Then the cohen is to examine him; if he sees that there is a reddish-white swelling on his bald scalp or forehead, appearing like tzara‘at on the rest of the body, he is a person with tzara‘at; he is unclean; the cohen must declare him unclean; the sore is on his head. “Everyone who has tzara‘at sores is to wear torn clothes and unbound hair, cover his upper lip and cry, ‘Unclean! Unclean.-Leviticus 13:43-45
The next section of Leviticus chapter 13 are verses 18-46.
In these verses, the nature of the skin conditions being discussed are those that seem to come about as a secondary infection.
For example, maybe somebody got burned badly and that burn never healed properly which resulted in an infection.
Or maybe a person had some type of skin ailment that was clearly not TZARA-AT when first diagnosed but then later on transformed into full-blown TZARA-AT.
A fairly extensive list of fine points are contained in these verses that define in detail how certain skin conditions were to be diagnosed.
We are told the criteria the priest is to adhere to in order to determine whether a certain condition is due to natural causes or not.
For example, hair loss is one of the conditions mentioned.
The loss of hair can either be the result of normal balding or it can result from disease.
If the former, the person in question was considered CLEAN, if the latter, the person was pronounced UNCLEAN.
I’m not going to go over every point mentioned because all one has to do is read the chapter.
However, in verse 42, there is a new Hebrew word I need to teach you.
In the Complete Jewish Bible, it will say a “person with TZARA-AT”.
In the NIV, it will say “the man is diseased”.
The King James will say “leprous man”, which as I explained before is a totally wrong translation because what is being referred to is NOT leprosy at all.
The Hebrew word from which all these variations spring is METSORA.
METSORA was the label applied to a person who was diagnosed with TZARA-AT.
The title of METSORA referred to a person who was impure or UNCLEAN.
Remember this word because it will come up again later in our Torah study.
From verse 45, we are given the details of what somebody who has been declared a METSORA has to do.
First, the METSORA has to tear his or her garments.
In Hebrew, the word for “tear” is PARUM and is normally translated as “torn” or “rent”.
The torn garments were NOT necessarily a sign to others that one was unclean.
Rather it was an indication that the person was in mourning because his or her life was about to take a radical turn for the worse.
Second, the METSORA had to bare his or her head.
This also was NOT a sign to others that he or she was UNCLEAN.
Instead, it was more of a general sign that the person in question had been shamed for some reason.
For example, a woman caught in adultery was forced to bare her head and let her hair hang loose in a disheveled manner.
Apparently, common prostitutes also had to wear their hair in the same way.
If the METSORA was a man, he was not allowed to wear a hat or a cap and also had to let his hair be loose and unkempt.
Again, this was a way of letting the community know this person was bearing shame for some transgression committed.
Finally, whenever anyone came near the METSORA, he had to cover his upper-lip and say out loud “Unclean! Unclean!” to warn others to stay away.
In one fell swoop, a METSORA was subjected to a combination of mourning, shame and a public declaration that he or she was no longer HOLY and thus no longer fit to be part of Israel.
However, as we saw earlier, that was not the worst of it.
The METSORA was also driven OUTSIDE THE CAMP.
And he or she had to stay OUTSIDE THE CAMP until the TZARA-AT healed, if it ever did.
The METSORA, once put OUTSIDE THE CAMP was alone or huddled together with other UNCLEAN folks and was now outside of fellowship with his or her family, friends, and separated from the entire nation of Israel.
The METSORA was effectively separated from God Himself.
Understand that I’m not theorizing here.
This isn’t tradition or a primitive idea that was simply a product of the ancient Hebrew mindset.
The Scripture makes it clear that this person was SEPARATED from God.
Was there any hope for the METSORA?
As I’ve mentioned so many times already, I believe that all the laws and rituals we are studying including this heartbreaking and wrenching portrait of what happened to a METSORA were dramatic visuals provided to teach us certain spiritual principles the Lord wants us to understand AND LIVE OUT.
Let’s see what kind of real-life application can be derived from the situation of a METSORA the next time we meet.