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Leviticus 13:2-3

13:2 “When someone has 1  a swelling 2  or a scab 3  or a bright spot 4  on the skin of his body 5  that may become a diseased infection, 6  he must be brought to Aaron the priest or one of his sons, the priests. 7  13:3 The priest must then examine the infection 8  on the skin of the body, and if the hair 9  in the infection has turned white and the infection appears to be deeper than the skin of the body, 10  then it is a diseased infection, 11  so when the priest examines it 12  he must pronounce the person unclean. 13 

1 tn Heb “A man, if [or when] he has….” The term for “a man, human being” (אָדָם, ’adam; see the note on Lev 1:2) in this case refers to any person among “mankind,” male or female, since either could be afflicted with infections on the skin.

2 tn Some of the terms for disease or symptoms of disease in this chapter present difficulties for the translator. Most modern English versions render the Hebrew term שְׂאֵת (sÿet) as “swelling,” which has been retained here (see the explanation in J. E. Hartley, Leviticus [WBC], 189). Some have argued that “deeper (עָמֹק, ’amoq) than the skin of his body” in v. 3 means that “this sore was lower than the surrounding skin” (J. Milgrom, Leviticus [AB], 1:773), in which case “swelling” would be an inappropriate translation of שְׂאֵת in v. 2. Similarly, שְׂאֵת also occurs in v. 19, and then v. 20 raises the issue of whether or not it appears to be “lower (שָׁפָל, shafal) than the skin” (cf. also 14:37 for a mark on the wall of a house), which may mean that the sore sinks below the surface of the skin rather than protruding above it as a swelling would (B. A. Levine, Leviticus [JPSTC], 76-77). Thus, one could translate here, for example, “discoloration” (so Milgrom and II שְׂאֵת “spot, blemish on the skin” in HALOT 1301 s.v. II שְׂאֵת) or “local inflammation, boil, mole” (so Levine). However, one could interpret “lower” as “deeper,” i.e., visibly extending below the surface of the skin into the deeper layers as suggested by J. E. Hartley, Leviticus (WBC), 188, 192. “Swelling” often extends deeply below the surface of the skin, it is certainly a common symptom of skin diseases, and the alternation of these two terms (i.e., “deeper” and “lower”) in vv. 25-26 below shows that they both refer to the same phenomenon (see also the note on v. 20 below), so it is retained in the present translation.

3 tn The etymology and meaning of this term is unknown. It could mean “scab” (KJV, ASV, NASB) or possibly “rash” (NIV, NLT), “flaking skin,” or an “eruption” (NRSV) of some sort.

4 tn Heb “shiny spot” or “white spot,” but to render this term “white spot” in this chapter would create redundancy in v. 4 where the regular term for “white” occurs alongside this word for “bright spot.”

5 tn Heb “in the skin of his flesh” as opposed to the head or the beard (v. 29).

6 tn Heb “a mark [or stroke; or plague] of disease.” In some places in this context (vv. 2, 3) it could be translated “a contagious skin disease.” Although the Hebrew term צָרָעַת (tsaraat) rendered here “diseased” is translated in many English versions as “leprosy,” it does not refer to Hanson’s disease, which is the modern technical understanding of the term “leprosy” (HALOT 1057 s.v. צָרְעַת a). There has been much discussion of the proper meaning of the term and the disease(s) to which it may refer (see, e.g., J. Milgrom, Leviticus [AB], 1:774-76, 816-26; J. E. Hartley, Leviticus [WBC], 187-89; and the literature cited by them). The further description of the actual condition in the text suggests that the regulations are concerned with any kind of infectious diseases that are observable on the surface of the skin and, in addition to that, penetrate below the surface of the skin (vv. 3-4) or spread further across the surface of the skin (vv. 5-8). It is true that, in the OT, the term “disease” is often associated specifically with white “scaly” skin diseases that resemble the wasting away of the skin after death (see Milgrom who, in fact, translates “scale disease”; cf., e.g., Exod 4:6-7 and Num 12:9-12, esp. v. 12), but here it appears to be a broader term for any skin disease that penetrates deep or spreads far on the body. Scaly skin diseases would be included in this category, but also other types. Thus, a “swelling,” “scab,” or “bright spot” on the skin might be a symptom of disease, but not necessarily so. In this sense, “diseased” is a technical term. The term “infection” can apply to any “mark” on the skin whether it belongs to the category of “disease” or not (compare and contrast v. 3, where the “infection” is not “diseased,” with v. 4, where the “infection” is found to be “diseased”).

7 tn Or “it shall be reported to Aaron the priest.” This alternative rendering may be better in light of the parallel use of the same expression in Lev 14:2, where the priest had to go outside the camp in order to inspect the person who had been diseased. Since the rendering “he shall be brought to Aaron the priest” might confuse matters there, this expression should be rendered “it shall be reported” both here in 13:2 (cf. also v. 9) and in 14:2. See, however, the further note on 14:2 below, where it is argued that the diseased person would still need to “be brought” to the priest even if this happened outside the camp. Most English versions retain the idea of the afflicted person being “brought” to the priest for inspection.

8 tn Heb “and the priest shall see the infection.”

9 tn There is no “if” expressed, but the contrast between the priestly finding in this verse and the next verse clearly implies it.

10 tn Heb “and the appearance of the infection is deep ‘from’ (comparative מִן, min, “deeper than”) the skin of the his flesh.” See the note on v. 20 below.

11 tn For the translation “diseased infection” see the note on v. 2 above. Cf. TEV “a dreaded skin disease”; NIV “an infectious skin disease”; NLT “a contagious skin disease.”

12 tn The pronoun “it” here refers to the “infection,” not the person who has the infection (cf. the object of “examine” at the beginning of the verse).

13 tn Heb “he shall make him unclean.” The verb is the Piel of טָמֵא (tame’) “to be unclean.” Here it is a so-called “declarative” Piel (i.e., “to declare unclean”), but it also implies that the person is put into the category of actually being “unclean” by the pronouncement itself (J. E. Hartley, Leviticus [WBC], 175; cf. the corresponding opposite in v. 6 below).

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