World’s Greatest Disaster

One of the greatest tragedies in human history was the Black Plague in Europe. Over a 7-year period (1346-1353), over 75-200 million people died. The population of Europe was pretty well cut in half and would not fully recover for 300 years. As the crisis accelerated, germs spread quickly because the dead could not be buried quickly enough. Since no one knew the source of the disease, physicians of the time offered useless treatments. However, religious people were familiar with the instructions in the Law of Moses regarding quarantine and hygiene when leprosy was present, and how to deal with the dead. Church leaders applied these principles to the plague and leprosy, and the spread of disease was halted in many communities. Millions of lives were saved.

While reading ahead for our Sunday morning adult study of the Book of Numbers, I was reminded of the Law’s instructions about hygiene. For example, in 19:14-16 it directs, “This is the law when a man dies in a tent: everyone who comes into the tent and everyone who is in the tent shall be unclean for seven days. And every open vessel which has no covering tied down on it, shall be unclean. Also, anyone who in the open field touches one who has been slain with a sword or who has died naturally, or a human bone or a grave, shall be unclean for seven days.” The purpose of these instructions is obviously to prevent the spread of disease and germs, although ancient Jews could not understand the medical details as we can today.

That such medical wisdom was being practiced by ancient Israel a full 2800 years before the devastation of the great plagues of medieval Europe is surely amazing. The most advanced societies of the time were nowhere close to practicing Israel’s ways of hygiene and seclusion. No scientific experimentation discovered these principles; it originated in the inspired word of God.

This is one more clear piece of evidence that the Bible is indeed a book given to man by God Himself.

– Tim Johnson