SORE (נֶ֫גַע, H5596; ἕλκος, G1814, abscess, ulcer). Sore is a general term and refers to any lesion of the skin or mucous membranes. There is a specific kind of sore which prob. was common in Israel. It is called “desert sore,” a tropical ulcer found esp. in the desert areas of and the Middle E. This sore resembles a varicose ulcer, and is most commonly seen on the legs, dorsal side of hands, and on the face.
Sores must have been very common in Biblical days, as they are so frequently mentioned. Job’s affliction is a typical example. David blames himself for his sores, “My wounds grow foul and fester because of my foolishness” (
There were rigid rules requiring diagnosis of sores and, in many cases, isolation of the patient. Some of these rules seem harsh, but they helped to retard the spread of contagious disease.
We do not know much about the medicines used to heal sores, except that balm of Gilead is repeatedly mentioned. This was a fragrant resin with the consistency of honey and was obtained from trees and shrubbery E of the Jordan. In my work with the Navajo Indians, I found that the medicine men were using a similar resin. It gave some relief from pain, was a stimulant to healthy tissue under the sore, and helped to destroy the infecting organism.
International Standard Bible Encyclopedia (1915)