Medical conditions were handled quite differently back in the day than they are today. If you had leprosy, or some kind of a skin disease, you wouldn’t go to Wiley’s to get a cream, you would be banished from your home for a week or until it went away. If it got worse over those two weeks then you were required to wear your clothes disheveled, not comb your hair, and go around town covering your mouth yelling out “unclean” as you made your way through town. In Florida where we served if you were picked up for shoplifting then one of the potential punishments was to stand outside of the courthouse in public with a sign that said: “I stole from a store.” The purpose was to embarrass and to try to prevent the thief from stealing again. But the purpose of this diseased person letting people know they have a disease was so that they would not come into contact with other people so that they could pick up the disease.
The laws on purity in the Jewish community were very strict and severe. It is interesting because we really don’t know what this Hebrew term for leprosy means. We don’t know to what they are referring. Is it the actual medical leprosy that we understand today, or was it just any generalized skin condition which was puzzling and undefined? I think it was the latter which provided for a whole lot of potential for calling out your neighbor if you didn’t like them. Notice that it was the priest who examined and who declared that a person was clean or unclean. There was quite some power in the priesthood back then.