A Monarch, A Malady, and A Misinterpretation
While reading a report entitled “What was the Disease of the Legs that Afflicted King Asa?” by Liubov (Louba) Ben-Noun, I was impressed with the researcher’s ability to isolate a particular disease, in this case Peripheral Vascular Disease and attribute it to Asa, an ancient king of Judah.
As you can read for yourself in the article above, Ben-Noun’s purpose is to investigate painful diseases of the legs with onset in old age. To begin with we are given a description of what constitutes the legs (thighs, knees, calves, ankles, and feet.) Next, possible leg diseases are listed and then excluded based upon area affected within the leg. This sounds reasonable, and the author finally concludes that King Asa was most likely afflicted with Peripheral Vascular Disease. Also noted was the fact that no commentaries had been used in the research, but that they “referred to the words of the Bible as written.” The scripture referenced was “Nevertheless in the time of his old age he was diseased in his legs.” I Kings 15:23
My interest was piqued. I wanted to find out more about this king and why he got Peripheral Vascular Disease in his old age, so I pulled out my Bible and began reading in I Kings 15:23. The Bible said this: “Nevertheless in the time of his old age he was diseased in his feet.” I also read the parallel passage in Second chronicles which said, “And Asa in the thirty and ninth year of his reign was diseased in his feet, until his disease was exceeding great: yet in his disease he sought not to the LORD, but to the physicians. ” 2 Chronicles 16:12
Two things jumped out in those Bible verses. First, neither one said that King Asa had a disease in his legs, they both said he had a disease in his feet. Then while verifying a list of 26 other translations none of them said ‘leg.’ Each one of them said the disease was in the king’s feet. I then referred back to the article to find which version of the Bible the author quoted. Unfortunately, there was no reference listed.
Therefore to settle the question about whether King Asa had a leg disease or a foot disease, I initiated a search in the Strong’s concordance of the original Hebrew language and here is what it said:
The word “feet” as used in the King James Version in I Kings 15:23 and 2 Chronicles 16:12 is the Hebrew word regel, which is number 7272 in the Strong’s Concordance. It should only be translated “leg” if it was going to be used to describe a segment of a journey! The verse Ben-Noun used for his text mistranslated the word used for feet.
While the analysis appears to be done well, one might respectfully submit that the author missed a key point and because of this incorrectly postulated the disease occurred in King Asa. No verification was possible as no source for the translation was given and as follows, King Asa did not have Peripheral Vascular Disease as Ben-Noun claimed, instead King Asa had a disease that affected both of his feet!
The other thing that impressed me had to do with the Biblical text itself because the Biblical writer of the account in Second Chronicles chose to record for posterity, that king Asa in his disease “sought not to the Lord, but to the physicians.” What would be the importance of this in relation to his disease? At this point no further information was given, but as it was mentioned in this manner it must have significance so we will discuss it shortly. Here is the story of the king in a nutshell.
King Asa started off his career with zeal! One could imagine like any of us after graduation from our respective programs and then beginning to invest our time and energy into building and accomplishing our individual visions in the natural health field. As a king he did all the right things. He even removed his own mother from office (a queen) because she was corrupt. NOBODY does that, but King Asa did! Seriously, he was so amazing that even though he stopped seeking God in his later years, it is recorded in scripture that “Asa’s heart was perfect with the Lord all his days.” 1 Kings 15:14b If you would like to read this short account, just open the following link:
Then something happened. Was Asa fearful or perhaps plagued by guilt? Did he become proud and self-reliant? We are not told so we can only conjecture. Yet we do know this one thing, that for some reason, King Asa stopped relying upon God and began to trust in the king of an enemy nation and entered into a treaty with him. Because of this the many years of peace that the nation of Judah had enjoyed under the leadership of King Asa, ended.
God sent a prophet to remind Asa of His goodness and to warn him of the dire consequences of not returning to his first devotion. These were the prophet’s words:
“Because thou hast relied on the king of Syria, and not relied on the Lord thy God, therefore is the host of the king of Syria escaped out of thine hand. Were not the Ethiopians and the Lubims a huge host, with very many chariots and horsemen? Yet, because thou didst rely on the LORD, he delivered them into thine hand. For the eyes of the Lord run to and fro throughout the whole earth, to shew himself strong in the behalf of them whose heart is perfect toward him. Herein thou hast done foolishly: therefore from henceforth thou shalt have wars.” 2 Chronicles 16:7b-9
Asa became so enraged when he was told the result of his foolish conduct would be wars that he threw the prophet in prison. Sometime after, a very painful disease came upon Asa in his feet. Many bible scholars believe that it was gout and this is entirely plausible. We will take a deeper look at gout after we look at these remaining verses for there are some interesting things to ponder.
“And Asa in the thirty and ninth year of his reign was diseased in his feet, until his disease was exceeding great: yet in his disease he sought not to the LORD, but to the physicians.” -2 Chronicles 16:12
Instead of following the directions given by God, King Asa called upon “physicians” who were in high repute in foreign courts. These physicians attempted to expel diseases by using charms, incantations, and mystic arts. (Dakes’ Annotated Reference Bible, 2001) Although the word physicians in this context means to heal, to cure, or make whole, they obviously did not help the king. God had hoped that Asa would come to Him. Remember the promise?
“For the eyes of the Lord run to and fro throughout the whole earth, to shew himself strong in the behalf of them whose heart is perfect toward him.” -2 Chronicles 16:9a
In ancient times, it was common for the Hebrews to use herbal remedies and foods when someone was in need of healing. For more serious issues they were instructed to visit their priests who were appointed by God. Part of the job of the priests was to help people follow a very strict code pertaining to health issues. This is the first recorded instance where a Hebrew king did not go to the appointed priests to seek God for his physical healing.
Sometimes all the medicines and healers in the world cannot help when the hindrance lies within a person’s heart. King Asa knew God was for him, yet for a reason we are not told, he chose not to draw near.
“And Asa slept with his fathers, and died in the one and fortieth year of his reign. And they buried him in his own sepulchres, which he had made for himself in the city of David, and laid him in the bed which was filled with sweet odours and divers kinds of spices prepared by the apothecaries’ art: and they made a very great burning for him.” -2 Chronicles 16:13-14
Here we see the apothecaries’ “art” that is referred to is an aromatic compound or ointment used at the time of burial. An apothecary being a place to go where an herbalist dispenses herbal formulas is a modern concept. In ancient times, an apothecary was the title of a person who was considered an artisan (like a baker, or a carpenter) in the craft of herbal remedies, incense for use in the temple, balms, ointments, and such. So when someone said, “I’m going to visit the apothecary” what they meant was, “I’m going to visit Fred the herbal artisan and get a remedy for this stuffed up nose.”
What else can we learn from this passage about King Asa? Well, an important lesson would be about the value of humility when we seek healing. As holistic professionals it is helpful to consider spiritual blocks to healing as well as to utilize all the knowledge we have attained of the structure and function of the body, nutritional interventions, phytochemistry, homeopathics, etc., so that our clients may be well – wholly.
Unfortunately, in king Asa’s case he sought everyone else’s help. Had he simply sought God in the matter his story may have turned out differently.
Gout – “The Disease of Kings”
“Gout, unlike any other disease, kills more rich men than poor, more wise men than simple.” -Thomas Sydenham, English Physician 1624-1689
The majority of Bible scholars agree that king Asa had gout in both of his feet. If this is so, then what does this disease look like?
Let’s take a look at what occurs in the more severe form of gout. Chronic, Tophaceous gout is where flare-ups occur at frequent intervals and the inflammation does not resolve. Tophus is the Latin word for stone, the plural being Tophi, which is a deposit of uric acid crystals in the joints of those with high levels of uric acid in the bloodstream.
Tophi frequently forms around the joints of the fingers and the first metatarsal joint of the big toe. It can even form on the tips of the elbows, on the forearms, the ears, and can even aggregate on the vocal chords.
Tophi deposits under the skin feel like hard bumps and are not generally painful except during an attack of gout, where they may become inflamed, swollen, and painful. “As tophi continue to grow, they can erode the surrounding skin and tissues of the joints. This causes damage and eventual joint destruction.”1
Chronic (Tophaceous) Gout when left untreated, can lead to severe problems. Attacks often come on at night. The pain leads to a lack of sleep which causes fatigue, increased stress, and the sum total of which may lead to mood swings. Additionally, permanent disability can occur because of the joint damage and the ensuing deformity from repeated gout attacks. “Arthritis caused by gout may lead to bone erosion and cartilage loss leading to complete destruction of the joint.”2
Additionally, urate crystals from gout can also form painful kidney stones and interfere with kidney function. Chronic Kidney Disease (CKD) is not unusual in those with gout. It has been thought to be a kind of a chicken-and-egg scenario where some believe gout causes the kidney disease while others believe that kidney disease creates high uric acid levels that cause gout.
Gout is the most prevalent form of arthritis in men and occurs seven to nine times more often in men, especially older men, than women. Although once women reach age 60 the ratio levels out. Uric acid levels are usually elevated for 20-30 years before they are noticed.
However, is gout really a disease of the feet that causes death or is it a symptom of something else? Science is beginning to get a clue.
“Serum uric acid is commonly elevated in subjects with Chronic Kidney Disease (CKD), but was historically viewed as an issue of limited interest. Recently, uric acid has been resurrected as a potential contributory risk factor in the development and progression of CKD. Most studies documented that an elevated serum uric acid level independently predicts the development of CKD. “https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23543594
It used to be believed that gout was the cause of Chronic Kidney Disease (CKD) and before therapies were available to lower uric acid levels, many people who suffered from gout developed end-stage renal disease. Upon autopsy it was found that many of these people “had urate crystals in their tubules and interstitium, especially in the outer renal medulla, the disease became known as gouty nephropathy.”3 Scientists initially had an incorrect assumption that urinary crystals collected in the kidneys the same way they do in gouty joints. However, more recently it was found that “when laboratory animals with CKD were made hyperuricemic, the renal disease progressed rapidly despite the absence of crystals in the kidney.”4
Now back to King Asa who became diseased in his feet after reigning 39 years and then died within a mere two years. What could have happened that was so debilitating and could cause such a rapid deterioration? I assert that King Asa died from end-stage renal disease due to hyperuricemia which caused the rapid deterioration to his kidneys and ultimately caused his death.
The Bible scholars ‘have it.’ The “disease” in King Asa’s feet (not his legs) was gout. It is very likely that King Asa suffered from chronic Tophaceous gout. It is interesting to me that the disease manifested in his feet as it could be said that the king was impaired in his walk. Figuratively speaking, his ‘walk’ with the Lord.
So what could the troubled king have done to eliminate his gout? Well, the very thing he was encouraged to do was to seek the Lord for his healing. It is comforting to know that God’s desire is for humanity to be healthy, at peace, and in relationship with Him.
Herbs for What Ails Ya
Throughout the centuries there have been effective and natural remedies for gout. Nicholas Culpeper (1616-1654) the English botanist, herbalist, physician & astrologer in his writings said:
Gout-wort or Herb Gerrard (Aegopodium podagraria)
“Neither is it to be supposed Gout-wort hath its name for nothing but upon experiment to heal the gout and sciatica; as also joint-aches, and other cold griefs. The very bearing of it about one eases the pains of gout, and defends him that bears it from the disease.” -Culpeper’s Complete Herbal by Nicholas Culpeper
As a medicinal, gout-wort is useful on gout when placed externally in hot wraps after first boiling the leaves and the roots together to reduce the uric acid buildup associated with gout.
Internally, dandelion leaf and/or root helps lower uric acid levels but as with cherries and celery seed extract, must be taken long term. Gravel Root (Eupatorium pupureum) acts as a diuretic that flushes the urinary passages. It is helpful for infections of the kidneys and gout.
Nettle (Urtica dioica) leaf assists with the excretion of uric acid making it useful for rheumatism and gout. It can be given every two hours during a gout attack and also used on a long-term basis to prevent uric acid buildup. Nettle seeds may even halt renal failure!
Burdock Root used as a food is helpful in cases of rheumatism and gout. While the capsaican in Cayenne is useful for pain relief. The silicon in Horsetail is necessary for rebuilding cartilage in older folks who can no longer make enough of their own.
It’s all about that meat, ’bout that meat, no shellfish!
All the herbs in the world won’t do enough without also making some much-needed dietary changes.
> Drink lots of water – stay hydrated! Especially helpful for supporting the kidneys.
> Avoid purine-rich foods: anchovies, brains, consomme’, gravy, heart, herring, kidney, liver, meat extracts, meat-containing mincemeat, mussels, sardines, and sweetbreads.
> Limit purine-containing foods to one serving daily (in severe gout cases): asparagus, dry beans, cauliflower, lentils, mushrooms, oatmeal, dry peas, shellfish, spinach, whole-grain cereals, whole-grain breads, and yeast.
> Avoid coffee, caffeine, coco, whole grains
> Avoid sugar and high fructose corn syrup (sodas, cakes, cookies, etc.)
> Avoid drinking any alcohol.
> Eat lots of veggies, raw are best – Naturally high in potassium, cleans out the kidneys!
> Eat fresh raw fruit!
> Eat tart cherries – We don’t know why this works. It just does!
> Eat Onions – they are anti-inflammatory and promote circulation.
> Eat less overly cooked foods (lightly steamed is best!)
> Drink lemon juice (citric acid) – To counter oxalates and flush out uric acid.
> Apple Cider vinegar (with the mother) is useful for alleviating pain and reducing inflammation. Mix 1 tsp in a glass of water 2-3x/day, increase as needed.
> Eat ginger root – It is anti-inflammatory
> Take Vitamin E – Helps repair connective tissues and is anti-inflammatory.
> Add EFAs – Essential Fatty Acids
> Try proteolytic enzymes like papain and bromelain. They can be very helpful with inflammation.
> Use potassium citrate – Reduces symptoms by alkalizing an acidic body.
> Verify with your physician that your medications do not raise uric acid levels.
OTHER NATURAL REMEDIES
> Local hot baths applied to the foot have been proven beneficial
>Add 1/2 Cup activated charcoal (AC) and just enough water to make a paste, then stir in more hot water to a foot bath for 30-60 minutes. The AC adsorbs uric acid.
> Sunlight stimulates Vitamin D production in the body.
> Maintain a healthy weight. “Men who lose 10 pounds of excess weight and keep it off reduce their risk of gout by 39%.”5
> Exercise (walk, etc.)
> Be aware. Those who have undergone gastric bypass surgery have an increased risk of gout.
> Avoid aspirin or acetaminophen