The Sacred History says, positively, that Moses, having been rescued from the river by one of the daughters of Pharaoh, was reared in the court of that Prince, and instructed in all the knowledge of the Egyptian priesthood, in which he became a proficient. On this account, when he presented himself before his sovereign, to demand, in the name of the God of Israel, the freedom of his brethren, who were reduced to an unjust and cruel servitude, he was not at all embarrassed by the prestiges of the magicians and savans that Pharaoh so frequently sum- moned to meet him in the palace. He proved the legitimacy of his mission, in confounding the pride of the magicians by prodigies more wonderful than theirs, and finally overcame the interested obstinacy of the king, and had the glory of delivering his brethren from the yoke that had pressed so heavily upon them for nearly two hundred years. All are familiar with the great obstacles he overcame in leading them back to the land of their forefathers, and how well he availed himself of long and weary wanderings in the wilderness, to give to them the moral and political laws inspired by God.
The writings of Moses constitute a precious monument for the history of Medicine ; for they embrace hygienic rules of highest sagacity, and which may be regarded as a detached fragment of Egyptian science. It is in Leviticus that the prophet-legislator has recapitulated the greater part of the rules concerning the care to be given to the health. The eleventh chapter contains a long enumeration of animals reported impure, that is, unhealthy ; among which are mentioned the rabbit and the hog, whose flesh produces no injurious effects in European climates, but might have done in Egypt and India, among men whose habits differed so much from ours. It may be, moreover, that the species designated by these names were not the same as those with which we are so familiar. In short, it is possible that Moses, in making these prohibitions, had other views than those ascribed to him.
The twelfth and fifteenth chapters of the same book were designed to regulate the relation of a man to his wife. In reading these precepts, one can not repress a sentiment of admiration for the wis- dom and foresight which made such salutary regulations a religious duty. The following extract will enable the reader himself to judge of this.
1. " The Lord spake again to Moses, and said to him,
2. " Speak to the children, saying, if a woman have conceived seed
, and borne a man child, then shall she be unclean seven days ; according to the days of the separation of her infirmity shall she be unclean.
3. " And in the eighth day, the flesh of his foreskin shall be circumcised.
4. "And she shall then continue in the blood of her purifying three and thirty days ; she shall touch no hallowed thing, nor come into the sanctuary, until the days of her purifying be fulfilled.
5. "But if she bear a maid child, she shall be unclean two weeks, as in her separation, and she shall continue in the blood of her purifying threescore and six days.
6. "And when the days of her purifying are fulfilled, for a son or for a daughter, she shall bring a lamb of the first year for a burnt-offering, and a young pigeon or a turtle-dove for a sin offering, unto the door of the tabernacle of the congregation, unto the priest, and the priest shall make an atonement for her, and she shall be clean."
Chap, xv, v
. 19, "And if a woman have an issue, etc., she shall be put apart seven days.
20. "Whatever shall touch her shall be impure till even."
24. "And if any man lie with her at all, and her flowers
be upon him, he shall be unclean seven days, and all the bed whereon he lieth shall be unclean.
25. "And if a woman have an issue of her blood, many days out of the time of her separation ; all the days of the issue of her uncleanliness shall be as the days of her separation: she shall be unclean."
28. "But if she be cleansed of her issue, then shall she number to herself seven days ; and after that she shall be clean.
29. "And on the eighth day she shall take unto her two turtles, or two young pigeons, and bring them unto the priest, to the door of the tabernacle of the congregation."
Apart from the religious ceremonies, the utility of which is incontestable, in order
to secure the execution of the hygienic precepts - might it not be said that these are extracts from a modern work on hygiene? What could be more salutary than the momentary separation of married persons at the periodical return of certain functions which almost amount to an infirmity with women? or what could be more ingeniously contrived to prevent the disgust that might arise from an uninterrupted cohabitation? The author of Emilius gives similar counsel, three thousand years later.
The Bible also prescribes frequent ablutions, a custom which has always appeared to be necessary in hot, dry countries, and among a people who made no use of body-linen. But what more excites the astonishment of physicians, is the tableaux that Moses has made of the white leprosy, and the regulations he established to prevent its propagation. He has given the following characteristics of this disease, in the thirteenth chapter of Leviticus.
2. "When a man shall have in the skin of his flesh a swelling, as a scab or bright spot, and it be in the skin of his flesh, like the plague of leprosy, then he shall be brought unto Aaron, the priest, or unto one of his sons, the priests.
3. "And the priest shall look on the plague in the skin of the flesh, and when the hair in the plague is turned white, and the plague in sight be deeper than the skin of his flesh, it is a plague of Leprosy ; and the priest shall look at him and pronounce him unclean," etc.
Ancient authors have confounded under the name of Leprosy, a great number of diverse affections ; hence it results
, that these descriptions do not agree with each other, nor with the writings of Moses. Cutaneous pathology was a real chaos, which has only been reduced to a system very recently, so that it is impossible now to give an opinion
on the exactness of the signs above indicated. Some of them conform to a dis- ease called White Leprosy, by modern dermatologists, but others do not. What augments our uncertainty, is the opinion universally admitted, and very probable too, that by the influence of hygienic conditions, entirely different, certain diseases may have disappeared, or become so modified, as to be of no importance, while new ones may have been developed. Without this consideration we would be led to suppose, that it was a mere prejudice, very excusable at so early a period in medical science, that caused Moses to write concerning the leprosy which clung to the clothing, and to the walls of houses, and which, according to the sacred writer, manifested its presence on inanimate objects by evident characteristics (Lev. Chap. XIII. et XIV. ).
After the promulgation of the Decalogue, the man most prized in the Holy Scriptures for his science, was Solomon. They tell us that this monarch surpassed in wisdom all the Orientals, and even the Egyptians, that " he spoke five hundred proverbs, and his songs were three thou- sand
. He spoke of plants, from the cedar of Lebanon, even unto the hyssop that springeth out of the wall; he spoke also of beasts and of fowl, and of creeping things, and of fishes." The historian Josephus adds, "that God gave to this prince a perfect knowledge of the proper- ties of all the productions of nature
, and that he availed himself of it, to compound
remedies, extremely useful, some of which had even the virtue to cast out devils, " (Liv. VIII. Chap. n. - Leclerc, " Hist, de la Médecine." Ire partie, Liv. Chap. in. ).
It is clear from the above, that Moses always gave his instructions concerning leprosy and other infirmities, to the priests only ; from which it may be inferred that at this epoch, the Levites joined the practice of Medicine, to their sacerdotal functions. It appears that they maintained for a long time, this double relationship to society, for there is no mention made of lay physicians among the Jews, except in the Book of Ecclesiastes, the author of which lived in the third century before Jesus Christ. The following references are made on this subject:
" Honor the physician, because he is indispensable, for the Most High has created him."
"For all Medicine is a gift from (rod
, and the physician shall re- ceive homage from the King."
" The Science of Medicine shall elevate the physician to honor, and he shall be praised before the great."
"The Most High has created the Medicines out of the earth, and he that is wise will not abhor them." (Ecclesiastes, Chap. XXXVIII, yerses 1, 2, 3, 4. ).
from Histoy of medicine by P. V. Renouard.