Mark 1:30 Commentary | Who Gives Me Fever?

Mark Commentary

Text & Translation

30 ἡ δὲ πενθερὰ Σίμωνος κατέκειτο πυρέσσουσα, καὶ εὐθὺς λέγουσιν αὐτῷ περὶ αὐτῆς.1

Now Simon’s mother-in-law was lying down, suffering from a fever, and straight away they tell Him about her. (Mk 1:30, AT)

Fever

Suffering from a fever (πυρέσσω | pyressō) is a general designation that can refer to a symptom of an illness or an actual disease itself.2

Luke says “high fever”, which could be due to malaria (cf. Lk 4:38).3 Fevers may not be fatal, but they could be (cf. Jn 4:47, 52).4

According to one rabbinic tradition, healing someone with a fever was greater miracle than Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego being saved from the fiery furnace (cf. Daniel 3).5

Why? Because the fire from the furnace was man-made; fevers (i.e., fires in one’s head) were thought to be heaven-sent.6

Fever From God?

Diseases and fever were often — but not always! — thought to be brought about by demons (notice how Jesus rebukes the fever in Lk 4:39 as He rebukes demons)7 or from God.8

According to Scripture, fevers and disease can be a form of divine punishment. For example:

14 “ ‘But if you will not listen to me and carry out all these commands, 15 and if you reject my decrees and abhor my laws and fail to carry out all my commands and so violate my covenant, 16 then I will do this to you: I will bring on you sudden terror, wasting diseases and fever that will destroy your sight and sap your strength. You will plant seed in vain, because your enemies will eat it. (Lev 26:14-16, NIV; cf. Dt 28:22).9

Jews asked, “Who can extinguish” a fever? (b. Ned. 41a).10 The implied answer: only God!11

Disease: Divine Punishment?

Also leprosy was “viewed as the classic punishment for sin” (cf. Num 12:9-12; Dt. 24:8–9; 28:27; 2 Ki 5:20–27; esp. 2 Ki 5:27; 15:5; 2 Chron. 26:20; also see Lev. 14:34; 26:21).12

For example, after Miriam and Aaron spoke against Moses because of his Cushite wife (Num 12:1, 8):

9 The anger of the LORD burned against them, and he left them. 10 When the cloud lifted from above the tent, Miriam’s skin was leprous—it became as white as snow. Aaron turned toward her and saw that she had a defiling skin disease, 11 and he said to Moses, “Please, my lord, I ask you not to hold against us the sin we have so foolishly committed. (Num 12:9-11, NIV).13

Also, in Deuteronomy, there were curses outlined for not obeying the covenant with the LORD (Dt 28:15f.). For example:

The LORD will plague you with diseases until he has destroyed you from the land you are entering to possess. 22 The LORD will strike you with wasting disease, with fever and inflammation, with scorching heat and drought, with blight and mildew, which will plague you until you perish (Dt 28:21-22, NIV)14

Moreover, this is not just an Old Testament phenomenon (cf. 2 Cor 12:7).15 Paul tells the church in Corinth that people are becoming sick and dying because they are not properly observing the Lord’s Supper:

29 For those who eat and drink without discerning the body of Christ eat and drink judgment on themselves. 30 That is why many among you are weak and sick, and a number of you have fallen asleep (1 Co 11:28-30, NIV)16

In addition, Ananias and Sapphira are struck dead because they lied about the money they were giving to the church (Ac 5:1-11),17 Herod Agrippa had a slower and likely more painful death:

21 On an appointed day Herod put on his royal robes, took his seat upon the throne, and delivered an oration to them. 22 And the people were shouting, “The voice of a god, and not of a man!” 23 Immediately an angel of the Lord struck him down, because he did not give God the glory, and he was eaten by worms and breathed his last. (Ac 12:21-23, ESV)18

That’s a rough way to go. Dying from disease in one’s bowels and was particularly excruciating (cf. 2 Ch 21:15-19; 2 Macc 9:5-9, NRSV).19

In addition, James seems to suggest that there is (at least sometimes) some connection between confessing sins and being healed (Jas 5:15-16).20

All things considered, sickness is not necessarily divine punishment for sin. But it can be.

Is There a Doctor in the House?

They tell Him about her: this is an “indirect request for healing”.21

They have already seen Jesus drive a demon out of the man in the synagogue. If fevers were thought to be heaven-sent fires, surely it is appropriate to ask the heaven-sent Son of God!

Conclusion

After leaving the synagogue in Capernaum, Simon and the others tell Jesus about Simon’s mother-in-law who is sick with a fever. Fevers were often thought to be fires in one’s head that were sent from God – fires that only God could “extinguish”.

For more commentary on Mark, please visit the Book Study Overview page. For the sources cited, please see the bibliography.

Sources

  1. Barbara Aland et al., eds., The Greek New Testament, Fifth Revised Edition (Stuttgart, Germany: Deutsche Bibelgesellschaft, 2014), Mk 1:30.
  2. Witherington, 100; Lane, 77; Guelich, 62; Garland, 72; Strauss, 99
  3. Schnabel, 59
  4. France, 107
  5. Evans, 174; Garland, 72
  6. Evans, 174; cf. Edwards, 60; Garland, 72
  7. Guelich, 62; cf. Edwards, 60
  8. Edwards, 60
  9. Garland, 72
  10. Evans, 174
  11. Garland, 72
  12. Garland, 82
  13. Garland, 82
  14. Garland, 82
  15. Garland, 82
  16. Garland, 82
  17. Garland, 82
  18. Garland, 82
  19. Keener, 357. Also,

    ” Josephus reports that he was carried to the palace, where he died at the age of fifty-four, after five days of stomach pains (Josephus, Jewish Antiquities 19.344–50)” Keener, 357.

  20. Garland, 82.

    “James does not imply a direct causal relationship between all sickness and sin, any more than Paul or the Old Testament does…” Keener, 682.

  21. Strauss, 99
About @DannyScottonJr 215 Articles
Imperfect Servant ✝📖⛪ | Husband | Princeton U. Alum | M. Div. | Assistant (to the) Pastor | Sound Doctrine & Apologetics @catchforchrist