Is leprosy a type of sin?

Leprosy is certainly not a sin itself, but is a symbol of what sin causes. In fact, an old but still valid use of the word "type" is to mean "a symbol," which would make the answer to the question an affirmative. Wherein the question is asked using today's more common usage of the word "type", namely asking about "a kind" of sin, the answer would be in the negative.

Until Adam and Eve sinned in the Garden of Eden, there was no sickness at all - especially one such as the often fatal disease of leprosy. Because sickness was a result of the mankind's fall into sin, all sickness is a symbol of that sin, forever showing that sin came into the world bringing with it suffering and death (see Romans 5:12 and 1 Corinthians 15:21). In stating sickness to be a symbol of sin, it in no way minimizes the very real affects we experience from it.

It was as a symbol that God used leprosy in the Old Testament (Mosaic) Law. Anyone who was found to be leprous was to be excluded from the people and exiled to living outside the camp or city.

Numbers 5:1-3 The Lord said to Moses, 2 "Command the Israelites to send away from the camp anyone who has an infectious skin disease or a discharge of any kind, or who is ceremonially unclean because of a dead body. 3 Send away male and female alike; send them outside the camp so they will not defile their camp, where I dwell among them." (NIV)

As such the person was treated as being "unclean".

Leviticus 13:45-46 "The person with such an infectious disease must wear torn clothes, let his hair be unkempt, cover the lower part of his face and cry out, 'Unclean! Unclean!' 46 As long as he has the infection he remains unclean. He must live alone; he must live outside the camp. (NIV)

The book of Leviticus is filled with things that would make a person unclean, whether for a day, a longer period, or indefinitely. Touching a grave or a dead body (even that of an animals Leviticus 5:2), a woman's menstrual flow (Leviticus 15:25), giving birth to a baby (Leviticus 12:1-5), etc., all were in the list (see Leviticus 13 just on skin diseases). Each of these things were not sin either, merely symbols of the corruption that had been brought about by sin. The purpose of the Law was to show how exceedingly sinful and pervasive sin is.

Romans 7:7a What shall we say, then? Is the law sin? Certainly not! Indeed I would not have known what sin was except through the law. (NIV)

In the case of leprosy, the isolation demanded by the Law also served as a preventative measure. This highly contagious disease was very communicable through personal contact, which the Law's prohibitions would have minimized.

Of course, for us, with the fulfillment of the Law in Jesus Christ (Matthew 5:17-18; Romans 10:4), all of its exclusions and ritual have been done away with. This is why those will skin diseases are no longer expelled from our communities (or churches). As for leprosy itself, God has graciously enabled our scientists to come up with a natural cure (medicine) for this previously incurable disease (short of miraculous intervention), as of 1960. (Because of the stigma attached to it, Leprosy is now usually referred to as "Hansen's disease". G.A. Hansen was the scientist who first discovered its root cause, circa 1871-1873).

God sometimes used leprosy as a means of judgment, even as He has other sicknesses and death itself (i.e. Jeremiah 14:12). Consider King Uzziah in 2 Chronicles 26:16-21 and other occurrences throughout Scriptures including Numbers 12:1-10 and 2 Kings 5. King David even calls on God to use leprosy as a judgment against Joab and his descendents, over a revenge killing (2 Samuel 3:28-29).

Not every case of leprosy was a specific judgment from God. Numerous occurrences throughout Scriptures were merely individuals living in a fallen world who got this sickness (i.e. Matthew 8:2, Luke 4:27, Luke 17:12), even as many people still get sick naturally in this sin-tainted world. In the new heavens and earth that God will replace this one with, the final destination of all believers, there will be no sickness, pain, or death (see Revelation 21:4). While Jesus' sacrifice brought all who believe ultimate spiritual healing, it will also bring ultimate physical healing upon the final resurrection of our bodies (see Isaiah 53:5, 1 Peter 2:24 and 1 Corinthians 15:42, 51-57). During his earthly ministry, Jesus healed leprosy as a testimony to His divine power to heal all diseases...

Luke 5:12-15 While Jesus was in one of the towns, a man came along who was covered with leprosy. When he saw Jesus, he fell with his face to the ground and begged him, "Lord, if you are willing, you can make me clean." 13 Jesus reached out his hand and touched the man. "I am willing," he said. "Be clean!" And immediately the leprosy left him. 14 Then Jesus ordered him, "Don't tell anyone, but go, show yourself to the priest and offer the sacrifices that Moses commanded for your cleansing, as a testimony to them." 15 Yet the news about him spread all the more, so that crowds of people came to hear him and to be healed of their sicknesses. (NIV)

One last proof that leprosy, itself, is not sin... God gave it to Moses (however temporarily) for no other purpose that to display His glory...

Exodus 4:6-8 Then the Lord said, "Put your hand inside your cloak." So Moses put his hand into his cloak, and when he took it out, it was leprous, like snow. 7 "Now put it back into your cloak," he said. So Moses put his hand back into his cloak, and when he took it out, it was restored, like the rest of his flesh. 8 Then the Lord said, "If they do not believe you or pay attention to the first miraculous sign, they may believe the second. (NIV)

(c) 2007 Brent MacDonald/LTM. Duplication is permitted as long as the source is cited.