Wednesday, January 16, 2008


Thirty-nine Stripes - Ps Walter Snyder

For a while I have been pondering on the origin of 39 stripes. The Bible says by His stripes we

1):were healed (1 Peter:2:24) --- past tense

2):and are healed (Isaiah 53:5). --- future tense.

It is almost like a pass-down knowledge in churches that the 39 stripes each represent a different major disease category. My pastor used to say that there are 39 disease categories and Jesus took 39 stripes and thus He can heal all the 39 major diseases that afflicts mankind. I searched the Bible and could not find much support for this, but then again some biblical knowledge are passed down rather than from the Bible, i.e Peter took the 39 stripes upside-down as he did not see himself worthy in dying like the Lord Jesus.

Insurance companies usually insure you for 36 major illnesses. So what 3 types of illnesses do they not insure you for? Yes, definitely "suicide" would be one, but what about the other 2 disease category?

Maybe I will research further into this but below is an article to share by Ps.Snyder.

Q: What is the Biblical origin of thirty-nine stripes?

A: The number has its origin with Deuteronomy 25:1-3, where the Lord commands, "If there is a dispute between men and they come into court and the judges decide between them, acquitting the innocent and condemning the guilty, then if the guilty man deserves to be beaten, the judge shall cause him to lie down and be beaten in his presence with a number of stripes in proportion to his offense. Forty stripes may be given him, but not more, lest, if one should go on to beat him with more stripes than these, your brother be degraded in your sight."

Saint Paul, an expert on receiving beatings, lashings, and stoning, wrote the Corinthian Christians, "Five times I received at the hands of the Jews the forty lashes less one. (2 Cor. 11:24)" Why the change from thirty-nine to forty? Before a full answer, let's see what Martin Luther said about the
Deuteronomy text: "First a law is established concerning the penalties for evildoers. Those who are not to be punished with death or fines but with stripes shall be flogged according to the measure of the crime; only the stripes are not to exceed forty in number. The purpose is added: 'That the brother may not be made contemptible and degraded in your presence.' Therefore he wants punishments to be inflicted, not because of our passion or desire for vengeance but by a rule of moderation and reason guided by uprightness. This befits an honorable commonwealth."

We note that the punishment was to be carried out in the presence of the sentencing judge. His job was to guarantee that the beating didn't exceed his command, whether forty lashes or less. We may think the forty lashes harsh, but evidently up to that point was not what God considered to be "cruel" or "unusual." With this in mind, it's easier to see why Paul (and others) would receive "the forty lashes less one." Those responsible for interpreting and carrying out the Law of God didn't want to exceed His command, so they built in a safeguard. If someone accidentally missed one count, the flogging would still stop before forty was exceeded.

Thirty-nine was also the closest multiple of three to forty without going over. Since lashings were often done with a treble-lash or set of rods, thirteen strokes would complete the punishment. Here, however, a miscount could raise the number to forty-two, so extra care would likely be taken. Through extra-biblical writings such as rabbinical commentaries, we read that thirty-nine lashes were standard by the time of the New Testament period.

By writing about this, Paul (who "boasts" in his weakness) also lets us know just how horrible the crime of preaching the Gospel was to his enemies. Nothing save death or extended imprisonment was a harsher punishment than the maximum number of lashes the Law allowed. Thus we see that few "crimes" or "sins" more vile existed than proclaiming Christ. Making the claim that Jesus was the true Son of God, preaching that He was the Way, the Truth, and the Life and that no one received salvation except through Him was considered shameful, horrible blasphemy.

Paul's boast also illustrates the strength he received from God to endure such treatment on multiple occasions and the joy he experienced in being allowed to suffer as did his Savior. Of course, Jesus wasn't flogged by the Jews but the Romans. Roman law had fewer qualms about either the pain or the shame, so and its beatings were often severe. Thus, we cannot know but that Christ received many more wounds on our behalf. Through the prophet, He made His "boast" even before His birth: "I gave my back to those who strike, and my cheeks to those who pull out the beard; I hid not my face from disgrace and spitting. (Isaiah 50:6)" Just as "with His stripes we are healed, (Isaiah 53:5)" so do we receive the strength and encouragement to faithfully proclaim and live His truth to a world that violently resists hearing and believing.

To Ask the Pastor, please write Ask the Pastor, PO Box 12, Emma, MO, 65327 or send email

Walter Snyder is the pastor of Holy Cross Lutheran Church, Emma, Missouri and coauthor of the book "What Do Lutherans Believe."

Scripture quotes from ~The Holy Bible, English Standard Version~, © 2001 by Crossway Bibles.

Ask the Pastor, © 2002 by Walter P. Snyder. It may be reproduced in totality, including this disclaimer, by anyone, provided that no profit is generated by said republication and redistribution. Translations into other languages should similarly note the United States and any appropriate international copyrights, as well as God's Scriptural injunctions concerning the property of others.

David Guzik's Commentaries on the Bible
Deuteronomy 25 - More Laws on Various Subjects
A. Two laws to protect criminals and animals.

1. (1-3) A limit on corporal punishment.

a. They justify the righteous and condemn the guilty: This is the simple responsibility of all government and courts. As Paul describes the role of government in Romans 13:4: For he is God's minister to you for good. But if you do evil, be afraid; for he does not bear the sword in vain; for he is God's minister, an avenger to execute wrath on him who practices evil.

b. If the wicked man deserves to be beaten: Apparently, God considers that some criminals are wicked and deserve to be beaten. We seem to have a justice system today that considers itself more compassionate and kind than God Himself, yet we can't say that we live in a more just or safe society. Maybe God does know best!

"Among the Mohammedans there are very few law-suits, and the reason is given . . . because they that sue others without just cause are to be whipped publicly." (Trapp)

c. Yet, though sometimes a beating was the appropriate punishment, Forty blows may he give him and no more. God agrees with the idea that there is a such thing as excessive punishment, and this was intended to prevent excessive punishment. Additionally, the beating was to be administered in the presence of the judge (an be beaten in his presence), so he could make sure the punishment was not excessive.

In 2 Corinthians 11:24, Paul lists this among his "apostolic credentials": From the Jews five times I received forty stripes minus one. The forty stripes minus one means Paul was beaten by the Jewish authorities with thirty-nine blows on five different occasions. Why did they only beat him with thirty-nine blows if they could have used forty, according to Deuteronomy 25:3? Because as a common practice, the Jews would only allow thirty-nine blows to be administered, to both show mercy, and to scrupulously keep the law - one blow was left off to protect against a miscount.

I am by no means an authority but something came to me tonight. If, arguably, a generation is 50 years, then 39 generations would bring us at or about the birth of Isreal in 1948. Not to discount the 39 diseases at all. It's just that I believe GOD works and communicates on several levels. Could this be another level worth exploring or just coincidence?
A healing stripe for each generation?
Sean. Thanks for sharing!
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