New to Meducation?
Sign up
Already signed up? Log In

CPD Tracker

00:00

Foo20151013 2023 1161ex7?1444773978

Ancient Israelites and Infection Control

Written by David Jones · Thursday 7th March 2013

A medical students reflection on Old Testament Ritual Law and it's health implications.

In an era before effective medical treatments, before science, and before evidence-based medicine, it is fascinating to see how the religious concept of ritual states (i.e. "clean" & "unclean"), helped the ancient Israelites to control disease in the population.

Summary of Leviticus 13: Laws on skin disease

If the skin disease was invasive (lit. "deeper than the skin") or potentially infectious (lit. involved open sores "raw flesh"), a person was declared "unclean". "Unclean" people lived in isolation from mainstream society (Lev 13:46).

If the disease was non-invasive the person was quarantined for 7 days then re-examined. If the disease had spread or faded, the person was declared unclean or clean respectively.

If there was no change they were quarantined for a further 7 days and then re-examined again. If after the second examination there had still been no spread or changes the disease was considered chronic and non-dangerous. Consequently, the person was declared "clean".

All "clean" people exiting quarantine had to wash their clothes (Lev 13:6,34).

If someone with invasive or open-sore disease healed, they returned to the priest to be re-examined & reclassified "clean". Conversely, if someone was declared "clean" and their disease developed to become invasive or open-sore disease they had to present themselves to be re-examined and reclassified "unclean".

Interpretations

I'm sure there are plenty of allegorical ways we can interpret Leviticus 13. Especially if we relate the skin diseases to the invasive and infectious nature of sin. But as a medical student I was fascinated looking at and considering the literal consequences of this passage, particularly in terms of the wider health implications it would have had on this ancient civilisation. Interesting...

(original post here)

Responses

Ben Hamilton
·
Medical Student - Peninsula
·
Posted over 6 years ago
Great insight on ancient isolation techniques! I was always struck oddly by the Israelite laws regarding slavery; they set rules and structures in place to protect and allow freedoms for those who could no longer provide for themselves - a kind of early
Like
(4)
Respond
Tariq Shafi
·
GPST2 - University Hospital Coventry
·
Posted over 6 years ago
Really interesting article. Makes that part of history even more fascinating!
Like
(2)
Respond
Fatima Zahra
·
Posted over 6 years ago
This is how the early medieval Iraq chose the site for constructing a hospital. Pieces of animal flesh were placed at different sites. The one where it turned bad the latest was chosen as the site!
Like
(2)
Respond
Mary
·
Medical Student
·
Posted over 6 years ago
This was really interesting and insightful! Sheds some light on why their rules were so stringent.
Like
(2)
Respond
David Jones
·
Medical Student - St. Georges University, London
·
Posted over 6 years ago
I should add that I do believe that the lessons there are for us to learn from past civilisations are BOTH poisitive and negative!
Like
(2)
Respond
David Jones
·
Medical Student - St. Georges University, London
·
Posted over 6 years ago
Thanks for the comments. I totally agree with you Ben. There is a tendency (or arrogancy!) for us to think that we are the most morally advanced civilisation that has ever lived. I'm sure that every civilisation in it's time thought this about themse
Like
(1)
Respond
Mr Raymond Buick
·
Paediatric Surgeon
·
Posted over 6 years ago
Excellent analysis
Like
(1)
Respond