Apothecary Physician

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Have you signed the census, yet?

Shalom, welcome weary traveler. Have you journeyed far?

Do not forget to pay your taxes.

I have seen the Roman soldiers carrying off those who refused to pay their taxes.

Beware of the Roman soldiers they are in a foul mood this night.

Keep your valuables and children close to you. There are rumors that the Romans sell small children to the Phoenicians as slaves.

I do not know the answer to that question. Perhaps the rabbi would know. He is in the synagogue and is a wise and learned man. Or maybe the scribe, he can read and write in four languages.

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Do you have a headache from your journey? Let me brew you some willow bark tea and soothe your head.

Are your feet tired and sore from you travels? This sheep’s tallow (really vegetable shortening) salve with mint will make them feel young again.

Perhaps you need a poultice or some lavender for your bath?


Physicians in Old Testament times. Physicians were present from early Bible times. The Code of Hammurabi, under which Abraham grew up as a young man in Babylonia, specified that if a surgeon should operate on a man's eye, using a copper lancet, and the man should lose his eye because of the operation, then the doctor's eye should be put out with a copper lancet.

Job talks of "physicians of no value" (Job 13:4) when referring to his friends who were trying to comfort him. The law of Moses contained an ordinance providing that a man wounded in a brawl should have his loss of time paid for by the one responsible for his wounds, and adds, "and shall cause him to be thoroughly healed" (Exodus 21:19). Circumcision was an operation in surgery.

The Sacred Writer indicates that King Asa put his confidence in physicians instead of the LORD when he reports: "And Asa in the thirty and ninth year of his reign was diseased in his feet, until his disease was exceeding great: yet in his disease he sought not to the LORD, but to the physicians. And Asa slept with his fathers" (II Chronicles 16:12, 13).

Physicians in New Testament times. In New Testament times there were many physicians. Among them were, no doubt, many who were not worthy of the name. Concerning the poor woman who had been to many doctors, Mark adds, "and was nothing bettered, but rather grew worse" (Mark 5:26), indicating that these physicians had harmed her rather than helped her. But there were sincere practicing physicians, and Luke was a notable example. In his Epistle to the Colossians, Paul called him: "Luke, the beloved physician" (4:14). In the ruins of the city of Pompeii, there "was found a number of instruments exactly such as our best surgeons now use."

The Bible recognizes the presence of physicians, but does not give a prominent place to them. GOD's power to heal sickness is emphasized in both the Old and New Testaments. (See also Sickness in Bible Lands, Chapter 16).