Archive for the ‘The plague’ Category

One of the problems modern readers have in understanding events as the Bible relates them is the Bible’s tendency toward brevity. For instance, there is an episode found in Numbers 16: 46-50 where Aaron stops the advance of a plague with incense. But the account is so briefly stated, it leaves readers wondering. It states:

“Then Moses said to Aaron, “Take your senser and put
incense in it, along with fire from the alter, and
hurry to the assembly to make atonement for them.
Wrath has come out from the Lord; the plague has
So Aaron did as Moses said, and ran into the midst
of the assembly to make atonement for them. The
plague had already started among the people, but
Aaron offered the incense and made atonement for

He stood between the living and the dead, and the
plague stopped.

But 14,700 people died from the plague, in addition
to those who had died because of Korah.

Then Aaron returned to Moses at the entrance to
the Tent of Meeting, for the plague had stopped.”
– Numbers 16:46-50 (NIV)

Whenever I ask students in my classes how much real time do they suppose transpired between verse 46 and 50, the usual response is 30 minutes to an hour…A short time.

But what if the time had actually been much longer, say over a period of a week or several weeks? How would that change our understanding of the event. How would that change our understanding of what it was exactly that Aaron was doing during this time?

To understand why a much longer period of time was probable, we need to digress and look at an unrelated event recorded in Acts 12:21-23. The writer of Acts (most likely Luke) states that an angel of the Lord “immediately” struck Herod down, “and he (Herod) was eaten by worms and died.”

I had always envisioned Herod’s death as being somewhat immediate, but this wasn’t so. It wasn’t until I read the same account in a secular historical text written by Josephus, the first century historian, that I learned Herod’s death actually took five days (See Antiquity of the Jews, XIX, Ch. 8, Para 2).

Does Josephus’s account negate Luke’s account? Not in the least. Luke was more interested in why Herod was struck down, rather than in how long it took for him to die. Josephus was more interested in Herod’s suffering…He suffered horribly during those five days, by the way. Now go back to the plague account found in Numbers 16.

While God may have allowed the plague to begin, the disease itself was not supernatural, but natural. There is nothing to indicate otherwise, and this is important. Bible scholars interpreting scripture follow what is called the rule of language. The rule dictates that names, events, and places must always be considered as being literal, unless they cannot possibly be, in which case they are interpreted as being figurative.

Because 14,700 people died and Aaron intervened, we can reasonably assume two things. One that the plague was very real. And two, that fumigation played a major role in stopping it…All very realistic and certainly within the realm of being possible. The problem for us in understanding what exactly happened lies with the brevity of the account.

A transliteration from the Hebrew text of the latter part of verse 47 helps us to understand what exactly happened more clearly. it reads:

“He (Aaron) went into the midst of the people and
distributed (or applied, or brought forth) incense.”

The word “incense” used here “qetoreth,” pronounced “ket-o-reth,” literally means fumigation.

An exegesis of the words “stood between” in verse 48 tells us that Aaron was employed to remain (to dwell) with the people. Based on verses 47 and 48, we can reasonably assume Aaron literally went forth from family to family burning incense, fumigating each person and tent as he went.

Because we can reason that the plague was real and that there were over two million people involved (only men were counted…Numbers 1:44-46), it would had have taken quite some time for Aaron to physically complete his assignment by Moses. Such a large number of people would have required several days or even weeks to fumigate, and would have required a large amount of incense to be on hand.

Biblical and Talmudic formulas for this particular incense included three varieties of cinnamon, all of which are known today for their anti-infectious, anti-bacterial qualities. Other ingredients included a myrrh-related spice known for its anti-viral and infectious qualities (Exodus 30:34ff).

The smoke (the substance) of this Holy incense would have filled the air in and around the camp, and be inhaled by both the sick and the healthy. 14,700 people were killed before the plague was stopped, but it worked. It would be several thousand more years before modern man discovers the healing power of inhaling these same natural substances.

Today we know by inhaling these substances through diffusion they go first to glands located next to the brain, then to the lungs. From there these living substances enter the blood stream killing life-threatening pathogens wherever they are encountered on contact.

Today these substances are typically distilled from plants and come to us in the form of essential oils. Properly produced, essential oils are the most potent healing substances known to modern science. Not even man-made drugs can surpass their anti-infectious, anti-viral, anti-fungal, anti-inflammatory, anti-spasmodic qualities.

Whereas man-made drugs are toxic and often times lethal, killing thousands every year, essential oils are harmless, having few contraindications. They have been with man since the beginning, and continue to serve man today.

Maybe this is why the Aposlte James wrote:

“Is any one of you sick? He should call upon the elders of the
church to pray over him and anoint him with oil in the name
of the Lord. And the prayer offered in faith will make the sick
person well…”
– James 5:14-15

The more one studies the Bible, the more one comes away with the knowledge that God has provided for our well-being in all things, including our body.

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