Christians and Jews have a special document that makes some amazing claims concerning individual, family and community health.
“If you diligently heed the voice of the Lord your God and do what is right in His sight, give ear to His commandments and keep all His statutes, I will put none of the diseases on you which I have brought on the Egyptians. For I am the Lord who heals you.” Exodus 15:26
Moses wrote those words thousands of years ago, so how could something written so long ago have any relevance to our world today?
The relevance is because the same God who told Moses to write it is still God in Heaven.
“But isn’t the Old Testament just for ancient Israel?”
While the Old Testament does have some prophecies and promises that are specifically addressed to Israel, many are important for Christians to know as well. Let’s take the current virus pandemic we’re facing. What does the Old Testament say about that?
Pandemics are not a new phenomena of the 21st century.
I remember the first year I started as a news reporter (1968) covering a flu pandemic that killed one-million people worldwide. It was known as the ‘Hong Kong Flu.’ I remember as a child in the 1950s that my parents were concerned about the ‘Asian Flu.’ It killed an estimated two-million people around the world. My wife and I were a part of one of the first groups of children given the new polio vaccine in 1954. Almost 60-thousand children were infected with polio in 1952 and three-thousand children died. Thousands of children were paralyzed from the virus. Many children had to be placed in iron lung machines to stay alive.
My father-in-law told us what it was like as a young boy to live through the ‘1918 Flu Pandemic’ (Spanish Flu). An estimated 20-50 million people died worldwide. When he was an infant the ‘Sixth Cholera Pandemic’ killed more than 800-thousand people. Other flu and cholera pandemics killed millions more during the 19th century.
‘The Black Death’ (Bubonic Plague) of the 14th century killed an estimated 75-200 million people. A sixth century plague killed 25 million and a second century plague killed about five million people. One of the earliest recorded plagues occurred in the fifth century BC during the Peloponnesian War. Between one-third and two-thirds of the Athenian population died during that pandemic.
It’s important we do not lose sight of history. We can learn a lot from history and that’s what have in the biblical account of Israel escaping slavery in Egypt.
Jewish Health Care
God gave Israel an amazing health care system, especially in light of the unhealthy nations around them. Modern research (paleopathology) on Egyptian mummies (preservation of bodies assisted in researchers learning what killed people thousands of years ago) has found that many of the ancient people died of tuberculosis, malaria, and schistosomiasis. Research into ancient documents about curing diseases also gives us insight into what diseases Israel would have faced when they prepared to enter into the land of Canaan.
Much of the health directives God gave Israel are found in the Books of Leviticus and Numbers. Interestingly, those are two Books of the Bible many people tell me they skip reading. However, there are many insights in Leviticus and Numbers that we can use today in preparing to deal with Covid-19 (also known as the Novel Coronavirus) and other deadly diseases around us today.
It’s interesting that God’s health laws for Israel began with food.
“Now the Lord spoke to Moses and Aaron, saying to them, ‘Speak to the children of Israel, saying, ‘These are the animals which you may eat among all the animals that are on the earth.” Leviticus 11:1-2
God gave Israel a specific list of the animals they could eat (clean animals) and the animals they should not eat (unclean animals). You may find it interesting that a large number of people in our world today are eating animals God said are bad for human health. Many medical researchers believe some of the deadly pandemics we’ve dealt with through the years may have started with animals God said were unclean. You can get the list of clean and unclean animals in Leviticus 11. (Also, Deuteronomy 14:3-21)
Heard the words ‘social distancing’ recently? Well, God told Israel about that thousands of years a go. You can read about that in Leviticus 13, 14 and 15 (and Numbers 5:1-4).
If you are in the medical or health field, you’ll find some good advice for protecting yourself and others. Insights into how to deal with blood is also important to know when dealing with disease. That’s addressed in Leviticus 17. Insights into sexually transmitted diseases is addressed in Leviticus 18.
Heard anyone suggest you wash your hands throughout the day? Laws about cleanliness and purification also address issues of health safety. Examples are Leviticus 19 and Numbers 31:19-24. You will also find insights to the importance of cleaning your hands and other parts of your body in some of the other chapters we’ve mentioned in Leviticus.
God Our Healer
God revealed much about Himself to His people, Israel. When He said, “For I am the Lord who heals you,” God used the Hebrew name Yahweh rōp̄ə’eḵā. You may have the heard the name pronounced Jehovah Rapha – The Lord That Heals.
Our God is a healing God. We see that throughout the Old Testament and especially in the New Testament when Jesus, God in Flesh, healed people of every type of disease. God is our Healer.
Even as we saw how God warned the children of Israel about what animals were clean and what animals were unclean, we also see God’s healing provision through plants.
“And God said, ‘See, I have given you every herb that yields seed which is on the face of all the earth, and every tree whose fruit yields seed; to you it shall be for food. Also, to every beast of the earth, to every bird of the air, and to everything that creeps on the earth, in which there is life, I have given every green herb for food”; and it was so.” Genesis 1:29-30
God has given us many foods that we could call ‘healing’ foods. They include many of the plants, herbs and fruits we read about in the Bible (e.g. Daniel 1:11-16; Song of Songs 4:12-15; Exodus 12:8; 30:23, 34; Numbers 24:6; Jeremiah 8:22; Ezekiel 27:19; 47:12; Isaiah 28:25). Modern nutrition has also discovered the healing properties of many plant-based foods.
God has also given us life-giving sunshine, rain and fresh air. He also supplies us with times of physical and emotional rest.
We have much to be thankful for from our Heavenly Father. As we all seek wisdom in remaining healthy during a global pandemic, let us remember that true wisdom comes from God. May we rejoice in His mercy and bathe in His love. God is our health and our salvation. To Him all praise belongs!
“Heal me, O Lord, and I shall be healed; Save me, and I shall be saved, For You are my praise.” Jeremiah 17:14
Scripture taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson. Used by permission. All rights reserved.