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Boil (1)

BOIL (1)

(noun) (shechin; helkos):

A localized inflamed swelling. The Hebrew word is derived from a root probably meaning "to burn," and is used as a generic term for the sores in the sixth plague of Egypt (Exodus 9:9-11); for a sore which might be confounded with leprosy (Leviticus 13:18-23); for Job's malady (Job 2:7) and Hezekiah's disease (2 Kings 20:1; Isaiah 38:21). Our English word is derived from the verb "to beal," i.e. to suppurate, now obsolete except as a dialect word in Scotland and Ireland. Wyclif uses the name f or Lazarus' sores (Luke 16:20), "houndis lickeden his bylis." The Egyptian word schn is the name of an abscess, and occurs in the reduplicated form chnchnt in Papyr. Ebers, CV. The plague of boils in Egypt came without warning immediately after the insect plagues of kinnim (sandflies) and that of `arobh or flies, and followed the epizootic murrain, which is suggestive in the light of the transmission of toxic germs by insects. It has been supposed by some to be elephantiasis, as Pliny says that this di sease was peculiar to Egypt (xxvi.5). A stronger case has been made out for its identity with confluent smallpox; but as it is not described as being a fatal disease, it may more probably have been an aggravated form of the ordinary gregarious furuncles or boils, due to the microbe streptococcus pyogenes.

Job's body is said to have been covered with itchy, irritating sores which made his face unrecognizable, Job 2:12, caused continual burning pain (Job 3:24; 6:4), and which were infested with maggots (Job 7:5) and exhaled a nauseous fetor (Job 19:17). His sleep was destroyed and his nervous system enfeebled (Job 3:26) so that he required assistance to move, as he sat in the ashes (Job 2:8). Various diagnoses have been made of his malady, but it is most probable that it was a form of the disease known as "oriental sore," or "Bagdad boil," called in Algeria "Biskra batton," in which the intensely itchy sores are often multiple, affecting the face, hands, and other exposed parts. The cases which I have seen have been very intractable and disfiguring.

Hezekiah's boil was apparently more localized, and the indefinite description would accord with that of a carbuncle. It seems to have rendered him unclean (Isaiah 38:22), though the reference may be to the practice referred to in Leviticus 13:18 f. The "botch" of Egypt (Deuteronomy 28:27,35 the King James Version) is translation of the same word, as is "boil" in the Revised Version (British and American). Botch is an old English name for boil and occurs in Piers Plowman, and the adjective "botchy" is used in Troilus and Cressida (II, 1, 6). The word is cognate to the old French boche or poche, a form of our later word "pock." The sores of Lazarus (Luke 16:20) were probably old varicose ulcers, such as are as common on the legs of the old and poor in the East as they are in the West.

Alex. Macalister


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Bibliography Information
Orr, James, M.A., D.D. General Editor. "Entry for 'BOIL (1)'". "International Standard Bible Encyclopedia". 1915.