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Some "Old Fashioned" Health Laws that make good sense today

You wouldn't normally think that health principles found in a document written thousands of years ago would be up-to-date in this era of modern medicine. Yet if some of the Old Testament health laws were properly implemented today, they would prove to be a positive boon to the state of the world's health.

States Dr. D. T. Atkinson: "In the Bible greater stress was placed upon prevention of disease than was given to the treatment of bodily ailments, and in this no race of people, before or since, has left us such a wealth of laws relative to hygiene and sanitation as the Hebrews. These important laws, coming down through the ages, are still used to a marked degree in every country in the world sufficiently enlightened to observe them. One has but to read the book of Leviticus carefully and thoughtfully to conclude that the admonitions of Moses contained therein are, in fact, the groundwork of most of today's sanitary laws. As one closes the book, he must, regardless of his spiritual leanings, feel that the wisdom therein expressed regarding the rules to protect health are superior to any which then existed in the world and that to this day they have been little improved upon" (Magic, Myth and Medicine, p.20).

Take, for instance, the principles of sanitation and hygiene. Over 1,400 years ago the children of Israel were instructed to bury human waste (Deut. 23:12-13).

Says medical historian Arturo Castiglioni: "The regulations in Deuteronomy as to how soldiers should prevent the danger of infection coming from their excrement by covering it with earth constitute a most important document of sanitary legislation" (A History of Medicine, p. 70). Castiglioni continued: "Study of Biblical texts appears to have demonstrated that the ancient Semitic peoples, in agreement with the most modern tenets of epidemiology, attributed more importance to animal transmitters of disease, like the rat and the fly, than to the contagious individual" (p. 71).

Unfortunately, even in our modern world we sometimes ignore the vital importance of sanitation and hygiene in combating and preventing illness and contagion. Our modern cities are becoming increasingly congested, polluted, filthy, and dirty. Garbage strikes pose serious health problems. Our air is becoming unfit to breathe because of pollution; and our water is becoming increasingly contaminated with industrial chemicals, urban wastes, and a host of modern pollutants.


Bible Dietary Laws

The Bible stresses that proper diet is important in the prevention of disease. Leviticus 11 enumerates the dietary laws which God gave ancient Israel. Among other things, he forbade them to eat the flesh of pigs (swine), rabbits, or shellfish (Lev. 11:6-12).

Writes Dr. Louis Lasagna: "Many of these make good medical sense. . .The prohibition of hare and swine as sources of food certainly must have diminished the incidence of disease, in view of the capacity of these animals to transmit tularemia and trichinosis, respectively. The transmission of gastrointestinal infections (including typhoid fever) via polluted shellfish or water also testifies to the apparent wisdom of the Hebrews in warning against such sea food and impure water" (The Doctors' Dilemmas, p. 85).

Another interesting Old Testament law forbade the eating of animal fat. This also has proven a valuable health practice. Dr. Paul Dudley White, the heart specialist who treated President Eisenhower while he was in the White House, once quoted Leviticus 7:23: "You shall eat no fat, of ox, or sheep, or goat" (RSV). Animal fats are high in cholesterol, a fatty, waxy material which the body needs in limited amounts. The body's inability to properly metabolize cholesterol in some cases, however, may be a contributing factor in some forms of heart disease. Therefore, Dr. White asserted: "It is conceivable that a few years from now we medical men may repeat to the citizens of the United States of America the advice that Moses was asked by God to present to the children of Israel 3,000 years ago."


Laws of Quarantine

In many nations of the Western world, contagious diseases were not brought under control until rigid national quarantine measures were introduced in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Again, many of these had been practiced by the ancient Israelites. As the author of Magic, Myth and Medicine tells us: "The laws of health laid down in Leviticus are the basis of modern sanitary science. Moses ordered that cases of leprosy should be segregated, that dwellings from which infected Jews had gone should be inspected before again being occupied, and that persons recovering from contagious disease were not to be allowed to go abroad until examined. The modern quarantine harks back to these sanitary regulations of the Old Testament" (p. 58).

These historical examples graphically demonstrate the effectiveness of the principles God handed down millennia ago. Strictly speaking, of course, the Bible is not a health textbook or medical manual. But it does lay the foundation of knowledge and reveals many health laws which mankind has required thousands of years to rediscover.