two pool healings
The city of Jerusalem in 1st century AD (Yeshua’s day) with the pool at Bethesda and the pool at Siloam indicated by red circles.

Yeshua healed at two pools. What is the difference?

John 5:2-9 TLV: Now in Jerusalem there is a pool by the sheep gate, called Bethzatha in Aramaic,[a] which has five porches. In these a crowd of invalids was lying around—blind, lame, disabled. ()[b] 5 Now a certain man had been an invalid there for thirty-eight years. Seeing him lying there and knowing he had been that way a long time, Yeshua said to him, “Do you want to get well?” The invalid answered Him, “Sir, I have nobody to put me into the pool when the water is stirred up. While I’m trying to get in, somebody else steps down before me!” Yeshua tells him, “Get up! Pick up your mat and walk!” Immediately, the man was healed! He took up his mat and started walking around. Now that day was Shabbat,

Footnotes:

  1. John 5:2 Lit. in Hebrew. Bethesda (Heb.) means House of Mercy. Bethzatha (Aram.) means the place of poured out water.
  2. John 5:4 ASV adds: They waited for the water to be moved. Other mss. also add verse 4: because an angel of the Lord sometimes went to the pool and moved the water. Then, whoever went into the water first was healed from whatever disease he had.

Why this is relevant to me (and maybe you)

Recently, I received a healing from the Lord that delivered me from a life of being a cripple to walking totally unassisted after receiving a prognosis from my doctors that I would never again walk unassisted. (Read the story here.) I will not reiterate it here, but I want to show you something I have recently learned that will add a great deal of insight into what I believed happened.

First, we need to look at the location of two of Yeshua’s healings, both at pools in Jerusalem, and compare them. The first happened at the pool of Bethesda, as iterated above. I want you to look at the location of the pool of Bethesda in the map at the top of this post. As you can see, it is to the right of the Temple, just outside, and in front of the Roman Fortress of Antonia. Before we go on to the next healing, I want to tell you a little about the geography of the city.

In 37 BCE, Herod the Great conquered Jerusalem. He rebuilt the Second Temple and expanded the surrounding complex, adding new walls to the city that enclosed the area that was previously outside the walls of Jerusalem. (By the time of Yeshua’s ministry, Herod Antipas was in power. He was Herod the Great’s grandson.)

The beliefs of Rome involved many gods, including one called Asclepius, who was the son of Apollo and the deity credited with healing. His symbol was a staff with a serpent entwined about it. Maybe you recognize it as a modern-day symbol of medicine. (Many people mistakenly think it comes from the Old Covenant story of the bronze serpent in the story of the Israelites wandering in the wilderness.)

The location of the pool of Bethesda was outside the actual confines of the Temple and the old city of Jerusalem. It was a pool where the people who worshipped Asclepius as the god of healing came to be healed. (The explanation of the angel stirring the water was added on and is not in the older manuscripts, so chances are the scribe who added it was trying to make sense of the story. In fact, if the pool did stir, it was more likely that the stirring was caused by the serpents that were allowed to swim in the water believing that they would hasten healing.)

In addition to being outside the city proper, the pool at Bethesda was right in front of the Roman Fortress of Antonia. This is important to know because it is likely that the fortress protected the pool and its pagan god.

What happened at the Pool of Bethesda

Would it make sense that Yeshua, a devout Jew, would be walking in a pagan site of healing, around the pool of Bethesda? Well, yes. In fact, Yeshua often went where the “proper Jews” would never set foot, because they were concerned about defilement. Yeshua never had that fear. In Luke 11:7-17, we have the story of Him raising a dead boy and giving him back to his mother. It specifically says that “He touched the bier.” In the understanding of the Pharisees, Yeshua would have therefore been ritually unclean. However, Yeshua doesn’t consider this at all.

So to see Him walking in a pagan site would be well within the realm of possibility. In fact, He came to call sinners to repentance, and what better place than where they were gathered? In fact, Yeshua testifies that the man at the pool at Bethesda is a sinner. He tells him in John 5:14: 14 Afterwards, Yeshua finds him in the Temple. He said to him, “Look, you’ve been healed! Stop sinning, so nothing worse happens to you.”

What happened at the Pool of Siloam?

John 9:1-7 . As Yeshua was passing by, He saw a man who had been blind since birth. His disciples asked Him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he should be born blind?” Yeshua answered, “Neither this man nor his parents sinned. This happened so that the works of God might be brought to light in him. We must do the work of the One who sent Me, so long as it is day! Night is coming when no one can work. While I am in the world, I am the light of the world.” Having said these things, He spat on the ground, made mud with the saliva, and spread the mud on the blind man’s eyes. He told him, “Go, wash in the Pool of Siloam” (which is translated Sent). So he went away, washed, and came back seeing.

In this story later in the Book of John, Yeshua heals a man born blind. (Are the Master’s disciples remembering the man at the other pool whom Yeshua said was sick because of his sin?) This man was not guilty of a sin, and he was told to wash in the pool of Siloam. Why?

The pool of Siloam was the pool from which the priests got water for ritual purposes. If you look at the Temple in the map above, it is quite clear that the pool of Siloam was quite a distance further than the pool at Bethesda. Yet instead of just stepping through the Sheep Gate which was right beside the pool of Bethesda, the priests would make the trek through the city to the pool of Siloam. That makes sense when you realize that Bethesda was the site of a pagan pool and not a sacred one.

Why was one man a sinner and the other not?

We don’t actually know what sin the man at the pool of Bethesda committed, yet it certainly could have been unbelief. This man was a Jew because later on, we find him in the Temple. So why was he at a pagan place looking for healing? The man had been ill for thirty-eight years. He spent at least his recent time at the pool of Bethesda, where it was said that miraculous healing occurred. Yet he wasn’t healed. He couldn’t get into the water quickly enough “when it was stirred,” so when Yeshua asked him if he wanted to be healed, he answered in a way that meant he hoped Yeshua would get him into the pool. He did not know who Yeshua was.

So what does Yeshua do? He simply tells him to get up, take up his bed, and walk. The man walks away without the benefit of the pool’s miraculous healing without even knowing who it was who healed him. It wasn’t until later when Yeshua tells him to stop sinning lest something worse come upon him that he finds out Who his healer is.

By contrast, the man at the pool of Siloam wasn’t even waiting to get healed. He was simply beside the way. Yeshua informs His disciples that the man is not guilty of sin and neither are his parents. Then He touches the man and tells him to wash in the pool at Siloam, and the man returns, seeing.

What this says to me.

A week or so before God healed me, He brought the man at the pool of Bethesda to my mind. In response, I considered, did I want to be healed? While that may seem strange, I thought about how I had aligned my thoughts with those of my doctors who said I would not walk again. Now, don’t get me wrong, it’s not that I didn’t believe that God could heal me. I even told my doctors point blank, “You don’t know my God!” But while others were praying for my healing, I was actually praying for peace in case God could get more glory that way. (How that would happen I had no idea!)

In retrospect, I now wonder if I wasn’t accepting the words of the doctors and identifying myself as a cripple. Once I looked at the man at the pool of Bethesda, I came to an understanding: I wanted to be healed. So I quit thinking the thoughts of the doctors and asked God to heal me.

And you know what? He did!

Now I take to heart what Yeshua told the man: Go and sin no more lest something worse happen to you.

Disclaimer: please do not misunderstand me. I am not saying that availing yourself of medical means of healing is wrong. I am not telling you to quit taking your medicine or think that you are in sin for going to the doctor. God answered me according to His plan for me; He will answer you according to His plan for you.

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