Divine healing in the Bible – Part 2
The main diagnostic tools were observation and superficial physical examination.
The physician had few aids to use in his work. Demons can cause physical illness in the human body (Mat 9:32-33; 12:22; 17:14-18; Mark 9:20-22; Luke 13:11, 16), although not all sickness and disease are the result of evil spirits (Mat 4:24; Luke 5:12-13).
The Hebrew word translated “leprosy” in Lev. 13 is a general term used to describe a number of different skin eruptions. Although true leprosy occurred in ancient times and often caused changes in the skin, many of the persons brought to the priests undoubtedly suffered from more common bacterial and fungal infections of the skin. The priests had the duty of determining on the basis of repeated examination, which of these eruptions posed a threat to others. They had the authority to isolate persons with suspected dangerous diseases from the community.
Isaiah 38 relates the story of the very serious illness of King Hezekiah. The cause of his illness was a “boil” (v.21). The Hebrew word translated “boil” is translated ‘sore boils” in Job 2:7. It is also the word used to describe the eruption occurring on men and beasts mentioned in Exod 9:8-11 (cp. Lev 13:18-20; Deut 28:27). The illness of Hezekiah was treated by applying a poultice of figs (Is 38:21)
Medical care in biblical times frequently employed the use of different kinds of salves and ointments. Olive oil was used widely, either alone or as an ingredient in ointments. The use of oil for the treatment of wounds is mentioned in Isaiah 1:6 and Luke 10:34. Oil also became a symbol of medicine, and its use was coupled with prayer for the ill (Mark 6:13; James 5:14). Oil is also a symbol of the Holy Spirit of God (as used in anointing kings; see 1 Sam 16:1-13. See Vision of the Lampstand and Olive Trees in Zechariah Chapter 4. Thus oil can represent both the medical and the spiritual spheres of life. Christians should not separate the physical and the spiritual—Jesus Christ is Lord over both the body and the spirit.
Wine was commonly thought to have medicinal value. One of its uses was to alleviate pain and discomfort. Wine, mixed with gall and myrrh, was offered to Jesus prior to His crucifixion, but He refused to drink it (Matt 27:34; Mark 15:23). Wine also was used to soothe stomach and intestinal disorders (1 Tim 5:23) and to treat a variety of other physical problems.
Mental illness and epilepsy (see Mark 9:17-26) were not uncommon in the ancient world, and the victims suffered greatly. Their sickness was usually associated with demonic powers. The afflicted person was often isolated and even abused in some cases.
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