WHAT IS “THE BURNING AGUE?”
by Shawn Brasseaux
When warning the nation Israel about disobeying the Mosaic Law, or Old Covenant, JEHOVAH God through Moses said: “I also will do this unto you; I will even appoint over you terror, consumption, and the burning ague, that shall consume the eyes, and cause sorrow of heart: and ye shall sow your seed in vain, for your enemies shall eat it” (Leviticus 26:16). What is “the burning ague?” Something awful!
The Hebrew word translated “ague” is qaddachath. It appears in Deuteronomy 28:22, a companion verse to Leviticus 26:16: “The LORD shall smite thee with a consumption, and with a fever, and with an inflammation, and with an extreme burning, and with the sword, and with blasting, and with mildew; and they shall pursue thee until thou perish.” Our King James translators here rendered it “fever.” According to The Oxford English Dictionary, “ague” (a-gyoo) is an archaic word meaning, “malaria or another illness involving fever and shivering.” The term comes a Medieval Latin expression febris acuta, or “acute fever.”
“Ague” in The International Standard Bible Encyclopaedia is defined as: “In Le 26:16 the King James Version is one of the diseases threatened as a penalty for disobedience to the law. The malady is said to ‘consume the eyes, and [cause sorrow of heart].’ The word means burning (Vulgate “ardor”) and was probably intended to denote the malarial fever so common now both in the Shephelah and in the Jordan valley.” Easton’s Bible Dictionary adds: “…meaning ‘kindling’, i.e., an inflammatory or burning fever. In Deu 28:22 the word is rendered ‘fever.’”
While we are on the subject, there appears another strange word in Leviticus 26:16. Read the verse again: “I also will do this unto you; I will even appoint over you terror, consumption, and the burning ague, that shall consume the eyes, and cause sorrow of heart: and ye shall sow your seed in vain, for your enemies shall eat it.” What is “consumption?” (It also appears in Deuteronomy 28:22.) If we use context clues, we can at least say it is a physical illness of some kind.
The Oxford English Dictionary has “consumption” as “a wasting disease, especially pulmonary tuberculosis.” To this The International Standard Bible Encyclopaedia partly agrees: “One of the punishments which was to follow neglect or breach of the law. It may mean pulmonary consumption, which occurs frequently in Palestine; but from its association with fever in the texts, Le 26:16; De 28:22, it is more likely to be the much more common condition of wasting and emaciation from prolonged or often recurring attacks of malarial fever.”
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