What is Dropsy in the Bible?

In the sacred scripture, the Bible, it highly suggests that dropsy refers to unusual bodily swelling. Luke 14 portrays Jesus showing His healing power by curing a man suffering from this condition.

We see only one mention of dropsy in the Bible. In the King James Version of Luke 14, we see Jesus encounter a man with dropsy on the Sabbath:

“And it came to pass, as he went into the house of one of the chief Pharisees to eat bread on the sabbath day, that they watched him.
And, behold, there was a certain man before him which had the dropsy.
And Jesus answering spake unto the lawyers and Pharisees, saying, Is it lawful to heal on the sabbath day?
And they held their peace. And he took him, and healed him, and let him go;
And answered them, saying, Which of you shall have an ass or an ox fallen into a pit, and will not straightway pull him out on the sabbath day?
And they could not answer him again to these things.”

What is Dropsy?

Dropsy is an old school word for what’s now more commonly known as edema. Edema is a condition characterized by an excess of watery fluid collecting in the cavities or tissues of the body. It’s a fancy word for abnormal swelling.

In Greek, the word translated dropsy is “hudropkis” from the word “hudor” meaning “water.”

The translation is a bit tricky, similar to how cud or reed are translated in the KJV.

Dropsy as a Reference for Metaphorical Swelling?

Someone with dropsy was swollen because of the excess water in the body, but at the same time, always thirsty. The person with too much water in their body still craved more.

In the stories that follow the healing of the man with dropsy, Jesus tells of wedding guests craving honor and a man only inviting people to a banquet who can in turn benefit him.

I don’t doubt the man actually had dropsy – and Luke the doctor would know – but how poignant of him to place the story just before two stories depicting men who have more than they need, yet crave more. More honor, more prestige, more notoriety – while on the inside, we’re insecure.

We all have this same condition. We’re stuffed to the brim with material things, information, and amusement – yet we all want more. And Jesus is the solution. 

What does Jesus tell us to do in Luke 14?

Surrender our rights, like an honored wedding guest who gives up their place at the head of the table or a rich man giving a banquet who invites those who can offer nothing in return.

Jesus calls us to lay down what we have and empty ourselves so that we can make space for more of Him.

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