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Do You Have Biblical Hygiene?

Biblical critics are eager to attack passages of Scripture that appear difficult to explain, or that fail to provide an easily understood truth. But what about teachings that declare insight that argues for the idea of divine disclosure? Insight that makes no sense apart from a source that is something beyond human knowledge? Why are they so easily dismissed?

One such understanding concerns the physical care God provided mankind long before secular education or science. For example, the laws God gave the nation of Israel concerning hygiene reflected medical concepts and views on sanitation that were far ahead of their time. Other people groups and nations of the world had primitive standards of cleanliness. These crude concepts were predominant among all groups of people - with Israel again being the exception. The primary difference between the Jews and all other people was the relationship they enjoyed with the God of the Bible.

It was a common practice for waste to be discarded in the streets of society many millennia ago. Tens of thousands of people died needlessly every year of uncontrollable diarrhea that was the result of perpetually consuming infected water. A wide variety of parasites from the contaminated waters ravaged the human body. Spoiled food and varieties of loose waste produced unsanitary environments that contributed to high rates of disease, and subsequent infant mortality.

Civilizations were hopeless to implement any type of useful guidelines to mitigate human loss, and medicine was helpless to discover any type of cure. Ancient physicians possessed no knowledge of germs and pathogens. Doctors prescribed treatments such as lizard blood, pelican dung, dead mice, urine, and moldy bread in their treatment regimens. It was common for these practitioners to use both human and animal excrement in their medical procedures.

Just prior to the nation of Israel entering the Promised Land some thirty-five centuries ago, God promised He would protect His people from “the terrible diseases” that they had previously experienced in Egypt (Deuteronomy 7:15). One way He did this was by providing them comprehensive instructions on sanitation practices and personal hygiene. Let’s take a look at just three of those directives.

Deuteronomy 22:12 and 13 document the guidelines given by God through the Mosaic Law concerning the disposal of personal sewage. The instructions specify that a covered hole “outside the camp” was the appropriate place for this activity. It was to be a private location, a designated area. Interestingly enough, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), headquartered in Atlanta, Georgia, recommends that if no latrines or other sanitation systems are available, a person should “defecate at least 30 meters [100 feet] away from any body of water and then bury your feces.” According to the World Health Organization, communities that dispose of excrement safely, lessen diarrheal diseases by an astonishing 36 percent.

There is no practice more beneficial to the overall health of a person and society like that of the simple act of washing one’s hands. The CDC writes, “Regular handwashing is one of the best ways to remove germs, avoid getting sick, and prevent the spread of germs to others.” Various respiratory illnesses caused by poor hand sanitation include the common cold, influenza, chicken pox and meningitis. Infections transmitted in hospitals are often the result of staff and patients not washing their hands. Thousands of years ago the Bible taught society to the wash hands, clothing and the body in running water. This instruction is found in Leviticus 15:13.

The death rate among women giving birth at hospitals in 1846 Vienna, Austria was as an astounding 30%. Dr. Ignaz Semmelweis investigated the reason for the tragedy and determined doctors failing to wash their hands as they moved from patient to patient was the reason for most of the deaths. Germ theory of disease was not yet understood. After implementing a policy of washing hands after treating each patient, the mortality rate was reduced to a mere 2%.

Finally, the world recently witnessed the healthcare industry implement the biblical practice of quarantine for the handling of the Covid-19 pandemic. This is a medical practice that dates back thousands of years. Leviticus 13:46 gave the first quarantine instructions when it came to handling the plague of leprosy. The text stated, “He shall remain unclean all the days during which he has the infection; he is unclean. He shall live alone; his dwelling shall be outside the camp.” When the Bubonic outbreak struck the European population in the 1300’s, some 40‐60% of the population died. Many lives on the continent could have been saved during the black plague if quarantine had been practiced. During this deadly outbreak, the Jewish people were less effected with their death rate reduced by up to 50%. The reason for the condensed mortality rate was the fact that the Jewish citizens practiced hand washing, sanitation, quarantining the sick and the rapid burial of the dead. The reduced death rates were so drastically low the Jews were even blamed for causing the plague by some communities.

It is irrefutable that the ancient holy book called the Bible harmonizes so well with modern medical science. The many specific instructions contained in the Bible point to a knowledge that surpasses the times in which they were written. How is this explained apart from a divine influence?

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