Manners & Customs: Sickness
Sickness in the Ancient World
JEWISH ATTITUDE TOWARD SICKNESS IN CHRIST'S TIME
The Jews of that day were largely lacking in a scientific knowledge of medicine. This fact may be accounted for in their belief that sickness was caused by either the sin of the sick person, or of his relations, and that it was sent as punishment for that sin. Concerning the blind man, the disciples asked JESUS, "Master, who did sin, this man, or his parents, that he was born blind?" (John 9:2). Also, sickness was usually attributed to demons. Therefore, they considered that the cure was the casting out these evil spirits. Among them, it was the most pious rather than the most educated man who would have this power. JESUS referred to this practice when the Pharisees wrongly accused him: "And if I by Beelzebub cast out devils, by whom do your children cast them out?" (Matthew 12:27) These facts explain the Jewish lack of medical knowledge in those days.
Mark adds an interesting fact in his report of CHRIST healing the woman with the issue of blood. He says that she "had suffered many things of many physicians" (Mark 5:26). One writer quotes the Talmud of Babylon as authority for the fact that some of the rabbis themselves posed as physicians, and very queer remedies indeed were prescribed by them for a woman with this ailment. If one course of procedure did not succeed in healing, another one was suggested. One of these was this:
"Dig seven pits, and burn in them some vine branches not yet four years old. Then let the woman, carrying a cup of wine in her hand, come up to each pit in succession, and sit down by the side of it, and each time let the words be repeated: 'Be free from thy sickness.'" [Manners And Customs of Bible Lands]
Beggars in the New Testament
In New Testament times beggars were usually the blind, maimed, or diseased. Thus blind Bartimeus "sat by the highway side begging" (Mark 10:46). The impotent man "was carried, whom they laid daily at the gate of the temple which is called Beautiful, to ask alms of them that entered into the temple" (Acts 3:2). The beggar Lazarus, who was diseased, was laid at the gate of "a certain rich man" (Luke 16:19, 20).
Thus did these needy ones ask alms of those who passed their way. Today in the East a poor sick man is sometimes placed in a booth alongside the door of a rich man's house, and lives by means of the gifts of those who pass by him. [Manners And Customs of Bible Lands]
Disease in Naves Topical Bible
Sent from God
Ps 107:17; Isa 3:17
Upon the Egyptians
Threatened as judgments
Le 26:16; De 7:15; 28:22,27,28,35; 29:22
Healing of, from God
Ex 15:26; 23:25; De 7:15; 2Ch 16:12; Ps 103:3;
In answer to prayer
2Ki 20:1-11; Isa 38:1-8
Ps 21:4; 116:8
Miraculous healing of, a sign to accompany the preaching
Physicians employed for
2Ch 16:12; Jer 8:22; Mt 9:12; Mr 5:26; Lu 4:23
Pr 17:22; 20:30; Isa 38:21; Jer 30:13; 46:11
Isa 1:6; Jer 8:22
Of the sexual organs
Le 15; 22:4; Nu 5:2; De 23:10
Treatment of fractures
Ps 38:7; Isa 1:6; Jer 30:12
Disease in the Bible Encyclopedia - ISBE
di-zez', di-zez'-iz (chalah, choli; nosos): Israel, from its
position and physical conditions, ought to be a healthy
country. That it is not so depends on the unsanitary
conditions in which the people live and the absence of any
attempts to check the introduction or development of zymotic
diseases. The number of marshes or pools is fairly small,
and the use of active measures to destroy the larvae of
mosquitos might easily diminish or abolish the malarial
fevers which now prevail all over the country. The freeing
of Ismailieh and Port Said from these pests is an object-
lesson in sanitation. When one examines the conditions of
life in towns and villages all over the country, the
evidences of the ravages of these fevers and their sequelae
appear on every hand as they affect all ages from infancy to
middle age, and one meets but few individuals of extreme old
age. The absence of any adequate system of drainage and the
pollution of the water supplies are also factors of great
importance in preserving this unhealthiness.
In ancient times it was regarded as healthier than Egypt, as
it well might be, hence, the diseases of Egypt are referred
to as being worse than those of Israel (Dt 7:15; 28:60; Am
4:10). The sanitary regulations and restrictions of the
Priestly Code would doubtless have raised the standard of
public health, but it is unlikely that these were ever
observed over any large area.
The types of disease which are referred to in the Bible are
those that still prevail. Fevers of several kinds,
dysentery, leprosy, intestinal worms, plague, nervous
diseases such as paralysis and epilepsy, insanity,
ophthalmia and skin diseases are among the commonest and
will be described under their several names. Methods of
treatment are described under MEDICINE; PHYSICIAN. The word
"disease" or "diseases" in the King James Version is changed
to "sickness" in the Revised Version (British and American)
in 2 Ki 1:2; 8:8; Mt 9:35, and left out in Jn 5:4; while in
Mt 8:17 "sicknesses" is replaced by "diseases." the Revised
Version (British and American) also changes "infirmity" in
Lk 7:21 to "diseases," and in Ps 38:7 "a loathsome disease"
is changed to "burning."
Diseases in Fausset's Bible Dictionary
The effect of sin's entrance. Healed by the Lord Jesus, as
Isaiah foretold, "Himself took our infirmities and bore our
sicknesses" (Matthew 8:17; Isaiah 53:4; 1 Peter 2:24). His
bearing our guilt in His manhood, assumed with all its
infirmities, was the ground of His sympathetically feeling for
and relieving our sickness by His miraculous power. At His
second coming His people "shall not say, I am sick," for "they
shall be forgiven their iniquity" (Isaiah 33:24).
Disobedience Brought Sickness
Sickness as punishment for disobedience. The law also taught Israel that sickness could be expected when GOD's law was disobeyed. The twenty-eighth chapter of the Book of Deuteronomy lists many curses that would come upon the people of Israel because of disobedience. Among them are these:
"He will bring upon thee all the diseases of Egypt, which thou wast afraid of; and they shall cleave unto thee. Also every sickness, and every plague, which is not written in the book of this law, them will the LORD bring upon thee, until thou be destroyed" (Deuteronomy 28:60, 61).
The families of Israel who were acquainted with the Hebrew Bible would be brought up on the idea that health was the reward for obedience, and sickness the punishment for disobedience.
[Manners And Customs of Bible Lands]
Faith and Healing
EXPECTATlON OF SUPERNATURAL POWER TO HEAL BY A REPRESENTATIVE
Dr. Trumbull has called attention to a very interesting situation which he discovered in the Orient. He says:
"Another fact that sheds light upon the work of JESUS and His disciples in their ministry of healing, is the universal expectation, in the East, of the cure of disease through the supernatural power of some reputed representative of GOD. So it is, and so it has been."
A multitude of people lay about the pool of Bethesda expecting an angel to trouble the waters and cure their sicknesses (John 5:1-4). A blind beggar was given an orange and a crust of bread, but he pointed to his sightless eyes, and asked Dr. Trumbull to cure his blindness. He thought that this traveler was a representative of GOD who could heal him. Such is the faith that exists in the East, in modern times. This universal faith in divine power to heal, in Messianic times, presented JESUS and His apostles with a marvelous opportunity to demonstrate the healing power of a compassionate GOD. [Manners And Customs of Bible Lands]
Health Promised for Obedience
PROMISES OF HEALTH through obedience to the law. Through their wilderness experiences and after they were in the Land of Promise, the Hebrew families could look to the promise GOD originally gave to them about health for their bodies:
If thou wilt diligently hearken to the voice of the Lord thy God, and wilt do that which is right in his sight, and wilt give ear to his commandments, and keep all his statutes, I will put none of these diseases upon thee which I have brought upon the Egyptians, for I am the Lord that healeth thee (Exodus 15:26).
Health was promised upon condition of obedience to the law of GOD.
Multitudes of Sick People
PREVALENCE OF SICKNESS IN PALESTINE IN CHRIST'S DAY AND IN MODERN TIMES
The Gospel records tell of the presence of a multitude of sick people in the land, and how these were brought in great numbers to JESUS to be healed. "And at even . . . they brought unto him all that were diseased . . . and all the city was gathered at the door. And he healed many that were sick of divers diseases" (Mark 1:32-34).
In the days before the British occupation of the land, and before the modern Jews brought scientific medical skill in the healing of disease, the Land of Israel was overrun with all kinds of afflicted people. One traveling through the land would scarcely ever be out of sight of blind beggars, or crippled people, or lepers, etc. Such a situation has served to illustrate the conditions under which the ministry of CHRIST was carried on so effectively, in meeting the need in the homes where sickness was present. [Manners And Customs of Bible Lands]
Physicians and Healing
WHAT OLD TESTAMENT JEWS DID IN TIME OF SICKNESS
Ordinarily, the ancient Hebrews did not go to physicians when they were sick. There are surprisingly few references to physicians in Old Testament days. Job mentions the existence of such when he says, "Ye are all physicians of no value" (Job 13:4). King Asa was criticized by the sacred writer who says of him, "He sought not to the Lord, but to the physicians" (l Chronicles 16:12). The prophet Jeremiah asked the question, "Is there no balm in Gilead; is there no physician there?" (Jeremiah 8:22). It is quite probable, that any physicians referred to in these days were foreigners, and not Jews of the land.1 (cf. Jeremiah 5:14-16) There are many examples of prayer to GOD for healing of sickness under the dispensation of law. Moses prayed for the healing of the Israelites bitten by the snakes (Numbers 21:7). The Sixth Psalm is David's prayer in time of sickness, and one which GOD heard. One of the great thanksgiving Psalm has a section in it dealing with gratitude to GOD for healing of the sick (Psalm 107:17-21). King Solomon in his dedicatory prayer for the temple, encouraged the people to expect GOD to answer their prayer for healing of sickness (II Chronicles 6:28-30). And King Hezekiah was healed in answer to prayer (II Kings 20).
[Manners And Customs of Bible Lands]
Sickness in the Bible Encyclopedia - ISBE
sik, sik'-nes (chalah (Gen 48:1, etc.), choli (Dt 28:61,
etc.), tachalu' (Dt 29:21, etc.), machalah (Ex 23:25, etc.),
daweh (Lev 15:33, etc.), 'anash (2 Sam 12:15, etc.);
astheneo (Mt 10:8, etc.;. compare 2 Macc 9:22), [@kakos
echon (Lk 7:2), kakos echontas (Mt 4:24, etc.), arrhostos
(Sirach 7:35; Mt 14:14, etc.), arrhostema (Sirach 10:10,
etc.), with various cognates, kamno (Jas 5:15); Latin morbus
(2 Esdras 8:31)): Compared with the number of deaths
recorded in the historical books of the Bible the instances
in which diseases are mentioned are few. "Sick" and
"sickness" (including "disease," etc.) are the translations
of 6 Hebrew and 9 Greek words and occur 56 times in the Old
Testament and 57 times in the New Testament. The number of
references in the latter is significant as showing how much
the healing of the sick was characteristic of the Lord's
ministry. The diseases specified are varied. Of infantile
sickness there is an instance in Bath-sheba's child (2 Sam
12:15), whose disease is termed 'anash, not improbably
trismus nascentium, a common disease in Israel. Among
adolescents there are recorded the unspecified sickness of
Abijah (1 Ki 14:1), of the widow's son at Zarephath (1 Ki
17:17), the sunstroke of the Shunammite's son (2 Ki 4:19),
the epileptic boy (Mt 17:15), Jairus' daughter (Mt 9:18),
and the nobleman's son (Jn 4:46). At the other extreme of
life Jacob's death was preceded by sickness (Gen 48:1).
Sickness resulted from accident (Ahaziah, 2 Ki 1:2), wounds
(Joram, 2 Ki 8:29), from the violence of passion (Amnon, 2
Sam 13:2), or mental emotion (Dan 8:27); see also in this
connection Song 2:5; 5:8. Sickness the result of drunkenness
is mentioned (Hos 7:5), and as a consequence of famine (Jer
14:18) or violence (Mic 6:13). Daweh or periodic sickness is
referred to (Lev 15:33; 20:18), and an extreme case is that
of Lk 8:43.
In some examples the nature of the disease is specified, as
Asa's disease in his feet (1 Ki 15:23), for which he sought
the aid of physicians in vain (2 Ch 16:12). Hezekiah and Job
suffered from sore boils, Jehoram from some severe
dysenteric attack (2 Ch 21:19), as did Antiochus Epiphanes
(2 Macc 9:5). Probably the sudden and fatal disease of Herod
was similar, as in both cases there is reference to the
presence of worms (compare Acts 12:23 and 2 Macc 9:9). The
disease of Publius' father was also dysentery (Acts 28:8).
Other diseases specified are paralysis (Mt 8:6; 9:2), and
fever (Mt 8:14). Not improbably the sudden illness of the
young Egyptian at Ziklag (1 Sam 30:11), and the illness of
Ben-hadad which weakened him so that he could not resist the
violence of Hazael, were also the common Israel fever (2 Ki
8:15) of whose symptoms and effects there is a graphic
description in Ps 38. Unspecified fatal illnesses were those
of Elisha (2 Ki 13:14), Lazarus (Jn 11:1), Tabitha (Acts
9:37). In the language of the Bible, leprosy is spoken of as
a defilement to be cleansed, rather than as a disease to be
The proverb concerning the sick quoted by the Lord at
Capernaum (Mk 2:17) has come down to us in several forms in
apocryphal and rabbinical writings (Babha' Qamma' 26:13;
Sanhedhrin 176), but is nowhere so terse as in the form in
which He expresses it. The Lord performed His healing of the
sick by His word or touch, and one of the most emphatic
charges which He gave to His disciples when sending them out
was to heal the sick. One of the methods used by them, the
anointing with oil, is mentioned in Mk 6:13 and enjoined by
James (5:15). In later times the anointing which was at
first used as a remedial agent became a ceremonial in
preparation for death, one of the seven sacraments of the
Roman church (Aquinas, Summa Theologia suppl. ad Piii. 29).
The duty of visiting the sick is referred to in Ezek
34:4,16, and by the Lord in the description of the Judgment
scene (Mt 25:36,43). It is inculcated in several of the
rabbinical tracts. "He that visits the sick lengthens his
life, he who refrains shortens it," says Rabbi Ischanan in
Nedharim 29. In Shulchan `Arukh, Yoreh De`ah there is a
chapter devoted to this duty, which is regarded as incumbent
on the Jew, even though the sick person be a Gentile (Gittin
61a). The church's duty to the sick, so long neglected, has,
within the last century, been recognized in the mission
field, and has proved, in heathen lands, to be the most
important of all pioneer agressive methods.
While we find that the apostles freely exercised their gifts
of healing, it is noteworthy that we read of the sickness of
two of Paul's companions, Epaphroditus (Phil 2:26) and
Trophimus (2 Tim 4:20), for whose recovery he seems to have
used no other means than prayer.
See also DISEASE.
Sickness Scripture - 1 Kings 8:37
If there be in the land famine, if there be pestilence,
blasting, mildew, locust, [or] if there be caterpiller; if
their enemy besiege them in the land of their cities;
whatsoever plague, whatsoever sickness [there be];
Sickness Scripture - 2 Chronicles 21:19
And it came to pass, that in process of time, after the end of
two years, his bowels fell out by reason of his sickness: so
he died of sore diseases. And his people made no burning for
him, like the burning of his fathers.
Sickness Scripture - 2 Chronicles 6:28
If there be dearth in the land, if there be pestilence, if
there be blasting, or mildew, locusts, or caterpillers; if
their enemies besiege them in the cities of their land;
whatsoever sore or whatsoever sickness [there be]:
Sickness Scripture - 2 Kings 13:14
Now Elisha was fallen sick of his sickness whereof he died.
And Joash the king of Israel came down unto him, and wept over
his face, and said, O my father, my father, the chariot of
Israel, and the horsemen thereof.
Sickness Scripture - Deuteronomy 7:15
And the LORD will take away from thee all sickness, and will
put none of the evil diseases of Egypt, which thou knowest,
upon thee; but will lay them upon all [them] that hate thee.
Sickness Scripture - Hosea 5:13
When Ephraim saw his sickness, and Judah [saw] his wound, then
went Ephraim to the Assyrian, and sent to king Jareb: yet
could he not heal you, nor cure you of your wound.
Sickness Scripture - Isaiah 38:12
Mine age is departed, and is removed from me as a shepherd's
tent: I have cut off like a weaver my life: he will cut me off
with pining sickness: from day [even] to night wilt thou make
an end of me.
Sickness Scripture - Leviticus 20:18
And if a man shall lie with a woman having her sickness, and
shall uncover her nakedness; he hath discovered her fountain,
and she hath uncovered the fountain of her blood: and both of
them shall be cut off from among their people.
Sickness Scripture - Matthew 10:1
And when he had called unto [him] his twelve disciples, he
gave them power [against] unclean spirits, to cast them out,
and to heal all manner of sickness and all manner of disease.
Sickness Scripture - Matthew 4:23
And Jesus went about all Galilee, teaching in their
synagogues, and preaching the gospel of the kingdom, and
healing all manner of sickness and all manner of disease among
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