Pastors Report - 27 Mar 2020
Biblical Principal Of Quarantine

The Biblical Principle of Quarantine

“Instruct the Israelites to remove from camp anyone with an eruption or a discharge and anyone defiled by a corpse… put them outside the camp so that they do not defile the camp of those in whose midst I dwell.” ( Numbers 5:2,3 Jewish Tanakh)

An Unprecedented Situation:

Across the world today steps are being taken by governments the like of which we have never experienced in the modern world. Quite draconian measures have first been put forward as suggestions that later have to be ratcheted up even more with real teeth against any that do not comply. And the incredible thing is that the virus that lies at the heart of this amazing upheaval is something so minute that it cannot even be seen using an ordinary optical microscope.

The question for God's people has to be "what does God have to say on the subject?" And specifically as we are coming up to the beginning of the Holy Day season when we are told to attend annual Holy convocations or gatherings – something totally impossible if we are to comply with the current draft of legislation within so much of the world today. So what must we do? What are the biblical principles we need to follow – and to understand – in the present crisis?

Quarantine Examples:

The very word quarantine comes originally from a Venetian dialect which means 40 days – the length of time ships had to wait before discharging their cargoes in an attempt to control the Black Death in the 1300's. In those days of ignorance, filth and squalor, it was the Jews that largely got the blame in many areas, as they seem to escape the worst ravages of the disease. Without any evidence – except that they appeared healthy – they were accused of poisoning the wells whereas the real reason for their wellbeing within an environment so alien to health were the laws and principles of God to which they had respect.

The irony is that today, in a largely godless world, the entire earth is now having to apply just such principles en mass as the main weapon in its medical armoury against Covid-19. However it came into being originally the virus is so novel that there is absolutely no immunisation process or anti-viral drugs known that would have any real effect at all.

But although the actual word 'quarantine' can't be found in the Bible, the principle is very clear in words and phrases such as; "shut him up", "unclean", "dwell alone", "outside", "cleansing", "purification". During menstruation, a woman was "put apart" for seven days, (Leviticus 15) and after the birth of a child (Leviticus 12), she and the baby were to be kept separate from the general congregation for a matter of weeks, possibly to protect the child's immature immune system. The matter of "self-isolation" or "social distancing" as we call it today was common amongst ancient Israel millennia ago!

Christ's support:

As the God of the Old Testament, Jesus Christ was in fact the one who gave these laws and principles originally, which He knew that – if followed – they would have made Israel a positive example to the other nations around them. In addition, we can see His subsequent support when He was walking this earth in human form. Within the process of healing ten individuals who were plagued with leprosy He firmly instructed them to present themselves to the priests – just as required in the quarantine principles originally given to Moses.

  • And as he entered into a certain village, there met him ten men that were lepers, which stood afar off:
  • And they lifted up their voices, and said, Jesus, Master, have mercy on us.
  • And when he saw them, he said unto them, Go shew yourselves unto the priests. And it came to pass, that, as they went, they were cleansed. (Luke 17:12-14)
  • This shall be the law of the leper in the day of his cleansing: He shall be brought unto the priest: (Leviticus 14:2)
A Law with Teeth:

The implementation of these principles within Old Testaments times was not something done in a slipshod way. Alongside the law of quarantine was given firm instructions for the population to pay careful attention to what the priests were telling them:

  • You must act according to the decisions they give you at the place the LORD will choose. Be careful to do everything they instruct you to do.
  • Act according to whatever they teach you and the decisions they give you. Do not turn aside from what they tell you, to the right or to the left.
  • Anyone who shows contempt for the judge or for the priest who stands ministering there to the LORD your God is to be put to death. You must purge the evil from Israel. (Deuteronomy 17:10-12 NIV)

This firm approach – applied, in this case, to the law of quarantine – can even be seen to apply to kings, as with God there is no respecter of persons:

  • And he [Azariah] did that which was right in the sight of the LORD, according to all that his father Amaziah had done;
  • Save that the high places were not removed: the people sacrificed and burnt incense still on the high places.
  • And the LORD smote the king, so that he was a leper unto the day of his death, and dwelt in a several house. And Jotham the king’s son was over the house, judging the people of the land. (II Kings 15:3-5)
Meeting together:

So it can be clearly seen within the Old Testament laws that the principle of quarantine is supported in no uncertain terms, and current government legislation concerning Covid-19 would therefore fall within passages such as:

  • Let everyone be subject to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God.
  • Consequently, whoever rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves..
  • For the one in authority is God’s servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for rulers do not bear the sword for no reason. They are God’s servants, agents of wrath to bring punishment on the wrongdoer.
  • Therefore, it is necessary to submit to the authorities, not only because of possible punishment but also as a matter of conscience. (Romans 13:1,2,4,5 NIV)

However, we also may be tempted to justify disregarding current governmental advice by claiming passages such as the following take precedence:

  • "And let us consider one another to provoke unto love and to good works: Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another: and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching." (Hebrews 10:24,25)

Insisting that this can only be fulfilled in a face-to-face manner is simply not true in today's modern technological society. As much as we miss being together physically, the balanced approach would be to do whatever we can to fulfil this verse electronically – phone calls, emails, letters, Skype etc – while also observing the clear strictures of quarantine and self-isolation that the government may impose. This modifying nature of this law of quarantine can clearly be appreciated when we consider the commanded convocations of the Holy days for example. There is no hint that this command to gather together would include someone in quarantine. In fact, the purification before getting back together in ancient Israel was given a great deal of emphasis. We can see this principle clearly applied in the following passages:

  • And there were certain men, who were defiled by the dead body of a man, that they could not keep the passover on that day: and they came before Moses and before Aaron on that day:
  • ... And the LORD spake unto Moses, saying,
  • Speak unto the children of Israel, saying, If any man of you or of your posterity shall be unclean by reason of a dead body, or be in a journey afar off, yet he shall keep the passover unto the LORD.
  • The fourteenth day of the second month at even they shall keep it, and eat it with unleavened bread and bitter herbs. (Numbers 9:6,10,11)
  • And Hezekiah sent to all Israel and Judah, and wrote letters also to Ephraim and Manasseh, that they should come to the house of the LORD at Jerusalem, to keep the passover unto the LORD God of Israel.
  • For the king had taken counsel, and his princes, and all the congregation in Jerusalem, to keep the passover in the second month.
  • For they could not keep it at that time, because the priests had not sanctified themselves sufficiently, neither had the people gathered themselves together to Jerusalem. (II Chronicles 30:1-3)
Not Tempting God:

Yet still some may say such a position lacks faith. Are we not told clearly in Psalm 91 that God will protect us from the pestilence – "though a thousand fall at your side and ten thousand at your right hand"?

  • Thou shalt not be afraid for the terror by night; nor for the arrow that flieth by day;
  • Nor for the pestilence that walketh in darkness; nor for the destruction that wasteth at noonday.
  • A thousand shall fall at thy side, and ten thousand at thy right hand; but it shall not come nigh thee. (Psalm 91:5-7)

Fortunately Jesus Christ Himself clearly gives us the principle to apply in this case, in His confrontation with Satan. Satan quotes verse 12 of this very same Psalm in tempting Him to jump from a pinnacle in the temple. It is evident that assuming God will protect us from pestilence – while justifying foolhardy actions and lack of quarantine will be tempting God in exactly the same way:

  • Then the devil taketh him up into the holy city, and setteth him on a pinnacle of the temple,
  • And saith unto him, If thou be the Son of God, cast thyself down: for it is written, He shall give his angels charge concerning thee: and in their hands they shall bear thee up, lest at any time thou dash thy foot against a stone.
  • Jesus said unto him, It is written again, Thou shalt not tempt the Lord thy God. (Matthew 4:5-7)
The Footwashing Attitude:

As we are approaching the Passover our minds should be focussing progressively on the emblems and the frame of mind needed to partake them. Crucial in this is the humility and need to care for one another which is exhibited through the footwashing ceremony. So often in the world around us we can witness the antithesis in the current crisis. From the "preppers" hunkering down and heading for the hills – coupled with the upsurge in the purchase of firearms – to those arrogantly ignoring the advice to self-isolate, to those only concerned with emptying the supermarket shelves for themselves, we are currently so often witnessing the "all about me" attitude, the "lovers of their own selves" highlighted by the apostle Paul in II Timothy 3 verses 1 and 2.

Yet on that same night that Christ gave us the footwashing ceremony, He did so in the context of serving one another... with the understanding that this is the way it must be for eternity in the government of God. A truly profound lesson that He imparted to us at this time of year.

  • And there was also a strife among them, which of them should be accounted the greatest.
  • And he said unto them, The kings of the Gentiles exercise lordship over them; and they that exercise authority upon them are called benefactors.
  • But ye shall not be so: but he that is greatest among you, let him be as the younger; and he that is chief, as he that doth serve.
  • For whether is greater, he that sitteth at meat, or he that serveth? is not he that sitteth at meat? but I am among you as he that serveth. (Luke 22:24-27)

Whether it is actual self-isolating or 'just' social distancing – observing the principle of quarantine is part of the footwashing attitude we need, as we are showing outgoing concern for our neighbour, whoever he or she might be. If we refuse to do so and be irresponsible like many in the world, then we are missing the entire point.

The Spiritual Lessons:

But the spiritual attitude of serving one another via quarantine is not limited to footwashing alone. The devastation and death caused by something so insignificant in size as the coronavirus is truly astounding. But God is not primarily concerned with the physical. So often He uses physical things to illustrate some profound spiritual lessons, and quarantine is no exception. Spiritual "itching ears" are far more lethal than the coronavirus and the disease it causes more deadly than Covid-19, as it can well have eternal implications.

  • Preach the word; be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all longsuffering and doctrine.
  • For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears;
  • And they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables. (II Timothy 4:2-4)

Just like a virus, the apostle James warns of the enormous damage such wrong words can do - "Behold, how great a matter a little fire kindleth!". (James 3:6) And one of the most effective ways of handling such problems is by the use of spiritual quarantine:

  • Now I beseech you, brethren, mark them which cause divisions and offences contrary to the doctrine which ye have learned; and avoid them.
  • For they that are such serve not our Lord Jesus Christ, but their own belly; and by good words and fair speeches deceive the hearts of the simple. (Romans 16:17,18)
God is in Control:

The God we serve – including His way of life – is by no means a mere religion, in the way the world thinks. We are talking about an Individual who has existed from eternity and whose Word stands behind every atom, galaxy and yes, even the virus, as brought out in Psalm 33:

  • By the word of the [Eternal] were the heavens made; and all the host of them by the breath of his mouth.
  • He gathereth the waters of the sea together as an heap: he layeth up the depth in storehouses.
  • Let all the earth fear the [Eternal]: let all the inhabitants of the world stand in awe of him.
  • For he spake, and it was done; he commanded, and it stood fast. (Psalm 33:6-9)

It's even more astounding that He wants us to call Him our Father! And one of the things this Eternal Being wants His sons to learn is the principle of quarantine, both physically and spiritually. Whether this is the main reason for the current crisis around the world or not is debatable. But we as His people – His children – can calmly rest in this current crisis knowing that He is aware of our every need and that His word upholds our very existence:

  • Behold, the eye of the [Eternal] is upon them that fear him, upon them that hope in his mercy;
  • To deliver their soul from death, and to keep them alive in famine.
  • Our soul waiteth for the [Eternal]: he is our help and our shield.
  • For our heart shall rejoice in him, because we have trusted in his holy name.
  • Let thy mercy, O [Eternal], be upon us, according as we hope in thee. (Psalm 33:18-22)