Did you know that the Bible, though written thousands of years ago, has a lot to say about quarantine? The Word of God actually contains timeless health principles that are applicable to modern society. In this post, let us take a look at what the Bible says about quarantine.
The Bible has a lot of things to say about quarantine. In fact, the ancient Israelites and the Jewish People were able to survive epidemics and pandemics due to their advanced knowledge in public health.
While surrounding nations and people die around them, they were able to stay healthy and strong due to their unique approach to dealing with the disease.
However, I think the most amazing and astounding part of this is that they didn’t “discover” the principles of quarantine and good health. It has been divinely revealed to them thousands of years ago!
That’s why, thanks to their knowledge of quarantine, proper hygiene, and food laws, the Jews today are among the healthiest people on earth — and you can too, if you are willing to apply health laws written in your Bible.
I think, more than ever, discovering what the Bible says about quarantine is a timely topic we all should consider especially now that the world is battling the coronavirus disease or COVID-19 pandemic.
So, in this post, let us take a look at the Bible and discover what it really says about quarantine. By doing so, we can also better understand God’s wisdom and follow the quarantine principle.
Bible verses about Quarantine
Quarantine is a huge topic in the Bible. Though it has been on the pages of the Bible, the principles of biblical quarantine had been ignored in most part of human history. In fact, it was only in recent centuries that quarantine has been widely applied in the modern healthcare system.
As a result of deliberately ignoring God’s laws, a lot of people have died due to infectious diseases. Pandemics, which have spread throughout the world, could have been prevented only if people followed His instructions.
So, what are the Bible verses that talk about quarantine or isolation of sick people? We do have a lot of verses and even a whole chapter has been dedicated to discussing this topic.
They are as listed below:
- Leviticus 12 – quarantine after childbirth
- Leviticus 13:1-46 – law concerning leprosy
- Leviticus 13:47-59 – law concerning leprous garments
- Leviticus 14:1-32 – a ritual for cleansing healed leprosy
- Leviticus 14:33-57 – law concerning the leprous house
- Leviticus 15 – law concerning bodily discharges
- Numbers 5:1-4 – isolation of ceremonially unclean persons
- Numbers 19:11-12 – isolation of a person who touched a dead body
- Numbers 31:11-20 – quarantine of people who came from war
- Deuteronomy 23:9-14 – keeping the campsite clean
As you can see, there are a lot of passages in the Bible that talk about quarantine. The Almighty is concerned about our health that He laid out basic quarantine principles to help us fight infectious diseases and stay healthy as possible.
Quarantine Principles in the Bible
Now, that we have seen the Bible scriptures about quarantine, let us now dig deeper and exactly learn how quarantine is done in the Bible.
Women who gave birth shall be considered as unclean
In Leviticus 12:2-5:
“Speak to the children of Israel, saying: ‘If a woman has conceived, and borne a male child, then she shall be unclean seven days; as in the days of her customary impurity she shall be unclean. And on the eighth day the flesh of his foreskin shall be circumcised. She shall then continue in the blood of her purification thirty-three days. She shall not touch any hallowed thing, nor come into the sanctuary until the days of her purification are fulfilled.”
In these verses, women are considered unclean after giving birth. If she bore a male child, she will be ceremonially unclean for 40 days. If she bore a female child, she will be ceremonially unclean for 80 days.
During the time when she is unclean, she should not touch any hallowed thing and not come to the sanctuary.
So, why do women should be quarantined after giving birth? There are a few theories to this, but I believe this has to do with blood.
Blood, though the symbol of life, also carries a lot of pathogens. Some of the most infectious diseases known are transmitted through blood.
By keeping a woman separated during the first few months, she does not just avoid spreading potential diseases, but it gives her time to heal. Postpartum healing could take up to 6 weeks in most women.
Moreover, the child, who is normally vulnerable to diseases, will be kept in the house and will be protected from diseases until his or her immune system is strong enough to be brought outside.
Leprous people are to be taken out of the camp
In Leviticus 13, we see a detailed description of how the priests and the whole of Israel would handle leprosy or skin infection. In the first appearance of signs and symptoms, a priest is immediately called to observe the patient.
“When a man has on the skin of his body a swelling, a scab, or a bright spot, and it becomes on the skin of his body like a leprous sore, then he shall be brought to Aaron the priest or to one of his sons the priests” (Leviticus 13:2).
Even upon suspicion of infectious disease, a patient would immediately be segregated from other people. He would be isolated for seven days. If after seven days and the disease doesn’t improve or worsen, he will be observed for another seven days.
If leprosy is established, the patient would then be isolated and be put outside of the camp where people won’t be able to socialize with him.
You might want to read, “Why doesn’t God Stop the Coronavirus Disease?”
Quarantine regarding objects infected by a disease
In the Bible, it is not only the people who are quarantined or isolated. It also includes inanimate objects.
We read Leviticus 13:47-52
Also, if a garment has a leprous plague in it, whether it is a woolen garment or a linen garment, whether it is in the warp or woof of linen or wool, whether in leather or in anything made of leather, and if the plague is greenish or reddish in the garment or in the leather, whether in the warp or in the woof, or in anything made of leather, it is a leprous plague and shall be shown to the priest.
The priest shall examine the plague and isolate that which has the plague seven days. And he shall examine the plague on the seventh day. If the plague has spread in the garment, either in the warp or in the woof, in the leather or in anything made of leather, the plague is an active leprosy. It is unclean.
He shall therefore burn that garment in which is the plague, whether warp or woof, in wool or in linen, or anything of leather, for it is an active leprosy; the garment shall be burned in the fire.
This is something worth noting.
Viruses and bacteria are all around us. The problem is that they are invisible to the naked eye. These microorganisms live in objects such as raiments, surfaces, and other stuff.
Isn’t it amazing how the Israelites already know how diseases can pass from one person to another through their belongings? Only God could reveal this to them in a world where microscopes are not yet invented!
A house is quarantined
Moreover, the Bible also tells us that infectious diseases may also live in our dwelling place. That’s why in our modern society, we don’t simply remove things from a house, but we also clean a room or the whole house if needed.
And he shall examine the plague; and indeed if the plague is on the walls of the house with ingrained streaks, greenish or reddish, which appear to be deep in the wall, then the priest shall go out of the house, to the door of the house, and shut up the house seven day” (Leviticus 14:37-38).
People from war are quarantined
In the ancient world, Israel stands alone as the nation who knows the law of quarantine and isolation. Thus, it is not difficult to see how other nations would be unclean and practice unhygienic habits.
When Israel fought wars with other nations, they inevitably got in contact with people who had infectious diseases. That’s why, people who fought in the battlefield are commanded to isolate themselves.
We read in Numbers 31:12-16, 19-20
Then they brought the captives, the booty, and the spoil to Moses, to Eleazar the priest, and to the congregation of the children of Israel, to the camp in the plains of Moab by the Jordan, across from Jericho. 13 And Moses, Eleazar the priest, and all the leaders of the congregation, went to meet them outside the camp. 14 But Moses was angry with the officers of the army, with the captains over thousands and captains over hundreds, who had come from the battle.
15 And Moses said to them: “Have you kept all the women alive? 16 Look, these women caused the children of Israel, through the counsel of Balaam, to trespass against the LORD in the incident of Peor, and there was a plague among the congregation of the LORD.
19 And as for you, remain outside the camp seven days; whoever has killed any person, and whoever has touched any slain, purify yourselves and your captives on the third day and on the seventh day. 20 Purify every garment, everything made of leather, everything woven of goats’ hair, and everything made of wood.”
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Quarantine against people who have bodily discharge
Aside from blood, there are also other types of bodily discharge that people should avoid. In modern medicine, we could see how this is also followed.
Studies have shown how diseases can be transmitted through sputum, saliva, semen, and other bodily fluids. Thus, to avoid infectious diseases, we know that we must avoid these things.
In Leviticus 15:1-12, we read the guiding principles on how body discharge should be handled.
And the LORD spoke to Moses and Aaron, saying, “Speak to the children of Israel, and say to them: When any man has a discharge from his body, his discharge is unclean.
And this shall be his uncleanness in regard to his discharge—whether his body runs with his discharge, or his body is stopped up by his discharge, it is his uncleanness.
Every bed is unclean on which he who has the discharge lies, and everything on which he sits shall be unclean. And whoever touches his bed shall wash his clothes and bathe in water, and be unclean until evening. He who sits on anything on which he who has the discharge sat shall wash his clothes and bathe in water, and be unclean until evening.
And he who touches the body of him who has the discharge shall wash his clothes and bathe in water, and be unclean until evening. If he who has the discharge spits on him who is clean, then he shall wash his clothes and bathe in water, and be unclean until evening.
Any saddle on which he who has the discharge rides shall be unclean. Whoever touches anything that was under him shall be unclean until evening.
He who carries any of those things shall wash his clothes and bathe in water, and be unclean until evening. And whomever the one who has the discharge touches, and has not rinsed his hands in water, he shall wash his clothes and bathe in water, and be unclean until evening.
The vessel of earth that he who has the discharge touches shall be broken, and every vessel of wood shall be rinsed in water.”
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Quarantine for people who touched the dead
Another situation where quarantine is needed is when people had touched a dead body.
We read: in Numbers 19:11-12:
He who touches the dead body of anyone shall be unclean seven days. He shall purify himself with the water on the third day and on the seventh day; then he will be clean. But if he does not purify himself on the third day and on the seventh day, he will not be clean.
Moreover, a person who touches the carcass of an unclean animal will become unclean as well.
This shows us that God knows how diseases can spread through dead bodies of humans and animals. That’s why He tells us to separate those who have touched a dead body for a specific period of time before they can again enter the camp and join others.
A summary of quarantine and isolation in the Bible
Numbers 5:1-4 gives us a bird’s eye view of what it means to be isolated in ancient Israel.
And the LORD spoke to Moses, saying: “Command the children of Israel that they put out of the camp every leper, everyone who has a discharge, and whoever becomes defiled by a corpse. You shall put out both male and female; you shall put them outside the camp, that they may not defile their camps in the midst of which I dwell.”
And the children of Israel did so, and put them outside the camp; as the LORD spoke to Moses, so the children of Israel did.
As you can see, the Bible is not an ancient and outdated book that has lost its touch to reality. In fact, it is timeless and applicable in any part of man’s history.
Health is a big topic in the Bible. The Most High God, in His infinite wisdom, revealed unto us the basic principles of infection control and disease management. By applying these principles in our lives, we could see how we can have a healthier and better society.
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