Leviticus 13:45 reads:

וְהַצָּרוּעַ אֲשֶׁר־בּוֹ הַנֶּ֗גַע בְּגָדָיו יִהְי֤וּ פְרֻמִים וְרֹאשׁוֹ יִהְיֶ֣ה פָר֔וּעַ וְעַל־שָׂפָם יַעְטֶה וְטָמֵא ׀ טָמֵא יִקְרָא
The leprous person who has the disease shall wear torn clothes and let the hair of his head hang loose, and he shall cover his upper lip and cry out, 'Unclean, unclean.' (ESV)

As far as I know all translations agree that "unclean, unclean" is direct discourse, the words the affected person is instructed to speak. However, I recently ran across an argument by Samuel A. Meier suggesting that the last part should instead be understood as

.... he will be called unclean.

This requires emendation of MT twice: revocalization of the verb קרא as nifal, and removal of a presumed dittography of טמא.* Normally I would rather avoid this, but:

  1. The Greek text reads:

    .... καὶ ἀκάθαρτος κεκλήσεται· (Rahlfs)
    .... and he shall be called unclean.

  2. As argued by Meier, such an indicator of direct discourse (יקרא, "he said") after the quotation would be unparalleled in non-poetic literature in the Hebrew Bible.

  3. There are multiple examples of the nifal "he shall be called" following the designation (see Meier).

  4. The interpretation as a direct quote also requires that the quotation start after the waw prefixed to the first טמא, which seems a little weird. That may be just me, though.

For all of these reasons Meier's suggestion seems to me cogent, but I'm not seeing it adopted in any translation or even discussed in the commentaries. Is there a good reason to reject this idea?

* These two may be separable. I'm mostly interested in the passive verb. "'Unclean, unclean,' he will be called" seems kind of awkward to me, but I suppose it's possible.

1 Answer 1


In this passage, the leper appears to be calling out "unclean." This can be seen from the statement,

he shall cover his upper lip

This appears to be oriented around preventing oral transmission of the Leper's disease. This would only be necessary when speaking, so if he were simply labled "unclean" there would be no need to cover his mouth while walking silently. This would only be necessary if the Leper was shouting in order to prevent oral transmission of his disease.

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