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LAME. This term describes a physical state in which a person walks with difficulty, or else is entirely unable to do so. If lameness is present at birth it is called congenital, but if it develops subsequently it is known as acquired. One form of lameness recognizable from Near Eastern antiquity was cyllosis, or clubfoot, which appeared in variant forms but which always involved permanent disability of the extremities. Another was represented on an Egyp. stele of the eighteenth dynasty (1570-1310 b.c.), depicting a man with an atrophied right leg, evidently the result of infantile paralysis. Imperfectly formed or proportioned lower limbs were not unknown in early Israel (Lev 21:18); such deformities disqualified a man from serving in the priesthood. During the early monarchy there were numerous lame people among the Jebusite population of Jerusalem, though precise information is lacking (2 Sam 5:6, 8). Allusions to lameness were incorporated into the lore of the Heb. sages, who formulated a saying to the effect that a proverb in the mouth of a fool was similar to the legs of a lame man (Prov 26:7). By this they implied that only the wise could use a proverb properly so that when employed by a fool it was as useless as the legs of a cripple.

Quite apart from congenital conditions, many people doubtless became lame through accidents. Such was the case with Mephibosheth, the son of Jonathan (2 Sam 4:4), who sustained lameness through being dropped as a child by his nurse. Some form of local treatment was apparently used thereafter, since he did not dress (עָשָׂ֨ה, LXX ἐθεράπευσεν), his feet before meeting David (2 Sam 19:24).

Christ healed many lame persons (Matt 15:30; 21:14), though the precise nature of the various conditions cannot be determined. More carefully described was the healing in Acts 3:2-8, where Peter and John were confronted by a congenital cripple at the Beautiful Gate. Luke used the medical terms βάσις, G1000, “foot” and σφυρά, “ankles” in describing a weakness of the bones of the foot. While the exact nature of the pathology is unknown it may have been a form of cyllosis or it could have resulted from a lesion of the spinal cord. Luke recorded the healing of another congenital cripple at Lystra by Paul (Acts 14:8). Although this man had never walked it is uncertain as to whether there was either malformation or atrophy present since he was able to stand upright and walk when instructed to do so.


R. K. Harrison, IDB, III, 59, 60.

International Standard Bible Encyclopedia (1915)

(piceach, nakheh; cholos):

(1) The condition of being unable or imperfectly able to walk, which unfitted any descendant of Aaron so afflicted for service in the priesthood (Le 21:18), and rendered an animal unsuitable for sacrifice (De 15:21). The offering of animals so blemished was one of the sins with which Malachi charges the negligent Jews of his time (Mal 1:8-13).

(2) Those who suffered from lameness, such as Mephibosheth, whose limbs were injured by a fall in childhood (2Sa 4:4; 9:3). In the prophetic description of the completeness of the victory of the returning Israelites, it is predicted that the lame shall be made whole and shall leap like a hart (Jer 3:18; Isa 35:6). The unfitness of the lame for warfare gives point to the promise that the lame shall take the prey (Isa 33:23). Job in his graphic description of his helpfulness to the weak before his calamity says, "And feet was I to the lame" (Job 29:15). The inequality of the legs of the lame is used in Pr 26:7 as a similitude of the ineptness with which a fool uses a parable.

In the enigmatical and probably corrupt passage describing David’s capture of Jerusalem, the lame and blind are mentioned twice. In 2Sa 5:6 it was a taunt on the part of the Jebusites that even a garrison of cripples would suffice to keep out the Israelites. The allusion in 5:8 may be read, "Whosoever smiteth the Jebusites let him .... slay both the lame and blind, which hate David’s soul" as it is in Septuagint. The Vulgate (Jerome’s Latin Bible, 390-405 A.D.) says, "David had offered a reward on that day to the man who should smite the Jebusite and reach the water pipes of the houses, and remove the blind and lame who hated David’s soul." It is possible, however, that Budde’s emendation is more correct and that it is a threat against the indiscriminate slaughter of the Jebusites: "Whoso slayeth a Jebusite shall bring his neck into peril; the lame and blind are not hated of David’s soul." The proverbial saying quoted in 5:8 cannot be correct as rendered in the King James Version, for we read in Mt 21:14 that the lame came to our Lord in the temple and were healed.

The healing of the lame by our Lord is recorded in Mt 11:5; 15:30,31; 21:14; Lu 7:22; 14:13. For the apostolic miracles of healing the lame, see Cripple. In Heb 12:13 the Christians are counseled to courage under chastisement, lest their despair should cause that which is lame to be "turned out of the way."

See also

  • Diseases