Hygiene is not a word we hear often in the COVID-19 crisis. Authorities and the public look on measures as restrictive. Hygiene is preventive.
Hygiene is preventive measures to avoid sickness and disease. Practical Bible wisdom is the precursor in preventive medicine. Here’s a definition and the historical origin.
Hygiene: The science of preventive medicine and the preservation of health. Also commonly used as a euphemism for cleanliness and proper sanitation.
Preventive medicine: Medical practices that are designed to avert and avoid disease. For example, screening for hypertension and treating it before it causes disease is good preventive medicine. Preventive medicine takes a proactive approach to patient care.
I’ll ask you for a critical analysis of the example of screening for hypertension. Is that really preventive medicine? Not really, it’s checking to see if you’re sick or not. Don’t get me wrong, that’s a good practice, but it’s not hygiene which is PRO-active. Taking action before a problem arises. Preemptive is foreseeing eventual problems and taking measures well ahead of an outbreak.
Here’s what you can read about the history of hygiene.
The word hygiene comes from Hygeia, the Greek goddess of health, who was the daughter of Aesculapius, the god of medicine. Since the arrival of the Industrial Revolution (c.1750-1850) and the discovery of the germ theory of disease in the second half of the nineteenth century, hygiene and sanitation have been at the forefront of the struggle against illness and disease.
The invention of hygiene is often attributed to Ignace Semmelweis around 1850. He related germ-control to hand-washing as a means to avoid transmitting disease. At that link there’s a short history of hygiene and the first reference is the Old Testament.
The history of hand-washing extends back to ancient times, when it was largely a faith-based practice. The Old Testament, the Talmud and the Quran all mention hand-washing in the context of ritual cleanliness.
As a note, the Pentateuch, or five books of Moses predate the Talmud and Quran by about 2000 years. They are not in the same league! I find the description of hand-washing extremely important, a FAITH-BASED PRACTICE. Maybe the author is referring to a RELIGIOUS practice. Even that needs spiritual faith.
Faith because it purportedly came from a Supernatural Power named God or Yahveh, transmitted by Moses. A lot of people question (lack faith) God, Moses, and the veracity of the Old Testament. You have to understand, the Bible doesn’t talk about germs, pathogens, or bacteria per se. That’s medical jargon, interesting to know, but the essential is to have practices to keep them away from you.
The primary work for hygiene and preventive medicine is still the Bible.
It’s written in layman’s language for every single human being on this planet, at all times. But you have to take it on FAITH. Today, with modern technology and research, we understand scientifically what’s written regarding health in the Old Testament is based on verifiable evidence. COVID-19 could’ve been avoided or drastically reduced in proportions had we respected Bible recommendations. It still can.
The Explanation devoted extensive space to the state of our planet’s physical and mental health. They are two of the major battles we fight. Maybe even more so in the supposedly developed countries. We’re long on sugar, salt and supplements and short on exercise and wholesome nourishing food.
In the context of practical Bible wisdom for the 21st century for hygiene, preventive medicine and health, here is some advice we sorely need. We limit hygiene to body cleanliness but it is much more. The header image is an allusion to additional preventive measures included in health; mental hygiene, emotional hygiene and spiritual health. The whole person or soul, from a Biblical perspective.
The Hebrew word shalom is probably the best known greeting. Lesser known is the more complete meaning it embodies. FULL health, body, mental, emotional, spiritual. In this verse Jacob invites Joseph to inquire about his brothers’ well-being, their state of health.
And he (Jacob) said to him (Joseph), Go, I pray you, see whether it be well (H7965) with your brethren, and well with the flocks; and bring me word again…
Here’s the Biblcal Hebrew meaning.
שָׁלוֹם shâlôwm shaw-lome’; or שָׁלֹם; from H7999 (שָׁלַם); safe, i.e. (figuratively) well, happy, friendly; also (abstractly) welfare, i.e. health, prosperity, peace:
KJV – ⨯ do, familiar, ⨯ fare, favour, + friend, ⨯ great, (good) health, ([idiom] perfect, such as be at) peace(-able, -ably), prosper(-ity, -ous), rest, safe(-ty), salute, welfare, ([idiom] all is, be) well, ⨯wholly.
Note the translations of shalom, health and wholly. We know this term means peace. Peace encompasses everything associated with an individual. Today’s modern Hebrew greeting is: How are you? Ma shlomcha? מה שלומך. You can see the three identical root letters (the sixth key to master Biblical Hebrew) of H7965 שלם (shin, lamed, mem (written differently when it’s the final letter of a word)).
God’s nation was to serve as an example. He is not only interested in their preventative hygiene but in that of all nations.
That your way may be known on earth, your saving health among all nations.
Beloved, I wish above all things that you may prosper and be in health, even as your soul prosper.
God’s desire for all peoples to be healthy is not simply a wand He waves. It’s a two-way street. God doesn’t clean our teeth and cut our hair! We have to watch the sugary diet, use a toothbrush, and go to a barber. Hygiene is part of serving God. He gives us directives but we have a vital part to play in hygiene.
6 In all your ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct your paths.
7 Be not wise in your own eyes: fear the LORD, and depart from evil.
8 It shall be health to your navel, and marrow to your bones.
The wisdom of Proverbs. Application of God’s ways for everyone. We’re all equal human beings, with bodies that have the same biological processes worldwide. When we all do our part, we all benefit from good general health, no matter who you are or where you are.
The intention in this blog post is not to give scientific evidence or justifications for God’s instruction. It is to point to God’s wisdom about hygiene. Remember, belief involves faith although nowadays, science backs up this instruction, even if they don’t refer to the Bible teaching.
24 And for these you shall be unclean: whosoever touches the carcase of them shall be unclean until the even.
27 And whatsoever goes upon his paws, among all manner of beasts that go on all four, those are unclean to you: whoso touches their carcase shall be unclean until the even.
28 And he that bears the carcase of them shall wash his clothes, and be unclean until the even: they are unclean to you.
Don’t just look at this as some antiquated ceremonial parade. This is practical hygiene for everyone in the nation and by extension all humans. Today we recognize how well-founded this instruction is. We know that certain animals, dead bodies and contaminated water transmit infections. This is fundamental wisdom, revealed 3000 years ago. Covid-19, animals and human conditions are a reminder of failed hygiene. This image is not related to Covid, but it illustrates the lack of hygiene.
Here’s a verse that throws a curve-ball at physical exercise. It recognizes that it isn’t the ultimate life now, but does have some profit.
For bodily exercise profits little: but godliness is profitable to all things, having promise of the life that now is, and of that which is to come.
In France we have a hashtag #bougermanger. It means move-eat. The idea is don’t only lead a sedentary life of eating. Get out and do a little exercise. We’re seeing the results of not enough bouger in the form of obesity. Here’s a World Bank document regarding the worldwide obesity plague.
Obesity has emerged as a global challenge, affecting developed and developing countries alike. Globally, overweight and obesity cost an estimated US$2 trillion per year, and 68 percent of all deaths are caused by noncommunicable diseases (NCDs), of which three of the four most common are diet related (namely cardiovascular diseases, cancers, and diabetes). Moreover, two-thirds of deaths from NCDs take place in developing countries, where also two-thirds of overweight or obese people live, casting obesity no longer as only a developed country challenge.
The anti-hygiene practices of over-eating and lack of exercise cause health defects. We also have the opposite extreme, too much sport. We build and fill sports stadiums for professional sports, the biggest in North Korea, where 150000 fans can attend. These pro-sports athletes torture their anatomy to get to and stay number one. The violence they do to their bodies often hampers them for the rest of their lives. Extremes are not healthy hygiene.
Much is debated, disputed, accepted, and prohibited in this area. Today’s post is not an expose on what the Bible permits or outlaws. We’re discussing hygiene and health. When it comes to sex, the best hygienic and healthy sex is that practiced only in the long-term faithful marriage relationship. This is the couple’s relationship established by God and the one into which children can be born and nurtured.
All other sexual relationships open the way to spreading venereal disease, as this article states.
Regardless of how a person is exposed to a sexually transmitted disease, once infected, he or she can spread the infection to other people through oral, vaginal, or anal sex, even if he or she has no symptoms.
It all starts with one sick person having multiple partners in whatever gender. Pre-marital sex can be a nightmare for women. Unfortunately, they endure contraception and abortion. There’s a lot of talk about the physical effects in both these domains, but the mental turmoil both before and after such acts can devastate.
Such practices or malpractices affect all men and women worldwide equally. You can read Exodus 20, 22, Leviticus 18, 20 and Deuteronomy 23, 27 for explicit instruction, mainly what Bible wisdom forbids. This is pro-active preventative hygiene.
Once again, the question comes up, are they valid for the New Testament era? That’s the wrong question. We’re talking about hygiene and health. God didn’t give these laws to forbid people from eating something that’s GOOD for them. All animals do not have the same purpose. Some are specifically designed as scavengers to clean up the environment. They eat dead mice and rats. The question is, has the human digestive process changed between the Old and New Testament era?
Do we, in the 21st century, have the same physical human body as they did a few thousand years before Christ when these laws were given? The answer is yes. You can read about the prevalence of digestive disorders here. The Explanation is not saying that if Bible dietary rules were followed, there wouldn’t be any stomach issues.
What we are saying is that many of the Old Testament dietary restrictions now have a proven scientific and biological basis. Doctors know that these injunctions are beneficial to our general health. Here’s a dissertation that emphasizes the viewpoint that the Old Testament measures are primarily preventive. In other words, they are not restrictive, not designed to deprive you of something that is good for you. The goal is to keep you in optimal health.
God gave dietary wisdom right from the start for the welfare of all His creation. “Every plant yielding seed that is on the surface of all the earth, and every tree which has fruit yielding seed,” (Gen 1:29).
Daniel, when taken into captivity, requested a vegetarian diet because he knew it was beneficial for him (Daniel 1:10-12). That does not mean he abstained from meat. It simply means that he was taking care of his health with preventive measures.
Unfortunately, there’s a lot of scoffing about clean and unclean meats and many think this is part of the Old Covenant. Not so, it goes back to at least the time of Noah and the flood in Genesis 7:2. Recall, he took seven pairs of clean animals and only 1 pair of unclean animals into the ark. Why? it doesn’t say. But he and his family, eight people, were in the ark for just over one year. They obviously ate during that time and they offered a sacrifice when they left the ark. All of that with clean animals and birds. From creation, God gives dietary laws for the benefit of proper human hygiene.
When it comes to physical health and clothing, the Bible refers to mixed fabrics (Deuteronomy 22:11). There’s a reason for not mixing different fibers. They have different qualities that do not combine well. A similar, more readily understandable example is not plowing with an ox and a donkey yoked together (Deut. 22:10), a law of agriculture. Beyond the consideration that God wants His people to be pure and appreciate quality, hygiene also comes into play. Allow me to modernize this injunction by mentioning synthetic fabrics, often a derivative of petroleum by-products.
Watch the video below about the science of grounding. Synthetic soles on our shoes isolate us from the negative ions in the ground, ions our body needs to balance our internal electric pulses that energize our organs. The results in poor hygiene. I think we can equate this with the principle of Adam and Eve putting on fig leaves. They made a short-term solution that wasn’t good for them. Insulating ourselves from the earth can cause inflammation and other unsuspected ills. Again, the principles revealed by a short, but powerful law of hygiene should encourage us to realize the validity of preventive measures expounded in the Old Testament.
Mental health is a worldwide problem today. One reason is mischief and incompetence surround us. Not knowingly, willingly, but people are at a loss for wise counsel nowadays. Preventative health includes mental hygiene. The Bible gives cutting-edge wisdom to encourage mental balance. Especially in trying times. This first passage shows how hope in God puts calmness on your face. That may sound poetic, but it’s very real.
When it involves health, it gets very personal. Who can we turn to when science and often medicine don’t provide solutions? HOPE in a DIVINE Source won’t necessarily bring the immediate answer you want but, in God there is His long-term plan that INCLUDES YOU and ALL of humankind. The outcome is very positive.
Why are you cast down, O my soul? and why are you disquieted within me? hope you in God: for I shall yet praise him, who is the health of my countenance, and my God.
19 The LORD by wisdom has founded the earth; by understanding has he established the heavens.
20 By his knowledge the depths are broken up, and the clouds drop down the dew.
21 My son, let not them depart from your eyes: keep sound wisdom and discretion:
22 So shall they be life to your soul, and grace to your neck.
23 Then shall you walk in thy way safely, and your foot shall not stumble.
17 He that speaks truth shows forth righteousness: but a false witness deceit.
18 There is that speaks like the piercings of a sword: but the tongue of the wise is health.
A wicked messenger falls into mischief: but a faithful ambassador is health.
22 Understanding is a wellspring of life to him that has it: but the instruction of fools is folly.
23 The heart of the wise teaches his mouth, and adds learning to his lips.
24 Pleasant words are as an honeycomb, sweet to the soul, and health to the bones.
A merry heart does good like a medicine: but a broken spirit dries the bones.
Various passages give us clues and insight into shoring up our mental stamina. How to look beyond physical circumstances. The instruction in the above verses is not pie-in-the-sky fantasy. Yes, they take faith, but think about it. Preventive medicine takes faith. You believe that by DOING something (like exercise, proper eating) the WILL GET a BENEFIT in the future. Doing builds faith and, when involving hygiene, leads to health, as the next principle displays.
Behavior and Health
Above, we saw that our actions affect our health. This is spiritual hygiene. If we guide our behavior by Biblical ethics, the result is peace, that’s worthwhile hygiene.
And said, If you will diligently hearken to the voice of the LORD your God, and will do that which is right in his sight, and will give ear to his commandments, and keep all his statutes, I will put none of these diseases upon you, which I have brought upon the Egyptians: for I am the LORD that heals you.
And you shall serve the LORD your God, and he shall bless your bread, and your water; and I will take sickness away from the midst of you.
Some fundamental Biblical hygiene is sadly lacking nowadays. The medical technology is there, but is not the solution. Basic health rests on applying God’s hygiene rules. There comes a time when the general population will get back to this key understanding.
For I will restore health to you, and I will heal you of your wounds, says the LORD; because they called you an Outcast, saying, This is Zion, whom no man seeks after.
Behold, I will bring it health and cure, and I will cure them, and will reveal to them the abundance of peace and truth.
And by the river upon the bank thereof, on this side and on that side, shall grow all trees for meat, whose leaf shall not fade, neither shall the fruit thereof be consumed: it shall bring forth new fruit according to his months, because their waters they issued out of the sanctuary: and the fruit thereof shall be for meat, and the leaf thereof for medicine.
There will be healing and then hygiene to maintain good health. Practical Bible wisdom is not time sensitive, nation sensitive, culture sensitive, testament or covenant sensitive. God’s hygiene laws are for all peoples, past present and future. They assure and maintain good physical, mental and spiritual health.
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