Posted on: May 8, 2020

Contagion in Scripture

Contagion in the Bible:

Introduction: This is a brief, and not comprehensive, examination of some texts of the scripture concerning contagion in scripture.


Chapter 1: The Plagues at the Time of Moses




In the 13th Century B.C.E. the Israelites found themselves as slaves in Egypt. God told Moses to inform the Pharaoh that the people were to go into the desert to pray to God. The Pharaoh refused and God promised to bring his people to freedom and he sent ten plagues upon Egypt.


The Event:


The fifth plague was pestilence. In Exodus 9:3 God gives the warning that he will afflict the horses, asses, camels, herds and flocks with a severe pestilence. All the livestock of the Egyptians died, but the livestock of the Israelites was spared.


The sixth plague was the boils. In Exodus 9:9 God promises to send dust that will cause festering boils on humans and beasts. So it happened to the Egyptians and their animals, but the Israelites were spared.


Many want to know if the plagues were miracles or natural disasters. Many simply ask if they are real. These disasters were known to happen in ancient Egypt. No matter what happened God freed Israel from Egypt. It may have been through natural disasters or miracles or some way we cannot fully discover so many years later.


Read Exodus 9:1-12


Chapter 2: The Philistine Capture of the Ark and The Return of said Ark






These people were known as the “sea peoples” who were known to invade the eastern coastlands of the Mediterranean Sea around the twelfth century B.C.E. They were feared for they had learned to use iron and made better weapons than their enemies. The most notorious Philistine character in scripture is Goliath (1 Samuel 17:1-58).


Ark of the Covenant:


The ark of the covenant was a small wooden box about the size of a fruit crate. It was kept in a tent sanctuary when the people were in the wilderness. It was adorned with a plate of gold, called the mercy seat. The Israelites believed it to be the throne of God. Eventually the ark of the covenant was taken into Jerusalem by David. Later, Solomon build the Temple in Jerusalem and the ark of the covenant was placed in the sanctuary of the Temple. This was the center of worship for the Israelites.


The Event:


Around the eleventh century B.C.E. the Israelites were attacked by the Philistines and the Philistines captured the ark of the covenant. In one sense the Israelites feared that the presence of God had been taken from them. The Philistines may have thought they had captured the power of their enemy. They placed the ark next to an image of their god, Dagon in their pagan temple of Dagon. When the Philistines arose from sleep and went to the temple of Dagon, Dagon was lying in front of the ark of the covenant, as in worship of God. Dagon’s head and hands were broken off. Soon the Philistines were inflicted with some sort of contagion. The scripture reports that they were inflicted with tumors or hemorrhoids. Scholars have proposed that there may have been an infestation of rodents in the Philistine camp and they may have suffered from the bubonic plague. The Philistines sent the ark away and gave a guilt offering to the Israelites. It is a wonderful presentation of the holy book about what happens when you mess with God and his people.


Read: 1 Samuel 4:1-11, 1 Samuel 5:1-12, 1 Samuel 6:1-18


Chapter 3: The Assyrian Siege of Jerusalem (701 B.C.E.)






There are historical references to a people known as the Assyrians back to 2000 B.C.E. They took their name from their major city, Assur. There were struggles for leadership of the region against the rulers of Babylon, a city about two hundred miles southeast of As­sur. Assyria was located in the area now known as Iraq.


The Assyrians have a reputation as warmongers. They often tried to negotiate disputes with their neigh­bors, but more frequently their kings used tactics of terror that made the Assyrians a feared people who were despised throughout the Near East.


The height of Assyrian domination came in the seventh century B.C.E. In the reign of Ashurbanipal (668 to 627 B.C.E.), the As­syrians ruled the largest empire in the world-including what is now Iraq, Syria, Leba­non, and Jordan; much of Egypt; and some of Turkey.


The Assyrians were one of the first nations to train a professional army and to deploy it in battle.


At its peak, the Assyrian Empire was overextended. They were doomed to collapse. Fifteen years after Ashurbanipal’s death, Nineveh fell to the Babylonians.


King Hezekiah:


The unfaithful King Ahaz dies and his son Hezekiah takes over the throne is faithful to God. He destroys the pagan shrines and even the bronze serpent of Moses (Numbers 21:8-9), which the people have begun to worship.


In the sixth year of Hezekiah’s reign, the northern king­dom of Israel falls to Assyria, and its upper class and intellec­tuals are deported into exile. When Hezekiah considers the idea of revolting against Assyria, Isaiah is told to warn him by walking around Jerusalem in a loincloth, as a symbol of how Judah, the southern kingdom, will be sacked if it revolts.


In the fourteenth year of Hezekiah’s reign, Assyria sacks the Judaean cities north of Jerusalem.


The Event:


At this time the Assyrians were enemies of the Israelites and they eventually conquered the northern kingdom of the Israelites known at the time as Israel. They set their next conquest on the southern kingdom of the Israelites known at the time as Judah.


Judah paid tribute (money) to Assyria to keep them from invading Judah and their capital Jerusalem. Eventually that agreement ended and the Assyrians decided to invade Jerusalem. They surrounded the city and tried to force their surrender.


The King of Judah, Hezekiah dug a tunnel to get water from a spring outside of the fortified city walls (the tunnel is still there).


The bible says an angel killed the enemy of 185,000 Assyrian soldiers. The evidence uncovered by scholars is that the troops appear to have had problems with mice in their camp. The soldiers were probably in poor health and had poor nutrition and lacked clean water. The army probably suffered from a contagion of cholera or bubonic plague that made them weak and they retreated. Jerusalem was saved from the Assyrian assault because of the contagion.


Read 2 Kings 18:1-12; 19:20-36.


What does Jesus say about contagion?


Jesus told his followers (and therefore says to us) not to be deceived and that you will hear of wars, insurrections, powerful earthquakes, famines, plagues, awesome sights and mighty signs from the sky. But not a hair on your head will be destroyed. You will secure your lives through perseverance in belief of Jesus, for your redemption is at hand.


Read Luke 21:5-36