition,

would represent a further attempt to differentiate the leuke

from other varieties, and the emphasis laid upon its ‘being

faint', in verse 6, naturally suggests a description of alphos,

which case, the white colour of the eruption is not as

pronounced.155  Lastly, verses 12-13 representing again

other addition for purposes of further differentiation, and

describing marks which spread over the whole body,

‘turning it all white', as the gloss in verse 13 ex-

plains, would represent a form of vitiligo in which the

disease spreads until large areas of the body are involved,

and even the entire body. Cases are on record of negroes

affected by this disease turning entirely white.156  The

affection is an entirely harmless one, and in accord with

this we find the verdict in Lev. 13. 14, 'he is clean'.

To sum up, then we have two forms of genuine sara’at

in the original sara’at legislation; one, the milder form,

being a form of vitiligo, the other, the chronic form; being

leuke.  In the later additions to the original sara’at section,


155 Vera. 6-8 representing an addition to the original sara’at legislation;

naturally no special reference is made to the spot being a a rising eruption

or a mark that appears on the skin.

156 Schamberg, l. c.


THE SO-CALLED 'LEPROSY' LAWS--JASTROW                      409


we have (a) a form of alphos apparently described, which

if it spreads is pronounced as 'unclean', and (b) a form of

vitiligo, in which the whole flesh turns white, and which

is pronounced ‘clean’.  In the balance of the chapter,

Lev. 13, as well as in the additions to Lev. 14, represented

by verses 33-47, the use of sara'at is erroneous, or rather

represents the later use of the term as a generic one-

synonymous with nega’, ‘mark’--to designate any kind

of a spot, whether on any part of the human body, or

on a garment, on a stuff, or on the walls of a house, which

is regarded as ‘unclean’.  So far as 'marks' on a human

being are concerned, Lev. 13. 18-43 includes boils and

burns, open sores on the head or beard, baldness in various

stages, and 'faint white spots' that form merely a tetter

(bohak). Boils and burns that leave ‘eruptions’ (se'et),

white or shining, or reddish, showing symptoms of the

second variety of sara'at, i. e. leuke, are unclean, whereas

the mere scabs from boils or burns are clean. The sore   

(netek) which shows the symptoms of the first variety of

sara'at (lepra alphos)--marks appearing to be in the skin

and the hair turning yellowish--is unclean. Baldness

and a mere tetter (bokah) finally are clean, but the appear-

ance of an 'eruption' (se'et) on the bald spot raises the

suspicion, according to what is probably a very late addition

to the texts (ver. 42), of its being sara'at, presumably of

the second variety.

The oldest ritual, Lev. 14. 1-8a, which in its original

form, as has been shown, was a method of exorcising

sara'at, when it became a purification ritual performed

at the time of healing, could have been applied only to

the curable variety of sara'at--i. e. to vitiligo, and, if we

include the later addition to the legislation, also to alphos.



It was then naturally extended to all the other skin troubles

mentioned in Lev. 13, which made the victim unclean until

he was healed. On the other hand, the law of being

excluded from human society, warning the people of one's  

approach by calling 'unclean', keeping one's mouth covered,

allowing one's hair to grow long, not changing one's clothes--

while applicable to all during the period of their being

‘unclean' must have been devised originally for those who

suffered from the 'chronic' and incurable variety of lepra,

i.e. leuke.  For those suffering from vitiligo, isolation

outside of the camp until the demon had been exorcised.

i. e. until the healing had taken place, was presumably all

that was required.

We are now in a better position to consider the other

passages in the Old Testament where sara'at is mentioned.

In accord with the original sara'at legislation, the one so

afflicted (Num. 5. 2, sara’at) is to be removed from the

camp, but the fact that he is mentioned together with one

having a 'running' sore (bzA--also discussed in Lev. 15)

indicates, not only that Num. 5 assumes the existence of

Lev. 13-15, but also that the one who suffers from sara'at

is not necessarily a chronic or even a very serious sufferer.

Deut. 24.8 also assumes more or less detailed regulations

regarding the sara'at, and since verses 8 and 9 interrupt

the order of subjects in this chapter, it may be safely

assumed that we here have later insertions. Verse 9 is a

reference to the punishment of Miriam with sara'at, which

is described Num. 12. 10-13.157  If the phrase (ver. 10b)

'and Miriam was stricken with sara'at like snow' belongs


157 Num. 12. 14-16 is a reference to Lev. 13. 4, though another disease,

which seem; to be 'jaundice', is indicated in ver. 14 a that is not mentioned

in any of the codes.

THE SO-CALLED 'LEPROSY’ LAWS--JASTROW                     411


to the original text, then we could say with reasonable

certainty that the sara’at in this case was of the first

and milder variety--a form of vitiligo; but the words

stricken with sara’at like snow" (gl,wAKa tfaracom;) seem to

be quoted from Exod. 4. 6, and are therefore in all

probability a gloss to the latter part of Num. 12. 10,

'And Aaron turned to Miriam and behold she was

stricken with sara’at'. To this a commentator added

as an explanation the case of Exod. 4. 6, where the

hand of Moses is described as becoming 'white as snow'

(gl,w,.Ka tfaracom;), and then is instantly restored to its normal

condition--as one of the signs to be used by him in case

he should meet with unbelief in his mission upon reaching

Egypt. The reference to 'snow' in the case of Gehazi,

the attendant of Elisha (2 Kings 5. 27) would seem to

show that vitiligo was intended in this case which would,

therefore, apply also to Naaman' (2 Kings 6. 2), since it is

the latter's disease which is transferred as a punishment for

greed to Gehazi and his offspring (ver. 27). We may per-

haps assume this also to be the case in 2 Kings 7. 3, though

the text is vague in its tone. On the other hand, King

Azariah (or Uzziah, as he is called in 2 Chron. 26) appears

to have been smitten with the second and chronic variety

of sara'at, i. e. leuke, for he remains afflicted till his death,

and is obliged to dwell in a separate house (2 Kings 15. 5;

2 Chron. 26. 21).158

There is, of course, not the slightest reason for assuming

that Job's sickness, or the one with which Hezekiah is

smitten, represented any form of sara’at, and much less

leprosy.  In both cases the disease is specified as 'boils'


            158 So special importance needs to be attached to the statement in

Chron. 26. 19, 20 that the sara’at 'broke out on his forehead'.



(Isa. 38. 21 and Job 2. 7), just as in the case in one of

the plagues of Egypt (Exod. 9. 10), where moreover the

technical term aba'bu’ot (an Egyptian word?) is added.

Indeed, it is noticeable in the large list of diseases which

are threatened as a curse (Deut. 28) in case of a dis-

obedience to the laws, that sara'at is not mentioned,

whereas  'boils'--specified as 'Egyptian boils'--are included

(ver. 27) with others that are expressly declared to be

'incurable'159--a valuable indication that sara'at after all

was not counted among the most serious diseases, and that

the special legislation is rather a reflex of the common

occurrence of the disease in its two (or possibly more)

varieties, which made it necessary to make provisions for

those so stricken, and who were regarded as unclean merely

because every real disease--due to demoniac possession--

made the victim unclean. An affliction that was 'clean'

was not really a disease, according to medical science in

this primitive stage of empirical knowledge.

A question that should at least be touched upon at

the close of this analysis is the one raised by Eerdmans's

recent investigation of the entire book of Leviticus160 as

to the age of the legislation in Lev. 13-14. With Eerdmans's

general thesis that Leviticus, as in fact the whole of the


159 The case of Job and Hezekiah are, therefore, exceptional, and are

portrayed as miraculous through Divine intervention.

160 Alttestamenliche Studien, IV, 'Das Buch Leviticus' (Giessen, 1912).

See especially pp. 68-73. The grounds on which Wiener, Origin of the

Pentateuch, p. 76, assumes an early origin for Lev. 13 and 14 do not seem

to me to be of any value. In many points, especially when he pleads for

the early character of many of the laws, Wiener is right, but he is not as

'original' as he thinks he is in his opposition to the critical school, and his

method of argumentation, even where his conclusions are correct, is most

defective, and sometimes unfair. I shall take up Wiener's contentions at

some future time.

THE SO-CALLED 'LEPROSY' LAWS--JASTROW                      413


legislation in the Priestly Code, contains pre-exilic elements,

I am in full accord. The analysis of Lev. 13-14, as set

forth in this article, lends further support to Eerdmans's

thesis, which as a matter of fact, has been held even by

those who claimed post-exilic dates for the final form of

the Priestly Code. It is evident that a purification ritual

such as Lev. 14. 1-8a, which contains distinct traces of

having once been a method of exorcising a disease, must

revert to a very ancient period; and even as a purification

ritual it belongs to a time anterior to the period when

a sacrifice of some kind was regarded as essential to a

removal of ‘uncleanness’.  Indeed, the whole conception

of disease as a state of ‘uncleanness’ belongs to the time

when disease was supposed to be due to some 'unclean'

demon that had found its way into one's body; and the

'uncleanness' at this stage of thought has nothing to do

with hygienic impurity, as little as the demon theory of

disease has anything to do with the modern germ theory

of disease, albeit the former seems to suggest the latter.

The references to the 'camp' and 'tent' in Lev. 14 also

point to early social stages, and there is no reason to

assume that these terms are introduced into a late legislation

with a view of giving the impression that they are old,

or in other words, as a deliberate invention to uphold a

tradition of the Mosaic origin of the Pentateuchal legislation.

If such had been the deliberate intent of the compilers

they would not have committed the inconsistency of intro-

ducing the word 'city' in the same chapter (Lev. 14. 40,

41, 45). The naive and non-scientific manner of describing

the two varieties of sara’at and the almost total absence

of technical terms in the original sara'at legislation, with

merely feeble attempts to differentiate two totally different



diseases, are further indications that point to an early,

certainly to a pre-exilic origin, for the beginnings of the

sara’at legislation. Even the additions in Lev. 13. 1-43

may in large part belong to the pre-exilic period. This

appears to be certainly the case with the additions to the

first part of the chapter, Lev. 13. 1-18, with the possible

exception of some glosses and of the general use of sara'at

for any unclean ‘spot’ on the skin, which I believe to be of

comparatively late origin, while the supplementary sections,

Lev. 13. 47-58, concerning spots on garments, &c., and

certainly the still later section on spots on walls of houses,

Lev, 14. 33-48, may, with great probability, be put down

as, post-exilic. This applies also to the ritualistic sections

prescribing the sacrifice of animals as an integral part of

the purification ceremonial, Lev. 14. 10-20, as well as

to Lev. 14- 21-31, which is of the same character though

possibly embodying, as above suggested,161 traces of an

earlier and simpler sacrificial ritual. Naturally, the purifica-

tion ritual attached to Lev. 14. 33-48 ('spots' on walls of

houses), though taken over from the old and certainly pre-

exilic ritual, Lev. 14. 1-8a, forming, part of the original

sara'at legislation, represents an addition that cannot be

earlier than the section, Lev. 14. 33-48, itself.

As for the chronological sequence of the numerous

sections superimposed upon the original sara'at legislation,

it seems safe to regard Lev. 14. 33-47, and the attached

ritual, verses 48-53, as the latest additions made after the

insertion of the sections in Lev. 13, i. e. verses 18-44,

between the diagnosis of the two forms of sara'at and the

purification ritual, Lev. 14. 1-8a; otherwise, the section of

sara'at marks on walls of houses would have found a place


161 See above, p. 379f.

THE S0-CALLED 'LEPROSY' LAWS--JASTROW                      415


before or after the section, Lev. 13. 47-58, treating of marks

on garments, &c. The absence of any ritual for the puri-

fication of marks on garments and stuffs would indicate

an earlier date than the elaborate ritual, Lev. 14. 10-20,

added to the second ritual, Lev. 14.8b-9, and superimposed

upon the first ritual, Lev. 14. 1-8a. This, of course,

carries with it the later date for the ‘substitute’ sacrifice,

Lev. 14. 21-31, though, as indicated, this may embody

a simpler and, therefore, earlier ‘sacrificial’ ritual than the

more complicated one. The order, therefore, would be

(i) Lev.13. 47-58; (2) Lev. 14. 21-31; (3) Lev. 14. 10-20;

(4) Lev. 14. 33-53. As for the remaining sections, the

insertions in Lev. 13. 1-17 represent the earliest attempts

at elaborating the original sara'at legislation, while the  

five sections in Lev. 13. 18-44 may very well have been

added in chronological sequence in the order in which the

sections are now arranged. It is not, of course, possible to

go further and specify any definite period at which the

one or the other of these nine sections was added, beyond

the general impression one receives from the larger use

of technical terms (such as netek, bohak, &c.) and the more

detailed diagnosis in the case of ‘boils’ and ‘burns’, that the

sections belong to a considerably advanced period of medi-

cal observation and are, therefore, presumably post-exilic.

This would carry with it the four sections: (1) Lev. 13.

47-58; (2) Lev.14. 21-31; (3) Lev. 14.30-20; (4) Lev. 14.

33-53--all certainly later than the five sections--and the

post-exilic character of which is suggested by internal

evidence. I venture, therefore, to claim as pre-exilic not

only the original sara'at legislation and the original puri-

fication rituals, Lev. 14. 1-8c and 8b-9, but also the

elaborated section, Lev. 13. 1-17, in which the additions

are dovetailed into the original sara'at portions.



Eerdmans,162 to be sure, would go much further and

place the entire two chapters in the pre-exilic period, but

his argumentation is not convincing because he under-

estimates the complicated character of the composition of

Lev. 13-14. The fact, e. g., that the style and language of

the section on marks in garments, &c. (Lev. 13. 47-59),

agree with Lev. 13. 1-46 is due to direct imitation precludes

its use as an argument for the unity of Lev. 13; and in

the same way, Lev. 14.33-53 ('marks' on walls of houses)

imitates Lev. 13, and intentionally introduces so far as

possible the same terms.  Even if my analysis of Lev. 13-14

should not prove to be correct in all details, I feel safe

in saying that the existence of an original sara'at legislation

consisting of Lev. 13, 2-3; 9-11 (with some additions),

45-6, and followed immediately by a ‘purification’ or

‘dismissal’ ritual, Lev. 14. 1-8 a, has been definitely

demonstrated. No less significant is the fact that has been

proved163 of the distinction between a ritual performed

outside of a sanctuary and one that is to be performed at

an altar. This points not only to a very early age for the

original sara’at legislation, but also to a considerable interval,

of time between the age of the two rituals. Moreover, the

'sacrificial' ritual is based on a totally different point of

view. The fact that provision is made for carrying out

the later sacrificial ritual in Jerusalem only, without regard

to occurrences of sara’at in other parts of the country, is

due, of course, to the theoretical basis of the Priestly Code

that there is only one legislative centre at which sacrifice

can be brought. Instead of concluding, as Eerdmans does,

that the legislation originated in pre-exilic days in sole

connexion with the sanctuary at Jerusalem, because a post-


162 l.c., pp. 38-73.                  163 See above, p. 375.



exilic legislation would necessarily have regard to Jewish

settlements outside of the capital, the more obvious deduc-

tion would be that the Priestly Code is to a large extent

an 'ideal' compilation made with the express purpose of

adapting the older and younger practices to a theoretical

centre. That animal sacrifices were brought in pre-exilic

days, and at a very early period must, of course, be admitted,

and the emphasis on the 'tent of meeting’ in the ritual of

Lev. 14. 10-31 may be taken as an indication that the

basis of the ritual is pre-exilic; but the frequent substitution

of ‘before Jahweh’ in the section would have no meaning

unless one assumed that it represents the endeavour again

to apply older practices--considerably elaborated and

transferred to Jahweh's one and only legitimate sanctuary

at Jerusalem; so that we are once more brought face to

face with the distinctly post-exilic ideal that underlies the

legislation of the Priestly Code in its present form. It is

characteristic of the gradual growth of legislation to retain

in a conservative spirit the language and the form of earlier

legislation, even when inconsistent with later conditions.

Just as laws are never actually abrogated in ancient

codes, but carried along with modifications that at times

totally change the character of ancient statutes even 'to the

point of virtually abrogating them164 so formulas are carried

over and given a new interpretation through glosses or

explanatory comments. The substitution of ‘before Jahweh’


164 A good case in point is the legislation regarding slants, in the so-called

Book of the Covenant. Exod. 21. 1-6, which theoretically recognizes

slavery, but changes it practically to an indenture of six years. The old law

remains, but it is so modified as to receive an entirely different character.

In the same way it is theoretically assumed (vers. 8-11) that the old law

allowing a man to sell his daughter as a 'handmaid' remains in force, but

it is practically abrogated by conditions that chance its nature.



for ‘tent of meeting’, together with the frequent addition

of the one phrase to the other is, therefore, an illustration

of the way in which the old is carried over and combined

with the new. It is impossible at this point to enter into

further detached criticism of Eerdmans's position, but enough

has been brought forward, I think, to make it clear that, while

he has shown more satisfactorily than his predecessors how

much in the Pentateuchal legislation is old, his main con-

tention that the critical theory associated chiefly with the

names of Graf, Kuenen, and Wellhausen165 must be set

aside because based on erroneous assumptions, is not accept-

able, partly because he has not carried the analysis of the

Pentateuchal laws far enough, and, therefore, under-estimates

their complicated character, and partly because he draws

untenable conclusions from the material itself even as he

has set it forth. The critical theory is of course subject to

modification through further researches, but its basis rests

on too firm foundations to be seriously menaced by the

recent attacks made upon it.


165 See Eerdmans's Introduction to Alttestamentliche Forschungen, I.




Please report any errors to Ted Hildebrandt at:  thildebrandt@gordon.edu