What is “dropsy” in Luke 14:2?


by Shawn Brasseaux

Read in Luke 14:1-6, as found in the King James Bible: “[1] And it came to pass, as he [Jesus Christ] went into the house of one of the chief Pharisees to eat bread on the sabbath day, that they watched him. [2] And, behold, there was a certain man before him which had the dropsy. [3] And Jesus answering spake unto the lawyers and Pharisees, saying, Is it lawful to heal on the sabbath day? [4] And they held their peace. And he took him, and healed him, and let him go; [5] And answered them, saying, Which of you shall have an ass or an ox fallen into a pit, and will not straightway pull him out on the sabbath day? [6] And they could not answer him again to these things.”

Present in this passage is a man suffering from “dropsy.” What exactly is this? The term is a shortening of “hydropsy” (Greek, “hudropikos,” “watery looking”). Better known as edema today, this is swelling due to excess fluid in the body. It can be a symptom of cancer or diseases of the kidney, liver, or heart. Either the body overproduces fluid or cannot drain it, leading to unsightly, bloated limbs whose movements are limited and awkward. In the ancient world, untreated dropsy was, eventually, always fatal. The dropsical man represents lumbering Israel with all her ugly religious excesses, enjoying a counterfeit life (abundant “water” that cripples her!) but not moving “gracefully” (because she prefers her works instead of God’s grace). Sin and false teaching have disabled her, rendered her spiritually ill. Yet, the Lord deliberately heals the dropsical man on the Sabbath Day, so as to show Israel He can take care of her sin problem and bring her into a right relationship with Him (New Covenant blessings and Kingdom glory). See our “Sabbath Day” study linked below.

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Also see:
» Why did Jesus Christ heal on the Sabbath day?
» What is “palsy?”
» What is “the bloody flux?”
» What is “the burning ague?”
» What is “scurvy?”
» What is a “wen?”
» What is “the botch of Egypt?”