A Bible-Based Approach to Health Care: Something Ails You? You Might Be Possessed by a Devil
Continued from previous page
Obstetrics and Gynecology: words of encouragement. Midwifery is a clear part of Bible-based medical practice, though without modern tools the power of the midwife is limited. At the birth of the patriarch Benjamin, a midwife offers his mother Rachael encouraging words right before she dies from postpartum hemorrhaging: “Do not fear, for now you have another son” (Genesis 35:17). In another story, a midwife ties a scarlet string around the hand of one twin to distinguish which came out first.
Menstrual and post-partum bleeding are considered unclean, and a woman is unclean for twice as long after giving birth to a girl as a boy. Cleansing rituals are prescribed for any man who has sex with a menstruating woman or even touches something she has contaminated, but in the absence of science-based medicine, no procedures are recommended to give women means to reduce or avoid bleeding.
Fertility: mandrake roots and prayer. The mandrake plant was widely believed to have special powers long before J.K. Rowling wrote it into her Harry Potter books. It appears in the book of Genesis as a fertility agent. In Genesis 30, two sister wives (literally) are competing to produce male offspring, and they turn to the powers of the mandrake.
Now in the days of wheat harvest Reuben went and found mandrakes in the field, and brought them to his mother Leah. Then Rachel said to Leah, “Please give me some of your son’s mandrakes.” But she said to her, “Is it a small matter for you to take my husband? And would you take my son’s mandrakes also?” So Rachel said, “Therefore he may lie with you tonight in return for your son’s mandrakes.” When Jacob came in from the field in the evening, then Leah went out to meet him and said, “You must come in to me, for I have surely hired you with my son’s mandrakes.” So he lay with her that night. God gave heed to Leah, and she conceived and bore Jacob a fifth son.” ( Genesis 30:9-22)
Ophthalmology: spit and mud. In the Old Testament, the primary objective in managing vision defects is to ensure that people with bad vision don’t defile sacred spaces or the halls of power. They are not excluded from town, like people with skin infections, but they are excluded from the temple. However, in the New Testament, Jesus heals several blind men. To do so, he calls on a combination of faith, spit, and mud ( John 9:6). This technique would have been familiar to Greek and Roman readers of the Gospels, since the Greek god-man Asclepius was said to heal the blind in a similar fashion.
Orthopedics: isolation and exorcism. Like ophthalmology, the primary goal of Old Testament orthopedic management is to keep defective people from contaminating sacred spaces or food offerings:
No man of your offspring throughout their generations who has a defect shall approach to offer the food of his God. For no one who has a defect shall approach: a blind man, or a lame man, or he who has a disfigured face, or any deformed limb,or a man who has a broken foot or broken hand, or a hunchback or a dwarf, or one who has a]defect in his eye or eczema or scabs or crushed testicles. ( Leviticus 21:17-23).
However, acute injuries were treated differently; there is at least indirect evidence that splinting was standard practice for broken bones. In the visions of Ezekiel, unsplinted broken bones are a metaphor for political weakness: “ Son of man, I have broken the arm of Pharaoh king of Egypt; and, behold, it has not been bound up for healing or wrapped with a bandage, that it may be strong to hold the sword.” ( Ezekiel 30:21)