Posted by: BibleScienceGuy | June 21, 2017

Science in the Bible – Hygiene

(2 Minute Read)

Dr. Ignaz Semmelweis
1860 copperplate engraving
by Jenő Doby

In the 1840s a young doctor in Vienna, Austria was shocked by the number of deaths among women in the maternity wards. The 30% death rate in doctor wards was three times that in midwife wards.

Dr. Ignaz Semmelweis (1818–1865) became known as the “Savior of mothers” because he instituted a procedure that corrected this problem, thereby saving the lives of many women.

What did Semmelweis do?

Semmelweis noticed that doctors went from examining bodies in the morgue to examining mothers in maternity wards without washing their hands in between. In 1847 he instituted the practice of washing hands with an antiseptic solution at the Vienna General Hospital.

Despite Semmelweis’ reform reducing the mortality rate to under 1%, the medical community rejected his work, because he could offer no supporting rationale for why doctors should wash their hands. The very idea offended them.

Years later Semmelweis’ ideas were accepted after Louis Pasteur and Joseph Lister proposed and demonstrated the germ theory.

However, 3,000 years previously, the Bible had prescribed washing in running water as part of a cleansing process:
Now when the man with the discharge becomes cleansed from his discharge, then he shall count off for himself seven days for his cleansing; he shall then wash his clothes and bathe his body in running water and will become clean. (Leviticus 15:13)

Even until a century ago, deaths were common because doctors washed in basins of still water. Running water, as the Bible prescribes, is needed to wash away germs.

Another example of advanced Biblical hygiene involves waste disposal. Prior to World War I, more soldiers died from disease due to presence of human waste than died from war-inflicted injuries by weapons like bullets and bombs. This was also the cause of many plagues that devastated populations.

But around 1400 BC the Bible instructed the Israelites to bury their bodily waste outside the camp.
You shall also have a place outside the camp and go out there, and you shall have a spade among your tools, and it shall be when you sit down outside, you shall dig with it and shall turn to cover up your excrement. (Deuteronomy 23:12-13)

Science Catches Up to the Bible

Thousands of years before man discovered crucial hygienic practices like washing hands in running water and properly disposing of waste, the Bible instructed the Israelites about it.

Although the Bible is not primarily a science textbook, it does hint at many scientific truths like this one and like those mentioned in this Science in the Bible series, truths that long pre-date their discovery by today’s scientists. This is strong evidence of divine authorship of the Bible.

Questions to Ponder

1. How do food-service policies reflect the practical wisdom of Scriptural hygiene?
2. How does the present-day menace of hepatitis reflect neglect of these Scriptural principles?

Share your thoughts on these questions in the comments below. It could encourage or help another reader.

Soli Deo Gloria.

This is the 15th in the Science in the Bible series of blog posts. While there is much science connected with Creation and Noah’s Flood, this series will focus on lesser known scientific truths that were alluded to in the Bible long before they were known to scientists.
Read the prequels:
1. Science in the Bible – Blood
2. Science in the Bible – Ocean Currents
3. Science in the Bible – Undersea Mountains
4. Science in the Bible – Ocean Reservoirs
5. Science in the Bible – Good Medicine
6. Science in the Bible – Round Earth
7. Science in the Bible – Don’t Marry Kin
8. Science in the Bible – Fearfully and Wonderfully Made
9. Science in the Bible – Hanging Earth
10. Science in the Bible – Thermodynamics
11. Science in the Bible – Water Cycle
12. Science in the Bible – Quarantine
13. Science in the Bible – Starry Host
14. Science in the Bible – Turning Earth

Read the sequel:
16. Science in the Bible – Seed of Life

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©William T. Pelletier, Ph.D.
“contending earnestly for the faith”
“destroying speculations against the knowledge of God”
“for the defense of the gospel”
(Jude 1:3; 2 Cor 10:5; Phil 1:16)
Wednesday June 21, 2017 A.D.

Thy word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path. (Psalm 119:105)


  1. I wonder how many lives were lost because doctors ignored Semmelweis’s discovery. I made a post on him in my blog.


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