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What is Biblical Healing?



          Healing in the Bible is a very common theme.  We see people being healed from Genesis through Revelation.  The question to ask is this, what exactly is going on when someone is being healed?  Is healing in the Bible the same as healing today?  Healings occurred both miraculously and naturally.  Miraculous healings were simply done by the Messiah, or through His name, and God's power was exercised over the illness or demon involved.  Natural healings were done using various methods, among which are the use of infused or essential oils and the laying on of hands.  This article will attempt to identify both types of healings in the scripture.



Defining Terms:


          It is important to remember that culture makes a big difference in how we interpret certain words.  When studying the scriptures we need to diligently study the words as used by the specific culture of that time.  The use of the word in today's language might not be the same as the use of the word at the time of the Messiah, or even at the time of Moses.  It is also important to note that some words can be used in different ways.  For example, the English word run can be used in different ways.  You might say, "My dog loves to run," or, "My internet service runs great," or even, "My car engine runs well."  Each of these examples uses the same word, but in a different way.   Another example is the English word love.  It is common to say you love pizza for lunch as well as you love your wife, but do these words mean the same thing in the given context?  No, they do not.  The same is true for biblical Hebrew and Greek.  Some words can be used in different ways.  The key to proper understanding is the context.  Here are some Hebrew and Greek words to consider regarding healing in the scripture.


* Râphâ' is the primary word used in the Old Testament for heal.  This word means, "properly to mend (by stitching), figuratively to cure: - cure, cause to heal, physician, repair" (Strong's H7495).  This word is translated 58 times as heal or healed, two times as physician, two times as make whole, and one time as cure.
* Therapeuō is the most common word used in the New Testament for heal. This word means, "to wait upon menially, to relieve of disease: - cure, heal, worship" (Strong's G2323).  This word is translated 37 times as heal or healed, five times as cure or cured, and one time as worshipped.
* Iaomai is also used in the New Testament for heal.  This word means, "to cure (literally or figuratively): - heal, make whole" (Strong's G2390).  This word is translated 21 times as heal or healed, and two times as make whole.
* Epitithēmi is used in the New Testament in the phrase, "The laying on of hands."  This word means, "to impose in a friendly or hostile sense: - add unto, lade, lay upon, put up on, set up on" (Strong's G2007).


           With a proper understanding of these words we can better understand the concept of healing in both the Old and New Testament.  Before we begin though, we need to first understand the precursor to healing, that is, sickness.  Without understanding what sickness is, we cannot understand what healing is.



The Cause of Sickness:


           The primary cause of sickness is sin.  After all, sickness is one of the curses for breaking God's Law (Lev. 26:16, 25, Deut. 28:21-22, 27-28, 35).  When we break a health law from the scriptures, we are going to get sick.  We might not get sick immediately, but eventually, over time, we will.  The habit of breaking God's health laws always leads to sickness.  There are 22 health laws in the Bible.  They are:

  1. You shall not eat blood. (Lev. 3:17).

  2. You shall not eat an animal condemned to be stoned. (Ex. 21:28-29).

  3. You shall not eat an animal killed by another animal.  (Ex. 22:31).

  4. You shall not drink pasteurized milk.  (Ex. 23:19).

  5. You shall not eat animal fat.  (Lev. 3:17).

  6. You shall not eat unclean animals such as pig.  (Lev. 11).

  7. You shall wash after touching dead carcasses.  (Lev. 11:25).

  8. You shall bury blood in the earth after slaughter (Lev. 17:13).

  9. You shall not eat an animal that dies on its own.  (Deut. 14:21).

  10. You shall not overeat.  (Deut. 21:20).

  11. You shall do child birth according tot he scripture (Lev. 12:1-8).

  12. The sick are to conceal their condition and alert others.  (Lev. 13:45).

  13. Garments worn by those of contagious disease are to be  burned (Lev. 13:52-57).

  14. The house of those with a contagious disease is to be cleaned and sanitized (Lev. 14:34-57).

  15. You shall use Essential Oils to disinfect a contaminated house. (Lev. 14:49-53).

  16. Those with a disease are to be quarantined.(Deut. 23:10-11).

  17. You shall bury excrement in the ground outside of the camp. (Deut. 23:12-14).

  18. You shall follow the laws concerning open wounds. (Lev. 15:2-18).

  19. You shall follow the laws of menstruation.  (Lev. 15:19-33).

  20. You shall eat organic fruits and vegetables, no GMO's. (Lev. 19:19).

  21. You shall eat grass fed pasture raised beef, no GMO's (Lev. 19:19).

          These laws were given so that we do not get sick.  Any nation, or person, who practices these laws will be free from sickness and disease.  Though the primary cause of sickness is sin, there are examples of a righteous person getting sick.  Job is the most prominent example of this.  In Job chapter one, God allowed Satan to test Job to see if he were faithful to God (Job 1:9-12).  The rest of the book of Job explains his battles with various disease and calamities, all caused by Satan, yet Job did not sin.  The end result was tremendous blessing for his faithfulness (Job. 42:10-17).  So on the one hand, sin causes sickness and disease, but there are always exceptions to this.  These exceptions vary and can be a trial to test our faithfulness to God.



Healing in the Old Testament:

          Although there were many more healings in the New Testament, there are several examples in the Old Testament as well.  The word used for heal is primarily the word, râphâ', which means, "properly to mend (by stitching), figuratively to cure: - cure, cause to heal, physician, repair" (Strong's H7495).  This word is translated 58 times as heal or healed, two times as physician, two times as make whole, and one time as cure.

          This word can be used in two different ways.  First, this word is used in the miraculous sense.  For example, Abimelech's house was stricken with bareness because he took Abraham's wife as his own.  We know that this action will not naturally cause barrenness and can conclude that God directly inflicted this upon Abimelech's family.  Since Abimelech was deceived into this sin, God healed him after he repented (Gen. 20:17).  This was most likely a miraculous healing since the sickness directly came from God Himself.  The healing was also directly from God.  God also healed Hezekiah in three days for his faithfulness (2 Kings 20:1-6).  Hezekiah was originally told he would die, but after his prayer God considered him faithful and added fifteen years to his life.  This was also most likely a miraculous healing.

            Though there are examples of miraculous healings, there are also examples of natural healings.  There is a law in the scripture concerning assault and battery.  If one man strike another man to cause injury, the first man must cause the injured man, "to be thoroughly healed" (Ex. 21:18-19).  The only way a man can cause someone to be healed is through natural medicine.  Men cannot perform miracles.  Another example is that of King Joram.  King Joram was wounded in battle and returned to Jezreel to be healed (2 Kings 8:29).  The implication from this chapter is that King Joram was injured in battle and rushed back to Jezreel to be treated for his injury.  There is nothing miraculous in this story.  King Joram went to Jezreel to have his injuries treated, which led to healing.  With these examples we can clearly see that the healings in the Old Testament are both miraculous and natural.  It is important to remember that both types of healings come from God.  These same healings occur in the New Testament as well.

* Therapeuō is the most common word used in the New Testament for heal.  This word means, "to wait upon menially, to relieve of disease: - cure, heal, worship" (Strong's G2323).  This word is translated 37 times as heal or healed, five times as cure or cured, and one time as worshipped.
* Iaomai is also used in the New Testament for heal.  This word means, "to cure (literally or figuratively): heal, make whole" (Strong's G2390).  This word is translated 21 times as heal or healed, and two times as make whole.

          These are the two primary words used in the New Testament to describe the healings of Jesus.  One thing to note is that these words are different.  They are not the same word, nor does one word come from the other.  They are completely different words with very little relationship to one another.  Is it possible that the meanings of these words might change the meanings of some of the healings in the New Testament?

          Therapeuō comes from the word therapōn, which means, "a menial attendant: - servant" (Strong's G2324).  Spiros Zodhiates says it, "may be used of the physician's watchful attendance of the sick."  The primary meaning of this word is not heal or cure, but rather to serve.  In the New Testament when therapeuō is used it is best to understand this term as menial service, or humble service.  Sometimes this service led to healing, and sometimes it did not, the context provides the clues to give us the answer.

          The primary word for heal in the New Testament is iaomai.  This is the Greek word that actually means to heal or cure.  This word always means to heal or be made whole or healthy.  When this word is used it is always used in reference to a physical healing.  Therapeuō might refer to healing, but always in the sense of serving or treating the sick.  In fact, the word therapeuō is used eight times in the Septuagint translation of the Old Testament.  Only once in the eight times is it in reference to healing, but only as an act of service.  Here are the eight translations from Brenton's English Septuagint, 1851:

  1. 2 Sam. 19:24 - "dressed his feet"

  2. 2 Kings 9:16 - "was getting healed in Jezrael of the arrow-wounds"

  3. Esther 2:19 - "But Mardoshaeus served in the palace."

  4. Esther 6:10 - "who waits in the palace"

  5. Prov. 14:19 - "the ungodly shall attend at the gates of the righteous."

  6. Prov.19:6 - "Many court the favour of kings"

  7. Prov. 29:26 - "Many wait on the favour of rulers"

  8. Isaiah 54:17 - "There is an inheritance to them that serve the Lord"

          As you can see, only once is this word translated as heal, but I would contend that 2 Kings 9:16 would more accurately be translated, "was getting treated in Jesrael for the arrow wounds."  The implication that he was healed is not in the word  therapeuō, but rather, someone was attending to, or servicing, his wound.  Healing most likely came from therapeuō, but therapeuō does not mean heal.

          There is also another Greek word to consider.  The laying on of hands is also used in association with healing in the New Testament.  The Greek word for the laying on of hands is epitithēmi, which means, "to impose - in a friendly or hostile sense: - add unto, lade, lay upon, put up on, set on up" (Strong's G2007).  This word is used in many different ways.  It is used as a means to impart the Holy Spirit (Acts 8:17), as a means to pray for someone (Matt. 19:13), as well as a means to heal the sick (Luke 4:40).  The context will help clarify what is going on.

          In Luke 13 Jesus was teaching in the synagogue when a woman with a "spirit of infirmity" was there (Luke 13:10-11).  The Greek word for infirmity is astheneia, which means, "feebleness of body or mind" (Strong's G769).  She was also said to be "bowed together" (Luke 13:11).  The word for bowed together is sugkuptō, which means, "to stoop altogether" (Strong's G4794).  This is most likely a spinal condition which causes her to be crippled and stooped low.  Jesus came to her and loosed her from the infirmity (Luke 13:12) and then He epitithēmi, "laid his hands on her: and immediately she was made straight" (Luke 13:13).  The context indicates that Jesus might have used what we call today a chiropractic adjustment.  All the context supports such a conclusion.  In fact, the rulers of the synagogue viewed this as an act of work on the Sabbath (Luke 13:14).  Jesus must have done something that exerted energy to be considered work, which is why they accused Him of healing/serving (therapeuō) on the Sabbath.  In fact, the chiropractic industry uses the term "laying on of hands" frequently to describe their craft.  The literal definition of chiropractic is, "done by hand" (chiros = hand; praktos practice).  If you Google for this you will find several articles using this phrase to describe the work of a Chiropractor.  You can view such an article here.  However, chiropractic adjustment is not the only way to understand the term laying on of hands, it could also be referring to massage therapy, acupuncture, or any means to heal by using the hands.


Healings by Jesus:

          When you look at the use of these two words in relation to the Messiah's healing you come to a slightly different understanding.  When the Messiah healed and the word was iaomai, this meant their was a real healing where the person was cured, or healed, of their sickness.  When the Messiah healed and the word was therapeuō, this did not specifically mean heal, but rather meant serve.  Jesus served (therapeuō) the sick many times and he healed (iaomai) the sick many times as well.  It is unfortunate that our translations today have translated both words as heal, when in actuality they are quite different.  Therapeuō would better be translated as to serve, attend to, or treat.

          In fact, this helps explain why the Pharisees were so upset at Jesus serving (therapeuō) on the Sabbath.  In Matthew chapter 12 the Pharisees questioned Jesus regarding serving (therapeuō) on the Sabbath.  Here is the story as told by Matthew.  "And, behold, there was a man which had his hand withered. And they asked him, saying, Is it lawful to heal/serve (therapeuō) on the sabbath days? that they might accuse him" (Matt. 12:10).  The Pharisees were trying to trap Jesus into breaking the Sabbath.  Jesus responded, "What man shall there be among you, that shall have one sheep, and if it fall into a pit on the sabbath day, will he not lay hold on it, and lift it out?  How much then is a man better than a sheep? Wherefore it is lawful to do well on the sabbath days" (Matt. 12:11-12).  Jesus pointed out that it is lawful to serve on the Sabbath, but then He didn't serve but instead miraculously healed the man.  "Then saith he to the man, Stretch forth thine hand. And he stretched it forth; and it was restored whole, like as the other" (Matt. 12:13).  The word for restored whole is not therapeuō but hugiēs, which means, "healthy, that is, well" (Strong's G5199).  Jesus tricked the Pharisees, having known their intentions, by miraculously healing instead of serving the sick.  The Pharisees were hoping to catch Jesus working on the Sabbath, but He did not do so in front of the Pharisees because they would have arrested Him.  The context tells us why.  "Then the Pharisees went out, and held a council against him, how they might destroy him.  But when Jesus knew it, he withdrew himself from thence: and great multitudes followed him, and he healed/served (therapeuō) them all; And charged them that they should not make him known:" (Matt. 12:14-16).  Jesus would not therapeuō in front of the Pharisees.  Instead He miraculously healed on the Sabbath.  The Pharisees could hardly argue that Jesus speaking the words, "Stretch forth thine hand" was work.  This is why Jesus performed a miracle.  He didn't even lift a finger, which could not have violated the Pharisees' Sabbath laws.  However, after He left the Pharisees he served (therapeuō) all who were sick (Matt. 12:16) and then warned them not to let it be known to the Pharisees (Matt. 12:17).  If Jesus served or treated the sick (therapeuō) the Pharisees would have arrested him.  After all, they asked the question for the purpose of arresting and prosecuting the Messiah (Matt. 12:10).  If they had a cause to arrest Him, they would have, but Jesus did not serve (therapeuō) in front of them.

          In every case in the New Testament, therapeuō being used as an act of service or a treatment to disease fits very well.  Unfortunately, our modern thinking sees this as a miraculous healing only.  In fact, a good study of the etymology of the word therapy helps confirm this.  As early as 800 BC there are examples of Therapeuts, Therapy Healers, and the such who healed with a holistic approach using natural medicines.  At the time of the New Testament the word therapeuō clearly meant to attend to the sick using natural medicines.  I am sure the Apostles and early church understood this word the same.  A proper study of this word used in the Septuagint as well as defined by all Greek dictionaries demonstrates that the primary meaning of the word is a menial service.  Just like in the examples in the Old Testament, the Messiah treated the sick as well as miraculously healed the sick.  The context and the words provide the answer.  The question might be asked, how exactly did Jesus treat the sick?  If He didn't always use a miracle, how did He serve?  The answer is given when He sent out his disciples.  When Jesus sent out the disciples He trained them to cast out devils and anoint the sick with oil (Mark. 6:13).  (To learn more about the biblical and scriptural uses for essential oils, click here.)  I would contend that when the Messiah healed he cast out devils (Matt. 8:16), he laid His hands on people with massage therapy (Matt. 6:13), or He laid his hands on people using something similar to a chiropractic adjustment (Luke 13:13).


Healings by the Apostles:

          During His ministry, Jesus sent out His twelve disciples to the lost sheep of the House of Israel.  This event is recorded in all three synoptic Gospels.  Before Jesus sent them out He gave them "power" over unclean spirits, sicknesses, and disease.  The word for "power" is exousia, which means, "privilege, capacity, competency, mastery, magistrate, superhuman, potentate,  authority, jurisdiction" (Strong's G1849).  "It may be used either of the capability or the right to do a certain action" (Spiros Zodhiates, G1849).  This word could mean that the disciples now have the capability, or capacity, to heal sickness and disease, or it could mean they now have the jurisdiction over sickness and disease, or it could also mean both.  The context will answer for us.

          From the instruction of the Messiah, the disciples went out without material possessions (Mark 6:8-9).  They stayed with the same house for their entire visit (Mark 6:10).  They cast out many devils and anointed the sick with oil (Mark 6:13).  The fact that they had authority over devils (unclean spirits) shows the jurisdiction part of exousia, but their ability to heal with infused or essential oils demonstrates their capacity and master over healing sickness and disease.  Here again are the two modalities of healing.  On the one hand we have miraculous healings like the casting out of devils, and on the other hand we have natural healings like massage therapy with infused or essential oils.


Healing Ourselves:

          Since Jesus and the disciples are no longer walking among us, we must look to the scriptures to see what tools God has given us to heal ourselves.  First, we should not break the health laws which were provided to keep our bodies healthy.  If we do not cause the damage, then we don't have to repair it.  Second, we need to look to the plants for natural healing remedies.  The scripture declares, "and the fruit thereof shall be for meat, and the leaf thereof for medicine" (Eze. 47:12).  God provided fruits and vegetables for our food, but the leaves and stems contain oils that can be used to heal.  We should utilize this tool to help heal our bodies when we suffer illness.  Third, we should utilize the laying on of hands.  The examples given demonstrate a knowledge of how to do this, but the scripture is not clear.  Looking throughout the history of mankind we can see several different methods to lay your hands on someone to heal them.  Among these are chiropractic adjustments, massage therapy, and acupuncture.  I am sure there are several others as well, but we should be utilizing these tools in our healing.

          Unfortunately, our society today uses a different method to heal.  Allopathic medicine commonly uses drugs in their healing.  In fact, the use of a drug does not actually produce healing.  Healing, as defined by the Oxford Dictionary, is "to become sound of healthy again."  This is not what drugs do.  The word cure more accurately describes allopathic medicine.  Cure means, to "Relieve (a person or animal) of the symptoms of a disease or condition" (Oxford Dictionary).  This is what drugs do.  They attempt to remove the symptoms of disease, not the disease.  If you have a headache, you might be prescribed aspirin.  However, was it the lack of an aspirin that caused the headache?  Not at all.  This would be like unplugging the check engine light to solve your automobile problem.  The check engine light is not the problem, it is just warning you of a problem.  You are most likely lacking an essential mineral or vitamin that your body needs.  This is how allopathic medicine treats an illness.  If they remove the symptom then the disease or sickness is cured, but it is not necessarily healed.  We should utilize God's method for healing and not simply settle for a cure.

          While allopathic medicine looks for a cure to remove a symptom, homeopathic medicine utilizes natural substances such as oils, seeds and vegetables to actually heal from the sickness.  This is the scriptural method.  Though the scripture does not give details as to how these natural methods work, we are to study and learn how to use this method.  If we seek diligently we will discover the answer.



          Healings in the Bible took on various types.  Some were miraculous, some were natural, and some were both.  The context and proper understanding of each word used demonstrates this.   The Messiah clearly had miraculous power to cast out demons (Matt. 8:16) and to heal the sick (Matt. 8:13), but He also used His knowledge of God's creation to teach us how to heal with infused or essential oils (Mark 6:13) and the laying on of hands (Mark 6:5).  You've heard of the phrase, "Give a man a fish, and you feed him for a day.  Teach a man to fish, and you feed him for life."  This is what a good father does for his kids.  He doesn't just take care of them, he teaches them how to take care of themselves.  This is what God did for us when He came.  He didn't just heal us, he taught us how to live and healing ourselves. 

By Steve Siefken

  Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth

not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.

2 Timothy 2:15 KJV