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Infectious Disease and Quarantine Laws

Leviticus is often thought of as a book that has little relevance to us today. However, it gives instructions to the nation of Israel on how to handle someone who has an infectious disease (ie. leprosy). We can look at how God had Israel deal with this situation and use the principles we learn from this passage to apply it to our governments today.

Government Authority

Leviticus 13:2 When a man shall have in the skin of his flesh a rising, a scab, or bright spot, and it be in the skin of his flesh like the plague of leprosy; then he shall be brought unto Aaron the priest, or unto one of his sons the priests:

The government should have the authority to quarantine an individual. He can be “brought to” the authorities to be tested. The quarantine can be enforced and his liberty for free movement restricted. One can assume that there are penalties that would apply if the individual were to break his quarantine.

Proven Infection

Leviticus 13:3 And the priest shall look on the plague in the skin of the flesh: and when the hair in the plague is turned white, and the plague in sight be deeper than the skin of his flesh, it is a plague of leprosy: and the priest shall look on him, and pronounce him unclean.

Infection needs to be proven. In those days the medical expert was the priest. Today it may be a doctor or scientist. With current technology it could be a biological test that has been proven to be accurate by sufficient evidence of success.

The infected individual is declared to be such after an examination. A biblical principle of liberty is that you are innocent until proven guilty, as opposed to being assumed guilty and requiring to prove your own innocence.

Temporary Period

Leviticus 13:4 If the bright spot be white in the skin of his flesh, and in sight be not deeper than the skin, and the hair thereof be not turned white; then the priest shall shut up him that hath the plague seven days:

Quarantine is always temporary and for a brief time-frame. The bible gives a full week.

Frequent Re-Examination

Leviticus 13:5 And the priest shall look on him the seventh day: and, behold, if the plague in his sight be at a stay, and the plague spread not in the skin; then the priest shall shut him up seven days more:

The individual is then examined again to see if an additional week of quarantine is required but frequent weekly checks are to be done.

General Cleanliness

Leviticus 13:6 And the priest shall look on him again the seventh day: and, behold, if the plague be somewhat dark, and the plague spread not in the skin, the priest shall pronounce him clean: it is but a scab: and he shall wash his clothes, and be clean.

General cleanliness is important to prevent the unnecessary spread of germs and infection. Having clean clothes, hands, etc. are all part of common sense hygiene.

Safety Obligations

Leviticus 13
45 And the leper in whom the plague is, his clothes shall be rent, and his head bare, and he shall put a covering upon his upper lip, and shall cry, Unclean, unclean.
46 All the days wherein the plague shall be in him he shall be defiled; he is unclean: he shall dwell alone; without the camp shall his habitation be.

The unclean individual has an obligation to let others know that they are infectious and to take the necessary precautions, such as covering their mouth to prevent the spread of infection.


God’s method is that the one who has been shown to be infected in the one who is quarantined. In contrast, the government has quarantined the vast majority of the country. This was in part due to public hysteria, bad science and a lack of reliable testing. In doing so, innocent people have had their freedoms trampled on and their livelihoods destroyed. How much longer these draconian measures will continue is still to be seen but once the virus has come and gone, the damage to the economy and our freedoms will linger long after.

Relevant Questions

How does God deal with infection and quarantine?
How does the Bible deal with infectious diseases?
How long can a government quarantine an individual?
What do you think about the current lockdown laws?
What is a reasonable or acceptable level of restrictions for the freedom of movement or assembly during a public health crisis?

Updated on 6 Apr 2020

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