(Investigator 30, 1993 May)

People often query Luke 22:44 –

"his sweat became like great drops of blood failing down upon the ground."
"Bleeding sweat" (= hematidrosis) became a medical fact when described in the 1940s. It results when great emotional pressure bursts tiny blood vessels in the sweat glands and mixes blood with sweat.

Was there any advantage to circumcision on the eighth day after birth as opposed to other days? (Leviticus 12:3)  In 1947 medical research revealed that blood clots faster on the eighth day. One substance that assists clotting is called "prothrombin".  For its formation it requires vitamin K. On the eighth day vitamin K reaches normal level. Prothrombin briefly reaches its peak – 110% of normal.

The Israelite slaughter of Canaanites is much criticised.

Reasons for the slaughter included the Canaanite moral degradation  (Leviticus l8:24-25), child  sacrifice (Leviticus  20:1-5), and  disease (Romans 1:27).

The News (South Australia) 1985 December 18

GOLIATH blind to David's attack

… The giant [Goliath] did not see David coming and "David was able to sneak up on his blind side," said Dr John Gwilt, vice-president of the pharmaceutical company, Sterling-Drug.
Goliath was over nine feet tall and was a likely sufferer from acromegaly
a tumor of the pituitary gland which causes an excess of growth hormone, said Dr wilt.
But it also puts pressure on the optic nerve causing narrowness of vision, allowing David to attack from Goliath's blind side...
There was also a forerunner of the killer disease, AIDS, in biblical times, he told a Society of Apothecaries meeting in London.
It was a "particularly virulent sexually transmitted disease to which the Israelites had no immunity."
Moses, he said, succeeded in defeating the disease "by destroying all potential carriers – a course of treatment unacceptable today."

Regarding disease: The News (South Australia) of December 18 1985 suggested that executing the "carriers" constituted a "course of treatment".  Doubtless, like a cancer, the Canaanite ways would have spread. (Jeremiah 7:31; Deuteronomy 32:15-18)

The Canaanites were also given four centuries of opportunity to alter their behaviour! (Genesis 15:13-16; Ezekiel 18;  Jonah 3:1-10)

The long held idea is that syphilis originated in the Americas and was brought to Europe by the crew of Christopher Columbus in 1493. The opposing belief is that syphilis existed in ancient times in the Middle East. The bacteria responsible are called Treponema and cause different diseases such as syphilis, yaws and pinta – or no disease – depending on the life style and/or environment of the human populations. (Baker and Armelagus 1988)

This latter theory could have support in the Old Testament. The Hebrew word "tsara'at" translated in most Bibles as "leprosy" and "leprous" may mean "scaly" and so denote a wide range of diseases manifested in the skin – including syphilis. Note the phrase "any leprous condition" in Leviticus 14:54, which suggests a range of conditions/diseases rather than just the specific disease nowadays identified as leprosy.

A number of Bible passages mention symptoms indicative of syphilis such as scabs, boils, itching, madness, blindness, corrupt breath, mucous patches, skin discoloration, etc. (Leviticus 13-14; Numbers 5:2; Deuteronomy 28:27-28; Job 16, 19, 30; Psalm 38)  If King David in Psalm 38 had syphilis then syphilis might also he the cause of the death of the baby he produced with Bathsheba. (2 Samuel 12)

Another disease, this time resulting in tumors, is mentioned in 1 Samuel 5.  Chapter 6 adds the information that a plague of mice ravaged the land as well. Is there a connection?

The Hebrew word "akbar" includes mice, rats, and other grain-eating rodents.  The plague which struck the Philistines fits the symptoms of bubonic plague and if so then the "akbar" in this case was the black rat. The bacillus causing plague was identified in 1894. It was found to be a disease of black rats. Fleas which live on the rats transfer to another host including humans when the rat dies and transmit the disease.

From the 9th to the 16th centuries half the children of Europe died in childhood.  Also only 1/3 of 15-year olds reached the age of 50. One cause of this high death rate was the spread of disease from poor sanitation.

Regular sewage disposal didn't gain currency until the 18th century.  Previously it was considered the concern of individuals who therefore dumped excrement anywhere they saw fit – often straight out the window.  Town streets were often little better than sewers.  The Bible, in contrast, included an order for burial of sewage. (Deuteronomy 23:12-14; Compare Proverbs 30:12)  Had town planners, other authorities, and individuals consulted the Bible and buried the sewage, then longer life and better health and pleasanter living conditions would have resulted!

About a dozen references in the Old Testament refer to giants – some of whom were Philistines. These men were not only tall – Goliath about 2.9 metres or 9 ½ feet – but also strong.  One of the giants is described as having six fingers on each hand and six toes on each foot. (2 Samuel 21:15-21; 1 Chronicles 20:4-8)  At 2.9 metres the Philistine giants would have been taller than any person measured in recent centuries.  The record given in the Guinness Book of Records, for example, is 2.51 metres.  So far there is no archaeological confirmation of the Philistine giants. However, the possession of 12 fingers and 12 toes is more common than generally supposed.

Diggings magazine of February 1991 published a letter from William Collins of Queensland, Australia:

"I am a podiatrist and over the last 40 years have seen 3 or 4 people with polydactylis as it is known.  Most have had the extra finger removed, but still have the extra toes on each foot."
People (an Australian magazine) had an article about Jerome Moerman whose extra finger on each hand was useful when he worked in a café and had to carry bottles. (1986 December 29)  The May 1, 1991 edition carried a report about a village in the Indian province of Gujerat where most of the villagers have six fingers on each hand.  The condition started five centuries ago and is a single gene abnormality which has a 50% chance of being passed to offspring.
Baker, B J & Armelagus G J 1988 Current Anthropology, Volume 29 No. 5


[Note that Goliath's size mentioned above may be wrong. Detailed discussion about Goliath as well as the Canaanite "genocide" can be reached via "The Bible" page on this website.]