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Home > Dictionaries > Holman Bible Dictionary > DISABILITIES AND DEFORMITIES

Holman Bible Dictionary

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Two types of diseases mentioned in the Bible.

Old Testament Several words in the Old Testament describe typical disabilities and deformities:

Blemish meant a deformity or spot (Leviticus 21:17-21). The NIV translates this word “defect.” A person with a blemish was disqualified from the priesthood.

Blindness (Deuteronomy 28:28) caused from eye infections was common during Bible times. Heat, dust, sunlight, and unclean habits all contributed to the spread of eye diseases which often resulted in blindness.

Broken hand or broken foot disqualified one from priesthood (Leviticus 21:19).

Congenital malformations were extra body parts such as six toes (2 Samuel 21:20).

Dwarfs were barred from priestly duties (Leviticus 21:20).

Hunchback resulted from injuries to the spine (Leviticus 21:20). This deformity often afflicted young girls who typically carried large loads on their shoulders or hips.

Lame (2 Samuel 4:4) meant a person had limited walking abilities, whether the disability resulted from a birth defect, amputation, or a physical impairment.

New Testament Among the disabilities and deformities mentioned in the New Testament are:

Deafness or dumbness resulting in the inability to speak or hear (Mark 7:32). Some cases of deafness were temporary (Luke 1:20).

Infirmity is a general term for bodily weakness or disability (John 5:5; 1 Timothy 5:23).

Leprosy was a general term for skin diseases and often resulted in physical deformities. This disease was greatly feared by peoples of Bible lands. Strict laws isolated persons with leprosy.

Paralysis (Luke 5:18) often resulted from injuries to the spine.

Withered hand and skin (Matthew 12:10) often resulted from the shrinking of the bones, muscles, or both. The result was loss of nerve power or stiffening of the joints.

One difficulty in studying Bible passages about disabilities and deformities arises from the fact that people during Bible times connected virtue and physical wellness. One general view toward disabilities and deformities was that these afflictions were sent by God as punishment for sin (Deuteronomy 32:39; John 9:2). Some disabilities and deformities were believed to have resulted from demonic activity (Mark 9:17). Jesus brought God's kingdom in which people with deformities and disabilities were accepted and could be healed.

Gary Hardin

Copyright Statement
These dictionary topics are from the Holman Bible Dictionary, published by Broadman & Holman, 1991. All rights reserved. Used by permission of Broadman & Holman.

Bibliography Information
Butler, Trent C. Editor.. "Entry for 'DISABILITIES AND DEFORMITIES'". "Holman Bible Dictionary".
<>. 1991.


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