International Standard Bible Encyclopedia (1915)

(qaddachath, dalleqeth; puretos, derived from a root signifying "to burn"):

A generic term, applied to all diseases characterized by high temperature of body. Several forms of febrile disease are among the commonest of all maladies in Palestine today, as they were also in the period covered by the Bible history. Of these the most prevalent is ague or intermittent malarial fever, which is common in all parts but especially in low-lying districts or places where there are pools or marshes in which mosquitoes breed, these insects being the commonest carriers of the malaria bacillus. These fevers are generally more severe in late summer and autumn, when the mosquitoes are most numerous, and when there is a liability to chill, owing to the sudden drop of temperature at sunset. During the day one uses as light clothing as possible, but immediately after sunset the air becomes chilly and damp, and the physiological resistance to the influence of the parasite is remarkably diminished. On this account travelers in Palestine at this season should be particular to avoid exposure to these evening damps, and to use mosquito curtains invariably at night.

In most tropical countries now houses are rendered mosquito-proof by close wire netting, and thereby the risk of infection is much diminished. In Palestine the marshes of the north about Banias and the Water of Merom, the Shephelah, and the Jordan valley are the most fever-stricken regions of the country. The word qaddachath is translated burning ague in Le 26:16 the King James Version (the Revised Version (British and American) "fever"), and is coupled with dalleqeth, translated inflammation in De 28:22. Septuagint renders the former word puretos, and the latter rhigos in this passage, a collocation which is interesting as Galen uses these words together rhigopuretos in his description of a fever identical with that common in Palestine. In Le the word in Septuagint is ikteros which literally means jaundice, a disease otherwise not mentioned in the Bible.

In Palestine as in other malarious countries the condition of jaundice or yellowing of the skin frequently accompanies repeated and protracted attacks of fever which cause organic disease of the liver. On this account Hippocrates describes all fevers as due to a perverted secretion of bile. These fevers begin with severe shivering fits, hence, the name rhigos which is used by Hippocrates. This is followed by a period of burning dry heat, ending in a period of profuse perspiration. Such attacks may take place daily, a few hours of interval with normal temperature separating the end of one fit from the onset of the next.

The commonest type however is that called tertian, in which a whole day separates one fit from the next. In some of the severe fevers which are rife in the Jordan valley the temperature never falls to the normal, and while there is a short remission between the attacks with a body heat a little above the normal, there is no intermission. Rarer febrile conditions which have been met with in Palestine, such as the Malta fever, present the same characteristics and may continue for months. Cases also of genuine blackwater fever have been recorded by several authorities. It is probable that in former days these fevers were even worse than they are now, as ancient medicine knew of no certain remedy for them. At present they generally yield at once to treatment by quinine, and in my own experience I believe that the administration of this remedy in large and repeated doses is the most effectual treatment.

Other febrile diseases are rife in certain districts in Palestine, and probably existed in Bible times. Typhoid is common in some crowded towns and villages, and considering how little protected the wells are from contamination, the wonder is that it is not much more prevalent. It is probable also that typhus then, as now, was present as an occasional epidemic in the more crowded cities, but even the physicians of Greece and Rome did not differentiate these diseases. All these fevers seem also to have existed in Egypt to much the same extent as in Palestine. The Papyrus Ebers speaks of "a fever of the gods" (46) and another called "a burning of the heart" (102). Its causation is attributed to the influence of the "god of fever," and the evil sequelae of the disease as it affects the heart, stomach, eyes and other organs are described in terms which remind us of the minatory passages in Le 26 and De 28. The conditions there mentioned, such as consuming the eyes and causing sorrow of heart or pining away of the soul, graphically describe the state frequently seen affecting those in the Shephelah villages who have suffered from frequent returns of fever, and who in consequence have developed serious local affections of the liver, spleen and other organs. Before the introduction of quinine, cases of this kind must have been much more commonly met with than they are now. It is probable that this state is that called shachepheth, or consumption, in these passages.

Another form of fever, charchur, the "extreme burning" of the King James Version or "fiery heat" of the Revised Version (British and American), is coupled with the other forms of fever in De 28:22. This is called in Septuagint erethismos or irritation, and may have been a feverish condition with a reddened skin, possibly erysipelas or else one of the eruptive fevers. At present outbreaks of scarlatina, measles and erysipelas are of fairly frequent occurrence and are often very severe.

In the New Testament fever is mentioned eight times. The disease which affected Simon’s wife’s mother is called a "great fever" (Lu 4:38), and that which nearly proved fatal to the nobleman’s son in the same district was also a fever (Joh 4:52). Cases of the kind are common all round the Sea of Galilee at the present day.

See also

  • Diseases