International Standard Bible Encyclopedia
sik, sik'-nes (chalah (Genesis 48:1, etc.), choli (Deuteronomy 28:61, etc.), tachalu' (Deuteronomy 29:21, etc.), machalah (Exodus 23:25, etc.), daweh (Leviticus 15:33, etc.), 'anash (2 Samuel 12:15, etc.); astheneo (Matthew 10:8, etc.; compare 2Ma 9:22), kakos echon (Luke 7:2), kakos echontas (Matthew 4:24, etc.), arrhostos (Sirach 7:35; Matthew 14:14, etc.), arrhostema (Sirach 10:10, etc.), with various cognates, kamno (James 5:15); Latin morbus (2 Esdras 8:31)): Compared with the number of deaths recorded in the historical books of the Bible the instances in which diseases are mentioned are few. "Sick" and "sickness" (including "disease," etc.) are the translations of 6 Hebrew and 9 Greek words and occur 56 times in the Old Testament and 57 times in the New Testament. The number of references in the latter is significant as showing how much the healing of the sick was characteristic of the Lord's ministry. The diseases specified are varied. Of infantile sickness there is an instance in Bath-sheba's child (2 Samuel 12:15), whose disease is termed 'anash, not improbably trismus nascentium, a common disease in Palestine. Among adolescents there are recorded the unspecified sickness of Abijah (1 Kings 14:1), of the widow's son at Zarephath (1 Kings 17:17), the sunstroke of the Shunammite's son (2 Kings 4:19), the epileptic boy (Matthew 17:15), Jairus' daughter (Matthew 9:18), and the nobleman's son (John 4:46). At the other extreme of life Jacob's death was preceded by sickness (Genesis 48:1). Sickness resulted from accident (Ahaziah, 2 Kings 1:2), wounds (Joram, 2 Kings 8:29), from the violence of passion (Amnon, 2 Samuel 13:2), or mental emotion (Daniel 8:27); see also in this connection Songs 2:5; Songs 5:8. Sickness the result of drunkenness is mentioned (Hosea 7:5), and as a consequence of famine (Jeremiah 14:18) or violence (Micah 6:13). Daweh or periodic sickness is referred to (Leviticus 15:33; Leviticus 20:18), and an extreme case is that of Luke 8:43.
In some examples the nature of the disease is specified, as Asa's disease in his feet (1 Kings 15:23), for which he sought the aid of physicians in vain (2 Chronicles 16:12). Hezekiah and Job suffered from sore boils, Jehoram from some severe dysenteric attack (2 Chronicles 21:19), as did Antiochus Epiphanes (2 Maccabees 9:5). Probably the sudden and fatal disease of Herod was similar, as in both cases there is reference to the presence of worms (compare Acts 12:23 and 2 Maccabees 9:9). The disease of Publius' father was also dysentery (Acts 28:8). Other diseases specified are paralysis (Matthew 8:6; Matthew 9:2), and fever (Matthew 8:14). Not improbably the sudden illness of the young Egyptian at Ziklag (1 Samuel 30:11), and the illness of Ben-hadad which weakened him so that he could not resist the violence of Hazael, were also the common Palestine fever (2 Kings 8:15) of whose symptoms and effects there is a graphic description in Psalm 38. Unspecified fatal illnesses were those of Elisha (2 Kings 13:14), Lazarus (John 11:1), Tabitha (Acts 9:37). In the language of the Bible, leprosy is spoken of as a defilement to be cleansed, rather than as a disease to be cured.
The proverb concerning the sick quoted by the Lord at Capernaum (Mark 2:17) has come down to us in several forms in apocryphal and rabbinical writings (Babha' Qamma' 26:13; Sanhedhrin 176), but is nowhere so terse as in the form in which He expresses it. The Lord performed His healing of the sick by His word or touch, and one of the most emphatic charges which He gave to His disciples when sending them out was to heal the sick. One of the methods used by them, the anointing with oil, is mentioned in Mark 6:13 and enjoined by James (5:15). In later times the anointing which was at first used as a remedial agent became a ceremonial in preparation for death, one of the seven sacraments of the Roman church (Aquinas, Summa Theologia suppl. ad Piii. 29).
The duty of visiting the sick is referred to in Ezekiel 34:4, 16, and by the Lord in the description of the Judgment scene (Matthew 25:36, 43). It is inculcated in several of the rabbinical tracts. "He that visits the sick lengthens his life, he who refrains shortens it," says Rabbi Ischanan in Nedharim 29. In Shulchan `Arukh, Yoreh De`ah there is a chapter devoted to this duty, which is regarded as incumbent on the Jew, even though the sick person be a Gentile (Gittin 61a). The church's duty to the sick, so long neglected, has, within the last century, been recognized in the mission field, and has proved, in heathen lands, to be the most important of all pioneer agressive methods.
While we find that the apostles freely exercised their gifts of healing, it is noteworthy that we read of the sickness of two of Paul's companions, Epaphroditus (Philippians 2:26) and Trophimus (2 Timothy 4:20), for whose recovery he seems to have used no other means than prayer.
See also DISEASE.