Is ‘Quarantine’ Really in the Bible? Are We Experiencing God’s Wrath?
The Think Twice Series
These past few days I’ve been receiving messages supposedly related to COVID-19. One message says that ‘quarantine’ is in the Bible, another one claims that God has a direct hand in what we are experiencing now. We will consider the first issue in this blog and the latter will be dealt in the next.
The claim that ‘quarantine’ is in the Bible was taken from Isaiah 26:20, “Go home, my people, and lock your doors! Hide yourselves for a little while until the Lord’s anger has passed.” (NLT)
Isaiah 26 is found within the material referred to as First Isaiah (chaps. 1-39) which deals primarily with Jerusalem during the period of the Assyrian threat, and a future threat of exile in Babylon. Chapter 26 is the continuation of the the song in chapter 25, which is a song of praise to God for his wonderful works. It is actually a lull after a long account of God’s complaints or reactions to what the nations are doing (Isaiah chaps. 13-24).
Its particular emphasis is God’s sovereignty over the nations, as can be seen in the immediate context: chapter 24 talks about the coming destruction of Jerusalem (24:10-13), chapter 25 is about the nations’ response by joining God’s people in a great eschatological feast on Mount Zion, and Judah’s response by renewing her commitment to trust Yahweh (chapter 26) and to enjoy peace after discipline – to which Yahweh, having atoned for her guilt, responds by a renewed song of the vineyard, as Jacob takes root once more (chapter 27).
A Closer Look
The King James Version renders, “Come, my people, enter thou into thy chambers, and shut thy doors about thee: hide thyself as it were for a little moment, until the indignation be overpast. (emphasis mine). Chambers in the original Hebrew is ‘cheder’ which means “innermost part,” while hide is ‘khaw–bah’ or “to withdraw,” a little time is ‘reh’-gah’ which means “a wink” or “a very short space of time,” which implies that the war would not rage long. Based on Isaiah 13 & 14, Babylon was taken in single night. And indignation is ‘zah’-am’ means “God’s displeasure with sin,” or in this particular context, indignation refers to God’s displeasure with the Assyrian tyranny and Babylonian exile.
Therefore, the passage is a song calling the people to renew their commitment to trust God. It is a reminder not to fear, and an assurance that God will protect them while he carries out his indignation against Assyria and Babylon. While some can actually interpret this as quarantine, for me this passage has no direct reference to it. The anger being referred to here is not directed towards God’s people but to their enemy.
Where did we get the term ‘Quarantine’?
It is derived from “quaranta giorni,” which means 40 days. It is traced back to the 14th century when the city of Dubrovnik, now in Croatia, was under Venetian rule. The Great Pestilence, also known as the Great Plague, was devastating Europe. To protect the city, it was declared that that all ships and people had to be isolated for 40 days before entering Dubrovnik. The disease was later referred to as the Black Death — probably because of the gloom it brought, while some say that the “black” referred to the terrible dark bruising of the skin due to internal bleeding, a trademark of the disease.
The Significance of the period of “ 40 Days” in the Bible:
The period “40 Days” is also mentioned numerous times in the Bible, signifying its importance. It appears that the period of “40 days” in the Bible has something to do with testing or probation, or a period of being tried.
Below is a list from Nave’s Topical Bible Offline:
- 40 days of rain, at the time of the Flood (Genesis 7:7).
- Noah sending fort the raven after 40 days (Genesis 8:6-7).
- Moses fasted for 40 days (Exodus 24:18; 34:28; Deut. 9:9, 25).
- Elijah fasted for forty days (1 Kings 19:8).
- Spies spent 40 days in reconnaissance in the land of promise (Number 13:25).
- Nineveh will be overthrown after 40 days (Jonah 3:4).
- Jesus fasted for forty days (Matthew 4:2).
- Christ appeared to his disciples 40 days after the resurrection (Acts 1:3).
Notice that each period in the list ends with a period of blessing.
Boadt, Lawrence. Reading The Old Testament. Manila, Philippines: St. Pauls Philippines, 2003.
Fee, Gordon D. & Stuart, Douglas. How To Read the Bible Book by Book. A Guided Tour. Manila, Philippines: OMF Literature, Inc., 2002.
Halley, Henry H. Halley’s Bible Handbook. ePub Format. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan, 2000.
Zondervan NASB Study Bible. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan, 1999.