Truth, Understanding, Insight

The Law, Hygiene: Swine Flu

2nd May 2009, hej


The Swine Flu outbreak reveals some issues that are worthy for a society to ponder. The events illustrate just how advanced the law of Moses was and also how it could prevent needless death- even today!

'Unclean' means it causes sickness

Recently the news made much of a new strain of flu. Perhaps some fear comes from finding that it has newly come from an animal across to humans. But there should be little surprise, as swine are very similar to humans in their genome. It is well known that pigs must be raised in very clean conditions and be free from disease to make their meat safe for humans to eat.

The outbreak of the swine flu reveals some issues that are worthy for a society to ponder.

In ancient history the Jewish law, without the benefit of what we know today, declared pig, or swine unclean.

And the swine, because it divides the hoof, yet chews not the cud, it is unclean unto you: you shall not eat of their flesh, nor touch their dead carcase. (Deuteronomy 14:8).

This law is very simple. Abiding by this law would have prevented the outbreak of swine flu. If a society can't eat a pig, all it is useful for is turning food scraps into compost. And a goat might be a better option, as dealing with the pig carcase is an issue when, inevitably, it dies.

The advice to prevent the further spread of this deadly flu, is isolation and quarantine. It seems this is the only way. But whereas our modern society only resorts to this in dire emergency, after many have died, the ancient Jewish law, practised this as standard procedure with all disease that involved any form of running issue (such as a runny nose or issue of blood).

And the LORD spake unto Moses, saying, Command the children of Israel, that they put out of the camp every leper, and every one that has an issue (such as one has with a cold or a wound), and whosoever is defiled by the dead: Both male and female shall ye put out, without the camp shall ye put them; that they defile not their camps, in the midst whereof I dwell. (Numbers 5:1-3)

In addition even coming in contact with a dead person meant you were unclean 7 days and needed to wash fully. This practice reduced disease spread and would have prevented many deaths.

He that touches the dead body of any man shall be unclean seven days. He shall purify himself with it (the water of separation see v 13) on the third day, and on the seventh day he shall be clean: but if he purify not himself the third day, then the seventh day he shall not be clean. (Numbers 19:11-12)

If the reason for death was a communicable disease it was not spread to a third human by direct contact, as 3-7 days would be sufficient to see sickness emerge.

Advice to the community to prevent the spread of flu is to wash hands regularly (and cover coughs), yet clearly only quarantine will prevent airborne virus transmission. In any case the law anticipated this advice to wash hands also, For those who had a cold or a sore,

"And when he who has a discharge is cleansed of his discharge, then he shall count for himself seven days for his cleansing, wash his clothes, and bathe his body in running water; then he shall be clean" (Leviticus 15:13).

But also for those who came into contact with those who had a runny nose or a discharge of any sort

And whomsoever he touches that has the issue (of any sort), and has not rinsed his hands in water, he shall wash his clothes, and bathe himself in water, and be unclean until the even. (Lev 15:11)

Note that with this law if we, after coming in contact with a person with a cold, nose bleed or an open wound, don't rinse our hands in water, we then have to later in the day wash all our body in water. This was, fortuitously for the health of people of the Jewish culture, taken up as a “law” to always wash the hands after coming from the shops and before eating,

For the Pharisees, and all the Jews, except they wash their hands oft, eat not, holding the tradition of the elders. And when they come from the market, except they wash, they eat not.. (Mark 7:3-4)

Again if this law was part of our society as standard procedure people would not become sick and many would not die. By not observing these simple ancient laws many people now have died of Swine flu. The whole epidemic has shown how wise the law given to the Ancient Hebrews was. Moses said of it,

Behold, I have taught you statutes and judgments, even as the LORD my God commanded me, that ye should do so in the land where you go to possess it.
Keep therefore and do them; for this is your wisdom and your understanding in the sight of the nations, which shall hear all these statutes, and say, Surely this great nation is a wise and understanding people.
For what nation is there so great, who has God so nigh unto them, as the LORD our God is in all things that we call upon him for? And what nation is there so great, that has statutes and judgments so righteous as all this law, which I set before you this day? (Deuteronomy 4:5-8)

The Swine flu crisis most recently has shown that the words spoken by Moses approx 1500BC are still true. How did Moses get it so right, when he came from the Egyptian culture which, we now know, at that time had such abysmal medical practices as using dung and the blood of worms? Yet despite 200 years of progress, scientific development and advances our society hasn't laws that can protect its people in this matter of life and death in the way these simple laws given to the Hebrews in 1500BC did!

We still haven't yet attained to the level of the law of Moses in the matter of the basics, human health! That law given to Moses must have been divine. That law if adhered to, will save lives in this world,

and also the next, for not only would keeping the law prolong life in the land but God said,

O that there were such an heart in them, that they would fear me, and keep all my commandments always, that it might be well with them, and with their children for ever! (Deuteronomy 5:29)

For more on How news makes a crisis

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