Parasha Metzora: Four Lepers Who Went From Outcasts to Heroes

Metzora (Infected One) מְּצֹרָע

Leviticus 14:1–15:33; 2 Kings 7:3–20; Matthew 23:16–24:2

Parashah Name28 Metzora, מְּצֹרָע

Last week in Parasha Tazria, God gave the laws pertaining to ritual purity and impurity for childbirth.  It also identified tzara’at, skin afflictions that caused a person to be ritually impure. 
This week, Parasha Metzora continues with the theme of Tazria.  In it, God gives Moses the law for the recovered metzora (commonly mistranslated as leper) and the ritual purification of the metzora by the kohen (priest).
Yeshua (Jesus) upholds this law in Matthew 8:3 when He heals the leper and tells him, “Show yourself to the priest and present the offering that Moses commanded, as a testimony to them.”
In accordance with God’s command in Leviticus, when the kohen determined that the metzora had healed, he or she underwent a process of ritual cleansing that began with the offering of two birds, one which was sacrificed and the other which was set free.
Then the healed metzora washed his clothes, shaved his body, and entered the mikvah (ritual bath) before being allowed back into the camp; though he could enter the general camp, for seven days he had to remain outside his home.

On the eighth day, the healed person brought a grain and a guilt offering (minchah and asham).

As part of the cleansing ceremony, the kohen would put some of the blood of the offering on the tip of the right ear of the person to be cleansed, and on the thumb of the right hand and on the big toe of the right foot (Leviticus 14:14).

This represents cleansing of the total person from everything we hear, everything we do, and every path we take. 

It wasn’t only people who needed to be healed and ritually cleaned of tzara’at.  Even houses could be infected.

When such an affliction invaded a home, just like a malignant cancer, it had to be cut out and removed.  Even the stones and timber would be removed from the house and carried off to a designated “unclean place.”

Sometimes, however, the only remedy for the infection was the total destruction of the entire house (Leviticus 14:43–45).
King Solomon, in all his wisdom, wrote in the book of Ecclesiastes that there is a time to build up but also a time to tear down.

Likewise, sometimes we find ourselves in environments that are toxic.  When that environment resists the cure, and nothing we do can cleanse the situation so that it becomes beneficial to human life, health and growth, we must move from this situation and start over, despite the heavy cost and losses involved. 

Although some may encounter such times when a relationship has become so defiled and unhealthy that they must move on, trusting that God will help them begin anew, most certainly, discernment from the Ruach HaKodesh (Holy Spirit) is necessary to know when to keep holding on in faith and when to move on.
The Mikvah’s Cleansing Waters 

Parasha Metzora also deals with cleansing from bodily secretions, the laws of niddah (a woman’s menstrual cycle), and sexual relations within marriage.

The law of niddah calls upon a woman to be separated from the community for a period of seven days during her menstrual cycle (Leviticus 15:19–31).

Sexual relations are forbidden at this time between a husband and his wife, and may only be resumed after the woman has properly immersed herself in the mikvah (ritual water immersion).

Complete immersion (tevilah) is one of the primary Biblical ways of effecting ritual purification, and it is essential to purity and holiness in Judaism.  In fact, in Temple times, anyone who entered the Temple, including priests, first immersed in a mikvah.
Although Temple sacrifices have been interrupted, the ritual use of the mikvah has continued to this day.

The mikvah in Israel and around the world is a private affair, usually maintained in an inconspicuous building.

Women immerse themselves without clothing, with only a female attendant present to witness her full immersion.  Sometimes the facility provides cosmetics, creams and lotions for the woman to beautify herself before returning home to resume relations with her husband.

The mikvah, however, is not only for Family Purity.  It is used for the conversion of Gentiles to Judaism.  As well, some pious Jews immerse before Shabbat and some special Holy Days.

The mikvah is seen to symbolize spiritual rebirth and the Christian ceremony of baptism has its roots in this Jewish rite.  Indeed, the “baptism” by John of Yeshua was actually a mikvah.

“Unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God.”  (John 3:5) 
Metzora: Outcasts and Heroes

“The Lord had made the host of the Arameans to hear a noise of chariots and a noise of horses, even the noise of a great host.”
 (2 Kings 7:6) 

While metzorot were marginalized figures cut off from the camp, in Haftarah Metzora (prophetic portion), they are the heroes of the story.

The Haftarah reading describes how four lepers took a great risk and ended up with an even greater reward.

At this time, the Syrians had placed a terrible siege against Samaria (Northern Kingdom of Israel), resulting in a catastrophic famine.

The food stores had been consumed, and all the inhabitants of the city faced certain death.  So desperate was the situation that some of the Israelites planned extraordinary means to satisfy their hunger.

Some women were planning to use the flesh of their own children for food!
The lepers conferred among themselves and decided that, since they were going to die anyway, they might as well do something crazy—go out to the enemy camp and beg for food.  They might be killed, but then again, they just might save their lives.  They reasoned:

“Why sit we here until we die?…  Now therefore come, and let us fall unto the host of the Arameans; if they save us alive, we will live; and if they kill us, we will but die.”  (2 Kings 7:3–4)

King Jehoram of Israel blamed Elisha the prophet for the calamity and vowed to put him to death.

But Elisha made a shocking prophecy: by the end of the very next day, God would send relief and the famine would be ended. 
When the lepers arrived at the camp of the Arameans, they found no one there.  Why?  They had heard noise and thought a great army was approaching, so they fled for their lives, leaving much behind, including the food.
God already prepared the way.  When he saw those lepers stepping out with hope toward a better future, He met them with His supernatural power.
All the lepers had to do was go in and take it.
They went from one tent to another, feasting and drinking and carrying off silver and gold and other wonderful things.
Then the lepers began to experience pangs of conscience.  They realized that they could not keep all the sustenance and treasure to themselves when their own people were dying of starvation.
So they told the King, who at first assumed it was a trick.  He sent messengers to discover the truth.  Once the messengers returned with a good report, the people went out and spoiled the camp of the Arameans, thereby fulfilling Elisha’s prophecy.