The Sick Person’s Relationship with God in the Healing Process according to Ben Sira (Sir 38:9–11)
Ben Sira’s teaching on medicine and healing in Sir 38:1–15 is divided into two parts: the first (38:1–8) deals directly with the medicine of the time (doctors – 38:1–3 and the medicines they used – 38:4–8), while the second focuses on the healing process (38:9–15). In the latter, the sage first focuses on the attitude of the sick (38:9–11) towards God and the role and tasks of the physician in the process of healing the sick (38:12–15). The article addresses Ben Sira’s teaching on the relationship of the sick man to the Lord (38:9–11). The sage, after positively evaluating and responding to modern medicine (a novelty in the Old Testament), returns in 38:9–11 to the implicitly expressed conviction found in the Bible that only God can restore health to a sick person – that He is the only physician. He therefore urges the sick person to turn to God. According to the sage, turning to the Most High (38:9a), prayer (38:9b), the rejection of sin and iniquity (38:10) and sacrifices (38:11) play an important role in the process of recovery. Sir 38:9–11 has a concentric structure with a call for a change in moral conduct at its centre (38:10). These are surrounded by appeals to turn to the Lord (38:9 and 38:11). According to Ben Sira, healing from illness is the work of God, so the sick person should make a conversion (abandon sin and turn away from evil) and renew his relationship with the Most High. According to him, conversion is crucial in the healing process – without it, the sick person cannot return to health and full strength. In this way, the sage expresses the Old Testament teaching about illness as the result of sin (retribution) and God as the only physician. What is new in Ben Sira’s teaching is the call to offer sacrifices for the recovery of health and healing from suffering.
Ben Sira, Sir 38:9–11, illness, healing, treatment, sick person
"The Biblical Annals" 2022, T. 12, nr 4, s. 473-501