What is a plague? It is an infectious disease with fever, contagious, epidemic, which causes high death rates. The disseminators of the plagues are, in general, insects that feed on blood: flies, mosquitoes, bedbugs, fleas, ticks, mites, etc.
The bubonic plague, for instance, which killed most of the population of Europe in the XIV Century, spreads through rats living in the sewerage. Rats also transmit the microbes of the amebic dysentery, tularemia, rat-bite fever, rabies, and many others, 35 in all. 25 million people died and were buried in common trenches, because there was not enough time to bury them. The black plague, in 1348, referred to as the “extremely atrocious plague”, killed one to two thousand people a day. It came from the East and invaded the Turkistan, Persia, Arabia, and Asia Minor by land, before it reached Russia, Marseille, Constantinople, and the other Italian cities of Messina, Siena, and Florence. In Avignon alone there were 150,000 deaths, a total of 25 million.
The Spanish influenza, in 1918, would start with a sore throat, fever and strong back pain. On September 7, 1918, a soldier showed up with the flu. On September 18, there were already 600, and on the 20th, the virus had already infected 1,600 men. This flu caused the death of 548,452 Americans, 500,000 Mexicans and 44,000 Canadians. It spread to Africa, next, then South America, Labrador, Japan, etc. The world total was 21 million people.
With the advancement of science, nowadays, the discovery of penicillin and other modern medications, plagues are controllable. In older days, any plague killed entire populations, men, women and children. Let us list a few infectious diseases:
CAUSED BY VIRUSES – colds, flu, rabies, poliomyelitis, yellow fever, chicken pox, varicella.
CAUSED BY BACTERIA – gonorrhea, diphtheria, tetanus, typhoid fever, tuberculosis, hansenosis, bubonic fever
CAUSED BY PARASITES – malaria, Chagres fever, marsh fever, schistosomiasis, snail fever, and ancilostomosis.
These are some, for these are hundreds of them. Well, reading the pages of the Old Testament we find the following statement of Jehovah to Pharaoh, the king of Egypt, at the time of the exodus: “For if by now I had put forth My hand and struck you and your people with pestilence, you would then have been cut off from the earth” (Ex.9:15). And this would have happened because Jehovah had chosen Israel and rejected Egypt, peoples that equally practiced evil, which had, nevertheless, different places in the heart of Jehovah. After 40 years sojourning in the desert—a time in which Jehovah used to humble his people—twelve spies were sent to spy the Promised Land. When they returned, ten of them gave a bad report of the land (Num.13:31-33). All the people, then, cried and murmured (Num.14:1-2), but Jehovah, filled with rage, forgot the promises given, and said: “I will smite them with pestilence and dispossess them” (Num.14:12). What pestilence? Deadly typhus? Black plague? Bubonic plague? Habakkuk, the prophet, declares that the plague is a kind of colours of Jehovah: “Before Him goes the pestilence, and plague comes after Him” (Hab.3:5). David counted the people of Israel incited by Jehovah Himself, according to the narrative of Samuel (2 Sam.24:1). We read in the book of 1 Chr. 21:1, that it was Satan who incited David. Jehovah condemned the attitude of David about something which he had himself commanded, and sent the seer Gade to say: Choose for yourself: “…either three years of famine, or three months to be swept away before your foes, while the sword of your enemies overtake you, or else three days of the sword of Jehovah, even pestilence in the land, and the angel of Jehovah destroying throughout all territory of Israel” (1 Chr.21:12). Unbelievable! The sword of Jesus Christ is the word of the Gospel, which heals and saves, but the sword of Jehovah is the pestilence that kills and destroys. And the plague killed seven thousand men. “So Jehovah sent a pestilence on Israel; 70,000 men of Israel fell” (1 Chr.21:14). They were seventy thousand innocent men, according the words of David himself (1 Chr.21:16-17).
Jehovah’s remedy for the sin of his people was pestilences and plagues, not grace, love and forgiveness. Pestilence is one among the fifty curses that Jehovah sent. “Jehovah will make the pestilence cling to you until He has consumed you from the land, where you are entering to possess it” (Deut.28:21). Jehovah was fond of pestilences, and was always repeating threats. “I will also bring upon you a sword which will execute vengeance for the covenant; and when you gather together into your cities, I will send pestilence among you, so that you shall be delivered into enemy hands” (Lev.26:25).
Nowadays, men turn from their sins by looking to the cross and seeing there the infinite love of God who gave His only begotten Son as payment for our sins. There in the Old Testament, Jehovah sent plagues to make his people turn from their sins. “If I shut up the heavens so that there is no rain, or if I command the locust to devour the land, or if I send pestilence among My people, and My people who are called by My name humble themselves and pray, and seek My face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, will forgive their sin, and will heal their land” (2 Chr.7:13-14).
That people were always confused and lost. They were either given to their enemies into captivity to be corrupted by the sodomite Canaanites (Judg.2:14-15; 3:7-8, 12, 14; 4:1-2: 10:6-7, etc.), or they were hurt with pestilences. “For a fire is kindled in My anger, and burns to the lowest part of Sheol, and consumes the earth with its yield, and sets on fire the foundations of the mountains. I will heap misfortunes on them; I will use My arrows on them. They shall be wasted by famine, and consumed by plague and bitter destruction; and the teeth of beasts I will send upon them, with the venom of crawling things of the dust” (Deut.32:22-24). Besides plagues and pestilences, Jehovah sent beasts of the field. When Korah, Dathan and Abiram conspired against Moses, Jehovah opened the earth and it buried those families alive—women, old men and innocent children alike. This was brutal (Num.16:1-2, 27-33). Fire from Jehovah also consumed the two hundred and fifty leaders of the congregation, for they followed Korah, Dathan and Abiram. The people, then, grumbled against this unmerciful and unjust slaughter. As an answer, Jehovah sent a plague, and it killed more 14,700 people (Num.16:41-50).
God the Father, nevertheless, reveals his true character: “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son that whoever believes in Him should not perish, but have eternal life” (John 3:16). Jesus said, “…for He Himself is kind to ungrateful and evil men” (Luke 6:35). The Father loved sinners at the same time that Jehovah destroyed them. “But God demonstrates His own love towards us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us” (Rom.5:8).
By Pastor Olavo Silveira Pereira