DEALING WITH DEMONS #4
Many Christians recognize the work of demons in a person who
is violently insane. But not as well known, or as widely
recognized, is the fact that demons can also work in the realm of
disease. What? Disease caused by evil spirits? Admittedly, this
appears to have all the earmarks of superstition! We might
picture a "witch doctor" performing magic rites over sick people
to drive off evil spirits or putting on some horrid-looking
costume in an attempt to scare them away!
From a wall carving at Nineveh, the illustration given here
shows how the ancient Assyrians portrayed a demon of disease. It
was a lion-headed, eagle-footed creature holding instruments to
wound and afflict.
In spite of the primitive methods and concepts that have
existed, however, the basic concept that evil "spirits" can
physically afflict people - is certainly based on scripture.
As Jesus was teaching in one of the synagogues, "there was a
woman which had a spirit of infirmity eighteen years, and was
bowed together, and could in no wise lift up herself." Jesus
spoke words of deliverance: "Woman, thou art loosed from thine
infirmity." He laid his hands on her and immediately she was made
straight! Jesus did not diagnose her trouble as spinal arthritis
or a bad case of dislocated vertebras. In this case, a "spirit of
infirmity" was the cause - and though she was a "daughter of
Abraham" - "Satan" had bound her for eighteen years (Luke
I think it is fair to assume that this woman was a daughter
of Abraham, not just in some fleshly sense, but in the same sense
Jesus used the term in John 8:33-39. Those who are of faith are
the true seed of Abraham (Galatians 3:29). The victim of a
demonic attack is not necessarily a bad person.
Today, especially in lands where demons are actually
worshipped, and demon power is strong, missionaries are not
unfamiliar with cases of deformity caused by demon spirits.
The word "epilepsy" is based on the idea of being seized
upon by an outside force - reflecting an old belief that seizures
were caused by demonic attack. I don't believe all cases of
epilepsy are caused by demons, many of which can be controlled by
medical treatment. But, that demonic attacks can throw people
into "fits," as they have been termed, stands on solid Biblical
A woman who sought help for her daughter, said to Jesus, "My
daughter is grievously vexed with a devil" (Matt. 15:22). But
Jesus cast out the demon, even at a distance. "And when she was
come to her house, she found the devil gone out and her daughter
laid upon the bed" - still, quiet, tormented no more (Mark 7:30).
The inference is that before her healing, the epileptic
condition would throw her off the bed uncontrolled.
When Jesus was teaching in a synagogue, "there was a man
which had a spirit of an unclean devil" who cried out such things
as: "Let us alone; what have we to do with thee, thou Jesus of
Nazareth?" Deliverance came when Jesus "rebuked" the demon in
this man (Luke 4:33-36). A few verses later (verse 39), Jesus
"rebuked" a fever from Peter's mother-inlaw. In this case, we are
not expressly told the fever was caused by a demon, but the fact
that Jesus rebuked the fever implies a demonic personality was
Some might object to "rebuke" implying personality, pointing
out that Jesus also rebuked a storm (Mark 4:39). But who is to
say the power behind this storm was not Satan, "the prince of the
power of the air" (Eph.2:2)? A Hebrew word that appears only
twice in the Bible - translated "devils" (Deut.32:17; Ps. 106:37)
- stems from a word meaning to devastate. It is believed these
were storm demons - evil powers that sought to devastate by
Though we are not directly told it was demons that caused
the centurion's servant to be "grievously tormented" (Matt.8:6),
by comparing this wording with other Biblical descriptions,
demonic activity is strongly implied. Also, we notice that the
centurion (an army captain over one hundred men), spoke of how he
could command the soldiers under him and they would obey. In the
same way, he felt that Jesus had the authority to issue a command
or rebuke to that personality that was tormenting the suffering
Could a case of skin disease, like severe boils, be caused
by Satan? According to the book of Job, "Satan went forth from
the presence of the Lord, and smote Job with boils from the sole
of his foot unto his crown" (Job 2:7). This may be a unique
incident, but it shows that a Satanic attack can cause physical
Could demonic oppression cause difficulty in breathing? In
the Old Testament, an "evil spirit" caused king Saul to be taken
with fear so that he was "troubled." But relief came when David
"took a harp, and played with his hand: so Saul was refreshed
[breathed freely - Moffatt translation] and was WELL, and the
evil spirit departed from him" (1 Samuel 16:23).
I know a minister's wife whose parents, both dedicated
Christians, were deaf mutes. It always bothered her when
evangelists would come to the church and make statements to the
effect that deaf mutes are demon possessed. The Bible does not
say that all deaf mutes are demon possessed - and it would be
cruel to imply this. However, we read that Jesus healed a deaf
mute boy by "rebuking the foul spirit," saying: "Thou dumb and
deaf spirit, I charge thee, come out of him." When the evil
spirit came out he fell over "as one dead" - some even thought he
had died! But Jesus took him by the hand and lifted him up. With
the evil spirit gone, he was normal (Mark 9:17-27).
On another occasion, "they brought to him [Jesus] a dumb man
possessed with a devil. And when the devil was cast out, the dumb
spake" (Matt.9:32,33). Another man, "possessed with a devil," was
blind and dumb. When the demon was cast out, he could see and
I once talked with a man who had been a deaf mute. He told
me he wanted to talk, but some strange power would not let him.
He wanted to hear, but could not. But when a man of God laid
hands on him and commanded the deaf and dumb spirit to come out
of him, an evil pressure released its hold and came out. Since
that time he has been able to talk and hear.
Years ago I knew a man quite well who was deaf in one ear.
Apparently his wife had been deaf. When she died, according to
his story, he became deaf in one ear. Was this a spirit of
deafness that left her and then afflicted him? I don't know, but
the Bible does imply in several scriptures that a spirit leaving
one person can transfer its abode to another (Matt.12; Mark 5).
Thus we see that the Bible tells of cases of dumbness,
deafness, blindness, deformity, and other afflictions that were
caused by evil spirits. This is not to say all cases of infirmity
are caused by demons. Several scriptures draw a distinction
between "healing" and "casting out of demons." An example would
be Mark 16:17,18: "These signs shall follow them that believe;
they shall cast out devils," while "they shall lay hands on the
sick and they shall recover," is listed as a separate ministry.
AN UNUSUAL HEALING
Mark records the healing of a man who was deaf and had an
impediment in his speech. As in many of the healings of the
Bible, there is no mention here of an evil spirit being cast out.
"And they bring unto him one that was deaf, and had an impediment
in his speech; and they beseech him to put his hand upon him. And
he took him aside from the multitude, and put his fingers into
his ears, and he spit, and touched his tongue" (Mark 7:32,33).
Why would Jesus spit and touch the man's tongue? In his
commentary, Adam Clarke argues, and I think plausibly, that it
was the man, not Jesus, who did this. Not being able to speak and
explain his condition, he put his fingers into his own ears, as
though to say to Jesus: "I cannot hear." And then, so there would
be nothing offensive when Jesus looked into his mouth, he spat
out, and touched his own tongue, as though to say to Jesus: "I
cannot speak." This gives a good sense to this passage. His
healing was instantaneous - "his ears were opened, and the string
of his tongue was loosed, and he spake plain" (verse 35).
When is a disease demon related? I would think, as a general
rule, these would be cases that are extremely abnormal, cases for
which there is no physical cause. If a person burns a finger
while cooking, for example, I don't believe this is a case for
demonic exorcism. (I once knew a preacher who would say in such
cases: "You burn devil, I command you to come out!").
If a person is in ill health because of a bad diet, diet,
not demons, is the source of the problem. Just exactly where we
draw the line on all of this, is not always clearly known.
Nevertheless, the basic thesis stands: the Bible does teach
that physical diseases, in SOME cases, can be caused by demons.
To be continued