Word Study: Medicine


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Exodus 30:37-38: “And as for the fragrances which thou shalt make, ye shall not make to yourselves according to the composition thereof: it shall be unto thee holy for the Lord. Whosoever shall make like unto that, to smell thereto, shall be cut off from his people.”

The sages taught that fragrances symbolizes the saintly people. The word fragrance in Hebrew has many different meanings. Yet the word for fragrance in Hebrew is qetoreth. The root word qatar is used two different ways. Rabbi Yehoshua Starrett explains that the first use expresses the literal meaning and the second use expresses a deeper spiritual meaning. The first use is fragrance, perfume, incense and can be a reference to anything giving off a fragrance, a flower, an essential oil, spices or herbs. However, if you were to trace this word qetoreth to its Semitic origins you find it has the idea of binding. The idea is that you take the fragrance, say an essential oil and you apply it to your body either by rubbing it in or inhaling it as a diffused fragrance in incense so that it enters your body and becomes a part of you. When you apply the kertoreth to your body you are binding the qertorteh or fragrance to your body. It is not your natural odor but has been grafted or bonded onto you.

We read about anointing oils in the Bible and just conclude it was always olive oil. That is not true. The priests were to anoint people with illnesses with oil and then pray over them. There were many different oils that they used, especially as a healing agent. This is really important to understand because healing in the Old Testament as the New was not always just prayer but the application of a natural agent; they were to be used in tandem. I have heard where many Christians would not take any medicine and just trust God to be healed. This is not Biblical. Sure God sometimes heals without medicine but it would seem from the books of Law in the Old Testament that God’s natural design is to use things He created combined with prayer to bring about a healing. The word medicine does not appear in the Bible but if there was a Hebrew word for medicine it would be qetoreth.

My nephew will be getting his doctorate in Pharmaceutical Science this summer and will be getting married next weekend to another Doctor of Pharmaceutical Science. So after their honeymoon I plan to pin them down for a little while to discuss this subject, but it seems like our modern Pharmaceutical Science has its origins in the gathering of herbs and essential oils and applying them. I have no documented evidence but I would not be surprised if the Hebrews were the first to use pharmaceuticals in the healing process. Of course they did this in tandem with prayer and other cultures picked up on it.

Archaeologist have found in the Greek culture, for instance, something called a chamber of the gods. When someone was ill, they would be given a potion that would cause them to become drowsy. Then they would leave them alone in this chamber called a dream chamber and the god’s would speak to them and tell them which combination of essentials oils, plants etc. to use. When the potion wore off they would go to the priest and tell them what combination of oils and plants to use to cure their illness. A direct perversion of the Hebrew’s means of healing using the Holy Spirit’s guidance and natural means to bring about healing. You see Archaeologist also found in the chamber of the gods an antechamber located just above the dream chamber with a small, megaphone shaped opening. It was here that a priest would go to be the god speaking to the poor slob falling for this scam. However, sometimes the combination of oils and plants worked, no thanks to the priest.

It was discovered very early that certain types of oil in its purest form, not the cheap knock offs you find in the grocery stores but I mean the real stuff. You know you have the real stuff because it only takes a drop to perform its medicinal purpose. I remember after coming out of surgery I was in a lot of pain, a lot of pain and I begged for something to relive the pain. The nurse came to me with a little, I mean little pill, the size of one of those sprinkles on a donut. I picked this little bead up and said: “Hey, my pain is a lot bigger than this pill.” The nurse said: “Oh, it will work alright.” It did and put me to sleep as well.

If you take a just a drop of pure Frankincense, again the real stuff not the cheap stuff, and rubbed it on your forehead, you will actually experience a tranquil and peaceful feeling. And it is perfectly legal. But, ah, there is the rub (I know a horrible pun).

Note Exodus 30:37-38 that if you abuse the formulas used in the temple and Holy of Holies you were to be cut off from the fellowship. The rabbis teach that the reason you are forbidden to smell the qetoreth is because it represents the people of God. When you consider the dual nature of ketoreth as a bonding agent you begin to get the deeper understanding. What this command is expressing is that anyone who imitates the conduct of a saint who binds himself to God for his personal benefit is by definition – his own inner experience- cut off from God and automatically from his/His people.

You see science has studied these fragrances used in the temple or qetoreth and discovered they created a peaceful and joyful experience. The description is like that of the presence of God. In Exodus 30:37-38 The Hebrews were commanded to not duplicate the qetoereth or to smell it, because then you would be mistaking the natural experience of peace and joy for the presence of God.

That can be best understood like this. This morning I was feeling down so I put on some worship music, anointed myself with a particular oil or fragrance and I felt a euphoric feeling, however once the music stopped and the oil wore off, I was back to my old moody self again. But then I got on my knees, confessed my sins, renewed my relationship with god and the joy and euphoria returned without the benefit of worship music and fragrances.

You see the problem is not in the use of the natural, but to use the natural means without the spiritual. To mistake the worship music for the presence of God is an abomination. Music is important in a worship service, just as some churches use incense or fragrances to create a mood, but that is all it is meant to do, that is not to be mistaken for the true presence of God which far too often we do. Sometimes we don’t feel the presence of God, but it is still there just the same.
I have arthritis in my hands and sometimes it is very difficult to write my blog and books. So I use a certain essential oil in tandem with prayer to God asking Him to sooth the pain in my hands so I can write something that will be a blessing to others and glorify His name. I find I am then able to punch my keyboard without pain.

My point is this, God created mold, why? I don’t know mold doesn’t seem to serve much purpose except to ruin a perfectly good loaf of bread. But, hey, millions of lives have been saved by the penicillin produced by that mold. So trust God to cure you high blood pressure, but don’t stop taking your blood pressure meds produced by the natural things of this world that God created. And don’t just take your meds without whispering a prayer to God when you do. Sometimes God instantly heals, but more often than not the Bible clearly teaches He also uses natural holistic things He created in tandem with prayer.

p.s. If you’re in the area we’d love for you to attend our oils class! :)

One thought on “Word Study: Medicine

  1. I’m not sure why you say the word medicine ‘doesn’t appear in the Bible’. Pro 17:22 translates as ‘medicine’, at least by concordance definition.

    גהה gehah {gay-haw’} from 01455; TWOT – 321a; n f AV – medicine 1; 1 1) a cure, a healing
    גהה gahah {gaw-haw’} a primitive root; TWOT – 321; v AV – cure 1; 1 1) (Qal) to depart 1a) to be cured, healed (meton)

    So a merry heart doth good – -like a cure, healing – — medicine?

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