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To Mask or Not to Mask? A Possible Biblical View

Author:

Tamarajo is an avid Bible Studier who loves nothing more than to seek out the treasures in God's Word and share them with others.

to-mask-or-not-to-mask-a-possible-biblical-view

Introduction

Dramatic changes rapidly developed in the western world with the arrival of Covid-19 in January/February of 2020. Mask wearing was one of those significant changes.

Mask wearing began with just a few folks who voluntarily wore them, after a confusing mix of information. It eventually evolved into mandatory mask-wearing in all public spaces in many states.

The compulsory part has created quite a hotly debated discussion with many people. To wear or not to wear, that is the question. Opinions vary widely depending on which article one reads or which YouTube video one watches. One source says they do nothing; another says they will save the world. Social, political, and religious right groups seem to be capitalizing and gathering alliances on this issue.

This article will move entirely away from the political, social, and "religious" agendas. Instead, it will examine a thought from the archives of God's eternal instructions concerning this matter of spreadable pathogens.

A Biblical Case of Masking

My question has been, throughout this season, "What does the Bible have to say about this if anything?" I, therefore, put the topic to prayer.

My prayer was this, "Lord, is there a case of masking in the Bible"? I did not go looking for the answer and chuckled to myself, thinking that it most likely was not in there. However, a couple of days after asking the question, during regular Bible reading, a couple of verses in Leviticus chapter thirteen stood out to me about this topic.

And the leper in whom the plague is, his clothes shall be rent and his head uncovered, and he shall put a covering (wrap) upon his upper lip and shall cry, Unclean, unclean.

— Leviticus 13:45 (Jubilee Bible 2000)

The Hebrew word translated "covering" in the above portion of Scripture comes with the idea of wrapping up in some type of cloth or garment. Although our current instructions are to cover from the nose on down, the Biblical direction appears to be more concerned with the mouth, as in the upper lip on down.

We don't exactly know what Biblical leprosy was, but we know it was a contagious disease that included skin manifestations. The connection is obvious. Whatever was coming out of the diseased persons' mouths needed to be covered. The above Biblical command is quite a fascinating instruction in pre-microscope history.

The cry of "unclean, unclean" could be viewed as an ancient example of social distancing.

to-mask-or-not-to-mask-a-possible-biblical-view

Things That Come Out of Our Mouths

The Hebrew word translated "leprosy" in Leviticus chapter thirteen, as recorded in the verse above, is "negah" (נֶגַע). But there is another Hebrew word, "deber" (דֶּבֶר), that, like leprosy, also expresses the idea of a contagious disease. This particular word can illustrate a spiritual lesson from a physical perspective about what comes out of our mouths.

"Deber" (דֶּבֶר), most often translated as "pestilence" or "plague" in the Bible.

Surely he shall deliver you from the snare of the fowler, and from the perilous pestilence (דֶּבֶר).

— Psalm 91:3

Deber" (דֶּבֶר) shares the same letters as the Hebrew word for "word" which is dâbâr (דָּבָר), in its noun form, or "to say" in its verb form. In Hebrew, when two words spell the same, one many times illustrates or explains the other. In this case, both words and plagues are things that come out of our mouths.

From a disease perspective, pathogens are emitted and received most commonly via our mouths.

From a spiritual perspective, we could learn that words may have the same effect and transmit as pathogens do.

Death and life are in the power of the tongue . . .

— Proverbs 18:21

James, in his New Testament letter, says something similar.

. . . but no man can tame the tongue, which is an evil that cannot be restrained and is full of deadly poison.

With it we bless God, even the Father; and with it we curse men, who are made in the image of God.

Out of the same mouth proceeds blessing and cursing. My brethren, these things ought not to be so.

Does a fountain send forth at the same place both sweet and bitter water?

Can the fig tree, my brethren, produce olive berries? or the vine, figs? In the same manner no fountain can yield both salt water and fresh.

Who is wise and ready among you? let him show out of a good conversation his works in meekness of wisdom.

— James 3:8-13

The Biblical instructions for noxious words are the same as they are for pestilences.

If you have been foolish by exalting yourself
or if you’ve been scheming (imagining what you might say),
put your hand over your mouth.

— Proverbs 30:32

Many times when we feel angry or frustrated, we can pridefully imagine what things we might say. These imagined speeches generally include cursing rather than a blessing. The writer of Proverbs implies that to spread those thoughts in the form of words is inherently wrong and destructive.

I said, I will take heed to my ways, that I sin not with my tongue: I will keep my mouth with a bridle, while the wicked is before me.

— Psalm 39:1

In Hebrew, the word dâbâr (דָּבָר) also means "thing." This connection means that the things that come out of our mouth, although invisible, have substance. Just like unseen pathogens come out of our mouths and spread sickness among those with whom we come in contact with, so do the ugly things we say.

to-mask-or-not-to-mask-a-possible-biblical-view

Inside-Outside: The Debate Continues

Another question arises concerning mask-wearing. Are masks necessary both inside and outside? And does the Bible address this issue? Perhaps it does. The book of Numbers, chapter nineteen, contains the laws of cleansing the "unclean."

One occasion of becoming "unclean" involved being in an enclosed area with a dead body. A second occasion is noted where a dead body is encountered in an open field.

“This is the law when a person dies in a tent: everyone who enters the tent and everyone who is already in the tent will be unclean for seven days, and any open container without a lid tied on it is unclean. Anyone in the open field who touches a person who has been killed by the sword or has died, or who even touches a human bone, or a grave, will be unclean for seven days.

— Numbers 19:14-16

It appears that the person who encounters a dead body while outside is only unclean if he comes into contact with it. A person inside a tent is unclean whether or not he comes in contact with the body. This scenario possibly reveals that pathogens being emitted either from the illness the dead person had or decomposing flesh are more concentrated in enclosed areas but are dispersed and dissipated in fresh moving air and sunshine.

Wash Your Hands

Notice also in Numbers chapter nineteen, quoted in the above section, that all surfaces within the tent where the dead body was, were considered unclean. This section acknowledges how pathogens were understood to remain on surfaces within enclosed areas.

Ignaz Semmelweis, a mid-1800s Hungarian physician, and scientist made a history-changing observation. While working at a Vienna hospital, in one of the very first obstetric wards attended by physicians, he noted that the mortality rate was three times higher than obstetrics accompanied by mid-wives.1 Along with this observation, he also noticed that obstetric doctors were simultaneously working in the morgue and attending to dead bodies. He offered the suggestion of handwashing between dead body handling and live patient. His experiment with handwashing proved to drop the death rate significantly.

Handwashing goes back even further than Ignaz Semmelweis, according to an online article on "The Conversation" titled, Ignaz Semmelweis, the doctor who discovered the disease-fighting power of handwashing in 1847.

The history of hand-washing extends back to ancient times when it was largely a faith-based practice. The Old Testament, the Talmud, and the Quran all mention hand-washing in the context of ritual cleanliness.

. . . for Aaron and his sons shall wash their hands and their feet in water.

— Exodus 30:19

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Don't Forget the Soap

The Numbers chapter nineteen instructions noted above, for cleansing from contact with pathogens associated with death, included a recipe for a type of soap made from the ashes of a burnt red heifer over a fire made with cedarwood and then added to water.

The priest is to take cedar wood, hyssop, and crimson yarn, and throw them onto the fire where the cow is burning . . .

. . .Then a man who is clean shall gather up the ashes of the heifer, and store them outside the camp in a clean place; and they shall be kept for the congregation of the children of Israel for the water of purification; it is for purifying from sin . . .

. . . The person who touches any human corpse will be unclean for seven days. He is to purify himself with the water . . .

— Numbers 19:6, 9, 11-12

This ashes and water recipe sounds very similar to a one for lye, which is still used in soap making today. Only two ingredients are technically needed to make it, and they are water and wood ashes. The Biblical model contained other things more connected to spiritual applications.

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Quarantine: It's Nothing New

All the days in which the plague shall be in him he shall be defiled; he shall be unclean; he shall dwell alone; outside the camp shall his habitation be.

— Leviticus 13:46

The long list of situational uncleannesses in Leviticus all included an initial seven-day quarantine. After seven days were complete, the unclean person would be examined by the priest, and if it had not spread, the unclean person waited another seven days and was then considered clean. The quarantine ended up totaling fourteen days, which is what is now recommended for Covid-19 cases.

Franz Halberg, a Minnesota scientist who studies chronobiology, has discovered that many human biological processes run in seven-day cycles.

to-mask-or-not-to-mask-a-possible-biblical-view

Conclusion

In conclusion, as is with quarantining, masking isn't new either. It's just new to us. The Spanish flu in the early 1900s was characterized by this same precautionary method.

Wearing a mask for me centers on a couple of things. First and foremost, as was discovered and described in this article, God's revelation is what has influenced me the most. My second reason concerns my 81-year-old mother, who is part of the most vulnerable group of people.

Before knowing that Covid-19 was in the United States, my son, his wife, and five children had what appeared to be the worst "flu" anyone of them had ever experienced. It quite possibly was Covid-19 from the symptom list described, and it took them weeks to recover. They also live next door to my aging mother. I decided that I would deliver anything my son and his family needed to their front door but would not enter their home or have contact with them so that I would not be exposed to whatever they had (I assumed the flu) for my mother's sake. About three weeks later, the presence of Covid-19 in the United States was announced, and things began to shut down. So essentially, I was taking the same precautions as is currently being prescribed. The only additional instruction was the mask.

Also, for me, wearing a mask, hand washing, and social distancing makes no political, social, or "religious" statement. It instead reflects what I understand God's Word to be saying on the topic, and it is an expression of love for those around me who are more vulnerable.

And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength.’ This is the first commandment. And the second, like it, is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.”

— Mark 12:30-31

On that note, all of the above has not been an exact science. I simply want to do my best to be wise with the information I've discovered along the way.

Sources and Credits

1https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ignaz_Semmelweis

2https://www.npr.org/sections/health-shots/2015/01/12/375663920/the-doctor-who-championed-hand-washing-and-saved-women-s-lives

This content reflects the personal opinions of the author. It is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and should not be substituted for impartial fact or advice in legal, political, or personal matters.

© 2020 Tamarajo

Comments

Tamarajo (author) on August 25, 2020:

Hi Bill,

Yes, I was pleasantly surprised to find this topic addressed in the Bible. The information apart from the Bible has been so wild and varied. This gave me clarity and stability in how I have decided to approach the issue.

Good to hear from you. Thanks for stopping by.

God bless!

William Kovacic on August 25, 2020:

Very interesting, Tammy. Of course, the Bible is always up to date in all things. Thanks for this timely and important study.

Tamarajo (author) on August 21, 2020:

Hi Dora,

I'm always amazed at how God's Word can be so relevant and speak to the issues of all generations.

I'm glad to know that the presentation was helpful.

I appreciate your stopping by and your supportive comment.

God bless!

Dora Weithers from The Caribbean on August 21, 2020:

Tamarajo, I appreciate the research you put into this presentation. Your Biblical approach is commendable, and makes me feel that this is the correct way to solutions of every kind. Thanks for sharing your findings. Very helpful!

Tamarajo (author) on August 20, 2020:

Hi Jack,

I agree that wearing a mask, although uncomfortable, isn't really a hard thing to do.

Mask wearing in medicine has been used for a long time.

Covid-19 is not your average every day flu as I have been observing. I know three people who have had it. One of them was in ICU for a week. Another who was still having difficulty breathing three weeks post sickness. And the third tested positive for three weeks with lingering cough and breathing difficulty. All of them described it as being like nothing they'd had before.

If something simple as a mask can be a helpful preventative tool...why not?

Thank you, Jack, for weighing in on this topic. I appreciate your input and your visit.

God bless!

Jack Jenn from Nelson Bay NSW Australia. on August 19, 2020:

Hi Tammy,

Good, sensible instruction here as well as common sense - I'll bet Eric doesn't wear a mask - probably takes TOO LONG to put it on!?!

I don't understand the mentality of so many in the US and elsewhere refusing to wear a mask - it's not a difficult thing to do and knowing the cases in the US are not diminishing but increasing with no end yet in sight, sadly, so many there suffer from that human condition - or failing, it won't happen to me. And it's never a shock until it does.

I heard an ICU nurse talking about it and this is what she said - So you don't like wearing a mask? Well, you will hate wearing a ventilator!

Enough said.

And some people being slow to learn, need more than half an hour to get the message through.

As always Tammy,

My best regards,

Jack.

Tamarajo (author) on August 19, 2020:

Hi Paul,

Glad to hear that the information was confirming to you.

I appreciate your visit and comment.

God bless!

Tamarajo (author) on August 19, 2020:

Thank you Akin. I appreciate your visit and feedback.

Good to hear from you.

God bless!

Paul K Francis from east coast,USA on August 19, 2020:

Interesting article. I like your conclusions. Wearing a face covering, as well as other actions, is following the commandment to love our neighbors, and in the long run it just may contribute to the eventual global healing. We do it because, like God, we love the world. Good health to you and yours.

Akin Akinbodunse from Lagos, Nigeria on August 19, 2020:

wow! Good diligent researched article. Thanks for taking the time to research and share.

Tamarajo (author) on August 17, 2020:

Nehemiah Project,

Thank you for sharing your thoughts on this topic.

I appreciate your visit.

John Gardiner on August 17, 2020:

For me, it is about loving my neighbor, as well as thinking of others more highly than myself. You summed it up well with Jesus' "Greatest Commandment" answer.

Well said.

Tamarajo (author) on August 17, 2020:

Hello Eric,

Thanks for stopping by anyway. I'm a "dudette" by the way. : )

Eric Dierker from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A. on August 17, 2020:

Sorry dude but this is way to in depth and long. You would have to put aside a half hour to read it. Not happening.