And if the priest sees that the scab has indeed spread on the skin, then the priest shall pronounce him unclean. It is leprosy. (Leviticus 13:8)
If Biblical leprosy was not the result of some air-borne bacteria but was the manifestation of a person’s internal corruption, what evil would be the cause for such an affliction? When you consider the many evils man is guilty of, the list to choose from is enormous. Our Jewish friends, however, have narrowed it down to one primary suspect — slander and gossip. The Hebrew word מצרה metzorah — a person who is afflicted with tzarat — is a contraction of the Hebrew phrase מצע רע motzih ra -– “one who spreads evil speech.” As evidence to support this argument, it is pointed out that Miriam was stricken with leprosy (tzarat) immediately after gossiping about her brother Moses.
Evil speech is considered to be spreading falsehoods as well as spreading information that, even if true, is repeated with malicious intent. This teaches us that whatever God deems to be holy, whether His Sanctuary or His people, is very sensitive to maliciousness and evil speech. So the argument is that, because slander and gossip undermines the good of the community, the guilty party experienced the eruption in their skin as a warning to correct their ways. If they did not, in time they were excluded from the community because they are a moral leper. That person experienced the pain of isolation that his slander had imposed on others. Consequently, the only way to be regarded as clean again was to have a change of heart and be healed by God Himself.
Among those seven things that God hates, three of them have something to do with the tongue. Solomon said that He hates a “lying tongue … a false witness who speaks lies, and one who sows discord among brethren” (Proverbs 6:17, 19). In short, God doesn’t long tolerate gossip and slander because of what it can do to the community of believers. It is born out of evil intentions and has no place among God’s people and, therefore, should not be tolerated in our congregations. So instead of speaking evil of others, let us strive to be those who speak blessing, encouragement and righteousness. Rather than producing bitter water, may our tongue speak praises to the Almighty and be used to bring forth the “living water” that heals the nations.
Blessings and Shalom,