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Don Stewart :: Did the Lord Ever Send Sickness as Judgment during the Old Testament Period?

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Did the Lord Ever Send Sickness as Judgment during the Old Testament Period?

Divine Healing – Question 3

The Old Testament gives a number of examples of the Lord supernaturally healing the sick and infirmed. The God of the Bible has the ability to miraculously heal those who are ailing and He demonstrated this on a variety of occasions.

Yet we also find that the Lord sent various sicknesses, as well as death, to a number of individuals as judgment for their sin against Him.

Indeed, from the very first book of the Old Testament, the Bible records that the Lord is the One who will bring physical infirmities upon certain sinful people. In fact, we find a long list of people, and in some cases, an entire nation, where the Lord sent infirmities as His judgment. The evidence is as follows.

The Pharaoh of Egypt

The Bible says that God judged a certain Pharaoh of Egypt because of his treatment of Sarah, the wife of Abraham. We read the following in the Book of Genesis.

But the LORD plagued Pharaoh and his house with great plagues because of Sarai, Abram’s wife (Genesis 12:17 NKJV).

This is the first of many recorded afflictions which the Lord sent because of sin. Not only did the Pharaoh suffer, his entire household was judged for his sin.

Sarah the Wife of Abraham

Sarah herself was said to be “restrained by the Lord” from bearing children. We also read about this in the Book of Genesis. It says.

So Sarai said to Abram, “See now, the LORD has restrained me from bearing children. Please, go in to my maid; perhaps I shall obtain children by her.” And Abram heeded the voice of Sarai (Genesis 16:2 NKJV)

Eventually the Lord would remove all obstacles from her conceiving children. Yet before this time, her lack of being able to conceive was viewed as a judgment of the Lord.

The Household of King Abimelech

The Lord also judged the household of a particular king because he, like the Pharaoh of Egypt, sinned against Abraham’s wife Sarah. Scripture says.

For the LORD had kept all the women in Abimelek’s household from conceiving because of Abraham’s wife Sarah (Genesis 20:18 TNIV).

Among other things, the fact that God sent these physical infirmities to this particular household is a further indication of the importance of Abraham and Sarah in the plan of God.

Rachel the Wife of Jacob

Rachel, one of the wives of Jacob, was kept from having children. This was attributed to the actions of God. The Bible says.

Jacob became angry with her and said, “Am I in the place of God, who has kept you from having children?” (Genesis 30:2 TNIV).

Like Sarah, eventually Rachel was going to be able to conceive a child. However, Scripture seems to indicate that God was “keeping her from having children.”

The Firstborn in Egypt

In this particular instance, the Lord judged an entire nation for the sin of the leader, the Pharaoh. We are told that the firstborn of each family, who did not follow the instructions of the Lord, was put to death. The Bible says.

At midnight the LORD struck down all the firstborn in Egypt, from the firstborn of Pharaoh, who sat on the throne, to the firstborn of the prisoner, who was in the dungeon, and the firstborn of all the livestock as well. Pharaoh and all his officials and all the Egyptians got up during the night, and there was loud wailing in Egypt, for there was not a house without someone dead (Exodus 12:29-30 TNIV).

This illustrates the effect which the sin of one person can have on an entire nation.

Miriam Sister of Moses

Miriam, the sister of Moses, along with her brother Aaron, questioned the leadership of their brother. God sent the following judgment against her for this rebellion.

When the cloud removed from over the tent, behold, Miriam was leprous like snow. (Numbers 12:10 ESV).

Moses’ leadership, of God’s chosen people Israel, was God-ordained. Thus, it was a serious error to question his decisions. To illustrate this, Miriam was struck with leprosy as a judgment from the Lord.

Hannah, Mother of Samuel

There is another example of the Lord closing the womb of a woman so that she could not conceive a child. In this instance, it was Hannah the woman who would eventually become the mother of the prophet Samuel. However, before this took place, we are told that the Lord had kept her from conceiving children. The Scripture reads.

But to Hannah he would give a double portion, for he loved Hannah, although the LORD had closed her womb. And her rival also provoked her severely, to make her miserable, because the LORD had closed her womb (1 Samuel 1:5–6 NKJV).

As we just noted, a child was eventually born to her. Yet until this took place the “closing of her womb” was attributed to the Lord.

The Philistines Who Took the Ark of the Covenant

The Philistines captured the Holy Ark of the Covenant after winning a particular battle against Israel. However, there is the record of God judging a number of people from the Philistine cites of Ashdod and Ekron because of their possession of the Ark. We read.

The hand of the LORD was heavy against the people of Ashdod, and he terrified and afflicted them with tumors, both Ashdod and its territory – But after they had brought it around, the hand of the LORD was against the city, causing a very great panic, and he afflicted the men of the city, both young and old, so that tumors broke out on them... The men who did not die were struck with tumors, and the cry of the city went up to heaven (1 Samuel 5:6, 9, 12 ESV)

The Ark of God was not to be trifled with. These Philistine cities suffered because of their treatment of this sacred object.

The Son of King David

Sin can have its affects upon the innocent. David, and a married woman Bathsheba, had an illicit relationship. Bathsheba became pregnant. To make matters worse, when David found out about this, he ordered her husband, Uriah the Hittite, to be placed in a position in a battle which would result in his death. David was thus a murderer and adulterer.

The Bible then records God’s judgment upon the child born to King David and Bathsheba. We read of this in the Book of Second Samuel. It says.

And the LORD afflicted the child that Uriah’s wife bore to David, and he became sick (2 Samuel 12:15 ESV).

This affliction was sent by the Lord as a result of these gross sins of David. The child ultimately died. This illustrates what sin can do. Indeed, it can affect many people, including the innocent.

The Nation of Israel

On another occasion, the sin of King David affected an entire nation. In a prideful moment, he ordered that the fighting men of the country be counted. This gave the impression that it was the strength in their numbers, and not the Lord, which gained him victory over his enemies. The Lord judged David as well as his people, for this arrogance. We read the following judgment the people received because of his sin.

So the LORD sent a pestilence on Israel from the morning until the appointed time. And there died of the people from Dan to Beersheba 70,000 men (2 Samuel 24:15 ESV).

Thus, the sin of the leader can have consequences for the entire nation. Indeed, thousands of them were killed as a result of his pride and arrogance.

King Jeroboam

The hand of King Jeroboam was made to be withered, or dried up, as a judgment from the Lord. The Bible records the following took place.

And when the king heard the saying of the man of God, which he cried against the altar at Bethel, Jeroboam stretched out his hand from the altar, saying, “Seize him.” And his hand, which he stretched out against him, dried up, so that he could not draw it back to himself (1 Kings 13:4 ESV)

This king received an appropriate judgment. He stretched out his hand against the man of God. Then the Lord caused his hand to be withered. Jeroboam certainly learned the lesson as to who was in control of all things. It was not the king of Israel, it was the Lord.

King Jeroboam’s Son

After the time of King David, the Lord gave the kingdom of Israel to a man named Jeroboam. Unfortunately, this king responded by bringing in other gods to worship. God then judged him for his terrible sins.

We find that Abijah, a son of Jeroboam, became sick and then died because of the sins of his father. The Bible records the following words of judgment from the old prophet Ahijah to the wife of Jeroboam who had approached the prophet for the healing for their sick son.

Arise therefore, go to your own house. When your feet enter the city, the child shall die... Then Jeroboam’s wife arose and departed, and came to Tirzah. When she came to the threshold of the house, the child died (1 Kings 14:12,17 NKJV).

This son, Jeroboam’s heir, died. Thus, the sin of this king had far-reaching consequences.

Interestingly, the son though he died, found favor with the Lord. The prophet Ahijah also said to the wife of Jeroboam.

All Israel will mourn for him and bury him. He is the only one belonging to Jeroboam who will be buried, because he is the only one in the house of Jeroboam in whom the LORD, the God of Israel, has found anything good (1 Kings 14:13 TNIV).

Therefore, from this passage, we find that the son went into the presence of the Lord upon his death while the remainder of the family of Jeroboam was condemned.

Gehazi the Servant of the Prophet Elisha

Gehazi, the servant of Elisha, was struck down with leprosy as a judgment from God. There are important lessons to be learned from this. Elisha was used of the Lord to heal Naaman the Syrian of his leprosy. Elisha refused payment from Naaman when it was offered to him. However, Gehazi, attempted to profit from the divine healing. The Bible explains what took place in this manner.

After Naaman had traveled some distance, Gehazi, the servant of Elisha the man of God, said to himself, “My master was too easy on Naaman, this Aramean, by not accepting from him what he brought. As surely as the LORD lives, I will run after him and get something from him.” So Gehazi hurried after Naaman. When Naaman saw him running toward him, he got down from the chariot to meet him. “Is everything all right?” he asked. “Everything is all right,” Gehazi answered. “My master sent me to say, ‘Two young men from the company of the prophets have just come to me from the hill country of Ephraim. Please give them a talent of silver and two sets of clothing’” (2 Kings 5:19-22 TNIV).

Gehazi then lied to Elisha about where he had been. Consequently, Elisha pronounced the following judgment upon him and his descendants.

But Elisha said to him, “Was not my spirit with you when the man got down from his chariot to meet you? Is this the time to take money or to accept clothes–or olive groves and vineyards, or flocks and herds, or male and female slaves? Naaman’s leprosy will cling to you and to your descendants forever.” Then Gehazi went from Elisha’s presence and his skin was leprous–it had become as white as snow (2 Kings 5:26-27 TNIV).

God did not want anyone to profit from the supernatural healing of Naaman. Elisha the prophet understood this. His servant did not. The judgment upon Gehazi would not only fall upon him but it would also fall upon his descendants. Again, this emphasizes the far-reaching consequences of sin.

Sennacherib’s Army

The Lord sent a plague of death on the Assyrian army which had surrounded the city of Jerusalem in preparation for a siege. Scripture records the following things happened to this large army.

And it came to pass on a certain night that the angel of the LORD went out, and killed in the camp of the Assyrians one hundred and eighty-five thousand; and when people arose early in the morning, there were the corpses–all dead (2 Kings 19:35 NKJV).

This fulfilled the Word of the Lord through the prophet Isaiah that the Assyrians would not mount a siege against the city of Jerusalem. As always, God’s Word came to pass.

King Jehoram

King Jehoram, an evil king, was given a painful disease because of his rebellion against the Lord. We read of this in Second Chronicles.

After all this, the LORD afflicted Jehoram with an incurable disease of the bowels. In the course of time, at the end of the second year, his bowels came out because of the disease, and he died in great pain. His people made no funeral fire in his honor, as they had for his predecessors. Jehoram was thirty-two years old when he became king, and he reigned in Jerusalem eight years. He passed away, to no one’s regret, and was buried in the City of David, but not in the tombs of the kings (2 Chronicles 21:18-20 TNIV).

Scripture records that this king was not mourned when he died. It seems that this particular judgment of the Lord was well received by the people.

King Uzziah

The Bible says that King Uzziah of Judah was judged for his prideful actions. The Bible records why the judgment of God fell upon him.

But after Uzziah became powerful, his pride led to his downfall. He was unfaithful to the LORD his God,.. While he was raging at the priests in their presence before the incense altar in the LORD’s temple, leprosy broke out on his forehead. When Azariah the chief priest and all the other priests looked at him, they saw that he had leprosy on his forehead, so they hurried him out. Indeed, he himself was eager to leave, because the LORD had afflicted him. King Uzziah had leprosy until the day he died. He lived in a separate house leprous, and excluded from the temple of the LORD (2 Chronicles 26:16, 19-21 TNIV).

This prideful king learned who is truly in control. It is the God of the Bible and Him alone.

Nebuchadnezzar King of Babylon

In another instance of God judging an individual for his prideful attitude, King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon was mightily judged for his own pride and arrogance. Nebuchadnezzar assumed that his might and power were his own doing. He learned that this was not the case. We read of his downfall in the Book of Daniel.

At the end of twelve months he was walking on the roof of the royal palace of Babylon, and the king answered and said, “Is not this great Babylon, which I have built by my mighty power as a royal residence and for the glory of my majesty?” While the words were still in the king’s mouth, there fell a voice from heaven, “O King Nebuchadnezzar, to you it is spoken: The kingdom has departed from you, and you shall be driven from among men, and your dwelling shall be with the beasts of the field. And you shall be made to eat grass like an ox, and seven periods of time shall pass over you, until you know that the Most High rules the kingdom of men and gives it to whom he will.” Immediately the word was fulfilled against Nebuchadnezzar. He was driven from among men and ate grass like an ox, and his body was wet with the dew of heaven till his hair grew as long as eagles’ feathers, and his nails were like birds’ claws (Daniel 4:29-33 ESV).

This pagan king clearly learned the valuable lesson as to who was in charge of all things. Indeed, it is the God of the Bible!

Observations on the Various Judgments Sent by God

From these various recorded instances of the God of the Bible exercising His judgment for sin we can make the following observations.

1. People Were Judged for Their Own Sin

On a number of occasions, we find that God judged people with physical affliction for their own personal sin. They suffered the consequences of their rebellion against the living God and His commandments. This includes judgment upon believers as well as unbelievers. Therefore, from these illustrations we learn that sickness can be a sign of judgment from the Lord.

2. The Nation Was Judged for the Sin of the King

Not only were individuals judged for their own sin, we also find examples that the people of an entire nation were judged for the sin of their leader. This includes judgment upon unbelieving nations such as Egypt as well as judgment upon the chosen people, Israel.

3. Innocent Victims Were Afflicted Because of the Sin of Others

We also find that innocents suffered because of the sin of others. Scripture records that the sins of the king affected even their own children. Indeed, there are two instances of children being afflicted and dying because of the sin of their father, the king. This further illustrates that sin can have tragic affects for those who are innocent victims.

Conclusion: The Lord Heals, the Lord Sends Afflictions

Therefore, as we survey the Old Testament we find that there are more examples of God sending physical problems as punishment for sin than there are examples of Him healing those who were physically afflicted. This again illustrates the truth of the statement that the Lord is the One who wounds as well as heals. In other words, everything is under His control.

Summary – Question 3
Did the Lord Ever Send Sickness as Judgment during the Old Testament Period?

From the very beginning of Holy Scripture we find that the Lord has supernaturally healed the sick. There are a number of examples of this which have been recorded for us in the Old Testament. He is indeed the Lord who heals.

However, we find many more examples of the Lord sending sickness, and sometimes death, as judgment for those who have sinned against Him. Indeed, there are more examples of the Lord sending ailments as a result of sin than we find Him actually healing people. The God of the Bible is truly a God of judgment. When people sin, the Lord judges their sin. At times, it is with physical infirmities. We can cite the following examples.

The entire household of a certain Pharaoh of Egypt, as well as the household of King Abimelech, was judged because of the sins of these leaders against Sarah, the wife of Abraham. Each of them wanted to take Sarah, a married woman, as their wife. They, along with others, were judged for this sin.

Sarah herself was unable to have children. This was specifically said to be a judgment from the Lord. The same holds true for Rachel, one of the wives of Jacob. Her inability to conceive was attributed to the judgment of the Lord. However, each of them was eventually able to give birth.

During the time of the Exodus, in the land of Egypt, the firstborn of humans as well as animals were put to death by the angel of the Lord. Israel was spared but the people of Egypt were not. This was the culmination of a number of judgments against the people of Egypt for their Pharaoh refusing to listen to Moses, God servant. The sin of Pharaoh had consequences for the entire nation.

Judgment also struck the chosen people. Miriam, the sister of Moses was struck with leprosy for questioning the leadership of her brother. A woman named Hannah was unable to conceive a child. This was attributed to the judgment of the Lord. Eventually God allowed her to give birth. Her son became the prophet Samuel.

The Philistines were agonizingly afflicted by the Lord for their treatment of the Ark of the Covenant. This object represented the presence of the Lord among the people. The Philistines assumed that their gods were superior to the God of Israel because they had possession of the Ark. They learned a painful lesson. Excruciating ailments were sent to the Philistines to testify who was indeed God and who was not.

The son of King David and Bathsheba was afflicted with sickness and eventual death as a result of the sins of David. In another instance, the entire nation of Israel was judged for the sin of their king, David. These illustrations show that God held David to a high standard of behavior. While his victories were celebrated publicly his sins were also publicly known.

King Jeroboam was physically afflicted because of his rebellion against the Lord. On one occasion he was struck with leprosy. Later, the son of this king was afflicted with death because of the sins of his father. However, the Lord testified that the son, although a victim of his father’s sin, had found favor in the sight of the Lord. Again, we find that those in leadership could not publicly sin without receiving public judgment for their sin.

Gehazi, the servant of Elisha, was struck with leprosy for his evil behavior. First, he accepted payment for the healing of Naaman the Syrian; a healing which was directed by the prophet Elisha. This was a payment which Elisha had already refused to accept. In addition, Gehazi lied to Elisha about accepting the payment. The leprosy that was taken away from Naaman the Syrian was placed upon him. Furthermore, this punishment was also handed down to his descendants.

A large number of soldiers of Assyrian army who had surrounded the city of Jerusalem were struck dead as a result of God’s judgment.

Two kings, Jehoram and Uzziah were sent painful physical afflictions from the Lord. Each of them died with their affliction. Their pride and rebellion caused the Lord to judge them in this manner. Another king, Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon, was afflicted for a specific period of time for his prideful attitude.

These judgments sent by the Lord teach us a number of valuable lessons. We find that people may be individually judged for their sin or an entire nation may suffer as a result of the sin of its leader. This includes believers as well as unbelievers. Unfortunately, the innocents sometime suffer afflictions as a result of the sins of others.

Consequently, we learn from these Old Testament examples that the Lord may choose to judge sin by sending some type of physical affliction.

What Does the Old Testament Have to Say about God Supernaturally Healing the Sick? ← Prior Section
Are There Old Testament Examples of Believers Being Sick Which Was Not a Result of Personal Sin? Next Section →
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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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