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Discovery Magazine 4/1/2001

God Knew All Along

Three thousand five hundred years ago people did not know what caused diseases. Some, like the Egyptians, thought that "disease demons" caused severe sickness. Others thought that their gods were punishing them for some unknown reason. It was not until about 150 years ago that people began to learn that such things as viruses, bacteria, and parasites cause diseases.

God always has known the causes and remedies of diseases. In the Old Testament, we can read that God gave the Israelites many laws that they were expected to obey. These laws helped prevent people from getting sick. Some of the laws dealt with sanitation (like the burial of human waste products—Deuteronomy 23:12-14), some with personal hygiene (washing of hands, clothes, etc.—Numbers 19), and others with the treatment of those who were sick (Numbers 5:1-4). God also gave the Israelites a list of unclean animals that they were not to eat or sacrifice (Leviticus 11). The Bible does not tell us why these animals were unclean, but we know from science that many of the unclean animals were much more likely to carry diseases than the clean animals. Some of these unclean animals included fish without fins and scales (Leviticus 11:12—all poisonous fish have no scales), birds of prey (Leviticus 11:13-19—examples: vultures, buzzards, and hawks), and pigs (Leviticus 11:7).

You may wonder why pigs were considered unclean, especially since about one-fourth of all meat eaten in the United States is pork (meat from pigs). Scientists have found that pigs sometimes carry dangerous parasites in their muscle tissue. As frequent scavengers (animals that feed on dead or decaying matter), pigs may eat diseased material and then become either carries of infection, or infected themselves. One of the parasites pigs are known to carry is called trichinella spiralis (trick-uh-nella spear-al-is). If pork is not cooked properly, this organism can be passed to people. Sometimes, if people are not treated quickly, the parasite can cause death.

Before you get alarmed, realize that if pigs are fed properly and if the meat is cooked correctly, then they are safe to eat. If pigs have parasites, cooking the meat thoroughly will kill them. During the time of Moses, cooking meat thoroughly was not always possible. Thus, God’s law about pigs kept many people from getting sick or dying.

It wasn’t until the 1900s that people understood the need to cook pork thoroughly. Yet God knew all along. Because He knew that this world contains viruses, bacteria, and parasites that can cause diseases, God revealed much preventive medical information to the Israelites that has withstood the test of time. This amazing fact is just one of the reasons that we know the Bible is from God.



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