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Medicine

MEDICINE

med'-i-sin, med'-i-s'-n (gehah, teruphah, rephu'ah):

These words are used in the sense of a remedy or remedies for disease. In Proverbs 17:22 the King James Version, a merry heart is said to do good "like a medicine." There is an alternative reading in the King James Version margin, "to a medicine," the Revised Version (British and American) "is a good medicine"; the Revised Version margin gives another rendering, "causeth good healing," which is the form that occurs in the Septuagint and which was adopted by Kimchi and others. Some of the Targums, substituting a waw for the first h in gehah, read here "doeth good to the body," thus making this clause antithetic to the latter half of the verse. In any case the meaning is that a cheerful disposition is a powerful remedial agent.

In the figurative account of the evil case of Judah and Israel because of their backsliding (Jeremiah 30:13), the prophet says they have had no rephu'ah, or "healing medicines." Later on (Jeremiah 46:11), when pronouncing the futility of the contest of Neco against Nebuchadrezzar, Jeremiah compares Egypt to an incurably sick woman going up to Gilead to take balm as a medicine, without any benefit. In Ezekiel's vision of the trees of life, the leaves are said (the King James Version) to be for medicine, the Revised Version (British and American) reads "healing," thereby assimilating the language to that in Revelation 22:2, "leaves of the tree .... for the healing of the nations" (compare Ezekiel 47:12).

Very few specific remedies are mentioned in the Bible. "Balm of Gilead" is said to be an anodyne (Jeremiah 8:22; compare Jeremiah 51:8). The love-fruits, "mandrakes" (Genesis 30:14) and "caperberry" (Ecclesiastes 12:5 margin), myrrh, anise, rue, cummin, the "oil and wine" of the Good Samaritan, soap and sodic carbonate ("natron," called by mistake "nitre") as cleansers, and Hezekiah's "fig poultice" nearly exhaust the catalogue. In the Apocrypha we have the heart, liver and gall of Tobit's fish (Tobit 6:7). In the Egyptian pharmacopoeia are the names of many plants which cannot be identified, but most of the remedies used by them were dietetic, such as honey, milk, meal, oil, vinegar, wine. The Babylonian medicines, as far as they can be identified, are similar. In the Mishna we have references to wormwood, poppy, hemlock, aconite and other drugs. The apothecary mentioned in the King James Version (Exodus 30:25, etc.) was a maker of perfumes, not of medicines. Among the fellahin many common plants are used as folk-remedies, but they put most confidence in amulets or charms, which are worn by most Palestinian peasants to ward off or to heal diseases.

Alexander Macalister


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