Sometimes a contrastive paragraph structure will prevent literal
interpretations of words. This simple observation was made by the
great 19th century commentary Malbim. We apply it to verses Lv13-04:05
- If the bright spot is white in the skin of his flesh, and it looks not deeper than the skin, and the hair on it has not turned white; then the priest shall shut up him who has the disease for seven days;
And the priest shall look on him the seventh day; and, behold, if the disease appears to have stayed in place, and the disease has not spread over the skin; then the priest shall shut him up seven days more;
A typical Malbim type comment which fully explains the Rashi is as follows:
The contrast of the underlined phrases: shut him up 7 days vs. see him on the 7th day
implies that shut him up need not be taken literally but rather contrastively: The priest
who initially examined him now and who is instructed to examine him in 7 days is prohibited from
examining him till then. That is, the phrase shut him up 7 days, because of the contrast, means, don't
see him again till day 7.
Advanced Rashi: The astute reader might point out that there is an obligation
of shutting up the lepor. In fact there is an explicit Biblical verse, Lv13-46 which says
All the days when the disease shall be in him he shall be unclean; he is unclean; he shall dwell alone; outside the camp shall his habitation be.
I believe the proper persepctive is as follows: The obligation to shut up a leper is derived from the
explicit verse, Lv13-46; not from Lv13-04. The contrastive phrases in Lv13-04:05 -
shut him up 7 vs. see him on the 7th only requires that the priest not reexamine him till
the end of the 7 day period. This is in fact the normal way to interpret contrastive verses. By coincidence
the literal meaning of the phrase used, shut him up, corresponds to the explicitly indicated
Biblical obligation mentioned in Lv13-46. However the verses Lv13-04:05 by themselves, and without
other verses, would only require that the priest not reexamine the person for 7 days.They would not require,
by themselves, a literal shutting in of the lepor.