Aaron - The First Dermatologist


by John C. Westervelt


        Aaron was assigned by God to be a spokesman for his brother Moses. Aaron had remained in Egypt while Moses lived in Midian for forty years. God carried out the exodus of the Israelites from Egypt by instructing Moses, who in turn would direct his brother. The more fluent Aaron would then speak to the people and to Pharaoh.

        As the Hebrews wandered in the wilderness, Aaron was always beside his brother, often listening to the grumbling of the people. While Moses was on the mountain for forty days, the people told Aaron they didn’t think Moses would return. The Hebrews asked Aaron to make them a god. Aaron agreed to make a golden calf. Later, when confronted by an angry Moses, Aaron and all of the people repented.

        A year after leaving Egypt, the tabernacle tent was completed. Aaron and his sons, as Levite priests, were outfitted in elegant robes and placed in charge of the tabernacle.

        Aaron’s descendants, Zacharias and Elizabeth, had a son John, who was known as John the Baptist. Aaron would have been proud of the tough-minded John who spoke face to face with the corrupt Jewish leaders, calling them a brood of vipers and seeking their repentance.

        Chapter thirteen of Leviticus introduces Aaron as the first practicing dermatologist. Fourteen hundred and fifty years later, Jesus sent the lepers whom he healed to see the priest, following the tradition of sending lepers to Aaron and his sons for evaluation of their disease.

        This chapter of Leviticus begins with God telling Moses and Aaron to send a person with a skin infection to Aaron or his sons for diagnosis. Much like a physician’s handbook, chapter thirteen continues with instructions on how to determine whether the disease is leprosy or another affliction. The color of the skin and the color of the hair in the infected area are part of the diagnostic tests described.

        As the priest looked at the skin of the patient, if the white spot wasn’t deeper than the skin and the hair in the spot had not turned white, then the person was quarantined for seven days. At the end of the seven days the priest did another examination. If the infection had not changed or spread, there was another seven-day isolation. At the end of this time if the infection had faded and not spread, the priest pronounced the person cured.

        If at any point in the examinations leprosy was found, the poor soul was banished to live outside the town away from family and friends. To add to the pain and humility, the victim was required to cry out, “Unclean! Unclean!” as he walked the roads.

        During His time on earth, Jesus spent three years healing a multitude of diseases. A healed leper experienced not only the joy of the absence of physical pain but also a greater joy of reuniting with family and friends. I visualize a healed father or mother able to return home and embrace his or her child. Aaron and his descendants, all Levite priests, could only offer the leper empathy. From his vantage point in heaven, Aaron would have rejoiced as Jesus healed lepers.


Exodus Leviticus 13 Luke 1:5 Matthew 3:7


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