Beth Elohim Messianic Synagogue
The Diseases of Egypt Revisited
Today I want to address an area of study and information- sharing that proves the old adage “what goes around comes around.” This saying is no less true than when we address the diseases of Egypt and their relationship to sin. The metaphor of Egypt to sin is consistent throughout the Bible. In Deuteronomy 28:15 G-d warns us, “ But it shall come to pass, if thou wilt not harken unto the voice of the L-rd thy G-d, to observe to do all his commandments and his statutes which I command thee this day; that all these curses shall come upon thee, and overtake thee.” In Deut. 28:21,22,27,59-61 we read “The L-rd shall make the pestilence cleave unto thee, until He have consumed thee from off the land, whither thou goest to possess it. The L-rd shall smite thee with consumption, and with a fever, and with an inflammation, and with an extreme burning, and with the sword, and with blasting, and with MILDEW; and they shall pursue thee until thou perish. The L-rd will smite thee with the botch of Egypt, and with the emerods, and with the scab, and with the itch, whereof thou canst be healed. Then the L-rd will make thy plagues wonderful, and the plagues of thy seed, even great plagues, and of long continuance, and sore sickness, and of long continuance. Moreover, He will bring upon thee all the diseases of Egypt, which thou wast afraid of; and they shall cleave unto thee. Also every sickness, and every plague, which is not written in the book of this law, them will the L-rd bring upon thee, until thou be destroyed.”
Now, I want to get into some of these and explain them in terms with which we are more familiar. You may be sitting there saying, “Why is this important?” I say to you we must come to understand these diseases because:
1.They often affected the course of Israel’s history
2. Yahshua’s ministry emphasized healing (notice I say healing
and not curing).
3. They are being revisited upon our civilization today because we
have chosen not to obey the instructions G-d commanded for
Humanity so long ago.
Now let us explore some of these diseases and refer to the Biblical account of their occurrences.
1. Aphasia. This is a temporary loss of speech, unusually caused by a brain lesion but sometimes attributed to emotional upset. This happened to Ezekiel (Ezek. 33:22), and in the NT when an angel told Zechariah that he was going to be the father of John the Baptist, the old man came out of the Temple and could not speak (Luke 1:22).
2. Apoplexy. This term refers to a rupture or obstruction of a brain artery, causing a stroke. When Abagail told Nabal of his insult to David and its dire consequences, Nabal’s “heart died within him, and he became like a stone.” Ten days later he died (1 Sam. 25:37-38). Here again we see the number ten which means judgment. These symptoms suggest that he suffered an attack of apoplexy. The same fate may have befallen Uzzah, who touched the Ark of the Covenant (2 Sam. 6:7), as well as Ananias and Sapphira (Acts 5:5, 9-10).
3. Blains. This term from the KJV refers to anthrax, a disease that can be transmitted to humans by cattle, sheep, goats and horses. The spores from the bacterium when invading the human body, develop a boil-like lesion with a pustule (blain).Blains are mentioned only once in the Bible (Ex.9: 9-10). G-d infected them on the Egyptians when pharaoh refused to let the Hebrews go to the Promised Land.
4. Blemishes. This term refers to any bodily defect such as lameness, a broken bone, extra fingers or toes, a humped back and so on. A person with blemishes could not offer sacrifices to G-d (Lev. 21:16-24), nor was he permitted to go beyond the veil of the Temple or come near the altar, for this would defile the sanctuary. Imperfect animals could not be used for sacrifices (Ex.12: 5).
5 & 6. Blindness and Hearing loss. Three types of blindness are mentioned in Scripture: sudden blindness caused by flies and aggravated by dirt, dust and glare; (Sha’ul suffered temporary blindness on the road to Damascus (Acts 9:8), the gradual blindness caused by old age, Scripture makes frequent reference to old persons whose eyes “grew dim” (Gen.27: 1; 48:10; Sam. 4:15), and chronic blindness.
The Israelites had compassion for the blind. In fact, G-d cursed those who made the blind wander out of their way (Deut.27: 18). This of course has a dual meaning. Not only is that reference to the physically blind, but we are also cursed if we lead the spiritually blind away from Torah. Yahshua healed a man BORN blind (John 9:1-41); a blind man who’s healing was GRADUAL (Mark 8:24); two blind men sitting by the wayside (Matt. 20:30-34); and many others. We often find blindness associated with evil doing. We find examples of this at Sodom (Gen.19: 11), in the Syrian army (2 Kings 6:18), and in the case of Elymas at Paphos (Acts 13:6-11).
7. Boils. This term refers to any inflamed ulcers on the skin, such as those caused by a staph infection. Boils (“shechin” in Hebrew) are first mentioned in Exodus 9: 9, when the pharaoh refused to allow the release of the Hebrews, and boils broke out upon the people. Satan afflicted Job with boils from one end of his body to the other (Job 2:7).
8.Cancer. Hezekiah was very sick and the L-rd told him to prepare to die (2 Kings 20:1). The L-rd inflicted an incurable disease upon Jehoram, and after two years, his bowels fell out (2 Chr. 21:18-19). Bible scholars believed these men may have suffered some type of cancer, though chronic dysentery would also have produced Jehoram’s symptoms. Cancer is not mentioned by name in the Bible because man had not yet identified the disease in Biblical times.
9.Consumption, or TB. Moshe warned the rebellious Israelites, “The L-rd shall smite thee with a consumption, and with a fever, and with an inflammation and with an extreme burning…” (Deut. 28:22). The KJV uses the word consumption to refer to TB, a consumptive infection of the lungs.
10.Dysentery. This disease manifests its worst effects in the advanced stage. The bowels actually rot (2 Chr. 21:15-19). The fibrin separates from the inner coating of the intestines and is expelled. The B’rit Chadashah refers to a severe form of this disease as the “bloody flux”. The father of a Believer named Publius lay sick with this disease and Sha’ul came in to pray for him, and he was healed (Acts 28:8).
11.Edema. This describes an abnormal accumulation of fluid in the body’s connective tissue or in a serous cavity and is a symptom. The accumulation causes swelling. Yahshua met at least one victim of edema in a certain Pharisee’s house. Asked by Yahshua if he thought it lawful to heal on the Sabbath, the Pharisee declined to answer. Yahshua proceeded to heal the one with the edema (Luke 14:1-4).
12.Endocrine disturbances. A dwarfed person could not enter the congregation of G-d’s people according to the Law of Moshe (Lev. 21:20). This problem, as well as gigantism is caused by endocrine disturbances. Diabetes is also a disease of the endocrine function and is rampant in our world today. Other diseases in this category include thyroid disorders and pancreatic diseases.
13.Epilepsy. This is a disorder that is manifested by electrical shorts in the central nervous system. We see an example of this in Mark 9:17-29). Yahshua healed the son of a man who brought him to Yahshua for help.
14.Female disorders. In Lev. 15:25 we read that a woman who suffered from menstrual disorders was considered unclean. We all know of the woman with the issue of blood who suffered for 12 years and was healed by touching the tzitzit of Yahshua’s Tallit (Luke 8:43-48).
15.Fevers. Many diseases in Biblical times were associated with fever. I will not dwell too much on this one but a few areas in Scripture that address this are Lev.26: 16, Deut. 28:32, Luke 4:38, and John 4:46-54.
16.Gangrene. This disease is only mentioned one time in the Bible in
2 Tim. 2:17. We read “And their word will eat as doth a canker.” The KJV translates the Greek gaggarina as canker. This is the circulatory deterioration that we know as gangrene. This condition results from the lack of circulating blood to the tissues. They become starved and die.
17.Gout. Excessive uric acid in the blood causes this kidney problem that manifests itself as a painful inflammation throughout the joints. King Asa had a foot disease that is thought to have been gout (2Chron. 16:12-13).
18.Lameness. Scriptural references include Acts 3:2-11 and Matt.15: 30-31.
19.Leprosy. This is one of the most dreaded diseases of the world. It is manifested by the formation of nodules that spread, causing loss of sensation and terrible deformity and dissolution of bones and joints. There are many Scriptural references to this disease, but the most detailed is found in Lev. 13:1-17. Please look at this passage and note the details laid out in G-d’s instructions to the priest who had to assess suspected victims at that time.
20.Malaria. Because Malaria is a recurring disease once the protozoa have entered the body, some Biblical scholars believe that Sha’ul may have been referring to the “thorn in the flesh” as this particular disease. (2 Cor.12: 7).
21.Mental and nervous disorders. King Saul appears to have suffered from manic depression (1 Sam.16: 14-23), and the Bible mentions others who may have suffered from mental or nervous disorders such as King Nebuchadnezzar (Dan. 4:33).
22.Palsy. This term refers to total paralysis. The Gospels record a well-known scenario where Yahshua healed a paralyzed man at Capernaum (Mark 2:1-12). The Apostles also healed people with paralysis (Acts 8:7; 9: 33-34).
23.Plague. This term is used in several contexts in the Bible. However, in the context of this message I will mention the Scriptures that refer to it as disease. Interestingly, the plague hit the Israelites THREE times while they were in the wilderness. These include Num. 11: 33, where G-d got tired of their complaining for the life they had in Egypt, and their whining for meat and the “easier life” with melons, leeks, meat, onions and garlic. Can you believe it? They were lusting after food of all things. I guess that shouldn’t surprise us when people pay to be injected with botulism toxin to make them more “beautiful.” Anyway, G-d hit them with a plague because of their greed. Take note here in this scene that the people had quail all AROUND them, covering the ground to a depth of three feet. The people were so greedy they stayed up all day and night and all the next day gathering them.
The second time, a plague claimed the lives of the spies who discouraged the Israelites from entering the Promised Land (Num. 14:37). The third epidemic came as G-d’s punishment upon the Israelites. Aaron stopped this plague by offering incense to G-d. There are many other examples, but I will not list them all in the interest of time.
24.Polio. This is the common name for infantile paralysis, which usually affected children. One Biblical reference is found in 1 Kings 17:17 where a woman brought her son to Elijah. The boy was so sick that there was no breath in him; this symptom suggests that he may have had polio. Elijah revived the boy through intervention by G-d to answer his prayer. The men described in Matthew 12:9-13 and John 5:2 also may have had polio.
25. Skin Disorders. The Bible refers to many such disorders such as the “itch” or “ringworm” (Lev.13: 30; 21:20). Leviticus 13:39 probably refers to vitiligo, which was often confused with leprosy. This is the disorder Michael Jackson claimed to have had. This is a malfunction of the melanin in the skin whereby white patches develop.
26.Smallpox. In Psalms 38:5, we read “My wounds stink and are corrupt because of my foolishness.” The Hebrew word is maqaq.
27.Sunstroke. Biblical references include (2 Kings 4: 18-20) and Isaiah 49:10).
28.Syncope. Arrested heart action or a sudden drop in the blood pressure with fainting is called syncope. When Jacob learned that Joseph was still alive, his heart “fainted”. (Gen. 45-46). When Eli heard that the Ark of the Covenant had been captured, he fell backwards off his seat, broke his neck, and died (1 Sam.4: 18).
30.Worms. Isaiah warned that the rebellious people of Israel would be afflicted with worms (Is.51:8). He also predicted this fate for Babylon (Is.14: 11). This parasitic disease could be fatal because there were no medical remedies at that time.
31.Trichinae. This disease afflicted the pigs as a parasite that was passed on to humans when the meat was improperly cooked.
32. Bilharziasis- a disease easy to contract in an area that was flooded frequently. It was a common cause of anemia, which debilitated the person and made them susceptible to other diseases and death.
33.Trachoma- this was an eye disease and was endemic in Egypt.
34.Measles. Was easily propagated in the relatively densely populated Nile valley.
35.Cholera. Also easily spread among a people who lived so close along the Nile.
36.Silicosis. This disease of the lungs was the result of breathing in airborne sand particles and it was a frequent cause of death.
37.Malnutrition was prominent because of the restricted diet of the Egyptians.
38.Pneumonia. This was also a frequent cause of death
39.The 39th disease I want to address is AIDS. I saved this one until last because many people think it is a recent discovery. In Romans 1:27 we read” …and likewise the men, giving up natural relations with the opposite sex, burn with passion for one another, men committing shameful acts with other men and receiving their own persons the penalty appropriate to their perversion.” Other references for your consideration include Psalms 107:17 and Job 36:14.
Now, we have just reviewed the major diseases of Egypt. Of course, there were many subcategories under these major types, but what I wanted to call your attention to is the resurgence of these diseases in modern times.
In an article I pulled from the Chronicle in April of 2003 entitled “Ancient plague spreading in U.S.” I read, “Leprosy is on the rise in the United States. It has usually been regarded as a plague of the past that occurred in Biblical times or was confined to the poor and distant countries. It has been estimated that there are now more than 7,000 people in the U.S. affected with leprosy.”
Let us go back and review what G-d says about obeying his instructions (Torah). ”If you loathe my regulations and reject my rulings, in order not to obey all my mitzvoth but cancel my covenant; then I, for my part will do this to you: I will bring terror upon you- wasting disease and chronic fever to dim your sight and sap your strength( Lev. 26:15-16). He goes on in Lev. 26:25 where we read, “I will send sickness among you, and you will be handed over to the power of the enemy.” Then we move onto Deut.28:58 where the same subject of obedience is addressed. “If you will not observe and obey all the words of this Torah that are written in this book, so that you will fear this glorious and awesome name, Adonai your G-d; then Adonai will strike you down and your descendants with extraordinary plagues and severe sicknesses that go on and on. He will bring back upon you all the diseases the Egyptians had, that you were in dread of, and they will cling to you. Not only that, but Adonai will bring upon you all the sicknesses and plagues that are not written in this book of the Torah- until you are destroyed. You will be left few in number, whereas you were once numerous as the stars in the sky-because you did not pay attention to the voice of Adonai your G-d.
With that in mind, let’s look at some current research and events.
The first one is entitled, “Africa, the infectious continent,” dated Nov. 4, 1999. It speaks of the fact that no continent has been harder hit by the outbreak of new infectious diseases and the resurgence of old ones than Africa. The problem is complicated by frequent flights all over the world that serves to transmit disease at an earth- shattering pace. What’s responsible for all of this? Take a guess. It is the man-made aspect of the problem that is so alarming. “By disrupting nature, we have unleashed them onto ourselves”, says Dr. Davis Heymann, executive director of the World Health Organization’s Program on Communicable Diseases in Geneva, Switzerland. The destruction of the rain forests may be partly to blame for clusters of killer outbreaks ranging from feverish malaria to hemorrhagic Ebola. When trees are cut down, pools of infested water are left exposed setting up breeding grounds for mosquitoes that carry malaria. Furthermore, destroying the forests has led to a loss of wildlife that protects against infectious diseases.
Global warming caused by excessive pollutants is allowing malaria to spread at higher altitudes. Another problem is an increase in fires because of recent droughts that have increased the incidence of respiratory problems and have made people more susceptible to meningitis because of dry mucous membranes.
Let’s take another step. We now have West-Nile virus and mosquito borne-dengue fever that used to be confined to tropical zones now showing up in places like Texas. Climate changes and a shrinking world will have real implications for mortality and morbidity. Sha’ul Epstein, Associate Director of the Harvard Centre for Health and the Global Environment, also warns of the increasing problem of disease transmission that is shifting among plants, animals and humans in unexpected ways. For example, Severe Acute respiratory Syndrome (SARS), crossed from civet cats to people. The risks have been highlighted by the emergence of 30 infectious diseases that are new to medicine over the last 30 years. A new pandemic flu could emerge and cause a global epidemic. To make things worse, all but four large pharmaceutical companies have dropped or dramatically cut back on their research programs. Recall the difficulty getting the flu vaccine although at the time, only high-risk individuals were recommended to get the vaccine. But like we are witnessing today with COVID-19 many people want to be tested and there is not yet a way to monitor low versus high-risk individuals in the public venue. Panic and chaos abound. Who would have thought toilet tissue would fly off the shelves followed by paper towels, napkins, and tissues? It seems that because toilet tissue takes such a large space in the store, that its absence is easily detected by the public. True to human nature, when many people see an empty shelf, they tend to want the object more, even if they don’t need it. Here we see the greed factor again reemerging.
If we examine low risk versus high risk status for disease, I submit the United States is generally high risk. Because the majority of Americans are sedentary, overweight, over 50 and have one or more chronic diseases. But more importantly, the one thing that places us at the most risk of suffering with illness and other adversities as Adonai warned is our individual rebelliousness and collective defiance of our country toward Torah observance. As individuals and as a country we are only beginning to reap what we have sown. During the 1960’s this country lost its sense of unified social morality, and the concept of inner value clarification of the self was born. Instead of the immoral, self-indulgent individual making up a minority, today these adjectives describe the majority of our population.
As a country we have forgotten our G-d and his laws, regulations and rulings. We have turned our faces back toward Egypt and are whining for the life from which He brought us out; from the persecutions of the European pogroms, from the oppression of czars, kings and dictators, from the poverty of the past to unimagined prosperity. How have we repaid Adonai? Just as the Israelites when they were far enough out in the desert to lose sight of Egypt. We have turned to the idols of men. We eat forbidden foods, engage in forbidden relationships, ignore the mandated festivals and look down upon those who strive to integrate Torah into their lives. We argue and complain about our own infirmities, misfortunes or other personal problems and take no time to check on those who congregate with us in our Synagogues, when they are missing or are themselves down on the battlefield. What goes around has gone around and is now at our doorstep once more. Do we want to live in Egypt? Then listen to what Adonai says in response to the MIXED crowd that was with the Israelites and who complained for the “easier” Egyptian life and grieved for the lack of meat instead of manna. In Numbers 11:18 he said, “Tell the people, consecrate yourselves for tomorrow, and you will eat meat; because you cried in the ears of Adonai. ‘If only we had meat to eat! We had the good life in Egypt!’ All right, Adonai is going to give you meat, and you will eat it. You won’t eat just one day, or two days, or five, or ten, or twenty days, but a whole month! – until it comes out your nose and you hate it!- because you have rejected Adonai, who is here with you, and distressed him with your crying and asking, ‘Why did we ever leave Egypt?’
G-d did not stop there, however. While they were still chewing the meat, the anger of Adonai flared up against the people, and Adonai struck the people with a terrible plague. Therefore, that place was named Kivot-HaTa’avah [graves of greed], because they buried the people who were so greedy.
This is where we are today as a nation. I implore you, those who have ears hear, take it to heart what I have shared with you. Examine where you are with YHVH/Yahshua and ask for the conscientiousness to read Torah faithfully, the understanding to comprehend His teachings, the strength to live Torah as he commands, and the perseverance to stand up for him, as did our fathers. In closing I share these tehillim with you, so that you individually, and collectively as Messianic believers be spared the diseases of Egypt.
“Teach me, Adonai, the way of your laws; keeping them will be its own reward for me. Give me understanding, then I will keep your Torah; I will observe it with all my heart. Guide me on the path of your mitzvoth, for I take pleasure in it. Bend my heart toward your instructions and not toward selfish gain. Turn my eyes away from worthless things; with your ways, give me life. (Ps. 119:33-37). Deal with your servant in accordance with your grace and teach me your laws. I am your servant; give me understanding, so that I can know your instruction. (Ps. 119:124-5). Examine me, G-d, and know my heart; test me, and know my thoughts. Create in me a clean heart, G-d; renew in me a resolute spirit. (Ps. 51:12-13) See if there is in me any hurtful way and lead me along the eternal way. (Ps 139:23-24.)
Baruch HaShem, Eloheynu Melech ha Olam,
Rabbi Tamah Davis-Hart