מִרפֵּא, marpe' (Jer 36:6); ἴασις (Lu 13:32). From the same Hebrews root, רָפָא, rapha', to "heal" or cure, is derived רִפאוּת riphuath', the art of healing, curing (Pr 3:8); and רפֻאוֹת, rephuoth', remedies, medicines (Jer 46:11; Eze 30:21). The Scriptures make no mention of physicians before the time of Joseph, and then it is Egyptian, not Hebrew physicians that are spoken of. Indeed, it does not appear that physicians were ever much resorted to among the Hebrews, especially for internal maladies. For wounds, bruises, and external injuries, they had physicians or surgeons who understood dressing and binding them, with the application of medicaments (Jer 8:22; Jer 46:11; Eze 30:21); and the Levites, it seems from Le 13:14; De 20:2, had peculiar duties assigned them, which rendered it necessary they should know something of the art of medicine. The probable reason of king Asa's not seeking help from God, but from the physicians, was, that they had not recourse to the simple medicines which nature offered, but to certain superstitious rites and incantations; and this, no doubt, was the ground of the reflection cast upon him (2Ch 16:12). The balsam, or balm of Gilead, was particularly celebrated as a medicine (Ge 37:25; Ge 43:11; Jer 8:22; Jer 46:11; Jer 51:8). That mineral baths were deemed worthy of notice, and perhaps from ancient times, we know from Josephus. SEE CALLIRRHOE. Although there can be no doubt that there were physicians in the country when our Savior appeared in Palestine, it is evident that the people placed but little confidence in them (Mr 5:26; Lu 8:43). The Egyptian physicians, on the other hand, were highly esteemed. We first read of them as being commanded by Joseph to embalm the body of his father Jacob (Ge 1; Ge 2). Pliny states that, during the process of embalming, certain examinations took place, which enabled them to study the disease of which the deceased had died. Wilkinson observes (Anc. Egypt., 2d ser., 2:460 sq.), "These examinations appear to have been made in compliance with an order from the government, as, according to Pliny (xix. 5), the kings of Egypt had the bodies opened after death to ascertain the nature of their diseases, by which means alone the remedy for phthisical complaints was discovered. Indeed, it is reasonable to suppose that a people so far advanced as were the Egyptians in knowledge of all kinds, and whose medical art was so systematically arranged that they had regulated it by some of the very same laws followed by the most enlightened and skillful nations of the present day, would not have omitted so useful an inquiry, or have failed to avail themselves of the means which the process adopted for embalming the body placed at their disposal. And nothing can more clearly prove their advancement in the study of human diseases than the fact of their assigning to each his own peculiar branch, under the different heads of oculists, dentists, those who cured diseases in the head, those who confined themselves to intestinal complaints, and those who attended to secret and internal maladies. Their knowledge of drugs, and of their effects, is sufficiently shown by the preservation of the mummies, and the manner in which the intestines and other parts have been removed from the interior. And such is the skill evinced in the embalming process, that every medical man of the present day, who witnesses the evidence derived from such an examination of the mummies, willingly acquiesces in the praise due to the ability and experience of the Egyptian embalmers." SEE EMBALMING. There is reason to believe that the ancient Egyptians encouraged, or at least profited by, the growth of many wild plants of the desert, which were useful for medicinal purposes. Many of them are still known to the Arabs, as the Salvadora Persica, Heliotropium inebrians, Lycium Europceum, Scilla maritima Cassia Senna, Ochradenus baccatus, Ocimum Zatarhendi, Linaria ,Egyptiaca, Spartium monospermum, Headysarum Alhagi, Santolina fragrantissima, Artemisia Judaica (monosperma and inculta), Inula undulata and crispa, Cucumis Colocynthis, etc.; and many others have probably fallen into disuse from the ignorance of the modern inhabitants of the country, who only know them from the Arabs, by whom the traditions concerning their properties are preserved. From what Homer tells us of "the infinity of drugs produced in Egypt" (Odys. 2:229), the use of "many medicines," mentioned by Jeremiah, ch. 46:11, and the frequent allusion by Pliny to the medicinal plants of that country, we may conclude that the productions of the desert (where those herbs mostly grew) were particularly prized. SEE MEDICINE. The art of medicine was very ancient in Egypt, and some writers have supposed that Moses, having been instructed in all the learning of the Egyptians, must have known the chief secrets of medicine, a fact which they also infer from his accurate diagnosis, or indications concerning diseases. Though the Arabian physicians were in the Middle Ages the most skillful of their class, medical art in the East has long sunk into mere empiricism and merited contempt. It is, indeed, in the estimation of the common people, of far less utility than the employment of charms for the recovery of health, and is never resorted to till this means has failed. Roberts informs us, "Physicians in England would be perfectly astonished at the numerous kinds of medicine which are administered to a patient in India. The people themselves are unwilling to take one kind for long together, and I have known a sick woman swallow ten different sorts in one day. Should a patient, when about to take his medicine, scatter or spill the least quantity, nothing will induce him to take the rest; it is a bad omen; he must have the nostrum changed. The people of the East give a decided preference to external applications; hence, when they are directed to 'eat'
or 'drink' medicine, they ask, Can they not have something to apply outside? For almost every complaint a man will smear his body with bruised leaves or saffron, or ashes of certain woods or oils, and he professes to derive more benefit from them than from those medicines which are taken internally; at all events, he knows they cannot do him so much harm. It ought to be observed that they do not attach any miraculous effects to the being 'anointed with oil.'" SEE DISEASES; SEE PHYSICIAN.