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The Hidden Meaning of Tzara'at (Leprosy)

"Are we mindful of our thoughts and words?"

By: Joyce Picker

Are we mindful of our thoughts which turn into words? The Bible says that out of the abundance of our heart, our mouth speaks. That's really something to think about and ponder for a moment, especially since our mouths can often be a weapon. Let's take a look at the text in Kings 5:1-19.

1Now Naaman, commander of the army of the king of Aram, was a great man in his master’s sight and highly esteemed, because through him Adonai had given victory to Aram. Though the man was a mighty man of valor, he had tza’arat. 2 Aram had gone out in bands and had taken captive a young girl from the land of Israel. So she served Naaman’s wife. 3 Then she said to her mistress, “If only my lord went before the prophet who is in Samaria! Then he would cure him of his tza’arat.” 4 So Naaman went in and told his master, saying, “Thus and thus spoke the girl who is from the land of Israel.” 5 The king of Aram said, “Go now, and I will send a letter to the king of Israel.” So he departed and took with him ten talents of silver, 6,000 pieces of gold, and ten changes of clothes. 6 He brought the letter to the king of Israel saying, “When this letter comes to you, behold, I have sent my servant Naaman to you, so you may cure him of his tza’arat.” Now when the king of Israel read the letter, he ripped his clothes and said, “Am I God, to kill and to make alive, that this man is sending to me to cure a man of his tza’arat? But please consider and see how he is seeking a pretext against me.” 8 Now when Elisha the man of God heard that the king of Israel had rent his clothes, he sent word to the king saying, “Why have you rent your clothes? Please, let him come to me, and he will know that there is a prophet in Israel.” 9 So Naaman came with his horses and his chariots, and stood at the doorway of the house of Elisha. 10 So Elisha sent him a messenger, saying, “Go and wash in the Jordan seven times, and your flesh will be restored, and you will be clean.”11 But Naaman was angered and walked away, saying, “I thought he would surely come out to me, stand and call on the Name of Adonai his God, and wave his hand over the spot and cure the tza’arat. 12 Aren’t Amanah and Pharpar, the rivers of Damascus, better than all the waters of Israel? Couldn’t I wash in them and be clean?” So he turned and went away in a rage. 13 But his servants approached him and spoke to him, and said, “My father, if the prophet had told you to do something difficult, would you not have done it? How much more then, when he told you only to ‘Wash and be clean’?” 14 So, he went down and dipped himself seven times in the Jordan, according to the word of the man of God. Then his flesh was restored like the flesh of a little child, and he was clean.15 When he returned with his entire retinue to the man of God, and came and stood before him, he said, “Behold, now I know that there is no God in all the earth except in Israel. Now please, accept a present from your servant.”16 But Elisha said, “As Adonai before whom I stand lives, I will accept nothing.” Naaman pressed him to accept, but Elisha refused. 17 So Naaman said, “If not, then please, let your servant be given two mule loads of soil, for your servant will no longer offer burnt offering or sacrifice to any other god, except Adonai. 18 In this matter, may Adonai pardon your servant: when my master goes into the house of Rimmon to worship there, leaning on my hand, and I prostrate myself in the house of Rimmon—when I prostrate myself in the house of Rimmon, may Adonai pardon your servant in this matter. 19 Elisha said to him, “Go in peace.” So Naaman departed from him so Naaman departed from him some distance.

Naaman was a great man because the Lord had given him victory over Aram. Even though he was great he had Tzara'at. What is Tzara 'at you may ask. Tzara 'at in English is frequently translated as leprosy. It describes various ritually impure dis-figurative conditions of the human skin and clothing. It is not Hansen's disease. Source: It is described as small white patches. rather the disease was one of a spiritual nature more so than a physical one. One must be completely isolated, perhaps that was the most painful punishment of all. Remember all the negative things that happened because of the isolation due to COVID? First, the symptoms described are small white patches do not correspond to Hansens disease (leprosy).

Second, in the Torah, the priest examines the affected skin after a week to see about it's progression. Hansen's disease progresses much slower to see a difference in a week.

Third, the Torah has a strange prescription for a total outbreak of tza'arat.

It's amazing to me that Naaman was insulted because Elisha would not come out directly to speak to him (pride) and second that he gave him a command which Naaman felt was ridiculous and unnecessary. (judgmental) Afterall, there were bigger and better bodies of water around in his own part of the Country. And to wash seven times, what's that about?Naaman told his men how he felt about it. (gossip). Naaman's men talked some sense into him, and he obeyed the command and was healed. How often do we react the very same way? Something to think about for sure. That's the whole purpose of this blog!

Leviticus 13:1-5 Then Adonai spoke to Moses and to Aaron saying: 2 “When a man has a swelling on the skin of his body or a scab or a bright spot, and it becomes the plague-mark of tza’arat in his flesh, then he should be brought to Aaron the kohen, or to one of his sons, the kohanim. 3 The kohen is to examine the plague of tza’arat on his skin, and if the hair in the plague has turned white, and the appearance of the plague is deeper than the body’s skin, it is the plague of tza’arat. Thus the kohen should examine him and pronounce him unclean. 4 If the bright spot is white in the skin of his body, but its appearance is not deeper than the skin and its hair has not turned white, then the kohen is to isolate the infected person for seven days. 5 The kohen should examine him on the seventh day, and behold, if he sees the plague has not spread in the skin, then the kohen is to isolate him for seven more days.

The Older Covenant translates these skin conditions tzar'arat as leprosy. The NIV translates infection as a skin disease.

Here are some excerpts from called the Hidden Meaning of Tzar arat. The ancient rabbis argued that tzar'arat does not refer to a bodily disease but a spiritual malaise; a punishment designed to show a malefactor that he must mend his ways. In other words, tzar'arat is not so much a disease as it is a form of supernatural spiritual discipline.

The biblical treatment was complete isolation. A person must live outside the camp. The inward cause may have been sin, lying, selfish deeds, sexual immorality, false oaths, pride and especially slander. (gossip). Let's take a look at Yeshua's view in Matthew 15:18-20.

But the things that proceed out of the mouth come forth from the heart, and those things make the man unholy. 19 For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false witness, and slander. 20 These are the things that make the man unholy; but to eat with unwashed hands does not make the man unholy.”

Moses sister, Miriam was afflicted, why? She was gossiping about Moses marrying a Cushite woman. Miriam and Aaron were gossiping and backbiting.

Numbers 12:1-9 Then Miriam and Aaron spoke against Moses on account of the Cushite woman he married, because he had married a Cushite woman. 2 They asked, “Has Adonai spoken only through Moses? Hasn’t He also spoken through us?” Adonai heard it. 3 Now the man Moses was very humble, more so than anyone on the face of the earth.4 Immediately, Adonai said to Moses, Aaron and Miriam, “The three of you, come out to the Tent of Meeting.” So the three came out. 5 Adonai descended in a column of cloud, stood at the entrance of the Tent of Meeting, and called to Aaron and Miriam. The two of them stepped forward.6 “Hear now My words!” He said. “When there is a prophet of Adonai, I reveal Myself in a vision, I speak to him in a dream. 7 Not so with My servant Moses. In all My house, he is faithful. 8 I speak with him face to face, plainly and not in riddles. He even looks at the form of Adonai! Why then were you not afraid to speak against My servant Moses? 9 Adonai’s anger burned against them, and He left them. 10 When the cloud lifted up from above the Tent, behold, Miriam had tza’arat, like snow! As Aaron turned toward her, behold, she had tza’arat! 11 He said to Moses, “Please, my lord, don’t hold against us the sin we have committed so foolishly! 12 Don’t let her be like a stillborn baby, who comes from his mother’s womb with his flesh half-eaten away!”

I believe that through the tzar'arat affiliation, God was showing all of us how displeased He is with us when we act in a way that is contrary to His Word. The behavior of evil speaking, back biting, criticizing and gossip shows pride and selfishness. We are failing ito respect and love one another which God commanded us to do. The definition of: Lashon hara is

(Hebrew: לשון הרע; "evil tongue") is the halakhic term for speech about a person or persons that is negative or harmful to them, even though it is true. It is speech that damages the person(s) that are talked about either emotionally or financially or lowers them in the estimation of others.

We all know how harmful this type of speaking can be and I believe we must constantly ask for wisdom and discernment in our speech. We have the power through self-discipline to control our mouths. Ultimately, it only hurts ourselves!

James 4: 11 Do not speak evil against one another, brethren. The one who speaks against a brother or judges his brother, speaks evil against the Torah and judges the Torah. But if you judge the Torah, you are not a doer of the Torah, but a judge.

My purpose for writing this blog is to provoke each and everyone of us to really think about biblical examples and to apply them to our lives today.

There is a way that seems right to man, but it's way leads to death. Proverbs 16:25

The bottom line is without the Bible, we don't know the right way! That's why we need a Savior and we need lifelong tutoring in the Word to change and mend our ways. I'll end this the way I began and that is with the question: "Are we mindful of our thoughts and words?"

Father, I thank you for your living word that it is well and alive in us. I thank you that we are mindful and thoughtful of our words and how we use them. I pray we use them for life and not for evil. Thank you that we don't have to be isolated to understand our own actions. Thank you for giving us your grace in all situations. Amen.

Blessings in Yeshua,


Please take a look at our other blogs on the website. We pray they minister to you wherever you are.

Scripture is quoted from the Tree of Life version.

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