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  • Writer's pictureBradley Sliedrecht

The Concept of Medicine in the Scriptures

“I am the Lord who Heals you,” spoken by God through Moses to the people of Israel. The statement was a test and conditional on the people doing what was right in God's sight, giving ear to His commandments, and keeping His statutes. (Exodus 15.26).


The Scriptures tell us that God is the ultimate source of healing but can use various means, including natural remedies, human skills, and supernatural interventions, to accomplish His purposes. The Scriptures also acknowledge the role of physicians and their skills, as well as the limitations of human medicine. Although modern medicine is not explicitly mentioned in the Scriptures, they do refer to some natural remedies and healing practices that were used in ancient times.


Man standing up from wheelchair healed

For example:


• The Scriptures mention the use of balm, oil, wine, and figs for treating wounds, infections, and boils.


• The Scriptures describe the use of leaves from the tree of life for healing the nations.


• The Scriptures mention the use of saliva, clay, and water for restoring sight to the blind.


• The Scriptures describe the use of prayer, faith, and anointing with oil for healing the sick.


The Scriptures also warn against trusting in medicine more than in God and encourages seeking God’s will and guidance for healing. The Scriptures ultimately teach that God is the owner and creator of everything, and that we should honor Him and serve others with the resources He has entrusted to us.


The Bible, both the old and the new testaments, were written at times when there was no formal health care in the known world. People usually dealt with sickness at home, and doctors were seldom referred to by the biblical authors and sometimes with contempt. The Bible says that only God can heal, and the biblical authors had outdated ideas about how the human body works, mixing up medicine with religion or what we might call magic. Some remedies might have worked physically, but more often they worked because the patient trusted them. The Bible gives some clues of what we would think of as medical treatments, like wrapping wounds or putting salve on them, but only in relation to God and humans.


The Modern Practice of Medicine is a branch of health and healing that has nurses, doctors, and different experts. It deals with finding out, curing, and stopping illness, studying medicine, and many other parts of health. Medicine wants to help and keep health and wellness. Usually, modern medicine uses drugs or operations, often with advice and ways of living.


Medicine in the Scriptures

Let’s look at some scripture using the word medicine.


1. Proverbs 17:22 (MEV): A merry heart does good like a medicine, but a broken spirit dries the bones.


The word for medicine used in this verse is defined by the Strong's Concordance as “gehah”, meaning “a healing” and defined by the words “a healing” or “cure.” (See Source:1). Gehah occurs only once in scripture being Proverbs 17:22.


Benson commentary says, “A merry heart — Cheerfulness of mind, especially that which is solid, and ariseth from the testimony of a good conscience; doeth good like a medicine — Even to the body; it contributes very much to the restoration or preservation of bodily health and vigour, as physicians observe and experience shows; but a broken spirit — A spirit sad and dejected; drieth the bones — Wasteth the marrow of the bones, and the moisture and strength of the body.” (See Source 2)


This verse uses the word medicine as a metaphor. But this implies that the writer had a knowledge of the healing properties of medicine.


2. Ezekiel 47:12 (MEV): By the river upon its bank, on this side and on that side, shall grow all kinds of trees for food, whose leaf shall not fade nor shall its fruit fail. They shall bring forth fruit according to their months, because their water issues out of the sanctuary. And their fruit shall be for food and their leaves for medicine.”


The word for medicine used in this verse is defined by the Strong's Concordance as Teruphah, meaning – “a healing.” (See Source:3). Teruphah occurs only once in scripture being Ezekiel 47:12.


Barnes' Notes on the Bible says, “The exception, which reserves for sterility places to which the living water does not reach, probably indicates that the life and health are solely due to the stream which proceeds from beneath the throne of God. Compare Isaiah 57:20-21.” (See Source:4)


The use of the word medicine is of the healing that comes from even the leaves of the trees whose roots draw water from the river flowing out from the thrown of God. The use of the word seems to imply that Ezekiel had a knowledge of the properties of some leaves to be medicines for healing.


3. Jeremiah 30:13 (MEV): There is no one to plead your cause that you may be bound up. You have no healing medicines.


The word for medicine used in this verse is defined by the Strong's Concordance as Rephuah meaning a “remedy” or “medicine” and defined by the word’s “remedy” and “medicine.” (See Source:5). Rephuah occurs three times in scripture. Jeremiah 30:13, Jeremiah 46:11 and Ezekiel 30:21.


Ellicott's Commentary for English Readers says, “There is none to plead thy cause . —The words bring before us two images of extremist misery—the criminal who, standing before the dread judgment-seat, has no advocate, the plague-stricken sufferer who has no physician. The word is that used of Josiah in Jeremiah 22:16. There, and commonly elsewhere, it is translated “judge.” The second part of the sentence is better rendered, with a different punctuation, by Thou hast no healing medicines for binding up. It continues the symbolism of Jeremiah 30:12 and reproduces that of Isaiah 1:6. There, and in Isaiah 38:21, Hosea 5:13, and probably in Proverbs 3:8, we have indications of the prominence given to external applications such as plasters, bandages, and the like, in the Eastern treatment of disease.” (See Source:6)


In this verse we see that medical treatment or medicine is used as a metaphor. The use of the metaphor to medicine suggests that there was an understanding that medicine can heal.


4. Jeremiah 46:11 (MEV): Go up into Gilead and take balm, O virgin daughter of Egypt; in vain you shall use many medicines, for you will not be cured.


The word underlined medicines is the Greek Strongs #7499, “Rephuah.” “Rephuah” occurs three times in scripture. Jeremiah 30:13. Jeremiah 46:11, Ezekiel 30:21.


Matthew Henry's Concise Commentary on Jeremiah 46:11 says, “The whole word of God is against those who obey not the gospel of Christ; but it is for those, even of the Gentiles, who turn to Him. The prophecy begins with Egypt. Let them strengthen themselves with all the art and interest they have, yet it shall be all in vain. The wounds God inflicts on his enemies, cannot be healed by medicines. Power and prosperity soon pass from one to another in this changing world.” (See Source:7)


Jeremiah’s, or his scribe Baruch, use of the word medicines implies that the concept of medicine was known in their day to heal.


5. Ezekiel 30:21 (MEV): Son of man, I have broken the arm of Pharaoh king of Egypt. And it has not been bound up to be healed or wrapped with a bandage to make it strong to hold the sword.


The word underlined healed is the Greek Strongs #7499, “Rephuah”. As reflected in the example of Jeremiah 46:11 & Jeremiah 30:13 above, “Rephuah” is used 3 times in scripture.


Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary says the following.


“broken … arm of Pharaoh—(Ps 37:17; Jer 48:25). Referring to the defeat which Pharaoh-hophra sustained from the Chaldeans, when trying to raise the siege of Jerusalem (Jer 37:5, 7); and previous to the deprivation of Pharaoh-necho of all his conquests from the river of Egypt to the Euphrates (2Ki 24:7; Jer 46:2); also, to the Egyptian disaster in Cyrene.” (See Source:8)


The scripture is not concerning a fractured arm but a fractured nation, but interestingly the author, assumed Hosea, uses a metaphor of putting the broken arm in a cast of sorts. He is using a knowledge of an understanding of healing broken human bones. This suggests it was known that a fractured arm was prone to heal correctly when it was bound up with a bandage.


6. Isaiah 38:21 (MEV): For Isaiah had said, “Let them take a cake of figs and lay it on the boil, and he shall recover.”


I have heard healing ministries state that those who practiced medicine in bible times were sorcerers, they derive the conclusion from the Greek word pharmakeia which is sometimes translated as sorcery, magic, witchcraft, druggist or poisoner.


Here we find Prophet Isaiah, who also wrote Isaiah 53:4-5, a man of God who relied on Gods power to perform miracles instructing that the use of fig leaves will heal his boil. Why did Isaiah not point the King to the writings of Moses, such as Exodus 15:26, but instead he answers the King who petitioned God (Isaiah 38:1-3) to use what we refer to as herbs today, or medication, to heal his boil. Isaiah, the prophet of God, spoke these instructions as a word from God. (Isaiah 38:4)


For clarity the word pharmakeia on Bible Hub, Greek 5331 is defined as the use of medicine, drugs, or spells. This word is used twice in scripture that uses the word medicine in different variations of the Greek words meaning medicine. It is used in Galatians 5:20 as sorcery or perhaps what we would sum as witchcraft today. The amplified bible notes say “Including such things as occult practices, witchcraft, worship of evil powers, drug-induced trances” as all being one of the things God hates. In Revelation 18:23 again as the word sorcery referring to the downfall of worldly kingdoms and economics built on sin and greed. (See Source:9)


Isaiah 38:21 used leaves of a tree as medicine as we would recognise medicine is used today. The leaves Isaiah instructed the King to use was to aid in his healing, and the medicine, keeping with the context of medication, referred to in the notes of the Amplified translation refers to drug induced trances.


Biblically the word sorcery (pharmakeia) in relation to medication as we know it today would refer to abusing drugs for idolatry, recreation and/or suppression of others and not for medication used by physicians to heal the body.


It’s evident from the various Greek words for medicine found in the bible that not all medicine is referred to as sorcery. In fact, those who say so would be accusing God of sorcery, since God instructed Isaiah to tell the King Hezekiah to use herbs for his healing.


Jesus was accused by the pharisees of using the power of Satan (Mathew 12:24), we should be careful in our use of words and be mindful that there are those who will manipulate words to drive our own agendas. I also note that Galatians 5:20 precedes Galatians 5:22-23 and is a list of the contrast to the fruit of the Spirit, The works of the flesh. (Galatians 5:19-21).


7. 1 Timothy 5:23 (MEV): “No longer drink only water, but use a little wine for your stomach’s sake and your frequent illnesses.”


We must assume, because of other scripture related to wine, that the wine Paul refers to is non-alcoholic. However, researching the use of mixing wine and water to aid in stomach ailments returned inconclusive findings. What is evident in this scripture is that during this age the consumption of “a little wine in water” aided in the healing of stomach and the frequent illnesses Timothy was challenged with.


Further investigation into historical documents to research why Paul’s instruction “to use a little wine” was a reasonable prescription for the day will be a worthwhile study considering the diverse contradictory, and self-serving descriptions that are available on the world wide web.


Jeremiah 8:22 (MEV): Is there no balm in Gilead? Is there no physician there? Why then has not the health of the daughter of my people recovered?


Medicine is related to physicians. It is worth noting that the bible also mentions physicians in the following scriptures, 2 Chronicles 16:12, Job 13:4, Mathew 9:12, Mark 2:17, Mark 5:26, Luke 4:23, Luke 5:31, Luke 8:43, Colossians 4:14.


Also consider the following Scriptures.


Proverbs 16:24 (MEV): Pleasant words are as a honeycomb, sweet to the soul and health to the bones.


Proverbs 4:20-22 (MEV): My son, attend to my words; incline your ear to my sayings.21 Do not let them depart from your eyes; keep them in the midst of your heart; 22 for they are life to those who find them, and health to all their body.


Psalm 103:2-4 (MEV): Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all His benefits, 3 who forgives all your iniquities, who heals all your diseases, 4 who redeems your life from the pit, who crowns you with lovingkindness and tender mercies,


When we look at the concept of medicine in the scriptures, we must consider that God also created the plants and trees and said, “it was very good.”


Genesis 1:29-31 (MEV): says, “Then God said, “See, I have given you every plant yielding seed which is on the face of all the earth and every tree which has fruit yielding seed. It shall be food for you. 30 To every beast of the earth and to every bird of the air and to everything that creeps on the earth which has the breath of life in it, I have given every green plant for food.” And it was so. 31 God saw everything that He had made, and indeed it was very good. So, the evening and the morning were the sixth day.”


Psalm 104:14-15 (MEV): You cause the grass to grow for the cattle and plants for the cultivation of man, that he may bring forth food from the earth 15 and wine that makes glad the heart of man, and oil that makes shine his face, and bread that strengthens his heart.


Conclusion


The purpose of medicine is to aid in healing. God in His creation has provided remedies to aid in healing and God has Himself instructed men to use these remedies to aid them in their healing. This cannot be disputed in the reading of the old or the new testaments.


God has used both His creation and His miraculous power to heal with a clear purpose. God uses healing to reveal Himself in order to draw mankind to repentance (Numbers 21:9, Romans 2:4), the root cause of sickness is that sin entered the world (Romans 5:12-17).


Jesus healed all who came to him as evidence that he was indeed the sent one from “Jehovah Rapha”, “the Lord who heals” (Exodus 15:26, Psalm 103:2-3), His death and resurrection sealing the new covenant with all of humanity (Galatians 3:16).


His disciples went out and healed the sick and cast out demons confirming that God lives within His people (Luke 9:1-2, 1 John 4:16, Mark 16:17-18), the promised covenant was fulfilled, we now live in this covenant, His people are His temple (Exodus 29:45-46, Leviticus 26:11-29, Jeremiah 31:31-34, John 15:4, Revelations 21:3).


As we walk out our christian walks let us remember our eternal healing has a set course. Our medicine is repentance, our treatment is faith in Christ, our daily sustenance is sanctification, and our cure is salvation.


In Service to Christ – Evg. Bradley Sliedrecht



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