What was the purpose of Levitical law/Mosaic law in the Bible? It turns out there is a very practical side to it. In this lesson we will look at what the Bible has to say about Medicine. From the principles of quarantine to garbage disposal, physical fitness and even dealing with poop, it turns out the Bible has a lot to say about staying healthy and living healthy. Tune in to find out how God instructed His people to live and why these instruction were incredible and important, even for our modern lives! This is session 9 in our 11 part series “Science & The Bible!” This series examines the relationship between different disciplines of Science and the Bible and the arguments surrounding this topic.
In this course:
The First Health Code in History: Mosaic Law in the Bible
The time was 1348 A.D. The place was Paris, France. The news for the day was that the plague had killed another 800 people the day before. Countless others were ill. Families were huddled in their houses, afraid to go outside. In the back rooms of the houses people were dying. Some members of the family had just reentered the house after dumping the latest dead family member outside the front door. Out the window, one could see a person walking with a mask made of flowers on their face.
The Hundred Year’s War was in its infancy when the plague hit the city. Paris was the most populated city in Western Europe, with a population of over 200,000 people, but its city walls had not yet been expanded beyond those that were built over a century before. This meant that the huge population was crammed in a very small space. Without sewers or a sanitation system to remove garbage, feces, and food wastes the streets were littered with filth. This alone was cause for a population explosion of rats in the streets and homes. People were dying so quickly there was no means available to remove them for burial. Cemeteries overflowed. Mass graves were being dug and bodies just dumped in them.
The plague was in two stages. First, the Bubonic plague was making people sick, and many died as a direct result of this. But a second stage also was running rampant all over Europe where the bacteria entered the lungs. This plague was pneumonic plague which caused people to cough, thus causing an airborne disease in the homes. People who were perfectly healthy when they went to bed at night could be dead by morning.
People began to make many excuses for the Black Death. Some said that it was because of Jews who murdered Jesus. This reason caused thousands of Jews to be murdered throughout Europe. Others said it was a curse from God on mankind for sinning. This resulted in hundreds of people taking whips and chains and walking around the city beating themselves. They were called flagellants, due to the flagrum whips they carried and bloodied themselves with trying to appease and angry God. The scientific community of the day was attributing the plague to the astronomical alignment of Mars, Jupiter, and Saturn combined with a comet. Because there were no microscopes or modern lab equipment to use for studies, imaginations ran wild.
Eventually, the plague began to cease. Much of this was due to monks who searched the Scriptures for help. They read about quarantining the ill instead of just leaving the sick in the same rooms and beds with the healthy. One specific passage was written by Moses around 1450 B.C.
He shall remain unclean as long as he has the disease. He is unclean. He shall live alone. His dwelling shall be outside the camp.Leviticus 13:46 (ESV)
Isn’t this interesting that this passage is used in modern medicine today. We commonly quarantine contagious people, but for a long time this Bible passage was ignored by science as not being correct. Today, it amazes some medical doctors how the Bible had this information in an age in which germs, bacteria, and viruses were not even known.
In fact, the Mosaic Health Code was the first written health code in history. It dates back to about 1400 B.C. and is still perfect in treating illness and promoting good health. Even today, it still baffles the minds of biblical skeptics as to how perfect of a health code it is. Below are some examples of how the Mosaic Health Code could prevent diseases. We will examine a health principle, see what was written 3,400 years ago in the Torah, and then see what diseases it prevented.
Mosaic Health Code Summary (from Levitical Law List)
|PRINCIPLE||SCRIPTURAL TEXT REFERENCE||DISEASES PREVENTED|
|Sexual Morality||Exodus 20:14|
|Sanitation||Deuteronomy 23:12-13||Cholera, Typhoid, Bacterial Diseases|
|Waste Treatment||Leviticus 4:11-12||Viral & Bacterial Diseases|
|Sterilization||Numbers 31:23||Prevention of Infections|
|Personal Hygiene||Leviticus 15:13|
|Fungal & Allergies||Leviticus 13:47-59|
|Spore-borne Diseases, Allergies|
|Dermatology||Leviticus 19:28||Hepatitis, Tetanus|
|Physical Fitness||Exodus 20:9-10||Stress-Related Illness|
|Heart Disease, Cancer,|
Diabetes, Food Poisoning
“Command the people of Israel that they put out of the camp everyone who is leprous or has a discharge and everyone who is unclean through contact with the dead. You shall put out both male and female, putting them outside the camp, that they may not defile their camp, in the midst of which I dwell.”Numbers 5:2-3 (ESV)
“He shall remain unclean as long as he has the disease. He is unclean. He shall live alone. His dwelling shall be outside the camp”Leviticus 13:46 (ESV)
Though many translations specifically mention that this pertains to leprosy alone, in ancient times many skin diseases were called leprosy. This is actually describing many skin diseases besides leprosy also called Hansen’s disease such as herpes, shingles, smallpox, measles, bubonic plague, tuberculosis, influenza, etc.
For much of history, ill people were not quarantined. When they became ill, they lived in and with the family units and society. They had constant contact and no knowledge of bacteria and viruses. But this practice does help prevent the spread of many communicable diseases. Modern science now uses this method frequently.
And whoever touches the body of the one with the discharge shall wash his clothes and bathe himself in water and be unclean until the evening.Leviticus 15:7 (ESV)
And when the one with a discharge is cleansed of his discharge, then he shall count for himself seven days for his cleansing and wash his clothes. And he shall bathe his body in fresh water and shall be clean.Leviticus 15:13 (ESV)
Taking a bath is not only great for yourself and your neighbors, it also helps keep you healthy. Lying around ill and never changing your clothes, even when you get better, is not good hygiene. Granted that in western society, people often take too many baths, bathing is still very helpful for making one clean from pathogens and it often makes one feel better. I know from experience of being quite ill and in the hospital over extended periods of time that when I was finally granted permission to bath and change my clothes, I felt a lot better.
During ancient days, medieval times, and even up to just recently people often did not bathe or change their clothes. This was great for the perfume industry, but it helped spread many diseases.
Before Louis Pasteur developed the Germ Theory that states that many germs can cause illness, the mortality rate in hospitals was very high. For instance, it is recorded in the mid-1800s that in a Vienna hospital, 1 out of every 6 babies born died of a “childbirth fever.” This appalling rate troubled a Jewishdoctor named Ignaz Semmelweis. Semmelweis studied the situation and concluded that the disease was caused by the doctors themselves. Back then hand washing was not considered important and doctors doing autopsies or treating infections would be called upon to quickly deliver a baby. Incredibly, to modern medical practice, they would not wash their hands before the delivery. Semmelweis decided to apply the Jewish ritual of hand washing as required in the Bible to the hospital staff. He met major resistance from his colleagues who did not believe that hand washing was necessary. But, by washing with soap and antiseptics, they saw a dramatic drop in infant deaths to less than 1% per year.
One would think that Semmelweis would be praised for this amazing discovery. Some speculate that if Nobel Prizes existed during his time, he would have received one in medicine. But unfortunately, his colleagues were jealous and angry at him and many still thought that handwashing was ridiculous. So, they plotted his abduction and put him in an insane asylum where he was beaten to death.
Laws on washing and personal hygiene as recorded in the Bible to prevent communicable diseases were not used in medicine for centuries, but finally in the later 1800s and throughout the 1900s doctors began to realize the importance of personal hygiene and laws were made to promote it.
Everything that can stand the fire, you shall pass through the fire, and it shall be clean.Numbers 31:23 (ESV)
I am a former teacher of microbiology. I have also worked in labs culturing many deadly bacteria. A major tool in working in these labs and in culturing is an inoculating loop. Before placing a loop into a pure culture of bacteria, it is routinely passed through flame until it glows red. This assures that the loop is sterile and can now be used to transfer bacteria to a plate or tube. Scientists use flame frequently to sterilize instruments. How many have sterilized a needle before removing a splinter? Or have you ever seen a person pass a knife though a flame before during some minor emergency procedure?
Before passing an instrument through a flame, it commonly is covered by billions of bacteria. You cannot wipe these off as many produce a gelatinous capsule that helps them adhere to the surface where they are attached. Passing them through a flame assures us that they are burned to death and no longer a threat.
During wars, most soldiers do not die from battle directly. Most are killed by infections that develop from wounds. During the American Civil War experts estimate that 2/3 of deaths were caused by infections. Until Louis Pasteur developed the Germ Theory, people did not realize why so many simple medical procedures resulted in infections and death. Going to the dentist or even having a shave at a barber shop could be fatal from infections. Even today, doctors go to great extremes to sterilize instruments.
Is it not amazing that God instructed Moses 3,400 years ago to do this precise thing? Moses had no idea about germs and bacteria or how dangerous some of them are, but God knew. He set this modern laboratory procedure up before anyone ever knew what it was for or why it helped prevent infections.
You shall have a place outside the camp, and you shall go out to it. And you shall have a trowel with your tools, and when you sit down outside, you shall dig a hole with it and turn back and cover up your excrement.Deuteronomy 23:12-13 (ESV)
Since the beginning of time people have gone to the bathroom. Feces is not a nice topic to discuss, but the failure to dispose of it properly has resulted in millions of deaths over time. Even today, in some countries this is still an issue. Diseases like cholera, typhoid, dysentery, polio, and diarrhea killed and continue to kill in places with poor sanitation. Yet, 3,400 years ago, a large group of Hebrews went on a camping trip that lasted over 40 years. God was leading them and provided them with a modern sanitation method.
Today, the Boys Scouts of America still teach burying human feces at least eight inches deep, and at least 200 feet outside of camp.
The skin of the bull and all its flesh, with its head, its legs, its entrails, and its dung—all the rest of the bull—he shall carry outside the camp to a clean place, to the ash heap, and shall burn it up on a fire of wood. On the ash heap it shall be burned up.Leviticus 4:11-12 (ESV)
Taking care of feces is one problem, but garbage and trash is another. There are many places in the U.S. and world today that still need to learn about this form of pollution to keep us all healthy. And again, 3,400 years ago God told the Hebrew nation to do it and how to do it.
To leave trash and food wastes around just gives vermin free food and rings the dinner bell for them to come. With these pests and scavengers come diseases. Viral and bacterial diseases can quickly overpower a large population of people.
Ancient Rome and almost every other major city from ancient times to today have this problem. Diseases such as the Norwalk virus, hepatitis, gastroenteritis, cholera, typhoid, dysentery, and many more still have outbreaks, even in the U.S. when garbage is not disposed of properly. But the Bible has a solution for this, and it was given at a time when no one knew of viruses and bacteria. How many lives could have been saved if we simply followed God’s plan.
Fungal Disease and Spore Borne Allergies
To make this one simpler to understand in English, I am using the God’s Word Translation. It sometimes translates Hebrew into English in a more understanding way.
Now about clothing-if there is a green or red area on a piece of clothing that is woven or knitted from linen or wool or on any leather article, it is mildew. It must be shown to the priest. The priest will examine the mildew and will put the clothing in a separate place for seven days. On the seventh day he will examine the area again. If the spot is spreading, it is unclean. He must burn the piece of clothing or the leather article because the mildew is growing.
But if the priest sees that the area has not spread, he must order the area to be washed and put the clothing in a separate place for seven more days. The priest will examine the area again after it is washed. If it doesn’t look any different and the mildew has not spread, it is still unclean. It must be burned, whether the area is on the outside or the inside.
If the priest sees that the area is pale after washing, he will tear it out of the clothing or the leather. However, if it shows up again, you must burn the clothing or the leather article. But if the area disappears from the woven or knitted clothing or any leather article when it is washed, wash it again, and it will be clean.
“These are the instructions for deciding whether mildew in clothing that is woven or knitted from linen or wool or in any leather article is clean or unclean.”Leviticus 13:47-59 (GWT)
“When you come to Canaan that I am going to give to you, mildew may appear in a house. The owner of that house must come and tell the priest that there is something that looks like mildew in his house. “Before the priest examines the house, he will order everything taken out of it so that nothing in the house will become unclean. Then the priest will go inside to examine the house. He will examine the mildew area on the walls. If it is green and red in sunken areas that are deeper than the rest of the wall, the priest will go out to the door of the house and close up the house for seven days. On the seventh day the priest will go back and examine it again. If the mildew in the walls of the house has spread, the priest must order the stones that have the mildew to be torn out and thrown outside the city in an unclean place. He must have the entire inside of the house scraped. The plaster dust scraped off the walls must be dumped in an unclean place outside the city. The stones must be replaced, and the house must be plastered again.
If the mildew develops again in the house after all this, the priest will examine it one more time. If it is a spreading type of mildew, the house is unclean. The house-stones, wood, and all the plaster-must be torn down and taken to an unclean place outside the city. Whoever goes into the house any time it is closed up will be unclean until evening. Whoever sleeps or eats in the house must wash his clothes.Leviticus 14:34-47 (GWT)
For centuries, people have become ill due to spores from molds and mildew. Even today, many people have mildew in their bathrooms near the tub or shower that are releasing spores and making people ill. According to the Mayo Clinic website, “A mold allergy can cause coughing, itchy eyes and other symptoms that make you miserable. In some people, a mold allergy is linked to asthma and exposure causes restricted breathing and other airway symptoms. Like any allergy, mold allergy symptoms are triggered by an overly sensitive immune system response. When you inhale tiny, airborne mold spores, your body recognizes them as foreign invaders and develops allergy-causing antibodies to fight them. Exposure to mold spores can cause a reaction right away, or the reaction can be delayed. ”
Yet, the Hebrew nation was instructed by God 3,400 years ago on how to deal with microscopic spores when they grow in your home or other buildings. God’s Law also included ways to test cloth and other materials for contamination. These contaminates would not be discovered until the later 1800s by Louise Pasteur, a Bible-believing scientist.
You shall not make any cuts on your body for the dead or tattoo yourselves:
I am the Lord.Leviticus 19:28 (ESV)
A number of years ago, a science teacher in Florida did an experiment with his middle school students. They were going to examine their own blood under a microscope. After explaining about what he was going to do, he took a cotton ball that was damp with rubbing alcohol and wiped a dissecting needle. He then poked one of his students to make them bleed. He then wiped the needles off with the same cotton ball and using the same needle, he proceeded to poke every student in his class. Days later, his whole class came down with hepatitis. It was discovered that the first student he poked had the disease. Just wiping the needle with a damp cotton ball did not remove the virus and every consequent student was also contaminated.
Since the days of the Pharaohs tattoos and skin cuttings have been popular. Until the modern motif has taken tattoos into the mainstream 21st century, most cuttings and tattoos were associated with pagan religions, idolatry, or references to the dead. Archaeologists tell us that ancient Canaanites and Philistines were commonly tattooed and had body cuttings. Some of the symbols used in these cultures have made their way into modern America and European pop cultures. This brought with it two major diseases, hepatitis and tetanus. In ancient times, illnesses often followed the customs and even today, some tattoo parlors do not use modern aseptic techniques causing customers to be infected with disease.
The purpose of this study is not to condemn tattooing, though it was forbidden to the ancient Israelites. This was for two reasons. One, as stated, tattoos and cuttings were associated with idolatry and pagan religions. Second, it caused diseases from bacteria and viruses. Our skin is an effective barrier against bacteria and viruses. When this barrier is compromised, germs can easily enter our bodies making us ill. God knew about this, though it would take a couple of millenniums for man to discover it.
Six days you shall labor, and do all your work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the Lord your God. On it you shall not do any work.Exodus 20:9-10 (ESV)
Today, doctors and fitness experts tell us to exercise for good health. We were not designed to just sit around eating French fries. We need to move to keep healthy. According to a New York Daily News article, “5.3 million people die each year from being lazy and inactivity. It indirectly affects our mental health and increases the risks of diabetes and heart problems. Physical inactivity is the 4th leading risk factor for death in the world.” Stress related illnesses such as diabetes and heart disease could be decreased if people would simply get up and move around or better yet, work.
In ancient times this was a problem for some cultures. But most people in the ancient world worked a lot. It was manual labor, but today, modern technology has made us lazy.
In this passage, one can read that we are to work. The Israelites were not to come into Canaan and lay around, they were to tend sheep, grow and harvest crops, press olives, and scores of other activities. But importantly, God instructed them to take a day off for rest. Rest is also important for a healthy body and mind, and today medical science agrees with this.
You shall not commit adultery.Exodus 20:14 (ESV)
You shall not lie with a male as with a woman; it is an abomination.Leviticus 18:22 (ESV)
Do not profane your daughter by making her a prostitute.Leviticus 19:29 (ESV)
If a man commits adultery…Leviticus 20:10+ (ESV)
Since ancient times, sexually transmitted diseases and other illnesses related to immoral behavior have plagued society. Canaan, the land God promised the Israelites was rampant with sexual sin. The people were sexually corrupt, mostly due to their religions and some archaeologists believe that the land was filled with STDs. So, God gave the Israelites laws based upon His character. He wanted them to be a holy people because He is holy. Thus, sexual purity is important to God and also to our health. They failed miserably as we have today.
Living a holy and sexually moral life according to God’s Law would greatly remove most STDs. But man is a morally corrupt creature that seeks his own pleasure without regard to holiness. Selfishness and lust contribute so much to people’s anguish today. I cannot begin to count how many people I have personally counseled who were fighting mental anguish or disease because of being sexually immoral. In some cases, I have counseled adults who were experiencing marital problems based upon their sexual past from when they were kids.
Instead of following God’s way, people have to keep trying to make new medicines to remove or at least lessen the diseases they have been infected with because of sexual immorality.
It shall be a statute forever throughout your generations, in all your dwelling places, that you eat neither fat nor blood.”Leviticus 3:17 (ESV)
Speak to the people of Israel, saying, you shall eat no fat, of ox or sheep or goat. The fat of an animal that dies of itself and the fat of one that is torn by beasts may be put to any other use, but on no account shall you eat it. For every person who eats of the fat of an animal of which a food offering may be made to the Lord shall be cut off from his people. Moreover, you shall eat no blood whatever, whether of fowl or of animal, in any of your dwelling places. Whoever eats any blood, that person shall be cut off from his people.Leviticus 7:23-26 (ESV)
There are so many food principles set forth in the Torah that it would take a book to do this section. In fact, there are a number of books available on this specific principle. What is amazing is that science has proven that following the diet listed in the Mosaic Law does lead to a more healthy life and a longer life expectancy. Some States give life insurance discounts to Jewish families that follow the Mosaic food code because studies have showed over the years that they are healthier from their diet.
Because this is such large topic, I am going to do a special lesson just on this as our next lesson.