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Don Stewart :: What Does the Old Testament Have to Say about God Supernaturally Healing the Sick?

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What Does the Old Testament Have to Say about God Supernaturally Healing the Sick?

Divine Healing – Question 2

As we begin our study about what the Bible has to about the subject of divine healing, it is important that we begin at the very beginning. Therefore, we will take a look at what the Old Testament has to say about God and supernatural healing.

Everything Is Ultimately Controlled by Him

If we could simply summarize what the Old Testament has to say about the Lord and divine healing it would be contained in a statement found in the Book of Deuteronomy. The Lord said.

See now that I myself am He! There is no god besides me. I put to death and I bring to life, I have wounded and I will heal, and no one can deliver out of my hand (Deuteronomy 32:39 TNIV).

Note that the stress here is that the Lord, the God of the Bible, is the only God who exists. There are no other gods. Thus, as the only God, it is the Lord who wounds people as well as healing them. Thus, He is ultimately controlling everything which takes place. He alone has this authority.

We also read similar words in the Book of Job. It states the following.

For he [God] wounds, but he binds up; he shatters, but his hands heal (Job 5:18 ESV).

Throughout Scripture, we find that the God of the Bible is seen as the One who wounds as well as the One who heals. In other words, sickness and health, as well as life and death are all in the hands of the Lord. He controls everything.

The fact that the Lord is ultimately in control of everything is borne out by the teaching of the Old Testament about sickness and health, pain and pleasure. We can make a number of observations about this issue.

God Healed in a Variety of Ways during the Old Testament Period

While we do find examples of God healing the infirmed in the Old Testament they are not that widespread. Furthermore, we will discover people were healed in various ways as well as by a variety of methods. As we examine the Old Testament Scripture we discover the following.

1. God Healed through Prayer Alone

There are a number of examples of God healing people of their physical infirmities through prayer. At times, it was their own prayers and at other times it was due to the prayers of others.

Abraham Prayed for King Abimelech and His Household to Be Healed

The patriarch Abraham prayed for the healing of King Abimelech as well as those who were in his household. Scripture records this as follows.

Then Abraham prayed to God, and God healed Abimelech, and also healed his wife and female slaves so that they bore children. For the LORD had closed all the wombs of the house of Abimelech because of Sarah, Abraham’s wife (Genesis 20:17, 18 ESV).

The prayer of Abraham was answered. These people were healed.

Rachel Prayed to Be Able to Have a Child

Rachel, the wife of Jacob could not conceive children. The Lord eventually allowed her to give birth. The Bible says.

Then God remembered Rachel, and God listened to her and opened her womb (Genesis 30:22 NKJV).

The Scripture says the Lord “listened to her” and thus allowed her to conceive. Consequently, her ability to have children was an answer to her prayer.

Moses Prayed for His Sister Miriam to Be Healed from Leprosy

In the Book of Exodus, we read of God sending judgment upon Miriam, the sister of Moses, for her questioning of the leadership of her brother. Moses then prayed for his sister to be healed. We read what took place.

And Moses cried to the LORD, “O God, please heal her–please” (Numbers 12:13 ESV).

In this particular case, the Lord did not heal her instantly. Instead Miriam was made to stay outside of the camp of Israel for seven days before she was allowed to return. However, she was healed of the leprosy.

Hannah the Mother of Samuel Prayed to Have a Child

Hannah, the mother of Samuel the prophet, was healed of her inability to conceive a child. The Bible says the following about her prayers.

Then they rose early in the morning and worshiped before the LORD, and returned and came to their house at Ramah. And Elkanah knew Hannah his wife, and the LORD remembered her. So it came to pass in the process of time that Hannah conceived and bore a son, and called his name Samuel saying, “Because I have asked for him from the LORD” (1 Samuel 1:19-20 NKJV).

Hannah had been praying for the ability to have children for a number of years. The Lord granted her request and healed her barrenness.

The Leprous Hand of King Jeroboam Was Restored through Prayer

There is an episode recorded about King Jeroboam of Israel being healed from leprosy. This was accomplished through the prayer of a man of God. The Bible says.

Then the king answered and said to the man of God, “Please entreat the favor of the LORD your God, and pray for me, that my hand may be restored to me.” So the man of God entreated the LORD, and the king’s hand was restored to him, and became as before (1 Kings 13:6 NKJV).

The man of God prayed and the king was healed.

On each of these occasions the healing took place when someone prayed for the infirmed or that the infirmed person prayed for himself. There was no touching the sick person or asking the ailing individual to do something special. Prayer was all that was necessary in these cases. People prayed, God answered.

Thus, we find that the Old Testament records a number of instances where supernatural healing took place as a result of prayer alone.

2. God Healed without Anyone Praying for the Healing

While God healed a number of people in answer to prayer, we also find that God healed certain people when there is no record of any request for the healing. We have the following examples of this taking place.

Sarah Was Healed by the Lord Alone

Sarah, the wife of Abraham, conceived a child in her old age. This miracle took place without any specific prayers recorded for this to happen. The Bible says.

And the LORD visited Sarah as He had said, and the LORD did for Sarah as He had spoken. For Sarah conceived and bore Abraham a son in his old age, at the set time of which God had spoken to him (Genesis 21:1-2 NKJV).

The Lord had promised Abraham and Sarah that they would have a son. The fulfillment of this promise took place after Sarah had lived beyond the childbearing years. The Lord then healed Sarah of her inability to conceive a child.

However, there is nothing written about her praying for this to happen. Seemingly, God did this without answering any specific prayer. At least, there was no recorded prayer.

Leah Was Healed without a Recorded Prayer for This

Leah, one of the wives of Jacob, was also healed of her inability to conceive children. Yet we do not find Leah or anyone else praying for this to take place. The Bible records the following.

When the LORD saw that Leah was unloved, He opened her womb; but Rachel was barren (Genesis 29:31 NKJV).

The fact that Leah conceived seems to be an example of God choosing to heal Leah apart from any specific prayers for this to happen.

On these occasions, there was a supernatural healing of these women without any specific prayers being recorded. Of course, this does not mean that prayers were not offered in these cases. They may have been. However, no explicit requests are recorded

3. God Healed through the Ailing Person following the Orders of a Prophet

There were occasions where the Old Testament records that God healed the infirmed person after a prophet of God instructed the ailing individual to specifically do something. These occasions took place as follows.

Leprosy Was Cured by the Naaman Dipping Seven Times in the Jordan River

There was Syrian commander by the name of Naaman who wanted to be healed of his leprosy. He was told by the prophet Elisha to dip himself seven times in the Jordan River to be cured. We read the following.

And Elisha sent a messenger to him, saying, “Go and wash in the Jordan seven times, and your flesh shall be restored to you, and you shall be clean.” So he went down and dipped seven times in the Jordan, according to the saying of the man of God; and his flesh was restored like the flesh of a little child, and he was clean (2 Kings 5:10, 14 NKJV).

In this instance, the man who had the ailment needed to follow the specific instructions of the prophet of God to be healed. Otherwise the healing would not have taken place. Naaman obeyed and was healed.

Elisha Would Not Accept Anything for Healing Naaman

There is something else we also learn from this episode. Elisha refused the offer of payment from Naaman for his involvement in his healing. The Bible says.

And he returned to the man of God, he and all his aides, and came and stood before him; and he said, “Indeed, now I know that there is no God in all the earth, except in Israel; now therefore, please take a gift from your servant.” But he said, “As the LORD lives, before whom I stand, I will receive nothing.” And he urged him to take it, but he refused (2 Kings 5:15-16 NKJV).

This is highly instructive. Since supernatural healing is a work of God alone there should not be anything received in return for being an instrument of the Lord in this process. Elisha has certainly set an example that all others should follow!

King Hezekiah Was Healed by Putting Figs on a Boil

King Hezekiah of Judah was sick and near death. Isaiah the prophet told the king that he was going to die. Hezekiah prayed to the Lord to have his life extended as well as to be healed from his infirmity. God granted the request. He promised that the king would live another fifteen years. However, Isaiah ordered that figs were to be placed upon the boil of Hezekiah in order for him to be healed of his ailment. The Bible says.

Then Isaiah said, “Take a lump of figs.” So they took and laid it on the boil, and he recovered” (2 Kings 20:7 NKJV).

It was only after Hezekiah complied with the command of the prophet and allowed the figs to be placed upon him that he was healed from his deadly sickness. In addition, the king did live fifteen more years as the Lord had promised.

Thus, in the instances of Naaman and Hezekiah, each individual had to do something specific for the healing to take place.

The Dead Were Revived by a Prophet Doing Something

On two occasions, we find that the Lord used the same method of bringing a dead child back to life. These instances took place in the lives of the prophets Elijah and Elisha.

Scripture says that each of these prophets stretched himself over the body of a dead child a number of times and resuscitated them. The Bible says the following took place with Elijah.

Now it happened after these things that the son of the woman who owned the house became sick. And his sickness was so serious that there was no breath left in him. So she said to Elijah, “What have I to do with you, O man of God? Have you come to me to bring my sin to remembrance, and to kill my son?” And he said to her, “Give me your son.” So he took him out of her arms and carried him to the upper room where he was staying, and laid him on his own bed. Then he cried out to the LORD and said, “O LORD my God, have You also brought tragedy on the widow with whom I lodge, by killing her son?” And he stretched himself out on the child three times, and cried out to the LORD and said, “O LORD my God, I pray, let this child’s soul come back to him.” Then the LORD heard the voice of Elijah; and the soul of the child came back to him, and he revived (1 Kings 17:17-22 NKJV).

Elijah prayed and stretched himself out on the dead child. The child was then brought back to life. This particular method was used one other time. The second episode was with the prophet Elisha. The Bible explains what occurred.

When Elisha came into the house, he saw the child lying dead on his bed. So he went in and shut the door behind the two of them and prayed to the LORD. Then he went up and lay on the child, putting his mouth on his mouth, his eyes on his eyes, and his hands on his hands. And as he stretched himself upon him, the flesh of the child became warm. Then he got up again and walked once back and forth in the house, and went up and stretched himself upon him. The child sneezed seven times, and the child opened his eyes (2 Kings 4:32-35 ESV).

As was true in the case of Elijah, Elisha stretched himself out on the child and the child was healed. We also note that on each of these occasions the prophets prayed to the Lord before they stretched themselves out on the dead children. Thus, prayer was accompanied by some action of the prophet.

The Bones of the Prophet Elisha Resuscitated a Dead Man

There is also one recorded instance where the bones of the dead prophet Elisha resuscitated a man who was about to be buried. Scripture gives this account.

Once while some Israelites were burying a man, suddenly they saw a band of raiders; so they threw the man’s body into Elisha’s tomb. When the body touched Elisha’s bones, the man came to life and stood up on his feet (2 Kings 13:21 TNIV).

This unnamed was brought back to life when his body touched the bones of Elisha. This is the only recorded instance of something like this taking place.

4. God Predetermined the Exact Time the Infirmity Would Last

There is also an instance of the Lord predetermining the exact time that an ailment would last. We find this in the case of the Babylonian king Nebuchadnezzar. Daniel the prophet provided the following interpretation of the dream of Nebuchadnezzar.

This is the interpretation, O king: It is a decree of the Most High, which has come upon my lord the king, that you shall be driven from among men, and your dwelling shall be with the beasts of the field. You shall be made to eat grass like an ox, and you shall be wet with the dew of heaven, and seven periods of time shall pass over you, till you know that the Most High rules the kingdom of men and gives it to whom he will (Daniel 4:24-25 ESV).

The length of his particular infirmity was determined ahead of time by the Lord. Thus, no amount of prayer or doing anything special would cause the ailment to be cured before the predicted time. Neither could it be prolonged. Nebuchadnezzar had to suffer for a specific period of time as predetermined by the Lord.

Conclusion to God Supernaturally Healing during the Old Testament Period

We can conclude from all of this that the Lord did indeed supernaturally heal people during the Old Testament period. At times, He did this in answer to prayer while at other times there was no recorded request for the healing. On certain occasions there was prayer coupled with the ailing person being commanded to do something to receive their healing. In still other cases, the prophet alone did something which caused the infirmed person to be healed. There is also the instance of God predetermining the time that someone would be infirmed.

The conclusion that we can draw from these examples is that the Lord supernaturally healed certain people who were sick during the Old Testament era. This includes believers as well as unbelievers, such as Naaman the Syrian. Yet the Lord did not heal everyone that was sick. Furthermore, His methods of healing varied.

Consequently, we do not find any specific pattern or formula in the Old Testament as to how or why God healed in the method in which He did. The people, times, places, as well as the manner of these healing miracles was completely His to choose. In other words, the Lord did as He alone was pleased to do.

Summary – Question 2
What Does the Old Testament Have to Say about God Supernaturally Healing the Sick?

The Old Testament emphasizes that the God of the Bible is in control of all things. This includes sickness and health as well as life and death. We also find that on occasion the Lord intervened in the normal course of things and supernaturally healed those who were ill.

As we look at what the Old Testament has to say about the subject of divine healing we can make the following observations about which people were supernaturally healed as well as how they were healed.

First, there are a number of examples of people being healed through answered prayer. This includes King Abimelech and his household. They were healed because of the prayer of Abraham.

Rachel, one of the wives of the patriarch Jacob, prayed to be able to conceive children. Her prayers were answered and she was able to give birth.

Miriam the sister of Moses was healed of leprosy when her brother Moses prayed for her.

Hannah, the mother of Samuel was unable to conceive a child. The Lord answered her prayer and she bore the child who became the prophet Samuel.

There are also a couple of instances where the Lord healed someone with no recorded request for the healing. This includes Sarah, the wife of Abraham, as well as Leah, one of the wives of Jacob. Each of them was healed of their inability to conceive children. Also we find that God healed through a variety of methods in the Old Testament period. On a few occasions the infirmed person was asked to do something to receive their healing. This includes a Syrian commander named Naaman as well as King Hezekiah. When they complied with the words of the prophet they were healed.

There were two instances where the prophets Elijah and Elisha stretched themselves out on children who were dead. This, coupled with their prayers for the dead, brought the children back to life.

On one occasion, the bones of Elisha resuscitated a dead man who was in the process of being buried.

We also find that King Nebuchadnezzar was given an ailment for a predetermined period of time. When the time was fulfilled he was healed of his infirmity.

These examples are highly instructive for us. While we can conclude that while the Lord did indeed supernaturally heal during the Old Testament period we also discover that the recorded healings are few and far between. Furthermore, most of the godly men and women who lived during this time were not healed from their infirmities.

The record thus tells us that the Lord healed whom He wanted to heal, when He wanted to heal, as well as how He wanted to heal. It confirms the statement that the Lord alone controls all things in the universe. Who becomes healed, and who does not, is something that is ultimately God’s decision.

What Are Some of the Common Misconceptions Surrounding the Subject of Divine Healing? ← Prior Section
Did the Lord Ever Send Sickness as Judgment during the Old Testament Period? Next Section →
CONTENT DISCLAIMER:

The Blue Letter Bible ministry and the BLB Institute hold to the historical, conservative Christian faith, which includes a firm belief in the inerrancy of Scripture. Since the text and audio content provided by BLB represent a range of evangelical traditions, all of the ideas and principles conveyed in the resource materials are not necessarily affirmed, in total, by this ministry.


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