Bible Articles on the Topic of Sickness

The following articles have been compiled and indexed by inWORD Bible software.

What Are Demons?

To “have a demon” was the same as to “have an unclean spirit”, which is a Bible way of saying that something was wrong or “unclean” about a person’s way of thinking or mental capability. In short, a person with a demon was a person with a mental illness.

Prayer of Faith Saving the Sick

Question: What are your thoughts concerning the practice described in James 5:14-15: “Is any sick among you? let him call for the elders of the church; and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord: And the prayer of faith shall save the sick, and the Lord shall raise him up; and if he have committed sins, they shall be forgiven him.”

The Prayer of Faith

Comment is made on pp. 478, 480 and 481 on the two Greek words for “sick,” and the interpretation of the passage given in the article depends heavily on the distinction drawn between the two words. It is claimed that “sick” in James 5:15 “relates particularly to the mental state of the sick person” (p. 480), and a meaning is given to the passage which is not its obvious meaning on face value. Not of course that we should refrain from looking beneath the surface of words to ascertain the meaning accurately, but if this distinction is to be sustained against the more obvious meaning of the passage it must be clear and unequivocal in the original language.

Note on Diabolical Possession

In the New Testament, disease, except when it is a special visitation from God (Hebrews 12:6), is regarded as the work of super-natural forces (Matthew 9:32, 12:22; Luke 11:14, 13:16; Acts 10:38, etc.). In particular, nervous diseases and insanity are represented as due to diabolical possession. This was the universal belief of the time, and our Lord, in using language which implies it, need not be regarded as teaching dogmatically that there is such a thing as possession, devils or demons. There were strong reasons why He should seek to ‘accommodate’ his language to the popular theory. (1) The insane persons whom He wished to heal, were firmly convinced that they were possessed by devils. This was the form assumed by the insane delusion, and to argue against it was useless. The only wise course was to assume that the unclean spirit was there, and to command it to come forth. (2) It was our Lord’s method not rashly or unnecessarily to interfere with the settled beliefs of his time, or to anticipate the discoveries of modern science. The belief in demonic possession, though probably erroneous, was so near the truth, that for most purposes of practical religion it might be regarded as true. He, therefore, did not think fit to disturb it. He tolerated the belief and left it to the advance of knowledge in future ages to correct the extravagances connected with it.

The Language of Accommodation

John Walton said it particularly well in a lecture: “Nowhere in the Bible does God ever ‘upgrade’ the Israelites’ understanding of the world.” Meaning: He doesn’t tell them the world is a sphere; He doesn’t tell them that the sun is bigger than the earth or that most stars are bigger than the sun. He doesn’t expound the germ theory of disease. He doesn’t explain the causes of mental illness. He doesn’t give them any new technology—including steam engines, but also including, say, soap; etc., etc. He takes them as He finds them, and expounds to them theological ideas only.

Faith Healing in England and South Africa

Like religious revivals that rise, run their feverish course, and pass over a community, for the most part leaving no trace behind, so at intervals comes a surge of “faith healing.” That is, the cure of bodily disease by powerful mental or religious influence apart from surgical or medical help. Great capital is made by those who promote the proceedings, of the “cures” effected. These are talked of far and wide at the moment, but silence falls on the wonder as a rule in less than nine days.

Meet Nadia: Made Homeless by Televangelists

Benny Hinn, and other televangelists like him, use all sorts of tricks to get donations from their followers. But what happens to those who dutifully send in their cash?

When Bad Things Happen

Cancer. Natural disasters. Death... How did the rabbi address why bad things happen to good people? Does God owes us “fairness”?


in-fla-mā ́shun (דּלּקת, dalleḳeth; ῥῖγος, rhígos): Only in Deuteronomy 28:22, was considered by Jewish writers as “burning fever,” by Septuagint as a form of ague. Both this and typhoid fever are now, and probably were, among the commonest of the diseases of Palestine. See FEVER. In Leviticus 13:28 the King James Version has “inflammation” as the rendering of cārebheth, which the Septuagint reads charaktḗr, and for which the proper English equivalent is “scar,” as in the Revised Version.


mur ́in, mur ́en, mur ́ān (דּבר, debher): This name is given to a fatal cattle-disease, which was the fifth of the plagues of Egypt (Exodus 9:3), and which affected not only the flocks and herds, but also the camels, horses and asses. The record of its onset immediately after the plague of flies makes it probable that it was an epizootic, whose germs were carried by these insects as those of rinderpest or splenic fever may be. Cattle plagues have in recent years been very destructive in Egypt; many writers have given descriptions of the great devastation wrought by the outbreak in 1842. In this case Wittmann noted that contact with the putrid carcasses caused severe boils, a condition also recorded in Exodus as following the murrain. The very extensive spread of rinderpest within the last few years in many districts of Egypt has not yet been completely stamped out, even in spite of the use of antitoxic serum and the most rigid isolation. The word “murrain” is probably a variant of the Old French morine. It is used as an imprecation by Shakespeare and other Elizabethan writers, and is still applied by herdsmen to several forms of epidemic cattle sickness. Among early writers it was used as well for fatal plagues affecting men; thus, Lydgate (1494) speaks of the people “slain by that moreyne.”

Pining; Sickness

pīn ́ing, sik ́nes: In the account of the epileptic boy in Mark 9:18 it is said that “he pineth away.” The verb used here (ξηραίνω, xēraínō) means “to dry up,” and is the same which is used of the withering of plants, but seldom used in this metaphorical sense. The English word is from the Anglo-Saxon pinian and is often found in the Elizabethan literature, occurring 13 times in Shakespeare. In the Old Testament it is found in Leviticus 26:39 (bis) and in Ezekiel 24:23 and 33:10. In the Revised Version it replaces “consume” in Ezekiel 4:17. In all these passages it is the rendering of the Hebrew māḳaḳ, and means expressly being wasted on account of sin. In Leviticus 26:16 “pine away” is used in the Revised Version to replace “cause sorrow of heart,” and is the translation of the Hebrew dūbh; and in Deuteronomy 28:65 “sorrow of mind” is also replaced in the Revised Version by “pining of soul,” the word so rendered being de‘ābhōn, which in these two passages is expressive of homesickness. In Isaiah 24:16 the reduplicated exclamation, “my leanness,” of the King James Version is changed into “I pine away,” the word being rāzī. The starving people in Lamentations 4:9 are said to pine away, the word so translated being zūbh. All these Hebrew words have a general meaning of to dry or to waste or wear away, or to be exhausted by morbid discharges.

Sick; Sickness

sik, sik ́nes (חלה, ḥālāh (Genesis 48:1, etc.), חלי, ḥŏlī (Deuteronomy 28:61, etc.), תּחלא, taḥălu' (Deuteronomy 29:21, etc.), מחלה, maḥălāh (Exodus 23:25, etc.), דּוה, dāweh (Leviticus 15:33, etc.), אנשׁ, ‘ānash (2 Samuel 12:15, etc.); ἀσθενέω, asthenéō (Matthew 10:8, etc.;. compare 2 Maccabees 9:22), κακῶς ἔχων, kakṓs échōn (Luke 7:2), κακῶς ἔχοντας, kakṓs échontas (Matthew 4:24, etc.), ἄῤῥωστος, árrhōstos (Sirach/Ecclesiasticus 7:35; Matthew 14:14, etc.), ἀῤῥώστημα, arrhṓstēma (Sirach/Ecclesiasticus 10:10, etc.), with various cognates, κάμνω, kámnō (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 ‘ānash, 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 Song of Solomon 2:5; 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; 20:18), and an extreme case is that of Luke 8:43.


Sickness, (usually some form of חָלָה, to be worn down; ἀσθενέω). The climate of Palestine and the adjoining countries is, on the whole, conducive to health (Tacitus, Hist. v, 6, 2), and with regularity of habits the natives do not suffer much from maladies (Niebuhr, Beschr. p. 129). When these do occur they are usually of short duration. A list of the more severe diseases occurs in Leviticus 26:16; Deuteronomy 28:22. In summer dysentery prevails (Acts 28:8); in spring and autumn fever (Matthew 8:14; Luke 4:39; John 4:52; Acts 28:8; comp. Josephus, Life, ii; see Russel, Aleppo, ii, 137; Burckhardt, Arab. p. 615; also the Medic.—hermn. Untersuchungen, p. 348 sq.). The latter is specially designated as דִּלֶּקֶת, dalleketh, πυρετός, or inflammation (Deuteronomy 28:22). A peculiar name is קִדִּחִת, kaddchath (“‘burning ague,” Leviticus 26:16; “fever,” Deuteronomy 28:22), which the Sept. renders ἴκτερος, some acute disease (see Schleusner, Thesaur. iii, 106). Mention is also made of consumption (שִׁחֶפֶת, shachepheth, Leviticus loc. cit.), apoplexy (1 Maccabees 9:55 sq.), sunstroke (Judith 8:3. [? 2. Kings 4:19]; comp. Joliffe, Trav. p. 7), hypochondria (1 Samuel 18:10); but epilepsy, paralysis, and especially cutaneous disorders SEE LEPROSY, as likewise blindness, were very common. The most destructively raging was the plague (q.v.) Mental diseases (madness, שַּׁגָּעוֹן, of a melancholy type; comp. 1 Samuel 16:23) were prevalent in New Test. times. SEE POSSESSED. The venereal disease, which prevailed in the Old World, although in a milder type than since the Crusades (Hensler, Gesch. d. Lustseuche [Altona, 1783]; Sickler, in Augusti’s Theol. Blitt. i, 193 sq.), has been thought to be indicated in the form of Gonorrhea virulenta in Leviticus 15:3 (see Michaelis, Mos. Recht, 4:282 sq.; Oriental. Biblioth. 22:2 sq.; Hebenstreit, Curce Sanitatis Publ. ap. Vett. Exempla [Lips. 1779], ii, 15 sq.) and in 2 Samuel 3:29; but this is a strained interpretation. SEE ISSUE. Another disease of the private parts is mentioned in 1 Samuel 5 (see Beyer, De Haemorrhoidibus ex Lege Mos. Inmpur. [Lips. 1792]; Sprenge],Pathol. iii, 29). SEE HAEMORRHOIDS. Jehboram’s disease (2 Chronicles 21:12 sq.) probably was a severe chronic dysentery of a bloody character. The Sept. seems to indicate the cholera in Numbers 11:10 by the word זָרָא (seeWamruch, Disquis. Med. Cholerce, cujus Mentio in Sacris Bibliis Occurrit [Vienna, 1833]); but the term denotes nausea in general. The Mishna occasionally notices various maladies, e.g. in Yoma, 8:6 the bulimmia (בולמיס), or greediness, which is a frequent concomitant of other diseases. For the bite of a rabid dog ‘(כלב שוטה), the caul of the liver of the animal seems sometimes to have been used as a remedy (see Cohn, De Medicina Talmud. [Vratislav. 1846]; of no account is Goldmann, Diss. de Rel. Med. V. T. [ibid. 1845]). Ill general, see Wedel, Exercitatt. Med.—philolog. Sacrce: et Profanae (Jen. 1686,.1704);