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leprosy of houses, is understood to relate to a saline efflorescence, spreading in stones and plaster, and rendering them offensive and unhealthy.* It is commonly called salt-petre, and, as known in modern times, corresponds in most particulars with the Mosaic description. It causes walls to become mouldy, till at length, as the corrosion extends, they are so weakened as to fall in. It damages articles placed near it, if liable to injury from dampness and acids, and communicates to the atmosphere an unwholesome taint, so as to render apartments unfit for occupation. If only part of the stone affected by it is removed, it always effloresces anew.
In case of any appearance, which might prove to be of this character, being remarked in any Israelitish dwelling, the law required that it should be reported to the priest, who should cause the house to be, in the first place, emptied of its furniture, in order to a thorough examination. Having then made his observations, he was to close the house for a week; at the end of which time, if he found that the stains had spread, he was to order the substitution of other stones in the place of those affected, the latter being cast “into an unclean place without the city,” and the whole house within being cleansed by scraping its stones and plaster
* “ All the houses of Malta, says Dolomieu, are built of a fine-grained lime-stone, of a loose and soft texture. There is a circumstance which hastens its destruction, and reduces it to powder, viz. when it is wetted by sea-water. After this, it never dries, but is covered by a saline efflorescence, and a crust is formed some tenths of an inch thick, mixed with common salt, nitre, and nitrated lime. Under this crust, the stone moulders into dust, the crust falls off, and other crusts are successively formed, till the whole stone is destroyed. ..... Nor does it stop there, but after some time affects all the neighbouring stones in the wall.” Kirwan's “Geological Essays,” p. 148.- Michaelis describes the salt-petre, and its effects, as known in Germany, in his “ Commentaries,” book 4, chap. 4, part 2, 95. The reddish color of spots, mentioned by Moses, is observed in that country. The “greenish” (verse 37) may have been a peculiarity of the stone, or of the climate of Palestine.
ing it anew.* If, this done, no other stones were found discolored, the house was pronounced clean, when the same ceremony had been gone through which made part of the ritual in the case of a leprous man. If, on the other hand, the same appearances should be found to have returned, the dwelling was to be torn down, and its materials conveyed out of the city, “into an unclean place,” where no one would go in search of them to apply them to any further use. A person who ate or lodged in the house, or who even entered it during the time that it was under examination, contracted legal uncleanness; but, not to extend this penalty too far, to such as had had no warning, it was not incurred till the priest had entered on the scrutiny.Ş
The spirit of these laws will be understood from what has been said on the analogous subject of the leprosy of garments. Serious casualties in our cities, occurring from time to time, in consequence of unfaithful building, admonish us that an Inspection of Buildings, by public authority, might not be a useless institution. The Law of Moses, with reference particularly to one danger, incident probably to the climate, and to the materials in common use, made every man his own inspector, and by subjecting him to certain trouble and expense, in case of the soundness and stability of his dwelling becoming at all questionable, influenced him prospectively to great care in the selection of materials. And when we remember, that what was the rule for the individual was the rule for the nation, we perceive, not only how great might be the security to life thus afforded, but how extensive would be the ultimate saving of labor, in consequence of the permanency of family habitations, to say nothing of the additional interest given by this circumstance to the associations of home. If the destruction of a house seems to us a severe punishment for want of sufficient care in its erection, we may call to mind, that the dwellings of the Israelites were of very inferior costliness to ours, and that the purpose of the severity of the penalty was, to teach precautions which would prevent its execution. Moreover, as a mere economical arrangement, it may have been often for the advantage rather than the injury of the individual proprietor, who would do better to sacrifice his house, though, if left to his own discretion, he might be reluctant so to do, than have the more valuable property, which it contained, destroyed by its humid atmosphere. And, after all, it is not unlikely that the rule, as to its principal operation, is to be reckoned in the class of Health Laws. It tended to secure to every Israelite a dwelling free from one noxious kind of humidity ; and, in this view, the arrangement may have had peculiar consideration for slaves, and other inferiors, to whom the least eligible accommodations of a house would be likely to be assigned. We may further remark, that, though the rule is not for houses in cities alone, yet some of the prescribed details of purification show that it was these which were chiefly had in view.* In cities, containing a number of contiguous houses, affected in the manner in question, the surrounding atmosphere would be vitiated, and the health of a large population might be brought into danger.
† xiv. 48 - 53.
| xiv. 43-45.
* Lev. xiv. 1-42. § xiv. 36, 46, 47.
The similarity of the ritual prescribed for the cleansing of a leprous house, to that used in the cleansing of a leper, I am disposed to believe was intended, by force of a natural mental association, to excite a degree of disgust in reference to the former case, similar to what
* Compare Lev, xiv. 34, with 40, 41, 45, 53.
was unavoidably felt in relation to the latter, and so to secure more attention to the subject; while, on the other hand, the scrupulous precautions taken against all which but bore the name of leprosy, would tend to strengthen the strong feeling entertained against that pestilent human taint, to which the name most properly belonged. The provision, that, after a priest had been sent for, uncleanness should not be contracted by entering the house till he had proceeded to his examination,* was the law's encouragement to the householder to give seasonable information respecting the suspicious state of his premises; for if, concealing the fact, he waited till the symptoms were no longer doubtful, and then some accident should betray their existence, all the furniture which the house contained became unclean along with it, to his own damage.
* Lev. xiv. 36.
LEVITICUS XVI. 1.– XXVII. 34.
DAY OF ATONEMENT. SCAPE-Goat. - REPETITION OF SOME PREVI
ous Laws. – RULES RESPECTING MARRIAGE. MISCELLANEOUS LAWS HAVING REFERENCE TO IDOLATRY, – -AND ENFORCING Ho. MANE DISPOSITIONS. SPECIFICATION OF SOME PENALTIES. RULES DESIGNED TO EXCITE REVERENCE FOR THE SACERDOTAL Office. — Repetition or RULES RESPECTING THE SABBATH, THE Fast, AND THE FESTIVALS. — Care of the CanDLESTICK, AND OF THE TABLE OF SHEW-BREAD.-- CRIME AND FATE OF THE SON OF SHELOMITH. — CONTINUATION OF LEGAL PENALTIES. — THE SABBATICAL YEAR. - THE YEAR OF JUB EE. - ExposITION OF THE CONSEQUENCES OF OBEDIENCE AND DISOBEDIENCE.
LAWS RESPECTING Vows.- INSTITUTION OF THE PAYMENT OF TITHES.
The last twelve chapters of the book of Leviticus present the conclusion of the Mosaic code, as established at Mount Sinai. From their nature, as designed to supply chasms in the previous legislation, and to carry some of its provisions into further detail, so as to furnish a kind of completion of the law, before the organization of the people, their contents are so miscellaneous, that the most convenient way to treat them is by following the order of the chapters.
The sixteenth chapter is supplementary to a previous cursory notice of the annual day of Atonement, the only legal fast.* It is now declared, that on that day alone, of all the year, viz. on the tenth day of the seventh month, or Tisri, the high-priest may enter the Holy of Holies, and that then (to the end, no doubt, of exciting a greater reverence on his part, and that of the
* Ex, xxx, 10.