When we read scripture and template it against modern times, it is amazing to watch science catch up to God’s Word. Even when it comes to medicine and warfare, God has it all figured out. But; why wouldn’t He, this is His world. One of these many examples is Numbers 31:19 where God says to warriors fresh off the battlefield “Pitch your tents outside the camp for seven days. Whoever has killed a person or touched the corpse of someone slain, purify yourselves on the third and seventh days, you and your captives”. It is interesting how God instituted quarantining 2,700 years before mankind would develop the concept1. Here we will address the two probable reasons why soldiers were quarantined, and how science caught up to Torah.
In 1847, a Doctor by the name of Ignaz Semmelweis was the director of a hospital ward in Vienna, Austria. What perplexed Ignaz was that the mothers of his physicians who delivered their babies, were experiencing a 18% death rate. Conversely, the midwives patience were only suffering a 3% death ratio2. Certainly his Doctors, who were more qualified than midwives, should have had a lower death percentage. After studying it, Ignaz’s determining factor was that many of the Doctors conducted autopsies and did not wash their hands after examining the corpses. This sounds peculiar, Doctors not cleaning their hands, but at this time Louis Pasteur had not discovered the germ yet. That wouldn’t happen until 1861. Even when science did figure it out, it would even take longer for them to know how to kill germs. For example, during the American Civil War (1861 – 1865) approximately 620,000 soldiers died. Yet, two-thirds 3 of these deaths were not the result of enemy fire, but of disease probably from unsanitary conditions. Interestingly enough, when we read Numbers 19:11-22 it is specific that one should clean themselves after handling a dead body. Likewise, Deuteronomy 23:13-14 talks about other methods, in camp, to control germs and disease. It is funny, but implementing these methods people had no idea they were killing germs. So, for the 3,300 plus years between the Exodus and American Civil War people who followed Torah must have looked at this practice of purifying one’s self more as ritualistic than scientific.
Please watch this 2 minute film “A Lesson To Remember” (part 3 of 11)
To make our next point, let’s leap from the American Civil War to the Vietnam War. Many believe that PTSD was so common after Vietnam and not after Korea or WWII because service members had a longer waiting period before coming home. As Josh Hochgesang, explains it “…in the previous wars soldiers were brought home on boats which took them a longer time to get home, thus they had more time to reflect on their experiences. By the time they arrived at home, they had already talked to fellow war buddies about the horrors that they experienced. They were able to talk about their feelings with somebody before they got home, which is what Vietnam veterans lacked. Instead, Vietnam veterans took a relatively short airplane ride home by themselves and really didn’t get a chance to talk with anyone who understood what they had been through. By the time they arrived at home, they didn’t feel comfortable talking to their families about their war experiences because they wouldn’t understand and would probably think less of him.”4. Bringing this to our time, the Afghanistan and Iraq (OEF & OIF) Wars, we haven’t changed. Within days after Special Operations Soldiers coming off the battlefield in Afghanistan, four killed their wives 5. Two of them then killed themselves.
Our military’s approach to the problem of warriors returning home with PTSD is to educate them. This concept will help, but warriors still do not have much lag time before reintegration with their families. If we compare our understanding of PTSD to our understanding of germs it will take a long time before our government will take on the concepts of Torah to solve this issue. Just remember, although we knew what a germ was at the beginning of the Civil War we didn’t do much about it. It took until World War 1 (52 years later) before combat casualties would outnumber victims of diseases (and not by much) 6. We are still on our learning curve, eventually God’s Word will win.
- “History of Quarantine.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. July 31, 2014. Accessed September 02, 2017.
- Butt, Kyle M., Div. “Don’t Touch Dead Bodies!” ApologeticsPress.org. Accessed September 02, 2017
- Dixon, Ina. “Civil War Medicine.” Civil War Trust. Accessed September 02, 2017.
- Hochgesang, Josh. “War & Peace: Media and War.” The Psychological Effects of the Vietnam War. Accessed September 01, 2017.
- Collins, Dan. “4 Wives Slain In 6 Weeks At Fort Bragg.” CBS News. July 31, 2002. Accessed September 01, 2017
- “War Casualties.” Dictionary of American History. Accessed September 02, 2017.