In numerous instances the Bible contains medical information that far predates man’s actual discoveries of related principles in the field of medicine. The medical instructions given by Moses to the Israelites some 3500 years ago were not only far superior to the practices of contemporary cultures, they also exceeded medical standards practiced as recently as 100 years ago. Where did Moses get this advanced information? Following are some examples of the medical knowledge afforded the Israelites in biblical times:
For centuries doctors denied the possibility that disease could be transmitted by invisible agents. However, in the late 19th century Louis Pasteur demonstrated in his Germ Theory of Disease that most infectious diseases were caused by microorganisms originating from outside the body. This new understanding of germs and their means of transmission led to improved sanitary standards that resulted in an enormous drop in the mortality rate. Yet these core principles of sanitation were being practiced by the Israelites thousands of years earlier.
The Israelites were instructed to wash themselves and their clothes in running water if they had a bodily discharge, if they came in contact with another person’s discharge, or if they had touched a dead human or animal carcass. They were also instructed to wash any uncoveredvessels that were in the vicinity of a dead body, and if a dead carcass touched a vessel it was to be destroyed. Items recovered during war were also to be purified through either fire or running water. In addition, the Israelites were instructed to bury their human waste outside of camp, and to burn the waste of their animals (See Numbers 19:3-22, Lev. 11:1-47; 15:1-33, Deut 23:12).
These sanitary practices without question saved countless lives in the Israelite camps by protecting them against infection caused by unseen germs. Meanwhile, their Egyptian peers were dying by the thousands due to “remedies” that almost always consisted of some amount of human or animal dung1. As mentioned earlier, the sound sanitary practices that we take for granted today only began to flourish about a 100 years ago.
Some time after I wrote these web pages, a Bible skeptic unwittingly showed me yet another example of advanced scientific/medical knowledge in the Bible. He posted a message on a discussion board that ridiculed some verses in Leviticus 13 and 14 that mention leprosy on walls and on garments. He felt this was silly and an error since leprosy is a human disease. What this skeptic was unaware of is the fact that leprosy is a bacteria, a living organism, that certainly can survive on walls and garments! In fact, the Medic-Planet.com encyclopedia noted that leprosy “can survive three weeks or longer outside the human body, such as in dust or on clothing“2. It is no wonder that God commanded the Levitical priests to burn the garments of leprosy victims! (Leviticus 13:52)
Laws of Quarantine
In the same Med-Planet encyclopedia cited above we read that “It was not until 1873 that leprosy could be shown to be infectious rather than hereditary.“2 Of course God knew this all along, as His laws to Moses reveal (Leviticus 13, 14, 22, Numbers 19:20). His instructions regarding quarantine to prevent the spread of leprosy and other infectious diseases arenothing short of remarkable, considering that this life-saving practice was several thousand years ahead of its time. Infected persons were instructed to isolate themselves outside the camp until healed, and were to shave and wash thoroughly. The priests that administered care were instructed to change their clothes and wash thoroughly after inspecting a plague victim.
It should be re-emphasized that the Israelites were the only culture to practice quarantine until the last century, when medical advances finally demonstrated the importance of sanitation and isolation during plagues. The devastating black plague of the 14th century that claimed millions of lives was not broken until the church fathers in Vienna began encouraging the public to start following the guidelines as set forth in the Bible. The promising results in Vienna compelled other cities to follow suit, and the dreaded plague was finally eradicated3.
The First Antiseptic
Circumcision and Blood Clotting
For centuries scholars must have been perplexed by God’s law of circumcision which required the procedure to be performed on the 8th day after birth (Gen 17:12, 21:14, Lev 12:3, Luke 2:21). Medical researchers recently discovered that the two main blood clotting factors, Vitamin K and Prothrombim, reach their highest level in life, about 110% of normal, on the 8th day after birth. These blood clotting agents facilitate rapid healing and greatly reduce the chance of infection. You can verify with any Obstetrician that the 8th day of life is the ideal time for a circumcision, and that any circumcision done earlier requires an injection of Vitamin K supplement.
Fetal Alcohol Syndrome
The earliest recorded observation of the link between alcohol use and harm to the fetus was made by prison physician Dr. William Sullivan in 18994, after he noted that higher rates of stillbirth was occurring in alcoholic female prisoners. The first journal paper on the link between alcohol and harm to a fetus or FAS (Fetal Alcohol Syndrome) was published in 19685. The syndrome was officially identified and named in a 1973 paper by Drs. Kenneth Lyons Jones and David Weyhe Smith of the University of Washington Medical School6. Yet this knowledge was already conveyed in the Bible long ago, when Samson’s mother was told to avoid alcohol when she was pregnant with Samson (Judges 13:3-4).
By the 1980s, all the health organizations of the United States had adopted low-fat, high fiber dietary guidelines. This was the culmination of numerous scientific studies that had demonstrated that diets high in vegetables, fruits, and grains reduced the risk of heart disease, cancer, and many other diseases. Secular physicians generally agree that these dietary guidelines that were producing longer life spans were first developed by religious movements founded in the 1800s, particularly by the Seventh-day Adventists. Where did the Seventh-day Adventists get their guidelines? From a meticulous and careful study of the Bible7. It appears man has finally caught up to the dietary recommendations given by God to the Israelites some 3500 years ago!