The Medical Accuracy of the Bible

The Bible is not a medical manual, yet it contains some amazing instruction about health and hygiene.
Man is often out of step but God is never out of date. I trust the Bible.
Pastor Eugene P. Harder B.Th. January 11, 1998 Bible. 096

Did you know that the Bible advanced Medical Knowledge? At the beginning of the twentieth century our medical knowledge was abysmal. The existence of germs was unknown until around A.D. 1890. Yet, the first five books of the Bible, known as the Torah, or the Law, recorded by Moses approximately 1491-1451 B.C., reveal advanced principles and knowledge about hygiene and sanitation.

This knowledge exceeded the level of knowledge possessed by the Egyptians and other ancient societies of that day. Could this be strong evidence that a divine creator inspired the Bible? What other rational explanation is there for this precise medical knowledge in the five books of the Law. God promised Israel that if they obeyed His commandments, then He would protect them from the sicknesses that afflicted the ancient Egyptians. This powerful promise is found in Exodus 15:26, "If you diligently heed the voice of the Lord your God and do what is right in His sight, give ear to His commandments and keep all His statutes, I will put none of the diseases on you which I have brought on the Egyptians. For I am the Lord who heals you."

Despite their advanced astronomical and engineering knowledge, the Egyptian's level of medical knowledge was primitive and dangerous. Yet, they prided themselves on their medical knowledge as revealed in various medical manuscripts that have survived the ravages of time, including the Papyrus Ebers, written about the time of Moses.

As an example of the primitive state of their medical knowledge, consider the Egyptian doctor's suggestion for healing an infected splinter wound. It involves the application of an ointment mixture composed of the blood of worms mixed with the dung of a donkey. The germs and tetanus in donkey's dung assured that the patient would rapidly forget the pain of his splinter as he died from an assortment of other diseases produced by his doctor's contaminated medicine.

Another dangerous medical practice was the cure for a crying baby. Fly dung from the wall; is made into a drink and fed to the infant for four days.

They promised the crying would cease quickly. No doubt the deadly drink killed the helpless baby. The pharmacies of ancient Egypt provided prescriptions using "lizards' blood, putrid meat, stinking fat, moisture from pigs' ears, excrete from humans, donkeys, antelopes, dogs, cats, and flies." This list is quoted from pages of the Papyrus Ebers manuscript as translated in S.E. Massengill's A Sketch of Medicine and Pharmacy.

The Bible records that Moses was adopted and grew up as the son of "Pharaoh's daughter." As a royal prince, he was taught the secrets of the most advanced culture of the day, including it's medical arts. The Book of Acts (7:22) tells us that; "And Moses was learned in all the wisdom of the Egyptians, and was mighty in words and deeds."

Moses Resisted the natural human tendency to add his own education to what God told him and wrote exactly what God inspired him to write. Any intelligent reader must ask this question: Where did Moses obtain his advanced medical knowledge if God did not tell him? The ancient cultures did not understand germs, sanitation and other medical advances taught in the Bible thirty-five centuries ago.

The laws of Moses contained specific laws and sanitation procedures that, would eliminate the dreadful diseases that afflicted the Egyptians of that day and still afflict people in the Third World today. It is fascinating to note that out of the 613 biblical commandments found in the Torah, 213 were medical regulations that insured the good health of the children of Israel.

Until this century, Doctors believed that the presence and transmission of disease was governed by random chance or luck. Those who were sick with deadly diseases were cared for in the home without any awareness of the contagious transmission of disease to other family members. People had no idea that invisible deadly microscopic germs could exist on eating and cooking utensils.

In Leviticus 6:28, (written over thirty-five hundred years ago) is a clear commandment to discard used pottery that may be contaminated with bacteria (the glaze may have been cracked and could contain harmful germs): "But the earthen vessel in which it (the meat) is boiled shall be broken. And if it is boiled in a bronze pot, it shall be both scoured and rinsed in water." In other words, vessels subject to contamination should be discarded. Metal pots should be disinfected by scouring and rinsing in water.

Over the years these instructions saved hundreds of thousands of Jews from infections at a time when the world didn't know about germs. How could Moses have known of the dangers of infectious germs in cooking and eating utensils thousands of years ago unless God inspired him to write these words?

Moses' writing also reveals a knowledge of deadly germs associated with dead bodies. Throughout history people stored and cooked their meat with ample spices to delay the rotting and to disguise the smell of decay. Without refrigeration, the eating of meat was often hazardous because of the danger of infection.

In Leviticus 11:35, Moses wrote, "And everything on which a part of any such carcass falls shall be unclean; whether it is an oven or cooking stove, it shall be broken down; for they are unclean, and shall be unclean to you."

God inspired Moses to record these medical and sanitation instructions in the Bible to protect the Israelites from deadly germs found in dead animals. Leviticus 7:24 forbids the people to eat of the flesh of any animal that has died naturally of disease or by wild animals: "And the fat of a beast that dies naturally, and the fat of what is torn by wild animals, may be used in any other way; but you shall by no means eat it."

An animal carcass found after natural death would be dangerous to eat because it would likely contain the germs that caused its death. Infectious germs develop within hours of an animal killed by another animal. The children of Israel were saved from germs and diseases by following these religious laws given by their God through Moses.

"This is the law when a man dies in a tent: All who come into the tent and all who are in the tent shall be unclean seven days; and every open vessel, which has no cover fastened on it, is unclean. Whoever in the open field touches one who is slain by a sword or who has died, or a bone of a man, or a grave, shall be unclean seven days. And for an unclean person they shall take some of the ashes of the heifer burnt for purification from sin, and running water shall be put on them in a vessel" (Numbers 19:14-17).

Germs from a dead human body are dangerous to humans. These deadly germs are everywhere, but especially within the bodies of those who are already sick or those who have died due to some disease. Why the seven day waiting period? That gave time to see if the person got ill from touching the dead body.

A brilliant Hungarian doctor of the last century named Ignaz Semmelweis, understood the control of deadly infectious diseases. Articles in the book, None Of These Diseases by S. I. McMillen, M.D., and in the Encyclopedia Britannica documents the work of Semmelweis.

As a young doctor in Vienna in 1845 he was appalled by the staggering death rate by infection of women who gave birth in hospitals. While most children were born at home at that time, usually the homeless or sick, gave birth to their children in the local hospitals.

The level of infectious puerperal (childbed) fever was horrendous with between 15 and 30 percent of such mothers dying in hospital. At that time this tragic situation was considered normal. Dr. Semmelweis noted that every morning the young interns examined the bodies of the mothers who had died and then immediately, without washing their hands, went to the next ward where they would examine the expectant mothers.

Semmelweis insisted that the doctors under his supervision wash their hands vigorously in water and chlorinated lime prior to examining their patients. Immediately, the mortality rate caused by infection among the expectant mothers fell to less than 2 percent dying due to these infections. Despite these fantastic improvements the senior hospital staff despised Dr. Semmelweis's medical innovations and eventually fired him. Most of his medical colleagues rejected his new techniques and ridiculed his demands that they wash their hands because they could not believe infections could be caused by something invisible to the naked eye.

Later he took a position in the St. Rochus Hospital, Pest, Hungary [Budapest],which was experiencing an epidemic of puerperal fever in the ward where mothers were giving birth. Immediately, his new sanitary procedures had a positive effect, with the mortality rate dropping to less than 1 percent instead of the 15 percent that was normal in other hospitals.

During the following six years, he received the approval of the Hungarian government which sent medical advisory letters to all district authorities demanding that all medical staff follow Dr. Semmelweis's sanitation instructions. Although the beneficial results of washing hands were obvious, the medical establishments of Europe and North America continued to ignore his techniques. Patients continued to die needlessly of infectious diseases while they were in the hospital. Decades of rejection by his colleagues finally drove Dr. Semmelweis to a nervous breakdown that placed him in a mental institution. Tragically, due to an infection he received through a cut on his hand during an operation in 1865, Dr. Semmelweis succumbed to the same disease he spent his life trying to alleviate. Dr. Joseph Lister, the father of modern antisepsis (the science of fighting infection), said of him, "I think with the greatest admiration of him and his achievement."

Thousands of years ago, God commanded the Israelites to wash their hands in "running water" when dealing with those afflicted with infectious diseases. "And when he who has a discharge is cleansed of his discharge, then he shall count for himself seven days for his cleansing, wash his clothes, and bathe his body in running water; then he shall be clean" (Leviticus 15:13).

Until this century most doctors who did choose to wash their hands, did so in a bowl of water which obviously would allow the germs to remain on their hands. However, Moses instructed the Israelites to wash in "running water" which is the only way to effectively remove these infectious germs.


For years people called the instructions given in Leviticus useless, stupid ceremonies. Today we know that God always has a good reason for what He commands us to do. Just because we don't understand it or because it is at odds with a popular scientific theory is no reason to reject what God says. In time God's word is always vindicated.

I encourage you to believe the word of Jesus when he said, "I am the way, the truth and the life, no one comes to the Father but by me." Believe me, God's way is always the best way because it's the way to eternal life.

Note: The information for this message was taken from a book titled, "The Signature of God" by Grant R. Jeffrey

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Pastor Eugene Harder
New Hope Community Church
(604) 986-7400