Why God Punished the Israelites with Sickness

Why God Punished the Israelites with Sickness

We find God punished the Israelites with sickness sometimes in the Old Testament. This is troubling to people who are trying to understand how or if this happens today. I want to take a closer look at why God did this in more detail.

In my last post, I addressed how God dealt with some sicknesses in the Old Testament. In this post, I want to dive deeper into how God used sickness to punish Israel.

It’s one of the main objections to preaching and teaching about healing. At least, I have heard it several times when I talk about healing. God clearly punished the Israelites at different times. We must dive into this topic and understand how and why God punished with sickness.

Another big question you probably have is, “Does He still punish with sickness today?” As we get into this discussion, I hope to help you understand the background of God’s punishment with sickness and deal with what happens today.

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God Doesn’t Punish with Sickness?

Some Bible teachers teach that God does not punish anyone with sickness. Anyone who has read the Old Testament refutes this claim because God does punish the Israelites with sickness. I will point out some of the examples below.

The biggest question for us is if God does this to Christians today. If He did it in the past, what’s to stop Him from doing it now? What’s the significance to God’s punishment of sickness? We have all these questions swirling around in our minds and we need answers.

The Bible says God does not change (James 1:17; Hebrews 13:8). Does that mean His methods do not change? I am not throwing softballs into the mix. We need to understand why God did what He did and why. With that goal in mind, let’s look at some examples.

God Punished Gentiles

Before we get to examples of why God punished the Israelites, the Egyptians suffered God’s punishment during the plagues. The first plague of turning the water into blood would have left Egypt in an epidemic (Exodus 7:14-25). If all the water is blood, what do you drink? How do you keep yourself clean?

We know that tainted water supplies bring sickness to the body. That’s the first byproduct of God’s judgment of the Egyptians. I’m sure some of the other plagues what have caused similar problems. God directly struck the Egyptians.

The fifth plague where God killed all the livestock would have given Egypt similar problems (Exodus 9:1-7). With tainted meat, the Egyptians would have to rely on plants to survive during this plague. They did not have refrigerators to keep the meat from going bad. God gets directly involved in the sixth plague of boils (Exodus 9:8-12).

The eighth plague of locusts would have decimated Egypt’s crops (Exodus 10:1-20). Anything affecting the food supply for Egypt would cause health issues. Finally, the tenth plague killed the firstborn (Exodus 12:29-32). This plague affected both man and beast.

Other examples of God punishing Gentiles with sickness and illness is when angels of God struck the men of Sodom with blindness when Lot was escaping the city (Genesis 19:11). Elisha prayed and God struck the Syrian army with blindness (2 Kings 6:18). There are other examples of God using sickness in the Bible.

God Punished the Israelites in the Wilderness

God also punished Israel with sickness. First, while they were in the wilderness, they complained about the manna God supernaturally supplied to feed them. They wanted to meet instead of manna. He responded by sending quail but when they ate it, He caused them to get sick and die (Numbers 11:31-35).

Did He strike them with a plague because of their complaining or because of their greed? I don’t know, but I would think it was because of their complaining. Another time, Israel grumbled against the Lord and He sent fiery serpents to kill them (Numbers 21:4-9). Only when Moses made a bronze serpent and the people looked on it would they live.

God hates it when people grumble about His supernatural feeding and caring for them. He knows best how to provide for His people.

God Punished the Israelites in the Promised Land

After Israel lived in the Promised Land, King David discovered that doing what displeased the Lord brought a plague against his people (2 Samuel 24:1-9). David had a choice between three options of God’s judgment (2 Samuel 24:10-17). The Lord struck Israel with a pestilence that caused the death of 70,000 men.

King Jeroboam had a man of God seized for prophesying against him and Israel and when he stretched out his hand, it shriveled up (1 Kings 13:4-6). It was only restored after the man of God prayed for it.

Does God Still Punish with Sickness?

We need to remember that God used sickness to punish Israel under the old covenant. The old covenant has stipulations against Israel with the blessings and curses (Deuteronomy 28: 21-22, 27-28, 35, 59-61).

God’s punishment of sickness against the Israelites often involved their disobedience or grumbling and complaining. They were forewarned that disobedience would cause the punishment of sickness upon them as part of the stipulations of the old covenant.

I do not see in the Scriptures a place for God’s judgment through sickness against His people in the new covenant. Jesus came healing the sick. While sickness exists, God has provided for it in the new covenant.

The prayer of faith heals sickness in the Church (James 5:13-16). God healed sicknesses and diseases in the Old and New Testaments. God’s healing is available to believers today. Sickness exists but only under the old covenant did anyone experience sickness as punishment from God.

Sickness is a trial and increases suffering. We ask for healing and seek it from the Lord. But there is no clear connection for new covenant people of God between disobedience and sickness as a punishment. Our minds should not rush to that conclusion today.

Praying for Your Healing

Jesus, our great Physician, the Healer of our afflictions, I pray for my brother and sister in You. I lift them up to You and thank You that You heal our diseases and illnesses, are sicknesses and infirmities. I ask You to clear our minds of anything the devil or his demons try to convince us of. Help us realize You are not the God who disciplines or punishes with sickness today. You are our Healer. We bring our need for healing to You and lay it at Your feet. Thank You that You answer our prayers and bring relief from suffering. In the mighty name of Jesus, Amen.

Up Next

God’s punishment of sickness for Israel’s rebellion especially in the wilderness is something that many people want to talk about. Next, we will look at healing in the Old Testament kings and prophets.

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