By Bert Thompson
Anyone who has ever taken an introductory course in microbiology has
heard the name of Ignaz Semmelweis. A medical doctor who taught at the
prestigious Allegemeine Frankenhaus (a renowned teaching hospital) in
Vienna. Semmelweis was appalled at the mortality rate of women who gave
birth there. One of every six women died of "child bed fever." The
doctor set out to discover why, and in so doing uncovered an "old" new
The problem was that doctors were not washing their hands or utensils
between patients. When Dr. Semmelweis instituted this simple but
effective procedure, mortality rates fell to almost zero, practically
overnight. His discovery altered the course of medical history!
Yet, Moses, millennial earlier, had instructed the Israelites on these
matters (Numbers 19:14-19; Leviticus 13-15). Those coming into contact
with the dead or diseased were considered "unclean," and had to be
washed. Both the people and their clothing were to be purged in clear,
running water. But more that this, they were to take hyssop branches,
wet them, and use them to sprinkle water on them and their clothing for
cleansing. Interestingly, we know that hyssop is a type of marjoram
plant, the oil of which contains 50% carvacrol, a powerful antibacterial
and anti fungal agent (similar to thynol, which we use today).
Even toady doctors "scrub" prior to surgery, because there is no better
practical deterrent to the spread of disease. While the Israelites'
neighbors were putting worm blood mixed with animal waste on injuries,
Moses was giving laws that were light-years ahead of their time, and
that would remain correct and relevant as long as the Earth stands. The
Bible was right - again!
The Sower, Sharpe Church of Christ, Benton, KY, March 25, 2001.