Now, side by side with that, goes this other trail, longer, broader, more marked. It is a teaching about health. There is a remarkable course in personal hygiene here. Instruction is given repeatedly, and obedience is insisted upon.
Some of these items may seem very homely and commonplace. But it is careful attention and obedience to detail that makes perfection in any thing.
Nothing is too common or commonplace if its practice means physical vigour. And physical vigour affects mental alertness and spiritual attainment.
There is particular stress laid upon food. Pains are taken to specify the things they must not eat (Lev_11:1-23). And Moses repeats this in much detail (Deu_14:3-21) This would cultivate a thoughtfulness about food.
Without any question there is a hygienic principle underlying all these instructions and restrictions. They were an agricultural people, with small exporting facilities, and so the fruits of trees and soil would naturally bulk big in their daily food.
Then the item of physical exercise had a big place. There was plenty of work to be done, in connection with cultivation of fields, orchards, vineyards, and common gardening.
It was a common custom that every Hebrew had some fixed occupation. And every one shared in the daily tasks indoors and out.
The ideal communities that have sprung up here and there, where all share in all tasks, have their truest highest ideal actually practised among these pastoral agricultural Hebrews.
And one is keen to note the other side of this. There was particular attention given to rest, relaxation. There is a rare poise between work and rest aimed at here.
There are four distinct items in the rest or relaxation program, which Moses was careful to mark out for them, at God's direction.
One day in seven was to be kept, sacred from toil, sacred to rest of body. The emphasis upon this is marked and continuous.
Three times a year there were special times of relaxation from their usual occupation, the Passover, the Feast of the First-fruits, and the Harvest-home Festival. Each was for seven days.
The men were to go up to Jerusalem to these feasts. Including travel it must have meant a ten-days' relaxation for most of them, with an absorbing objective.
Every seven years the land must lie fallow. Modern farmers might well note this. The land enriched itself. The land rested, and of course the people rested.
There would be much to attend to, but there was a break in the work schedule. It meant the rest and relaxation of a change.
Every fiftieth year was the time of special jubilation, following the plan of the seventh year. The average man would be likely to go through, at least, two of these jubilee years.
Then, of course, in common with all men, every day had its night. There was the daily alternation of rest and work. And nature itself provides for more sleep in winter and less in summer. A simple pastoral folk follows nature more closely.
So, all told, there were six items in the common Hebrew rest or relaxation program, a day of sleep for every day's work, and a longer time of nightly sleep for half the year.
Then there was one day in seven, three special times each year, one year in seven, and an extra year in every fifty years.
Rather a remarkable program that. Yet the fact of its being provided by Moses, at God's direction, is immensely suggestive.
Physical exercise, and time for the mind to store up and meditate, time for social recreation and enjoyment, time for worship, all this becomes of greatest interest from the health point of view.
And particular directions were given about the ablutions, the frequent all-over bathing by the priests. And the priests were the practical rulers of the people.
The priesthood was the fixed system of national administration through the centuries. They were the leaders. And what the leaders do the people do. Like priest, like people.
There were special directions for special bathing in connection with their sanitary and quarantine codes. They were a bathing people. Cleanliness of person was a fixed habit.
There were careful community sanitation regulations covering the individual tents and the whole encampment in the Wilderness, and after ward when settled in Canaan.
The quarantine regulations were explicit and rigid, inspection by experts, isolation, and segregation. The strictest watch was constantly kept on the people's health, on all suspicious cases, and on the diseased. Quarantine is worthless unless rigid, and rigidly enforced. Their ideals have never been improved upon.
And, of course, their inflexible law of circumcision was rooted down in the physical. Apart from other significance it was a hygienic regulation. It belonged in their scheme of cleanliness and provision against infection.
Now, note keenly, that the Hebrews were essentially an out-of-doors people. They lived in God's open air.
There were the four hundred years in Egypt. Egypt was an open-air country characteristically, and is to this day. The absence of rain, the dryness of the air, and its rare tonic qualities, were marked features, and are. The open air habit had a good start in Egypt.
The forty years in the Wilderness sands simply meant forty years in the open air. Quite likely most of them slept out in the open.
Moses himself was habituated to this open air life through his sheep-tending years in Midian, as well as his earlier Egypt years, and later Wilderness years.
And there's one more item worth mentioning in this health memorandum. Their land laws, their scheme of inheritance, the reversion of land to the original owner every fifty years which entered into all sales and transfers, these, of course, would tend to contentment of mind regarding the future. Fear of the future, mostly groundless, makes a shorter road to the graveyard.
Here are eight items in their national health program to which they were habituated through the centuries. It included food, work or exercise, rest and relaxation and play, personal cleanliness, community sanitary measures, quarantine against disease, open-air living, and a measure of contentment about the future, the rainy day.
This is the health trail that runs all through these Old Testament pages, and clearly ran all through the physical life of this remarkable race of people.
Without doubt it plays a large part in attempting to explain the astonishing physical vigour of the Jews even today.
Inheritance persists. They have suffered persecutions, hardships, privations, that would have killed off any ordinary people. Plainly they are not ordinary people. Their health program certainly was not ordinary. It was rather extraordinary. What nation today can come near it?
This is the health trail running side by side with that blessed healing trail. It persists through these old pages. It puts a remarkable emphasis on the human side of health and healing.
It was planned by God. It surely becomes a personal model for the thoughtful man today, and especially the thoughtful Christian man.