Did God punish Israel’s unfaithfulness by striking them with disease?
In isolated cases, God did intervene and directly punished some people with health problems in order to get them to change their course of action.
Examples of this are the story of Pharaoh in Abraham and Sara’s day, or the case of Miriam, Moses’s sister (Ge. 12:17; Nu. 12:9,10).
In most cases, however, the diseases the Israelites suffered were not a direct blow from God, but rather a result of bad decision-making and straying away from God’s high moral and hygienic standards (Pr. 7:21,27; Rom. 1:26,27; Gal. 6:7,8).
Another factor contributing to Israel’s physical ailments came to be the constant wars that were waged against it.
Jerusalem was besieged for several years before being burnt down by the Babylonians in 607 b.C.E. and then again by the Romans in 70 C.E.
The attacks Judea suffered fulfilled God’s warning that if his People constantly disobeyed him, he would not protect them from their enemies.
As a result, they suffered terrible famine and pestilence, just as Jehovah had warned them through Moses (De. 28:25-44).
Jesus foretold of future world-spread disease when asked about the Last Days:
“Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be great earthquakes, and in one place after another food shortages and pestilences…” (Luke 21:10,11).
Although we cannot avoid the fulfillment of these prophecies, we can be sure they point to a time when Christ does away with physical suffering, for he promised “your deliverance is getting near,” (Luke 21:28).
In the mean time, we can protect ourselves from many avoidable diseases by simply following God’s high moral and hygienic standards and living a healthy lifestyle.