Sickness versus Disease in the Bible

In the bible the words sickness and disease are sometimes translated either one or the other based upon context. However, in the English translation they could have used either and in some cases in one translation it is sickness and the other disease. Ultimately sickness or disease is not good and God does not want us to have either.


sik, sik’-nes (chalah (Genesis 48:1, etc.)

choli (Deuteronomy 28:61, etc.)

tachalu’ (Deuteronomy 29:21, etc.)

machalah (Exodus 23:25, etc.)

daweh (Leviticus 15:33, etc.),

anash (2 Samuel 12:15, etc.)

astheneo (Matthew 10:8, etc

kakos echon (Luke 7:2),

kakos echontas (Matthew 4:24, etc.)

arrhostos ( Matthew 14:14, etc.)

kamno (James 5:15)

Compared with the number of deaths recorded in the historical books of the Bible the instances in which diseases are mentioned are few. “Sick” and “sickness” (including “disease,” etc.) are the translations of 6 Hebrew and 9 Greek words and occur 56 times in the Old Testament and 57 times in the New Testament. The number of references in the latter is significant as showing how much the healing of the sick was characteristic of the Jesus’s ministry. The diseases specified are varied. Of infantile sickness there is an instance in Bathsheba’s child (2 Samuel 12:15), whose disease is termed ‘anash. Among adolescents there are recorded the unspecified sickness of Abijah (1 Kings 14:1), of the widow’s son at Zarephath (1 Kings 17:17), the sunstroke of the Shunammite’s son (2 Kings 4:19), the epileptic boy (Matthew 17:15), Jairus’ daughter (Matthew 9:18), and the nobleman’s son (John 4:46). At the other extreme of life Jacob’s death was preceded by sickness (Genesis 48:1). Sickness resulted from accident (Ahaziah, 2 Kings 1:2), wounds (Joram, 2 Kings 8:29), from the violence of passion (Amnon, 2 Samuel 13:2), or mental emotion (Daniel 8:27); see also in this connection Song of Solomon 2:55:8. Sickness the result of drunkenness is mentioned (Hosea 7:5), and as a consequence of famine (Jeremiah 14:18) or violence (Micah 6:13). Daweh or periodic sickness is referred to (Leviticus 15:3320:18), and an extreme case is that of Luke 8:43.

In some examples the nature of the disease is specified, as Asa’s disease in his feet (1 Kings 15:23), for which he sought the aid of physicians in vain (2 Chronicles 16:12). Hezekiah and Job suffered from sore boils, Jehoram from some severe dysenteric attack (2 Chronicles 21:19). Probably the sudden and fatal disease of Herod was similar, as in both cases there is reference to the presence of worms (compare Acts 12:23). The disease of Publius’ father was also dysentery (Acts 28:8). Other diseases specified are paralysis (Matthew 8:69:2), and fever (Matthew 8:14). Not improbably the sudden illness of the young Egyptian at Ziklag (1 Samuel 30:11), and the illness of Ben-hadad which weakened him so that he could not resist the violence of Hazael, were also the common Palestine fever (2 Kings 8:15) of whose symptoms and effects there is a graphic description in Psalms 38. Unspecified fatal illnesses were those of Elisha (2 Kings 13:14), Lazarus (John 11:1), Tabitha (Acts 9:37). In the language of the Bible, leprosy is spoken of as a defilement to be cleansed, rather than as a disease to be cured.

Examples of Sickness

Allergies, Colds and Flu, Conjunctivitis (“pink eye“), Diarrhoea, Headaches, Mononucleosis, Stomach Aches.






The sanitary regulations and restrictions of the Priestly Code would doubtless have raised the standard of public health, but it is unlikely that these were ever observed over any large area. The types of disease which are referred to in the Bible are those that still prevail. Fevers of several kinds, dysentery, leprosy, intestinal worms, plague, nervous diseases such as paralysis and epilepsy, insanity, ophthalmia and skin diseases are among the commonest. The word “disease” or “diseases” in the King James Version is changed to “sickness” in the Revised Version (British and American) in 2 Kings 1:28:8Matthew 9:35, and left out in John 5:4; while in Matthew 8:17 “sicknesses” is replaced by “diseases.” the Revised Version (British and American) also changes “infirmity” in Luke 7:21 to “diseases,” and in Psalms 38:7 “a loathsome disease” is changed to “burning.”

Jesus healed all from the above and it is stated according to Acts 10:38 that were all oppressed by the devil.

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