The bubonic plague killed one half of the population of England. Some entire villages were destroyed by the disease. However, it was evident for all to see that the Jewish people were escaping the plaque. Why did they escape? Because some 3000 years before bacteria was discovered, the Creator gave instructions which are recorded in the Old Testament book of Leviticus that prevent the spread of communicable disease. Those instructions require strict cleanliness and quarantines, and cleansing following contact with the sick or the dead. The Jews followed those instructions, and their lives were spared.
Ignaz Semmelweiss lived from 1818 until 1865. He was a Hungarian obstetrician and was connected with the Vienna General Hospital where he taught obstetrics to medical students. One day he was walking through the lobby of the hospital when he noticed a near-term pregnant woman weeping inconsolably. When he asked why, he was informed that the distraught expectant mother had been assigned to the obstetrics ward served by the medical students rather than to the midwives. To her, that was a death sentence. She preferred the midwives because the medical student ward had a terrible reputation for postpartum infection. The reputation was justly earned. One out of every six women delivered by the medical students died.
Dr. Semmelweiss wondered what the difference was between the medical students and the midwives. Suddenly, he realized the difference possibly was the anatomy lab. In that day it was common for the medical students to dissect cadavers in the anatomy lab while the expectant mothers labored in a nearby ward. Every now and then the students would leave the lab to check the progress of their patients by doing an internal exam. Dr. Semmelweiss wondered if there was a connection between the medical students who handled the dead corpses in the lab, and then without washing, used their hands to do the internal exams on the laboring women. He decided to order his students to rinse their hands in limewater before doing the exams on the women. Within one month the death rate of the women dropped from one in six to one in eighty-four! The results were indicative of the benefits of following the Bible's teaching about dead bodies and cleanliness.
Today we know about the transmission of bacteria that was taking place from the cadavers to the women. They did not know in Dr. Semmelweiss' time. Many more lives would have been saved, and much suffering avoided, if only people had by faith accepted the Old Testament's teaching about cleanliness and practiced it (The Word on Health, Dr. Michael D. Jacobson, Moody Press, 2000).
When studying the science of the ancient world, one is more apt to be impressed with its ignorance than to admire its accuracy. However, the Bible offers a definite exception to this rule. The scriptures are replete with statements suggesting scientific knowledge which predates the corresponding discoveries of secular science. Given that Bible writers were not scientists, and given that the scientific information at their disposal was generally misleading, the accuracy of the Bible can only be attributed to the inspiration of God (“Examples of Scientific Accuracy in the bible” David Pyles). Let me begin by listing a few of these Biblical foreshadows.
For one, Genesis 10:25 speaks of one Peleg whose name means division. The text then explains that he was so named because in his days the earth was divided. It is now commonly believed that all continents of the earth were once combined into a single continent called Pangaea. This belief is based upon the fact that present continents appear somewhat as pieces out of a puzzle. There are also other evidences, including several geological similarities on matching continental edges (“Examples of Scientific Accuracy in the Bible” David Pyles). Secondly, the fact that the earth is of spherical shape is generally considered to be recent knowledge. However, Isaiah 40:22 spoke of the circle of the earth approximately 750 years before Christ. Other statements in the Bible also indicate that God revealed this truth long ago. For example, David said that God has removed our transgression from us as far as the east is from the west (Ps 103:12). On a spherical surface, east and west are infinitely separated in the sense that one can travel indefinitely in either direction without ever attaining the other. However, Solomon described the wind as blowing in circuits, first towards the south and then turning toward the north. North and south are not infinitely separated as east and west, because a southward traveler on a spherical surface will be heading north after crossing the South Pole (David Pyles).
Thirdly consider this: What is man, that thou art mindful of him? and the son of man, that thou visitest him? For thou hast made him a little lower than the angels, and hast crowned him with glory and honour. Thou madest him to have dominion over the works of thy hands; thou hast put all things under his feet: All sheep and oxen, yea, and the beasts of the field; The fowl of the air, and the fish of the sea, and whatsoever passeth through the paths of the seas. Matthew Maury (1806-1873) is commonly known as the father of oceanography. He was among the first to discover and chart systematic ocean currents. Maury claimed that his research was inspired by Ps 8:4-8 (David Pyles).
Fourthly, in Leviticus 17:11 it says that the “life of the flesh is in the blood” (KJV). That’s very interesting because science didn’t know about the properties of blood until centuries after Moses received the Law from God on Mount Sinai. Every ancient Jew was taught the validity of God’s Word for practical living as well as its spiritual value. Every Jew was taught that Leviticus 17:11 referred to the life of living creatures. If one drained the blood out of his sacrificial lamb, the lamb died; therefore, the blood equaled life. Here again, it was centuries after this Biblical knowledge that blood was discovered by means of science to circulate throughout the human body.
Fifthly, it wasn’t until the time of Pasteur that germs were discovered as the culprit to spoiling French wine. Pasture eliminated the microbes by “pasteurizing” the wine. The process is still used today with dairy products. The Old Testament proscribed certain meats as being unclean for human consumption. Today we know that many of these banned meats, if not properly prepared and fully cooked, can sicken or cause death in humans because of bad bacteria.
Time does not permit me to list the Bible’s instructions on washing clothing when contaminated by disease and death. Or to list what the Bible says regarding the effectiveness of quarantines for diseases and the importance of early diagnoses of skin diseases.
The Bible, if it’s nothing more than an ordinary ancient book, is certainly unusually accurate in its scientific foreshadowing. I believe that’s because it’s more than just an ancient book. It is the Holy Word of God with a scientific accuracy long before inductive reasoning was used to challenge what had been unchallenged until the Age of the Enlightenment.
Keep the faith. Jesus is our Healer and soon coming King.