The restoring of health to the sick; the making sound, or whole, that which is broken or injured; the curing of various diseases and defects; the returning of a person to the general state of well-being. The Hebrew verb ra·phaʼʹ and the Greek verb i·aʹo·mai are the principal words in the Bible that describe such healing in both a literal and a figurative sense. The Greek verb the·ra·peuʹo is rendered ‘cure.’ (Mt 4:23, 24) Sometimes the healing was a gradual matter; at other times it was instantaneous.
Among the blessings Jehovah bestowed on all mankind is the regenerative power of their physical organisms, the ability of the body to heal itself when wounded or diseased. A physician may recommend certain measures to speed recovery, but in reality it is the God-given recuperative powers within the body that accomplish the healing. Hence, the psalmist David acknowledged that though he was born imperfect, his Creator was able to sustain him during illness and heal all his maladies. (Ps 51:5; 41:1-3; 103:2-4) Jehovah restored the bodily health of afflicted Job (Job 42:10) and God also provided physical healing for his people Israel.—Ex 15:26.
Of Jehovah it is written that he both wounds and heals, and he does this literally and figuratively. Hence, with him there is a time to wound and a time to heal. (De 32:39; compare Ec 3:1, 3.) Unfaithful Jehoram, king of Judah, for example, was punished by Jehovah with a physical disorder of the intestines for which there was no healing. (2Ch 21:16, 18, 19) Moses recognized that it was Jehovah who had stricken Miriam with leprosy; hence, he pleaded with the only One who could cure her, saying: “O God, please! Heal her, please!” (Nu 12:10, 13) In the matter of childbearing, Jehovah healed King Abimelech, his wife, and his slave girls after the crisis had passed involving Sarah and the seed of promise.—Ge 20:17, 18.
In the Bible, spiritual rather than physical breakdown, and spiritual healing in turn, are subjects of particular significance. Attention is called to the responsibility of natural Israel’s leaders in these matters. “From the prophet even to the priest, each one [was] acting falsely” in Jeremiah’s day, they at the same time making a pretense of healing the breakdown of God’s people, claiming that all was well. (Jer 6:13, 14; 8:11) In this they were very much like Job’s comforters, “physicians of no value.”—Job 13:4.
In a few instances inanimate objects were healed, in the sense of being made whole again, like the torn-down altar Elijah mended. (1Ki 18:30) Also, the prophet Elisha healed the waters near Jericho so that they no longer caused miscarriages. (2Ki 2:19-22) Jeremiah, however, shattered the potter’s flask so completely that it was beyond repair, that is, beyond healing, and thus furnished a fine illustration. “In the same way,” Jehovah declared, “I shall break this people and this city as someone breaks the vessel of the potter so that it is no more able to be repaired [a form of ra·phaʼʹ; literally, healed].”—Jer 19:11; compare 2Ch 36:15-17.
Jesus and His Fellow Healers. Jesus Christ recognized that “teaching . . . and preaching the good news of the kingdom” was of first importance in his ministry and that “curing every sort of disease and every sort of infirmity among the people” was secondary. That is why he felt pity for the crowds primarily “because they were skinned and thrown about like sheep without a shepherd.”—Mt 4:23; 9:35, 36; Lu 9:11.
This Great Teacher also showed compassion on the multitudes that followed him because they hoped that he would heal their physical ailments. (Mt 12:15; 14:14; 19:2; Lu 5:15) His miraculous healing work served as a visible sign to his generation and gave added evidence of his Messiahship, as prophesied. (Mt 8:16, 17) It also foreshadowed the healing blessings that will be extended to mankind under God’s Kingdom rule. (Re 21:3, 4) In a very real sense Jesus healed and restored the health of many persons—the lame, the maimed, the blind, the dumb (Mt 15:30, 31), the epileptic, the paralytic (Mt 4:24), a woman suffering from a hemorrhage (Mr 5:25-29), one with a withered hand (Mr 3:3-5), a man with dropsy (Lu 14:2-4), and on many occasions those who were demon possessed were released from their Satanic enslavement and bondage.—Mt 12:22; 15:22-28; 17:15, 18; Mr 1:34; Lu 6:18; 8:26-36; 9:38-42; Ac 10:37, 38.
Jesus’ manner of curing people took various forms at different times. “Get up, pick up your cot and walk,” is all that Jesus said on one occasion, and a sick man near the pool of Bethzatha was cured. (Joh 5:2-9) In another instance, Jesus just spoke the word and the ailing one, though a distance away, was healed. (Mt 8:5-13) At other times he personally laid his hand on the sick one (Mt 8:14, 15) or touched a wound and healed it. (Lu 22:50, 51) Several diseased persons simply touched Jesus or even the fringe of his garment and were healed. (Mt 14:36; Mr 6:56; Lu 6:19; 8:43-47) And it made no difference that the persons had been afflicted with the disease for many years.—Mt 9:20-22; Lu 13:11-13; Joh 5:5-9.
Some persons opposed Jesus, not appreciating the wonderful healing work he was doing. The religious leaders were greatly angered when Jesus healed persons on the Sabbath. (Mt 12:9-14; Lu 14:1-6; Joh 5:10-16) On one such occasion Jesus silenced opponents by saying: “Hypocrites, does not each one of you on the sabbath untie his bull or his ass from the stall and lead it away to give it drink? Was it not due, then, for this woman who is a daughter of Abraham, and whom Satan held bound, look! eighteen years, to be loosed from this bond on the sabbath day?”—Lu 13:10-17.
It was not the application of Jesus’ own power, knowledge, or wisdom that healed the sick. Neither was hypnotherapy, psychotherapy, or any similar method used. Rather, it was the spirit and power of Jehovah that effected such healing. (Lu 5:17; 9:43) Not all, however, were grateful enough to give God the glory for these cures. (Lu 17:12-18) Today, not everyone recognizes the everlasting healing benefits made available through the ransom sacrifice of Christ.—1Pe 2:24.
Jesus delegated this divine power of healing to others who were closely associated with him in his ministry. When the 12 apostles were sent out, and later the 70 disciples, they were empowered to cure the sick. (Mt 10:5, 8; Lu 10:1, 8, 9) After Pentecost of 33 C.E., certain ones, including Peter, John, Philip, and Paul, were given this divine power to heal completely. (Ac 3:1-16; 4:14; 5:15, 16; 8:6, 7; 9:32-34; 28:8, 9) After Christianity became firmly rooted, and with the passing of the apostles off the scene, such “gifts of healings” also passed away.—1Co 12:8, 9, 28, 30; 13:8, 13.
It was important that the one performing the cure have full faith and confidence in Jehovah and acknowledge, as Jesus did, that the curing was accomplished by God’s power. (Mt 17:14-20; Joh 5:19) It was not necessary, however, for the afflicted ones to have faith before being cured. (Joh 5:5-9, 13) Many, though, did have strong faith.—Mt 8:5-13; 15:28; Mr 5:34; Lu 7:1-10; 17:19; Ac 14:8-10; see FAITH.
Miraculous healing was to be a “sign” of divine backing. (Ac 4:22, 29, 30) Those who refused to recognize and acknowledge this sign were spiritually blind and deaf. (Isa 6:10; Joh 12:37-41) For the reason, then, that divine healings were to serve as a sign to unbelievers, they were not ordinarily performed in behalf of those who were already spirit-begotten Christians. So when Timothy had stomach trouble, instead of performing a miraculous cure, Paul recommended that he take a little wine for his ailment.—1Ti 5:23.
Spiritual Healing. On the other hand, true spiritual healing comes from Jehovah to repentant ones. It means a return to his favor and the enjoyment of his blessings once again. (Isa 19:22; 57:17-19; Jer 33:6) Such healing has the effect of strengthening the weak hands and wobbly knees, opening blind eyes, restoring hearing to the deaf, healing the lame, and giving speech to the dumb, in a spiritual way. (Isa 35:3-6) But those incorrigible in their apostasy never experience a healing, or restoration to good health and prosperity spiritually. (2Ch 36:15-17; Isa 6:10; Jer 30:12, 13; Ac 28:24-28) Similarly, there was to be no healing for Egypt, her Pharaoh, and for the “king of Assyria.”—Jer 46:11; Eze 30:21; Na 3:18, 19.