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‘Something different’ about this Bubonic plague says health official


A school in Madagascar Credit: lemurbaby/Wikipedia

A school in Madagascar Credit: lemurbaby/Wikipedia

It always concerns me when health experts use phrases like “something different” and “health officials couldn’t explain it.”

These were the words expressed by a World Health Organization (WHO) official describing a recent outbreak of the Bubonic plague on the island nation of Madagascar. Located off the southeastern coast of Africa, it has a population of 25 million.

Also referred to as the Black Death, the Bubonic plague gained its fame when it ravaged Europe during the 1300s and 1400s killing 75 million to 100 million people, decimating a third of the population.

The outbreak on Madagascar was not so serious. It infected 1,300 people killing 125. But nevertheless it was over double the number who normally catch the plague on the island nation each year.

The Bubonic plague is a very serious bacterial infection that results in death upwards of 60% of the time if untreated. Its symptoms include headache, fever, stomach pains and chills. But it’s best known for the painful swelling of the lymph nodes that can break open resulting in bleeding. These then turn black as the tissue dies (gangrene) — thus the name Black Death.

But aside from the increased numbers, the Madagascar outbreak concerned WHO officials for another reason.

Nearly 70% of the cases involved the pneumonia form of the plague that can be spread through the air by coughing and can result in death within 24 hours. As a result, the Madagascar outbreak spread to areas of the country that had not seen incidents of the plague since 1950. Because of this, nine countries have been put on alert for possible infection.

Most believe the Bubonic plague that hit Europe was the version transmitted by fleas. The bacteria causes a blockage in the throats of the flea preventing it from consuming blood.  As it becomes hungrier it becomes more aggressive in seeking out a host spreading the disease.

However, due to how quickly the plague spread through Europe, some have wondered if the pneumonia type was also involved.

An article on Breaking Israel News also suggests that the Bible records a couple of outbreaks of the Bubonic plague. During Israel’s exodus out of Egypt, God struck the Egyptians with 10 different judgements.

The sixth describes boils that broke out on a person’s body, one of the symptoms of the Bubonic plague:

It will become fine dust over all the land of Egypt, and will become boils breaking out with sores on man and beast through all the land of Egypt.” (Exodus 9:9 NASV)

A second possible reference is found when the Philistines captured the Ark of the Covenant. After setting up the ark in their temple dedicated to the god Dagon, God struck the Philistines with what the Bible describes as tumors or boils:

Now the hand of the Lord was heavy on the Ashdodites, and He ravaged them and smote them with tumors, both Ashdod and its territories. When the men of Ashdod saw that it was so, they said, “The ark of the God of Israel must not remain with us, for His hand is severe on us and on Dagon our god.” (1 Samuel 5: 6-7 NASV)

The Hebrew word ‘baopalim” can be translated as “tumor,” “boil” or “abscess.” (It can also be translated “hemorrhoids” which some translations like the King James have used.)

We not only see similarities to the Bubonic plague in the boils but also in the gift the Philistines made when they finally returned the Ark to Israel to stop the affliction:

Then they said, “What shall be the guilt offering which we shall return to Him?” And they said, “Five golden tumors and five golden mice according to the number of the lords of the Philistines, for one plague was on all of you and on your lords.

So you shall make likenesses of your tumors and likenesses of your mice that ravage the land, and you shall give glory to the God of Israel; perhaps He will ease His hand from you, your gods, and your land.

Why then do you harden your hearts as the Egyptians and Pharaoh hardened their hearts? When He had severely dealt with them, did they not allow the people to go, and they departed? (1 Samuel 6:4-6 NASV)

Notice how it says they not only made golden images of the boils, but also of the mice that ravaged their land. If this was the Bubonic plague, mice or rats could be the carriers. We also note in verse six, a connection to the plague that hit Egypt.

A 2004 study by archaeologist Eva Panagiotakopulu from England’s University of Sheffield suggested that the Bubonic plague may have actually originated in Egypt. She was looking at fossilized insect remains and found evidence of human and cat fleas among Egyptian tombs where thousands of workers toiled. These would be carriers of the Bubonic plague.

This combined with ancient Egyptian descriptions found in the Ebers Papyrus (a medical text from 1500 BC that describes a disease with symptoms very similar to the Bubonic plague — bubo or swelling or boils that discharge pus) led Panagiotakopulu to wonder if this bacterial infection originated in Egypt.

In the Book of Revelation we see several warnings that God will strike the world with plagues in the end days (Revelation 11:6; 15:1). But along with these warning, there are promises throughout scripture that God will protect:

26 And He said, “If you will give earnest heed to the voice of the Lord your God, and do what is right in His sight, and give ear to His commandments, and keep all His statutes, I will put none of the diseases on you which I have put on the Egyptians; for I, the Lord, am your healer. (Jehovah Rapha)” (Exodus 15:26 NASV)

We need to pray and claim this promise by Jehovah Rapha, one of the names of God that translated means “God our healer.”

Sources:

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