Naaman and Leprosy in the Bible

J. Hampton Keathley on “The Significance of Leprosy in the Bible”:

(1) The leper was considered unclean and had to be isolated from society to a certain degree. Wherever he went he was to cry out, “unclean, unclean,” and he had to wear black with a hood covering his face and live outside the city walls.

(2) Whenever the Lord Jesus healed a leper he always pronounced the person, not healed, but cleansed.

(3) True leprosy was incurable by man in Bible times just as sin is incurable for man (Jer. 17:9, “desperately sick,” “beyond cure” or “incurably sick”; see also Isa. 1:5-6). There is nothing man himself can do to deal with his sin problem. Further, his sin separates him from God and even from intimate fellowship with people (cf. 1 Cor. 5:9-132 Cor. 6:14-7:1). When the Lord healed a leper, therefore, the picture should have been obvious. His power to cleanse a leper demonstrated He was the solution to man’s sin and defilement; He alone was and is the means of reconciliation, peace with God and man.

(4) The rite of purification in the Old Testament did not cure, it only recognized the fact a leper was cured, he was clean of the disease, or that he never really had the incurable type of leprosy. He could then be reconciled to society.

(5) Leprosy, like sin, begins within (with what we are) and then erupts on the skin (on the surface). As such, it clearly reminds us of the principle that men are, by an inherited nature, sinners and that it’s not just what we do that is so bad, but what we are. The point is the mouth speaks and hands do as a result of what the heart is and thinks (Luke 6:43-45Ps. 51:5; 58:3Matt. 12:33-34Eph. 2:1f). With this in mind, compare Leviticus 13:1-4. Even the slightest blemish in the skin, a swelling (a boil), a scab (a small tumor), or a bright spot (a red or scaly place) was to be carefully observed to see if it was the product of something deeper, i.e., some form of true leprosy.

(6) The priest was to examine the skin and pronounce the person clean or unclean depending upon his observation of the facts. So today, since Christ has provided cleansing from sin, every believer as a believer priest is to detect sin in their own life and pronounce it sin when it first appears (1 John 1:8-10).49

(7) The pain of leprosy, at least in certain forms, was not acute because it also killed the nerves in the affected area, but it kept the victim restless, miserable, and frustrated as they felt the stigma of the disease. They saw portions of their bodies become numb, muscles atrophy (waste away), tendons contract making the hands like claws, and then the ulceration of the fingers and toes and hands and feet resulting in their loss bit by bit until the whole hand or foot was gone. We must not miss the picture God wants us to see from this emphasis in Scripture. Sin is like this. Because of man’s separation from God, because of his spiritually dead condition and the hardness of his soul, he becomes insensitive, callused, restless and never satisfied. He often does not experience severe pain from his sin and waywardness, only insensitivity, restless misery, and futility, ever seeking some means of fulfillment running from one thing to another (cf. Isa. 57:20-21Eph. 4:16-19). Even in apparent prosperity and happiness, not only is there a certain amount of inner peace and true happiness missing, but their ultimate plight is death, loss, and the judgment of separation (Ps. 1:4-5; 73:1-28).

(8) Because of the nature of the disease, the leper was often considered as dead; it was a kind of living death though physically alive. So men without Christ are nothing more than the living dead; though walking about they are spiritual zombies (Eph. 2:1).

(9) Regardless of one’s position, honor, power, possessions, or wealth, leprosy, like sin, is no respecter of persons. Naaman was a man of position and prestige, but he was also leprous.

(10) As seen previously, in Israel, according to the Law, lepers were excluded from society as a picture of sin and its effects. God used this to remind Israel of His holiness. Cleansing a leper meant being restored back to a normal life. The term “cure” in 2 Kings 5:3 literally meant, “to receive back.” This provides us with a fitting picture of our reconciliation to God and to one another (cf. Isa. 59:2 with 2 Cor. 5:18-21).

(11) Finally, the leprosy of sin destroys the pleasantness and beauty God meant for mankind in His creation. Sin deforms us, but in Christ we are made new creations and can be transformed into His glorious likeness (2 Cor. 5:17Rom. 12:1-2Gal. 4:19). See also 2 Kings 5:14.

Namaan held a high position, but had a very great problem. We need to understand that God often uses the personal failures, sicknesses, and problems of men as a means so bring them to the end of themselves and to a knowledge of the Lord and His salvation. (Ps. 119:67, 71, 73). God uses problems in life to force us to face our deeper problem, the problem of sin, and the need of God’s forgiveness and salvation in Jesus Christ. This chapter illustrates this. Naaman went from his problem to God’s solution which was more than simply the healing of his leprosy. As we will see, Naaman came to know the true God. So, with verses 2 and following we will see how God worked in various ways, through the disease and through people to bring Naaman to the Lord. In these verses we have portraits of how God saves.

2 thoughts on “Naaman and Leprosy in the Bible

  1. I would like reference to the story on leprosy where the people with it were put in isolation from others. There was an army between them and others. The armr got scared and ran. What book is this in.

  2. Leviticus 13:45-46 is the passage that commands the lepers to live alone because they are unclean [45] “The leprous person who has the disease shall wear torn clothes and let the hair of his head hang loose, and he shall cover his upper lip and cry out, ‘Unclean, unclean.’ [46] He shall remain unclean as long as he has the disease. He is unclean. He shall live alone. His dwelling shall be outside the camp.
    (Leviticus 13:45-46 ESV)

    I think the story you are referring to is in 2 Kings 7, but the army fled before the lepers arrived, not because they saw the lepers.
    [The Syrians Flee]
    [3] Now there were four men who were lepers at the entrance to the gate. And they said to one another, “Why are we sitting here until we die? [4] If we say, ‘Let us enter the city,’ the famine is in the city, and we shall die there. And if we sit here, we die also. So now come, let us go over to the camp of the Syrians. If they spare our lives we shall live, and if they kill us we shall but die.” [5] So they arose at twilight to go to the camp of the Syrians. But when they came to the edge of the camp of the Syrians, behold, there was no one there. [6] For the Lord had made the army of the Syrians hear the sound of chariots and of horses, the sound of a great army, so that they said to one another, “Behold, the king of Israel has hired against us the kings of the Hittites and the kings of Egypt to come against us.” [7] So they fled away in the twilight and abandoned their tents, their horses, and their donkeys, leaving the camp as it was, and fled for their lives.
    (2 Kings 7:3-7; 2 Kings 7:8-20 ESV) [8] And when these lepers came to the edge of the camp, they went into a tent and ate and drank, and they carried off silver and gold and clothing and went and hid them. Then they came back and entered another tent and carried off things from it and went and hid them.
    [9] Then they said to one another, “We are not doing right. This day is a day of good news. If we are silent and wait until the morning light, punishment will overtake us. Now therefore come; let us go and tell the king’s household.” [10] So they came and called to the gatekeepers of the city and told them, “We came to the camp of the Syrians, and behold, there was no one to be seen or heard there, nothing but the horses tied and the donkeys tied and the tents as they were.” [11] Then the gatekeepers called out, and it was told within the king’s household. [12] And the king rose in the night and said to his servants, “I will tell you what the Syrians have done to us. They know that we are hungry. Therefore they have gone out of the camp to hide themselves in the open country, thinking, ‘When they come out of the city, we shall take them alive and get into the city.’” [13] And one of his servants said, “Let some men take five of the remaining horses, seeing that those who are left here will fare like the whole multitude of Israel who have already perished. Let us send and see.” [14] So they took two horsemen, and the king sent them after the army of the Syrians, saying, “Go and see.” [15] So they went after them as far as the Jordan, and behold, all the way was littered with garments and equipment that the Syrians had thrown away in their haste. And the messengers returned and told the king.
    [16] Then the people went out and plundered the camp of the Syrians. So a seah of fine flour was sold for a shekel, and two seahs of barley for a shekel, according to the word of the LORD. [17] Now the king had appointed the captain on whose hand he leaned to have charge of the gate. And the people trampled him in the gate, so that he died, as the man of God had said when the king came down to him. [18] For when the man of God had said to the king, “Two seahs of barley shall be sold for a shekel, and a seah of fine flour for a shekel, about this time tomorrow in the gate of Samaria,” [19] the captain had answered the man of God, “If the LORD himself should make windows in heaven, could such a thing be?” And he had said, “You shall see it with your own eyes, but you shall not eat of it.” [20] And so it happened to him, for the people trampled him in the gate and he died.
    (2 Kings 7:3-7; 2 Kings 7:8-20 ESV)

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