Leviticus 13–14: Leprosy

Old Testament Seminary Student Study Guide, (2002), 59–60

Leviticus 13–14 addresses the disease of leprosy. From the descriptions in these chapters, it appears that leprosy included several different infectious skin diseases. For more information about leprosy, see “leper” and “leprosy” in the Bible Dictionary (pp. 723–24).

Understanding the Scriptures

Leviticus 14

Tarry abroad out (v. 8)Stay outside 
Log (vv. 10, 12, 15, 21)About one-half of a liter 

Studying the Scriptures

Do activity A as you study Leviticus 13–14.

Activity A iconCompare the Cleansing of Leprosy to the Cleansing of Our Sins

Because leprosy was so visible and involved the decay or corruption of the body, it served as an excellent symbol of sinfulness. Sin corrupts someone spiritually the way leprosy corrupts someone physically. Leviticus 14 describes what a man must do to be ceremonially, or religiously, clean after being healed of leprosy. We can see parallels between the process of being cleansed of leprosy and how we overcome the effects of sin.

Before you study Leviticus 14, you should know that when an individual acquired leprosy, he or she was required to live outside the camp. The same is true of sin. When we sin, we cut ourselves off from full communion with the Lord and His Church. For example, we may not be permitted to take the sacrament or receive a temple recommend.

The steps in becoming ceremonially clean of leprosy are found in the following groups of verses. Read each group of verses from Leviticus 14, summarize each step, and explain how the steps teach the process of sin and repentance. With each group of verses you will find a question to help you focus your thinking.

  1. 1.

    Verses 2–3. If leprosy symbolizes sin, who might the priest represent?

  2. 2.

    Verses 4–8. You should know that (a) cedar wood is known as something that helps preserve other things from decay and corruption; (b) the color scarlet is red, reminding us of blood, which is the symbol of life and the Atonement; (c) hyssop was used in the Old Testament as a purifying plant; and (d) blood and water are symbols of birth (see Moses 6:59). Considering this information, what do you think is symbolized in these verses?

  3. 3.

    Verse 9. Newborns usually have little or no hair, except for on their heads. What might the message of this verse be? (see 3 Nephi 11:37).

  4. 4.

    Verses 10–14. Recall similar symbolism in Exodus 28–29. How might the symbolism apply here?

  5. 5.

    Verses 15–18. The olive tree is an emblem of peace and purity, and the olive oil became a symbol of the Holy Ghost and doing righteous deeds and acts of service (see D&C 45:56–57). How is this part of the process of becoming clean from sin? (see 2 Nephi 31:17).

  6. 6.

    Verses 19–20. Ultimately, what makes repentance possible?