By Paul K. Williams
The repulsive disease of leprosy has a strange fascination. God’s law for Israel described its symptoms in detail and gave minute instructions to the priest for its diagnosis. This law also said, “As for the leper who has the infection, his clothes shall be torn, and the hair of his head shall be uncovered, and he shall cover his mustache and cry `Unclean! Unclean!’ ” (Lev. 13:45).
So it was with interest that I listened to two members of a Leprosy Mission interviewed on Radio South Africa (Mar. 2, 1976). This ancient disease is still a terrible scourge, especially in the poorest countries. The good news is the sulfa drugs can now cure it, so that it is not the sentence of a slow death it was in Bible times.
But what caught my ear was said at the end of the program. The interviewer asked, “How is leprosy spread?” The experts replied, “It used to be thought that it was spread only by prolonged skin-to-skin contact. But now we think it is spread by coughing and sneezing.”
So it has taken medical science 3,500 years to discover that God’s way of preventing leprosy is medically correct. His law said, “he shall cover his mustache.” The leper was to wear a cloth, what we would call a face-mask, which would hang down from his upper lip. The spread of the disease was thus prevented because the sneeze or cough was covered. God’s people were in this way protected from the spread of the terrible disease by the law of a loving God.
Nothing about leprosy would lead a person to guess it could be spread by droplets in the breath of a sufferer, for leprosy is a skin disease. Certainly Moses, the lawgiver, had no human way of discovering that the disease could thus be spread. But God knew, and He gave the law that protected His people. He gave a law which only now is appreciated for its wisdom. He gave a law which, in its nature, shows that it came from God, not man, for it contained this, and other, provisions which show a knowledge which science did not attain until thousands of years later. Praise be to our wonderful God!
Truth Magazine, XX:25, p. 13
June 17, 1976