Breishit (Gen.) 50:2 uses the term רופאים, which I translate as "doctors". However, within this context, these doctors are embalming Jacob's body. They are not performing the task of healing someone or treating illnesses in the manner that we think of doctors today. (I know that in English, "doctor" is also used for anyone having a PHD, but that's not what I mean, here.)

What type of doctors were these? Can we assume that they also treated illnesses?

  • what else could rofim mean if not doctors? that's what the word means everywhere else in the torah no?
    – ray
    Sep 21, 2016 at 18:38
  • @ray I don't know. But as I ask, it is unclear if these Egyptian doctors also healed people.
    – DanF
    Sep 21, 2016 at 18:39
  • doctors today love to preserve dead bodies
    – ray
    Sep 21, 2016 at 18:51
  • 1
    @ray Is there any reason to think that that might be relevant?
    – mevaqesh
    Sep 21, 2016 at 18:56
  • @mevaqesh thats how they study medicine
    – ray
    Sep 21, 2016 at 18:57

1 Answer 1


In those days, those who were in charge of all medical processes would have handled everything from healing sick people through preparing the person for the after life. Remember, they did not have the split in functions that we do today. In fact, they would have been priests as well. This was Egypt. Also they were the experts in handling the spices and in the procedures for embalming.

Genesis 50:2

2 And Joseph commanded his servants, the physicians, to embalm his father, and the physicians embalmed Israel.

  בוַיְצַו יוֹסֵף אֶת עֲבָדָיו אֶת הָרֹפְאִים לַחֲנֹט אֶת  אָבִיו וַיַּחַנְטוּ הָרֹפְאִים אֶת יִשְׂרָאֵל:


to embalm his father: This involves compounding aromatic spices. — [From Targum Jonathan and Targum Yerushalmi]

Additionally, we find from the archeological and historical records that the doctors were the ones who took care of the embalming. They were also the priests who maintained the body since they believed that disease was caused by the gods.

Ancient Egyptian Medicine:

The Egyptians held the belief that illness was often caused by an angry god or an evil spirit. For this reason, the Egyptian doctor was also part shaman, who performed rituals and recited prayers on the sick. But, the Egyptian physician was not limited to faith healing as part of his or her practice. Egyptian medicine became a far-reaching discipline, encompassing a great many fields. Doctors in Egypt, like today, were specialists in their particular fields. These fields included pharmacology, dentistry, gynecology, crude surgical procedures, general healing, autopsy, and embalming.

It is from the process of embalming, or mummification, that Ancient Egyptian physicians gained their greatest knowledge of the human anatomy.

  • 1
    "In those days, those who were in charge of all medical processes would have handled everything" I would tend to agree but a source for this would be nice. Especially considering that the drasha ורפא ירפא was taken to mean medical healing and not spiritual healing.
    – user6591
    Sep 21, 2016 at 19:53
  • Agreeing with above comment. What you wrote is credible, but it's not fully answering the question w/o further support to the 1st paragraph's claim.
    – DanF
    Sep 21, 2016 at 20:02
  • Nowadays anatomopathology is still a part of medical sciences
    – kouty
    Sep 21, 2016 at 21:05
  • @user6591 It is a matter of archeology and history that in Egypt at that time, it was the priests who handled all medical matters including embalming. Sep 21, 2016 at 21:47
  • @sabba that's an acceptable point. Link a source and you'll get my upvote:)
    – user6591
    Sep 21, 2016 at 21:49

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .